Today I did the Ride for Karen, a 160K bike north of the GTA.
This is one of the best organized races/rides/events out there, they do a really awesome job. Sign-up is a breeze, they have well stocked rest stops, lots of support vehicles.
One of the cool things is the crowd... roadies, touring guys, and triathletes, they're all there to put in their 160k. I was a stealth triathlete... took off my aero bars. :) But if anyone asked I fess'ed up.
Rain rain, go away
The rain started about 2 blocks from the start... and didn't end until almost exactly when I finished. I don't mind biking in the rain, I was prepared, but over the course of 6 hours it starts to get on your nerves a little!
There are basically two options in dealing with rain:
1) Get wet or
2) Try not to get wet, then get wet anyway
I went with option 1, as did most of the others who lined up. A few people had rain jackets, but most didn't.
- Cycling jersey
- Cycling shorts
- Cycling shoes
- Arm warmers (no lining, just lycra to cover arms)
- Leg warmers (again, no lining, just lycra to cover legs)
- Thin socks that don't absorb much water
- Cycling gloves
They start people by target average speed - 35km/h, 30km/h, or 25km/h.
I started in the middle of the 30km/h pack, but after the first steep hill I found myself near the front. Drafting in a bit peloton like that is really nice... sometimes you're not even pedaling, you just get sucked along by the pack.
I had this elaborate plan for how I was going to eat in the first 1/3, but it didn't happen... it's hard to eat when you're in a pack and only a foot or less away from the bike in front of you! I managed to get down a bottle of Gatorade and a bit of gel, but not much else. So much for 300 calories an hour... but I did scarf down a lot of food at the rest stops, so that kept my energy up anyway.
The highlight of my day was this one group I ended up riding with through the 20K or so flat section through Holland Marsh. This big German guy was pulling, I was right behind him, and I could barely keep up... we were absolutely flying. Our group started with about a dozen very capable riders, I looked back about 20 minutes later and there were only 4 of us! Felt great to be able to hang on where others couldn't.
I spent the last 1/3 of the ride mostly on my own. I was with a group at one point, but they weren't going fast enough, and didn't work together very well anyway. Two of us went off the front, nobody else had the legs to keep up, and then the guy I went with faded as well... so I just kept spinning and left them behind.
My final average speed was 30km/h on the nose - that had been my target, although I'd expected to do a lot less time solo than I ended up doing! Last year I was around 28km/h in the same ride. So I'm delighted!
I had energy and felt strong almost the entire ride, and finished feeling really good. I'm surprised this was the case, I didn't feel like I'd fueled as much as I could have.... but I guess stuffing myself at rest stops was enough juice to keep things moving.
There's this saying, "it's not the bike, it's the engine". I ride an entry-level road bike, Trek 1200, aluminum with entry-level components (Tiagra/105). I spent most of my day riding with guys on some really sweet full carbon bikes, zipp wheels, the works... I left a few Cervelo Soloists in the dust. On the other side, there were guys hanging in there with old-school steel frames.
I'm sure I could have found a little more pace with a sweeter ride... but how much more? I'm not sure. It did make me realize that I can do well with this bike. Someday I'll upgrade, but it's not the priority I was making it.