Monday, June 22, 2009

Nous Allez! Ride report

Seventeen hundred and one riders. $6.9 million dollars raised. After day one we had used all of the medical crinkle tape. By day two getting Advil was becoming more difficult. I got mine from the doctor's personal stash - he was a rider too but happened to drop by the medical tent when I was there.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This was the first time I participated in a charity event like this, so the whole experience was new to me. I have seen thousands of riders together before, but this was different - I was now one of them. Collectively we were slowly freezing as we stood around in our riding tights waiting for things to get underway.

A feeling of intimidation swept over me as I looked around me. Easily four fifths of the riders here were on road bikes of one sort or another, most either aluminum or carbon fibre in construction. These bikes were all less than twenty pounds, while mine probably came in close to double that with everything I had on it. Could I hope to keep up? As I kept looking around I did identify other mountain bikes and that did make me feel better.

Speeches. Stretching. Then finally, Starting! The ride started on time and we stormed the gate with helicopters watching above. It felt good to finally be riding - it was cold standing around in a parking lot and it felt like it would rain. Best to leave Surrey as soon as possible.

Our first pit stop came at 35 km and was at the border. We had to line up with the cars but they did have two lanes dedicated for cyclists. News broadcasts were advising drivers to avoid the Peace Arch crossing at all costs. None of them looked too pleased to see us ride past. If it comes as any consolation, it still took me about 45 minutes to clear the border. The only ones getting through quickly were those who had a Nexus pass.

One thing about the border though was that it thinned out the pack considerably. No longer did I have to push through dozens of cyclists clogging the roads. Now they came in groups of 4 or 5 at a time. I was starting to get a little confidence. Or maybe it was just warming up some. Either way, I found myself at the next pit stop filling up on oranges and bagels with peanut butter. I did not want to run out of energy from a lack of food. This plan almost backfired as I wasn't able to eat all of my lunch - I was still full from all the snacks at the pit stops!

The stops were fun though and I am glad they were so frequent. The support crew were friendly and helpful - there would always be people cheering for us as we arrived at a stop - a welcome crew, I guess. All I know is that poor lady with the bull horn must have been pretty hoarse by the end of day two. Yes, that guy is wearing denim coloured tights.

The lunch stop was 88 km into the ride, at Lake Padden Park. It's ok if you don't know where that is, I certainly didn't. What I do know is that getting there required us to ride up a long, slight climb to the top of some hill with a lake on it. I made it up but was feeling some pain in my right knee. It was time to visit the medical staff.

My leg was wrapped up, they gave me some Advil and told me that should get me through the day. I tried getting some good photos of the lake but they didn't turn out. Just as well, since this blog post is already too long.

I got back on the road - only one more pit stop before arriving at Edgewater Park, where we would be spending the night. The route out of Lake Padden should have been fantastic - lots of curvy downhill with very little traffic. Unfortunately I was faced with a headwind that kept me from gaining any speed at all. Still, I made it into that stop and then on to the camp in good time. It had warmed up and turned into a nice day after all.

I checked in my bike and then collected the gear I had checked in at the start line. This process took mere minutes and worked very well. The tents were all set up and ready. The tent pictured here was reserved for one of the guys who raised the most money. A nice gesture, I thought.

My tent mate, Simon, arrived at camp about 15 minutes ahead of me and was unpacking. We spent the afternoon chatting and relaxing - trying to remember when we passed each other, things like that. Both of us were already tired but we knew we had to eat and drink as much as we could first. We did turn in early but neither one of us could say we slept 'well'.

It rained in the morning but that stopped by the time the ride was ready to start again. Still, the roads were wet and once again we were cold. Simon and I rode in the same pack for a while until I noticed a rider with a flat tire and no pump. I stopped to lend him mine while they continued on.

So many riders passed me while we got his bike working. I know it's not a race, but the people I rode with were getting further away. Once he was patched up I was ready to press on, sore knee be damned.

Eventually we got on to the Centennial Trail. This was a fantastic paved bike path that we took for many miles. I only wish I was with those road riders for this part - I'm sure they went fast. It was during this stretch that I came across Theresa and her crew, the Screamin Beavers. Theresa has done some technical writing for us at the office so of course I had to do some trash talking as I caught up to them. We rode together for a while but eventually I pulled ahead, hoping to catch up to Simon. At one point the Beavers made an effort to catch me which added some fun to the ride. They chased me into the lunch stop but I didn't see them after that.

I'm glad they did however, because at lunch I spied a couple riders from earlier in the day, before my delays. Robbie and Dan were also hoping to catch up to some faster riders, so we decided to make a go of it. We set out straight away before cooling down. Riding with this pair was fun and we stayed together to the finish line, at the University of Washington. The last twenty kilometers or so were still on a bike path, but they were rough as we were all pretty saddle sore and roots had pushed bumps into the pavement. I remember one rider laughing because we all groaned as we went over the same bump.

So that's the report. I might wax philosophical about the implications later, but for now, I wanted to record this new experience for what it was. One hell of a good ride.


LL said...

Well done, Dave! Congratulations!

Yvette said...

Better late than never! Sorry, I wasn't checking blogs while I was out of town. Congrats on the ride! It sounds like it was successful and somewhat fun despite the weather. Do you think you'll do it again next year?!

Ze O said...

Dave, this was incredibly helpful!
Thanks so much for posting your experience. I am considering doing the ride this year but still have so many questions. I guess I will be attending one of those orientation sessions. I haven't received an email or anything from them at all yet - which is slightly surprising...

Was it hard to raise the money?

And how on earth did you guys get home? Did you have to pay for a train or bus ticket to Vancouver?

Are you doing it again?

I'd love to chat with you about this some more, if you ever read this and are interested... ;)

iTripped said...

I have read your email, and am glad you liked my post. That ride was a lot of effort, but also a lot of fun. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested.

Let me try to answer your first questions: Yes, it was hard to raise the money. Be prepared for it to be a constant struggle - but you can still do it. I work in a small office and 80% of the donations came from people I work with. So treat your co-workers well! The organization will actually have good tips on things you can do to raise the funds, it is a good learning experience.

The event is organized so that you get a free ride back if you like. Its part of the package. My wife chose to drive down to see me cross the finish line, so I got a ride back with her.

I am not doing the ride this year - I spent a lot of time on training rides leading up to the event (something I recommend you do too) and my schedule doesn't permit it this year. But I do expect I will ride it again.

If you want to chat more about it, I can be contacted on gmail or gtalk.