Out onto my 2nd floor Plateau doorstep, down the windy stairs, and 94km across the island of Montreal to Ste Anne’s de Bellevue. I decided to do this training ride somewhat whimsically to “see what a hundred feels like”, after sleeping off yesterday’s rugby induced heat-stroke, and waking at 2pm from a deep sleep.
Biking is problematic, because you never know where to focus your attention. Everything around you demands it. First, you must listen to the faint cry of your leg muscles, in order to make sure it doesn’t crescendo into a dull, paralyzing roar. You also have to be constantly gearing up and down as the slope changes. Breathing also requires tremendous concentration. Visually, you have to keep your eye out for rapidly approaching dangers, mainly pernicious potholes, mindless meanderers, and women wobbling along on bicycles. You also have to take in the sights, especially along the stunning “Bord-Au-Lac” ride in Montreal, with the wide St-Laurent frothing by, and every girl with a pair of roller blades teetering coquettishly alongside you.
Despite the distractions, I arrived at an important revelatio: a name for my new Cannondale bike. While admiring it’s patriotic “Made in USA” paint job with fellow Wanderer Blake Butler, he suggested I call it “Springsteen.” I tweaked the moniker so as to fit with my knightly theme, and not to let Blake get all the credit for naming my bike, to “Springsteed.” Or Bruce for short.
I made it out in good time, to offer a little moral support to some fellow Montreal Wanderer friends in the Quebec rugby team line-up, against the Newfoundland “Rock”. Turns out my beaming, insouciant smile wasn’t enough to swing the game in Quebec’s favor. While the Quebec “Voyageurs” still have a long way to go (har har har) before they can compete with the likes of the Rock, they managed some decent stretches of offensive flair and defensive tenacity.
After proposing to several friends, and strangers, with vehicles to drive me back downtown, pride got the best of me and I decided to finish what I’d started. The 45 km return ride taught me an important lesson for my upcoming tour. There are a million obstacles on a long bike ride, and they all fall into a single, damning category: reasons to stop. I got hungry, and stopped for trail mix. I got dehydrated and stopped for Powerade. The Powerade was too salty, so I stopped for water. And then, like a child in a snowsuit, I had to stop several times to let off the excess fluid. By that point I had grown suspicious that my logical side was trying to sabotage my homeward flight. So I started trying to meet my basic needs without coming to a full stop. Urinating was hard, but manageable.
Interestingly, while my return ride was markedly slower, it was also peppered with regular, valiant sprints. The growing ache in my backside led encouraged me to stand up for long periods of time. And once you are standing on a speedy bike, its hard not to keep givin’ er. Whatever the reason, it was nice to see the legs still grinding away at top speed after 80 or so kilometers. I slowed up dramatically as I reached the old port, and rolled right into the “Five Guys” burger joint for burger, fries, an a shake of proportions equally epic to the length of my ride.
So how realistic is 120km a day in the Gaspésie? I’m still not sure. Today’s ride was not at all hilly. The Bord-du-Lac trail in Montreal undulates only slightly, and I wasn’t carrying a lot of gear. But I rocked the first 45km in around 1h40, so if I can manage 6 hours a day on the bike, I don’t see why 150km wouldn’t be possible. On verra.
Here is the route from today: http://goo.gl/maps/p4AL
Touring question of the day: anyone have tips on the necessity of padded cycling shorts?