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.