PWA Bike Rally one-day ride: reports from the road (and the side of the road)

logo for the PWA friends for life bike rally, with red ribbon

Last Sunday July 30 was the much-heralded and anticipated kick-off of the six day PWA Friends for Life Bike Rally from Toronto to Montreal.  Samantha and her friend David were doing the six-day ride.  They will be blogging about their experiences this week.  For now, here’s my report and Sarah’s report.

Catherine: There were four of us doing the one-day ride with Sam and David:  Sarah, Judy, Joh and me.  Both Sarah and Joh had done the six-day ride last year, so they knew the route pretty well.

The route took us from the middle of Toronto, out through city streets (with lots of lovely folks cheering us on and holding up signs– thanks!) and into the suburbs and on to bike paths and neighborhoods by Lake Ontario.  There were some rolling ups and downs, and steady up near the last part of the ride, which ended on scenic farmland at Port Hope, along the lake.

For me, the ride brought a mix of emotions and physical states.  As Sam, Sarah, David and I rode to the start to meet up with the group, I was anxious.  This represented a very long ride for me, and although I had trained as best I could, doing a lot of mileage, I was still underprepared, and I knew this.  However, I was there, I was with friends, and I had even brought my bike on the plane with me– this was such a good idea.  All I had to do was keep pedaling, and I know how to do that.

So off we went.  It was so great riding in a sea of people all with the same jersey, same destination, and same cause in their hearts.  I felt moved, supported, convivial, and happy.

But also increasingly hot.  Despite hopeful early weather predictions of highs around 25 (77F), in reality the temperature kept edging upwards of 31, and a bit higher than that on the pavement.  I wore a camelbak mule hydration pack, so was hydrated, and I had lots of energy snacks (for me, clif shot bloks, honey stinger bites, and sport beans).  The scenery was really gorgeous, especially on bike paths by the lake.

With the lunch stop looming, however, I was starting to break down.  My legs started cramping, and I was extremely upset about the prospect of not finishing.  Sarah and Sam rode with me the whole way, and were patient and soothing.  I know from experience that the difference between feeling like all is lost and feeling like getting back on the saddle can be accounted for by having a coke and a sandwich.  So I did, and then I did (feel like getting back on the saddle).

Unfortunately, although the spirit was willing, the legs didn’t cooperate.  Soon after we resumed, I started cramping again.  After doing some side-of-the-road stretching, thanks to our team leaders Barrett and Brandon, I headed back out again.  However, ’twas not to be.  The cramps came back, and Sam said, “you’re done”.  She was right.  I was toast.  We called the van, and Sam and David and Sarah waited with me, then rolled out to complete the remaining 43km (27 miles).

Here’s Sam, Sarah, David and me by the side of the road before I got picked up.

Catherine, David, Sarah and Sam, all pouting for the camera in their PWA jerseys.

Catherine, David, Sarah and Sam, all pouting for the camera in their PWA jerseys.

I’m bummed that I didn’t complete the ride.  But I would not be in as good biking shape as I am now if I hadn’t signed up.  And this experience has motivated me to pursue more structured training– that is, add in high-intensity intervals and hill intervals to my riding.  And for sure I’ll be back next year to do the PWA one-day ride.

At the end of the day, being around all the other cyclists, I was happy that I had come, and looking forward to more adventures with these folks and my other cycling friends.  Here’s proof positive of the power of good cycling karma (aided by a lot of lasagna):

A happy and refueled Catherine, sitting in the dining tent at the end of the one-day bike ride.

A happy and refueled Catherine, sitting in the dining tent at the end of the one-day bike ride.

I’ve discovered what I really want for myself in terms of bike training and bike fitness:  I want to be trained enough to be able to approach a ride or an event thinking, “wow, this is going to be fun (even if it’s hot or cold, or long or windy, etc.)”.  I don’t want to start out thinking, “I have no idea if I can manage this”.  I deserve that, and the people riding with me deserve that.  That realization alone was worth all the effort.  Stay tuned for progress reports.

Sarah: A new job with less vacation meant that I was not able to do the 6-day ride this year, and I was a little forlorn at the thought of having to head back to the office on Monday while the rest of my teammates carried on to Montreal. That’s actually a big difference compared to last year’s nervous worrying about completing the rally.

I was really happy to know that Joh and Catherine and Judy would be joining us for the one-day version. I’d have company on the bus home!

Because my nerves weren’t in the way this year, I was more able to engage with the departure ceremony. I was incredibly moved by a new Canadian from Africa who spoke to us about how the programs that PWA offers have empowered her and transformed her life. I was still smiling and crying when it was time to jump on our bikes and head off on the 108 km trek to Port Hope.

The ride itself was grueling thanks to high heat and humidity. I spent a lot of attention on staying cool and hydrated. But it was so lovely to ride with Catherine and Judy as well as Joh, David and Sam, I hardly noticed the kilometres fly by.

Here’s Sarah and Sam at the yummy dinner at the end of the day.

Samantha (left), and Sarah, happy and refueled after the long hot day of riding.

Samantha (left), and Sarah, happy and refueled after the long hot day of riding.

I’ll be posting Judy and Joh’s reflections later.  Thanks for reading.

About catherine w

I'm an analytic philosopher, retooled as a public health ethicist. I'm interested in heath behavior change, particularly around eating and activity, and how things other than knowledge affect our health decisions.I'm also a cyclist (road, off-road, commuter), squash player, x skier, occasional yoga-doer, hiker, swimmer and leisurely walker.

2 thoughts on “PWA Bike Rally one-day ride: reports from the road (and the side of the road)

  1. Sam B says:

    Thanks for riding with us. I don’t know if I can do the 6 day ride next year so we might be 1 day riders together. I’m looking forward to it.


  2. Claudia Murphy says:

    Catherine–I loved hearing your story especially because it did not go as planned. Thanks


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s