Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Riding for the cure (and for the view)

I came across an old, old article from The Onion (6,000 Runners Fail to Discover Cure for Breast Cancer) this week. My first reaction was to giggle, and my second was to start this post about the 36 km bike ride I did a couple of weeks ago in support of the BC Cancer Foundation.

Well, the first thing to note is that I am an idiot. 36 km - no problem, no training rides needed, I thought. However I failed to notice that the start/finish line is 12 km from my house and at the top of a very steep hill. No worries, I said to Mr E Man on the morning of the ride as he left for his golf game, I'll put my bike on one of the racks that the local buses carry. Well, guess what: everyone else had the same idea and all the racks were full.

So. 60 km it was. I arrived at the race all hot and sweaty and red in the face, and of course the first two people I saw were the head of the Foundation and the head of my Agency. Nice. I got to watch the end of the actual race which preceded the community ride, which was great, and also the short kids' ride, in which Trevor Linden let a tiny kid on a bike with stabilisers beat him at the finish line. The look on the kid's face was priceless. We then moved on to the awarding of the medals and of the prizes for the top fundraisers. They'd got some great speakers in and it was all very inspirational, despite the fact that they'd lined all of the 36 km riders up at the start line and we were getting cold (it's not exactly been a stellar summer here. In fact it was 9C and raining last week, although it stayed dry for most of the ride).

They'd lost the starting gun, so Premier Campbell shouted BANG!, and then we were off! Most people had road bikes and pulled ahead immediately, but there were enough of us riding hybrids and mountain bikes that I didn't feel too tortoise-like. The ride consisted of 3 laps of a 12 km circuit and started on a gentle upward slope. No problem.

After a couple of nice banking turns on car-free roads (bliss), we turned into the long straight stretch, the only downhill section of the whole course. Into a very stiff headwind. Oh joy. A few of us girls were struggling along as best we could when we were passed like we were standing still by Trevor Linden and Axel Merckx, who I'd seen chatting to some of the slower riders on the previous stretch.

Let me tell you, those two athletes are pure gentlemen. They slowed right down and formed us all into a line, with the two of them at the front, so we could all ride in their slipstream. So not only have I got to wheel-suck (thanks to Mermaid for that lovely word) an Olympic medallist and former Tour de France rider, I also got to look at Linden's butt for a while. As the girl in front of me commented when our noble leaders pulled away from us on the steep (but wind-free) uphill section that followed, "if that's not an incentive then I don't know what is".

We didn't see them again and had to struggle against the wind on our own on the next two laps. But it was really fun, I had some nice chats with fellow riders, enjoyed the freedom from cars, and even managed to lap one woman without being lapped myself by the road bike crew. I found out later that a lot of people stopped after two laps, so I'm glad that I finished the whole thing, and also raised over $350 for the Foundation.

And then the ride home. The bus racks were all full again, of course. The first section was great, down a huge steep hill. But then I remembered that I live just a few blocks from the highest point in Vancouver. I only got off and pushed for a total of two blocks (on Heather Hill at Heather & 20th, for those that know Vancouver) which isn't too bad really. But I'm going to have to step it up a notch for the 60 km MS Society bike ride in August. And I am definitely going to arrange a ride in someone's truck both to and from the start / finish line. I have no intention of turning 60 km into 80 km or worse...

Thanks again to those of you that sponsored me! Oh, and I managed to ride to work every day the following week, although my legs felt like lead by Wednesday and like rubber by Friday. The final thing to note is that I'm an idiot.

Edited to add: Linden just announced his retirement from hockey. But hopefully not from cycling. Especially right in front of me.


  1. if you want, I can lend you my bike rack so you can bring your own bike. It fits on the back of a sedan or a hatchback, but I'm not sure which one you've got again... It's this one:;jsessionid=LP0mTf2W8JBtBmP2QZvxQWvG4qBCpSdfc3x5pHpgnpTspzphYp4z!-291868365?PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524441956979&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302692829&bmUID=1213199398310

  2. Thanks for the offer! It's a Nissan Maxima, which is a sedan, but looking at the picture of the rack I'm not convinced it'll work with the shape of the car. I'll ask Mr E Man and let you know! My friend is working at the MS ride though and she has an SUV, so maybe we can fit it to her car instead.

  3. wow! Cool to read about. *sniggers* I bet ya didn't mind looking at his butt ;) who would?!?!

    Anyhow, it is always fun with the hills of Vancouver. First time I rode to Kits from UBC I completely forgot that I was supposedly going home that evening. After a day of football (soccer) and other activities (ok, just a little drink) I started to ride home and realised that the hill on 4th (I think) was not at all easy to ride upwards :)

    Good luck with finding a bike rack!! It sounds lika a very good plan!

  4. Heh! The race started at 10th and Sasamat (roughly level with Spanish Banks) so I know exactly which hill you mean. I took the bike route on 8th (is that the one you're thinking of? Past the school with the grass verge on your right?) to get to the start... I really should have just walked up, but at that stage of the day it didn't seem like too big a deal.

    I live near QE Park, which is officially the highest point... Did you ever try Heather Hill, which is just North of Children & Women's?

  5. It seems like it could be the hill... the bike way kind of. (after all, it was a few years ago, almost a decade!!)

    I think walking would make more sense, then again I would probably ride it "so people would think I am that lazy" (obviously just stupidly stubborn ;) )

  6. HG, it was a very scenic ride indeed ;)

    Chall, I'm normally very gung-ho about not pushing too, but I really should learn to change my practices when I have another 48km in front of me before I can stop.

  7. Yup, Vancouver has some big hills. Once you get tired of the ones to UBC on 10th, try the one on the beach. It hurts both biking and running. Yes, I know I am crazy for voluntarily doing hill repeats when training. Heather hill is just plain ugly. The only saving grace is that it is only a few blocks long and generally you hit the light at 25th when you reach the top so there is a totally understandable reason to stop.

  8. I'd just like to let everyone know that Mermaid is a crazy triathlete (think Ironman and "only a half" Ironman distance) and put me thoroughly to shame by doing an 80 km training ride as well as some running and swimming on the weekend I was struggling with my 60 km bike!!!

    There are some red lights that I'm happy to catch. Heather and 25th is definitely one of them, as well as Ontario and 12th (heading South). Sometimes I actually groan to myself when I realise I'm going to catch the green...

  9. Good for you for finishing that race! How cool that you got to have a, view during your ride. :-)

  10. I could have used it on the way home too!

  11. That's really fantastic that you did that. You could get hooked! I'm doing a big ride in a week's time from Vancouver to Jasper to raise money for cystic fibrosis (, I started small with a BC Lung Ride a couple of years ago and now I'm off.

    In terms of speed, a road bike makes a massive difference.

    As for streets - has anyone tried cycling up 16th to UBC? Much worse would be something like Tolmie from NW Marine Drive or some of those hills North of Broadway. These are really steep and that is the most difficult part. To train for my ride I've been going up Cypress (mountain) and that is worth it for the view coming down alone, one of the best in the world.

  12. UR: thanks mate!

    Dr J, welcome! Your ride sounds amazing. I was once riding to work (Eastwards from my old place in Kits) and found myself in the middle of a huge group of highly excitable cyclists. They'd just dipped their wheels in the Pacific at UBC and were headed to Nova Scotia to dip their wheels in the Atlantic. They had support vehicles carrying their gear and setting up camp every night. They tried to get me to go with them, and I was almost tempted... I would have to do some serious training for that though! They said it was all downhill from Calgary...

    Good luck on the ride!

  13. One thing to consider is the weight of the bike - I may ride up more hills, but my bike only weighs ~8 kgs. Fully loaded, with water bottles, aerobars, etc, it still is going to weigh less than yours, making hills a whole lot easier. If there is any chance you can fit my bike (and my shoes - to clip into the pedals), you are more then welcome to borrow it for your long ride.

    Dr J: You actually enjoy the view coming down from Cypress? I am always terrified due to the speed (and freezing). That hill is the biggest rip-off because it is painful going up and scary coming down. The only satisfaction is long-term when the training pays off.

  14. "To train for my ride I've been going up Cypress (mountain) and that is worth it for the view coming down alone, one of the best in the world."

    I am in awe! Really. I would never be able to ride upwards to Cypress... and am way to scared of going down hill... and staring at the view at the same time? nah, it would be a poor swede falling off bike into something horrid ;)

    I did walk/hike that hill one time though. Lovely view and more soothing for my nerves :) Good luck with the ride to Jasper!! And to Cae with the other race!

  15. Cypress is for skiing, not for cycling! You're both nuts! I am definitely with Chall on this one...

    Mermaid, thanks for the offer, I'll give it some thought! I've never ridden a road bike or had my feet clipped in, and I'm a total wuss on new bikes for the first few rides, but it would be nice to lose the excess weight. I haven't weighed my bike but it is definitely more than 8 kg!


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