Monday, October 19, 2009

My 1st Donut Ride

My first Donut Ride

I took part in my first Donut ride yesterday. The donut ride is probably one of the most famous group rides in Canada; it even has a wikipidea entry:

The Donut Ride is an informal Toronto road cycling tour run every Saturday and Sunday as well as public holidays. Typical summer numbers range from 100 to 125 riders forming a large pack, and weather permitting the ride continues year-round and often sees a dozen riders even in mid-winter. The ride is known for being fairly fast paced, often reaching speeds of about 50 km/h on straightaways. It is also known for being fairly unforgiving; riders who are dropped from the pack are on their own. –

I left my house at around 8:30am and it was a beautiful but chilly fall morning. There was virtually no traffic on the roads as I made my way across town to meet of with some of the Wheels of Bloor riders near the shop. Wouldn’t you know it I was running late and I had been warned that the group leaves at 9am sharp. I exited High Park at Bloor street at 9:05 and turned West to ride down to the meeting location. I saw a group of unfamiliar riders meeting outside the store from the Lapdogs cycling club and asked if they had seen the Wheels of Bloor group leave. I found out that the group had left heading east on Bloor at 9am of course. If I had only glanced right as I left the park I probably would have seen them. No one from the group knew which street they headed North on. I called my friend Ian, who had already sent me 2 emails, and found out that I needed to head North on Keele street. Ian told me that the group was now at St. Clair.

I rode off from the shop determined to do my best to catch up to the group. When I hit St. Clair ave I realized that I was 5 minutes behind. A few blocks further North I spotted Ian who was waiting for me along with Tony and Mike. I apologized to the three of them and followed as we wound our way through the streets on our way to the eventual meeting spot further North on Keele. I tried to take as many and turns as I could in the front as I felt badly for being late on this my first time out with the team. I did really appreciate that the three of them waited for me. A few km’s up the road we caught up with another small group of riders, I was surprised by the relatively small numbers; but was informed that we would join up with the main group further North.

We stopped at a Gas station at an intersection on Keele, north of the city and waited for the main group in the Donut ride. After standing around for a few minutes someone called out the peleton was coming and we all mounted our bikes and headed north. I looked back and saw a group of around 80 riders. A few riders passed by me and then I decided to follow Tony’s wheel. Tony stuck near or at the front of the group and so did I. We were travelling in two’s at a moderate pace. As the riders in front of me peeled off the front it became my turn to lead just as I settled into a pace, I heard voices calling out for me to join a newly forming group that were turning left.

As the new smaller group headed West, the pace quickened as the terrain descended. We turned North on Jane and the real push began. I was already up near the front as I continued to try and stay near Tony. The front riders began to take small turns at the front working through a cycle that maximized the groups overall speed through reduced exposure to the wind. As I worked my way through the cycle a few times I noticed that the number of riders taking part was gradually reducing. Some riders skipped a few turns and then rejoined the cycling at the front after resting up in the draft of the main peleton. I made it a point to try and never miss a turn. After a good stretch of this we turned East on Aurora Rd and the only person left cycling through the front with me was Tony. I knew that there were a few hills ahead but I also figured that we had at least reached the halfway point of the ride.

I took the lead up the biggest hill on Aurora Rd and then began to suffer as a few riders including Tony passed by. At this point I was unable to cycle through and had to recover in the peleton about ten riders back. As the terrain evened out I gained back some strength and made my way back up front again. The peleton turned south and the organization of the pack started breaking down as the pace reached its height. Riders now began attacking the group trying to create a gap. There were now about 5 riders taking turns attacking at this point including Tony, Darko (a well known strong rider) and me. This was the first time that I had ridden with Darko, but I had seen his results in the Senior 1 category for the past several years. I thought that he may have been toying with the group treating it as I sort of training exercise based on the ridiculously small gear he used; I was later informed that that is just how he rides…Amazing! The best attack of the day came from Tony after Darko had taken a turn at the front. I was unable to grab Tony’s wheel but I did have enough strength to catch Darko, who then bridged the gap to Tony.

The racing stopped as we rode through some local streets on the way to a Polish pastry shop for a social break. I had a great apple treat. I rode back into town with 4 other riders including Bobby, Ian and Mike from the Wheels of Bloor team. It was a great day of riding and I look forward to the next Sunday Donut ride.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Duathlon World Championship - Post Race

Post Race - Sept 26-27th 2009

The post race milling around was cut way short due to the weather. It did not take long to cool down from the heat of the effort and then start feeling the chill of the late wet afternoon. The spandex that we all wear offers no protection from the elements. I spoke with David Field a fellow Canadian who finished 5th in the 50-54 age category as we picked up our checked bags and bikes. Dave was fortunate enough to be in the first wave and therefore knew exactly what position he was in when he finished. I mounted my bike, with a coat on this time, and cycled back to the hotel amidst a steady downpour. When I arrived at the hotel I rested my gear against the wall and got right into the outdoor hot tub in my team uniform. The hot water was a welcomed relief to my aching cold body.

My Mom & John took me out to dinner again and we couldn’t help ourselves from returning to Dino’s; a wonderful Italian restaurant in Harrisburg a small town south west of Concord, where my Mom had enjoyed the best eggplant-parm she had ever tasted. Our waitress was the younger sister of the young women who had waited on us the night before. After another delicious meal as we got up leave the sister from the 1st night asked me for my autograph. At first I could not believe that she was serious and I certainly felt ridiculous and embarrassed. My Mother could not resist the awkwardness of the situation by insisting that I write something clever stating how creative I was; only my mother truly believes this – go figure. Memories of high school crept into my head when we all signed each others year-books thinking of funny things to write. Here I was 23 years later faced with the same task. I was extremely flattered by it all, but felt completely on the spot drawing complete blanks as to what to say. So I wrote the 1st thing that came to mind ‘I Love your food’. My mom saved me and added ‘and Service’, thanks Mom. I left Dino’s with a full belly, half a pizza in a box, feeling much better than I did when I came in.

We got back to the hotel at 9:30pm and I was not ready to go to sleep. I wanted to have a few more drinks but could not bring myself to ask John to pull over at a store so that I could pick up a six pack for the hotel, which did not have a bar, so I went up to my room. I spent a half an hour drying out my wet race shoes and race clothes while trying to get the race results on my blackberry. Unsuccessful, I went downstairs to use the business centre’s computer with a plan to of going out for a few drinks. The results came right up and there I was in 10th place for my age group, yes I had made the top ten barely, but I was a long way off from the podium. I had committed to and followed my strategy as planned and ultimately suffered on the final run completing the 5km in 19:47 which was 30 seconds slower per km than I ran in the 1st 10km. This significant difference in running times demonstrates that I extended myself too far in the first run and on the bike. With a bit better execution I could possibly have moved up a few spots in the overall classifications. I will try and learn this lesson, although it won’t be the first time that I have tried.

I left the hotel and walked over to the closest restaurant with a bar; the Quaker State. The dinning area was empty but the bar was full and people, some even enjoying the sound of Karaoke blasting through the sound system. I scanned the bar searching for an open seat, not finding any I left and walked to the next closest bar; Hooters. I sat down in an empty seat at the end of the bar and was carded as I ordered my 1st drink. I said nothing and handed over my driver’s license, the drinking age is 21 and I am 40. From and autograph request to being carded, things were looking up. Two beers later, feeling tired, I walked back to my hotel, stopping to check the results again and call Natasha before heading up to bed.

I woke up the next morning and lay in bed for a couple of extra hour feeling sore all over. My hips, thighs and left foot ached. I packed up my things, including my bike and brought the gear downstairs to store in the hotel office for the day as my flight was not until later in the evening.

We headed over to the Embassy Suites for the age group awards ceremony which began at 11:00am. Just like everything else associated with this event, the reception hall was enormous. We were some of the 1st people into the event so we found a table close to the podium with seats facing the right direction. After a couple plates of brunch and an hour had gone by it became clear that the hall would remain only one third full. I have to assume that the brunch must have been a bit of a disappointment for the organizers. Maybe if the awards and reception took place the same day as the event then the turn out would have been better. The elite race could have moved a day earlier to the Friday, that way all of the age group athletes could have watched and cheered. With the elite races out of the way on Saturday, the age groupers could have started earlier allowing time for a reception later in the day.

Just before the awards presentation began people started trading gear. I took a couple of photos of the bartering. From what I could tell the best deals were won by the people who struck first. Some people came prepared with gear from other years and events. By the end of the trading you could no longer safely tell which people were representing which country as deal makers were proudly sporting their new gear.

The MC asked that we all stick around until the awards had all been presented out of respect and promised to be quick. Beginning with the oldest age groupers the MC worked his way through the age group award winners. Athletes beaming with joy took the stage many draping themselves in their country flag. Some of the award winners were not present which certainly took away from the ceremony, I can only assume that it was due to unavoidable travel plans; a result of the day after awards scheduling. I was proud to watch three Canadians standing on top of the awards platform and snapped some photos to capture the moment.
F50-54 Magaret Ritchie-Gold & Carolyn Silvey-Silver
F65-69 Lynda Lemon-Gold
M65-69 Ron Vankoughnett-Gold

On my way out I spoke with Ron Vankoughnett who had won Gold by 18 seconds. As it turns out Ron had fallen near the start of the bike leg and had the scars to prove it. I included a photo of Ron and his banged up arm, his back was much worse.
Ron managed to get back on his bike and still win the race which is an amazing accomplishment.