Prelude – The Flat Tire
One week before the Tour de Victoria I headed out on my last major training session with the intention of riding one section of the new 60 km route that I didn’t know — the second quarter that runs from Victoria General Hospital up to Elk Lake. I’d heard rumours of killer hills there so I figured it would be good to ride it at least once before the day of the ride.
I rode out along the E&N Rail Trail to where it meets the Galloping Goose and soon found myself coasting down a curving hill on Burnside Rd West. I was admiring the pretty agricultural land when I felt a weird wobbling sensation from my rear wheel. Oh no — a flat tire!
Bike riders often get flats so many carry pumps and patch kits or even spare tubes with them. Well, I didn’t have anything with me on that day. After cursing my poor preparation for a minute or so, I checked my phone and learned that the nearest bike shop was a 45-minute walk away. The nearest gas station was 20 minutes away, but there was no guarantee that I could fix a flat there so I decided to walk 25 minutes to a bus stop where I caught the #14 to downtown (another 25 minutes). There, I walked my bike to MEC with the plan of buying a new tube and getting back on my training ride.
MEC has a great setup where you can either pay them to work on your bike or use their tools to fix your own. I popped my bike up on a stand and took off my rear wheel. As I pried off the tire I noticed some green stripes on the rubber of the tire. At first I thought maybe it was paint, but then I realized it was a sign that the tire had worn right through. No surprise I got a flat — the tire was completely bald! Guess that’s a sign of just how much riding I’ve been doing.
So I bought a new tire and a new tube, got them on the rim, and was back rolling on my bike within two hours of when the flat occurred. At that point, however, my window of time was running out so I couldn’t take the time to ride back out and continue from where I left off. Still, I was so glad I wore out the tire then or it might have happened on the day of the ride!
Of course, this also meant that on ride day, I still wouldn’t know what to expect from that part of the course. Oh well, I had to hope that all my training throughout the summer would be enough to deal with whatever I encountered.
The Day of the Ride
My buddy Mike came down from Nanaimo to join me on the ride as he has in the past. He arrived later on Friday evening and we stayed up till midnight catching up. But then, even though I was exhausted, I endured a very poor sleep. When 6:30am rolled around and my alarm woke me up, I’d only enjoyed a few hours of solid sleep — not ideal for a big ride day. Luckily, the start time for the 60km ride was 8:30am, not 7:00am like the 140km and 160km rides. As I chugged my first coffee and tried to clear my bleary head, I texted my friend and fellow blogger Travis Paterson just before 7:00am to wish him luck as he set off on his first-ever 140km ride. He told me he hoped to arrive at the finish line by 1:30pm. My own expectation for the 60km ride was that it would take me at least 3 hours, maybe 3 and a half. My plan was to take it relatively easy at first and then push harder later if I had the energy.
It was a beautiful day for a ride — a little on the cool side, but the skies were smoke-free, which was a relief, especially considering the solid week of choking smoke we endured immediately afterwards. After breakfast and more coffee, Mike and I rode downtown to the Legislature to join the big herd of riders departing on the 60 km and 100 km rides. It was a nice change from past years when we had to take the shuttle bus up to Sidney for the 45 km ride. But it also meant that we were part of a very large group of riders all departing at the same time.
The first quarter of the ride out to View Royal was nice — there were a couple hills along Craigflower Road and the Island Highway that tested me, but I was feeling good, and I ended up pushing a little harder than I had planned.
Soon enough, we were in the second quarter of the ride. I pointed out the very spot where I got my flat to Mike, and from there on I was in unknown territory for the next 10 km. This was where the 100-km riders split off from us to get in their extra distance, which loosened up the congestion of riders a bit. There was an aid station there, too, where we took a short break to recharge our water bottles and have a quick energy-boosting snack.
So far so good, but right after this break there was a nasty hill. I remember thinking it was the steepest hill I’d ever climbed, and according to Strava it’s one of the highest elevations (105 m) on the route. But I just dropped down into my lowest Granny gear and made it all the way up without getting off my bike. That small success buoyed me as we continued on towards the west side of Elk Lake where I knew some more hills awaited us. Indeed, on Old West Saanich Rd we climbed steadily for a long time (up to 124 m, the highest point on the route according to Strava). The steep, winding downhill that followed was fun but a little harrowing, especially since the road was not entirely blocked off to cars so we had to be careful.
And then we were zooming along the north side of Elk Lake. This is one of the nicest pieces of pavement I’ve encountered in Greater Victoria. The recently poured asphalt was smooth and clean, and just a joy to ride on. When we passed Hamsterly Beach at the top of the lake, a spot where my family often goes swimming in the summer, I was sorely tempted to take a slight detour for a quick cooling dunk.
We were now about halfway done the ride. Once we crossed the Swartz Bay Highway we were back on familiar roads. We felt the air cool considerably as we got closer to Cordova Bay and made another pit stop for fluids and snacks at an aid station, but we were both keen to get back in the saddle and ride now that we were past the halfway point.
I was still feeling good at this point, but I knew a couple of challenging hills awaited me, and I wasn’t 100% how my body would react. At the Ash Road Hill just south of Mount Douglas, an old nemesis of mine, I was encouraged by the sight of my brother and sister-in-law cheering me on. That was all I needed to push myself up that brutal climb. Soon enough we were rounding the corner in Cadboro Bay and beginning the run through the Uplands and into Oak Bay.
The long, slow climb up from Cadboro Bay was especially tough for me, but when we turned into the Uplands, I decided to skip the aid station there — I just wanted to keep riding to the finish. Perhaps that was a mistake because pretty soon I began to feel a sense of exhaustion invading my body. I think it had more to do with the poor sleep I’d had the night before than anything else, but whatever it was, I was really struggling. I’m not much of a conversationalist while I ride at any time, but from here on I pretty much stopped talking entirely. Mike chatted away, trying to keep my spirits up (I could tell), while I occasionally growled a curt response back if I even said anything at all. I was grumpy for sure. I wanted the ride to be over right then and there! But the good friend that he is, Mike stayed with me and encouraged me when he could have easily gone ahead and hung out with some friendlier riders.
All through Oak Bay I envisioned the last nasty hill of the ride waiting for me at Gonzales Point. It’s one I never enjoy, but I had purposefully pushed myself to ride it a few times in the summer to bolster my confidence, so even though I was exhausted and grouchy, I still knew I could handle it. And I more than just handled it – I conquered it!
From there on, it should have been easy, but I still had this overwhelming feeling of exhaustion — so I just couldn’t seem to get my energy up to enjoy the last 5 km of the ride. I was mad at myself for it, too. Why couldn’t I push harder? Where was my finish line surge?
Finally, as we turned the corner by the Cruise Ship Terminal in James Bay, an older gentleman passed us. This silver-haired fellow was also riding the 60-km route, but I didn’t recognize him, which meant he had probably been behind us for most of the ride and now had caught up and passed us. For some reason, this turned the key inside me that unlocked my last bit of reserve energy. I looked at Mike and said “Let’s go!” and started pushing. We kept pace with the senior citizen a few bike lengths ahead of us and then as we rounded the final few corners heading towards the finish stretch we caught up to him. And at the finish line, Mike and I were ahead of him by a nose!
Overall, I did better than I expected. According to Strava, I completed the ride in 2:51:59, which doesn’t count the rest breaks. My official Tour de Victoria time was 3:01:16. Interestingly, Strava tells me I broke my personal record for that final stretch from the cruise ship terminal to the Legislature — which I had previously set at last year’s Tour de Vic! So obviously I did have something left in the tank for that final sprint.
Thanks to Brynn Feather for this great picture she snapped of me enjoying one of my post-ride beers from Spinnakers.
Mike and I celebrated our strong finish with a beer (OK a couple!) at the finish line while we waited for Travis to finish the 140. We were there with our beer glasses held high to cheer him as he rolled through the finish line about an hour after us. I was awed by the thought that he had just rode his bike more than twice as far as we had!
Thanks to everyone involved with the Tour de Victoria for organizing such an amazing event. And now the question is: will I make the leap to the 100 km ride next summer?!
Joe Wiebe, the “Thirsty Writer,” is the author of Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider’s Guide to B.C. Breweries, the definitive guidebook to British Columbia’s burgeoning craft beer industry, currently in its second edition. Joe has ridden in all of the Tour de Victoria rides and will be challenging himself with the Christie Phoenix 60km this August.
“It’s a ride, not a race”. We took that approach this year and had a great day along with the rest of the Silver Wheels team, including many who took part in a pre-race photo-op:
and warm-up ride on Friday:
On ride day, though, the adrenalin was in evidence and everyone was pretty keen as we lined up for the start of the 100 and 60 km event.
The ride was wonderful. We had a visitor from Scotland riding with us and she was overjoyed with the scenery and community spirit evident throughout the day. We had several riders who had never participated in a large group event before and they were all impressed with the organization and atmosphere on the day.
Thankfully, the weather cooperated with the calmest conditions we can recall from the TdV events we have ridden, perfect temperature and, with nearly 100 riders from Silver Wheels and TaG, seeing riders we recognized everywhere during the day.
Kim and I rode the entire route with Di and Ed Bryant – Di and Ed were our friends with whom we toured England in May.
The Munn Road climb was a challenge as we expected, unfortunately we came upon the vehicle-cyclist crash just after it happened. Getting passed by the 160 km peleton “freight train” was eventful – between the very fast, double line group and our riders we took up the entire road. Thankfully no cars in evidence at that point.
Up and down, up and down, eventually on the final stretch and headed home:
Silver Wheels and TaG riders did very well in the ride results – a number of them finishing in the top 3 in their age/gender. Especially good to see Mark finish well and he was very pleased to participate in the event – I hope I can do as well in the 80-99 age category when I qualify for that group!
As a bonus, on Sunday morning we left our Silver Wheels kit in the laundry and put on our TaG kit for a team social ride with Ryder, Seamus and Hugo. It was a rather quick out and back on the 30 km route with a very nice coffee stop afterwards.
A great way to finish off a most enjoyable weekend of cycling.
So, see your next year!
Kim and Sandy
–Sandy and Kim Fleming will be blogging for the Tour de Victoria as they train for this August. Amazing advocates for the Tour de Victoria, they always bring a large group with them!
Lets just say procrastination might be human nature, but it is definitely my nature. The intention to train a little or even to ride a little before the Tour de Victoria went out the window when lake season arrived.
I pulled my bike out of the garage at 9:00 am on August 18. Two very flat tires and no convenient pump to sort that out. My car was loaded with friends and gear to head up to Tofino for a week (without me) and it was just about to pull out of the driveway when I threw my bike on the roof and had them drop me off at Oak Bay Bikes where the staff kindly pumped up the tires and had a quick look at the brakes, gears and chain and sent me on my way. I rode my bike home. That was my road training.
I got home, answered a few work emails to take my mind off the inevitable ride ahead and then put on my riding kit and rode to the starting line: my warm up.
Aware that I had done no road training at all, I only signed up for the 30 km bike ride. And I was still painfully nervous about it all. Thank you to Tami Tate who reminded me at the start line that this is a ride and not a race. And 30 seconds into the ride, I couldn’t have been more glad that I signed up for the ride.
The weather was perfect. The riders were so kind and friendly. The roads were safe and the route was beautiful. I chatted with parents of children who were riding and was amazed at the effort and ability of the young riders. I rode alongside riders of all ages who were completing all different lengths of the Tour de Victoria in various states of exhaustion and euphoria.
I loved every minute of it!
The tour was organized so well. There were so many volunteers helping and traffic control creating the most amazing riding experience. The 30 km route was beautiful, but not a riding challenge. I enjoyed the ride and to my husband’s chagrin, didn’t make it a race. My enthusiasm for the ride has spread and I have been collecting new riders at each and every bbq, gathering and relaxing afternoon on the dock at the lake. Next year it will be the 60 km ride or maybe even the 100km.
-Sandi Piercy is a Real Estate Advisor with Engel & Volkers Vancouver Island. She is a member of SPINCO Victoria and is looking forward to seeing if her hours on the spin bike translate well to the road bike in August.
Deadlines approach, no turning back now.
The last month has been interesting, not a recipe for event training but it is what it was.
One month to go:
After some extended rest periods, courtesy of Hannah, my physiotherapist, and some common sense, I got the green light to get back on my bike for some easy, “relaxed” rides. Along with my weekly physio session and daily stretching and exercise routines, I got in a couple of easy rides around North Vancouver and one Silver Wheels ride from Peace Portal around Birch Bay in Washington State. These were a bit longer than suggested but by the end of July my knee was feeling a bit better (not nearly up to snuff but …) with less stiffening and post-ride pain.
My original plan had included three rides per week with a couple of serious TaG endurance rides including West Vancouver to Squamish and from Sumas to the top of Mount Baker ski area which was also my test ride last year to check fitness and endurance in advance of the TdV.
But I had to cancel both events this year and so my training program was essentially going from 4 weeks off the bike, to a couple of 40-50 km rides to possibly a couple of 100 km rides – I don’t think that would be Ryder’s suggested training build-up but I think (hope) it will work for me – but then I’m not looking to set any records or tear up the TDV course, just survive and finish in a respectable time
However, my physio (she’s the boss) generously allowed me to try a week of 3-50 km rides (easy). To quote “you can probably do the 140 but might blow up your knee and put yourself back where we started a couple of months ago”. So, for the long weekend I ended up riding with Kim to UBC, followed up the next day with a Silver Wheels 60km ride from West Vancouver to Ioco via the Barnet Highway with some extended climbing, but not anywhere near my planned program distance.
A large group from TaG has been training for hilly riding every week in preparation for the TDV.
Two Weeks to go:
After the long weekend, my ride plan was to be a bit more consistent with a couple of relatively easy rides with the Silver Wheels and one more strenuous ride with TaG. I had planned to participate in the Glotman Simpson Cypress Challenge, a cancer fundraiser involving climbing to the top of Cypress Mountain ski area., but Hannah nixed that idea pretty fast when I described it.
One week to go:
My plan pretty well went out the window – more knee pain after riding on the long weekend so I’m heading to Victoria with much fewer kms in the bank than hoped for. Most of the Silver Wheels team will be arriving a couple of days before the TDV and as captain, I plan to lead them on an easy “leg loosener” ride on the Friday before the event. Probably 20 kms around Victoria. We have done this every year and I have found it is good to keep turning the legs over the day before a long event rather than resting up. Keeps reminding the body that there is work to be done.
I know I have the option to change my ride from the Harbour Air 140 km event to the TREK 100 km event or the Christie Phoenix 60 km event when I register, but since my knee has responded slowly to exercise and treatment, I plan to make the distance decision at the last minute (Hannah says 60 max!). Unfortunately, after a short, steep test ride around North Vancouver yesterday with Kim, including some climbs in the 15% range, my knee objected, so it might even be 0 kms for me this year – very disappointing but we’ll make the decision Friday.
Good luck to everyone riding in the Ryder Hesjedal Tour de Victoria this year – no matter the distance or pace or whatever your personal goals are. Keep safe and have fun – see you at the beer garden!
While Sandy’s been sidelined rehabbing his knee I’ve spent the last three weeks limiting myself to cycling with the more social Silver Wheelers. After starting our season last spring in fairly wet conditions it was nice to finally have mostly dry days but lately the heat has just gotten too much for me. On today’s ride we travelled just under 60 kms in the smoke-filled air from all the wild fires happening around us. Mind you I started off the morning quite tired after tackling some of North Vancouver’s hills yesterday, approximately 500 meters vertical, and found my throat and eyes were quite irritated from the poor air quality.
At this time, I’d like to thank the Tour de Victoria organizers for developing the Ride Training Programs. Although I haven’t followed it completely it was nice to see I had already incorporated most of their suggestions into my own plan. Both Sandy and I have been attending Pilates classes for a number of years and have found the core work to be very beneficial for our cycling.
I’d also like to thank the TaG Ride Club for offering their Sunday Club training rides and the cycling related seminars. Hopefully I’ll be well fuelled and hydrated on August 18th and if I get a flat during the event I might even be able to fix it on my own! Tonight, Leslie Thomlison hosted a Race/Ride/Event Strategy Seminar to help prep us for TdV. Although I’ve been diligently training and listening to the advice of more experienced riders I still have ‘butterflies in my tummy’ even though this will be my fifth year riding the TdV. Maybe it’s just excitement. See you on Saturday….
–Sandy and Kim Fleming will be blogging for the Tour de Victoria as they train for this August. Amazing advocates for the Tour de Victoria, they always bring a large group with them!