When my alarm went off at 5:17 Sunday morning all I heard was howling wind and rain beating on the windows. I peered out the window to see the flags across the street blowing around like they were in a hurricane. This was not good.
I don’t bike in the rain so I put together the best outfit I could. Long sleeve tech shirt and my fave t-shirt…
…plus the only windbreaker I owned, a random one from Planet Hollywood in Washington.
I considered wearing lululemon wonderunders and/or knee socks for more coverage but opted to go with my Lululemon run zoom shorts because I figured they would retain less water (best decision ever!).
I had qualified for the early start time but thought the weather might improve if I started later. When I looked up the hourly forecast it noted the same “light showers” all morning so I decided it was better to do the early start instead of waiting in the corrals in the rain. I later found out people were waiting in corrals for about an hour so it was a good decision.
I can’t tell you how many times I nearly cried in the car on the way to the ride site.
Usually I can talk myself through anything but I couldn’t figure out what was making me nervous. The wind was doing a number on my car, riding a road bike uphill in the rain freaked me out a bit, and sure I was emotional about the people I was riding for but I don’t cry easily so I just accepted it and kept trucking.
On my way to the starting line, things didn’t look so bad.
The early start was awesome, there were no lineups!
The ride is an out and back course on a local express way that was closed for the ride. The first 28km are all on an incline with hills, this means you are going uphill AND climbing hills without getting to enjoy many downhill’s (you do get one early on where the Gardiner Expressway goes down to merge onto the Don Valley Parkway (DVP)). I’ve biked the Don Valley trail which runs parallel to the DVP so I was familiar with the route. What I wasn’t familiar with was biking uphill in what felt like a monsoon/tornado.
OHH EMM GEE.
The ride starts with a hill taking you to the top of the elevated expressway, or as I would like to refer to it, the eye of the hurricane. Oh, did I mention we’re right beside Lake Ontario? BAM, that takes everything up a notch.
Before we had gone 1km there were people pulling off to the side and my legs were beet red from the cold. By km 5 people were turning around. At this point I wasn’t just wet; my shoes were retaining water like a camel. On the upside I now know that cycling shoe covers aren’t just to keep your shoes pretty, they’re to avoid your shoes turning into cement blocks of water. WIN!
Around km 10 my average speed was just 15km/hr and I bounced around from 10-19km/hr. This was way slow, even for me, but the wind was almost pushing me backwards. It took me about 45 minutes to go just 12km, normally I would do 25km in the same amount of time with 1/10 of the effort.
I debated dropping down to the 25km route but decided to stay strong and keep riding. Right after I passed the exit for the 25km route turnaround I could tell my rear tire needed air so I pulled off to the side.
I needed somewhere to lean my bike so I went over to the guardrail; coincidentally this is also the gutter for all the rain water. You haven’t lived until you’ve stood in 2 feet of gushing water heading for a sewer; at least I was already soaked! Actually I wish I had gotten a photo of my feet and bike in a river of water; it would be hilarious to look at now. The real downside of getting off my bike was that my seat got wet, I’ve never chaffed before, it’s not a nice feeling.
Between the compressed air (which didn’t work) and my hand pump I couldn’t get the tire full enough to keep riding. Luckily I knew there were bike specialists on the route so I rode back to the 25km turnaround and nearly cried tears of joy when I saw the air hoses.
I took advantage of the break and chatted with some participants. It was still raining steadily but I felt a little better after some conversation.
This is what I tweeted/texted:
This is the toughest thing i’ve ever done, and then i got a flat. Got some air and i’m just under halfway.
I headed over to the refreshments, hoping they had juice or Gatorade; I needed something to pump me up. I was a little sad they only had water but my disappointment was short-lived when I saw the mounds of fruit!
They had sliced oranges, banana halves (yellow blobs in the crappy photo above) and my absolute FAVORITE bars (Taste of Nature, which are Delicious, Vegan, Canadian, GF and Organic) in snack size. I grabbed ½ a banana and 2 bars to save for later.
I ate the banana and went back for an orange slice. Everything tasted like the best. Thing. Ever.
My camera got soaked to take this photo…
While I was at rest stop I thought the wind had died down but it turned out it was just because we were down an embankment. I was crushed when I realized conditions were still bad and I stopped to text a plea for the rain to let up, even a little bit.
I’ve never wanted to stop so bad in my life. Can we please have just 5 minutes without rain?
It was at this point I turned around.
I followed the signs for the 50km route and then realized too late that this was only for people who already completed the upper portion of the ride (or who were doing 25km). What I should have done was follow the 75km route to get back on course.
I rode about 1 km debating whether this was a sign I should drop down to the 25km route, all I wanted was to go home, crawl into bed and get warm. But I really didn’t want to quit and the rain and wind was starting to lighten up so I pulled over, hopped the median and biked back uphill towards the rest stop exit for a 2nd time.
I was still cold and wet but once I decided to keep going there was no stopping me. I rode past the exit for the rest stop with a huge smile on my face (even though it looks more like a grimace in the photo).
At the 20km point I stopped at another rest stop to stretch out my cold muscles and to grab an orange and water. I also took a minute to relax and soak up the party atmosphere and music that was blasting. It really kept me pumped so I took out my phone to text/tweet and I saw that Patrick had been messaging me back after my last text:
“I know you’re going to finish. You can do it young Obiwan!”
(umm, we’re dorks)
“This is amazing Amazing Race training. Stay amazing.”
“You’re the strongest person I know.I believe in you!”
Even though P wasn’t riding with me I felt his support like he was there in person so I tweeted and was ready to take off again.
30km left!! Thank God the rain eased up. Let’s do this! No quitting!
By now I was nearly at the halfway point which was also the steepest point. Going into the ride I knew this would be the most difficult part but I was ready mentally and went for it. Sometimes I looked down at the road ahead of me, instead of how much farther up I had to go, and I just kept pedaling.
The entire way up I kept repeating “You can do this, you can do this. You are so much stronger than this”. Whenever I thought there was nothing left I would keep pushing and be rewarded with a burst of energy. I wanted this and I wanted it badly, I was ecstatic when I finally reached the turnaround point. I did it! I biked the entire way soaking wet with cold muscles and did not walk! I can’t tell you how proud I felt at that moment. All I could think about was how I was doing this for my Aunt and Uncle and I hoped they would be proud.
To turn around we had to get off and go under the highway (yay downhill!) and get back on the other side (boo uphill!). Underneath the highway was a single woman cheering. She yelled at me “You’re awesome! Keep going! You can do this!’
I don’t know who she was, or even if she was a race volunteer, but I want to thank her. She brought me to tears (and still does just thinking about it) so I couldn’t yell thank you, instead I just gave her a huge smile. I hope she knows how much her support was appreciated. Riding on a closed course means there are no spectators and after riding through hell her support was awesome!
Back on the highway I got my reward for making it to the top as I soared down the huge hill. I hit 45km/hr before I was going too fast for my bike computer to register the speed. It was a few seconds absolute joy.
I rode straight through the rest stops on the ride back, only stopping to stretch twice and eating both of the bars and some almonds while I was biking.
Approaching the finish I was ecstatic to see the city skyline come into view.
I stopped to get a photo with the CN Tower in the background. FAIL. I was too cold to keep trying. I did manage to take the worst photo of myself ever… but it is a pretty good representation of what 3 hours in cold/rain looks like!
Naturally we finished by going up a hill to get off the expressway. I biked that too.
At the finish I felt amazing. After almost turning around and then conquering all of the hills I felt accomplished, even a little hardcore. I do have to say that hopping the median to turn around and continue is my proudest moment, even above conquering the hills.
I also felt cold and hungry so I made a beeline for the food grabbing a bar, bagel, water and apple but only eating the bagel right then.
I really wanted to stretch at the yoga spot set-up by the race sponsor (Becel) but I was way too cold and wanted to get home to change.
Luckily Hanes was another sponsor and they were giving out T-shirts. DRY t-shirts!
I grabbed a t-shirt, another bar and some shredded wheat (sans milk) and booked it back to the car where I fully changed in the parking lot. Life seemed much better with a dry shirt (my Lululemon run zoom shorts were dry, not having absorbed much rain! Love!). Too bad I didn’t have a hairdryer and change of shoes.
On the way home I blasted the heat in the car, picked up an extra hot vanilla latte, food for later and immediately took a hot shower when I got home.
I napped for a bit and then ate my special treat, a Chipotle chicken fajita burrito. YUMMM!
Do you want to guess what the weather was like in the afternoon? Blue skies and sunny! How rude! By this point I had a raging fever and wanted to move my legs so I took a little walk to get some fresh air and Tylenol.
It took me 2:40 minutes to finish 50km and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The first 15km alone were 10x harder than the 100km I biked two weeks ago, but I am glad I stuck with it… I just never want to go through it again!
(Photo taken as we were riding slowly through the starting chutes to the finish line)
There were 13,000 riders who participated and together we raised $3.3million for Heart & Stroke research. Congratulations to everyone who rode and thank you to everyone who supported us!!