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Ride Report - Vermilion 400K brevet

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Ride Report - Vermilion 400K brevet

Old 05-29-05, 07:26 PM
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Ride Report - Vermilion 400K brevet

2:00 am – The alarm went off and I got ready for my 400K brevet. I must be insane to be up at this hour to go for a ride!

3:00 am – The 1.5-hour drive to Calgary took longer than expected because of construction on the road. I rolled into the parking lot with 15 minutes to spare ... just enough time to set Machak up, not enough time to get something to eat and drink, a mistake I don't plan to repeat. If I were starting alone, I would have popped over to the Tim Horton's, and then started late, but K was there, and was chomping at the bit to go.

5:00 am – K and I took off at a good pace and he filled me in on the details of the route, which I really appreciated. The terrain was rolling, and not too challenging, but the pace we were riding had me puffing a bit on every incline. The temperature was cool, about 5C, and thankfully, there was no wind!

5:55 am – We arrived at the first control in Cochrane, and made a very short stop. K and I stayed together for another half-hour, then he rode off into the distance. It was nice to ride with someone for a while, but I don't mind being left on my own. My pace slowed and I took some time to eat.

The area I was riding through was lovely – the foothills of the mountains – green, rolling, and well-treed with the mountains standing tall on the horizon. I stopped to take a photo. I also stopped to check my Machak because I was struggling with speed and energy. The road looked flat, and there was still no wind, but I couldn't get my speed over 18 km/h. Machak was fine, so I decided I must be riding one of the many false flats Alberta is known for!

Eventually I rolled into Exsaw – not a control, but I was more than ready for a break. Moments later another cyclist arrived. He was also doing this brevet, but had started at 6 am from Cochrane, and would do the Calgary leg at the end of the ride. We decided to ride together, but I had to cut my break short. However, the next control was just up the road, so I figured we'd stop there. While we were riding, D told me if he can maintain 20 km/h, he is happy. I was pleased to hear that because that's about my pace. What he failed to tell me was that he doesn't stop.

9:40 am – We flew past Canmore (~100 kms), the next control, hesitating only a moment for the card signing. I didn't feel ready to eat, and I had enough liquid to take me to the next control, but a little part of me thought I should have stopped. However, it was more important to me to ride with someone for as long as I could.

Shortly after Canmore, we spotted another cyclist with the Alberta Randonneur jersey, and when we caught up, we discovered it was K! He stopped for breakfast in Canmore. The three of us rode together onto the 1A, a quiet scenic route through the mountains.

The 1A is very familiar to me because I cycled it frequently as a child. I hadn't ridden it since I was 17, but it brought back many lovely memories. In my memory, there was a BIG hill on this route, so I prepared myself for this monster. I went over a few small lumps, and all of a sudden, I was on a short descent ... and past the BIG hill. It was nothing! I can't imagine why I thought it was so big.

11:50 am – I arrived at Castle Junction. D was already there and just about to leave. This time I decided to let him go because I needed to eat something. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to eat here and so I made do with corn chips. K arrived while I was eating. He had a flat tire and was behind me for a while.

We left together, and start climbing Vermilion Pass. I climbed this pass last weekend on the Golden Triangle tour, and knew it wasn't bad, but this time, halfway up the pass, I bonked. My legs went wobbly, I was dizzy, and felt quite nauseated, and a tingling flush rose up from my shoulders and engulfed my head. It was warm (25C), so maybe that contributed. I stopped, grabbed a fruit bar, and shoved it down. I finished the climb but felt rather weak the whole way.

There was a long descent to the turnaround point, then a climb of a couple kilometers, into a wind, back to the control. On the way down, I struggled with sleepiness, so I pulled into a small picnic area and laid down on a picnic bench by the river. It was wonderful there. The sun beat down, the river rushed past and the large snow-capped mountains looked down on me. I dozed for a while and, if I weren't on a brevet, I would have stayed for the rest of the afternoon. But I had to get riding again.

2:50 pm – I arrived at the Vermilion Crossing control (208 kms), and to my dismay I discovered that they didn't serve lunch, and I could only get snack food, again! I was still far enough into the bonk that nothing appealed to me, but I decided to wade through a muffin and drink as much as I could. K and D had come and gone and I would not see them again, but the group of faster riders who started at 7 am caught me here. After an hour at this control, trying to recover, I finally left, still feeling a bit ill. The faster riders left a few minutes later, and of course caught and passed me.

The next 40 kms were basically uphill. The road ascends, then flattens, then ascends, etc. It was a long and tiring grind, but I started feeling better as I rode. The last 8 kms of that road, back into the Castle Junction control were downhill, and I covered them in no time at all – wonderful! I was surprised to see signs indicating that the hill is an 8% grade. When I climbed it, I would never have thought it was that steep.

6:15 pm – I came roaring into the Castle Junction control. To my surprise the faster riders were all there. Apparently one of them had a little accident so they stayed to help patch him up. An even greater surprise was the fact that my parents were there! They took a few things from me which I didn't need anymore, I ate a bit, and set off again.

I opted to ride the main highway, Hwy 1, rather than the 1A to Canmore. K told me that would be OK. Hwy 1 is one km longer, but is a little flatter. To make up for the flatness, I fought a gusty headwind all the way.

9:30 pm – I arrived in Canmore and attempted to find something substantial to eat. I did not want to leave my bicycle outside because Canmore is a busy place, and it was late in the evening, so I attempted the local drive-thrus, knowing I had a 50/50 chance of being served. McDonalds would not serve me, Wendy's would not either and the manager there started yelling at me, so I cause a bit of a scene myself (don't mess with a hungry cyclist, 300K into a 400K!! ). Then I tried Dairy Queen. Thankfully, the people at Dairy Queen were more than happy to serve me.

I got kitted up for the night, and set off for the last 100 kms of the ride. At about 10:30 pm, I saw Cadillac coming the other direction with the car. He decided to leap-frog me because I expressed apprehension about riding through the night. Being able to stop near the car was a great relief. Thank you!!! One of my concerns was stopping to eat by the side of the road, in the dark, with all the wildlife in the area.

It was still fairly light at 10:45 pm, so I could see the animal running across the road in front of me quite clearly. At first, I thought it might be a large dog, but it didn't run like a dog. Or a coyote, but it was too big for that. It ran part way up the embankment on the other side of the road and crouched there looking at me, and I knew what it was. That was the first cougar I've ever laid eyes on! I rode like the wind for a while then stopped and moved my pepper spray into an easily accessible place. I was not going to become some cougar's midnight snack!

I was able to get up some good speed on this part of the route, which confirmed my suspicions of the false flat from the way out. I could easily maintain close to 30 km/h, and could have gone even faster if the road conditions were better. The road was quite rough and my arms took a beating as Machak and I bounced all over the place.

With about 40 kms to go, the road conditions improved, thankfully, but then I encountered a series of short, steep hills. My legs were getting increasingly tired, and my breathing was increasingly more labored as my exercise induced asthma reached its peak. I had been struggling with it on and off through the whole ride, but now I couldn't take a deep breath without going into a fit of coughing.

I could see the lights of Cochrane in the distance, and it seemed they stayed out there forever. I felt like I was on a treadmill, pedaling and pedaling, but going nowhere. There is a large hill out of Cochrane and during the eternity it took me to get there, I decided to walk that hill. I knew my legs and lungs would never allow me to ride up. And when I arrived in Cochrane, I bonked for the second time.

I tried to eat something, but it did not go down well, so I decided to eat while I walked up the hill. That energy bar did not want to be eaten but I got some down and I drank as much of my energy drink as possible. My tongue started to feel all tingly like it was swelling up. I tried to get back on my bicycle when the steepness of the hill flattened a little but my legs felt like rubber, so after a few pedal strokes, I decided it would be safer to continue walking.

By the time I got to the top of the hill, I felt some better and started riding again – the last 18 kms to Calgary. Once again, I could see the lights in the distance and again they seemed to stay out there forever. But after a small eternity, I arrived at a set of traffic lights and Cadillac informed me that I had about 10 kms to go. I don't think it was that long, or else I got a burst of energy, because it seemed like no time at all ... and I was finished!

3:00 am – after 22 hours of riding, I finished my 400K!!
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Old 05-29-05, 08:42 PM
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Wow! 400K and a cougar! Either one would be impressive! Way to go Machka!
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Old 05-29-05, 09:19 PM
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We're not worthy, we're not worthy....
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Old 05-29-05, 09:25 PM
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Originally Posted by jitteringjr
We're not worthy, we're not worthy....

Congrats on another successful brevet!

Old 05-29-05, 09:59 PM
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great report Machka
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Old 05-30-05, 03:56 AM
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Ms. Machka, you're incredible and an inspiration to us all! I'm speechless!

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Old 05-30-05, 04:45 AM
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My first long distance event (over 160k) will be a hilly 200k around the coromandel peninsula here in NZ with 2300m of climbing.

Unfortunately I do not know of any brevet type events over this way, as I am more than keen to have a crack

Keep up the great efforts.

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Old 05-30-05, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by 'nother
Wow! 400K and a cougar! Either one would be impressive! Way to go Machka!
I was "impressed" enough by the cougar to pick my pace up a few kilometers per hour!! If I decide to get into racing this year (or next) that's what I'll have to imagine behind me!
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Old 05-30-05, 08:24 PM
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Attached is the profile of the tour mentioned, Golden Triangle. Congratulations.
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