And the farmers just stood there beside their tractors, admiring the tan.

The MS Bike Tour is over. The whole event raised more than $400,000 and put 400 cyclists in harm's (and traffic's) way for two days.

Most importantly, I survived and I had such a great time that I'll do it again next year.

Day 1

We arrived at Kings Edgehill school in the Valley at 0730 and registered quickly -- surprisingly quickly given that 400 riders were to start in the next hour or so. It was going to be a scorcher, which at the time I thought would be better than rain. The rest of the team wasn't far behind, and contrary to our initial plan (starting in the last flight to minimize how many people could pass us!), we got in at the beginning of the second flight of riders and quickly found ourselves in a very large, very long peloton (I just love to be able to say that) on a country road. I do feel a little sorry for the Saturday morning yard sale crew who couldn't find a way to get to the side of the road through the hundreds of bicycles which had taken over their sleepy county.

We scarfed back granola bars, bananas, grapes, watermelon and gatorade (and some chips, but that was just for the salt. Or the sunflower oil. Whatever.) at the three rest stops before hitting the first optional bail-out at Acadia University (putting the first leg distance at a mere 50 km). My average speed was 24.1 km/hr, which I thought was pretty good considering the 2km hill that led up to the main pit stop. A quick lunch and the team headed back out for the last 30 km. Did I mention it was hot out? I kept pushing, but by the time I reached the last pit stop (66km), my I was playing head games with my gears and with my bike computer. Spoiler: the bike computer very nearly wins.

Six hours have ticked by since the team left the starting line when we all roll back onto the Acadia campus. The lengthy pit stops were probably a blessing, but I'm not ashamed to admit that I was one cranky bitch as I pushed my way through the eighty-third kilometre in the thirty degree heat. It was a little much to take. The good news? I had an hour to grab a shower and make it back so we could hit the pub before the banquet. The bad news? I had to ride the bike, this time with camping gear on my back over to a friend's place (he rode with the team, but surprisingly didn't offer to take any gear). The gear didn't get used, as I managed to score a bed in the house, for which I was extremely grateful.

I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed my first beer at the pub, because it disappeared so fast that I'm pretty sure I don't remember drinking it. We watched some "real" cyclists race through a 50-minute criterium event in town and marvelled at the hardware that was hurtling down the streets. Then it was off to a banquet in a crowded, ill-ventilated gymnasium. You can imagine how much fun that was.

Day 2

I was deathly afraid of what my body would say when I got out of bed on Day 2 (think: "Oh, no you don't!"), but found I was surprisingly limber given the previous day's activities. While sitting in the sweltering banquet the night before, we'd decided that the "optional extra 30km" would be a last minute decision in the morning. Well, it was morning, and I was feeling alright, but my riding partner had family obligations, so it would be smarter to just do the 50km main route and skip the extra bit.

As it turned out, the weather made the decision for 10 of the 11 of us. The light shower that started up at 7AM turned bad: the heavens opened up and the deluge started about 15 minutes before we were about to head off. That was enough to convince the majority of us that if it was going to rain all morning, we should minimize the bone-chill. The lone holdout in the group didn't want to do it alone, so we were all committed to doing the main route, and as it turned out, probably 90% of the pack opted for the same. I consider doing the full 80 on both days my goal for next year.

We started in the rain and immediately hit the long hill, this time in a more favourable direction ("down") -- only the rain was coming down so hard that I could barely see in front of me. Still, I managed to hit 47km/hr on the way down, and that was with white-knuckled hands on brakes. Fun stuff.

By the first rest stop, the rain had petered out and it was starting to get hot again. And muggy. The rest of the race went extremely well; I have a feeling going this direction was easier than the other direction, so it's probably good that this all happened on Day 2.

Other Tidbits

I should also tell the brief story of the "give'er" couple that I managed to haunt all weekend. On the first leg of Day 1, the peloton was slow going and people were having to battle the yard sale drivers as well as the slowpokes to get ahead. At one point, I noticed a young couple wearing matching jerseys doing frequent shoulder checks as if readying to pass. I was riding beside my friend and knew the opportunity was there, but fleeting, if these folks were to take advantage of it. So on the next shoulder check, I called out "give'er!" and recieved a knowing smile from one of the pair, and they pulled out, around, and took off.

I managed to see them on every leg of the race; sometimes I'd pass them, sometimes we'd see each other at rest stops. I wasn't sure if they knew who I was, or even if they'd heard me trying to be helpful so early in the Tour. On Day 2, when my team was all huddling under a building overhang to stay dry before ultimately embracing the rain and venturing out, I glanced beside me to see that very same couple getting ready to do the same. I had to say something, so I jokingly asked them to let me know when they were about to leave, since I'd seen them the entire day previous. The guy laughed and said he noticed that we'd crossed paths five or six times during Day 1, and that we'd probably see each other again. And we did. Several times, only now it became a friendly competition whenever we passed each other (my team waited at every rest stop for the rest of the team, while the young couple were free to skip stops or stop very briefly, which often put them ahead of our larger group).

We passed the couple prior to the last rest stop, about 15 km from the finish line, and though I knew we were quite a ways ahead of them, I didn't see them at the rest stop. I figured they must have made a quick stop and headed on. Pushing up the hill to the finish line and rounding the corner, I heard a familiar "give'er!" come from the sidewalk. It was the young couple, clearly egging me on. I would go over and congratulate them on a good ride later, and promise to look for them next year. A veteran on our team tells me this type of competition is both natural and infectious on the MS Bike Tour, and she's been doing this for 8 years now. I hope I do see them next year.

Bib Bingo:
When I wasn't being distracted by conversation or playing with the bicycle computer, I was hunting for the lowest bib number I could find (I was 352,for some reason I didn't ever figure out; possibly it had something to do with surnames). This is the equivalent of playing the license plate game on long car trips. On Day 1, the best I could do was #8. On Day 2 I found #1 and won the game. Note: I was the only one playing this game, so coming in anything less than first would have sucked.

The Final Tally:
Total Distance: 130 km
Total Time: 5hrs 40mins
Total Money Raised by Mike: $385

Posted bythemikestand at 8:28 PM  

8 stepped up to the mike:

chRistine said... 9:51 PM, July 30, 2007  

again.. thanks!

Megan said... 1:03 AM, July 31, 2007  

Congrats! And what is give'er?

themikestand said... 6:08 AM, July 31, 2007  

christine: you're welcome! I wanted to reply to your last comment, which really touched my heart, but there just wasn't time (and I'm severely limited in my blogging lately).

megan: give'er is sort of an encouraging phrase Maritimers like to use. Like "give 'em hell!", if you've ever heard that one.

Lisa said... 11:28 AM, July 31, 2007  

give'er is such a canadian term, I've learned (along with get 'r done, apparently!)

congrats on the ride!

Josie said... 2:06 PM, July 31, 2007  

Congrats!! Sounds like you had a lot of una as well as a great experience.
I said "Give'er" at a Convention in the US last summer and other than the fellow Canadian's - a whole lot of "what is wrong with her?" LOL

SRH said... 10:09 AM, August 01, 2007  

I am soooo not a cyclist. Mainly due to my not learning how to ride a bike until I was 16 and the fact that I am woefully out of shape. Congrats on the cycling!

Steph said... 9:04 AM, August 02, 2007  

While I was home on vacation, I biked the "nature trail" at home (old railroad tracks) - oddly enough, just as I turned on to the tracks, I mentally prepared myself for possible bear sightings by saying, "Give'er" to no one in particular.

I wondered how you made out on the ride. Great job Mike!!!! *insert standing ovation here*

themikestand said... 8:03 PM, August 02, 2007  

lisa: thanks. And I know I can count on the expats to know what the hell I'm talking about around here.

josie: it was also good to underscore that I have the endurance to make it through something like that -- not that it would require training like for a marathon (see lisa's blog for that!)

srh: you, too, could be on two wheels. We saw a few recumbant bikes. That would be comfortable. Or four wheels could work, if that's more your style.

steph: do the bears understand give'er? Because that could be ugly.

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