Friday, June 29, 2012

Welland Triathlon - June 23rd, 2012

I had some pretty lofty goals for this race. I was going to rent the same wheels (deep front and disc rear) that I used in 2010, finally break an hour for the 30k bike course, and maybe even go sub-2 hours for a 750m/30k/7.5k sprint. If it was ever going to happen, it would be on this course - it's about the flattest and fastest you'll find in Southern Ontario - but I'd have to take more than 7mins off my time from 2010.

Everything was going well with training and I had high hopes...then my house started falling apart on me, causing me to re-examine my goals. Then my world was turned upside down and I strongly considered dropping out of the race entirely, but decided that I had some great reasons to toe the starting line. I was racing to do my father proud, and to honour his memory.

Love you Dad.

Setting up.
We headed down to Welland directly after work on Friday and set up camp in a wonderful friend's backyard. I did a short run since I'd been too busy on Wednesday (building a bedroom) and Thursday (running errands and packing) to get any training in at all, and my legs felt pretty good. I'd made up a big batch of chicken fried rice to bring with us since it had worked so well for me all year, and ate it after the run, sitting around by the fire with good friends. We tumbled into the tent just before midnight, giving us just over  5hrs to sleep - about the same amount I'd been getting nightly for the past 2 weeks.

Don't know what I'm doing, but it looks like I'm asking
"what the hell am I supposed to do with this thing?"

I awoke at some point in the darkness to a train passing through, and found myself shivering - far from the overnight low of 17c that had been predicted, it was only 11c when I rolled out of bed at 5.15am and slammed my meal replacement shakes while dressing and braiding my hair. I hoped it would warm up before I had to get in the water; the forecast was calling for 25c by afternoon.

No problems getting on the road, grabbing a cafe mocha at the Tim Hortons, or parking at the arena. Found my rack, got a decent spot, then headed in to pick up kit. I even managed to get my timing chip right away this time (instead of having to run for it, like at Woodstock), and we picked up our volunteer shirts for the next day as well. I didn't really see anyone I knew, so I stayed pretty focused on my preparations; visited the washroom a couple of times, forgot to bring chamois creme with me to the bathroom so ended up doing rather indecent things in the transition area, drank a bottle of lemon-lime EFS while I got ready, and stuffed myself into my wetsuit. Of course, I'd forgotten to clip my nails, so I put another stinkin' nail nick in the neoprene. I'll have to fix it before Gravenhurst.

Not careful enough.
Swim start and finish.

Down to the canal, I hopped into the water to do a quick warmup - just out to the last turn buoy (visible in the photo above) and back to shore. The water was brisk but comfortable, and I was surprisingly calm; pretty much no pre-race nerves at all. Then again, with the stress and heartache of the week before the race it's possible that my nerves were just burnt out. The warmup went ok, and when I got back out the combination of sunshine and the wetsuit kept me from getting chilled, and I spotted Cathy near the duathlon start so went over to say hello.

Fending off the attack of the rubber hug monster.
Duathletes, I am assured, hate to get wet.

Tri and dry.

As the 08:30 race start time approached, I kissed Tanker and headed down to get lined up in bib number order for the time trial start. Since I was #118 and the athletes would leave every 5 seconds, my time would be approximately 9 minutes and 45 seconds faster than whatever the clock displayed when I crossed the line - not that I had any idea of what time that might be.

Ready? Yeah, sure..

Lined up to start.

While I stood in line, waiting to get in the water, I had a bit of inspiration - why not track down a marker and write "DAD" on my hand, where I'd see it while riding and running? Well, because this occurred to me at about 2mins before the start, that's why. With no possibility of being able to get my hands on a marker, I decided it didn't matter that I didn't have Dad on my hand; I had him in my heart, and that definitely wouldn't wash off.

As the line began to move, I shuffled down to the water's edge and stepped down off the bank. One of the girls ahead of me cautioned us that there was a slippery rock sticking up out of the gravel in the water, and to avoid it. Seconds later I step forward, lose my balance, almost fall on top of a girl in front of me and smash my left foot into another rock.

Artist's conception.

No time to worry about a possibly broken toe - things were moving and I was rounding the dock to the front of the line. #116, 117...and off I went, simply hoping that I'd be able to enjoy myself and put in a good effort.

I stayed pretty relaxed through the whole swim. There were a couple of times feet narrowly missed my face and once or twice when I got a bit tangled with a swimmer either overtaking or being overtaken, but nothing really off-putting. My stroke felt pretty good, I was swimming fairly straight, and sighting in the canal is largely a non-issue. The water was comfortable, my goggles weren't fogging this time (I had spat in them and swished them out before the start), and I was even passing some people. Rounding the last turn buoy and heading for the exit, I felt like I'd put in a pretty good showing; Dad would be happy, as he was an accomplished swimmer himself and the one who made sure I got my Bronze Medallion from the Royal Life Saving Society as soon as I turned 13. I gratefully accepted the hand of a volunteer as I reached the bank and clambered out of the water for the long run to T1.

Best swim ever.

750m swim: 15:22 @ 2:03/100m. 10/16 in W30-34, 157/355 O/A
01:08 improvement over 2010

I wouldn't know it until later, but I'd knocked 01:39 off my Woodstock swim time without having set foot in open water since. I just concerned myself with trying to stir myself into a run to get to transition and greatly appreciating the change for 2012 that meant we didn't have to run on a section of gravel anymore.

Run up: 01:55
00:54 improvement over 2010 (slightly different route)

T1 felt glacially slow, but I remained deliberate and managed to get through without forgetting anything - better to take an extra second or two to do things right the first time. Off the rack, out through the arch and to the mount line with no real issues aside from a very slow-moving brain.

T1: 01:20
00:03 improvement over 2010

For once I had no issues at the mount line - I'd racked my bike with the left pedal up, about halfway down the 12-25 cassette in the small ring. I clipped in easily and immediately spun up to just over 105rpm as I made my way through the residential area around the arena, then shifted to the big ring as my legs started to respond and I neared the tunnel on Canal Bank Street. I even managed to start my cycle computer just after mounting! If I wanted to break an hour, I'd have to average a little more than 30kph to account for the time running between the mount line and the timing mat at the bike in/out arch, which meant I'd have to complete each 5k section in under 10mins.

Artist's conception.

I was a little ahead of 10mins coming through the 5k mark and feeling strong with glutes firing well to put out power. I took a swig of EFS liquid shot (Kona Mocha mixed with Vanilla for a vanilla latte concoction - noms!) and kept drinking while I passed and was passed. I had banked a little more than a minute through 10k, reveling in the light winds and sunshine - it was such a beautiful day to be racing that I couldn't keep a smile off my face, especially seeing the legions of water lilies in full bloom on the old canal along Feeder Rd. I made it through the turn-around and took another half-serving of EFS liquid shot as I faced a minor headwind, my only thought to keep on pushing as I'd now banked almost 2 minutes.

Gorgeous day for racing.

I saw Cathy just after the turn around and gave her a cheer - despite my head start (as the first duathlon run takes longer and starts later than the tri) she was right on my heels! I was starting to have a little more difficulty keeping my hips rolled forward, which made me a little more uncomfortable in the saddle - symptom of not having spent nearly enough time on Dolph this year. The rough pavement on the longest part of Feeder Road wasn't helping, but I kept cranking away and had 3mins banked by the time I took one more full dose of EFS liquid shot at the 25k mark.


Coming back through the tunnel and into the residential area, I shifted to an easier gear to spin out my legs a bit - they had been complaining, but I hadn't been listening. I hoped I hadn't overcooked the bike too much, as the day had warmed up quite a bit and I'd have my hands full just trying to cope with the heat without having to worry about dead legs! As I approached the dismount line, I saw my cycle computer just tick over 56 minutes - even if I badly flubbed hopping off and walked to the mat, I should still be under the hour mark.

Tanker gets the award for "most awkward-looking photo".

30km bike: 56:32 @ 31.8kph. 4/16 in W30-34, 175/355 O/A.
03:38 improvement over 2010. 

T2 went ok; nothing really remarkable, though my glutes and hamstrings complained loudly when I bent over to put on my tri loafers. I managed to stir myself into something approaching a run and get moving toward the transition exit, but I felt like I was moving through treacle.

T2: 1:03
00:09 improvement over 2010, 2nd fastest ever.

They had changed the run course routing at some point in the last 2 years so that there are now two out-and-back sections rather than just a single turn-around. I prefer the simpler course, but since the route was so well marked it didn't make that much of a difference. I spent a lot of time doing furious math to see what I would have needed to swim and what I'd need to run in order to go sub-2 hours with the sub-57min bike my cycle computer had shown.

Hot and sweaty.

I did my best to limit the effects of the heat and sun by sipping a bit of water at every aid station and dumping the rest on my chest and back. I know I took a cup of HEED at one of them (and managed to remember NOT to dump it over my head - hooray!), but can't for the life of me remember which. I saw Cathy just after the first turn-around, gave her a high five and told her she was about to catch me - lucky for me the duathlon 2nd run isn't as long as the run for the triathlon (5k vs. 7.5k), and I just barely managed to pass the du turn-around point before being overtaken.

T-rex impression redux.

Most of the run is just a blur in my memory now - I thanked all of the volunteers, smiled and gave high fives to a few people, and death whistled my way along in the sunshine. I do remember hearing someone coming up behind me at the second turn-around, so I told him to take the inside line as I went wide around the pylon; no point in both of us ending up in a heap of tangled arms and legs! I had my usual moment, somewhere around the halfway point, asking myself why the heck I sign up for this kind of abuse...but then pushed onward, knowing that I do it because I love it, and had a particularly good reason to do the best I could today. 

Back across the canal and into the final stretch, I dug to my toes to see if I could find any kick in there for the finish line and came up with just a little extra. I laid it all on, hoping like crazy I would see something less than 2:09:xx on the clock as I approached. To my delight, as I spent the last drop of my "go" in the chute, the clock had just ticked over 2:07:00!

Thanks for the push, Dad!

Final time: 1:57:22.6. 5/16 in W30-34, 54/148 Women, 187/355 O/A
06:58 improvement over 2010.

I could barely stay on my feet as I was offered a bottle of water and had my chip removed by volunteers, and got my handshake from John Salt. Fortunately, as I stumbled in a daze out of the chute my sweet, faithful sherpa found me and put up with my little moment of cockiness as I said "that's what sub 2 hours looks like". We hung around for the awards and draw prizes and said hello to a few other people whom we know that had come out, but my head wasn't really in it - all I could think of was my Dad, and how I hoped I'd done him proud.

Cathy and I after the race.

Tanker and I - I'd be lost without you, sweetheart!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Racing for release

It's now 5 days since my Dad passed away on Fathers' Day, all of which have been filled with an overwhelming mixture of grief at his loss, fond memories of times we shared, and gratitude for the outpouring of sympathy and support from friends and family all over the world. The sheer volume of messages we have received - both from those who knew him directly and even those with whom he simply had a friendly word or chat through an online forum - are a testament to what a good, kind and remarkable man he truly was.

The smile that will be missed by so many.
Love you always, Dad.

In the midst of all of this, we've managed to finally finish up the saga that was our leaking roof. The bedroom ceiling was completed and painted on Tuesday so we were able to vacuum and steam clean the carpet that evening prior to the new bedroom furniture being delivered on Wednesday evening. We got everything assembled and at last, after 15 nights on the futon in the spare bedroom, had our first night's sleep in a real bed.

Very pleased with how it turned out.

Miss the wave action of the waterbed, but our mattress is wonderful.

We only got about 4.5 hours in it on Wednesday night, though - with all that had been going on and with the weather having turned incredibly hot and humid, Tanker and I hopped on our motorcycles after getting everything built. The breeze and an iced mocha latte were just the relief we needed from the 40c/104f humidex and the turmoil in our minds..

Maybe Dad even came along with me for the ride..

Thursday night didn't bring much more in the way of sleep, as we had to pack everything we'd need for this weekend - we'll be leaving straight from work today for Niagara, as I'm racing the Welland Triathlon tomorrow morning. We're lucky enough to have wonderful friends in the area who have offered to let us pitch our tent in their backyard so we can be just 10mins away from the race venue, so tonight will be a small pre-race campfire with friendly faces.

With the havoc that has taken hold of my life in the last 2 weeks, training has been bumped far down the priority list. I have managed some fairly consistent short workouts, but just enough to prevent losing any fitness and to provide some stress relief. Sleep is a near-forgotten concept. I have no doubts the race will be a bit tougher as a result, but it's something I need to do. I can channel all of the swirling emotions in my head into fuel to drive me forward, and I can live completely in the moment on the course. Performance isn't important; doing my absolute best in memory my father is. He'd never ask for anything more than that.

This one's for you, Dad.

Sunday we'll be volunteering on the Welland Half Iron run course, then heading home via a gathering of some of our closest friends at which we plan to toast Da with the enormous bottle of Captain Morgan dark rum he left behind. Half of his roots being Irish, he deserves a wake among those who knew the quality of his character and what he meant to me. Monday will bring the visitation and Tuesday the memorial service, but this weekend will be devoted to a celebration of the life my father helped me build, for which I will be forever grateful.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The best man I've ever known my Dad.

An amazing person in so many ways: a dedicated son and brother, a loving husband who tried his best to make my mother happy, and the proudest and most devoted father anyone could ever ask for. Truly the most dependable man you'd have the privilege to meet; he could always be relied upon to do what needed to be done and to be there when you needed him. He would be in anguish if something prevented him from keeping his word, and would fight through any adversity that threatened a promise he'd made. When his bike broke down in Michigan in July of 2011 and he was stuck with no way home, he agonized over having to miss a dinner date we'd made for my birthday - he ended up leaving his bike behind and spending over 11 hours wrangling with public transit and coach buses in order to get to Cambridge so we could have dinner together as a family the next day, and never ceased apologizing for having "screwed things up".

While he often professed to feel a bit dumb, he possessed one of the most active and inquisitive minds I've ever encountered. He never ceased in his curiosity about the world about him, the past that brought him here and what the future might hold - he devoted much of his great store of energy to lifelong learning, and held an incredible wealth of knowledge. While this sometimes leads to a one-sidedness of character, it was balanced by his good heartedness and easy humour; he was a man who could talk to - and laugh with - anyone he met. He was also the grand champion of making it seem like whatever little trifle I'd got him, be it a poor attempt at a Christmas gift or cheaping out with just a card on his birthday, was the most delightful thing he could have received. I know that all he really wanted was to spend as much time as possible with me.

He taught me to sail, to build, to fix, to maintain, to research before I spent my money, and to question the nature of everything around me. He never treated me as a child; he always spoke to me in the expectation that I would understand, and when I didn't he'd whip out his ever-present pen and teach me more on a paper restaurant napkin than I'd learn through the whole of highschool. He would test me hard at times, but never to see me fail - always in the belief that I would exceed even his high expectations. He held it as common knowledge that his daughter would succeed at anything I tried while ingraining in me that nothing is impossible and that you should never, ever give up.

He started riding motorcycles - specifically his Burgman 650 maxi-scooter - in 2004. It was something he'd wanted to do for his entire life, but it wasn't until his mother passed away that he found both the means and an end to the resistance he'd faced in the past. While a bad hip prevented him from riding a standard-style bike, he absolutely loved the Burgman and would blow the doors off anything else on the road! With its CVT the bike was unbeatable off the line, and the high carriage of the bike gave loads of cornering clearance, of which he used every last millimetre - noone could catch that man through the curves, except an experienced rider on a dedicated sport bike. Some of the happiest times of my life involve my Dad and his scoot, whether it was riding on the back when he'd pick me up at the office to take me to lunch, carving through the Forks of the Credit on my own bike with Dad and Tanker on theirs behind me in formation, or borrowing my mum's 250cc Big Ruckus on one of my Friday afternoons off to escape for a ride, just Dad and I. When Dad crashed his first Burgman due to a van suddenly turning left in front of him, his only thoughts were of when his bike would be fixed. When he hit a patch of gravel and went down near Ottawa, bruising him from knee to shoulder and tearing up his arm, he got back on the bike and rode home! Nothing could stand between Dad and his love of the open road, and he celebrated it and the friends he made along the way by putting tens of thousands of kilometers on per year while organizing rides, actively participating in and moderating online communities, supporting charity rides and riding to far-flung rallies.

A fairly talented athlete himself, he was incredibly supportive of all of the athletic endeavours I have had the privilege of pursuing. I will never forget him taking the afternoon off work to come watch me during the parents' open house on the Friday of my first week of goaltending school, or taking full days away from the office to come watch my tiny highschool get our butts kicked at the provincial field hockey championships. He hated that he couldn't come to more of my ice hockey games (since the arena air bothered his asthma), but throughout my childhood he'd be at every dance recital and every gymnastics performance - any time he might get to see me perform. Even into adulthood, my Dad would make time to come to my races; he was there for my first race ever (a tiny 5k in which I did almost everything wrong), my first 10k race, and my first Olympic tri. My times aren't anything special, but you'd never know it from talking to him - he never left any doubt as to what he saw as his pride and joy in life.

Some time yesterday morning, while out on his first ride after finally getting some ongoing transmission issues fixed on the Burgman and looking forward to Fathers' Day dinner with Tanker, my mum and myself, Dad's bike left the road near Alliston. A samaritan spotted it in the ditch, pulled over and called emergency services; an off-duty firefighter stopped and administered care; an ambulance took him to the hospital with preparations made to airlift him to Barrie if necessary. Unfortunately, there was nothing to be done - Richard Arthur Dinning, born to George and Blanche on November 28th, 1943, was pronounced dead at Alliston Hospital. The man who has always been there for me throughout my life was gone.

I wish we could go for one more ride together; that I hadn't been so busy, and had made more time for you, Dad. I have a Fathers' Day card you'll never see, in which I wrote you a poem about how much you mean to me - we were going to bring it to dinner with you yesterday evening. I wish I could tell you that you were wrong to think of yourself as a man who tried to be a good father but muddled it up; you were the best Dad I could possibly imagine, and anything that's good in me is a direct result of the way you raised me. I'm so glad that you lived long enough for me to love and appreciate you for everything that you were, and to forgive you for the trivial things that you were not. I know how proud you are of me, and I wish I'd done more to justify the unfathomable depths of your pride and devotion. I'm lucky to have known you, let alone to be blessed with you as a father. Thank you for leaving me a lifetime of memories with you, and for giving me the gifts your knowledge, your care and your love.

I will miss your rich laugh, your horrible jokes, your crushing hugs and the smile you passed on to me. Most of all, I'll miss just knowing that you're there whenever I need you...but I know that even death couldn't stop you from loving me, and if you're anywhere at all, you're telling all the new friends you're making how proud you are of me.

Rest easy, ride free, and know that I will always love you, Dad.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Adjusting, not abandoning

I had some pretty high hopes for the Welland Triathlon this year. I had done this race back in 2010 on a borrowed set of race wheels and missed breaking an hour on the bike by 10 seconds, so I had planned to go back and smash the hour on those same wheels this year. It was all going to plan until my crap shack started falling apart early last week.

The tarp job to try to keep the rain out of our bedroom.

If I tarp the roof in my Belwood 2010 shirt, does it count as training?

Since then, training has gone to hell. I missed my first scheduled run in months, all workouts were cut to 30mins, I haven't been sleeping well and I haven't been on my bike at all this week. On top of the stress of my house falling apart, I've been having a tough time recovering from the 160k Tour de Grand last Sunday; legs have felt like crap, and even "easy" runs have been kicking my arse.

So empty, so sad..

The futon is fine for a night or two, but this is getting ridiculous.

Fortunately, we've managed to make some progress: the crew finally came yesterday morning and the main part of the roof is done! There's fresh drywall up in the bedroom, too, so I don't have to stare at that huge hole in the ceiling anymore. My legs even started to come back a bit last night; I had my first run this week where I didn't feel like someone had stuffed an anchor in my shorts!

It's a freakin' roof!

All that remains on the exterior is the roof over the back walkout plus some final cleanup which (I'm told) should be completed today, along with the final mudding, sanding and painting of the bedroom ceiling. We'll be all set to receive the new bedroom set that was scheduled for delivery on Saturday!

One last minor detail.

Too bad Sears Home called on Wednesday to tell me that our furniture has been backordered, and we won't get it until at least the 20th. I swear that day was just one piece of bad news after another; one of those ones where you probably should have just rolled back into bed after the first 10mins. Except, you know, I don't have a bed. 

Now, I'm pretty sure with all of this going on that no-one would blame me if I quit training altogether. Every single session since all of this started has taken a monumental effort of will to commence, and precious little of it has actually been enjoyable. I could just as easily bow out of the race next Saturday, as it's unlikely I'll be getting decent, restful sleep until sometime in the middle of next week. However, that's not how I roll.

Also: I have continued to shrink! 8 weeks since last update, down another 4.5lbs. 

Instead of abandoning both hope and my goals, I'm making an adjustment. I might not post a blazing time on the bike at Welland, but I can race simply because I love it. Everything should be completely finalized by the time I toe the starting line, and I can't think of any better way to release all the stress and anguish of the last 2 weeks (plus the time next week until I finally have my bedroom back) than to sweat it all out on the course. I've reduced my training and cancelled the race wheels, but I'd only be cheating myself if I gave up on the chance to chuck all of this over my shoulder and go racing.

It may mean I only get 2 nights in my brand new bed before we abandon it in favour of our tent, but it'll be just the release I need after this ongoing debacle. Fast? Who cares? I'll be moving at the speed of fun!

I'd like to add a special note of thanks to Tanker for being his amazing, wonderful self through all of this. Despite going through the same frustrations, sleep deprivation and general inconvenience as I have, he has borne it all with good humour and provided endless oceans of love and support. You are my rock, sweetheart, and I would be utterly lost without you and your incredible ability to make me believe everything really will be all right.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Tour de Grand 160k - June 10th, 2012

A century ride is probably not the brightest idea when you're undertrained for it. Doing one on nubby CX tires rather than road slicks is even dumber, but you haven't truly reached the ill advised racing level of stupidity until you add in 31c/90f temperatures, hot sun and a smog advisory.

The Saris Gran Fondo rack - awesome bit of gear!

Up at 6:30am after 5hrs of sleep, we were both completely bagged from our hellish week and moving none too quickly. Breakfast was gluten free toaster waffles with peameal bacon and big cups of Queen Ka'ahumanu from Coffees of Hawaii, then we put on our spandex militia uniforms and loaded up the car. This was our first time using the Gran Fondo rack from Saris that I'd won in a Slowtwitch training challenge (having only assembled it on Friday night), but we were both impressed by the design: simple and intuitive to use, and brilliantly functional. That didn't stop us from getting on the road late, though - the 160k was supposed to start at 08:00, at which time we were just pulling out of the driveway. For some reason, we never seem to be able to make it to the start line of the Tour de Grand on time.

All smiles on arrival!
We managed - thanks to the new early packet pickup option - to get ourselves sorted out and to the staging area by 08:30, as the 100k riders were leaving. No big deal; this isn't a timed event, and since the routes are well signed and maps are provided everyone goes at their own pace. We rode out with the third wave of 100k riders at 08:32, just as the heat of the day was starting to build.

Going bananas at the first rest stop on Wrigley Road

The first 34km section runs down to St. George via hilly Cheese Factory Road; I actually set a new record for my CX bike by hitting 68.3kph on a descent, fully tucked with my chin on the stem. Unfortunately, I was getting passed on the uphills by people whom I'd ordinarily out-climb easily, simply due to being stubborn; both my 'cross bike and tri bike are Ultegra 10 speed setups, so I can swap wheels between them if I want to use Snorky for road racing. I did this last year for the Cambridge Crit followed by the 100k Tour de Grand the next day, and the reduction in rolling resistance is worth anywhere from 3-5kph on average. When riding with Tanker, as he doesn't really train in any serious fashion, we like to keep me on the nubbies and him on a set of slicks as this will usually put us at about the same speed - this, along with a "train heavy, race light" philosophy are what led to my rather dumb decision. Tank was out-climbing me, and that's really unusual. People on heavy steel commuter bikes with racks and toe straps were out-climbing me, and that's bloody embarassing. Nonetheless, I was feeling pretty decent and putting out pretty good power, so I figured I'd be ok.

Double chocolate cookies. Gawd I hate gluten intolerance.

We sailed along to the first aid station on Wrigley Road and stopped off for refreshment. Tanker had some cookies, we both had some banana, and I had a chocolate chip Bonk Breaker bar (which almost compensates for not being able to eat the cookies). We both filled water bottles, and I still had about half my bottle of eLoad drink left. I also made a quick adjustment to both of our rear derailleurs; Tank was getting some rattling, and mine has been a pain for a few months now. We didn't want to stop for too long, though - that just leads to dead legs, and it was 28km to the big red barn.

Also known as the "Terry Black Rest Stop & Spa"

Fairly unremarkable section here - minor improvement in my shifting, but still not great. Tanker's was about the same. Fortunately, the local bike shops provide service along the way; Grand River Cycle was at the barn this year, so both Tanker and I took our bikes over for adjustment while taking advantage of another water fill, some delightful orange slices, another Bonk Breaker for me and more cookies for Tank. The mechanic got Tanker's shifting just fine (it needed about another half-turn on the barrel adjuster), but claimed the cable was the cause of my poor performance; he lubed it a bit and did some adjusting, but wasn't very satisfied with its function.

Chocolate chip!

We set off once again, riding past the lovely little waterfall by Langdon Hall, and headed back toward Churchill Park to finish the front half of the ride - my cycle computer showed 68.8km as we pulled in just before noon. To my dismay, the rear derailleur was performing even worse than it had been when I took it to the mechanic, but since Grand River Cycle was on hand at the arena (which is the start and finish line, plus a stop in the middle of the 100 and 160km routes) we figured we'd drop it to them and see if a different tech could work it out.

Click for .pdf
We popped into the arena and were delighted to see Jeff Evans from the Coffee Peddler (our sorely missed cyclo cafe) had again provided coffee for all riders. We said hello, grabbed some of his amazing dark roast, then headed out to the GRC tent where Terry gave the bike a good going-over. He diagnosed and straightened out my bent rear derailleur hanger, then went to work on the adjustment but still couldn't get it working quite right. It was about the same as I'd managed to get it shifting before the other tech worked on it at the barn, maybe a bit better, but still unreliable. I figured it would have to do, as it was now closing in on 1pm and we still had over 90k left to ride! We filled bottles once more and I brewed up a bottle of EFS drink (as I'd finished my eLoad), and we took off just after the big group from the Hub finished up the 160k in just under 4.5 hours. Damn.

Terry working on the rear derailleur hanger.

Knowing that all of our mechanical issues had left us rather pressed for time, I pushed the pace a bit heading into the second half. Unfortunately we were now into the hottest part of the day with almost no shade to be found, and Tanker was starting to suffer - my cycle computer displayed 37c/99f in the sun. I asked him if he'd rather just cut the route, as we could easily follow the marks for the 50/100k instead of doing the full 160, be he insisted that he didn't want to cut it short. He kept dropping further and further behind me, though, no matter how much I soft pedaled to try to keep him with me. We finally rolled into the Clyde Park aid station at about quarter after 2pm; thankfully they didn't close until 3pm.

Tanker was in really rough shape and I started to think about just taking the fastest way back to the arena, though I really didn't want to give up on the full century for myself. One of the ladies at the aid station offered  him a ride back to the arena, with plenty of space to take his bike in the back of her van. Tanker gratefully accepted (taking a huge worry off my mind), and we agreed that I'd go and finish the route. I was warned that there wouldn't be any support on course any more, but I do most of my long rides alone anyway - I took the bike tool out of Tanker's saddle bag to compliment the patch kit, spare tube, CO2 cartridge and inflator I already had with me, topped off my bottles and ate another Bonk Breaker, then rolled out at about 20mins before 3pm.

Where Tanker's day ended. Still his longest ride ever, and I'm so proud of him!

 As I pulled away with 60km left to ride, I realised that I should have given Tanker the lunch tickets I had in my jersey pocket (as the arena would close at 4pm, before I'd have any hope of making it back) and that I might run out of fluids. I'd given Tank a $20 bill to get himself a coffee (or whatever else he liked) at Tim Hortons, but kept a $5 for myself in case I needed to stop to pick something up. I had 2 x 24oz bottles with me, one of which was diluted EFS drink. My usual rate of consumption is 1 x 24oz bottle per hour, but it would take me over 2 hours at complete the 60km I had left (as I was averaging a little more than 25 kilometers per hour) and the weather was punishingly hot. The route wouldn't bring me back to town - or anywhere other than country roads - until about 10km left to go. Umm..

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Fortunately, Marilyn (the kind lady who gave Tanker a ride) decided to sweep the course on the way back to the arena and stopped at Paddock Corners to make sure I was positive I'd be ok to continue without support. I dropped the lunch tickets to Tanker, tossed his second water bottle in my jersey pocket, thanked Marilyn for taking care of my sweetheart, then pedaled off to get this thing done.

The last 55k from Paddock Corners to the end were pretty messy, let me tell you. The wind had picked up, my legs had gone flat, and I was completely alone. Every kilometer seemed to take an eternity, and the hills just seemed to keep on coming. Knowing that Tanker was going to be waiting for me, I did my level best to pour on as much speed as I could, but I simply didn't have much to give - I hadn't done a single ride over 65km yet this year, and the 4-and-a-bit hours of Paris to Ancaster were the longest I'd spent in the saddle in 2012. The heat and poor air quality were starting to affect my breathing as well; it got harder and harder to take a full breath, and my throat felt like it was trying to close up. I watched my average speed fade along with my spirits. My neck and shoulders were horribly sore, I was getting a bit of chafing from the saddle, my left foot had a nasty hotspot from my sock getting scrunched up, and I was generally miserable.

It's just you and me, Snork.

After an encounter with a hill that had me out of the saddle in my lowest gear combination and a seemingly interminable circle around absolutely nowhere, I finally reached the point where the 160km route meets back up with the 50 and 100k for the last leg back to Churchill Park as I finished my bottle of water. Definitely a good thing I got the extra from Tank! Just to add insult to injury, the wind was now in my face for almost the whole rest of the route. I suffered through the lumpiness and bad pavement of Con 2/Lake Road, only cracking a smile as I spotted a little green turtle on the side of the road. Rolling back into town, I shied at the traffic as my brain and legs felt sluggish and incapable of dealing with additional challenges. A few little hills sapped the last of my strength, and passing 155km I started to feel inexplicably chilly. A glance at my cycle computer confirmed it was still 33c/91f, so that could only mean one thing - I was flirting with a full-on bonk. I realised I hadn't stopped or eaten in the 2hrs since I left Clyde, and had only had about 3/4 of a bottle of diluted EFS drink; maybe 60 calories. I quickly took a slug of EFS liquid shot from the flask I'd been carrying around all day as an emergency reserve, hoping I wouldn't suddenly find myself incapable of forward motion. I had told Tanker I would be back at the arena by 5.15pm at the latest, and it was almost 5 already! I finally rolled in at about 17:05 but only saw 159.3km on my cycle computer; there was no way I was going through all that for less than a full century, so I did 3 laps around the driveway and parking lot to finish off the ride.

161.0 for the day.

Tanker had got himself some lunch and then helped the volunteers pack up, but everyone had left and arena security had locked up at about half past 4 so he'd been waiting in the car (which he sweetly pulled into the parking lot so I wouldn't have to go find it in the field where we'd originally been directed to park). He loaded my bike on the rack for me while I brewed up a dose of Ultragen with the little bits of water left in his bottle and the spare he'd given me, then drove me home to end our 2012 Tour de Grand experience. At 6 hours, 26 minutes and 51 seconds (per my cycle computer - a 25.0kph average) it's the longest I've spent doing anything - just over a minute longer than it took me to complete the Welland Half Iron last year, and shy of 27mins more than the Horror Hill ultra trail race I've done in both 2010 and 2011.


To be honest, I'm not sure I'd do the 160k again, and I've advised Tanker that he'd probably live the rest of his life a happy man if he never did it at all. We both really enjoyed the 100k last year, and will probably stick to that as our preferred Tour de Grand ride in future - the last bit of the 160 just has a couple of nasty kicks to it that we could do without. Of course, had I put in some longer rides earlier in the year things may have been different, or had the weather not been screamingly hot with poor air quality (it was 17c and overcast last year, which was dreary but comfortable). I could also make things a little easier on myself by using tires that aren't the equivalent to tying an anchor to my arse, and and more than 5 hours of sleep per night in the week beforehand may have helped, too. Regardless of the excuses circumstances, I have now officially done a full century ride...ill advised though it may have been.