Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ride for Heart 2014

The Ride for Heart is a bit of a family tradition - my mom and brother have done it a few times, and then last year I joined them. I'm not hugely into cycling - running is definitely my first love - but it can be awfully fun to hop on a bike and cover 40, 50k in the time it would take to run just 20. It makes the Daily Mile weekly total much more impressive looking, anyway. Especially when one is recovering from a marathon and only running about 12k a week.

Oh, just a quick 40k on the bike, as one does.
Last year I made a major mistake with this ride. I assumed my body would react to long distance cycling the same way it does to long distance running. I do most of my morning runs fasted - I don't eat beforehand, because my stomach hates food first thing in the morning, and running kills my appetite anyway. I use gels on longer runs for quick hits of energy, but I almost never feel hungry while running, and usually for 2-3 hours after a long run my appetite is minimal.

So going into last year's 75k bike ride, I assumed I should approach it the same way. Long distance run is pretty much the same as a long distance ride, right?

(the faint sound of laughter you hear is probably the triathletes)

An hour into the 75k, I was STARVING. Ready to gnaw my own arm off. The Ride for Heart does have aid stations:

But absolutely everything at the stations is pure carbs. Apples, bananas, and fruit leather. I would have given $100 for a bacon and egg McMuffin, I swear. I wanted protein.

At any rate I survived the ride (with a bit of a headache and a desperate need for REAL FOOD by the end), but clearly my nutrition strategy was WAY WRONG. So this year I had a cheese bagel with cream cheese (CHEESE!) for breakfast, and brought along a few extra snacks to supplement the inevitable aid station fruit (I brought a protein bar and a handful of almonds - didn't end up eating the almonds, but the protein bar was very welcome).

(the above was mostly written for Nicole, who is also a runner cheating experimenting with cycling. Don't be like me, Nicole! Figure out how your body reacts to nutrition on the bike before your 80k granfondo!)

So, the ride itself. After figuring out how to get my bike into my car (not as hard as I was expecting, now that the kids are old enough I'm not working around carseats), I got my stuff organized and prepared to get up stupid early to drive to downtown Toronto and be ready to go for our 6 am start time. Even races don't start at flippin' 6 am. Endurance sports are so stupid.

I thought I had everything, then remembered I still needed my sunglasses, GPS watch, snacks, money for parking, etc. Cycling requires too much damn stuff.
But it was worth it, of course. A few photos I took along the way:

Once I finally figured out how to get the front wheel back on my bike (I don't use the quick release thing that often, OK?), it was time to head to the start.

Waiting at the start line, which is waaaaaaay off in the distance. Nothing but spandex and padded butts as far as you can see. Also, I find it hysterically funny for some reason to listen to the clunk-clunk-clunk of everyone clipping into their pedals.
Aid station
Heading back onto the DVP.

Photo break at the York Mills turn around

Now it's getting serious - the arm warmers are off. No idea what that dude in the background is doing, the sun was in my eyes and I couldn't see shit while I was taking this selfie.

Cyclists coming across the finish. The finish is always a bit of a clusterfuck for some reason, but the rest of the ride is so awesome I forgive them.

Bike traffic jam waiting to get the hell out of the finish area. They do need to figure out a better system for this.
My brother was smart enough to take off his helmet before this picture was taken. I still look like a mushroom. Cycling is SO DORKY.
One the greatest feelings in the world is taking off your cycling shoes. Or possibly that's just me, since I'm pretty sure my shoes are slightly too small. Basically this moment felt so good I had to document it.

I have three favourite parts of this ride:

1) The very beginning, where you are all HOLY SHIT I'M RIDING MY BIKE ON THE GARDINER!!! It's just flat out cool. Plus this year it was a clear day so we could see the CN tower, Skydome, etc (last year it was fogged in completely until later in the morning).

2) The DVP after the York Mills turnaround. The downhills are outrageously fun. There is one nasty climb, but the downhills totally make up for that.

3) The extra 8k or so the 75k riders get to do on the Gardiner, after the 50 and 25k riders have turned into Exhibition Place. You get the road largely to yourself, it's pretty flat, and you can just cruise along.

For anyone planning to do it, there are two problematic points (three if you count the finish). The first is the York Mills turn around aid station, which is always a bit of a disaster in terms of too many bikes in too small a space. But it's not as bad as the Bayview extension portion, which can be super crowded with very slow 25k riders. Especially the short steep climb to get back onto the DVP - the on ramp is really narrow, a lot of people struggle with the uphill, and two people almost stopped dead right in front of me and it was a bit of a hassle. I am - surprisingly - somewhat good at climbing hills on the bike, so having people creeeeeeeeep up the hills in front of me and being unable to pass them is really annoying.

But those are minor issues in what is otherwise a wonderful experience. If I do it again next year, I may just have to sneak in a third loop on the DVP, just to stretch out the experience a little longer...


  1. That's so great. I was looking at your photo and thinking so cool to be able to ride your bike on the highway!! Sounds like a great day out there. I guess riding your bike that distance is more like the ultra running, needing to take in a lot of nutrition/fuel. Good job.

  2. 6 am start? Count me out! Still, it sounds like an awesome experience, congrats on soldiering through it, hunger and all!

  3. You must have signed up for the VIP start because as far as I know, the general start is not before 8am. ;-) I didn't know you were such a cyclist! But girl, we must do something about your helmet. Just NO. Something is wrong with it, it should not give you a mushroom head like that. And I don't know any cyclists who wear helmet covers. What was that about? I suggest that you start studying The Rules and pronto! :-P Love your enthusiasm!

    1. They've mucked with the start times quite a bit. Last year I think the 75k had an early and a late start option, but this year 75k was between 6:00-6:30, no later start option. I think they want the 75k riders done before the bulk of the 25 and 50k riders get on the course. The helmet covers were part of the ride - required to get onto the course, to make it easier for them to prevent bandits jumping on I guess.

      Ha, I've seen the rules before :) I admit as much as I know it's supposed to be amusing, it does kind of encapsulate some of the attitudes that turn me off of the whole organized cycling scene. Given that I currently ride a hybrid (it's a nice hybrid, but still), I'm not going to be a hardcore cyclist any time soon!

    2. Hey Emma, I hope you know that I was joking. The only thing that perplexes me is your helmet. That's crazy that they ask you to wear those covers. Yikes, must get hot in there with them. 6am is definitely way too early!!

    3. Oh totally :) You're a triathlete, you already break all the rules ;)

      The covers were super thin material, I didn't find it hot. If I had I would have taken it off for sure! Not sure about the helmet, it's whatever was cheapest at MEC last year. Maybe the cover is just making it look weird, I dunno? The MEC guys said it fit...

  4. I like how you say that cycling is "cheating" on running. What does that make triathletes? :p