Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Mean Streets

The Brevet is a mysterious beast. Everyone else competing is on your team and the only opponent is yourself. This Sunday, I gave the sport of randonneuring a try and completed the 200 km Mean Streets of Toronto Brevet ride with Tanya and four other randonneurs.

For anyone totally unfamiliar with the concept, as I was until about two months ago, the brevet is a ride on a specified route of a certain distance, like 200, 300, 600 or 1200 km, and it'’s done within an allotted time period. A 200 km Brevet must be done in 13.5 hours. A person who completes a brevet is a randonneur. People complete unbelievable feats for this sport like riding 600 km on little or no sleep.

This ride was what the randonneurs consider a short event. If you've already crossed the province without any sleep, what's a loop around the city? For me, and I'm pretty sure I can speak for Tanya on this, this ride was a big deal.

The ride started in the middle of the city and headed south to the lake. Since it was early on a Sunday, the roads were empty and fast (other than some red lights). We then headed west and started a clockwise loop of the city. Much of the ride followed bike paths and suburban roads.

The stretches in southern Etobicoke and Scarborough showed off some beautiful parts of the city where you'’re reminded that the city you live in is on a lake. Properties were fairly large there, even though the neighbourhoods were old. The surprise for me was in north-eastern Scarborough where the scenery is as rural as anywhere in King Township.

Whoever chose the route must have liked some pain. The second half of the ride was packed with steep downhills and uphills, including the Rouge Park hill and the Bluffers Park hill. I had ridden Bluffers Park before, but not Rouge Park. Rouge is a beautiful park with a deep valley and curving road. Unfortunately, the curving road was a thoroughfare for too many people in cars. I bet it would be much nicer there early in the morning.

The meanest street was Kingston Road. This was towards the end of the ride and late in the day. Traffic was heavy, fast and changing lanes often. It was also where we had to contend with leap-frogging with a bus, something I never enjoy.

At the three quarter point, I opened my bag to find my cell phone covered in water. This would have seemed like an obvious outcome of a rainy day and a non-waterproof handlebar bag, but for whatever reason it didn't dawn on me to put my phone in a plastic bag. Right now only half the buttons work, so don't be offended if I don't phone you and your phone number includes a 2, 3, 5 or 6.

Food: I assumed we would stop for rests at places where we'd get buy sandwiches and some coffee, maybe some gatorade. Maybe we'd sit down have a chat and read the newspaper. It turns out the locations for the rests weren't chosen based on their cuisine or ambiance. I ended up fueling myself on pastries, chocolate bars, energy bars and energy gels for the day. It was a really good thing I had a big breakfast before leaving.

Overall it was an enjoyable ride around the city with a good bunch of people. Thanks to Tanya for getting me to do the ride and keeping me company. I'd do another brevet, most likely a 200 km route and definitely in the country.

Since I try to keep things open here, I'll give you the blister status. As recommended by ggdub here after my last painful ride, I had a look around for chamois butter while I was preparing for this ride. I know it's nothing to be embarrassed about and it's just an issue of blisters that are basically on my legs, but I figure if you're looking for anything that's used under your shorts, there's usually some discretion exercised. I learned on Saturday that people in bike shops do not go through the same training that people at pharmacies go through. The two employees seemed to enjoy having a loud conversation about their "ass-cream" stock and how low it is. (It was pretty funny, so I won't file a complaint.) Since they were out of ass cream, one of the employees recommended vaseline. I tried it, and it was better than nothing. No blisters this time, but I think the real solution is to buy some decent bike shorts.

Nitty gritty details:

Stuff I packed:
3 tubes (I don'’t like using patches)
2 patches
1 brake cable (didn'’t use it but it's only 2 dollars)
3 energy gels (used 1, Note: when they seem empty, they may not be and may in fact be able to create a huge mess of your clothing and bike seat.)
3 clif bars (ate 1)
Large bike water bottle (drank about 2 bottles)

Bike and equipment:
Le vieux Peugeot (trying out some french terminology)
Rear rack
One Pannier
Handlebar bag
Headlight, tail light
Reflective safety vest (required by the rules)
helmet, glasses

Distance: 205 km
Time: 13 hours 18 minutes (we could have spent 11 more minutes relaxing at a rest stop!)

Darren J 9/05/2006 08:00:00 a.m.


Wow, that is cutting it close time wise. I can't imagine having to deal with bad traffic that late in the ride.

I'm a bit surprised at your water intake. I usually drink a lot of water, say a bottle per 20-30km depending on the temperature. I guess it was cool, and you might have got some water intake from rain osmosis ;)

Perhaps one of these days you'll talk me into doing one of those rides. I've been thinking about it for a while.
I was surprised about the water too. I just wasn't that thirsty. I drank a couple beers the night before and ate a lot of indian food. Maybe it had some effect?!

I don't know when the next one will be, but I'll let you know.
That was fun! Thanks for doing it with me. So when will we do 300? :) I didn't find Kingston Road mean from the traffic, I found it mean from all those nasty potholes. Has your cell phone dried out? How did you feel the next day? I went out (5k each way) and the biking was painful. (stiff legs, and uh.. blisters)

Two words:
Baby Powder.

Nice job on the ride. I'm hearing rumours that an Assos brand of ass-cream is to die for. Word on the street is that it tingles.
Two words for avoiding such blisters:

Recumbent Bike. ;)
Nice work! But I'm confused. How did you ride 200K in the city? Did you do loops? That would have to be one big city to go in a straight line.
The Rouge Valley route was that one highway two. if it was that is an awesome hill you should try it with a fully loaded bike , Congrats on the ride

So for the next big ride, I'll either buy assos, baby powder or a new recumbent. Judging by my cheapskate ways, I think I know what I'll go with. :-) Eventually, I think a recumbent will be the way to go.

Jill, other than a few kilometres the whole thing was inside the city of Toronto. We do call it a "mega-city", but I think that's partly because of how important we think we are. It was only one loop, but it zig-zagged and doubled back on itself once.
Tanya, I agree that the pot holes and cracks on kingston road were horrible. I usually can live with dodging them if I don't have to worry about people speeding up behind me. I know why you didn't like the pot holes though. I didn't have such a bad experience with one of them!

That's cool that you managed to get out on the bike the next day. I felt pretty good but took it easy. My right knee is a bit sore. I think I need to stretch more.

After hair dryer treatment, my cell phone started working just this morning. I really didn't need to give Rogers any more money.
I don't know exactly where we were. I'll have to look at the route listing.

I think we went through two places in Rouge Park. Once on Finch Ave and once on Sheppard Ave which becomes Twyn Rivers Drive.
Seems like a great ride, indeed. I'm still working on completing a one straight 100 so it's inspiring to see you guys go at it. (I am also surprised about your liquid intake. Pretty amazing.)
try one of those aerosol cans of air to evaporate the water that may be gumming up your cell phone.

sounds like a great ride!

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