… A Hard Day Biking

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Howdy all! Well, the full title of the post might actually be more like A Hard Night Drinking Leads to … A Hard Day Biking, but I thought that was a bit too long for a blog posting title, and might be a bit misleading 😉 This little story is about a biking tour that I signed up to do more or less on a whim a couple weeks back. In fact, it was the day after my Iron distance triathlon that someone mentioned they were going to do it, so I decided I’d sign up as well. After all, in my mind, a 170km bike ride on a Sunday would be a nice way to spend a day, now that I knew I could handle those distances. After all, this was billed as a “Tour”, not a “Race”, with a sport group and a touring group. That was my plan, to just take it easy and tour. Well, things don’t always go the way you plan, and if you read on, you’ll read what I mean by that in the context of this event. If you’d like, you can check out a map that I put together of the bike ride. Sadly, there are only 6 pictures, as all the batteries I had brought were dead. However, you can go to flickr, and check out other pics that explain the story as well!

The sad little tale actually starts earlier the day before. As Jody has up and left for Europe for two weeks (lucky girl – check out her blog site for all her details), I’m left to my own devices, what with having to take care of myself. Also, since the race season is winding down, I’ve got a little extra time to socialize. As such, I made it a point to get out on Saturday morning for a round of Disc Golf with Dave, Andy, and Stella. Matt was supposed to meet us, but was a no-show. I later learned it was because no one had called him, which as it turned out is because they moved and hadn’t told anyone their number! I even went to pick him up, but he and Al had stepped out. Anyway, DG was fun, and Dave only managed to beat me by 2, which isn’t bad considering all the playing he’d been doing. Andy abandoned after the first 9, in order to fly a kite with Stella. I had told them they could come over later if they wanted, for some drinks and music and/or video games. Dave said he’d come over for sure, and Andy was a maybe.

After golf, I headed back to Al and Matts, and finally saw their new place. It’s a great place, and I’m looking forward to partying there, especially since it’s only an 11 minute bike ride away. I invited them over as well, and they said they’d for sure come over, since I think it would be more fun for them then staying in their non-unpacked house 😉 I went home, made some supper, and awaited the gang. Dave came over first, around 7pm. We turned on the PS2, and I watched Dave get sucked into God of War. My plan was to turn in around 11pm. However, Al, Matt and Andy didn’t even arrive until well after 10pm! D’oh! And what’s worse, they were looking to party, and I’m a sucker for that. Let’s just say that my early to bed plans fell by the wayside, but it was well worth it. We had a fun time listening to funk tunes, and mixing up crazy drinks at the bar. Check the pics for a little more insight. By the time they finally got into a cab bound for Al and Matt’s, it was almost 2am. Oh well.

7:30am came far too early. I was surprised to find that I actually didn’t feel all that bad. I went about getting my stuff ready, and eating and drinking. Grant showed up just around 8am on his bike. We packed up and headed out. First stop, cash machine for money. Second stop. McDonalds. Yup, I wanted a nice Egg McMuffin and Hash Brown, and gave Grant my coffee. Then it was off to the start line. There were about 40 people in the ride, and they were all scattered about getting ready. I had read there would be two groups. One averaging around 27km/h (a pedestrian pace which I was keen to do!), and the other averaging around 37km/h (I might be able to do that, but didn’t plan on it). I had even worn an appropriate jersey with the words Leisure Ride on it, which became a running joke between Lawson and I. The organizer told us that the first 45km would be a big group ride, and we’d stick together. Sounded good to me.

We rolled out, and the pace was quite nice. It was around 34-36km/h, but we were fresh and the whole group stuck together, chatting while we warmed up. I was having a good time, and marvelling at how different it was to ride in a group of 40, where you can draft and have ‘rests’ even while moving quickly. Of course, I wasn’t totally comfortable, as I had to sit up the whole way, rather than use my aero bars. I’ve been training all summer for the Iron, and have gotten really used to riding in aero on my tri bike, not riding the hoods on my road bike like I had to here, but that was okay.

Sometime after the 45km point, things started picking up. All of a sudden, I saw we were cruising along at over 40km/h (not downhill either!). I was also only a few from the front, which meant I’d have to take the lead for a bit (we were in a double width peloton). I was a bit nervous about it, but willing to do my share of the work. Of course, I was already wondering where this mythical ‘touring’ group would be. Had some people already started a slow group, and was I just stuck in the fast group for now. I decided that must be it, and that when I was spent, I’d just drop into the other group. I made my way to the front, and gave it my best, and managed to keep the pace at 40+km/h for a little bit. It was hellishly hard up front. Huge wind and very noisy. A world of difference from the middle pack. When my turn was up (i.e. when I burned out), I dropped to the side and made my way back to Grant, who had already taken a spin at the front. We chatted a bit about this crazy pace, and hoped we could hang on. I was already finding it hard. Then it happened.

We hit a hill. Not a little one either. There aren’t many hills in this ride, but this was a doozy, and after spending my energy pulling at the front, I totally died on the hill. I felt like Lance Armstrong in the 2000 Tour de France on the Joux-Plane (obscure reference, but if you read Every Second Counts you’ll get it. I don’t know if it was a lack of food and water, or too tired from the night before, or not recovering enough from the Ironman 2 weeks earlier and the trail race the past weekend, but I was hurtin. This was around the 75km mark I think. Luckily, I wasn’t totally alone, and a splinter group of about 6 of us banded together to get to the halfway point together. Our pace was a bit slower, and I envisioned that would be my group for the rest of the ride. We got to the 85km rest point, where everyone else was. I realized that in almost 2 and a half hours, I’d only drank about 650mL. Shit. I was gonna pay for that. I bought a big Powerade, and had a bag of salty chips and a chocolate bar to try and get energy back, but I think it was too late.

The group took off at a blistering pace again from the convenience store. I had a temporary rush of energy, and was able to keep up for another while, but they were still pumping at 38-40km/h, and that was not cool for me. Again we hit a hill. A bit smaller, but still big enough for me to drop out the back. This time, I steadily dropped back until I was watching the main group pull away, with scarcely a person looking at me. That’s okay, though, I’d just hook up with the tourers now I figured. Tourers? Where are you? Hunh? No one? Bueller? Bueller? That’s odd. Well, at least I could still see the group in the distance, and worked to keep an even gap. Then, I couldn’t see them. Then… I was in a maze of side streets. Had they turned? Where was I? How come there was no sweep? Why the hell hadn’t I brought a map? I now realized I was alone, didn’t know where I was, and had no map. Luckily, I knew that I had to find a ferry back to Ottawa. Quoyon is the only one I knew of.

My new mission was to ask people how to get to the ferry and whether or not they’d seen a big group of bikers. Being alone meant a lot of extra work on my part to keep up the pace, but I didn’t mind. I was now able to just relax, and go into my comfortable hunched over aero position. There was no great hurry anymore. I decided that I came to tour, and even if I had to go it alone, then so be it. I started enjoying it, remembering why I actually enjoyed my long solo rides, and why I was going to NZ for four months of this sort of solitude. I was just soaking in the environment around me, and thinking about my season’s training and accomplishments. Damn it, I deserved a relaxing tour, not a hammer fest ;-). Eventually, I made it to Quoyon, and wouldn’t you know it, I arrived just as the last bikers were getting on the 5 minute ferry crossing! I had arrived only 10 minutes after them. What luck. I later learned I’d taken a completely different route, once I compared the tour map to my GPS map. Too funny. Good thing my AR training helped me find my way and keep my wits about me. Grant was glad to see me again, although I couldn’t help but note that he had been getting on the ferry anyway, which meant he hadn’t planned on waiting for me! Hmmm…. enh. Whatever.

I was informed that once on the other side, it was every person for themselves, as it was only 38km or so back to the pub. I knew what that meant. I’d once again be solo, and navigating my own way back. The pace line cranked it up again once we hit the other side, and I once again tried to keep up. One fellow said “You just have to grab on to a wheel and not let go, otherwise you’ll be on your own.” No shit Sherlock. Hello. Did you not hear about my last 50km? I politely told him I’d come to tour, not race. He seemed a bit put off. Whatever. I think I’ll stick to solo rides and small group rides with friends. Trying to hook up with a racing team was not a good idea, especially since they didn’t deliver on what they said they would. For the record, this is what the website stated: “Riders must be able to average about 27km/h for the duration of the tour. There will be a Sportif group that averages 32-35km/h or more. Depending on who rides, there may be a “super sportif” group that could ride the long route at race speeds.”

Well, for the record, in spite of all my foibles and drops, I still managed a 31+km/h ON MY OWN. That’s a far cry from what they said. But I digress. I can’t say I really blame them. They were a strong group of cyclists, and I was just not recovered and fresh to the point that I could keep up. On another day, it probably would have worked out for me, but I had started in a different mindset. Remember? Leisure Ride? The weather was great, and they all just wanted a great ride, so I’m happy they got what they wanted. I also ended up with what I wanted, but it just meant doing it completely alone for a good chunk. Anywho, after they lost me again on the Ontario side, I once again found myself trying to make my way back through some roads I wasn’t 100% sure of. But once again, I found my way, in time to find Grant just waiting by the car. Apparently, he’d only arrived 5-10 minutes before me again. Over a long ride, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was enough that I hadn’t seen him in a little while 🙂

We changed, put the gear away, and headed in for the closing meal, beer, and draw prizes. All in all, it truly was a well put together event. The meal was just what I needed. And the pint of Keith’s? Well, that was the icing on the cake. For $30, that’s not too shabby. An organized ride, meal and drink. Actually, I did even better than that. My name ended up getting pulled for a $50 gift certificate for the Empire Grill in the market, so I actually ended up with a profit of sorts. Ha ha. It wasn’t even 6pm, and the day had tired us out. I drove Grant home, then returned to the Casa Cheshire for a nice Epsom salt bath before collapsing on the couch and watching some TV. After all, the next day was a work day, so I’d best rest up! Hope you enjoyed my story. Off I go now. I’m REALLY relaxing this weekend. No racing or heavy training. I still haven’t even fully recovered from my pre-Iron cold yet.

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