Monday 11 May 2009

Animalthon: It Ate Me Up

On Ferguson Lake Road

After my recent bold success at completing a 200 km Brevet ride with the Ontario Randonneurs, I planned to do one more long ride with them to improve my season’s training. The 300 km Animalthon was scheduled for yesterday and I made some useful preparations. I put the rack on the Marinoni, together with the rack trunk I have, so that I would not have to use a backpack to carry my supplies, and put the bike rack on the car so I would not have to reassemble the bike at the starting point.

Waking up at 4 a.m., I checked the weather and things looked pretty good. There was a threat of some rain showers and perhaps even thunderstorms in the afternoon but I did not think these would be too much of a problem. I did pack my windvest, just in case, and was soon in the car, drinking a nice strong double espresso, and heading towards the jump-off point.

First problem. It turned out that the directions from Google were wrong and it took some time to find the Cheshire Cat pub in Carp since the directions took me most of the way there and then went somewhere else. I arrived around 5:50 a.m. to find that there were only two others doing this ride, and the both left by the time I had the bike set up and was ready to go myself. Peter, the organizer, gave me my check-in card and I was off at 6:15 a.m. into the coolish morning air. I put on the windvest but thought I would have to take it off fairly soon.

Leaving Carp, I cruised comfortably along the country roads at around 28 km/h. I was hoping to average 25-26 km/h for the day, which would easily bring me back to Carp before darkness. There were a lot of birds singing, and I saw some cardinals and a blue jay fly by. At one point I thought I saw a deer lawn ornament but when it turned its head to look at me I realized that it was the real thing!

The Prince of Wales drank here!

The ride began with a headwind but my progress was good and fairly soon I caught up to Trevor, the slower of the two riders. He had also been on the 200 km Brevet ride. In fact, so had Mark, the first rider out, but we never saw him on that ride and would not on this one as well. Trevor and I had a nice chat was we rode through Almonte and then rode towards Lanark and the turn that would take us most of the way to Calabogie. Trevor pulled off at a convenience store to get some Gatorade but I wanted to stay warm and kept on going.

Gravel to asphalt...

The road to Calabogie was particularly nice, with some interesting climbs and some small lakes to look at. A fox came up to the edge of the road but ran away when I approached. There was almost no traffic and the road was in quite good shape. Unfortunately, after a brief stop, my Garmin GPS fell off the mount on the stem and landed in the grass. The mount had cracked and when I tried to reattach the GPS, the tongue holding the unit in place broke off. The GPS would function since it was not wired to the bike but by carrying it in my pocket I could not read off the directions or distance on the ride easily. But I guess randonneuring is about self-sufficiency and I knew that I could easily order a new mount once I was back home.

The road looked familiar and I realized that I was riding the same route that the Almonte Bicycle Club uses for its excellent monthly 40 km time trial and almost before I knew it I was back in Calabogie. I had my card signed off at a gas station/restaurant featuring one of the most unpleasant washrooms I have seen in Canada and prepared to start on the next leg. As I was pulling out, Trevor, who clearly is not all that slow, called out as he arrived at the gas station. We chatted for a bit, but as he was going to go in and have breakfast I decided to keep going. Clouds were rolling in and I wanted to get back in Carp preferably dry.

Riding out of Calabogie, which was at the 95 km mark, I came to Ferguson Lake Road, which took me on some quiet byways through woods and fields and past the small lake-of-the-same name. The road turned into gravel but it was not too bad, although I had to slacken my pace a bit. It was a pretty road but at one point I reached down when I felt something on my sock and discovered blood–it was black fly season! For those unfamiliar with these pests, they come out in swarming clouds in May for perhaps two weeks. Unlike mosquitoes, they don’t sting but actually rip out bits of your flesh. Nasty things and so I made sure to keep my speed high enough to keep them away.

But it was getting darkish now and the first drops of rain were falling. It seemed pretty light and I was in good spirits as I approached the first of a series of climbs on Opeongo Road. The rain was heavier now, and I stopped at a small cabin that was the local historical attraction (there was in interesting outdoor display about Pileated Woodpeckers and their nests!) and had some of my sandwiches. It did not look like the rain was slackening so I rolled out again onto the silent road and began climbing the first of seven hills which would eventually take me to the highest point in Ontario. I did mind the climbing, which was moderately steep, but the rain was hard and I turned on my blinky lights as I approached some stretches of fog. When I finally reached the t-junction that was at Foymount Road, I was completely soaked and soon, with a massive descent, become even wetter. The downhill leg would have been quite exciting in nice weather as it hits grades of 14 percent, but today was not so nice as the rain slammed into my face at 70 km/h like needles and I could feel my lips swell with pain.

This was followed by a rather dull stretch that brought me into Eganville, where I checked in at the local coffee shop and had my card signed. It was only 1:45 p.m. and I had ridden more than 170 kms, so I was pretty much on schedule. After I drank two large hot chocolates, I went outside to get on the bike and found that the rain had increased and I was instantly freezing cold. I rode two more blocks and then saw a German restaurant where I pulled in to figure out what to do.

I still had 140 kms to ride. It would be quite flat and most of it would probably have a tailwind. My legs felt good and I had been eating sufficiently along the route. But I was wet and very cold and had no additional clothing (as if that would not have been soaked through in a few minutes anyway). For only the third time in my cycling I decided to abandon the ride. I ordered a mushroom omelette and a salad and then used my cellphone to call home for rescue. Two hours later, my wife arrived bearing that most welcome of things–warm, dry clothing. I got changed at the restaurant, we loaded up the car and she drove me back to Carp through evil rain and thunderstorms to where I retrieved my car at 5:00 p.m. Trevor’s car was still there, so he had clearly determined to keep going or else was making other arrangements. When I got home, I sent the organizer an e-mail to let him know I would not complete the route today. I also ordered a new GPS mount.

After a good dinner, including a fine Doppelbock beer, I was sound asleep by 9:30 p.m.

At least I did the climbing...

Although I did not meet my goal this time, I did ride more than 170 km on a challenging course so at least I met my goal of more training mileage. The Animalthon is offered again later in the summer by the Ottawa Bicycle Club, but with the cue sheet I have there is no reason I could not do the ride on my own in better weather since I was riding this one by myself anyway. My average speed, including the climbing, still worked out to a respectable 24.8 km/h so I definitely could do it in daylight. This will be the longest randonneur I plan to do since I have no interest in riding at night.


Pedalman said...

It stinks that the weather stopped the ride early, but by the looks of the course you had some great riding. Those are some really good cruising numbers you had, and if the weather had held out, you would have been home before dark.
You have great stamina and strength!

Sprocketboy said...

Thanks, Pedalman, but more important than stamina and strength at times is good common sense. On the drive home the weather was so bad that it cured me of any possible regrets about ending the day early!

Lily on the Road said...

Kudos to you for even going for your Animalthon! The weather was so unpredictable over the weekend, I tried twice to get a ride in but unlike you, I'm not hard core enough to battle it through the wind and rain.

So glad you decided to call your wife and have a safer, warmer, drier trip back to the "Cheshire Cat Pub".