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Posts Tagged ‘Road bicycle’

A GranFondo Retrospective. Try It, You’ll Like It.

September 23, 2011 5 comments

The beginning to a long day

My first hitch of the day was applying sunscreen to my arms, and then trying to roll up my arm warmers. The forecast for the day was hot: yet leaving my house by the light of the moon and riding to the start of the GranFondo required warmth, thus the sunscreen/arm warmer combination. The two don’t mingle, it turns out, and I think all of my sunscreen was scraped off by the time my arm warmers were in place.

These are the things you just can’t plan for, but they always make race days memorable.

I left my house at 5:45 am to ride the 10 kilometers to the start (in effect making it a 132 km event, since my mind did record every kilometer we passed), when the second hitch struck. There are no streetlights on my road, and I couldn’t see a thing. I gingerly glided down the hill in the dark, hoping I didn’t spill before I even got to the starting line.

Once down on the well-illuminated main road, I was immediately caught up in a cheerfully growing peloton making their way over the Lion’s Gate Bridge, to the start of the race on Georgia Street. Thus began the camaraderie – I knew no one, but felt a common bond. For those who don’t do these races, this a big part of why we do them.

A full hour before the race, thousands of riders were already in place for the start. It was a sea of spandex and rubber, so I had to text to find my friend. Once in place, we watched the circus unfolding around us. Finally at 7:00 am, Barney Bentall and Jim Cuddie sang our national anthem, and then hopped on their bikes for the 122 km ride to Whistler. I know, cool, right?

This beginning section was what I feared most: bikes everywhere in a narrow corrider, unclipping from my pedals hundreds of times until we got some space between us to ride freely. But my fears were unfounded: race organizers did a bang up job and it went off without a hitch. We were on our way.

Riding through West Vancouver was so much fun – it was thrilling to have our own lane on the highway, and spectators huddled on overpasses and along the exits to cheer on riders. I was so relieved to be actually on my bike and upright after the start, I felt rather invincible.

That wouldn’t last long however: shortly after Horseshoe Bay riders were off their bikes and motioning for us to slow down. A rider had crashed and looked badly injured, medics were already on the scene. One look at the accident and I lost my mojo, slowing considerably for a while after. A split second can change everything.

View from Horseshoe Bay (taken on another day)

I had lost my friend but found her again as we rode up the Furry Creek hill. We decided to stop at the next rest stop in Britannia Beach and grab some food. The rest stops were somewhat of a party, with hundreds of bikers milling about and always familiar faces. It was nice to get off that seat, if only for a couple of minutes. We refueled and hit the road; it was literally all uphill from here: the biggest increase in elevation occurs between Squamish and Whistler. I had ridden to Squamish and back in training, but didn’t have much knowledge of the road from that point on.

It is drastically different when driving.

As luck would have it it was getting hot as we started the uphill slog after Squamish. I noticed lots of riders beginning to slow down, and could see the distance was taking its toll. My knee was starting to throb, and getting up out of my seat was painful. I kept my head down and hoped the pain would subside eventually, since I otherwise felt fine, if a tad tired.

I pulled into the rest stop at the Salt Shed, with about 30 kilometers to go. Thankfully the medical tent was even closer than the water station. I walked in and asked, “What do you have for pain?” One volunteer sat me down and started rubbing what I hoped was miracle cream on my knee, while another got me Advil and refilled my water bottles. As this was happening two other riders came in asking the million dollar question, “What do you have for pain?”

With 30 kilometers to go, I was fairly certain I could finish, even if I had to pedal with only my left foot. But eventually either the Advil kicked in or the cream started to work, and I felt better. This was fortuitous because this is where the killer hills lurked. The sun was beating down on the asphalt and reeking havoc with tired riders. Many were pulled over during the last fifteen kilometers trying to stretch out muscle cramps, while others were losing their lunch. I focused on the road in front of me and counted down the distance; the kilometers at this point passing almost intolerably slowly.

I like to think I was passing this car...

Finally we were at Function Junction, and the tree cover provided a break from the unrelenting sun. The undulating hills that brought us in to the village were much kinder than the previous steep climbs, and of course there was the knowledge that the finish was near. Things were getting better.

Riding the last couple of turns were actually pleasurable – despite the pain running through my body, from a sore neck to an incredibly sore butt – knowing the race was behind me, the finish line in sight, and a beer would taste incredibly good soon.

Sitting on the grass later that evening, listening to 5440 play an outdoor concert as the sun fell behind Blackcomb mountain, it was hard to argue this was not an amazing event. I had been nervous about making the jump to road riding, but was euphoric I had done it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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Like Riding a Bike

May 4, 2011 2 comments

Similar enough, but one is twenty years younger

Life is like riding a bicycle – in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.  ~Albert Einstein

Nothing says midlife crisis louder than a shiny new set of wheels. But in my case, it was a two-wheeled vehicle for which I pined upon hitting forty.

For the record I don’t think it was a midlife crisis. I just really wanted a new bike. It was time.

I watched with envy as cyclists breezed past me, shiny and sleek in their brightly coloured jerseys. I wanted a piece of that action, but my current mode of bike transport was twenty years old.

Looking at its mangled frame floods me with memories of Melrose Place, Desert Storm, cheap beer, and drama.

It had carried me around my university campus and around the streets of Vancouver before I owned a car. It had been run over by my roommate when I had dropped it on our driveway (sorry roomie; I know I was hard on you for that), was rebuilt and continued to roll.

More recently, the stuffing began falling out of the seat, so every year I added a piece of duck tape. Finally, when it was all duck tape and no seat, my husband said, “Really?” as I dusted it off for our family bike ride. I gave in and bought a new seat, but the bike continued to shine in my eyes, all fifty pounds of it. Rusty, but otherwise bright as the day I bought it. A perfect indigo blue with neon pink accents. A mountain bike built before shocks were invented, it was perfect for commuting, not so much for trails or triathlons. It had its limitations.

I loved my old bike, but even I, faithful as I was, recognized its shortcomings.

As my fortieth birthday loomed, there was one thing and one thing only on my list: a new road bike.

To secure my future purchase, I registered for the Granfondo, a bicycle race that starts in Vancouver and ends in Whistler, a 130 km journey with substantial elevation gain. My bright blue Trek was not going to cut the mustard, new seat notwithstanding.

On one of those spanking new road bikes, how hard can it be? They are so light that the mere thought of pedaling propels its slight form a kilometer or so. It’s not like I’m running 130 kilometers. Surely there will be coasting involved.

And so, for the sake of the race and to celebrate my midlife, I bought a carbon road bike. It is featherlight and built up in all the right places – a high performance model. In the small print I spied the words guaranteed to finish the Granfondo in four hours and it was a done deal.

It should be noted, I’m not the first to trade an old model in for a new one at this point in life.