Monday, August 1, 2016

250km on Two Wheels + An Update

Well, where do I start?  So much has happened since my last post.  The big one being:  WE SOLD OUR HOUSE!  Yahoo!  And we bought a new one.  Double Yahoo!!!  Unfortunately we couldn't get the closing we wanted on the new house so we had to find a place to live for a month.  We've found a furnished rental so now we have to start packing!   This is one reason why I've been so darn quiet.  I've spent so much time house hunting vs. training.  When we haven't been house hunting, I've been working like crazy.  I can't wait until the end of September when all the house things will be settled.  As for work, I have no control over how busy it is so I'll ride the insanity out and hope that things calm down a bit soon.

Now, on to the FUN part of this post.   I casually mentiond in this post that I was planning on riding to Huntsville with two of my friends.  Huntsville is roughly 250km from Toronto and it's pretty much all uphill.  It had been on my radar for months.  I did ONE  ride over 100km but that was it.   To say I was scared was an understatement.  I was petrified.  So much so that I hardly slept the night before.  It was actually worse than the night before a race! Luckily I wasn’t the only one that didn’t sleep well.  My friend David slept just as poorly for similar reasons.  Although I don’t think he was as freaked out as me, because he’d done this before!

The plan was to leave David’s house at 5:00 am.  I ended up running behind because I had to actually send a couple of emails once I got to the studio and I didn’t really give myself enough time to get everything loaded into the car when I planned my wake up time.  An extra 15 minutes at 3 something in the morning is a BIG DEAL.  I rolled up to David’s place at about 5:20 and we hit the road about 10 minutes later.

It was a surprisingly busy ride up Jane street at 5:30 a.m.  But we had lots of lights so we were very visible.  We were riding single file for the most part as well.  The plan was to go up Jane Street to Highway 9, cross the highway and head into the Holland Marsh.  We’d then ride through the marsh to the West side of the 400 and take Concession 5 all the way up to Barrie.  We’d stop there and refuel.  At least that was kind of the plan.

As it got brighter out, I realized that the sun was not going to come out.  It was overcast and humid but damp.   There was a slight chill in the air.  I knew the forecast had called for a 30-40% chance of showers around 7am and sure enough as we made our way into Vaughan, it started spitting a bit.  It did that on an off all the way up Jane and into the Holland Marsh.  As we left the Marsh and started heading north towards Cookstown, I noticed some very dark clouds not too far off in the distance.  I started spitting again.  The drops got progressively bigger and bigger and before we knew it, the rain was coming down in sheets.  We were completely soaked in a matter of minutes.  We couldn't see where we were going either.  I had water running down my face, all over my glasses, everywhere.   We pulled off into a nearby driveway so Jordan could put a vest on.  There was a little river rolling down Concession Five.  Awe-some.  We thought it would be good try to wait it out as we figured it wouldn't rain that hard for that long but then we started to get cold.  So, we got back on our bikes and rode into the rain.  I tried to hang back a bit so I wasn't getting totally drowned in the guys rooster tails that were flying off their back wheels.  At one point it was so bad, I was riding with one eye closed because water wouldn't stop running into it.  Had I worn one of those stylish cycling caps under my helmet, I wouldn't have had that problem apparently.  Good to know for next time.  

We motored along, praying for the rain to let up.  It eventually went from sheets of rain to a steady drizzle which finally petered out into a few drops here and there.  I knew I should have brought my rain jacket.  Or at least something to shove down the front of my jersey to keep the wind off my chest.  I was familiar with the part of the route we were on as G and I used to ride up there al the time when we were training for Ironman so I knew there was a restaurant coming up when we got to Cookstown.  

We rolled up only to see that it was closed and didn't open until 10 am.  Boo.  They had a bunch of picnic tables outside so we rolled up and took a break.  David had graciously made some PB&J wraps which we devoured.   We relaxed for about half an hour and then got ourselves organized to hit the road again.  But first, SELFIE!  

68km in.  Only 182 km to go.  No biggie.

I had gotten chilled so Jordan gave me his vest, which was essentially a sail as he is like 6ft 2.  But I was wearing a camel back so that helped keep it from flapping around.  It definitely helped keep the wind off my chest, which in turn kept me warmer.  As we left our shelter, the rain started up again.  This time it was only a slight drizzle which wasn't too bad.

Our next stop would be Barrie.  We rolled along in relative silence and then the next thing I knew I saw a sign for Barrie.  Seriously?  I thought it was so much farther!  That buoyed my spirits as I knew we'd be stopping for some real food soon.  We hit up a Tim Horton's so I could use the facilities.  I was wearing bib shorts and I was drenched so I knew that getting out of my shorts was going to be a production.  Thankfully I had brought my tube of chamois cream with me because everything I had put on in the morning got washed away in that downpour.  Gotta be nice to my lady bits!  I think it took me almost 15 minutes to get out of my shorts, go pee, reapply my chamois cream and get back IN to my ensemble.  Bibs are way more comfortable but even with the easy removal hooks in the suspender parts, they are a pain in the ass to get off.

With that business all taken care of, we were off again.  This time in search of food.  We made into downtown Barrie and rode around trying to find a place that 1) was open and 2) that had a patio to put our bikes on.  We had hoped for burgers and fries but we left so darn early that nothing was open for lunch yet.   David asked a local woman where she'd recommend we go and she suggested the Farmhouse, which we had passed on our way in.  So we doubled back and went in.  We parked our bikes on the patio and sat down.  We took the opportunity to charge all of our devices.  I took off my Garmin and popped it on the charger.   I heard it beep but didn't think anything of it.

We had an amazing brunch.  Sadly I didn't take any pics.  I was too busy laughing and talking.  I had the most delicious french toast and a whole pile of salty bacon.  SO GOOD.  I think we were there for about an hour.  I took my Garmin off the charging dock and saw that my screen had been re-set.  DAMMIT!  I was really hoping I'd get the entire ride in one go.  Stupid Garmin.  I checked to make sure I didn't lose the data - thankfully I didn't.  I was just starting from "square one" even though I had almost 100km in the bank.  Boo.  This also meant that I wasn't going to be in contention for Morning Glory's longest ride award for the week.    Oh well.

As you can see, we did a lot of climbing on our way out to Barrie.

After we fuelled up in Barrie, we skirted around Kempenfelt Bay and followed the edge of Lake Simcoe.  I thought we'd enter no man's land but the road we traveled was still fairly residential.  It was a really nice ride along here and we got some decent speed happening because it was fairly flat.  We had to stop once to figure out directions but the boys remembered everything once they looked at a map.  We stopped again a bit later to put on sunscreen.  The sun had started to peek out just as we were leaving Barrie and now it was out in full force.  I had a gel at this point because I could feel my legs just starting to get a bit cranky.  This was a bit worrisome as we were only about 120km in.  I still had a long way to go.

As we made our way into Orillia, I started to crash.   My legs were really hurting.  So we stopped at Tim Horton's and fuelled up with some Timbits.  I stretched, drank a bottle of water and took a salt tablet.  It was starting to get hot and I was worried I'd start cramping.    The Timbits helped a bit and I was good to go.  Jordan said we'd stop again when we got to Washago.  I had no idea how far that was but I figured I'd be ok for the next little while.

Orillia was fairly busy and it was also surprisingly quite flat.   We made up some good time through there as well.  The sun was out and it was hot.   I was really glad I wore my camel back.  I drank all 3 litres of it and was now on to the bottles on my bike.  Jordan had said we'd need to fuel up once we got to Washago because once we got through there, we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere for a while, which kind of worried me as I was still feeling a bit rough and figured that things were only going to get worse.

We hit Washago a short time later and stopped at a little variety store.  We turned quite a few heads when we pulled up.  I'm guessing that cyclists aren't a common sight in this little town, ha ha.  We parked our bikes out front.  The boys went in to get some goodies while I stayed outside and watched the bikes.  David came out with a couple of bottles of coke, a couple of snickers bars and who knows what else.  I had a coke and one of the snickers bars.  OMG.   I can't even begin to tell you how amazing that was.  It was exactly what I needed.  I refilled my camel back and topped up my bottles.  I also grabbed some Swedish berries.  I needed pure unadulterated sugar to get through the rest of this ride, ha ha.  We reapplied sunscreen, tossed our garbage and got back on our bikes.   We were just over 160km in.  Only 90km left to go.

When we left Washago, we were entering cottage country, which meant that we'd probably have stretches of road that we wouldn't see anyone or anything.   The landscape changed from little homes amongst some trees to more and more trees.  Before we knew it, the homes had disappeared and the road was treelined.  Which was beautiful but it also meant that the bugs were plentiful.  Thankfully there was a bit of wind so the deer flies had to really work to land on us.  They swarmed us constantly.  I ended up getting bitten a couple of times but didn't realize it until much later.  This stretch was mentally taxing for me.  The bugs drove me nuts and the road itself was awful.  It was very rough, which when you've been on the bike for 170+km, can really make your body hurt.  Despite all that this section delivered some beautiful moments.

Once we got off this road, we ended up on Doe Lake Road, which I recognized from signs on the highway.  It was a busier road with less trees so we weren't being swarmed by bugs.  YAY.  I was surprisingly feeling ok.  I think it was the coke and snickers.  I had officially surpassed my longest ride ever (180km)!  There was a bit of woohoo-ing and then we settled into quiet again.  I started to recognize some of the road names that we were passing so I figured we were getting close to Gravenhurst.  Sure enough, we rolled through and I knew exactly where we were and what road we'd be riding on.  We were going to ride parallel to Highway 11.  This road was amazing.  It had been recently paved so it was a welcome change from the bumpy cottage roads we had been on.  As we pulled on to this road we ran into a bit of a traffic jam.  As we got closer we realized that there was a parade of tractors.  They were all orange.  We joked that they were Dutch tractors.  The guys driving them seemed surprised to see us.

Once we passed the tractors I had to pee, which meant finding a place to pull off that had a bit of shelter.  Luckily there was a small side road that branched off the main road that was fully tree lined.  I left my bike and camel back with Jordan and ran off into the bushes  Getting out of my ensemble was a challenge.  And I was in the bushes so there were mosquitoes everywhere.  Awesome.  I did my thing, yanked up my bib shorts and jumped out of the bushes to put my jersey back on.   The boys took a moment to check directions and we got back on our bikes.   The next little while was passed in silence.  We were all feeling a little tired.  Not too tired to be silly though.

We motored along, and made our way into Bracebridge.  I had officially crossed the 200km mark!  We were at about 210km when the boys decided we should stop and figure out the best way to get into Huntsville.  I was starting to struggle, especially on the hills so the boys had to slow down for me.

Figuring out our final approach
Just after this picture was taken, the wheels officially feel off my wagon.   The last 30km of this ride was HARD.  It was hilly and the roads were rough.  My legs hurt.  My muscles were totally fried.  Jordan and David took turns pulling me the rest of the way.  They knew there was a big climb to get into Huntsville and they tried to find a way to avoid it but, I don't think it would have mattered which was we went in, there was always going to be some kind of big climb.  We were in Muskoka for Pete's sake, there is no such thing as flat.  I tried to really use the downhills to gain momentum and it worked for the most part.  Until we came across the big one.  It was a stepped climb and I got up the first bit and then said to David, I can't get up this part, I"m going to walk.  David said no way and he rode up beside me, put his hand on my camel back and pushed me up the hill.  It was a bit precarious and I could feel us rocking back and forth a bit too much so as we got closer to the top I said "I'm good, I'm good, I'm good..." then he let go and I said "Oh crap, I'm not good!"  ha ha ha.  I gritted my teeth, got out of the saddle and creaked my way to the top of the hill.  Holy crap.  The rest of the ride was a blur of up, down and bumpy.  The next thing I knew I started seeing some familiar sights.   We had arrived in Huntsville.  WOOOHOOOO!  I was so close I could almost taste it.

Because I had ridden from the studio to David's house, I already had 5km in the bank.  The boys had to make up the distance so David pointed the way home and the boys turned off to add 5km to their route.  I pulled into Casa Lamy and walked my bike around to the back.  I was greeted by David's wife Elyse.  I made myself a recovery drink and chatted with her while we waited for the boys to return.  I wanted to lie down but figured if I did, I may fall asleep.   A few minutes later, the guys showed up and it was picture time.

After this was taken we all jumped in the pool.  So awesome.

I am still amazed that I actually managed to do this, given that my longest ride leading up to this was 115km.  It took us 9 hours and 30 minutes.  I thought for sure it would take us longer.  The boys immediately started talking about next year and wanting to do 300km.   I found myself saying Yes.   I had so much fun that I wouldn't hesitate to do it all again.  Although I think if we're going to do 300km, 50km of that needs to be done BEFORE we get out of the city because I know that if I had to do another 50km in the Muskoka hills, I'd be out.

As for my running, it's slowly getting better.  There are still some nerve issues happening so I"m trying to be careful and not push things too much.  So I've been spending a lot of time on my bike.  I've got an MRI scheduled in a few weeks so hopefully we'll have some answers shortly after that.

As much as I'd like to say that I'll be back to regular blogging, I think it's time for me to take a bit of a break until life settles down a bit.  I've got another busy few weeks at work, plus we have to pack the house to get ready to move on August 27th.  I don't forsee a lot of free time in my life over the next little while.   But that doesn't mean I'm not writing.   Michelle Clarke and Carmy Do have launched an online magazine called Destination Outside.  It's written by women for women.  Issue one is live and they're currently working on issue two.   I get to talk about all things triathlon!  WOOHOO!

Thanks for reading along.  I'll be back soon with more stories to tell, reviews on things I've tried and other fun things!