Tuesday, September 23, 2014

MEC Calgary Fall Road Ride - 100 Km Century Ride - 2014

Inspired by Amy's review of the MEC Calgary Spring Road Ride, I decided to ramp up my long rides throughout the summer to prepare for the MEC Calgary Fall Century Ride taking place on Saturday September 20th, 2014.  When I signed up, I didn't have a road bike and the longst ride I had ever done was 15 Km.

At the fantabulous price of only $35 for this event (which included athlete spoiling beyond many marathons and half marathons), I just have to gush about how great MEC treats participants. Read on...

You signed up for one of three distances: 60K, 100K or the 160K option.  The 160K was actually changed to 140K due to construction on the highway.  All that was required was a bike in good condition, a helmet and two full water bottles, a spare tube, pump and patch kit.  Riders were to ride in single file unless passing.


Before the race, the ride director sent out a very thorough email answering all the common questions like where to park and what to expect. I had never done an organized group ride before so this set my mind at ease.  I loaded up my bike in my car the night before.  Check out my mini SUV!  ;)  The quick release front wheel is really easy to take off so it can fit in the trunk of my little car.  I keep a sheet in the back to protect the upholstery from chain grease.

Race morning, I drove to Turner Valley, parked one street over and rode in to the Flare 'n' Derrick community center where fun music was playing on the loudspeaker and ride director Michael was giving directions.  I looked around at all the bikes and realized I needed to head back for my water bottles I left in my console of my car.  No problem.  It only took a second.

I packed three gluten-free bars, sesame snaps and a gel, a digital camera, mini first-aid kit and my iPhone all packed in this handy zip pouch.  My cycling computer told me my distance and average speed.  Yes that's a blinky turtle light next to my bell.  I had a white light on the front and a red one on the back for visibility. The harsh shadows this time of year make it difficult for drivers to see cyclists and pedestrians.

And the reveal!  Here she is... my new (to me) road bike, a 2008 TREK Madone.  She is amazingly lightweight and is comfortably proportioned for my petite geometry.

MEC mechanics were onsite at the start to tweak bikes mechanically before the ride and people were definitely taking advantage of the offering.  There were roaming mechanics on hand during the ride as well.

I ran into my colleague Keith S. for a quick second and promised to catch up afterward, which we did.  The 9 a.m. start was delayed by a little bit to give the lineups at the portapotties a chance to clear.  Nice.

Fast riders headed off first, leisurely riders like me waited at the back.  While we waited, I chatted with a commuter cyclist about what he wears when it's really cold in the winter.  I want to see how long I can keep riding this winter.


I was really surprised by how many flats there were, especially in the first 20 Km.  95% of the time there was already a roving mechanic or another rider on site helping out.  We were given a bracelet with the ride director's cell number on it to request help if we got a flat.  The bracelet doubled as a meal ticket afterward.


Everyone is welcome.  There was a mix of people like at every MEC event: A gal on a tandem bike with her dad, another tandem, a guy with a beard in flip-flops and short running shorts with legs like tree trunks, elite-looking riders in pelotons in full matching race kits.

A dozen or so riders asked me how I was doing and rode alongside me, chatting a bit before passing me.  I took the cue and started to do the same.  It felt like we were all part of a big family just out for a weekend ride.


***(All the photos here with snow in them were taken the week before when I rode 80K on this route as a training ride.  All the snow was gone on our ride.  I knew I wouldn't have time to take too many photos on the Fall Ride but I took lots the week before so will supplement this post with them.)

We rode from Black Diamond south along Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22) toward Longview, turned west at the gas station then headed toward Kananaskis on Hwy 541.

Gorgeous golds and greens of the foothills in the fall with the clear blue sky smudged with white clouds and the purples of the Rocky Mountains in the background.  Round hay bales in the fields.

I took the visor off my helmet for the 100K ride.  This photo from the week before, I learned it's hard to look up when you are in aero position going downhill fast if your visor is blocking your view.  That's apparently why road cycling helmets don't have visors and mountain bike helmets do.  Mine is just a cheap Bell helmet with a removable visor.  It works for me since I'm mostly a commuter cyclist.  

Arches at the entrances of ranches.

Cows curiously watching us go by.  Maybe (like dogs), they see fluorescent yellow better.  Seriously... they turned their heads and stared at my bright jacket as I pedalled by.

I didn't stop at the 30K aid station.


Between 40-50K the lovely Wendy rode up beside me and we struck up a conversation.  It turns out that her group rode ahead of her and she found her happy pace alongside me.  She's a triathlete so we chatted about running, biking and swimming.  She is also a fan of the Total Immersion method and recommended I borrow the DVDs from the Library.  :)  I have already found some on YouTube. When I mentioned that I was taking swim lessons at a City pool next month, a funny coincidence occurred.  She teaches and lifeguards at the same pool I will be taking lessons.  I'll run into her some nights.  :)

More photos of the green and gold foothills, majestic purple Rocky Mountains and clear blue Alberta sky:

You can see the ride map, elevation and average pace in the image below.  See where I stopped at 50K?  To see splits, check out this activity on my RunKeeper profile.  I made it public.


You had to be at the 50K aid station by 11:45 or you would be turned back for safety.  I arrived at 11:22.  At the 50K aid station (my turnaround), I gulped my Ultima and water from my water bottle (not drinking nearly enough on this ride), grabbed half a banana and some sports beans, snapped a few photos.  

See... no snow this day:

Then I removed my jacket and the tights I was wearing over my bike shorts and tied them around my waist while I waited in the portapotty line and chatted with another gal about the Ride to Conquer Cancer.  (Hubby and I have been interested in doing it but the fundraising minimum of $2500 each is beyond our reach.  I have fundraised twice for races for cancer, raising $500 and $750.  I'm all done fundraising now and we all just donate directly to the charities of our choice.)

In the last 20K between Longview and Black Diamond on the way back black leather clad motorcyclists roared past us on ape hangers and the likes. I think there is a weekly gathering somewhere nearby.

I was glad I rode 80 Km of the route the week beforehand to familiarize myself with the route and put my mind at ease over my fear of getting lost.  There were always lots of cyclists around when I started to wonder if I was on the right road in town.  It also gave me a chance to try out bike shoes with cleats for the first time and adjust them back and have my toes point out more so that my feet were not numb on the 100K ride!


I'm very sad that Amy wasn't able to be here this day to enjoy the ride she trained so hard for due to an injury.  She was very sweet and lent me the awesome magic windproof gloves her Mom gave her.  I thought of her every time I looked down at my bars.  I'll look for something similar since they were much more comfortable than the beat up old leather winter gloves I had been using in these temperatures.

I wish I had checked my tire pressure before the ride.  It should have been around 90 PSI but was only about 70 PSI.  This translated into slower times on the downhills.  Top speed at 90 PSI for me is 62km/hr pedalling hard in high gear on a long downhill but today I only managed 60.9 km/hr on the same hills.


100K is a long ride for some and not for others.  I have colleagues who have ridden 150-200Km a day on tours.  My goal was to ride further than I ever had.  I liked the idea of a 100K (metric) Century Ride because it was twice as far as my longest (50K) run but an imperial Century Ride is 100 miles or 160Km.

Mostly, I just wanted to find out how long it would take me to ride 90 Km since that is the distance on the bike in an Ironman 70.3 race.  It took me 4 hours.  I would make the 4.5 hour cutoff.  I'm believe I would make the cutoff for the 21.1K run in less than 3 hours even if I were tired.  This makes me happy but the only way to find out for sure is to try... or TRI...  I now believe in myself that I could do the bike and run portions of a 70.3.  Team relay maybe?  Swim lessons are next.  I'm not so sure what will happen to my times when I string all three activities together.  I may be MUCH slower cumulatively.


I put my bike back in my car, threw my comfy Altras on and walked back to change out of my cycling gear into my apres-bike clothes.  I was glad I wore my CEP sleeves on this ride to reduce muscle vibration and fatigue.  I was actually LESS tired after this 100K than I was after riding 60K or 80K.  

Most people just kept their cycling kits on and grabbed a bite to eat.


The HOT post-race food was amazing.
BP's Lasagne (gluten-free cheese pizza if requested), fruit, veggies & dip, chips, cookies, coffee, tea.  This was served in the community center and they used real plates, cups and utensils to be green.  Less waste than styrofoam or paper and plastic that way.  I sat at one of the inside tables and chatted with two nice guys while I devoured my pizza. It was our first group ride for all of us.

On my way out I caught up with my colleague.  Together, we brought the Commuter Challenge to our workplace this year.

These were the words that made my day extra-special:  "Please let me know if you have any dietary restrictions."  I replied and said no lasagne for me but that I would bring my own gluten-free food and snacks.  Nope! MEC made sure there was gluten-free pizza for those of us who mentioned our gluten-free needs ahead of time.  That little touch meant so much to me.  Thanks MEC Calgary!

I find it incredible that MEC can offer this level of rider support and refreshments for that price.  Normally a road race costs somewhere around $40-70-150 and you are lucky if you get a power bar after the race, if there is anything left by the time you finish.  Doing a Grand Fondo (Banff) costs $250.

It has been interesting watching MEC evolve from a niche-market hiking and canoeing supply store to a full member of the community offering free or affordable and approachable courses, seminars, activities, challenges and community events.  MEC is a Co-op owned by the people who shop there.  MEC sells and rents gear to members only but a lifetime individual membership is only $5.  Unlike corporations who aim to make a profit, MEC, the Co-op exists to provide benefits to its members.  Surplus is returned to members via patronage shares at the end of every year.  I see the benefits for sure.

MEC rocks.  MEC can do no wrong in my eyes.  I love MEC.  Need I say more?

I'm running the MEC CALGARY MARATHON on October 19th leaving from the Calgary Zoo.  There's a half marathon, 10K and 5K option too.  The day before that, I'm running leg 4 of the Banff Ekiden with my team and the week before that my swim lessons start.  I'll be fine.  You can read my race recaps from ALL THE MEC CALGARY ROAD RACES from last year here.  Last year I was very excited to learn that MEC was considering a marathon.  Here we are now, one year later and it's a go.

There is talk of a MEC CALGARY TRIATHLON next summer.  I sure hope that's a go.  I'd love to hear Amy's voice either announcing and calling athletes in to the finish or whooping with joy at her own finish.  My friends Keith and Leanna are interested too.  Wouldn't that be great???

If there's one place you can just show up and do your best and feel good about it afterward, it's definitely one of the MEC races.  See you there!

PS:  I treated myself to more fall biking "supplies" the next day from MEC...