cycling · Guest Post

My first 70km bike ride (Guest Post)


On Sunday Nov 30 the weather was warm for London, Ontario,  a balmy 10C and I had agreed to go on a longer ride with friends. We were supposed to do the Saturday but snow the night before had made things tricky in the morning. It turned out to be me, my beloved Michel and Sensible Dave (aka Randonneur  Dave who Sam sometimes writes about). The loop was a 60-70km loop to the nearby town of Belmont. I was very nervous on the ride down to meet Dave, my longest ride to date had been around 35km and in September my first group ride was 20km, a distance I had only done once at a sprint triathlon race.

So I had a panic attack. Great way to start the morning but WHATEVER I’m on my bike. Michel and I meet up with Dave and he is wearing few layers, Michel and I are way overdressed and so we slowly stripped as we biked south through town. Getting out of London is a bit of a pain and the traffic in the southern industrial area was more hostile as we had a truck honk at us in the oncoming lane, he was upset for the cars that were coming up behind us. It was 8:30am on a Sunday and the road wide and clear. I decide then and there I’m getting a jersey that reads “This is a slow moving vehicle, pass when safe”. I think I want the big tractor triangle too.

As we crossed the last major road on our way out of London Dave pointed to his computer and said we’d only done 11km/hr so we need to get going. I had been deliberately holding back, not really committing to giving it my all. I was braced for some challenges, especially after Tracy’s experience last November along the same route. So it was to be a pace ride for me and an exercise in patience for Michel and Dave. Off we went. The rolling hills at first felt intimidating, you can see them from way back and they do go on and on. These aren’t proper hills mind you but I was pretty used to flat. I dropped my gaze whenever I saw a hill, just the next few feet mattered, and I huffed along.

Belmont came faster than I expected and I was feeling tired but good. We discovered a buffet that opened just as we figured there was no place to eat. The food tasted amazing. It wasn’t about the food. Dave quipped we were ruining our calorie deficit and I could have cared less. nom nom nom.

Rolling out of Belmont we were on a narrow road with heavy trucks, no shoulder, it was nerve racking. Michel left it to me if we would deek 5km over to a side road, adding 10km to our trip, I voted for longer and safer. We turned into the wind.

I had a moment on that leg of the trip where I seriously doubted my motivation, ability and whether or not I was simply a masochist. It was an overcast day, it was grey and windy, it felt for a while like that depressing movie The Road.

I wasn’t making the giddy “WHEEEE” face very much, it was more the grim effort scowl that sat on my face. At the worst of that leg a peregrine falcon swooped up out of a corn field and landed on a post next to me. It decided to fly alongside me, stopped on a further post then swooped away. It was beautiful. If I had to pick an animal that means something special to me it is the peregrine falcon, the females are bigger than the males, they were nearly wiped out in the 70s from pesticides and I got to see them nesting in the Bay of Fundy as a kid. They bounced back from near extinction and are really happy living in cities on highrises like the parking garage next to my current home. So it was a pretty magical moment.

As we started crossing roads I recognized as the outskirts of London I perked up, I was totally doing this! Somewhere before that Dave noticed my bike frame is bent and my front tire is pulling to the left. SO that is partly why I’m so damn wobbly! kind of a relief. He also noted when we passed 45km and that I was doing a distance PB.

Then there was THE HORRIBLE HILL. It looks deceptively small, a blip really just in front of a golf course. The grade changes in weird ways and Dave warned me this was the last doozie and there is never shame in walking up a hill but especially this one at the end of a long ride. I was peddling and grunting then I stopped moving forward completely. WOW. With the heads up I got off and walked to the top without feeling defeated. Michel hadn’t been warned and he cussed the hill a bit. We all laughed.

When we were in London we took the bike path back to our favourite café and, on the last 4km I hit a wall, THE WALL. I blame the little blue distance dots on the trail that went from 5km to 4km back up to 5km….it’s supposed to tell you how far from downtown…how could it go up?????

We got to Adelaide St and I seriously thought “Screw the café I’m going home to cry and home is just over there”. But I followed Dave and Michel down around the bridge and towards our finish line. I broke down into wailing sobs just before Richmond Street. Like banshee howling sobs. Everything hurt. My legs were lead and all I could think was I couldn’t do this. My asthma kicked in and I couldn’t breathe without making this awful noise. I caught my breath just before catching Dave and Michel again. Later Michel said he didn’t hear me but I’m pretty sure the folks running the trail did and I knew them. Awesome couple but I was mortified. I was teary after that even eating a scone at the café and definitely cried the ride home. I wasn’t past a breaking point, I think I was just really tired. too tired to hold anything in or back. so the loop with Dave was 60km and change plus the getting there and home put me at 70km.

It was 4 hours on the bike plus the buffet and café time. I was sure I’d be in agony the next two days but I was only a bit sore at the top of my glutes and a bit tired.

It took until the Wednesday to feel like HOLY CRAP I DID THAT! This is despite the encouragement from Dave, Michel and lots of validation from my sister and friends like Sam and Tracy. It hadn’t felt real.

I’m totally ready for a nice new bike and getting ready for my first 100km ride. Heck ya, I DID IT!


11 thoughts on “My first 70km bike ride (Guest Post)

  1. I am truly, truly impressed, Natalie! You did an awesome job. And that hill by the golf course. I know it well. That’s the one I was going to walk my bike up. And then the other David said, “it’s hardly even a hill, you can do it!” And so I tried, and I got part way up and started searching the side for a soft place to fall after realizing that I (a) couldn’t do it and (b) didn’t know how to unclip from my pedals on a hill. I found a spot, ground to a complete halt, and did a slow-motion topple to the side of the road in a soft-ish blanket of autumn leaves. I lay there for a bit, thinking of calling a cab, before getting back on and walking the rest of the way.

    Congratulations! Like I said earlier, your weeping was well-earned. You are going to be formidable on that new bike of yours.

  2. Loved your post, and congratulations on your new personal best (smashing your previous record). Thanks for your honesty in writing; it’s good for all of us to know that we’re not the only ones getting emotional during physical activity. Keep us posted on the project of getting a new bike!

    1. I am always surprised by the crying. Part of my working hypothesis is that when my body gets really tired all the tension release gives an emotional release too.

  3. I so wish I could have ridden with you that day. Looking forward to sharing your first 100 km adventure. Bring on spring!

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