Tuesday, September 15, 2009


the ride for karen is a century ride north of toronto that is put on each year as a fundraiser for camps for kids with cancer.

this is obviously a good cause.

traditionally, some of the members of my family participate in the NYC century put on by transportation alternatives, as an awareness-raiser for the cause of non-four-wheeled-transportation. this year, as time and money and a huge family ordeal schedule would have it, we opted for the ride for karen. thankfully, we did this early and managed to fundraise enough to make sure that the steep entry fee was waived in lieu of funds raised for the cause. long term plan. checklist. feels a little like teaching.

the day began finely enough with a hangover and some ibuprofen, then a drive to the middle of nowhere where parking is plentiful (except on century sunday) and the driveways are identical and many. we parked, registered, peed, and lined up at the start. modestly, we chose the slowest pace group, figuring we could always speed up, but would, more importantly, have a better chance of not getting dropped off the back. this was a fine decision. we rolled off, and my brother and i, having almost left with the wrong group, chased each other around like kids on bikes through the hideous suburb streets. we laughed and said stupid movie lines to each other, making fun of ourselves and having a blast. oh, and the ride had barely started so we had the energy to do this. bikes are fun, and we were giddy.

as soon as the marshall, lee (or maybe it's 'leigh'), showed up, all fun and games came to a screeching halt. we were told/ordered to ride in a two-by-two line, at the specified speed, in order 'for everyone to have a great day.' no getting out of formation. no chasing each other around like idiots. no tucking the hills to pick up any more than 25km/h of speed. no stopping other than at rest stops (there are two, at 50 and 100km). no whining. no having fun. enjoy the scenery. slow down. stop laughing...

a blast was certain to be had by all. my experiences of century riding are limited to those of the NYC century. no rules. few marshalls. fewer marshalls who knew the way. thousands of turns and lights and signs and intersections and cars and weirdos and helpful citizens. lots of fun. lots of laughter. lots of pain and suffering and deteriorated bum skin. lots of food. more volunteers. amazing rest stops. traffic. bike lanes. people and cars in the way. poorly marked routes. fun. fun. fun.

i made the mistake of trying to express my concern for this stick in the mud marshall, quietly, to the lady riding beside me. she was none too impressed. she insisted that despite her carbon bike and hours of hill repeats, the power-tripping marshall was her only hope of not getting dropped by irreverent assholes who just want to make their own rules and ride their own ride and 'have fun' or whatever. oops. this is the second time in a week i've made such a mistake. i should stop opening my mouth, particularly to complain about anything.

the ride was not going well. i had to pee. i hadn't yet sweat into my garments to the point where they become comfortable. i had to pee. i was in trouble with the lady. i wanted to rile against the marshall and all her rules. i felt like i was at school, in the principal's office, for something i didn't even do. i had to pee.

out of nowhere, the events of the day were changed immediately and definitively.

there was that stomach-sinking sound of a revolving tire, spewing its precious pneumatic contents into the air at the regular intervals of an easy 25km/h spin. hiss. hiss. hiss. hiss. hiss. i knew the sound, and looked up to see its victim. my brother. poor guy just got his bike tuned up yesterday (by yours truly), and was told that his tires were shit and old but might hold up for this ride. not 20km in, and he's blown the front one, a wear mark straight through the casing. 

i peed. 

after watering a nearby cornstalk, i assessed the situation, and was glad. we had lost the marshall and her rules and the group to which we had been so unassumingly assigned. i peed. and now we had an impromptu rest stop. this was going to be a great century. we started to get ready to rig some kind of solution, when we were told that the SAG wagon would still be coming by, and they would have tires. perfect. no mcguivre moves here boys, just a little SAG action and we'd be on our way. sure enough, a white van pulled up, slapped on an $80 tire, and left us to our own, repaired devices as it drove away to find the next rider in need. i love the SAG!

back on the rode, my brother, feeling bad that he had lost us the group and the 'pace' and the marshall and any time (this is not a race), took lead in the paceline and promptly dropped just about everyone. feeling responsible for the other relatives/riders i had invited to this thing, i fell back and did my best to pull them in a rag-tag paceline across some of the windiest and straightest and flattest road i've seen in a long time. this was the picture for the rest of the day. we met back up with all of our friends at the first rest stop, and at lunch, but were always dropped by higher-pace riders doing their thing. and i always hung back, feeling like i should 'help out' with the slower paceline.

ultimately, it was a great day and a great ride, but i learned some things, and i should write them down so that i don't forget.

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