Taking Advantage of Olympic Legacies

It’s been over 6 months since I’ve posted to this blog, so I figured I better tie this post back to the Olympics earlier this year πŸ™‚

Living in Squamish, one of the legacies I really appreciate is the upgraded Sea To Sky Highway (which the government technically considers to be separate from the Olympics from a cost perspective). I had mostly been taking advantage of it on my daily commutes by car to/from my office in North Vancouver since moving to Squamish. But, the post-Olympic period would give me an opportunity to also appreciate it on 2 wheels powered by a human engine – me!

Shortly before the Olympics, I entered the inaugural RBC GranFondo Whistler – a bike ride of 120+ km. from downtown Vancouver to Whistler! What was I thinking? I didn’t even have a road bike, let alone the fact that I’ve never ridden one in all my previous 50+ years of life!!!

My friend Dale helped me with the first part, doing some research and eventually recommending a Kona Zing Deluxe for me. I picked it up from Different Bikes in West Vancouver the first week in March, which gave me just over 6 months to prepare for the ride on Sept. 11 – from 0 km. road riding (lifetime)Β to 120+ km. (in a single shot) in 6 months πŸ™‚ I knew it would not be easy, but surely my endurance running background (in a previous lifetime) would help me. Eventually it did come in handy (especially when mental toughness was required), but first things first.

The first few months were spent dealing with mostly practical matters:

  • learning to shift gears with my brake levers
  • learning to stay upright while clipping in and out of my pedals
  • learning to fix flats – many, many of those riding the shoulders of the highway πŸ™

I’m a bit of a slow learner ;), so it wasn’t till a couple of months later that I finally felt comfortable with these practical matters. Now there were only 4 months left to prepare.

Besides buying the bike in March, the next most important purchase I made was in May. No, it wasn’t wild, colourful lycra clothing (that would come later). It was a Garmin Forerunner 305 – a combination GPS receiver and Hear Rate Monitor. I had shunned these types of devices in my running days, mostly because I had learned to listen to my body to tell me how hard to puch myself in training and racing. Unfortunately, my body was now much older and much heavier and my brain kept forgetting those facts. So, the Garmin 305 really helped me with reality checks and to track my progress over the next few months.

That progress was very slow over the first couple of months after getting the Garmin 305 in May. But, I did manage to slowly extend my rides to about 2 hours – still a far cry from the 6+ hours I was expecting to ride on September 11. I also started hiking the Grouse Grind with friends from work. And, I did manage to drop a few pounds from around the waist. However, I was probably overdoing it a bit as I knew time was running out and I was falling further and further behind the training plans prescribed on the GranFondo web site.

This is where/when I experienced the big disconnect between body & brain. The brain kept pushing the body, until the body reacted with a condition that literally took me to Squamish Emergency in early July. From the glass half-full perspective, it was good to see such excellent medical facilities just a few minutes away from my home. But, from the other perspective – this really sucked! It put me out of commission for almost 2 weeks. Besides not being able to train, I also missed the annual Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run for the first time in 23 years πŸ™ πŸ™ πŸ™

Anyway, enough feeling sorry for myself – less than 2 months to go, so I needed to literally get my butt in gear. There were many ups and downs, but the highlights were:

  • My first real group ride with Willy and his friends, who came up from Vancouver to ride the Squamish Valley Road and parts of the Sea to Sky with me in late July. Man, are they fast – it was fun while I could keep up!
  • My next group ride was the “PreFondo” in Squamish on a Friday night in early August. They got about 250 riders out for a ride of 40-60 km. that turned out to be quite humbling for me. Got riding with a sub-group that was well above my abilities. Good lesson for me to not repeat this mistake on Sept. 11.
  • Had 2 solo rides to/from Horseshoe Bay (about 90 km.) in August. Felt strong on the first one, but really struggled the second time a couple of weeks later in 34 degree heat.
  • In late August, my biggest highlight was commuting to/from my office in North Vancouver – about 65 km. each way. Now I felt I would be ready for the ride a couple of weeks later!

Fast forward a couple of weeks to the second weekend of September, with the ride ready to start at 7am on Saturday September 11 in downtown Vancouver. Here is a shot of the scene about 20 minutes before the start:

20 minutes before the 7am start on West Georgia looking eastbound

GranFondo - just before the start

More later, as I’m off to work now πŸ™‚ If you want to see more pictures and some videos, please check out the links up in the top right-hand corner of this page.

This story of my GranFondo experience is continued in part 2.

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