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Monday, August 27, 2018

Riding Long: Creemore Classic 401 km in 24 hrs

This past weekend I completed my first 400 km Brevet.  I had previously participated in 2 other Randonneuring rides: a 384 km Fleche ride and a 200 km Brevet.  This by far was the toughest, as expected.

Local riders participating were Rick Meloche, Brenda Wiechers, Tim O'Callahan and myself.  Luckily we had two friends/cyclists come to support the 24 hr journey: Steve Tymczak and Geoff Owen (invaluable!).  This time around we headed to Port Elgin late Friday afternoon - arrived in time to have dinner with the group, plus the organizer of the Creemore Classic: Carey Chappelle, and his wife Donna.

After a good sleep at the Chappelle's we got up at 4:30, went down to the local Tim Horton's,  and got our card verified (has to be signed at each of the 7 control points).  A total of 7 of us left at 5:30 a.m, right on schedule (Carey, Matthew, Paul, Brenda, Tim, Rick and I).  Geoff joined us for the first 100 km, and then assisted us for the next 20 hrs at the control points.

We knew the forecast wasn't the greatest - we pretty much assumed we would be wet for most of the ride, and we weren't far off.  We started in  a light drizzle - the only fairly flat section was mostly dry from Port Elgin to Owen Sound, following the shoreline the whole time - beautiful area. I'd never traced the coastline like that before.  Funny when your mind is prepared for a 24 hr effort just how quick a 100 km ride can feel.  Seemed like no time and we were having coffee at our first stop: Frog Pond Cafe. A quick drink and we were set to take off again.  Tackling a ride like this is all about conserving energy, nourishing your body and staying hydrated - doing that well, makes it doable.  Oh also, heavy use of Chamois Butt'r makes sitting on a saddle for 24 hours manageable (I didn't say enjoyable); I am not sure why it works - just does!

So as we headed out of Owen Sound, we hit a sharp climb that was like a smack in the head. It turned out that this is what the rest of the day was: climb, descend, climb, descend... repeat.  It was also the time the rain hit - really hard at times, like when descending down Bowles Downhill: wow - 64 km/h in pouring rain was a bit tense (glad this was in the daylight).  Of course when you go down, you can expect to go up - Cat 4 climb up to Eugenia and our 2nd Control. I have to tell you this wasn't nearly as pleasant as the first.   Even though we would have generated a ton of heat climbing, we were all pretty chilled, as soon as we stopped.  At this stop, I had some hot mac and cheese, and mixed another two bottles of Infinit Power. I drank a serving per hour all the way through the day.  I was looking to stay reasonably hydrated, keeping electrolytes in check and have some calories (when I know that the pace is down and I will be consuming lots of real food on stops, Power is my choice).  I was really happy to head out of Eugenia - and was hoping for clearer skies!

Headed from Eugenia, and already at 400 m elevation, we only had another 100 m before we descended one of my favourite roads in the county - Grey Road 19.  By now the rain had stopped so we had a no brake descent - not pushing it (getting aero) I managed to get to 70+ km/h. It was fun cruising down behind Tim.
After collecting, we headed into town for our next stop - The Georgian Bowl.  Yes, I said bowl. As in bowling. While it's not normal to bowl while riding, it is for the Creemore Classic. We swapped the bike shoes for bowling shoes and went after the big trophy.  I came up a few pins short - Rick took those honours.  Immediately after, we were on to Creemore. I had been looking forward to the fish dinner all day. No beer for me on this day, but on another day, I will add a Lot 9.  The ride to Creemore was made up of rolling hills - nothing crazy. Luckily, it was dry but we did have a heavy head wind.  Everyone's spirits were still high - we were approaching 250 km, and knew we had a big stop ahead - we had all preordered.  Steve and Geoff had a table waiting, so we had time to get into a new bike kit and then dinner was on the table.
By the time we left, darkness was upon us, so it was back to the reflective clothing and lights.  We had a few bigger climbs on our way back to the Villages, our last control point before it got real... everyone was thinking of the Scenic Cave Road climb.  It was an uneventful ride into the control point: more Infinit Power and Jimmy Bar (protein bar - one of the best I have had) before we headed out for the last 112 km of the journey.  Starting with the big climb: 200 m, 9% average grade.

As it turned out, Scenic Caves wasn't as hard as we had all built it up to be.  Earlier in July - I got up the main climb in 11:49. On this night, with 300 km into my legs, I kept the pedals moving all the way up for a respectable16:13 - I was happy with this!  Tim was right behind and we figured we might have a bit of a wait for the others.  5-10 minutes later, everyone was up. Awesome!
From here it got 'dark!'  We had a big descent but, unfortunately it was during a downpour and heavy winds - we were all a bit pensive.  Once down, we had another big climb up Grey Road 40. By this time, after the climb (I think it was around 2:30 a.m.), I still had lots of power, but I was getting crazy sleepy, just like that feeling when you are driving a car and you are trying not to nod off.  I told the group, so we put a foot down at the next stop sign. Tim gave me his 'magic glasses' (green glow)  and I used them for 5 minutes, eating 3 chocolate covered coffee beans along with it.  It was enough to get to me to Chatsworth, the last control point before the finish.  This was supposed to be a 24 hr coffee shop. Well,  despite what the sign said, it was not hot coffee now. Ugh - it would have been great as we had just travelled 62 km in heavy rain, wind and even fog.  We stopped anyway for about 20 minutes, had an Infinit Cold Brew,  a bagel with peanut butter and fresh jam (thanks, Brenda), and of course, mixed up my last two bottles of Infinit Power.
Still smiling - 50 km to go!!!
All 6 of us left together, but by this time we were riding different paces.  Rick, Tim, Brenda and I rode as a group - really, it was uneventful. Of course we were all tired and feeling it, but we were buoyed by the fact that we were less then 2 hrs from the end.
It was a steady ride in to the Tim's where it all started 24 hrs ago.  In total we covered 401 km in just a hair over 24 hrs, with 16:40 of moving time.  We had our cards signed at our last control point and we were official - under the 27 hr time limit.  Back to Carey and Donna's house, quick shower and then I slipped into a deep sleep.  Loved the ride, loved riding with Tim, Rick, Brenda, Matt and Paul - you really get to know someone over 24 hrs on a bike.  This was the second time I had the pleasure of doing a long one -  last time, Tim and Brenda were there.  Special and immense thanks to Geoff and Steve. At every control point they took care of us, filling bottles, making sure we had everything we needed.  

Creemore Classic - 410 km, 2700 m elevation
I am certain this is not for everyone, but what I would encourage you to do is pick a goal/challenge that seems ridiculous and scares you.  I thought of this ride for months. It lead to completing lots of rides to prepare. I visualized when I went to sleep at night - not afraid - just looking forward to what would be.  I feel so grateful that am I physically able to do stuff like this and have the time and support to take these crazy challenges on.  Makes you feel alive!

- Darcy Haggith, President, Infinit Nutrition Canada