This past Sunday, I participated in the Ride for Heart. I had just purchased a bike and trained on it once before ride day. Stupid, I know. I was convinced that I would be able to do the 75km route without any problems.
I religiously checked the weather the day prior: not only was rain expected on Sunday, but temperatures were going to drop 20 degrees to a high of 10. I started questioning how much fun this would really be.
Ride time was 6AM, so I had to meet my group at 5AM.
As forecasted, the weather was cold and depressing. Cycling in the rain is unpleasant at best, miserable at worst. If riding in the rain was fun, then we’d all jump in the shower with our gear on before each ride. Our group seriously contemplated our distance for about a minute before we decided to do 50km instead. Another minute – and we shaved it down to 25km. Phew.
Let’s preface this by saying that we were going to get wet. Yes, we all had on our waterproof jackets – but water always finds a way. That cold, damp trickle reminds you that the weather gods shall never, ever be defied.
With our new distance route set, we were ready to go. But there, at the starting line, the potential for harm seemed shockingly sky-high. Here I was, mixed in with crowds of experienced cyclists, trying to figure out how to work my bike. I was relieved that I didn’t go extreme hardcore with clipless pedals – if I were to wipe out, I needed a quick exit strategy that didn’t involve equipment flying across the road with me.
At this point the rain was fairly light and we were going slowly until we hit the Gardiner. With a throng of riders and wet pavement, it was a miracle I was able to not crash into anyone. Once the crowd stretched out, I thrashed on my pedals to keep up with the pack. The pace vacillated between fast and too fast for newbies, but I somehow managed to keep up, wondering at what point my body would adjust and this would become easy.
I wasn’t thinking about anything other than following the wheel in front of me. The route was relatively smooth and with various elevation, the best being the downhill from Gardiner to DVP. Even with the strong wind and pelting rain, there was a real sense of camaraderie since everyone was in the same boat and questioning their own sanity.
Halfway through, my butt was getting numb and my body was freezing. I was getting jealous of all the biking teams in their spandex unitards that were flying past me. We finally reached a dangerous bottle neck of riders at our first, and the course’s final, aid station. We stopped briefly a break before heading out again to finish the ride. At this point my legs were shaking uncontrollably from the cold, so I had to pick up speed to warm up my muscles. Our pack raced a bit for the last part of the route, finishing the course on a high note.
Overall, it was an enjoyable and fun event. Nothing beats being able to ride along the city’s major highways traffic free with friends and thousands of other cyclists. This is a ride that I will look forward to doing again next year, hopefully with warmer weather and the sun shining.