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Saturday, 18 June 2016

My Arse is Sore Again......280km on a Bicycle

OK, so I've changed the name of the blog again, hopefully for the last time. Change is good though. Last fall I bought a new bicycle. It's a Specialized Tri Cross, a cyclocross bike. Basically it's like a road bike with bigger tires, disc brakes and lower gears. I hadn't done any real biking since my triathlon days. As you know I was briefly toying with the idea of doing another Ironman, which of course is hard to do without a bike.

I spent most of the winter biking indoors on the bike trainer, and soon found out that I would rather spend a good 90mins biking than running. Once spring finally arrived, I started riding outside and began running less and less. So I shelved my triathlon plans and just continued to ride.

The Tri Cross bike with it's bigger tires, 32mm verses the 21mm on my old tri bike, and the more relaxed frame geometry made riding enjoyable again. Rural roads in New Brunswick leave a little bit to be desired, a patchwork quilt of asphalt repairs, potholes, cracks, and chip seal make for a rough ride. Like riding the cobbles of Paris Roubaix. The larger tires and lower air pressure make these roads a lot more comfortable to ride on. What I'm really trying to say is.....the new bike makes riding enjoyable again.

What I really wasn't prepared for was the hills. I never realized how many hills there are in New Brunswick. I'd get back from a ride and look at the data from my Garmin, and the elevation profile looked like a row of sharks teeth. What doesn't kill ya, makes ya stronger.

The spring wore on and my rides continued to get longer and longer, 30k, 50k, 90k, and 100k. Like the motorcycle, I enjoyed spending hours on bicycle, seeing the world at a relaxed pace, and pushing my body to go further and further.

I signed on to ride in the Great Cycle Challenge. It's a fundraiser for sick kids across Canada battling cancer. Something no kid or parent should have to go through. So being a dad with two healthy kids at home I felt an obligation to contribute, help out and give some meaning to riding my bike. I pledged to raise $1000, and ride 1000km in the month of June. Thanks to the many that donated I have surpassed my goal $1000, and I am currently pedalling slowly towards the 1000km.

I decided to get in some serious mileage this week since I was off work and headed out for a two day trip. It was gonna be like a motorcycle road trip, ride somewhere over night and ride some more.

Day one I planned for about 160km, it would be my longest ride since I did the Ironman in 2000. Looking back I don't know how I rode 180km in under 6hrs and then went on to run a marathon. My brother in law has a cottage in the Village of Gagetown so I figured that would be a good stop for the night.

The day started off with me over sleeping. I set my alarm for 0500, but forgot to turn it on. So now it's 0550, and I'm just opening my eyes. So much for getting out of town early. I checked the weather while eating a light breakfast and having my morning coffee. North winds at 20kph. In my face for most of the day, but not too bad. Grab my Garmin watch off the charger.......WTF it's almost dead. Why's it dead? It's been on the charger for almost an entire day. Fuck, the desktop computer is turned off. Damn it, longest ride of the year, and no Garmin. Yes I'm a Strava junky. 

I finally rolled out of the garage just before 7am. The sun was shining, but it was cool, long sleeve jersey and leg warmers were on. The worst part of the day was the ride thru the city. Saint John sucks arse for cycling. There is no safe, easy way from east to west. There's Foster Thurston Rd, which is minefield of potholes, massive cracks, no shoulder and big hills, where there is a chance you'll be killed by a sleep deprived doctor speeding home from the hospital in his Mercedes. Then there is Rothesay Ave, flat, but, no shoulder, potholes, catch basins that are recessed 5 inches into the pavement, endless strings of traffic lights and heavy traffic. 

You are not allowed to bike on Route 1, or the Saint John Thruway.

The Harbour Bridge in Saint John

Thankfully traffic along Rothesay Ave is light at this hour of the morning and I was able to speed across the city pretty quick. I was riding into Grand Bay in just over and hour. I stopped at Tim Horton's to replenish my caffeine level and have a second breakfast. I figured there wouldn't be too many opportunities for a meal between Welsford and Fredericton Junction.

I'm thinking the majority of patrons at the Tim's are regulars on an early Thursday morning. I had that feeling that I did not belong, and I was getting that "there's a stranger in town" look. I don't get it, a sweaty lycra clad guy stands out. What?  Funny how I got lots of strange looks but no one dared to talk to me. "Don't talk to him George, the exercise may wear off on you" Ok, ok, that's my inner asshole talking. 

I fought my way through the Grand Bay - Westfield commuter, rush hour traffic and continued up Route 177 to Welsford. Once out of the Grand Bay area, traffic almost becomes void and it's a pleasant ride. 

I stopped at the Irving in Welsford, loaded up on water and had a pee break. The 101 north was all new to me and I wasn't quite sure of what services there were. It was 75km to Fredericton Junction and I did not want to run out of water.

The 101 was a good road for the most part, only a couple of good climbs in the first part, but was made up of mostly rolling hills. The big problem was the ever increasing headwind. What started out as a light wind was now turning into a good breeze. It was quite a grind, and it never let up until I turned the corner eastbound on the 655. The trees provided some break from the wind, but any open areas I'd be pummelled by the crosswinds. The sound of the wind in my ears all day was giving me a headache. Even with my earbuds in listening to music.

I stopped for a break about 30km from Oromocto after putting in 80km nonstop. I topped up my water bottles, gulped down a chocolate milk, bag of M&M's and a Joe Louis. Healthy treats.

The road to Oromocto was fairly flat, which was a welcome relief, because ever since passing the 100km mark, my left knee started to get a little sore. Which was a bit of worry considering I still had over 60km to go, and another 100k tomorrow. I'm thinking it maybe a slightly misaligned cleat on my shoe. At least that is what I am hoping it is. I may change out my pedals and shoes when I get home, and try out my road pedals and shoes from my tri bike. I am currently using mountain bike shoes and pedals.

Traffic picked up as I inched my closer to Oromocto, but for the most part everyone gave me lots of room on the road. No haters.

I had planned on stopping at McD's cause I had a craving. Riding for 6 or 7 hours will do that to you. Tim Horton's appeared on the horizon first and it was a shorter detour off my route, so a chilli deal it was. I won't lie to ya, it was nice to sit on a chair, my arse was getting sore, and I think I had the beginnings of saddle sores.

It was only another 40km to the cottage, and it was a quartering tailwind, unfortunately the strong wind from earlier had faded, so the push I was hoping for was now gone. I was grateful it wasn't in my face, and the road was fairly flat because I was starting to feel the effects of a long day in the saddle.

Did I mention that my arse hurt? That and I think my junk food diet was backfiring on me, and my energy levels were crashing. Oh and maybe the fact that this was my longest ride by over 60km in 16 years might, just might have something to do with it.

It seemed like the longest 40km ever, and then the cruel end to the day was the two big hills just before Gagetown that left me spent, more mentally than physically.

I was pretty happy to reach the cottage. I wasn't completely exhausted, but tired and I had a headache. A nice cold beer, and a cold shower (no one told me you had to turn the hot water heater on) made things a lot better. It felt good to put in a big day like that, especially considering my fitness level. I figured my average moving speed was around 21km/hr. The real test would be the ride home.

Sunrise in Gagetown, purdy damn nice

I woke up with the sun after sleeping for close to ten hours. I passed out around 8pm. It was a cold morning, temperature in Saint John was 2C. Ouch. Lazy breakfast and a couple of coffees it is.
Smoke stack from the old lumber mill.

Surprisingly my legs and butt were feeling good, new bike shorts help. Thank you Louis Garneau and your nicely padded shorts. I could feel my knee, but it wasn't painful, so I was good to go. Not that I had a choice.

Right off the bat, the 102 south has a lot of hills, slow, lowest gear climbs, followed by coasting the downhills in the aerobars. Thankfully my legs felt pretty fresh, I'd even say better than yesterday. I wasn't sure how quickly I'd recover from a big day in the saddle, and was a little nervous of day two turning into a sufferfest.

After Evandale the road levels out for awhile, and I was able to make good progress. The sky was clear and it was warming up nicely. Traffic was very light, and that was a welcome situation. Sometimes ten to fifteen would go by without seeing another vehicle. 

Brown's Flat is not flat, at least the road isn't anyway. The low gear, out of the saddle climbs begin again at "Brown's Flat" Luckily at the top of the first climb is an Irving, which has coffee. So after a small jolt of caffeine and sugar, I purchased the last Mae West on the rack, and refilled my water bottles, for the final 53km push home. 

The wind is back and it was picking up quickly. Luckily it was a tailwind this time, and I felt good like I was actually moving quickly. Unfortunately the closer I got to Saint John the more the traffic picked up. It wasn't too bad until I hit the westside, and had to make my way across the bridge.

The ride up Rothesay Ave on a Friday afternoon was miserable, and I was now back into a headwind gusting to 45kph, and jostling a constant stream of cars. It basically sucked big hairy donkey balls. 

If you plan on cycle touring through New Brunswick avoid Saint John like the plague during the day, come thru during the wee hours of the morning, or just don't come this way. The next time I'll take the ferry from Westfield and come across the Kingston Peninsula. 

So what did I learn? My legs will outlast my arse, and I need a new seat. I have an email in to my friend at Cyclesmith looking for a Brooks saddle. Supposedly one of the finest for riding any distance. My right cleat maybe slightly out of whack causing my knee pain. The Blackburn bike luggage, is awesome, and worked perfect, as did the lighting system I have. I had a couple of comments on how bright the headlight was even in full daylight. Riding at a "touring" pace is way nicer than a full on aerobar 180km Ironman time trial. I have a whole different level of respect for the folks racing in the Trans America Bike Race. 4200miles. Doing 200-300 MILES a day is incredible.

I've watched this a few times, and one of these years, I'll be there.

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