Newsletter - 2009 Archive

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Randowhat ?
by George Muenz

I first heard the word Randonneurs from Teresa McKernan whom I met while riding with the Vancouver Bicycling Club. Since she had recently acquired a recumbent, I assumed it was an activity of like minded enthusiasts who rode around the country in these things talking on ham radios. The kinds of riders who wouldn't leave the house for less than a 2 month ride.

I had just started riding last July at age 52 after not having been on a bike for 40 years. In fact, I was against taking up bike riding as I had been a distance runner and riding a bike for fitness seemed less pure, as if there was a mechanical assist. However, I did follow triathlon, and they ride bikes. So, given that I had not been able to run for several years and was frustrated at being out of shape, I decided one Friday to buy a bike. I tend to do my research after the purchase, so walked into La Bicicletta and told Tom that I wanted to buy a bike and that it should probably cost around $2000.00. Tom showed me a few in that range, and having heard of Cervelo, I selected a great bike then called the Soloist Team. Needless to say, the budgetary figure went out the window after getting all the gear that goes along with riding. Rode the bike that evening, and having never used clipless pedals either, I promptly fell the first second I got on it. There should have been a sign on the bike that said "Bike must be in motion in order to clip in" A kindly passerby picked me up and gave me some tips, which didn't stop me from falling a few times after that, all of them from a dead stop.

Riding in traffic for the first time was scary to say the least. However, one doesn't become a distance runner without a strong streak of perseverance, so just kept at it. I was so clueless about bikes that when I heard what sounded like excessive noise coming from the bike, I took it to the store where they advised me that yes, you need to put air in the tires!!!

2 weeks after buying the Cervelo and now having completed my research, I sold the Cervelo Soloist and purchased the all-carbon Cervelo RS. I also purchased a winter bike. Did I say my budget was $2000.00? Don't hire me to manage your money.

I started riding with the Vancouver Bicycle Club as I wanted to learn how to ride, learn routes in Vancouver and enjoy the club camaraderie I was familiar with from running clubs. It was great riding with them, though I'm sure some of them were quite amused at my braking all the way down the Second Narrows bridge.

The rides got longer, 40,50,60, and at one point 73K. I was starting to like this sport! In time, I felt more confident on the bike, and got stronger. The first few times up the UBC hill were tough, and I recall walking up the first hill coming back from Deep Cove.

Andrea from VBC mentioned the Pacific Populaire, and my first thought was, 100K, I can't do that. In the meantime, I had also started to do Sunday rides with the group from La Bicicletta, and began to learn what a paceline was, and the rides were at a faster pace with only one stop.

April 5th, I was an hour early at the registration, even though I had pre-registered. I liked the vibe at the start. I was used to going to and participating in races, and this was more relaxed. Good thing I read the course changes carefully and even inquired about the turn onto 16th as there were apparently some people who cut the course short.

The ride started off nicely, and I felt quite comfortable. At 4th Avenue I decided to start moving ahead and got into my rhythm. On Marine drive, there was a crash right in front of me with 2 people going down. I still need practice in fast group riding, so I was cautious as I rode. What I really liked about the ride was that I would hook up with different groups along the course, some people I knew or had seen on training rides. Finished strong and was quite pleased.

Sure enough, talk of the 200K came up. I can't do 200K! On the morning of April 18th, I was at the Steveston Hotel for the start. That's where I somehow also became a member of the BC Randonneurs Cycling Club! My inexperience showed even before the ride started as 3 minutes before the whistle, I realized my water bottles were still in the car. Quick sprint to the car, and back just in time.

Went with the lead group for the first 25K, until they dropped me on the downhill of the Alex Fraser bridge. Remember my braking on the downhills of bridges? So, there I was by myself, with no idea of where to go. Luckily, Dave from Velovets showed up, and we rode the rest of the way together. Again, there was an ebb and flow of groups, we would ride with one group, then another, then on our own. It was great, the hills on 232nd, not so much. Did make it up though, had it been another 50 meters? Not so sure.

At 40K left, I ran out of fluid and food and was starting to fade. Dave gave me part of a PowerBar and some Gatorade which totally rejuvenated me and I finished strong. At the Buck and Ear, someone even bought me a beer, and I don't even drink. Again, this was a great experience. It did help that both times the weather was great, I might not have enjoyed it as much had there been a monsoon as experienced by some in the 300K.

I really appreciate the work of the club members in organizing these events, I know how much work goes into these things. So now, I somehow find myself signed up for the Ride to Conquer Cancer at the end of June (can use any donations to meet my fundraising goal) and the Canada Day Populaire on July 1st.

I do know that I can't do these Eau De Hell rides, right?

May 7, 2009