Monday, September 05, 2011
I'm calling this a race report, event though the event is a fundraiser, not a race.
The Rona MS Biking to the Viking has been on my bucket list for a few years. I even signed up for it once, but then inadvertantly went and rented a cabin for the same weekend. This year I finally can cross it off!
It is a two day event. On the first day, we ride from a small town just outside of the city to a lakeside community. On the second day, we do the return ride. It turned out to be 84Km (per my Garmin) each way. It is on provincial highways that are NOT closed for the event, but for the most part the drivers were respectful of our space.
The event started off to a bit of a rough start. It turns out that the first portion of the roads were in the process of being re-paved. The road crews had worked frantically in the days leading up to the event and managed to get a "scratch coat" on, but unfortunately, this translated to essentially glued down gravel. Not ideal conditions for a road bike. I hoped that it would only be a few kilometers of this, but it turned out to be almost exactly 20km.
I passed the first rest stop (at 14k) and pulled into the second (33k). I wasn't particularly tired, but my plan was to go slow and rest frequently (knowing that I would have to have the energy to make the return trip the next day). I was not going nearly as slow as I had expected...it just feels unnatural to go slow on a road bike if you don't have to. I also realize that I'm more competitive than I thought. I was into the rest stop ahead of most of the cyclists (although I was well aware that there were other much faster riders ahead of me). Once more people started coming in, I just wanted to get out in front of them.
I had planned on skipping the third rest stop (45K), but it was the Subway Lunch stop, and I figured I might be able to get a subway cookie (a weakness of mine). No such luck, and even though it was only 10:30am, I had a sandwich and some packaged cookies, then back on the road again as more cyclists pulled into the rest stop.
It was a really nice day for a ride. The ride zig zags North then East, more downhill than up, and it was a south wind. I was making good time, mostly riding on my own but occasionally coming up on a rider (or few) and sticking with them for a bit. Close to the fourth rest stop I came up to a lady and we rode side by side for a bit, chatting (there was little traffic and I moved back when there was). She stopped at the rest stop and I kept going. I debated whether to stop at the last stop (10k from the end) or just push through and decided that I needed to stretch more than anything else. The last portion was a bit tough. Shorthly out of the rest stop there was a sign saying 6km left. I thought there was more, but was happy to see I was that close, and started counting down the distance on my garmin. Then I passed 6k on my garmin and I still wasn't there. Psychologically I had set the ride to be done when those 6k were done, so the last few kilometers (after the 6K ran out) were pretty hard.
I ended up finishing in almost exactly 4 hours, with about 40 minutes of rest stops.
The evening was a mixture. The dinner provided was good, and plentiful. One of the speakers - a team leader whose mother has MS, was spectacular and got a standing ovation. They had people stand based on how many years they've been doing the ride. Some people have been doing it for 20 YEARS!! Wow.
My accomodations were... less than stellar. I had been booked to stay in a dorm, but a week before was informed that it wasn't available. I scrambled, thinking I was going to have to tent it in the rain (ick), and managed to find a connection who knew the manager at a hotel about 10 minute drive from the event centre. The hotel was kind of dingy, but had a bed & shower (and my connection owed me a favor so was picking up the tab) so I wasn't going to complain too much. Unfortunately, when I got back to my room after dinner, someone started banging on my windows and scared the bejeezus out of me (I think they were out having a smoke & wanted me to open the outside door to let them in - I did not). I did not sleep great after that & had to be up at 6am to get back to the event centre.
The ride back was surprisingly easier than anticipated. Around the 15k mark, I joined up with three other riders. At the next rest stop I asked if they minded me joining their group. They kindly agreed. It was a fellow riding a recumbent bike, lady perhaps 5-10 years my senior (so early 40's), and her Mother! It was really nice riding with them, even though they (including the lady in her 60's) were going at the top of my comfort zone (usually around 27-28 km/hr). We road in formation, making the ride into the wind (and slightly uphill) much easier.
I was also dreading the last 20km...due to the scratch coat. I figured I would be so sore & stiff at that point, that the added bumpiness would be pure hell. I was happily surprised that it didn't seem that bad. I think that I had made it out in my mind to be so horrible, that reality turned out to be better than my worries.
It was a great feeling to ride across the finish line. My new friends & I did it side by side. Again, I had managed to finish in 4 hours, even though it was uphill & against the wind (thanks to my new friends).
I sat and ate lunch with them and will hopefully get to be on their team next year. And on a team is the only way I will ride again. While I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and the accomplishment, it would have been nice to have had people to practice with, and sit with at rest stops & meals.
The organization of the event was amazing. The signage was clear and frequent, including random signs on the side of the road with facts about MS (Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world). The rest stops were well stocked and friendly. The evening meal was served quickly and the food was good.
There were 750 riders and 250 volunteers. This year the event raised $400,000 towards research and programs for people suffering from MS.
I look forward to participating again.