My 300 Kilometer Ride... musing through life...
|Ron Allen and me getting ready to leave|
Parliament Hill in Ottawa, in the rain, headed
to Halifax in 2014
I also got information from Livestrong about losing weight and strengthening my core... upon which cycling depends for the hard climbs. The weight issue became easy when I put in the details to an app at Livestrong... Weight 172, Target weight 150, and number of days to goal... 61. Out popped my guideline... 1,250 calories a day!
At the same time I had had a conversation with my cardiologist about my check-up. There had been only one blood factor that was not normal... MCV. This relates to the size of my red blood cells. They were way, way to large and could be affecting my ability to replenish my muscles with oxygen. He had recommended that I stop all alcohol intake and start a regimen of daily Folic Acid, and Vitamins B6 and B12. That helped me rationalize the 1,250 calories... I had been taking in thousands of empty calories with my meals based on alcohol... so that was "full stop".
Lynnda helped a lot by keeping me focused on the weight loss... while I was focused on miles in the saddle. I used some motivation tools during that period, since I was riding daily 50 to 100 kilometers... I always leave the house with a mental list of questions I need to answer; people I need to understand; challenges and hills I need to overcome and so on... I had recently lost a distant, but good friend in Jeff Clarke, to cancer.
|Dannie Titus came to the finish of|
the Ottawa/Halifax ride to pace us
in, even though she was still in a life-
and death battle with her cancer.
I started gaining confidence as I trained. The weight was leaving... 1,250 calories and over 50 km per day makes that happen. But two things started as a result of "over training... first was that my left knee, which has had two surgeries in the past (ACL, MCL and a Smoothing) was starting to hurt a lot more than in the past, after my rides. I tried ice, heat, lime juice (which included the rind and had been recommended by my physician and had a big impact on night cramps)... but the only thing that worked was a reduction in mileage.
At the same time the rainy season was starting here in central Mexico. I don't mind the rain, having grown up in Nova Scotia where it is either raining, snowing, sleating or fogging practically every day on the eastern shore where we had lived in the "oo's"... so I was used to it. It is that it rains hard at night and the debris from the run-off in the hills causes flat tyres to be a regular thing. I had to make adjustments on days when the previous night it had rained hard... it turned into a blessing!
|A two flat day, waiting for a pic-up|
since I was still only carrying one
gas tube and no pump... that would
change after this ride, being stuck
30 kilometers from home.
I started seeing even better results and on the days I did road cycling, I could feel the difference. WoW... training works. I realized that I was getting into better shape than at any time in my life. This at 67 years old was embarrassing... I had wasted opportunities, and based on the cancer research that Dr. Ryan Rhodes (the doc that our rides have been supporting at the University of Victoria for the past three years), maybe I had missed opportunities to avoid some cancers associated with nutrition and exercise. Another chance to do better for anyone... we just need motivation, goals and friend/family support.
By the time the 61 days were finished, I had gotten to 152 pounds. I was needing new clothes, since even my jeans were falling off my ass. My medium sized t-shirts were too big and my bib-shorts were starting to bind while on the bike. I had never imagined what it would be like to ride at 152, but I was soon to find out. The ride was just a week off and it was time to get ready to go. My travel plans were all in order, it was time to start storing energy, while trying not to add weight... more reading on loading, what to load and when... I had about a week, but the trip was about to start...
I also had ordered several hard copy books… Exponential Organizations by Salim Ismail… Bold by Peter Diamandis… The Innovators by Walter Isaacson… and Moments of Impact by Chris Ertel, et al. My reading list for the rest of the month. It was an exciting haul, since I already had most of them on the Kindle, but graphics on the Kindle were not up to speed for reading business stuff which has all sorts of charts… and I can’t really mark up the pages (shown on the page itself) on the Kindle I have… looking forward to that functionality!
Danny took me to a restaurant in down town Truro… The Nook and Cranny. I had a great meal. We saw, talked to and had laughs with several people either Danny or I or both knew… saw Charles Cox who was in our class and became a lawyer in Truro.
For the ride I bought my first Trek bicycle, a Madone carbon fiber bike. It was beautiful, had the better cassette and lots of features that I would learn over the ensuing years, to appreciate. I had a lot to learn, but having the right bike was a big step. Ian Forbes at BikeFit sold it to me, and years later he would have become a great friend, a cycling buddy, and someone I learned a lot from, about organizing volunteers for long multi-day rides.
I drove by the Oxford Theatre that was the best in Halifax in the 70's… and now, preserved, has off market films, often the best to watch. Down Quinpool Road from Oxford, after jumping the light for an illegal left turn (I had practiced this in the seventies); then, by some beautiful old Halifax homes to Connaught Boulevard, and some speed down the hill to make the light… here is the turn onto Bayers Road where the decision for 'not taking a bridge' to head to Truro is made… more speed down the hill… I used to ride my bike on this, too… thinking like a cyclist… back then I had a steel framed Fuji with flat bar-breaks and ten speeds… hot bike then, in a maroon color… SMU colors of course!
I assessed what was needing attention before I headed to Cape Breton in the morning. I knew I could go downtown and visit with the good folks at Hub Cycle for any parts. The big missing part in my saddle bag was a small, multi-tool. I had not brought one from Mexico, thinking there would be one in the box… but ‘not’!
I had gotten my weight down to 152 pounds for the ride, but now it was time to load up on some energy in the form of fats and carbs… mmmmm, GOOD! As I headed to Cape Breton via the Canso Causeway I kept flashing back to some of my trips to Sidney, Mabou, Baddeck, Whitney Pier and of course the Cabot Trial itself.
A mind of its own, on its own, remembers things better forgotten sometimes (we lost the back game by five goals, and were out of the championship).
It was tugging at me… but by then I had to pee… and then I really knew I was home… just stopping at road side, hiding behind an open passenger door… ahhhh, the privilege of being a male in Nova Scotia.
It was like being home again… Ron Allan, Chris MacDougall, Sean LeMoine, Paul McQueen, Todd MacDonald, Ashley Ward, Bill MacDougall, and countless others with whom I had ‘ridden somewhere meaningful’. There was anticipation and energy in the rink… then the picture, and we were out-a-there. Find your energy source…
I met a group at a table… Ron, Sean, and a friend of Ron’s, Ian MacRae… there were several others around the pub… lots of music, being drowned out by enthusiastic, embellished stories, egged on by good food and drink.
I've had my Aortic Valve replaced in open heart surgery, twice. I have used this outfit as one of my motivators for the last two years when I ride the annual Cardiac Classic bike ride in Little Rock each April… it works! Remembering the people who fixed me, cared for and care for me to this day, while I am riding, is a huge motivator.
I was all set! Later, someone told me I was looking rather dapper… but that was after I had taken off my vest! But I didn't take off those names that were riding on my shoulder every inch of the way...
My saddle bag had a tube and CO2 bottle and a flashing red light… I was prepared to fix only one flat, but was confident that with my newer 25 mm tyres and the new tubes I had put in them the day before… I could go 'flat-free'. If I did have more than one flat, I knew I couldn’t make the cut-off times with the riding plan I had put together… so I would be out of the ride with two flats… so just one would do.
The morning was hazy, and not nearly as cold I had anticipated and dressed for…
easily 15˚C… a view at the start of the ride, The Bras d’or Lakes looking for the sun-up…
|Ron Allen and Ian MacRae as we were ready to start the ride at Day Break on 18 July, 2015. |
These guys are buds from the South Shore of Nova Scotia… Great athletes and capable riders who like to have a grand time, all the time.
Along the way toward Cape Smokey and Ingonish beyond, there were two stops that were required check-points… The first was not far from the beginning of the ride. It was really just like a train-station, whistle-stop… I hadn’t really gotten into my water or food yet, so really I just called out my number and name and headed off. There were a few folks there, it was great that the volunteers had set up a short distance stop… it was a good place to adjust clothing and our bikes.
The Clucking Hen Cafe, the sun still wasn't up so the Roosters
weren't crowing... but the riders were still headed for Smokey
In this section of the ride, I had an opportunity to ride with Eileen Burchill. She was on the 100 km leg and we had an interesting discussion. One of the great things about these rides is that you get to meet some really cool folks. From her posts on Facebook since the ride, I have learned a lot about life and about Eileen. I am lucky to have met her, and to have her as a friend. She is a very good cyclist, as well. I don't recall the circumstances, but I left her along the way, and ended up riding alone, again.
While today walking is something of a problem, riding the bike is not usually a pain… (really, riding is like sitting down on the job… without the butt-spread) until I have long, standing climbs or I push it too long in a day, or too hard for consecutive days. I was being careful in Cape Breton, to baby my knee as long as it would hold up. That’s why Cape Smokey was front and center… and because for a long time before you get to it… you can see it… it works on your psyche…
|This is the view from the summit of the climb at Douglas Pass in Colorado on Highway 139.at about 8,300 feet. In many ways, it is the view from the top that makes the climb worthwhile… and then, of course, the descent is the "Waaaaaho" of the ride.|
switch-back, and practically go from flat to 15% mountain climb…
smashing gears as you get up in the peddles;
averaging over 10% for the 2.1 kilometers to the top.
I passed both spots where in the past I had rested... "not today, Alice". I was up in the peddles for twenty cranks, then back on the seat... holding 7 km was my goal... each time I fell below I stood and pounded... that was what my heart was doing... "don't look Alice, don't look"... just getting it to 160 was a big win today... head down, feeling the wind, knowing there was a crown to come, satisfaction, sweat, swearing, cadence, stand, sit, spit...
In the shade, the up-slope wind wasn’t a bother… there were a few bumps, the descent of Smokey toward Ingonish isn’t very steep… I tucked the ride, screaming like a banshee, I passed a couple of bikes and a car… 65 kilometers per hour came easily, peddling like hell I got to 71 then the big bend slowed me down… and I relaxed… Smokey was behind me and a rest-stop was ahead, soon, in Ingonish… I could take stock of my energy level... and my parts...
|This is me coming up to the base of North Mountain, just before|
deciding I had had enough
|Parked on North Mountain look-off, bike up in |
the Thule, in the familiar “carry me” mode
Frankly, I was pleased with my decision to take the ride back to Baddeck. I am not usually that smart… I can remember lots of ‘stupids’, as I like to call the decisions that turn out to be bad for my health… “stupid is as stupid does” is the way Forrest Gump rightly described it… smart guy!
This was harder than anything I personally had done, and I knew many of these riders hadn’t experienced much in the way of physical pain… never mind the mental pain that was to come once MacKenzie was under wheel. They were in for a big challenge, most loved it!
It is a powerful motivation, but as I tried to convince Ron, it isn’t worth endangering ourselves… the same thoughts I myself had had, at the base of North Mountain… his determination to continue was having a reverse impact on me… I was regretting, now, that I had gotten off the bike… seeing him minimize his situation… we were in the “ya ba” zone… “I can do it!” I started feeling it, too.
Chris had not ridden a bike, even in his youth and had taken to it after developing a relationship with “Give to Live”. In 2014 he had swam the 14 kilometer Northumberland Strait from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island, with Give to Live. He then sprouted an interest in cycling and had bought a Trek 2.1 Aluminum bike on eBay for $800. Just six months before this 300km ride, he committed to raise the money for cancer research, and started training. He had pushed himself too hard through the first 160 or so kilometers and was spent, and hurting. He had figured he couldn’t meet the Cheticamp cut-off time, so was contemplating giving up the ride at the base of MacKenzie. It was likely he had lots left, sometimes we don’t know it until we get past the “stupid” part of rides. It was just the MacKenzie/French climb that was standing in the way of an even more incredible day.
|How the brain works when Riding...|
We headed toward Cheticamp. It wasn't long before we had passed through a couple of small fishing villages and came to a sign for "entering Cheticamp". I hadn't remembered that it was so close, but we were excited that we were carrying over 30 km/h and feeling great... but Cheticamp is at least the longest town on Cape Breton... we rode and rode, and rode some more... it was like we had passed through the town and missed the bike shop at which there was a transition point and where the end of our day was to be...
We rode some more... and started seeing more life and stores and cars... and finally, we saw the bike shop... there were lots of cars, people and Chris' wife was there waiting in the VW van...
We had arrive at the transition just four minutes before the cut-off. This meant that if we wanted, we could get going, and finish the ride... I started filling my water bottles and added food back into my pockets... this time with bars and energy packs...
"Chris, you want to finish the ride... just 100 kilometers" I yelled. Chris stopped mid-sentence, as he was talking with friends who had stopped at the transition, finished for the day... he started slowly walking to me... "ya tink we cn'do't"... his Scotish tongue struggled to get out the English version... "we have a weeee bit of tyme to d'cide" I said... he pulled his ride from the van, splashed some water into bottles... Heather was to follow, in case we couldn't do it... but we knew... this was our chance... just about 100 km to getting this off the bucket list...
We headed off... just the two of us... and started laughing almost immediately... the sign for 'leaving Cheticamp' is about ten kilometers from the middle of the town. What they will do for extra tax dollars!
It was starting to cool off and we were clearly tired. We were on fairly flat, rolling road way. It was smoother than some we had ridden earlier, so we were making good time... around 24 km/h. At this pace, we would be back to Baddeck, as planned, buy 9 pm. As we rode we knew Heather was just ahead... once Chris and I stopped for him to get some pain meds. He gets such pain in his arms that he takes meds when he is riding. Some of the time he is leaning on one elbow while riding to ease the soreness in his hands.
We talked about lots of things. I tried to get him to exercise his Ulnar nerve to relieve his pain... to no avail. He pushed on... and I knew I was fading too. He would laugh when I would scream "I'm done"... the many times I did it... that changed to "I'm dying" then to "I'm dead!"... but I was keeping the pace, pulling most of the time.
We got to the last rest stop... a firehall... where a little boy was sitting in their fire truck at the top of a rise before the fire hall, blowing the siren as a warning that we were coming over the hill... it was a scream to see him... a delight to see all the people at the hall, with food, drink and encouragement... this is Margaree Valley... one of the best fishing places on the planet... wonderful people... did we feel good, just getting there... but Ohhhh, those mosquitos... they were thick... we had thought we were getting sprinkled on with rain... turns out it was mosquitos hitting our glasses and if we opened our mouths, we got the protein boost our muscles needed!
We had thought we were the last riders... we were not! Over the hill came a car and then two cyclists... Sean La Moine and Ian MacRae... This was an amazing story, really. Ian had been riding with Ron Allen... in fact, we had started the ride together like the Three Musketeers. Ron had made it, with Ian, to the last rest stop... but had decided that enough was enough, finally. Ian wanted to finish the ride... so started off on his own, behind Chris and I.
|Ian leaving Cheticamp on his own|
Sean, always a great and caring guy had stopped riding in Cheticamp. Along the way, he had helped many people who were struggling... remember early in this story, he was helping fix someone's flat tyre. I have ridden with Sean several times, and this is his MO... just a great guy...
When he realized that Ian was riding on his own, without a pacer/buddy, he got someone to drive him and his bike to catch Ian. Sean then got on his bike, and continued the ride, pacing and at times following Ian who was determined to finish. When the got to the Firehall in Margaree, we all decided to form a pace line of four bikes... things would be a breeze from there... only Hunter Mountain as an obstacle remained...
|Coming through Margaree falls... the hills were steep, eh?|
By now my and Chris' GPS were dead... we had been on the road over 12 hours... so we didn't know our speed, or where we were mileage-wise. I knew Hunter was ahead, so we all just put our heads down and went for it... much of the time the pace line hung together, except that Ian wanted to be the lead rider... no issue, but by the time we got to Hunter, he and Sean dropped us.
It was getting cold, and we were getting real rain sprinkles. I started being concerned about hyperthermia and slippery conditions. The rain is colder than the air... but it didn't last and we climbed Hunter, dry.
The next way-point would be the Red Barn at the intersection of the main highway... I think it is #105. We were clearly struggling, but we caught up with Ian and Sean by the time we got to the Barn... we knew we had just 15 kilometers to be finished... this part is nice, safe highway with a good cycling lane. We headed off with no hesitation... Ian in the lead... there are long hills, nothing over 4% and we were making good time.
It was getting dark. I turned on my headlight, and we could follow easily because we all had good tail lights... the ten or so kilometers to the next turn went by easily... we could see the exit to go into Baddeck... but we knew as well, that there are two exits... we didn't know which to take...
Another good luck thing then happened... as we came to the first exit... there were the two founders of Give to Live, waiting on their bikes to escort us in... I almost cried... Todd McDonald and Ashley Ward started pacing us in... it was great. I dropped back and talked with them... although most of my mind's synapses were focused on getting to the Community Center... we also had an ambulance following us, with the red lights flashing... to protect our backs in the early darkness.
|It was very thoughtful and appreciated to have|
Ashley Ward here behind Todd McDonald
meet us at the turn off from the 105 highway
We had one small climb left to get to the finish... we rounded out the turn, the sirens started, lights flashing and many, seemingly thousands of people were waiting for us to completed the ride... (there were about 75 people)... WoW, what a feeling. A little girl came up to me with a medal on a ribbon and put it around my neck... there was lots of back slapping... we were finished!
|Chris, Sean and Ian are the first three of our final group to turn|
into the finish, Ashley, Todd and I are at the back with the
ambulance following us to the finish...
They had a reception, outside, with some speeches... as I stood in the cold, everything seemed anti-climatic... so I let a few people know I needed to get warm, and I would be back to the bar later...
I climbed back on my bike and rode to the hotel... I needed to be in that bathtub, sooner than later... I had also left some coconut milk and the Protein Mix that Marianne had donated from Isagenix... and lots of Aleve... but first, a warming bath!
I put the bike in my room, stripped... my clothes were soaked from the inside... while the bath ran... with about four inches of water I climbed in, stretched out, smiled, and sighed to myself... I would be back again, to do 300 kilometers, not the 268 km that I had completed.
Then the water turned cold!
I waited, with the cold water running over my feet, thinking this too will end! The only reason I had this room was it had a bath tub! The water didn't turn hot again... I started to shiver in the tub... It didn't take any longer to convince me that I needed to get out... in a hurry. I wrapped the towels around me, closed the window... but still couldn't stop the chatter in my teeth... on with the sweat pants, the hoodie, socks, into bed...
At about 2AM I woke... having missed the party... but not without relief. I opened a bottle of Tequila... there was only a plastic glass for Petron Gold! One for the ages...