12 August 2009

the long cycle ride


Yesterday I completed my first hundred mile ride. To be accurate - 106.5 miles in 7 hours, 31 minutes at an average speed of 14.1 mph. I rode my Raleigh Quadra, a 1980s steel road bike from Raleigh's Special Products Division.

I plotted the ride on http://www.mapmyride.com/ to use mostly country roads in a roughly triangular loop taking in the Eastern quarter of Prince Edward Island. Having started cycling again at age fifty-one last year and in recent weeks ridden thirty, forty and fifty mile loops, I felt ready for the challenge.

I set off under grey skies but with a decent weather forecast. Sustenance would be three peanut butter and jam sandwiches and an energy gel stowed in my pockets. One drinks bottle I filled with a mix of water and pure orange juice, the other with water. In my seat pack I carried a spare tube, puncture repair kit, tyre levers, a multi-tool, zip ties and spare gear/brake cables. There was room in my pockets for a lip balm, cell phone and printed route map. (I am still getting to know the Island roads after two years here.)

P.E.I. is windy and hilly. Country roads carry the fewest trucks but for that very reason have steeper gradients. At times I ground up countless tall slopes like the one above, reaching the top gasping for oxygen and thighs burning. For the first quarter of the ride I had a tailwind which helped keep my average above 16mph. This was the easiest part of the day. After that I changed direction and had a strong crosswind in my face. I began to eat my sandwiches on the move and washed them down with juice and water, rationing it until I found a re-filling point.

Canadian roads are attacked by snow, ice, heavy rain and sun. The resulting potholes and the annual summer round of filling them in makes for distinctly variable road surfaces! I kept a watchful eye on the road ahead, threading my way between old and new surfaces. The sun appeared after fifty miles, still high and burning in August at this latitude. The middle third was a tough three hours into a strong headwind and I seldom exceeded 12mph.

My route was entirely on two-way roads and thankfully the trucks which passed me gave me a generously wide berth. Not long after I left the port on the southern tip of the Island, the ferry from Nova Scotia disgorged and a fleet of a dozen mammoths of the road thundered by me. The first had considerately given a long warning blast on his horn a good twenty seconds before passing.

After seventy-five miles I reached civilisation and unclipped for the one and only time at a Tourist Information office. I refilled my bottles there, letting the taps run until the water flowed deliciously cold. As I turned full circle for the final third of the ride I thanked the crosswind which now blew over my right shoulder. The sun was hot, my legs were spent and I ground out the final thirty miles on willpower. Every shift of position on the bars revealed new pains in my upper arms and neck. This is the hardest physical thing I have ever done.

By the time I reached home I was suffering from slight dehydration. I shivered even as I soaked in a warm bath. I should have taken on more water earlier and I needed more food. Next time (if there is a next time!) I will know what to expect. After a huge meal and a sound night's sleep I feel good this morning, better than I expected. Stiff in the upper arms, thighs and neck but otherwise human!

2 comments:

C.J.Duffy said...

HAH! Easy peasy. I would have done it in half the time and then ran home with the bike slung across my back before beating up that bear of yours prior to making manful love to my lady.

Perfect Virgo said...

CJ - ah but then you are a swashbuckling, cavalier, "Don Juan" type... Me I'm a mere mortal who quivers at the sight of a bear!