Monday, June 4, 2012

50K Ride for Heart - Check!

The Becel Ride for Heart is an absolutely fantastic, 25-year-old event in Toronto. Two major highways are closed off to make this work - one running along the Lake Ontario waterfront, the other through the beautiful Don Valley. It's hard to really notice just how scenic these routes are from a speeding car - but it's lovely from a bike.

Equally spectacular is the opportunity to go for a ride along a perfectly smooth (no potholes!), 3-to-4-lane-wide highway that's closed to cars.

This event is capped at 13,000 riders and sells out every year.

I can see why.

It also raises over $5M for the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario every year. It's a pretty big deal around here.

I rode the 25K course last year - the longest ride I'd ever done at that point - and came away so delighted from the experience that I knew I'd be back for the 50K this year. I actually made up my mind about that before I even hit the 10K mark last year - this ride IS that fun.

Last year, I went out with the general 8am start - which meant starting in a chute with over 10,000 other riders. The first 5K or so looked something like this:

From the 2012 Ride's Facebook page. You get the idea - that's a big crowd
It took me a while to get through the pack and be able to ride at my own pace - about 5-6KMs actually. That part wasn't all that fun, come to think of it.

But this year, I got up a little earlier and went out in the early-bird start. Smart move. I didn't arrive at the start until 7.50am, but WOW. Was it ever fabulous to ride past the massive crowd in the starting chute, flash my green badge at the marshalls and head out in this crowd:

Except for paramedics, I HAD THE HIGHWAY TO MYSELF!  
That sweet 10-minute head start meant that I was loooong gone when the crowd hit the course.

I started to catch up to other early starters around the 3K mark, but even by 10K the road was nice and open:

Early bird starts are the BEST.
Now, the 25K course is very pleasant - lots of low, gradual rises and falls. I imagine the net elevation change is maybe...0 metres?

But what happens on the longer course?

In additon to being worried about the overall distance of the course - and freaked out by the dismal experience in my one and only long training ride - I've spent the last few months absolutely terrified of The Hill.

A few 50K finishers from past years had warned me about The Hill. "Things change once you get north of the turnaround for the 25K route".
Put all this together and you can see why this race was one of my Big, Scary Goals for 2012.

I didn't had a chance to drive the route in the last 6+ months, and didn't think to map it out, so had to go by logic: Toronto is built on a long slope that leads down to Lake Ontario, so heading away from the lake means going uphill. I live on the west side of the city at the top of an escarpment, and there are some nasty hills over here, so I can imagine that things would be fairly similar a few KMs east.

I've read about nasty hills - like this one that has made Julie swear off of all events that include it.

With that in mind, I made a quick stop at the 15K spot (DVP/Eglinton) for a snack - 1/4 Luna bar, 1/4 banana, some water - and some stretching. Gotta get ready for that Hill.

But as I got  further north, I noticed that I was going DOWNHILL. And that The Hill was on the other side of the highway - beside me - in the southbound part of the course. Not going to be fun tackling that in another 10KMs or so.

Except when I headed through the (dangerously crowded) turnaround (where are the race marshalls??), headed south and got over to The Hill - it was just another long, low rise. A little longer and a bit...rise-ier...than others, but nothing like I was worried about. It would have been a piece of cake with fresh legs, but even so, it really wasn't so bad.

Said a small prayer of thanks to the engineers who designed this highway.

Remembered that Julie lives in Colorado. 

Promised myself that I'd be back next year for the 75K course.

Stopped for another quick snack (more Luna/water/banana/stretching) and kept going.

There WAS a nasty surprise later on - the course involves a short detour off the highway, around a cloverleaf and back on. It's short, but rather steep. It's part of the 25K turnaround and it almost killed me last year although I managed to keep going rather than walk up. 

Surprise, surprise - it turns out that it's part of the 50K course as well, because it's a spot for those doing the 75K to loop around north again.

This year, that detour was much easier, even on tired legs. I have running and boot camp to thank for that.

I have running and boot camp to thank for a lot of things, actually.

Anyway - once I was past THAT and had only another 11K to go - my competitive nature showed up.

I'd started this with "finish" as my goal.

Now it became about time.

I finished 25K last year in 1H10mins - slowed down by the pack at first, but no breaks aside from a quick text to my husband.  

Wonder how fast I can get to the finish this year? And wouldn't it be great to finish before the rain shows up?

Only 5K or so to go. Starting to get crowded - lots of 25K and 50K finishers riding together at this point

I did have to slow down a bit because of the gathering crowd..and to send a few quick texts to my there soon...but soon rolled into the finish line with a smile and legs that could have gone for more.

Finish time: 2 hours, 15minutes.
Number of bugs swallowed: 0

I'm very pleased with BOTH of those numbers!

Loaded up on snacks, found my family, hugs and kisses all around, photo op...

I just tackled one of my Big Scary Goals - and it wasn't so bad!
That smile is mostly joy, but with a bit of relief mixed in :-)
...stretched, and headed for the car.

The CAR! That's right!

What with the early bird start...and living somewhat close to the starting line...I actually rode my bike to the starting line. Left the family sleeping and the car at home.

Which means that I rode fifty-SIX kms today.

And had enough left over to walk down to the dog park after lunch. And again after dinner.

Yep - I'm going back for 75K next year.

That being said?

Having ridden 50K, I can't EVEN IMAGINE doing 42K on foot. All the marathoners out there are made of IRON. Wow!


  1. LOL! That hill still gives me nightmares! I imagine someday I will have to go back and try to get up it...

    You did awesome girl! And on a mountian mike?! You would be amazed just how mucy easier it is on a road bike. If you keep up the riding/tri's I would seriuosly think about investing. It's crazy isn't it how when we achomplish a goal we right away start thinking of a longer distance. :)

    Congrats on tackling that BSG!

  2. Awesome job! I agree with Julie. I think you'd see an amazing speed improvement with a road bike. Especially if you still have knobby tires on your mountain bike. Heck, I don't know if I could do 50k on my hybrid bike.