Its all about the ride….

Having opted to join a CTS buddy in SoCal to experience a leisurely February ride up Mt Baldy and then a few days in Palm Springs before making the long trek to Asheville a few weeks later to experience the Blue Ridge Parkway, Sassafras, Mt Pisgah and Caesar’s Head, one would think April would bring enough good weather to take us into the first of many GranFondo events in May but maybe there was some foresight to be had along the way as I checked the forecast the days before my second GranFondoNewYork….

Being far more interested about the visit to see my brother in NYC and the route itself vs the over-hyped yet popular lure of the George Washington Bridge at 5:30AM and waiting for an hour plus in a huge cluster as the wind howls down the Hudson River… and then jostling for position to get a good line on the left hand`r off the bridge before more tight s-corners into Palisades Park and onto River Road…. not being a daredevil bike handler, I opted for a later start and a solo effort for the first section as I did by default in 2012 but…..

While eating breakfast at 6AM and balancing a 13-month old [eating machine] aka nephew on my knee and smiling as the drool from his chin gathered on my arm…. while he keenly eyed my granola….. outside of my brother’s beautiful apartment on Madison Ave., I could see it was beyond a drizzle and raining and although the weather app on my phone claimed the afternoon would being scattered showers…. I had my doubts.

Handing the hungry fella off to my sister-in-law, I finished eating and began to psyche myself ready for a long wet day and off I went…. little did I know what would lie ahead….. as I rode into Central Park to make the trek to the GWB, about 125 blocks away. For some reason I convinced myself the exit was at 100th St so I rode past the 110th St exit and a few minutes later one of NYPD’s finest assured me I had to go around so off I went against my gut telling me she was wrong. At 72nd St I caught another cyclist who assured me it was indeed 100th St and to go back around… so off I went avoiding the horse droppings & straw and the odd runner only to run into a wall of people a few blocks around the corner, preparing for the 40,000+ AIDS run. I worked my way through a huge crowd only to get turned back by the fencing at the start so back I went…. only to find the same road block on the other side, leaving me stymied…. and wondering if today was going to be a good day to ride…. in the rain and cold or maybe spend it with my brother and his crew….. After another brief chat with a NYPD adviser, I rode back to my brother’s to get my bearings and went up Madison to 110th St., covered in road-grime while watching for cabs and pot holes and sewer grates and finally making my way to Riverside Dr and then to the GWB and onto the start….

As I rode over the bridge I came across 2 very cold & wet riders decked in GFNY jerseys who had bailed after the 1st stop 25 miles into the ride and then as I got onto River Rd I spotted the Mavic support vehicle which was a pleasant surprise as I needed my brakes and derailleur adjusted and was down to 80psi in my tires. He was surprised to see me…. almost wondering what I was doing either so far ahead or behind…. After a quick chat and benefiting from his help, I was finally off and while the first section of what was a really sketchy stretch in 2012, it was now paved but the second section was rougher and now worse and wham, with the rain coming down and visibility not great, I hit a pot hole and my right brake lever was now 2″ lower on my bars and loose to the point of uselessness and after a few minutes of wondering why I could barely hold 25K`s I realized my rear brake was pressed onto the wheel and my front tire was loosing air and fast….. what next….. my Mavic guy was gone….

Pressing on along I made it to Route 9, maybe 10 minutes after leaving River Rd and as I looked up I saw the GFNY leader in full TT mode with a strong lead from the next guy and wondered what time it was….. another 10 minutes or so I made it to the first stop in Piermont just as the FeedStation trucks were leaving with everything any rider might might need let alone in the rain on a 160K+ day…… perfect… but to be expected given my choice to leave so late….. Looking around I spotted a coffee shop and then found the local bike shop, aptly named Piermont Bicycle and after changing my tube, having a great espresso, catching a glimpse of the Giro [inspiration] and getting my lever and brakes adjusted, off I went again….. it was 11:30AM, 4 1/2 hours after the official start.

On my way to Nynack, the next town, I ran into Sag with one passenger who looked frozen, was told less than half of the riders had actually started and that FeedStation #2 was long gone…… luckily I got a bar, gel and a package of chomps and continued on and although I was on the outbound part of the course, weaving between Route 9 and roads along the Hudson River, I started seeing riders heading back and then caught the crew tearing down the signs. After a quick chat I was told the riders I was seeing had probably turned around before Bear Mountain or rode up and went straight back as it was a shorter return option and they’d avoid the other climbs…..

Just after Tomkins Cove I came to a cross road and had to decide whether to ride up Bear Mountain and run the risk of missing the FeedStation #3 and worse maybe missing my flight….. or cutting through the State Park along Mott Farm Rd and hitting the other noted climbs on the original route back to the GWB….. the fact a State Trooper sending riders up Mott Farm Rd made the decision easier and I was surprised to be so far behind yet was catching hundreds of riders on that climb, most of whom were walking their bikes, not a good sign, maybe Bear Mountain and the rain had cooked them as the out/back was 30K vs the loops I did in Central Park…. I would have preferred Bear Mountain.

Another half hour or so later I finally hit FeedStation #4 only to find they had a limited selection of water, white bagels, bananas and pb/jelly which seemed odd to me given half the riders had bailed and riders coming off Bear Mountain told me that FeedStation #3 had run out of everything. In speaking to a rider from Peurto Rico who looked frozen, there was nothing but warm Coke for him atop the Bear Mountain climb…. he wasn’t happy.

Not sure what to expect on the return, I ate 2 bananas, had to pretty much beg for a bagel, not sure why…. filled my bottles with water and rationed what was left of my electrolytes and off I went to tackle the remaining climbs, making my way back keeping in mind it was now 2PM and I had to be back at my brother’s by 5PM to give me time to change, shower, pack and get my bike into the bike bag….. time would be tight with 80K of rollers ahead of me unless I pushed it hard but given I didn’t burn too many matches [as the saying goes] on Bear Mountain, I was feeling pretty good for the rest of the way back and despite the constant rain, I felt a tailwind, a welcome find.

On the way back I decided I’d avoid River Road and its bad stretch of pot holes which were hard to see in the rain and opt for Route 9 until I hit the GWB and I’d skip the soggy finish line. I made it back to my brother’s at 5:05PM with enough time to quickly clean my bike, get it in the bag, shower, change and pack and get to the airport with less than 45 minutes before my flight…. typical for NYC, the flight was delayed so I had time for a celebratory pair of Sierra Nevada Pale Ales and a sandwich and boarded my flight home….

Riding along I had felt bad for Uli of GFNY as he worked year long to grow his event from 3,500 riders with hopes of 7,000 but Mother Nature had other ideas. I didn’t see too many happy faces along the way back but was personally content I stuck it out and ended up riding 185K and although I didn’t make the official start or finish in Weehawkin, I had a great challenging ride and that is what I had intended for the day as I sat eating breakfast with a drooling toddler on my lap watching the rain fall outside, so many hours earlier that day when so many others had bailed…. others as in more than half of the riders who registered given only 2,300 finished and none of them had the twisted pleasure of my experience……

As they say, it really is…. all about the ride.

Rider Beware…. and for those riding the SuprFondo on Saturday…. take note!

Given the need to be accessible (just in case) despite wanting to ride this awesome 220K route with TeamRC, I opted to ride the SuprFondo route July 14th, starting off from Westboro Beach just after 11AM on a solo-suffer-fest….. easily my toughest ride ever.
Notwithstanding my nasty accident a few weeks ago and still being on the mend, I ignored the aches/pains and the heat as I just could not resist the challenge of wanting to experience the roads of the Lower Ottawa Valley from 2-wheels instead of 4 and WOW what a treat they were.
Although many of us have ridden the RLCT route from Ottawa to Perth, my guess it that few have ridden the roads from Lanark Village (where the SuprFondo splits from the GranFondo) up to McDonalds Corners and over to Tatlock and Clayton…. they really are a dream combination of relentless rollers with beautiful scenery that leave you wanting more but will tax you to the max if it is as hot as it was yesterday.
As you will find out, there are grades pushing 12% in several spots just after Brightside and typically the roads from Lanark Village onwards for the extra 50K beyond the GranFondo quickly change from cruiser stretches to rollers to short steady uphills which knock you out of any rhythm, making it more challenging.
For those not ready for a tough 220K or experiencing problems with training rides or having any doubt while riding next Saturday, the stop in Lanark Village is where you need to decide to go-for-it or opt for the GranFondo route as the extra 50K from Lanark Village is significantly more difficult than any other terrain on any of the 3 routes so its a double whammy of distance and challenging roads.
If you take the plunge, grind it out and you will be happy and satisfied once you reach Almonte, that is for sure!

Tip: Be sure to stock up on water in Lanark Village, then McDonalds Corners and unless you are part camel, do NOT pass the General Store in Hopetown (not a feed-station) as the next stop is not until Clayton and there is no-where for water in Tatlock…… As a measure of safety, we will have a cooler with limited water on ice in the 2 cars on the route but always good to be prepared in case we miss you along the way…. lots of area to cover.

Be safe and ride smart and within your limits .-)

To bonk or not to bonk….. the choice is pretty much up to you!

A few weeks ago a friend from the past, now renewed via cycling (how good is that) got connected with me for a ride to Merrickville on a Saturday just before Noon. He had been telling me about his latest ride of 70K and how he and his buddies averaged 35K/hour and felt great. Knowing his background as a former pro athlete, I figured he had been training and knew what he was doing so…. as I was riding to meet up…… thought  I was in for a long tough day…… and off we went…. dead into a steady head-wind South from Hunt Club/Riverside…. and not before very long…. as in 10K or so my turns (pulling) were getting longer and despite the draft, his speed was slowing and got progressively worse. He told me he thought he was sore and still tired from his ride the previous Sunday, a week earlier….. and I first thought to myself and then said NO chance…. I asked him what he had for breakfast and lunch or pre-ride and whammo…. breakfast was at 8AMish before a long business call and no time for lunch so I knew we were in for a one-sided suffer-fest and that sadly I would not be getting much help for the next 70K+ and wondered if he would make it to Merrickville. Sure enough, he battled the BONK and soon 25KPH was a struggle and as much as he tried to refuel along the way, it was a loosing battle. In Merrickville, he ate like a starved vulcher but the damage was done long ahead of our start as his glycogen stores were lower than low and then emptied just trying to get the first half of the 70K done and the rest of the day he suffered like a dog on a 140K ride…. how NOT so nice for either of us…..

More recently, a similar fate for another ride buddy who refuses to use an electrolyte powder and is definitely OLD SCHOOL in every aspect cycling and funny enough my Merrickville buddy was also present to tell us about his fate and how he learned his lesson…. and the stories go on and on and on….

This is nothing new nor is it rocket science although it does have a definite science to it, that is for sure as I have had my own experiences, having decided to extend a 20K skate ski from P8 to the Fire Tower (with one bottle) to 50K+ and relying on snow snacks for the last 20K….. wow, how dumb was that! More recently I caught a stomach virus 4-days before GranFondo-NewYork and my best laid plans went to waste. Having hydration challenges before a 220K day with 9,000 feet of climbing is not ideal to say the least. I reached into the bag of GI tricks passed on to me by a Doc buddy for everything I could ingest and nothing would help so after a rough night prior, at 7AM as I departed from Central Park to challenge myself and my uncooperative system…. I knew what lay ahead…. only not sure when and how bad I would get hit. From the start I pounded back my electrolyte powders and gels and ate bananas and drank water and snacked on bagels and peanut butter but sure enough the leg-cramps kicked in before the 4th timed climb and I was pretty much done in terms of stomping out much power and despite finishing, both hamstrings still felt strained a few days later.

As I found out at the CTS Camp in Santa Ynez, Ca., most of us are truly clueless about the impacting importance of timing intake of nutrition and leave ourselves in a bad spot on long or hard rides and skis time and again as we neglect the fuel that runs our engines. The difference is huge when using proper hydration practices and not or leaving the bottle sit full in the cages….. At CTS you get fed bottles like a child and scolded for not hydrating but it works…. and they make sure you get the calories needed to run the engine as well as the fluids. To boot, on completion they hand you a bottle of a recovery product and within an hour…. we eat then massage and stretch and ice I can tell you for certainty, that combination is huge….. a true luxury and not easily afforded from a time perspective but huge and even without the massage, a good stretch and a cold water bath or even shower and ice for the legs works wonders to help your body flush the lactic acid from the legs….. the theory is proven but we opt out most of the time for lots of reasons….

Companies like Enervit, GU Energy and PowerBar spend millions researching the effects of hydration and carb burning on the body and offer us easy step-by-step solutions, in ready to consume formats yet we ignore them….. why, who knows but it really makes NO sense.

Our local retailers (Bushtukah, Full Cycle, Greg Christie Ski & Cycle, Kunstadt and Popeyes), sell product aimed at keeping you fueled for riding and help recover when done and with so many options it is highly encouraged that you pick a hydration powder or gel and a bar for extra fuel and let your stomach get used to them well ahead of the event.

For GranFondoOttawa (our nutritional sponsor) Enervit  has provided programs/cards specific for each of the 3 routes and packages at discounted rates and it is encouraged that you give them a try. They have a Pre for loading before the ride, bars and gels and GSport electrolyte powders as well as a Cheer-Pack for that extra boost and an R2 for recovery. I have used them all and they are great.

The choice is always yours but for the sake of the day and making the most of it with energy to spare for the FondoFesta, be prepared and aware and take charge to ensure you do not BONK and ruin the day.

Seeing the good in the bad….. the eternal optimist rides on!

Having chosen to take the plunge and work with one of the Chris Carmichael (CTS) groomed coaches (Santa Ynez Camp/March)…. I was looking ahead to a week of mixed easy/hard rides as part of the tapering for a CTS Field Test which called for 2 x 8 minutes of self-inflicted lung searing push-to-the-max suffer-fests…. ahead of another set of easy rides, including our GranFondoOttawa/Bushtukah/Trek Wednesday rides…. before the annual ride to Kingston & back aka RLCT….. and my week started with a Monday ride of 2-hour easy-peasey spin & stretch but……. following that…. whammo as I got hit with a slap in the face eye opener…..

On Tuesday night while cycling back from a 60-minute rest/recovery ride, I had the painful misfortune of going head first into the passenger window of a car failing to yield at Carling/Acres and at 35K+/hour it was nasty, wow! My last conscious thought was indescribable and the next thing I knew….. I was in the ER of the Queensway Carleton Hospital…. totally stunned and definitely piecing together parts of the puzzle that got me there….. what a shocker. Lucky for me I was under the care of Dr. Charles and his amazing ER staff as I got the best professional treatment and attention to detail anyone could dream of getting….. covering every possibility imaginable to ensure my health and well-being were protected and throughout the next 3+ days was expertly cared for by a group of nurses second to none.

Based on what I experienced and witnessed, the team of Docs and Nurses on the 3rd floor of the post-surgery unit at QCH go far beyond taking unbelievable pride in their work and I was lucky to be in their care as I sit here writing this message. Although I am happy not to be an expert in receiving hospital care, the staff at QCH turned a horrific ordeal into an experience that made a huge difference in my life, even for such a short time.

Thanks to Doc Charles and the Nurses… you are aces! I would also like to thank the paramedic (EMS) who got me safely from the road into the ER while I was unconscious….. and thank Constable Mondoux who went well beyond the call of duty to come to the ER and update me as to what had actually occurred and then dropped my bike off…. at my house and put it inside where it would be safe while I was in the care of the staff at QCH…. that was an awesome gesture.

You all deserve my thanks and appreciation beyond words and to that point, my new cycling event….. will be making a special donation to the QCH for making such a traumatic experience so easy to endure.

So few people take the time to write above a positive experience and rather dwell far too often on the negative…. and in my case, something very bad enabled me to share with you the experience of care and professionalism exhibited by the OPS, EMS and QCH all in a short time span and I feel the right thing to do is deliver my message of thanks to them all…..

Spring Update

So much for relying on the weather…. wow, what a disaster to date….. trying to spend more time riding than cleaning the bike…. some days it`s awash .) but the good news is it`s early May and most of us are way ahead given the Summer like March we had…

Our 1st Annual GranFondoOttawa is taking shape nicely with close to 1,000 riders set to ride one of our great route options through the Lower Ottawa Valley.

Our Fondo-Fit rides on Wednesday (Trek|Bushtukah) and Sunday (GranFondo) are growing and last Wednesday we finally had a decent turn-out but for getting split into 2 groups and not connecting and getting soaked into a headwind on the way back!

With less than 3-months to go, be sure to follow the Training Plan and be out on the bike at least 2-3 days a week for the MedioFondo and 3-4 days for the GranFondo and SuprFondo rides.

We have added a GiroPreFesta on the 19th at Brookstreet Hotel with and Olympian theme and will have a Four Course dinner followed by an open forum panel with 4 celeb`s sharing what it was like to dedicate themselves to a specific sport, their set-backs and successes and what life is like after sport. The Four Course Italian dinner prepared by Brookstreet`s Four Diamond Chef will cost $75.00 and include 2 bottles of Cave Springs vino per table. All proceeds will support our worth charities, Camp Quality and Ride for Dad.

Be sure to check out the Silent Auction section of the website as we have loads of great items…

We will be launching a specific charity initiative to be announced shortly aimed at supporting Camp Quality and Ride for Dad via specific pledge programs. With 1,000 riders and a minimal effort to raise $200.00 each, we should easily hit $200,000.00 for these charities.

Many riders have asked about the fit of the Biemme gear and to showcase how awesome their gear is and to encourage your purchase of the matching bibs, arm & leg warmers, gloves, caps and socks…. on May 27th we will have a Fit-Day with a double purpose. From 9AM until Noon we will offer fittings and showcase product in an Expo format from Biemme, Diadora, Enervit, Veloflex and Stella Azzura and plan to have Trek and Bontragger there as well given Trek is our Official Bike Sponsor.

FondoFitTraining Update

GranFondoOttawa~FondoFitTraining page is being updated to make it more user friendly and we will be adding nutritional tips and the TrainingPlan in 2 formats for easier use. Our FondoFit rides powered by Trek/Bushtukah & fueled by KBeer are taking shape….. not much luck with the weather so far bvut the season is young.  The plan is to host rides Wednesday’s at 5:30PM and Sunday’s at 11AM from the Westboro Beach parking lot off the Ottawa River Parkway, west of Island Park Drive. Once the days get a little longer, we can push the Wednesday time to 6PM. The post ride “haunt” will be the Pavilion at Westboro Beach (operated by Moe’s Newport) but until it opens we can use its’ sister restaurant, Donna’s on Churchill Ave at Scott St. Check our Facebook page for updates on the day of the ride so we can adjust for weather etc.

The Santa Ynez Valley with CTS

Last week I attended the CTS Camp in Santa Ynez to ride with Chris Carmichael and see firsthand how he worked his magic on a guy named Lance for 20-years via his guru-like approach to training with power and wow what an eye opener.

I will skip over the first round of golf on Monday AM at Pebble and the crazy drive after down Hgwy 1 along the coast and get to the good part…..

The drive from the Central Coastal area took me through some of the most beautiful areas in the world flanked by vineyards and horse stables with mountains all around… and waiting for me was the Four Diamond Santa Ynez Inn, an awesome retreat with huge rooms and great staff. Across the street is CTS and after a team meet & greet dinner and a great sleep…. waiting there for us in the AM are the 4 coaches, led by Kirk + Dave, Jason and Julia, all Cat 1 racers and true disciples of their leader, Chris. Parked out front are 2 fully decked out Sram cars with our pro mechanics, Jason and Chad to take care of us and Soigner Jen with the sag wagon fully stocked with GU and bearing the CTS logos. How good is that…. better than good, awesome. Next…. who pops out but Chris to greet us and tell us a little about what they have in store…. can it get any better….. of course it can.

Off we go along the same scenic rural roads, with horse stables to the left and vineyards to the right and mountains in the horizon. Day 1 is the Field Test, good thing I read the fine print….. ouch that hurt, a short ride with some skill sessions followed by 2 x 8 minute time trials on a 2% false flat to set the bar and after the ride back, 60K was in the books. After a great dinner with Leonardo from Reggio di Calabria (home to Granpa Capello) at Grappolo and a few too many glasses of wine, okay 7 to be exact….  I hit the sack well after Midnight, bad idea!

On day 2, Chris tells us about a ride named after Manny, a cancer victim and off we go to the ocean…. 140K and 5,000 feet later I am better than cooked, these boys can ride and the Gat^s seems like rollers compared to the roads we covered. Thanks to the masseuse or Day 2 would be a total bust.

At dinner the coaches ask if we are ready for Fig Mountain….. Fig what….. So on Day 3 we ride 70K, not bad but for Fig Mountain is a legit euro-style Cat 1 climb with 10 long miles at 2% followed by another 10 miles up at an average grade of 8% and at least a dozen pitches of 14%, again, where did I see that…. wow, a little beyond what I came ready for but a real quad crack^n challenge for sure…. and as a follow-up to the 140K ride but I survived the day earlier, yowszer…..and the descent was unreal. I was happy to see the masseuse again and took an extra half-hour treatment. That night the wine stayed in the cork but the Fig Mountain Brewery lost a few soldiers for sure…..

Day 4 was an easy day with about 70K of roller riding but for Ballard Canyon and it^s 12% short pitch but lucky the GU was doing the trick and the descent was long and fun as the next day was the real stinger as Chris so aptly noted. After another great massage, followed by a hot tub and stretch, that night Chris gave a great talk about his days with 7-11 and the adventures of Alex Steida, the first rider from North America (Canada) to wear the yellow jersey at the TdeF, awesome story teller, wow, are we in for a treat if I can get him here….

Day 5 was the Solvang Century, 170K ride with 5,500 feet of climbing. I made the mistake of taking off with Group A incl Chris and a few too many Cat 1 guys and got dropped after hanging on for 40 minutes…. but managed to complete the ride at just under 32K/hour, not bad for March and riding mostly alone…. That night we had a great dinner and exchanged stories and listened to Chris and took some pics before calling it a quits…

The next day I headed back to Pebble Beach for another shot or two…. to pursue my other passion but found myself wishing I had stuck around for another easy day on the bike in Santa Ynez…. maybe next year….. yes, next year for sure!

The Latest from GranFondoOttawa

With it seeming like Spring is around the corner…. many riders are asking about upcoming group rides….. and as per the Training Plan and our web section, we will do Wednesday rides and Sunday rides but for now its trainers, spin classes and xc skiing for most of us!
For our friends from out of town, we plan ahead and look into what Brookstreet will offer for April or May or June weekend specials as I am sure they would welcome the extra Spring or Summer traffic.
On the subject of Brookstreet and those coming from afar OR anyone wanting to add a little something extra to enhance your GranFondoOttawa experience…. be sure to check out and do not wait too too long as I can assure you there is NO better hotel in the ReggioCapitale nor can you beat the rates Brookstreet has offered for our riders. Not only is Brookstreet a Four Diamond resort hotel, but it is adjacent to the start|finish area on Legget Drive in Kanata meaning when you roll out of bed at the crack of dawn on the 21st the host venue is next door in plain view of your hotel room window…. better yet, join us for the Thursday GiroPreFesta and combine it with a Noon ride Friday to be followed by a yoga stretch before the Friday Event Expo BBQ and Kit p|u begins in the later afternoon…

The long of it….

Having done an Ironman way back in ’93 before tri’s became so popular…. I can still recall how boring the long solo training rides were without even the company of an iPod…. often wondering “why” but pushing ahead to build the base needed to swim/bike/run for 9+ hours at a decent pace to reach my personal goal. Twenty years later…. cycling is the NEW golf and riding 60K seems so easy with the iPod or when dragging a group or a cycling buddy along for a 100K ride and now it’s great fun and having renewed myself last year with Rideau Lake’s + a few 100K fundraiser’s and the GranFondoLasVegas the bug certainly bit ME and listening to fellow cyclists comment about their event experiences and thinking about my own and in particular [GFLV] I couldn’t help but wonder…. these events could offer so much more so rather than be an arm-chair critic, wanting to make a difference is what inspired me to offer something WE could build into a pure cycling FESTA and call our own! Continue reading