So this weekend I had three rides planned. The Randonneur 200 was on the agenda for a few months. But not having the kids this weekend I ended up also planning to meet my old friend Dean in Kenora while he was home visiting his parents and fishing and we decided to go for an easy ride on Friday morning. I've also been planning on joining my favorite local bike shop, Alter Ego Sports for one of their group rides all spring and summer and this weekend looked like it was going to be it.
Here's how they all panned out:
A Cat 1 Racer 20 years later on the Road Again
It doesn't take long for former provincial cyclists to get their cycling legs back even if it has been over 8 years since they did any real riding. It may be even longer. Dean lives in Dundas Ontario with his wife and two kids. He works in IT and is the middle of renovating his house. He worked as a bike messenger for quite a few years in Toronto but cycling went by the wayside not long after that.
I knew Dean could only rent a mountain bike when he arrived in Kenora but I brought my road bike anyway because I figured he could be "sharking" me about his ride strengh. I also figured that I would rather ride easy on my road bike than ride hard on a mountain bike with the 200km being the very next day. I also thought we'd end up doing about 50km. Well we did do about 50km. I just didn't take into consideration the distance from the cottage to Rabbit Lake, so my total distance was closer to 70km.
Here's the story of Dean. It is a cute little teen romance, sad at moments because it was destined to never be. He lived in Kenora and I lived in Winnipeg and the summer we worked together at the Huskey station on Highway 17 East, I wasn't even old enough to drive a car. We didn't even have a phone at the cabin back then. This was 1986. He teased me mercilessly. And everyone knew I had a crush on him. Fortunately he had a crush on me too..... except well..... teenage boy issues. That's all I'll say.
But regardless we kept in touch for about 3 years after that summer. I saw him periodically even though I never worked in Kenora again. We even saw each other in Winnipeg once, as I recall. Then he moved to St. Catherine's, Ontario to train. Dean tells me he was a Cat 1 and 2 racer (as a junior).
The last time I saw Dean, I was 18 years old and I came to Kenora for a weekend and he took me to a party out on Airport Rd. He had long curly hair past his shoulders (which I never liked) and he'd just broke up with his girlfriend and was not having a good time of it. He tells me he was moody and miserable that night (but I don't remember). I had a boyfriend at the time and I was miserable too, no doubt. But that's another story.
Redditt Route which I've written about before and as seems to be the trend, the wind was killer on the return trip.
And next year, if we get the chance to do this again when Dean is fit. He's gonna smoke my ass.
Hangin' on for Dear Life: Or how to Pull off 203 km with Under 6 Hours of Ride Time
Following Chris and Ben. It appears Michael and Brian are pulling and the two of them together at the front was always a moment of fear for me...
And the sad thing is, it took me less time to do this ride than I spent waiting for a stupid cell phone in the mall. Here's the dirty Garmin details.
After being in the Mountains for 2 weeks, I now have BIG lungs. The Randonneur 200 worried me a lot in the last week. Last year I thought we did this fast but last year a lot of us were doing our first 200 ever or were doing our first 200 of the year. Of the people I typically group ride with, everyone has been riding a lot and everyone's fitness levels are outstanding this year. I've been training primarily endurance so I know I can hold a fairly high pace for a long time. I'm so endurance paced that in my races, my 40km pace was the same as my 94km pace in Calgary. My riding is stronger this year but so is everyone else's. And who was showing up on this ride? Michael, Ben, Brian, Chris (and then the Randonneur regulars). A bunch of hammerheads and me, the lone chick. In fact I really was the lone chick. There were no other women on this ride, Randonneur regulars included.
It is a frustrating thing to have moved ahead a couple of steps in your fitness and hit the road and find out everyone else has moved ahead 3 steps. Ben and I talked about this on the ride. These folks (and occasionally myself) ride every Tuesday Morning at a Red-Eye hour and at the end of each ride they sprint for the bridge back into the city. Last year I could stay on someone's wheel for a short time and then be a reasonable and expected distance behind them once we hit the bridge. This year, I get dropped flat and they are easily 400m ahead of me when they get to the bridge. It is a humbling experience to say the least.
So I had conservative goals. I had done 70km the day before. I didn't want to TELL anyone that I did 70km the day before lest it encouraged them to find a way to take advantage of me in my weakness. I figured if I could hang on till half way in the draft, this would be a good thing. Half way is in Richer where we usually have breakfast at a Restaurant on Highway #1. This year, the restaurant was closed. This meant, No Egg sandwiches, something I had been dreaming about for 95 km. We were going to eat at the restaurant across the street but the truth of the matter is that I really think the guys saw some promise in the day. It wasn't too hot; there was very little wind; and it was overcast. Near perfect conditions to have a fast ride. Let's get going and see how fast we can really go.
Chris, Michael and Brian at the end of the ride
There were mumblings about hammering even before the rest stop. Someone (I won't point fingers) suggested that Michael the tank (they blamed him entirely, it was all his fault) was just waiting for the opportunity to go and see who could hang on. After all, he did just freshly shave his legs. And I figured it wouldn't be me hanging-on. My thought at this point was that if I could make it to Kleefeld in draft that would be good. Anything after that would be bonus. But I was still doing OK after Kleefeld other than some minor gas pain. I was hanging in their draft. I hadn't done a pull in about 30km at that point, partially because Michael and Ben and Brian and Chris too still at this point, were taking huge ones so some of my lack of pulling was purely luck. And I didn't pull for more than 30 seconds maybe for the rest of the ride (maybe a whole minute, I didn't time it and the speed dropped dramatically with me in the front). It seemed that every time I landed in that second position we ended up at a stop sign or a turn and some more eager beaver (ahem...Michael or Brian) inevitably passed me and I wound up further back in the line. One other time I was behind Ben for one of his massive pulls and he was redlining me (and by redlining, I mean my heart rate is sitting around 170 or higher). Ben is about my height and he was down on his aerobars so the draft was poor even when I was in my drops. I learnt after that to make sure I stayed behind Brian or Michael because they are both over 6 feet tall.
But I wasn't the only one fatiguing. Everyone was fading in equal measure. And the gazillion pee breaks saved me at moments.
We realized somewhere on the highway from St. Adolfe that we had pulled off 200km in under 6 hours (202.6 in 5:57:30 -- 34 km/hr average). It was a pretty exciting moment. Our total time on the road was about 6:37 -- were were back in the city by 1:37 p.m after leaving at 7:00. And here are the 5 survivors of the sub 6:00 200... we look like crap but we are happy.
I don't think we were quite ready for this picture: Brian, Michael, moi, Chris, Ben
Alter Boys Rule
Blake front and centre. Dan's at the front on the right. And a sliver of Phil's right arm with the "Olympia" jersey. They should have given him a hard time about that jersey.
I'm officially certifiably crazy. It was bad enough that I did 200km yesterday after doing a gentle 70k (in hills) the day before, but to go out with a group I have never ridden with before the day after all that and, at the split off point, decide to join the fast group instead of the social group..... it is fair to say I've lost it. And as I stood there in the store before the ride watching people show up (I only knew a couple of them and basically from watching Andrea do crits) it was guy after guy after guy..... for the longest time I was the only woman. I suppose I'm getting used to that though. And I was the only woman in the fast group.
And my favorite Alter Boy, Dave wasn't there to see any of it. Shame on him. He had to go to the Mountain bike Provincials instead.
Dan, the staff leader, did say they were going to do 35 km/hr which immediately turned into 39. I would say we hovered at a pull pace of about 38 more than anything. And I was very conservative with the length of my pulls and thankfully, I was able to recover at the back of the group even at that pace.
The ride went South, through St. Norbert, up River Road and then back onto Highway 75. The turn around was at some research station......??? ......
Like all groups they have their little nuances. The only instructions I got was, "the only thing you need to know is that we always put a foot down at every stop sign." Alrighty, after that I'll just wing it.
A rider caught up to me as I rode to the store and said, I bet we are going to the same place, and it turned out to be Phil who I only was able to do a name and face match via a picture from Andrea's blog. The only other rider in the fast group that I knew was Blake, who's claim to fame is he was the other rider involved in Andrea's most recent crash. Super nice guy. He's getting married next weekend AND -- he told me today that this is his first year riding........UNBELIEVABLE. He's awesome. But he's a young fit guy.
Organizing for the rotating eschelon
So they do a sprint at the turn around point but I didn't know this so they were long gone by the time I got across the highway. Thankfully I wasn't alone. I caught the guy next closest to me and hung in his draft until I recovered and then I took over leading and he hung in my draft and in my aerobars I was able to pull us both back up to Phil who was the next guy up. Then the three of us worked to catch Dan who, I thought, had dropped back to help us catch the group but I discovered later via a conversation with Phil that Dan is a workhorse kind of rider. He can hold a strong pace for a long time but he has absolutely no sprint. Hmmmm... kinda like me.
Dan is my other favorite Alter bike mechanic, by the way, but he's been gone most of the summer.
We did a rotating eschelon formation all the way down River Road and then they did another sprint to the hill by the Courchain Bridge and then it was leisure pace back into the city. But not before yet another sprint through Crescent Park. I survived the latter two sprints with my Ego intact (haha get it?). Not bad for a chick with over 300 ride km under my belt for the weekend by this point.
So after all that I've been watching ironman results as Ironman Canada and Ironman Louisville are updating results live on the net and I've got tabs on 11 people's bib numbers. I've basically being eating myself out of house and home at the same time. I deserve it. The only thing that worries me after the adventures of the weekend is that the bar has now been raised. Tell me folks. What next?