I think I've hit the big times. This weekend (according to my training plan) called for 2 hours of running, 1 of swimming on Saturday as well as a 5 hour ride on Sunday. I woke up at 5:00 AM on Saturday with running gear laid out in advance in the basement. I even remembered hydration for myself.
Ready to roll... before sunrise.
My weather app said the sun wouldn't rise until 6:30, so I had over an hour to make up my own course that would keep me under street lights. I went towards my office and ran through the industrial areas there. Seeing a truck yard at sunrise isn't really my cup of tea, but if you want to fit your run in and be available for your family, you have to make some sacrifices. I had a few peaks at a map and I felt 99% sure I could connect back to the Etobicoke Creek Trail once the sun was up. The problem was I would be running beside the airport runways. I got to a point of no return on one of the airport service roads where there were signs saying that you couldn't go any further... then I saw two cyclists go exactly where I wanted to run. I followed. It was nerve-racking, as I knew there were plenty of police cars patrolling the area; I'd been seeing them all morning. As I envisioned explaining myself to a police officer, my confidence in knowing my local geography dropped from 99 to somewhere in the 80s... Suddenly I recognized a familiar rolling in the landscape and some of the runway lights, and hopped onto the trail for the run home. I thought I'd be over 19 km and find myself trying to go around the block to get 20, but I only clocked 19 once I was already near home.
On my calves, I was wearing lavender calf sleeves by Legend Compression (Disclaimer: I was given a pair of Legend Compression calf sleeves for review purposes, all opinions are my own). I wear compression sleeves while running (and sometimes cycling) mostly to combat Achilles tendinitis and any other calf tightness/injury. What I noticed about the Legend compression sleeves it that the fabric felt very natural and breathable on my skin, like regular socks, and quite unlike most compression wear I've tried. That morning was quite cold and though I don't regret wearing shorts and short sleeves, having a little extra insulation for my lower legs was nice. I could still feel some twinging in the lowest parts of my calf (which don't get covered by sleeves - which I prefer to socks for the sake of wearing them in a triathlon where my feet get wet from swimming), but I think I weathered my 19 km run better for having worn them.
I was a lucky man that morning, as the kids had slept in, and I found them and my wife cuddled up together. I snuck in a few cuddles of my own and made pancakes (with extra protein from both Manitoba Harvest and Everlast Nutrition). We had a busy afternoon planned, and to make sure it happened, my wife ran errands while I took the kids to L.A. Fitness. The Lightning Kid has been to their Kids Klub daycare a few times, but it was Shark Boy's first time; I tried to couch it as less than a play centre, but more than a daycare (which he kind of equates with 'school'), while I quickly got 1150 m (a.k.a 1.15 km) of swimming in to round out the day's mileage at 20 km.
I got your Fitspo right here..
That busy afternoon, I mentioned? Two birthday parties. The first was a classmate of Shark Boy's and they went to Air Riderz trampoline park, which also had some climbing features (complete with safety harnesses and helmets). I took the Lightning Kid down the road to a favourite play centre called 'Balls of Fun' where we goofed off and recreated a scene from the old 90s video game Street Fighter II: the Hadouken 'Fireball' technique (minus actual fireball).
I collected them from those two venues and shuttled them to another birthday party, with a Frozen (Lighting Kid favourite) theme and bouncy castle. I don't need to tell you how well they slept that night. As for myself, I had some nerves before the longest bike ride of my life. I had signed up for the Burlington Mountain Equipment Co-opCentury Ride; 100 km in Niagara Escarpment country. I had put out my gear the night before, and I woke up before everyone else. I dressed in my new gear from RODS Racing. If you don't know, RODS (Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome) helps get children with Down syndrome who are currently being housed in orphanages around the world into the loving arms of families who would like to adopt them; the families are ready, the kids are great, all it takes is cash to get around the bureaucracy and logistics. If you would like to help, my donation page is here.
I drove to Burlington's Hidden Valley Park to find things in full swing; although I was there before 8:30, which I considered early for the 9:00 start, I had just enough time to switch shoes and put the bike together, pick up my numbered bib and take a bathroom break before they wanted us to start lining up on the road to head out; this was around 8:45.
I asked someone in the crowd what their estimate of the number of participants was, and they figured 250. I couldn't help but notice that I was the only one with a triathlon bike there; I did see one girl with aero-bars on a road bike (much how I used to ride), but I still felt like a freak among what seemed to be a hard-core cycling crowd. The large numbers did make it seem like it would be safer out on any heavily driven roads. The marshals emphasized this was a ride, not a race, and the roads were open to all traffic, so safety first!
The ride started uphill, of course. For the first 5 km or so, I was happy to take an easy meandering pace, but soon it felt too slow. I needed to pace myself to last for 100 km - I knew this, but if the pace felt unnatural, and maintaining it was going to mean taking longer to finish than I was ready to spend on this event, that meant I would have to pass. This is where I seem to have a bit of a disconnect with pure cyclists. They like to ride at least 2 abreast and occupy the whole lane. This is considered the safest practice, I know, because it forces cars to acknowledge that the bicycle is entitled to the entire lane under the highway traffic act. When cars pass, they go around the group in a separate lane. As a triathlete, though, I have an aversion to crossing the centre line, even when there is not oncoming traffic, just because the rules so strictly prohibit it - it can mean disqualification. Plus, it seems dangerous. So I found myself sometimes waiting for opportunities to pass; I don't think "on your left" is as much of a thing in straight-up cycling.
After some climbing to get over the Niagara Escarpment, there was plenty of flat land to really see what kind of speed you could build up to on flat land. It was a beautiful day, with perfect weather. The first rest stop came at 23 km, and they had bananas, Clif Bars, Pro Bar Base protein bars and Nuun hydration tablets. No porta-potties though; that might have been a little prohibitive for such a small support crew to transport, but I could have used one. From that point, the century (100 km) and 50 k routes split up. That was also the point where I separated from the crowd. Sometimes I rode behind a pair of riders or so, but for the bulk of the ride I was on my own. The course maps they had provided us had a list of 'cues' on the back that told you when your next turn would come in terms of total mileage. That came in handy for reassurance, but for the most part I could see the little white arrows painted on the road because they came as such logical junctures. The route was so rural and abandoned that I often forgot that cars could come by. At the second rest stop (48 km) my drink mix (Everlast FUEL with BCAAs and electrolytes, use the code IRONROGUE for a discount), was getting weak from being diluted with the water I had added, so I popped in a NUUN tablets. I have many blogger friends who rave about NUUN, and now I get it. It gave me some nice pep for the remainder of my ride. I didn't see any of the Pro Bar Cookie Dough flavour that I had promised myself at the second rest stop, and the third rest stop (same location as the first) had run out by the time I got there.
The ride went through so many small villages that I can't remember the names of them all, but one location I did recognize was African Lion Safari. One of the riders jokingly suggested a detour through there; "What could possibly go wrong?" I asked. Overall on the ride, I had my chain pop off way too much. Other riders suggested replacing the chain, but the bike is still too new. I think the front derailleur needs an adjustment - this is something I have to take up with my bike shop, as it costs me way too much time, and trying to put the chain back on while balancing the bike at the side of the road seems to get a lot harder as my legs get tired. The last 25 km were a bit of a struggle. I can remember thinking at 82 km "I don't want to do this anymore." It wasn't so much that I wanted to quit, but the aero position was hurting my neck and shoulders quite a bit, and to not ride in aero was making the ride slower and ultimately take longer. Still that part of the ride was a net downhill, and all familiar from the ride out, so the kilometres clicked by fairly quickly.
I rolled into Hidden Valley Park after nearly 4 hours of time in the saddle (I paused Garmin tracking during the rest stops) with a big smile of accomplishment on my face. While I was tired, I think my legs would still have responded to the command to run, if I had to, so things are looking up for Barrelman. The local Rotary club was grilling burgers for free and a bike shop had put up a beer tent with a local brew; sadly they only took cash so I have a future date with Cause and Effect by Nickelbrook Brewery.
Century Ride Finisher (minus beer) selfie
I drove home and tried to clean myself up - I had chain grease everywhere: my hands, my face, my legs, the insides of my arms. Then I took the boys to the splash pad; they rode their bikes, showing me maybe someday they'll be up for long rides too. Trips to the splash pad, long bike rides, birthday parties, swimming, running... I wish the summer didn't have to end.
What's the longest bike ride you've ever done? How are you consoling yourself over the end of summer?