Ahh...the long weekend is here! Angie wanted to organize a long ride for us on Saturday to help celebrate. There would be an option to shorten it if you wanted to, or else you could try for the whole thing. I figured that a super ride would require some super fuel the night before! I stopped by Globefish on my way home to pick up a spicy tuna roll, a chopped scallop roll and my favourite, the Crazy Buster roll (spicy tempura roll wrapped with fresh tuna, served with fire spicy sauce, green onion and pieces of crispy garlic). I washed it down with some Anarchist Amber Ale from Cannery Brewing out of Penticton, BC. They are the official beer of Ironman Canada. You can bet that I'll be checking them out when I am in the Okanagan next weekend!
The plan was to ride from Cochrane to Bragg Creek, then continue out to Elbow Falls. The total possible distance was up to 120 km. I haven't ridden that far before I wanted to make sure I had enough nutrition with me. I asked Angie how much I should aim for and she figured that for a possible 4 hour ride that 800 calories would be a good number. I didn't want to just be downing gel after gel, I figured my stomach would appreciate some actual food. I went with one Honey Stinger Protein Bar (390 calories of pure yumminess in Dark Chocolate Coconut Almond) and two packs of Gu Chomps in Blueberry Pomegranate (180 calories per pack). This was my first time trying out the Chomps and they really are tasty!
We met in Cochrane and headed out south on Highway 22. This long ride was essentially all uphill on the way out. As soon as we turned on to 22 we were going up a big hill and Angie cautioned us to not hammer the hill or we may wind up regretting it later. I knew it was going to be a long day so I didn't really care how fast I rode, I just took it nice and easy up the hill. The kicker was that not only were we riding uphill, we were also riding into a headwind. Fun stuff! It wasn't super strong though so I was really just focused on riding and spinning.
There is quite a bit of traffic on Highway 22, with plenty of trucks or folks hauling trailers whizzing past you. Thankfully the shoulder is pretty wide most of the way. The only time it is really narrow is as you cross over the Trans Canada Highway.
We regrouped at the Cinnamon Spoon, then turned off on Provincial Highway 758 to continue on. This was where the scenery started to get amazing. Beautiful views of the Elbow River at times, the amazing mountains in the distance...it was gorgeous. This was also where you could tell the ride was going to get tougher as the rolly hills started. 758 dead ends at Highway 66, so we took a right to head towards Elbow Falls. After this point people started flatting all over the place. I passed the first contingent and continued on. There were plenty of knowledgeable folks to help out (and they were front of the pack folks), so since I was pretty near the back I just continued on. After I passed them I ran up to the first Texas Gate. The lady ahead of me was stopped just before the gate and I asked her how we negotiated it. She told me to just ride over it. I didn't see the other person ahead of me bike over it so I didn't really notice that there were a couple strips of metal over the bars that we could ride over...instead of riding over the round bars. Um...yeah...I wouldn't recommend biking straight over the rolly bars! It is quite the experience. By the time we approached the next Texas Gate this lady was ahead of me so I got to see how you really ride over these things...
A little farther ahead my friend Tara pulled over with her first flat. We wound up with quite the contingent to help her out...plenty of supervisors really... She had just purchased a CO2 kit and it had a nozzle on it for Schrader valve instead of a presta... It also didn't have a flow control mechanism on it and the first CO2 cartridge was lost to the atmosphere... I hung around to watch them change the tube, but took off when they were trying to fill it up with air. By then there were at least 10 of us on the side of the road. Since I was near the back for this ride I figured it would be best to ride on, so a few of us took off. A few moments later everyone was back on the road and I was passed by the speedy contingent again.
Just before the big uphill to the end of the highway they were pulled over again...another flat! Angie told me to ride on, but as I passed she shouted out that I needed to be in my absolute easiest gear and just spin since I was about to start the big long climb. These are great things to know! From here it was just climb, climb, climb... I was on my own at this point and just focused on getting to the top. It was tough...but it was feeling like the biggest accomplishment! Angie passed me singing along and shouted that I was doing awesome and to just keep up the great work. Finally...I was at the top! There was a bit further to go along the highway to the very end, but since we had lost a bunch of time to flats along the way Angie figured this would be a good turn around point (especially since about 3/4 of the group were already on their way back down by now).
So...if you check out the elevation profile you can see what we climbed... And that would make for one crazy descent! Honestly folks, I am quite the fraidy cat on descents. I am trying to embrace them now and make sure I feel comfortable and in control (without riding my breaks the whole way down). For the most part I felt really great on this one, there was just one patch where there was quite a bit of gravel on the shoulder that had me feeling a bit nervous. Maximum speed recorded by Garmin - 38.56 mph (62 kph).
Once we were past the steep section and cruising the downhill back to Bragg Creek it was awesome. We had a tail wind and I was really happy with how I was riding - high cadence and nice and speedy. Just before we hit the Texas Gates on the way back Tara flatted again...same tire. She was out of CO2 and had only brought one tube with her. Luckily I had two tubes that are the same size as hers. I figured this may be a good opportunity for me to try out my CO2 thingamajigger. I've got the Ultraflate Plus which is trigger operated and has a locking feature so you can be sure that you won't accidentally discharge your CO2 at the wrong time. This worked like a charm and the tire inflated in about a second or two. Nice stuff.
Back on the road...just as I turned left off of Highway 66 I dropped my chain as I tried to change gears in anticipation of the hill ahead. I lost the speedy folks ahead and the last two gals pulled over to give me a quick tip for getting the chain back on. They went ahead since I knew I'd catch up to them. As I was coming down a hill and going around a corner I saw a truck pulled off to the side and a few bikes in the grass. I couldn't really see anything because of the truck and it wasn't until I passed them that I realized the people off to the side were part of our group. I caught up to the girls in front to ask what had happened and they weren't sure. I wondered if we should go back but they had been told to continue into Bragg and wait there.
We aren't really too sure what happened since no one saw it happen, but one of my teammates took a tumble over her handlebars. There were three cracks straight through her helmet. Thank goodness for the helmet because otherwise those cracks would have been in her head. She'll be okay, but if she hadn't been wearing a helmet it would have been a completely different story. I know there are people out there that won't wear helmets...I see them all the time...and my ex was a staunch "I don't want to wear a helmet" kind of guy. If you go down on your bike it doesn't just traumatize you, but it affects the people that are with you too. So please...wear a helmet...
Once our teammate was on her way to the hospital we started taking off from Bragg in groups. We still had a tailwind and I was feeling pretty good...until I hit the intersection of Highway 22 and Highway 8. The wind shifted and all of a sudden I was now riding into a headwind. And sure...it was downhill on the way home but this was one strong headwind. I had to stay in the big ring just to keep some kind of cadence up. Just before I was at the overpass of the Trans Canada I decided to pull over and grab a drink. With the crazy wind the cars whipping past I didn't feel comfortable trying to do that while riding. When I put my foot down I realized my leg was a bit shaky. My muscles were running out of fuel so I took the opportunity to down a few more Gu Chomps. Back on the road... After passing the Trans Canada I knew I didn't have much longer to go but the wind was really sucking the life out of me. Every once in awhile the wind would abruptly shift directions and you'd have to counteract the forces as you were being pushed from side to side. As I pedaled on I took stock of what was happening with my body. Really...my legs were feeling good after I had eaten. Plenty of juice still left in them. I had a big knot in my trapezius, but nothing that should really impede my riding. Anything that was going on was all in my head. Knowing that I knew I could pick up the pace from where I was at and just bring this thing home. When I got back at the car I was pooped...but I felt amazing! I felt a real sense of accomplishment for riding that far and really at the end of the day, feeling good about the ride.
My bike computer says I rode 70.82 mi...MapMyRide says 69.24 mi. I had some Garmin errors (like forgetting to start Garmin up after pausing at the side of the road) so that number is a bit off. Anyway you slice it...69 or 70 miles...that was a long way especially when you consider my longest ride to date has been somewhere around 26.5 mi or so.
Hope everyone else is having a fantastic weekend!!