Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Summer of Firsts: The 200 km ride

As always I am long winded. I had my camera on this ride. I don't know why I didn't take any pictures. I guess because it is hard to take pictures while riding........

I’m still smiling. It’s been a summer of firsts: first big group ride; first foray into mountain biking; first 100 miler; first Olympic Tri; and yesterday the first 200 km. Today I am flying high. I almost didn’t go on this ride but the fact that I was so indecisive about it probably was to my benefit in the end. It meant I didn’t think about it too much, unlike the Muddy Waters ride where I signed up and thought about nothing else in a state of anxiety and panic from that moment on.

I rode my bike from my house to the meeting point for 7 a.m. I thought I was only a couple of km away but it turned out to be 3.4 km. Oh well. I would figure out at 196.6 km if that would be something I would regret. I wanted to ride gutsy this time, so the heart rate monitor stayed home. The heart rate monitor makes me judge my performance by numbers and I didn’t need that. Just the way so much medical monitoring equipment can create so much unnecessary hyper analysis of one’s health.

We got our ride cards and signed the waver form and paid our $10 (yes, that is not a typo) and were off by 0700. This Randonneurs club that organized the ride (Brian and Sue Leier, are the primary organizers and are the parents of Olympic swimmer Riannon Leier) set it up similar to how they organize similar events in France. You ride from town to town and get your card signed to prove you went through the town and then you carry on. I rode out with Andrea, south down Pembina Hwy, behind a lead group of 4 guys. There were probably about 17 riders total on this ride and I had no idea what the pace would be. If it was going to crank up to 38 or 40+ early on before I was fully warmed up, the way Muddy Waters did, I would be cooked. But when we caught up to the lead group of 4 riders they were doing about 30. When we turned onto Turnbull Drive, the pace stayed at 30, and once we got onto 200 it didn’t go much above 32-33. Perfect. With all this draft, this pace would be a piece of cake.

Once we turned off Hwy 200 onto 210 the roads got wet and muddy. We all got mud splattered, it had rained really hard early in the morning and chunks of mud off farm trucks littered the highways. There was the lovely aroma of pig farm too. I did my turn pulling the group and then dropped back and noticed that not everyone was with us. There were only about 12 riders in our group. Chantal wasn’t with us. I figured she could have hung with us at this pace and I’m not sure how she didn’t end up in our group. She and I did this pace at Muddy Waters for the short time the Provincial team guy pulled us along. Somewhere amongst the mud and pot holes on whatever provincial trunk hwy we happened to be on at the time, Michael hit one of the large water-filled pot holes and both his water bottles came flying out of their cages. Being right behind him, I had to dodge, the pothole, then bottle number one and then bottle number two. Michael stopped, Derek slowed up a bit to wait, and the rest of us carried on a little slower. It was Michael. He wasn’t going to have any trouble catching up. I think someone actually said that out loud.

There was a “secret control” I think around Beaumont around Hwy 310. This was at about 54 km in. Sue was sitting there at her little orange car with snacks and ready to stamp our cards. I guess this is part of the game. These are unannounced stops, I guess as proof that you didn’t short-cut the route. I ate a banana and some potato chips. I wanted to be sure I ate something every time we stopped. Derek and Jason turned around at this point as neither one of them could spend the whole day riding. As we left this control stop the second group of riders pulled in.

We rode from there to Richer, another 40 km approximately, which would bring us to 94 km. There were a couple of hills and people were starting to fatigue. We lost two riders at different points and then stopped for Breakfast at one of the truck stops in Richer at Hwy #1, arriving just before 1030. Cheap Breakfast and good coffee and working toilets (no bushes). We were there for about 45 minutes.

Unexplained Fatigue (and NO it can’t be because I’ve already ridden 100km+)

I was still feeling great at this point. Brian had left us before Breakfast to go to meet Sue at the next check point where they would trade off and she would ride. Brian rode the first 100km approximately and Sue rode the second half. We left Richer at just after 1100 and tore back down the highway. A lot of it was downhill. There was a slight incline all the way to Richer, so it really seemed like the pace picked up. We had places while heading west where we were doing 36 or 37 km/hr with a bit of wind behind us. It was not a solid East wind, it was somewhat North East. In this stretch I was finding any side wind really difficult and a bit of side wind combined with a higher pace felt deadly. I just kept focusing on the wheel in front of me and I did better the further back in the pack I was. I didn’t really understand why, suddenly, I was finding this ride such hard work. I hadn’t really found any of it hard work up to this point. I was thankful when just before LaBroquerie, Andrea announced she had to go to the bathroom and the group pulled over at the shell station at the corner of Hwys 302 and 52.

I was standing at Sue and Brian’s car and decided to pull out a gel. I know I had just eaten breakfast but I didn’t want to make any stops without taking in calories. I was burning many calories today. We were all chatting and waiting for those who went to the bathroom when Ben looked down and said, “You’ve got a flat.” YIKES, so I did. Good timing. So he and Chris helped me change my tire. I was struggling with my hands. My right hand was really swollen from gripping my handle bars and not keeping the circulation going well enough and I couldn’t get the tire popped out of the rim (not to mention the 10 pairs of eyes on me). But it explained my sudden onset of fatigue on the road. The tire wasn’t completely flat. There was a pinhole puncture in it. It had likely been getting flatter the whole previous 10km. But if one is going to get a flat, best it happens when you are already stopped... and that tire was the only tire casualty of the day in my group of riders.

And then it picks up

Sue was fresh and started to ride with us at this point. She led us out of LaBroquerie and held us at a pace of 35km/per/hour... she was incredible. I did my share of pulling here and there. I think the longest I lasted was about 5km and I didn’t avoid my turn at the front, even if I only lasted a minute or two. I never lasted as long as some of the guys but Sue must have pulled us along, with a bit of tail wind, for about 20km at that pace. I never could have done that, not even at the beginning of the ride. We had been in a double pace line up to this point but the rural highways were getting busier so we switched to a single pace line and in many ways I liked this better. Only one wheel in front of me to focus on. Like geese on a flight path.

From LaBroquerie we went through Steinback and onto Kleefield which is where the next control stop was. We started to lose people at LaBroquerie. Sue was pulling again and I was right on her wheel and at some point I looked back and there was a smaller group behind me and the next rider was about 10 yards off. I looked back again a few minutes later and they were all about 300m off. Andrea had dropped off first and Michael had stayed back with her and then the other guys fell off too. We were almost at the stop so we carried on regardless. We thought something had happened. Someone else got a flat maybe. (Sue doubted that she had dropped anyone)... but Ben and Chris who were not far behind didn’t know what was going on. We were about 144km into the ride at this point. People were just fatiguing. Andrea’s legs were sore. We all needed a rest. There was a lot of complaining going on about various body parts at this rest stop. I was good though. Nothing hurt abnormally or excessively. I ate a whole protein bar. Andrea contemplated taking Advil but opted not to in the event it upset her stomach. She sat on the ground and stretched. John was afraid to sit in case he never got back up again. He had dropped off before Andrea. I thought John’s problem was just not following close enough to get the full draft. John and I had rode together for about half of Muddy Waters and he wasn’t very experienced at group riding. (I said to him I was certain he had to have had a faster bike time than me in Clear Lake at the Riding Mountain Tri but he couldn’t remember his bike time. I’ve since checked..... he didn’t).

And we carried on down the Hwy. We lost John early. We started off in a double pace line and then ended up in a single again. I had tried to pull but we were going North at this point and the wind was kicking my ass and I wasn’t keeping the pace, not to mention we were a little jumbled at this point. Some were riding side by side and some were riding in singles. So I dropped back also to get some semblance of order. I ended up at the back behind Michael and Andrea. Not long after Andrea waved me past and dropped off. That was it for her legs. Michael slowed up to stay with her and I powered past to the rest of the group.

We carried on as 6 at that point: Me, Sue, Chris, Ben, Ken and Pete... Pete rode a recumbent bike. There was another guy Kevin who fell off too who also rode a recumbent. The recumbants were cool but not very helpful to the group in a pace line. They couldn’t pull because they didn’t sit high enough for anyone to draft off of. Pete had been the guy who had drawn up the route so there were times when he went ahead and pulled right before a turn to be sure we went the right way.

Sharing our Ass-ets

Being down to 6 was harder (5 upright bikes, one recumbent). I think Chris and Ben did a lot of work through this section. So did Sue. I always seemed to be at the back. I was still feeling pretty good, but I just found every time I went to pull that I couldn’t really keep the pace. We were fighting some wind along with our fatigue. Sue pulled us most of the way from Niverville to Hwy 200, then it was Chris again but he was tired and we headed into the wind at only 26 km per hour. I thought, “If Chris can pull at 26 so can I.” We were all tired, I was going to take my turn. So when Chris dropped off I plopped down on my aerobars and brought us up to 28 or 29 into the wind. I took us about 3 kms. I had hoped to take us as far as St. Adolfe but I didn’t quite make it that far before losing the pace. Ken was behind me and he lasted a bit at my pace and then he was down to 24 and then he was pulling off and then he was off the back. We lost Ken there.

Ben was next and he found some superpowers because there we were going 33-35 again. When he finally dropped off, I said, Holy Ben, where’d you pull that out of your ass? At which point, he proceeded to show me his ass. Twice – because I missed it the first time. And having a good laugh like that was good for bringing our exhausted bodies and spirits back to life. We stopped in St. Adolfe at the Esso. I ate my sport beans. Ken went on by without stopping. We talked about waiting for Andrea and Michael but we were there for over 5 minutes and there was no sign of them off in the distance. We had 17 km to go and were anxious to get them done. We passed Ken about 3 or 4 km in. Ben led us out. When I saw the floodway bridge I was excited because it meant we were really close. Sue pulled again for a while and I stayed on her back tire and, reminiscent of coming into Kleefield, we lost all the guys again. “See,” I said to Sue, “It was you! You did drop everyone.” Pete caught up and Sue, Pete and I rode it in to the end. Ben and Chris were not far behind. I found Brian snoozing on the grass beside the car back at the Shell.

Earning a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

At the end there were hugs and handshakes all around. We got home at 3:15 about. We left at 7 a.m. so we were on the road for 8 hours and 15 minutes. Ride time was about 6:40. My total distance on my computer reads 206km but my computer conked out for a bit on Highway 311 and I don’t know how far I rode before I noticed. I had calculated that I should have done 210 (this includes my ride to and from home). Average speed: 31+km/hr. We hung around, drank chocolate milk and talked war stories. Ken was about 10 minutes back. Andrea, Michael and John were about 20 minutes behind. We never did see the second group come back as we all left for home.

There is nothing that pleases me more than when I choose to do crazy pursuits like this and I surprise myself and go far beyond what I thought I was capable of. There have only been two times that this has happened this year (the FOG ride in May and yesterday on this 200km). I didn’t think I had it in me to come off that ride as strong as I did. I felt worse going slower at that Muddy Waters 100 miles but given all the negative talk going on in my head before that ride it is proof of how negative self talk has a huge influence on performance. This ride is going to make the MS bike tour (which is 70km per day for 2 days) in two weeks feel like a piece of cake. I wonder if I will be able to stay with those fast guys this year through all those hills? (i.e. Michael, Stig, Jim). I am certainly going to give it a shot.


Lisa said... all I can say. I'm exhausted just reading this! :))))) Way - To - Go !!

Kim said...

it was a long ride, so it earned a long report... OK. So they are always long...