75km and Onward

I did it.

Thanks to so many folks who supported me. That includes my friend who trained with me for her 75km, the wonderful people who made a donation to the Heart & Stroke Foundation in supporting my ride, and of course — the many kind and supportive words that I received along the way.

This is for me just the beginning as I journey towards 500km.

So how’d it feel? Uhm. Challenging. Even with the training. For the first time, I really felt how much slower I was going with my current bicycle. Throw in some headwinds (I learned about that recently … thank you Suzan!) — and there were times when I was wondering if I was moving in the right direction…

So waking up at 4am is not much of a problem for me. Same goes for getting soaked in a thunderstorm just from setting up the bike on the car rack in order to get to the event. The toughest part was trying to keep up with my former coworker who was on a road bike! Alas, I didn’t have the opportunity to ride with the person I was training with but I was happy to hear she killed it! Made it to the finish line 40 minutes before I did. I can only say that I was stopped numerous times for photos … and they were not for me. 🙂 Anyhow, I was simply happy to see friendly faces and content that I made the first major step towards the Greenbelt route.

What was it like?

Here’s a glimpse of what happened on Sunday in this very brief time-lapse video. I’ll post the full thing later.

So now what?
I keep training. I’m planning a number of cycling routes with friends (more news to come on that front).

I’m also planning to take my bike in for a tune-up and change up the wheels to something more appropriate for the road and gravel. I spoke with a guy at the Trek store over the weekend about my goal for next year and was informed that fewer manufacturers are making 26 inch wheels … but fortunately there are still some being made that will work for my mountain bike. I breathed a small sigh of relief because I really don’t want to be buying a new bike. Not any time soon anyways.

Doing some research on some good cycling routes in the Greater Toronto Area.  Preferably not on the road so if anyone has any suggestions … feel free to throw it on the table.

I’ve had the opportunity to bike much of the Waterfront Trail in Toronto, the Lower Don trail, the Beltline, as well as a number of other trails scattered within the city of Toronto.  I am taking a closer look at the trail around the Humber River but I feel like I need to go a little further out of the city for a longer route.

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Good Weather, More Distance

If there is one thing I’ve learned as I’ve been training for the 75km Ride for Heart — it has been that the weather is something you just have to contend with and that good weather will just mean you tackle more distance.

Don’t get me wrong — good weather doesn’t necessarily equate to more comfortable conditions. When it’s too warm or too breezy — it can actually slow me down or I end up getting sneezing fits from all the allergens in the air. Ah, spring time…

So this Victoria Day long weekend, we set forth on yet another training ride — this time while dealing with the insane amount of traffic on the Waterfront Trail in Toronto. It was as if all of Toronto decided to come outside. Particularly at the ferry over to Centre Island — good grief the line up was crazy. Granted, I can totally see why … it was sunny and warm all weekend. Not hot, just warm enough. I saw and smelled barbeque everywhere — ice cream trucks spaced out perfectly amongst the waterfront — ready for anyone’s frozen treat-craving to kick in.

We weren’t really sure how much distance we covered but upon calculating it this time around … it seems we unknowingly went over 50km. Can’t really be absolutely sure by how much but it is reassuring that we may actually have made it over 60km! My quads were feeling the pressure from the workout but they definitely could have gone for more, but since we thought we had made it over 50km — we figured it was good enough.

One more week of training before the big day arrives. Weird how it arrived so quickly.

Postponing Rides due to Weather Conditions

I am typically keen on riding my bike regardless of conditions although a past wipe out incident back when I was in university curbed my enthusiasm a bit.

So when I saw the weather conditions for the Sunday — my friend and I decided that it really wasn’t worth getting wet and frozen for a 50km training ride.

Hopefully the weather will be better this upcoming Victoria Day long weekend.

Unfriendly weather conditions
Unfriendly weather conditions

So what’d I do instead?  I began reading up on touring bikes.  It is really interesting the different takes and thoughts on touring.  I have some folks telling me that it’d be hard on a mountain bike and so I should spend the money to buy a new bike — while others just suggest doing it on a modified mountain bike.

One thing that I think I’ll definitely need to assess is whether I should change up my tires from the mountain bike knobby tires to something more road friendly (and still handle some gravel).

Some good food for thought from these folks:

Some tune-ups, upgrades, and another 50km ride

The last weekend, I had enough of leaning my bicycle against everything.  I wanted a kickstand.

Safe-T-Salt can be useful at times...at propping up a bike.
Safe-T-Salt can be useful at times…at propping up a bike.

I also noticed that the bike was making some really squeaky noises as I was peddling — I figured it had to be the chain.  It needed some TLC, so I took a stroll down to the Trek store near Yonge and Eglinton and picked up the kickstand and a bottle of chain lube.

Ideally, I would have picked up stuff from MEC but it was too far out of the way for me and I didn’t have any time to spare before the weekend.  It was a busy busy week.  Have I mentioned that I was about to change jobs after nearly 8 years?  Well, now I have.

Anyhow, setting up the kickstand was a bit of a pain.  Instructions were pretty hard to interpret and it didn’t help that whoever put the price tag on the package, decided to place the sticker right on the instructions (which were on the plastic packaging of the kickstand).  It more or less felt like I was trying to piece together a puzzle but I figured it out eventually.

The good news about all of this is that despite the effort, I gained a sense of pride in figuring this out on my own.  That said, I still don’t see why they could not have improved the user experience and instructions.

Next up was to apply the chain lube.  It grabbed an old rag and started cleaning the chain by winding the pedals backward — just as I was taught in the MEC class!  Pretty amazing to see all the grime and dirt come off of the chain but I got pretty tired of dealing with it after spending 10 minutes winding the chain and still seeing tons of dirt and grime show up on the rag.  Then I applied the chain lube and wiped the excess off.

It was pretty amazing to ride my bike and immediately feel the difference.  Last week, I could hear my bike squeaking.  As my friend phrased with respect to her bike after a major tune-up, it was like butter — super smooth.

So that was Saturday.  Sunday was an attempt to tackle 50km on the East Don Parkland.  Just like last time with some solid hills to climb up.

We were ready for this round but unfortunately the weather ended up surprising us.  While the weather reports were informing us that there’d be less than 1mm of rain that day (40% probability of precipitation) — my friend and I ended up in the middle of a thunderstorm and multiple showers!

Thank goodness the trail we were on run underneath bridges such as these.  They saved us numerous times from hail as well as pouring rain.

Bridges like these saved us from hail
Bridges like these saved us from hail
Saved from the thunderstorm by this bridge
Saved from the thunderstorm by this bridge

We managed to get in about 35km despite the crazy weather and since it was Mother’s Day — there were important plans for the remainder of the day.

Between the Bike and the Weather

With spring time fast arriving in Toronto, I am hoping to get started with some early spring training once I return from a quick trip to Utah.  I don’t know this’ll happen if temperatures continue to be looking to be in the low single digits.

A 14-day weather forecast from Weather Network starting from March 20th 2016
A 14-day weather forecast from Weather Network starting from March 20th 2016

I’m hoping that once I return from my trip to Utah, things will be significantly warmer for the first weekend of April.  I’ve been doing a bit of reading on training and it is suggested that cyclists training should start off with short one-hour rides.  I might even start with less than that if the weather is that cold.

I’ll also need to see if any of my toques can fit under my helmet and will work effectively.  I think I caught a brief cold in mid-late March as a result of wind chill and my toque was practically useless as I could feel the cold wind blowing right through.

In the meanwhile, I’ve focused on learning more about my own bike, a Trek 3700, a 2010 model if I remember correctly.  There’s a lot to learn and I haven’t figured out which bicycle maintenance book to buy yet — but a friend and I have signed up for a bicycle maintenance clinic at MEC.  It’s $10 for an hour’s worth of learning, and you don’t have to bring your own bike (which is good because I live a fair distant away from the MEC store in Toronto).  I’m excited to see what I’ll learn and be able to put into practice when I bring out my bike for some spring cleaning!

My bicycle when it was younger (and newer)
My bicycle when it was younger (and newer)

Between the bike and the weather, I’ve got a lot of figuring out to do…!