The weak link – a Rookie's account of the Hairshirt ride

What happens when you have been watching RAAM and RAW unfold, cheering on the 4 women from WattsUp as they manage to finish 2nd of 7 teams (4 of which DNF’d) and crewed by our very own James Young (also a hairshirt rider)? When you are silently cheering on Canadian Jason "hammer" Lane as he tries to finish his first RAAM solo after getting hit by a car on day 3? When you read The United States of Delirium in one day? You start to romanticize about the notion of long rides. Type Hairshirt and Wikipedia returns:

a garment or undergarmentmade of coarse cloth or animal hair (a hairshirt) used in some religious traditions to induce discomfort or pain as a sign of repentance and atonement. In modern religious circles it simply means any device worn for the same purposes.

So why is it that I succumbed to Kerri and Steve’s invitation to ride the Hairshirt – a double century ride organized by the TBN? Well with Dianne away with our daughter and my sons working, I had a lot of free time – why not spend 11-14 hours on my bike? In the week leading up to the event, I had registered myself as tentative, not wanting to commit too early to something that is a challenge at the best of times, not to mention if it is raining or 36 degrees. While Steve was doing his best imitation of a rain dance, I was pondering the possibility of how much time was reasonable and coordinated things on the home front to be out for 13-14 hours. With the decision by Peter Cahill to jump on board, I decided that 12 hours of riding was well within reach, little was I to know that it was as critical that Ian Wilcox decided to join the effort at the 11th hour of Saturday night.

The day began with some great weather, hard to really see this at 4:45am, but it wasn’t raining and it wasn’t hot. I picked Peter up at timmies at leslie and we made our way to square one for the 6am start. In preparation for the ride, it went through my head that I needed to replicate a lot of what was available on the road from my support crew at the tour of california, only I had to carry it myself. Note to other rookies, you need less than what you think – but you still need lots, you just don’t have to carry it all with you from the start. Here would be my checklist of requirements that should be taped to the bike or will fit in the shirt pockets. Given the number of stops available on the way, you probably don’t need a knapsack.

Here is what I would take the next time:

-full repair kit in the seat storage incl,

-Spare tire – 3 tubes – 2 co’2 – mini pump

-vest or rainjacket

-gels – 5-6 in the bento box, banana or 2 and 2 cliff bars in the shirt pocket

-2 large bottles on the bike with liquid nutrition and one smaller in a back pocket

There seemed to be enough stops that you could refill the bottles with Gatorade or bring along your own mix in baggies if you were so inclined (I did the latter).

After a picture of the BCC contingent (Dave, James, Ian, Peter, Kerri, Steve and Me) The ride started at 6:15am and most of us rolled out nice and easy. While only about 50 riders where there, I lost my orientation and kept looking behind me for Peter. Peter, Ian and I had thought about hanging with the fast group. Unfortunately Ian and I forgot to really study the memo. While Peter had latched on with that fast group immediately, I was sitting in the back chatting.

After a couple of minutes of looking around for us Peter came back to figure out where we were and at this point the fast group was off the front. Ian, Peter and I decided to try and track them down, figuring that if we worked hard now, we could get to the group and then sit in for awhile – perhaps this was mistake #1 for me. Pushing it hard, we did our best to track the group down. Off in the distance, we could see a car with flashing hazard lights that was following a group of cyclists, this was to be our rabbit. We would find out that this was an escort car for the recumbent cyclist who clearly needed some protection given he was only 2 feet off the ground – clearly a dangerous spot if you don’t have an escort.

We tracked down the recumbent by the time we got to hwy 5, but the rest of the peloton was gone so we kept soldiering on. By the time we passed hwy #6 in Hamilton, we had caught on straggler who had fallen off the back, he joined our motley crew of 3. In a day where I caused lots of waiting time, I managed to hit a pothole on hwy 5 (as our day proved, tax money has not been spent on creating smooth roads). As I finished the repair, one of the groups that we had left back in mississauga caughts us although not before one of the lapdog riders hit the same pothole with the same outcome. From that point through to ancaster, we rode intermittently with the group, having as many as 8 riders and as few as 4, by the time we got to wellandport convenience store we were back to the 3 of us. We refueled here with water, Gatorade, chocolate milk. As we were finishing off the group of riders we left were arriving. This would be the last time we saw them again.

We headed out from there making our way to the first half the double century at Kingsbridge park in Niagara Falls where we added water to the bottles and took another break. AT this point, I was feeling much weaker than I should be, and was not taking in enough calories. The eload/calorie drink was too warm/sweet so I had moved away from liquid calories and was not offsetting this with gels. I had moved into deficit, never good with 100 miles left. Thank goodness I had two strong riders at my side, more importantly they were willing to ride in front of me for what would be a very long 100 miles.

We stopped in Niagara-on-the-lake for a Panini for Ian and Peter, I just had a coke, refilled water, banana and pbj hit. This is a picturesque town that would be better visited on an upright touring bike, with a picnic basket Pannier. Rolling out from there the ride becomes more picturesque but the complaints from the body become far more numerous, making the ride more difficult. Peter and Ian were in great shape, hauling at 34k/hr, while I would hang on for 2-3 minutes and then slowly drop off the back. They would then have to bring things to a crawl and I would crawl back on to the wheel. The route past Jordan was bereft of places to eat or get water. As we motored down fly road, we were seeing dark ominous clouds and winds were picking up. Meanwhile Ian was out of water (I know it is hard to believe but he actually drinks water – I had the pleasure of sharing some of mine – the least I could do given his pulls). We kept hoping for a general store, but none arose. With none of us having water, when we got to Barton street in Winona, our desperation (my desperation for water and a break from riding – I was using any excuse to stop!!) led to Peter calling out to a guy washing his motorhome to allow us to use the hose.

Not 4kms later, another QB stop as I requested laying down on some grass – I know, pathetic, but I needed to stretch out. I am not sure whether my decision to wear a backpack played into the issues I had on the day (a first time for me) or it was just the pure challenge of riding 200 miles in a day. But this was not going well - I was very clearly the weak link on this team. As was the case for the past 100kms, Peter and Ian were patient as I sprawled out on the grass trying to find some energy. By the time we got to Burlington, it felt like the ride was over, the only problem was that we wanted to deliver a sub 12 hour ride. There was only 30kms left, and we had about 80 minutes to complete it to go sub 12 hours – this should be a slam dunk. If Ian and Peter were on their own, they were finished by now, however they promised to deliver all of us to the finish line. I just had to make it up to Burnhamthorpe and 6th line from there it was more downhill than up and we had a tailwind. It was a good thing that it was both of those as we came across a road closure due to a motorcycle accident. After having a conversation with the police for several minutes we were able to traverse the bike/path sidewalk on the North side and get past the closure. With a few minutes to spare, we found our way back to square one. I for one was totally fried, my legs had not an ounce of energy left in them. Peter and Ian, while not fresh seemed like they could have gone another couple of hours – unbelievable.

Post Mortem: While 200 miles is a lot of riding to do in one day, it really does pale in comparison to what goes on in the world of true endurance cycling. I kept thinking about the context of my ride relative to Jason Lane, not imagining what it is like to get back on his bike after being run over and finished this unbelievably grueling test of the human mind and body. I was merely doing the hairshirt and drafting for most of the last 100 miles. Kudos to all of the racers who do RAAM (3 Canadians soloed and two 8 person teams competed and finished this year) and RAW.

Views: 364

Comment by DY on June 25, 2012 at 10:05pm

Btw, I got a call and an email from this rider who was so impress by our etiquette, and well... Just read it for yourself. So proud of you all! Not only are you ambassadors of the BCC, but you are great ambassadors of the sport of cycling!

Well done!




I am not great at remembering your names, but I will alway remember the Beaches Cyclinig Club.
I thank you for allowing me in your paceline. It was a terrific ride to Niagara Falls. The peloton was
smooth and fast. I was surprised I was able to keep up - the tailwind helped.
After lunch there was a group photo at the Falls - I would love to have a copy e-mailed.
At 180 km I fell behind (you didn't know) and I thought I would be finishing the ride by myself.
The pain was starting to arrive so it wasn't a pleasant thought. The group had a flat tire and so
I caught up but still was unable to stay with you. David Adams and James Young  rode with me to the finish.
They rode at a much slower pace to help me and waited for me occasionally.
Your group was even prepared to ride slower so I could be in the line - that was extremely generous.
My finishing time was 13 HR 40 MIN an excellent time for me. This was mostly due to your help.
I am now beginning my training for the Waterfront Marathon (full) - an October run for my 65th birthday.
I was very impressed with your club's attitude and thank you very much.
Michael Beauchamp
Comment by Jodie Ferneyhough on June 25, 2012 at 10:33pm
Qb..I can only imagine! Those two are complete animals on the bike! I am glad it wasn't me for once who was the weak link (lol)...congrats...a real amazing feat!
Comment by Dave Adams on June 25, 2012 at 10:51pm

Quite the missive QB, a good account of your journey.   You guys were fast!  After about two city blocks you were nowhere to be seen.   Steve,Kerri, James, myself and Peter, Noel, Michael and our slovak friend whose name I never did catch along with Steve's coworker, Dan stayed in a nice group with Steve, Kerri, James and Peter doing the majority of the pulls.   A BIG thanks guys!  We were making decent time and ran into Emile on a little tour just outside of Niagara Falls.   He was on a work break and joined us for lunch at Tim's just before the Falls and did a great job at pulling us through Niagara Falls before turning back. 

With the obligatory pics at the Falls, lunch consumed we were on the way home by about 1:00 I think.   Kerri and Steve powered the group through Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake.   We dropped Micheal unfortunately (hey, the guy is 65 doing a hairshirt!) but a flat from our slovak friend on his rear tubular, allowed Michael to catch up.   With everyone on again we went a few more kms to the Tim's in Port Dalhousie for a break before it was on to Jordan Station.   Up the escarpment and the group got split up there with James, Michael and I heading up 19th to 7th etc.   A few more quick coke breaks along the way and some light sprinkles and the three of us were able to get back to Square One in 13:40  - my best time in 4 tries, so thanks again to everyone for the conversation, encouragement and pulls.  

It was a great day to be riding and I found the most interesting thing was pretty much everytime my legs were starting to seize up and I was feeling pain, invariably I would look up and see someone in a wheelchair - probably wishing they could be on a bike - and thanked my lucky stars that I could be on mine - pain or no pain, on a beautiful day with great people.   I am blessed.  Thanks again to all.

Comment by Kerri on June 26, 2012 at 10:28am

Congrats to you guys for the awesome outcome!  It was great to line up with you at the start and am glad that everyone had a great day on the bike.  :)

Comment by Paul van Dongen on June 26, 2012 at 11:14am

A few weeks ago, when we rode the Rideau Lakes, we made a stop at a convenience store just prior to the finish for the customary chocolate milk stop. This pickup truck full of pipe fitters rolled up next to us as we guzzled our milk. Each group cased each other up and down...clearly two 'gangs' cut from different cloths. Before the rumble started, a chat broke out. We told them what we were up to, and that we planned on doing the same thing in reverse the next day. One of the guys seemed impressed with our average speed, but the best line came from another who said, "Don't take this the wrong way, but that's f***ing stupid!" So, I can only imagine what these guys would have said to cramming both days into one!! To that end, I think I speak for many people here: you guys are all nuts. ;)

Seriously huge congrats to all of you, no matter what time you finished with.

I've just read DY's forward from Mr. Beauchamp. Some very kind folks in our BCC midst. Very corny and cheesy, but ours really is the Best Cycling Club.

Comment by Dave Ogilvie on June 26, 2012 at 1:35pm

Great work guys- just amazing on many fronts!

Comment by Peter Cahill on June 26, 2012 at 7:08pm

I was really fearing this ride as soon as QB and I had committed a couple days before. I didn't think I was trained for it. My longest ride previous had been 130km. I hadn't done a 325 km week this entire season.  My training relies mainly on intensity, with a bit of distance thrown in. My fears were unfounded! It is possible to do a ride of this distance, provided you are fit and pay close attention to your refuelling during the ride.

It was great riding with Quentin and Ian! As Ian put it so well Quentin, you really gutted this one out.

And without your navigation skills, we would probably still be out there! Ian, your energy and enthusiasm are contagious!

One of the riders we rode with, actually apologized to me when he caught up to us at a rest stop

for not being able to stay with us! We were really motoring along for long sections of this ride. 

My stats for the ride are 325km ridden in 10hr18 min with an average moving speed of 31.6kmh!

It was a memorable day out on the bike!

Comment by Alexx Hooper on June 26, 2012 at 9:53pm

Well, that's about 200km more than I've ever ridden in one day, and frankly, I can't even conceive of doing such a long ride. I'm kinda grumpy and lazy, so it would never even occur to me to go out and ride that far for no reason, but if I did, here's a few things to add to QB's list that I would make sure to bring on the trip:

- some chips (chips are tasty)

- a comfy hammock for the rest stops

- magazines to read - 13 hours is a long time to be doing ANYTHING

- some really funny false teeth... people get really grumpy after hours on the bike with an ouchy butt, so I'd crack them up by wearing some crazy-lookin' false teeth...

- a motorized vehicle to pull me along

- a few outfit changes... you know, like Cher! Who wants to wear the same thing for 13 hours in a row? Especially when you're sweaty! And might as well make things exciting for those around you - instead of thinking "My legs are killing me...why the @%#^ did I let Kerri and Steve convince me to ride in this stupid *#&% ride?" people would be distracted from their misery for a moment and think "Hey, is that another new outfit that Alexx is wearing? Sequined pants and a feather boa on a bike? How interesting!" See? Fun AND distracting!

OK seriously - I'm in awe of all of you. Quite the accomplishment indeed, and sounds like you all shared some very heartfelt BCC team spirit and friendliness among yourselves and others around you. Sounds like a great ride... though not so great that I have any inclination to do it myself. Congratulations, ya bunch of nutbars!!!


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