Oh my gosh: Less than three weeks to go now until Ride For Karen on September 9! Since I last blogged, about having done a 90-k training ride on a relatively flat route, I have now experienced cycling on part of the actual Ride For Karen route, which is in the somewhat hilly countryside north of Toronto. Let me just say, it started out not so great, but got better.
Two Sundays ago my husband drove me up to a school parking lot in Maple, Ont., to join Kirk and Kris Tobias’founders of the Ride For Karen, named for their late mom, and which raises money so that kids with cancer can go to camp’and a group of other cyclists wanting to do a training ride on the actual route. I immediately saw that I was [a] the only female out that day, and [b] the only one there who would be doing the 100-k version of the Ride on Sept. 9; everyone else was planning to do the 160-k version. Today they were going for a 120-k training ride’too much for me. So Kris Tobias, who had taken me out a few weeks earlier on an initial ride so that he could give me some basics, very kindly offered to ride with me on a shorter training ride today: 70 km.
Wheeling out of that parking lot, I figured that after 5 or 6 kilometres the pack would leave us behind. In fact it took only about one kilometre before that happened! They were pretty speedy compared to me. Kris was really, really patient when I just about passed out on my first big hill about 10 kilometres into our ride. I think it was a combination of nerves [my legs felt like jelly being out for the first time on the ‘real’ road with cars and a sometimes gravelly surface] and fear that I wouldn’t be able to go for so long a ride with hills. But most of all, what caused me to stop and have to catch my breath, hyperventilating [how embarrassing] halfway up a hill’which Kris assured me really was a big hill!’was that I forgot to breathe. Seriously. Kris told me I had gone anaerobic, that I wasn’t getting enough oxygen. He waited until I did catch my breath after a minute or so. Then, back on the bike. But, I too scared to clip my shoes to the pedals while trying to ride uphill from a standing start, so I rode back downhill a ways, circled back, clipped into the pedals and went at it again.
The gearing tips Kris had coached me about the first time we went out worked well, even if I wasn’t doing so great this time. "You’ll be better by the end of our ride," he assured me. How could that be? I wondered. Won’t I just go downhill, so to speak, from here? It was such a frustrating feeling, and I seriously doubted I’d be able to finish our route today, let alone do the 100-k ride. The next few kilometres were really rough: more steep, long hills. They seemed to be all uphill with very little downhill relief! Kris helped me out a couple of times by riding close beside me with a hand on my bike as an added boost. It finally did flatten out after this tough stretch, and for the next 30 or 40 kilometres, it was truly enjoyable. Yes, slopey, but more rolling than steep, and it was FUN once I started getting accustomed to the new experience. It was such a help having someone there to literally lead the way through the narrower portions, and on the roads that had more cars than others; Kris also pointed out any road surface bumps or gravel patches to avoid.
I noticed Kris seemed hardly to be making an effort much of the time and realized what a long way I have to go in this new pursuit. I do realize he’s a competitive racer with years of experience, but still, I was full of admiration for his fitness, and I asked him how is it that he can be coasting so much while I was pedalling most of the time? [Seriously, I noticed he coasted halfway up most hills before he needed to start pedalling.] "I’m a lot bigger than you," was his simple answer; some of it is due to his weight helping him into the uphill portions.
Well, our route did take us back via those same hills that kicked my butt at the start. But this time, I was able to do them [okay, Kris helped me out on one]. He was right; I did need to get warmed up in order to perform better, which really surprised me. It was good to know, so that next time, I won’t be so discouraged so early on. And doing those hills this time, I made sure to really breathe in, to get the oxygen into my lungs.
The other thing I ensured I did was to drink enough; here are my two constant companions for the last couple of months of training: My Specialized water bottle, and my Ride For Karen bottle that I keep an electrolyte drink in.
Oh yes, and I’ve not yet mentioned another piece of essential gear: my amazing polarized Oakley sunglasses!! I’ve never owned a pair of Oakleys before, and I can see why cyclists seem to love them. You don’t even feel you are wearing them, and everything is super clear. These are mine; the style is called Radar Edge:
I do know I won’t break any speed records; I’ll still be happy just to do the 100-k in less than 5 hours. Kris (wisely) advised me to get more practise on hills, which I have been doing: This past Saturday I did 50-k in 2 hours & 15 minutes on a new, hillier route in the northwest of the city on bike trails. And I plan to be out this Sunday on "real" country roads again, this time in Haldimand Country, where I will ride from Dunnville, on Lake Erie, to Burlington, on Lake Ontario’about 80 kilometres. Wish me luck!
If you want to sponsor Bonnie Munday for Ride For Karen, go to www.rideforkaren.com, click ‘Donate’ and look up her name.
Read all Bonnie’s cycling blogs at besthealthmag.ca/BonnieonaBike