When I signed on to do the Tour de Victoria, I had few expectations. One was that I would get a bit fitter, another was that I would, in fact, finish the race, and another was that Greg and I would ride the race together. But that was about it. I didn’t really know what I was getting into, and I didn’t know how the actual race was going to go.
Training started out a bit slow. I signed up for the ride in January, but didn’t really start any serious riding until late March. At one point I remember coming home from a short-ish ride to hear Greg advising me that I needed to step up my mileage. (Not what I wanted to hear at the time, but he had my best interests at heart.) I had visions of riding three times a week, but that didn’t happen. I procrastinated over buying a road bike and did my early training on my mountain bike. When I finally did get a road bike, my stats showed that my average speed for my rides didn’t go up by much on the road bike. I did a couple of rides with Greg and realized I was much slower than him…which started conversations about us not riding together. A few times I told myself that I could just bail if I wanted to. I wasn’t feeling too confident.
But then Greg and I got in a routine of each of us riding one weekend morning while the other took care of the kids. I got out for a couple of mid-week rides. I did step up the mileage. I started training with my friend Ann. We weren’t able to get out on many rides together because of our schedules, but we got a few in, increasing our distance gradually. My longest ride before the actual tour was 85km, and I was confident that I could have easily done another 5km.
Greg and I had a few conversations about us riding together, with me urging him to ride on his own. The tour was a mass participation ride, not a race, but we all have our goals we want to reach, and I knew I would slow Greg down significantly. He decided he’d ride with me the first hour and then go on his own. I gave the same option to Ann, but she stuck with me (despite the fact that she powered up every hill). In hindsight, I’m not sure I would have done as well if she had gone ahead, so I’m very thankful.
Yesterday was “race day”. Greg, Ann and I lined up in the chute in the 3.5 – 4.5 hour section. My average speed on my rides still wasn’t going much past 20km/h, so I wanted to finish in about 4.5 hours. I was a bit nervous because I’d never ridden with such a large group of people, but other than that I was feeling pretty good. We started out slow and thankfully the group got strung out fairly quickly. In the first few kilometres I occasionally had to brake when I didn’t want to, but I never felt nervous about crashing into anyone. It took me a while for my legs to not feel like jelly (I think because of nerves), but after about 20 minutes I felt a bit better. At about 30 minutes, Greg was just a bit ahead of me and I could tell he wanted to go, so I told him to go for it.
Soon after Greg left us, we hit Prospect Lake Road, which Ann and I had ridden once going the other way. It’s hilly, bumpy and narrow. Ann had told me if she got ahead she’d wait for me at the other side. I kept her in my sights for most of the way, but on the last two uphills I lost her. I also started to feel awful, and realized I needed to slow down a bit on the uphills or I wasn’t going to make it. As promised, Ann waited for me, and the rest of the race went much better from a physical standpoint for me. And when Ann told me what our average speed was, I realized why I hadn’t felt good — it was a good 3 km higher than normal. She kept me updated periodically for the first half of the race with the average, which remained higher than usual, but each time we discussed possibly slowing down, we decided to just keep going, knowing we could slow down later if needed.
We hit some brutal rain in Central Saanich and Sidney, but thankfully we rode through it and dried out a bit after leaving Sidney. We had a couple of brief stops along the way for food and clothing changes, and stopped at the 60 km feed station for a bio break. It had stopped raining by then but starting up again was hard because we were still wet and my legs, feet and hands were numb.
By about the 70 km mark it became clear to me that we were on track for finishing under four hours. I was shocked, as this far surpassed my expectation for 4.5 hours. I was definitely way more tired than I’d been on any of our training rides, but I felt pretty sure I had it in me to finish. With about two kilometres left Ann asked me what time it was, and we realized we had enough time to try to beat the 3:45 mark. We decided to go for out, only to be met a few seconds later by the one and only red light that they made us stop at. But we still came in sub 3:45.
I don’t remember large portions of the ride. I had to really think about what point we were at when Greg left us. I couldn’t remember where we turned off Old Island Highway. I chatted with Ann off and on, but I was on auto-pilot for a lot of the time. I remember the rain. I remember the 140km lead group passing us in Sidney, and I remember bits and pieces here and there. But I think I was pushing myself hard enough that it affected my mental awareness.
The race far exceeded my expectations. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this proud of myself from a fitness perspective. I realize that I did prepare well for this race, while at the same time keeping it realistic and not sacrificing too much of my life. Yes, I could have trained four days a week and maybe taken 15 minutes off my time. But that wasn’t my goal, nor would that have fit into my life very well. My goal was to finish and still be able to walk the next day. I did that and more. I pushed myself more than I thought I could, and performed better than I expected. And I tried (and succeeded at) something I’ve never tried before. And that feels damn awesome.