Paul and I visited family in Ottawa this weekend, and despite the fact that it poured rain the whole time - as it did here, I hear - we managed to pick the only 3 rain-free hours to do a lovely ride in the Gatineau Hills.
With a great map and tips from Mike H, we drove to the visitors' area at the start of the 22km loop up and around the Gatineaus. I had done this loop once before with Paul when I first got my bike a few years ago. It was a rather blurry bad memory - me straining to ride up the massive hills, stopping several times up every hill, feeling like I wished I'd never come... I remember it being way to much for me at the time, and that I was exhausted, frustrated, and felt useless by the time we'd made it around the whole loop once.
The day before we left, I went out for a ride and thought I might try doing the Bayview hill just to see how I felt... Now, I had done the Bayview Hill at the beginning of the season, before we joined BCC, and hadn't done it since. So, when I started up it, I was surprised to find that it was nowhere near as hard as I had remembered! In fact, it was so exciting to be able to ride it comfortably with my new cycling legs (and my new 39 crank - thanks Marco!), that I did it 5 times in a row without stopping! I felt quite pleased with myself, and hoped that I would have a much better time in Ottawa this year.
We started around the Gatineau loop and got into a nice pace. Paul was kind enough to ride with me, despite the fact that now and then small groups of fast-guys would ride by, and I think he'd have loved to keep pace with them (he had that look in his eye like a dog watching a squirrel run by... thanks for stickin' with me Paul!). We started climbing, and everything felt pretty good. There was one steep climb - about 3 km long, and a bit like Brimley, but without the super-steep part right at the beginning of Brimley. I got to the top with my legs throbbing a little, but not out of breath, and feeling good! As I was climbing, I thought of all the great advice I'd been given this summer - keep my cadence up, keep breathing, active recovery at the top and keep going, 1 gear harder,... I pictured Marco riding beside me up Brimley, coaching me to keep spinning, breathing, and before I knew it, we were at the lookout at the top! "We're here already?" I said. The fog had moved off and the sun came out for long enough to see the lovely view from the top.
We continued around the loop; great swoopy long descents and several more challenging rollers. We stopped at one point to watch 3 deer who had come out to munch grass by the side of the road. I stopped to rescue a turtle who was starting out across the road (does anyone know whether you're supposed to turn the guy around back to where he came from, or assume he's going to cross the road anyway, so help him across? I turned him around back down the bank, but I'm not sure my turtle-saving etiquette is correct).
Anyway, the ride was nothing like I had remembered! It was great! We had a marvelous time, saw lots of critters and beautiful scenery, and met other nice cyclists. We ended up doing the circuit 3 times - something I never would have thought I could do! I even passed some people on the big hill my second and third time around! I can't believe how much I've progressed this summer, thanks to all the kind help, patience, and tips from all of you helpful BCC folks. We were wearing our new BCC kits, and many nice people asked where we were from. Some had heard of the club, and a few commented that they'd ridden with some BCC folks on other rides and thought they were very nice. I wish we had a Gatineau loop here - we'd all be out on it all the time!
See you all soon, and thank you for all of your help!