Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Erin and I finished the race! We won!

Of course we didn't beat the other cyclists. We came in 189th place. But we won the race against our not finishing the race.

Our official time was 4 hours, 54 minutes. Before the race, my stated goals were:

1. Finish the race
2. Don't come in last
3. It'd be nice to do it in less than 5 hours

So we were three for three! We won!

I should really stop calling it a race. The Pacific Populaire isn't a race. There's no prize for being first and most people are just out to have a good time. But still, they do keep track of your time, so it's pretty hard not to race.

And even though we were pretty much racing, Erin and I finished in a four-way tie for 189th place in a field of 275 riders who did the 100k ride. We are in no way ashamed of that fact. You should have seen some of the other riders' legs! And their awesome gear!

I'll admit that when it comes to bikes, I am a covetous person. I wanted to steal almost every bike I saw. Including the people who rode the 25km and 50km distances, there were 369 cyclists there at the starting line. There was well over half a million dollars worth of bikes present, and about 90% of them were better than mine.

The ride was super fun, particularly the beginning. It's an amazing feeling to be in a pack of 275 riders clogging a street together. It wasn't long before the pack stretched out and finally dispersed as all the people who looked like they had grapefruits stuffed under their skin of their calves, riding carbon fibre bikes worth more than my truck went whizzing past us and vanished into the distance, never to be seen by us again.

The fastest time this year was 3:07, which is an average speed of 32.7 km/h for 102 consecutive kilometers, in spite of the ferocious headwinds we faced all the way across Richmond. That's plain crazy. By the time we finished, that guy had collected his finisher's pin, gone home, had a shower and a snack, taken a short nap, and read the first two-thirds of the Sunday edition of the Vancouver Sun.

Whatever. Erin and I are proud of ourselves. We were strong. We made it the whole way without bursting into tears once. We established a pace and kept up with the other riders who were going as slow as we were. What else can you ask from us?

And on the other hand, the slowest time was 6 hours 41 minutes -- by the time that guy finished, Erin and I had collected our finisher's pins, devoured half of the oranges the organizers had laid out, gone home, whimpered pathetically while unloading the bikes, devoured an entire loaf of bread, devoured all of the leftover lasagna, drank water until the pressure in our taps had noticeably diminished, moaned pathetically while climbing the stairs, half-heartedly bathed ourselves, and then collapsed on the couch, unable to muster the energy to turn the pages of the books we were pretending to read.

This is a huge step in our training for the Ride to Conquer Cancer in June, obviously. On that ride, we'll have to do two consecutive days of about 130 km each. Here it is, the beginning of April, and Erin and I are already capable of doing 100 km. What's more, in June nobody will be timing us, so we'll be able to take all day to do the ride if we feel like it.

Our early success can only mean one thing: it's time to get complacent. It's time to rest on our laurels. We're so good at cycling that we can happily dedicate the next two months to sitting on our duffs and eating chips.

Or perhaps not.

For proof that Erin and I finished the race, check out the standings here:

And for photos of what this crazy thing looked like, check out the galleries here:

There is precious little Ben-related content in any of the photos, but on the far right-hand side of the 10th photo on the first gallery, you can make out a partially-obscured Erin in her purple fleece.

Lessons I learned from the Pacific Populaire:
1. Carbo-loading and a couple of days of laziness before a ride really work. I felt great -- better than I can remember ever feeling during a ride, actually.
2. My ass-to-seat interface will continue to be my weakest point, but with the help of padded shorts and obscenity-laden prayers offered to the unhearing, unfeeling universe, I will make it to Seattle.
3. Drafting can be a huge help, particularly if you're riding into a headwind. Drafting behind a large pack of cyclists helps even more than drafting behind one person.
4. Guys with grapefruit-like bulges in their calves and awesome bikes with skinny tires go much faster than dumpling-shaped men with potato-sack-like bulges around their middles, riding converted mountain bikes with wind-catching fenders and 1.5-inch wide tires.

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