On Sunday 22 June, after hoping I had put in enough kilometers on the bike, I ventured out for the Toronto-Niagara-Toronto Hairshirt. I wasn't sure if I was going to be ready for half a day on the bike, but I was willing to give it a try. My original plan was to go and see if I could ride with a group of similar speed and share the load (and pain, and boredom!)
As the riders began to mill around after the group photo, it was announced that it was time to start (6am). Some started to move, and I figured that I might as well head out with a group as they formed. Well, unfortunately, I attached myself to the lead group, and after they started to get into the 40km/hr speed, I just tried to hang on at the back of the peleton. There was definitely no chit-chat in this group, and it was all business. There also didn't seem to be much pull-sharing going on, mostly it seemed to be a couple of the guys at the front taking turns and the rest (like me) just hanging on at the back, and not getting a chance to even move up to take a pull. I was hoping that this group would split and a reasonable pace group would form. Unfortunately, this would not happen at this point.
This lasted for about an hour, until we reached a relatively long hill, where I got dropped, feeling like I was standing still. I was just happy to have hung on as long as I could without unduly going into the red, as it was just coming up on 7am! I figured I would just keep going, and eventually I might catch another group and join them, or get caught by another group and join them. At times, I managed to keep a glimpse of the lead pack on the horizon, and at one point I actually thought I might catch them after they made the first rest stop...that was wishful thinking, and I just couldn't bridge the gap.
I ended up on my own for about an hour, keeping a reasonable pace, around 29-30km/hr (must have been a tailwind) until to my delight, a friendly looking group came up from behind. I gratefully joined them, and hung with this group for the rest of the ride.
Throughout the day the group grew and faded as we picked up some stragglers from the earlier group and lost some of the original group. Throughout the group managed to keep a decent pace, averaging around 33km/h! It was challenging riding in a group that I hadn't ridden with, but there was enough time to learn on this length of a ride!
At the end of the day, I was pleasantly surprised with my finish time (11hrs), which was an hour less than I thought I could do. Perfect conditions for the day, as well as a strong group helped make this possible. For those that have not done this ride yet, I highly recommend it, as it is a unique challenge.