The day was scheduled to be a seven hour ride. That's it - only seven. It would be the longest ride since Ramrod last July which covered around 240km. Ian again wanted it to be done as thirty minutes hard, ten easy, repeat, repeat, repeat. Again it's not easy doing that distance too close to home, it's better to venture way far away so as not to be tempted to cut the ride short for any of the numerous excuses I'm capable of thinking up.
I hit the road at 5:15am, fifteen minutes later than desired. There were a few things that arose that prevented me from returning by noon to at least get a bit of family time in before my body shut down for the rest of the day. The temperature was already at 12 degrees. Nevertheless I left with my vest and arm warmers on. It's always a roll of the dice deciding on what to bring. If it's too cold and you're underdressed it's a long, long unpleasant day. Too many clothes and at least you can take them off but now your back pockets look like you're carrying an inflated fanny pack. I usually underdress and hope I and the temperature warm up throughout the day.
I headed out on sixteenth ave once again where I realized it's breaking through the barriers of the common riding grounds that is the hardest. Almost like trying to fly a spaceship out of a planet's gravity - the further out you go, the easier it is. I think it's because the terrain seems not so old and well-travelled. I broke through the barrier somewhere around Lefevre and 40th ave. I headed further east along this road to Sumas Mountain. I thought about it after every set of thirty minutes how it worked that every working set ended in a perfect spot to recover - usually at the top of a hill or a nice flat stretch where I could spin easy and not fight up a hill. Sumas was no exception. I got to the top of the back side and had my easy ten minutes over to the steep 13% downhill back towards Whatcom road where the work began again.
From here I ended up on Hwy. 11 which took me towards the Mission bridge into Mission, obviously. I've gone across this bridge numerous times and every time the scenario that runs through my head goes as such:
"Hello, Mission City Hall, how can I help you?"
"Yes, I am a cyclist that uses your bridge periodically and would like to complain about the condition of the pedestrian walkway on the side. It is completely unacceptable in terms of sand, rock and various road debris that litters the walkway and makes it terribly difficult to cross without serious damage to bike tires. I'd like it cleaned regularly in consideration for cyclists."
"Why, yes sir, we'll get right on it."
That's the censored edition. In my head I'm cursing a blue streak to the person on the phone and myself for going across this dog's breakfast yet again. The person on the other end usally hangs up half-way through my rant anyways.
Then, as my mind often does during long runs or rides, a sort of daydream plays out in my head. In this one I get a flat tire and from afar I see myself screaming in anger as I hurl the wrecked tube over the rail to the river below. Then I catch myself and do not actually throw it over as that would be bad for the fishes. Not ten seconds and two hundred feet from the end of the bridge I flat. It was nothing dramatic or ear-splitting. Just that "something's not right" feeling where you know you need to stop. Doing about 30km I braked slowly and got off to inspect the damage. This was the very first time I had flatted on this set of race wheels (the training wheels have a broken spoke, remember?) that I've owned for eight years. I was choked as these were good tires, too.
It was blatently obvious the cause of the blowout: a one inch screw was halfway into the tire. I unscrewed it and tossed that over the side in anger, thinking my tire was shot. I inspected the hole and it didn't look too bad. I grabbed a piece of plastic and tucked it in between the tire and new tube to make sure the tube didn't poke out the hole when inflated. Luckily the hole wasn't all that big and by unscrewing it I minimized the damage. After ten minutes the repair was done and I rode off leaving the dead tube hanging on the railing as a warning to other riders and the city workers to clean the $%#@ sidewalks!
Of course now I have only one tube left and I can only think that if the repair job doesn't hold or I get another random flat, that's when things will really get interesting. So what do I do to err on the side of caution? Maybe start riding towards home? No, I head even further away from home towards Hatzic. I like to imagine calling Carrie and trying to tell her where I am because she needs to come pick me up about an hour and a half drive from home. I got to Sylvester road and basically did the reverse of the Haney to Harrison route. It was a little tough picking out landmarks because at this section it was usually pretty dark and foggy and raining. Not the beautiful 27 degrees I was experiencing now. I went up the 2.3km 8% winding hill where I remember just following the van's taillights down becuase it was so foggy I couldn't even see the center line on the road. Good times.
Now I was in deep, dark, Mission and I thought about taking my tooth out just to fit in with the locals. Kidding to all the Missionites out there but I did catch banjo notes drifting to me on the wind at spots.
My second unscheduled stop occurred just east of the turnoff to the Justice Institute's fire training ground. I was coming up a hill and at the top was a runner going the other way. It was Barb Owen, someone I hadn't seen or really talked to much since my fundraiser dance last fall. We chatted for fifteen minutes wherein she regaled me with her plans for the future which included: the 24 hour relay for the kids, only doing it solo; the Marathon des Sables next year; the unofficial Badwater crossing next July; and some eighteen-day stage race across the whole of France. What is it people say about me again? Oh, yeah, they say I'M crazy. Think again.
I carried on to the Albion ferry for my third stop but the shortest of the three. We were going with the current so the trip was fast to Ft. Langley. At least any mechanicals would be easier to deal with on this side of the river in terms of calling for someone to pick me up. As I was going to be short of my seven hour ride time, I still couldn't head straight back home. I had to detour to 264th down to 0 ave to make up the time.
When I turn westbound on 0 I hit, of course, the headwind all the way home. It was easier doing the 30 hard/10 easy because it takes your mind off the crappy conditions and gets you home faster too. It was nice going past the beach and back up Marine Drive because I know I'm only fifteen minutes out. I got back with a ride time of, literally, 7 hours and 25 seconds, total distance 209km. Can't wait for the end of this week when I'm scheduled for another. This time Mt. Baker calls for me. I don't think I'll make it all the way up unless I want to log 8 hours and 250km. We'll see. I always forget about the headwind on the way home.
As a side note Ian doesn't think I should do the Scorched Sole 50km on June 7th OR the Bighorn 100 mile on June 20th and to rest the leg more. I think I'll skip the SS just because there is a Fun Fair at the kids' school and Hannah has softball that day. I may do a long trail run on my own sometime that weekend or head up to the North Shore for a Knee Knacker training run. I need to test myself somehow but I don't really need to travel three hours each way to do it. The Scorched Sole will have to wait until next year I suppose. Seeing as my flight, entry, and accommodation for Bighorn are arranged, I'm going to give it a shot. At the very least I will walk/run or pull out altogether. I think I'm smart enough to do that now. I think.