Tuesday, May 21, 2013


So, my training for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour is going somewhat well. I'm on my bike somewhat regularly and I've done some serious distances. I've practiced climbing and drafting, and I'm feeling that, though it will be a tough slog, I will be able to complete the 177-kilometre trek from Ottawa to Kingston.

And back.

Yesterday, I set out on my longest ride to date. I vowed that I would cover 100 kilometres, venturing into the Gatineau Park and ascending the steep-sloping parkway to the Champlain Lookout. I once cycled to the lookout a couple of years ago, after months of cycling the 32-kilometre distance to my office, which was also in the Gatineau Park. The trek to and from the Champlain Lookout, from my front door, is 80K. To complete 100 clicks, I had to pick a new route.

I headed out yesterday morning, leaving my neighbourhood in Barrhaven and following Fallowfield Road to Prince of Wales Drive, and then north to Hogs Back. From Hogs Back Park, I continued to Vincent Massey Park, past Billings Bridge, following the Rideau River all the way to Sussex Drive. From there, I headed to the National Gallery, worked my way down to the Rideau Canal, and followed the path under Parliament Hill to the Portage Bridge.

Next, I crossed the Portage Bridge into Hull and followed the Ottawa River, along the pathway, to Mousette Park, where I then turned north and crossed onto the Gatineau Parkway.

The Gatineau Parkway is a fairly steady climb, with few dips on the ascent, but nowhere is the ascent steeper than the Champlain Road that starts shortly after Pink Lake and runs for almost 20 kilometres. Several times on the road, I asked myself: "What have you gotten yourself into? You can't do this. Give up. Turn back now, before your legs fall off and your heart explodes." But I also thought that if I could do this climb, I could easily handle any slopes that the relatively flat course to Kingston could throw at me.

And so I persisted.

It took me more than two hours, but I did make it to the Champlain Lookout. It was overcast and I could see rain in the far distance. A gentle breeze cooled me, but wasn't enough to keep the mosquitoes from finding me. I had a couple of bites from my Clif bar, sipped from my water bottle, which had a touch of agave syrup in it, and felt a little energized. In five minutes or so, I was on my way back down.

It took very little time to reach Pink Lake, where I caught up with a friend who was supposed to meet me at the start of the Gatineau Park, but was delayed. Given the fact that at times, I climbed as incredibly slow speeds, I was grateful that he didn't see me at my worst, when I was ready to give up. And because he was experience in cycling in groups, he gave me some advice and allowed me to draft behind him for some ascents and some fast descents (at one point, we exceeded 62 kph). We stayed together to the bottom of Gatineau Park, down Mousette Park, and along the river to the Champlain Bridge.

We separated at Bate Island, where my friend's family was waiting with their minivan, and I continued on. I continued along the Ottawa River Parkway, to Lincoln Heights, and on towards Algonquin College.

At Iris Street, my front tire went down. I was just shy of 86 kilometres. And unprepared.

I had to call for a ride the rest of the way home. My 100-kilometre trek didn't happen. I was crestfallen, disappointed that I had persevered during the toughest time, when I wanted to give up, to being at a point where I felt good and looked forward to reaching home, to having to be driven home, my bike out of commission.

But I will get my tire fixed and will be on it again this week. And I will be prepared for Rideau Lakes.

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