And Mother Nature is a bloody bitch.
Four attempts at completing the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour and four failures. Sure, last year I actually completed the full Century Tour, riding the 200 kilometres from Perth to Kingston, and back, but I had actually registered for the Classic Tour, the 350-km route from Ottawa to Kingston.
A fall and fractured wrist forced me to shorten my ride.
Year one, I made it from Ottawa to Kingston but didn't ride on the second day.
Year two, I made it from Ottawa to Kingston, but after 60 kilometres on the return trip, a problem with my left calf forced me to stop.
Last year, I succeeded in completing a route but it wasn't my chosen route.
This weekend's ride looked promising. I started training early: first, in spin classes at the gym, and as soon as the snow was gone and the roads were clear, I re-registered with the Ottawa Bicycle Club and joined as many group rides as I could make. I figure that because I started riding with the club earlier than last year and attended more events, I cycled about twice as many kilometres as I had done before last year's ride. (I even went to the gym when I couldn't make a group ride.)
Mother Nature had different plans for this weekend. And given the fabulous weather we had in the previous two years, we were due for a turn. But she hit us with headwinds on both Saturday and Sunday, and threw in rain for good measure.
I would rather cycle in the rain than in wind, and she gave us both.
Despite the foul weather on Saturday, we fought through the wind and survived the one hour of downpour. DW and I rode with some of the riders from a group ride with the OBC, and we took on Mother Nature's challenge with only one person choosing to fall behind, and she met up with us later in the evening.
We had good spirits, and I think that pissed off Mother Nature, because on Sunday, she kicked up the wind a good notch, dropped the temperature, and sprayed us every once and a while with rain.
To fight crosswind, we had to lean to the left, for fear of being blown onto the gravel shoulders. Were the wind to suddenly drop, we would have fallen into the road. The headwind forced us to ride in a tight pack, which helped, but after a while we all started losing energy and our group became broken.
Climbing steep hills with a strong headwind is most unpleasant, to say the least. And, to power through the climbs, I started to feel some strain on my right knee. Over the past couple of months, on some of our longer group rides and in some challenging spin classes, I would feel a bit of compression on my knee, but I would ease off and it would feel better.
That was harder to do when the wind was pushing against me.
To compensate, I would try to favour my left leg on climbs. Big mistake. My left foot, which has been diagnosed with a rare degenerative disease, which clicks and causes pain when I walk, could not handle the stress of fierce pedalling. About 40 kms into the ride, I could feel bone grinding on bone, and the pain increased.
I pressed on, to make it to Elgin, where I ended my ride. I caught a ride to Perth with one of the support vehicles while the rest of my group continued.
A second member dropped out a little later, at The Narrows locks, just 25K from Perth.
I love to cycle, but the moment it stops being fun, I'm done. I've learned that I can ride for 100K, but I can't really do it two days in a row.
So, I'm done. This was my last ride in the RLCT. I may volunteer to be support next year, but this was the last time that I'm riding it.
It's also my last time doing a really long ride. A couple of weeks ago, my OBC group and I rode an 80-km route, and I did well. But I don't think I'm going to go beyond that distance, and 100K is my maximum limit.
I'm done with this long rides. But I'm not done with cycling.