Hey gang. Welcome back to another little story hot off the presses. Two in one night, aren’t you a lucky bunch? I’m making a concerted effort to catch up with the latest goings-on of one ActiveSteve, as I’m also trying to work on ActiveSteve 3.0 in parallel. Yup, you read right, I’m working on a fresh new face for the website once again. Why not, eh? It’ll be mainly cosmetic, as well as making some improvements under the hood that you won’t see. I’m already excited about it, but I have a lot of work to do, so first things first, let me get this blog post off my chest. Many of you will be aware that this past weekend was my birthday. As such, Jody said I could do whatever I wanted. Well, as luck would have it, a group of my AR friends were getting together for a ~100km mountain bike ride in Gatineau Park, starting from Aylmer, so I decided I should join in. To save you the suspense, yes, there is both a map of the ride as well as a whole pile of pictures. After you’ve checked those out, come on back and finish reading my tale!
The original invite to go for a ride went out a couple weeks ago, and I had originally put myself down as a ‘maybe’, since I didn’t know what I might be doing on my birthday yet. As the date got closer and closer, I realized that there was nothing going on that day anyway, and I decided that this year, I’d rather not try and throw a big party. I’m not sure why, I guess I just didn’t care so much about the ‘birthday aspect’ this time around. I figured that what I would really like to do is spend some quality time communing with nature and some racing friends. Might be just the thing to keep me a little more upbeat about my whole knee injury. Plus, I was curious to see how my biking legs might compare to others after all that touring.
The weather forecast leading up to the big day was unfortunately not all that spectacular. In fact, it downright sucked. Rain was looking like not only a possibility, but a definite. Oh well, we can’t let a little water get in the way of our enjoyment of a trail ride, can we? After all, what are dry bags and rain gear for, right? I’ve cycled through all sorts of weather. Not only that, but I was actually looking forward to trying out my new race wheels in these conditions, so I figured ‘bring it on!’. We had originally planned to meet up around 9am. I thought it was ‘leave at 9am’, so I made it a point to be at the start at 8:30am, which was way too early, as Tanya (organizer) wasn’t even at her own house! The plan had changed a bit, and we weren’t leaving till around 10am to see if the rain would let up a smidge (it had been pouring).
We couldn’t wait forever though, since other people were coming back to her house for Chili and Beer at around 6pm. People gradually made it over to Tanyas, and we were on the road just a little after 10am. We were a group of 9 people, all eager to get muddy and have some fun. I’ve never really ridden in a group this size on a long mountain bike ride. It was a bit different from doing a roadie trip. You try to get a pace line going, but quickly realize that’s not a good idea in the woods! Far too many obstacles and sudden stopping. There was more than one occasion when we almost all plowed into each other and caused some serious damage. Luckily, we’re all pretty skilled riders.
Of course, that doesn’t mean the ride wasn’t without a few funny moments, like when we all came across a ditch crossing mostly hidden in deep bush that was only passable over a narrow 2×4 board, which most of us didn’t notice until we were almost on top of it. Somehow, Tanya managed to be taking pictures at the time, and by pure luck made it across without crashing. We also had our share of funny pee breaks in all sorts of little spots when we had the chance.
The group overall was quite strong I’d say. I was impressed with the pace and the consistent effort I had to maintain just to keep up. Early in the ride, I was having trouble just maintaining that. However, later on in the day, my ‘touring legs’ helped me out I’d say. When it seemed some people were starting to fade a little on the uphills, I had no problem digging in and finding the energy to keep going. Of course, there was still Andrew Cameron to contend with. This guy biked in the 12,000km tour d’Afrique, so he obviously had no problems at any point, instead helped people whenever there were slowdowns, etc. That guy’s a machine. Kudos to you Andrew. I’m humbled 😉
Our ride took us from Aylmer, then headed along a rail trail to Luskville, and further along the roads until we got to the Lac Peche access gravel roads. Once in the park boundaries, we took a mixture of trails, access roads, and the parkway to get to various spots that I eventually recognized. I really wish I lived just a bit closer to the park, because there is so much great training to be had over there. 30 minutes to get to the park is just too long in my opinion. Then you’ve got people like Geoff, who actually live IN the park! He lives pretty much next door to MacKenzie King Estate. Well, at least now I know where to bum a drink of water when I’m training out there 🙂
We tried to keep going at a good clip the entire day, but we did make a few critical stops. First big stop was to shed some layers and have a snack. You see, although the rain was pouring early in the day, it did clear up, and we were eventually facing a bright warm sun, which led to some pretty stinky riders. Second big stop was in the park (somewhere!) for lunch. We ended up at a little shop of some sort that I didn’t know, and even found a gazebo with a fly to sit in. This was crucial, as the bugs this year are INSANE! Apparently, it’s a result of all the snow, and late thaw, which led to ideal breeding conditions. Thanks Ma Nature…. not!
The highlight of the day for me though, would have to be the post-ride fun. Once we got back to Tanyas, we cleaned up first our bikes, and then ourselves, in order to prepare for the awesome chili she had been promising us. There was plenty of it to go around, and we all sat around in the garage eating it, as well as playing some music (guitars, bongos, even a flute!). Then the real surprise for me came when they brought out a birthday cake for me! I was very surprised, and very happy. I totally hadn’t been expecting that from this crew. I’m not sure exactly who’s idea it was, but thank you all so much. You totally made my great day even greater!
Of course, all good things must come to an end, and with the rain coming down once again, I decided to head home and get to work on my recovery (and maybe another beer or two while Jody was out). It was a great ride, and hopefully won’t be the only one we get together for this summer. Great way to spend a birthday.