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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Montreal, QC

    My 135km challenge! What a weekend!

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    Bear with me as it is long.

    Last Saturday was THE day of my big challenge I have been preparing myself for since this past January. The challenge is an annual even to raise awareness and promoting kids to move more. And it generally goes through the parents and adults around him. Great cause that is taking more and more effect all year round here.

    Forecast was calling for lots and lots of rain! And we had it!

    Friday morning we left in our motorhome and rain was heavily falling. We did not know if we'd cancel or not. But would hate ourselves if weather changed and we missed it. Afterall, beside the prep we did, it was $300 each (hubby and I) to attend.

    We packed all we needed on Friday night and got up at 5am on Saturday to be there on start-up line at 7:30am for a start at 8am. We had to take our car to a public parking and then cycle to the site for about 3kms.

    When we got up it was light rain, mor like a drizzle and no wind. Yeah! Better than days before. So we walk the 3 dogs and then head out for the day. We start cycling to the site and rain starts heavier but still tolerable. After all the speeches and all... we are on our way. Yeah! But there is over 4500 cyclists ahead of us as we took the slower group. If I had known I would have taken the fastest ones...even if it meant backing some because I'd be slower. You'll know why later. But we learned from that experience and I won't be caught in the back ever again!

    It took about 40 minutes before we were able to get some speed as the cyclists ahead of us had to get their own speed and take off.

    Once we crossed the Quebec bridge I was able to get some speed. I’m on a new bike (only tried it on 2 rides: 100km and 78km), rode once in rain with old bike, never road in group (and talk about a group heuh!). So everything was new to me. Stressed some, but a good fun stress. Ambiance was amazing!

    I managed to keep up a speed of 30km/h in nice stretches. Hills were my killers and I knew that. I had to keep an average of 22-24km/h (that was the min. allowed).

    My bike rode awesome. I was never scared. I was able to keep up to the back wheels of others, etc. We had a 1st stop at the 27km marker. Hubby had to stop for a leak! Men‼! What is it with them and stopping all the time to pee. Haha

    So we leave after 3-4 minutes (also ate nuts and drank some G2). Rain is still falling but now stronger. Next pit stop is at marker 70. Not bad. This one and the next at 100 are mandatory for all.

    So we keep cycling. I’m doing good on flats but not fast enough as long hills are there. The crowds are all over cheering, giving us the boost we need when we cross towns. Volunteers are helping us, pushing those who need a back push for hills, etc.

    At some point, I’m doing 18km/h on a super long never-ending hill. Winds have picked up and of course facing us! Not that the hill is steep but it never ends. We’re at marker 59k. Only a few more to go to next pit stop but my thighs are starting to burn from all that climbing (which I knew would happen). I tell hubby I’m going to take a minute to rest/stretch on the side of the road and go right back to finish the hill and head to the pit. Hubby did push me a bit as we could not see any volunteers anymore! (found later on a french board that some were too cold riding slower and left to catch the front cyclists - those did not need push!!!! ARgghhh)

    He turns around and he said to me. We’re in deep trouble. I look and there is the end bus not far (probably 1/2km). That is NOT good. People have started to give up. We see a lot waiting by sides to be picked up to be brought back to the site. Rain in pouring down. We are soaked through all 3 layers even with rain coat on, water is flowing in my shoes like a lake. But I am not cold. But now getting discouraged seeing the bus. I know I am in trouble now. haha We have seen so many accidents (falls, blood, damaged bikes, ambulances working overtime, people in hypothermia..). I have to ride carefully, especially not used in those extreme conditions, etc.

    The guy in the motorhome (the queue bus) tells me I have 3 options:

    1) I get back on the road and need to keep a pace of 25km/h in order to get away from them. This is something I can’t do on hills and I know. I knew once I crossed the 70km mark it would be mostly downhill after that and the worst would be behind me. So just 12km to go.

    2) I get in the 1st school bus and ask to be dropped-off at pit stop and keep going.

    3) Get in the 2nd bus and call it a day and be brought back to site.

    I chose option #2. Be dropped off at km 70 and keep cycling. I know I have the energy for it. I feel great. So hop on the bus we go. Talking with people who know the area, they told me it is not going to get easier as the part of the road of the other half is terrible, potholes, etc so I won’t be able to really “race” down safely. Then the rain really started to pour down while in the bus. My husband looks at me and said: are you sure you don’t want to drop off the event. NOPE‼! Then I start to shiver, bad. I was cooling down. I knew the 20 minute ride/waiting to get there would be a killer since my muscles would take it harder to get back on the bike. Slowing me down even more. And we don’t know when the next bus will come by to pick us up. So I opted to use my brain and not my emotion/heart and got off this bus and took the next one. My safety primed on the dream!

    When I got in the 2nd bus, some people that were waiting outside with us were there already. They had changed their minds too. It is then that I started to cry. I just could not stop (on/off) all the way back to the site. All this training, hope, etc…ended right there because of a hill, rain, etc. Instead of being proud of what I have achieved, I was fixating on not finishing. It took me a good day to get back to my senses.

    While waiting in the bus….we talked with a few people who abandoned due to injuries (broken bloody fingers), broken bikes, falls, too cold, eye injury due to debris from riders in front of them. So under those circumstances, I had it easy.

    The cherry on the sundae: seeing Canadian pro tour de France cyclist David Veilleux on the bus behind us as he had a flat and could not be fixed! Yeah‼! I felt less of a “loser”. Hahaha We all wanted him in our bus but he had his “private priviledges” of course! Deuh! Haha

    It took us over an hour (probably 1.5h) to get our bikes back as they were into another bus. Waiting outside in the rain on the site is not a winner admin organisation (which I will write to them). We had no clue where that bus would be coming from and when so we could not even find shelter, enjoy the lunch, free spa, etc… we had to watch for our bikes. We were shivering, teeth clattering, upset, hungry (all of bars were in our bike bags - on the bikes). The previous bike bus left other bikes on the ground (with a volunteer). I did not want our new bikes to be stolen. You never know.

    While talking with another guy waiting for his, he said he had to walk 5km (50 minutes) with his bike in his hand before a bus arrived. He wanted to keep walking to keep warm. So it was a wise decision for me to back down when I did. Our bus had to turn down a guy outside, in the rain, with hypothermia. I was freaking out. I wanted to tell the bus driver to drop me and get that man inside. I was cold, but never like what he looked like (I will write to them about this too). I think the organization never thought it would all be so bad to get so many people dropping like flies.

    I am sure I would have been able to nail that one if I had not seen the queue bus when I stopped for that minute. This is what killed me. So lesson learned next time I will sign up to start with the quick guys (not the fastest ones but the next ones). That would have bought me time for my mini-rests if needed. I would have been able to get back on saddle and ride without stress as I would not have seen those buses. I found a youtube video that someone took of all cyclists. After looking at it, I know why it was so tight for us. We only had a buffer of 7 minutes with the queue bus. No wonder‼‼ The gap in time from the 1st riders to leave and us was almost an hour! Can you imagine how much time that would have given me if I needed mini mini breaks.

    Anyway, after deception and crying what I retained is that I went totally out of my comfort zone with riding at 30km/h + in heavy rain, winds, in huge groups. I know now that with my new Specialized bike I feel totally safe as I was never once scared on it. I also know that I will have to train to work on my endurance on hills (not the big steep ones, I’m not there yet). Hills is what killed my momentum during this event. It was not a race but you still had a minimum average to keep. Riding 60km under such circumstances should not be something to be ashamed of. No I did not see the arrival arch. But overall, I did more than a lot of people did on that nasty day. And I will be working now on fighting those hills and win the battle.

    Just to give you an idea of the amount of cyclists in that challenge, this is a video I found on the web. My husband (lime coat) is at 46m31s and me ( pink coat) just a tad behind. We had ridden probably 10km then so rain had not totally kicked in just yet. It got bad to worst – with winds - just 10km after that.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2008
    northern Virginia
    Wow. I have to say, congratulations -- even though you didn't finish, you rode a long way at a fast pace in *terrible* conditions. And it was your first big group ride and only your second ride in the rain. Really, it was a great accomplishment. And you've learned from it, which will help you so much on future rides.

    I remember once seeing a mountain climber on a TV talk show, I think he was plugging a book that he'd written. He said that a successful climb is not when you reach the summit -- it's only a success when you make it back down to the bottom safely. You were facing a dangerous situation with the weather, as you saw with the folks who had hypothermia. Given the conditions, I think you made the right decision to stop the ride. It's better to stay healthy and try again another day.

    I'm also impressed that so many people showed up despite the weather, and that there are so many willing to take on the challenge of this ride. 22 km/hr is roughly 14 mph, which is a brisk pace for a hilly ride.

    And I'm so glad that your new bike is working out well for you. It sounds like you've gotten a lot of positives out of the experience and are focused on the future. Good luck and have fun with your training!!

    Oh and p.s., I took a great first aid course recently in which they suggested bringing a mylar emergency blanket on rainy/cold rides. Other folks here on TE have also suggested it -- they take up very little space in your bike bag but could really help in cold rainy conditions.


    - Gray 2010 carbon WSD road bike, Rivet Independence saddle
    - Red hardtail 26" aluminum mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle
    - Royal blue 2018 aluminum gravel bike, Rivet Pearl saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver 2003 aluminum road bike
    - Two awesome worn out Juliana saddles

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Oslo, Norway
    What an awesome story! You'll probably never have a race that bad again :-D Of course you cried, having to give up is the hardest thing to do, it kicks your butt the way no amount of effort does.

    Funny thing, just yesterday I was reading in "How to think like a Freak" (book 3 of the Freakonomics series) about exactly that, how most people - and firms are really "bad at failing" - ie. giving up in time, instead of carrying on with something that's getting worse and worse. Learning when to call it a day is a really good thing to do.
    Winter riding is much less about badassery and much more about bundle-uppery. - malkin

    1995 Kona Cinder Cone commuterFrankenbike/Selle Italia SLR Lady Gel Flow
    2008 white Nakamura Summit Custom mtb/Terry Falcon X
    2000 Schwinn Fastback Comp road bike/Specialized Jett

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Concord, MA
    You were very wise to stop when you did. Hypothermia is nothing to fool around with. You did a lot. Enjoy what you accomplished.
    But... this is why I won't sign up for a timed event. If it's not a race, I want to be able to go as fast as I can, *for me.* If I am raising money for a good cause (rare, I hate to ask for $), I'm going to do it under comfortable conditions. I've ridden in the kind of rain you describe, on a tour, with big hills. While my rain gear worked, I knew I could get in the van at any time, and no one was timing me.
    2015 Trek Silque SSL
    Specialized Oura

    2011 Guru Praemio
    Specialized Oura
    2017 Specialized Ariel Sport

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Western Canada-prairies, mountain & ocean
    So was this a radonnee like ride? Congrats. Helene. Set your own standards, no matter what other people think, and always be safe.

    Anyway, I know I wouldn't enjoy trying to ride at the speed requirement continuously and especially in driving rain with a pile of other cyclists.

    We have done a number of touring rides which is different type of cycling but still..same weather conditions...with our loaded panniers where we cycled for 5-6 hrs. in continuous rain on highways and paths from town to town. And some of those rides were in Quebec....ah yes, one memorable ride with logging trucks beside us. (Yes, freakin' scary.) In all these wet touring ride days, no we did not have any support van. It's just touring trips we make up and no van support. I've only participated in less than 4 long-distance group rides where there was van support. (maybe 20% of all the multi-hr. long touring rides we've done in the past 2 decades)

    Helene, there really are different types of cycling endurance and toughness. And you did one of them well.
    My Personal blog on cycling & other favourite passions.
    遙知馬力日久見人心 Over a long distance, you learn about the strength of your horse; over a long period of time, you get to know whatís in a personís heart.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Montreal, QC
    Thank you all. I'm over it now but it was not an easy call to drop off. My head was set so high in achieving it to the end. And conditions were bad.

    This event takes about a year to organize and it is getting bigger every year. I have linked the website below for those who want to know more about it. The part is in 2. 1000 cyclists cycle 1000km in 3 days from x place to Montreal. There is a loop of 135km included in that part that is opened to people 16y+ . At 1st it was only 3,000 cyclists to join the 1000. This year they raised the number to 4000. Imagine going from town to town with over 200 motorhomes (each team (5 people) in the 1000 has to have their motorhome (sleep, relay cyclists, etc.), buses, police, ambulances, etc. It takes a lot of organization and no one is ever left behind thus the buses in the back. Main roads are blocked to let cyclists ride safely, etc.

    I wish I never have to ride in such bad weather, at least for that long. I told hubby last night that I don't like to ride with a timed-clock either. More the type to look at turtles in ponds, watch not to squash a caterpillar on my drive. hahahah But if/when I ever sign into something like this again, yes I will make sure I start at the front, no matter what speed I signed up for.

    Most of our "challenges" have that van in the back. I'm talking the more organized outings.

    I will look into such blanket to keep in our stuff for days we go out and forecast is not stable. I normally would not go out and ride in such weather. This is something I booked last December. In QC City you never know what weather could be like. But it was never that bad. Even the pros in there suffered from hypothermia (those doing the 1000) and were removed from the peloton at some point. They have some ex-Montreal Hockey players that were removed too after a few kms (on the 1000) because of harsh conditions and they tired. So if those men used to work hard and play tough were challenged, imagine someone like me! I am no match. haha

    But it is a good experience (once dust settled in) and I will move forward in working on my weaknesses. At 51 I will never be a Froome or Armstrong. But I will be in better physical shape for sure.

    Last edited by Helene2013; 06-18-2014 at 05:19 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Pacific Northwest
    Really interesting to read your ride experience, I think if the HOCKEY dudes were bailing out, then you certainly have nothing to regret, egads. Those guys are tough cookies. Well, you are tough cookie for lasting as long as you did. I would have been totally intimidated by the sweep van rolling behind me.

    +1 on the mylar blanket, they probably weigh hardly even an ounce. I always carry one with me if we are out in cooler conditions or longer rides where it might rain. I had one in my trunk bag on our way back from Vancouver last week, even though it's summertime here. You never know.
    "Don't go too fast, but I go pretty far"



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