Sunday, 23 August 2015

MS Bike Tour Niagara report

First off, I want to thank everyone who donated!  I surpassed my goal of $1000, and online donation is still open, if anyone cares to donate a few dollars.

The reason I chose to participate in the MS Bike Tour is that my SIL, Beki, has MS, and I wanted to do something small for her.  I was already planning to sign up, but the MS Society had a booth with a wheel of fortune at the ATB expo and I spun $10 off the $20 registration, you can't pass up a deal like that.


Arrived at the start with the jersey I had picked up the night before that was several sizes too big and fortunately was able to exchange for a smaller size with no questions asked.  The ride was supposed to start at 8, but at 7:59 people were still milling around but the start wasn't too late, around 8:05.  This was NOT a race, but I didn't want to be a cruise either, so I pushed fairly hard out of the gate, passing a lot of people.  The course was described as VERY flat but the first section of the loop was definitely downhill and I wondered what it would be like on the back half....

Lately, I've been having trouble eating breakfasts that are light enough to let me exercise but keeps me full throughout.  I ate a hard boiled egg before yesterday's LR and it helped a lot, so this morning I ate 2 eggs, but that was several hours prior to the start.  There were aid stations every 15K, and I bypassed the first one.  After the 40Kers made their earlier turn back to the start, it was apparent that the people doing the long course were the speedsters, and I thought I was going at a pretty good clip, but I was getting passed constantly.  There were 'tour leaders' who are basically mobile aid, they would ride with you if you want, or help change a flat, etc. if necessary.  When they passed me, one of them asked if I was all right, because he had mistaken me for some other girl who had told him that she wasn't sure she could make it the whole 75.  Uh, I ran hilly trails for 7 hours, I can handle a 3 hour flat bike ride, thanks.

The 2nd aid station at 30K (I called it the first on my IG post since it was the first one I actually stopped at) was just a tent in a field.

It was stocked with all kinds of fruit (oranges, bananas, apples, local peaches, grapes) and I chowed down, although I was wishing for donuts or cake.  Pretty soon after leaving that aid station, I started to get really loopy from all the fruit sugar.  I considered eating my emergency protein bar but stuck it out to the next aid station.

which was....aid station heaven!

whole wheat tortilla, turkey, cucumber, tomato, couscous salad, more local peaches, perfectly crisp grapes.
Rejuvenated by the protein, I continued on.  I rode the first hour at almost PB speed (25.5 km/h) and although the event was officially untimed, it would be a thrill to finish under 3 hours, as my 75K training ride took 3:21.  Made the turn onto the return leg, along the Niagara River - I remembered this section of road from the NFIM marathon from hell in 2012.  Back then, it was a 20 mile death march, and today it was headwind and slight uphill for 20 miles.  AGH!  

By this time, the pack had completely thinned out and I was alone on the road.  There were cars and other cyclists, but no one else doing the MS Tour.  The course was very well marked with huge neon green signs.  I overheard some guy at the finish telling his wife that he got would have to be in complete la la land to miss the turns.  I got passed by a pack of male cyclists, one dude hung back to ask if I was OK, that I looked tired and totally done.  I was actually feeling quite fine at that moment and I am really curious if I have some kind of Cycling Face where I look like I'm dying, when I'm not.

I was really struggling to keep the speed above just 22 km/h and the headwind along the river.  I stopped briefly at the last aid station just to refill my bottle with Gatorade.  The final section was on a multi-use trail.  Those of you who ride with me know how much I despise riding on those.  There were tight turns getting on the trail from the road, and my favourite, slow oblivious walkers.  Plus it was narrow.  

Finally back on the road 5K from the finish and I see nothing that looks familiar.  They said at the start that the 40K route was a bit long due to construction, but didn't mention if the 75 was long as well, since the back half was the same.  My hands were getting really numb and my lady parts were in terrible shape.

I came up to a stop sign, the first stop sign I actually made a complete stop at all day (there were cops stopping traffic at the other major intersections) and saw the finish line about 200 m down the road but I had to wait quite awhile because that road was busy! what a way to kill my mojo right at the end!

I am careful not to let factors like weather influence my opinion of an event.  The absolutely fantastic weather certainly didn't hurt, and I wish there were flat country/low-traffic waterfront roads to ride on around here!  The course was very accurate, and the aid stations were perfectly evenly spaced apart and well stocked. I wasn't a huge fan of the multi-use trail, but it wasn't a deal-breaker.  I certainly wouldn't mind doing the MS ride again.

Official Garmin time: 75.4K, 3:09:49.