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The Training and the Tour

By smithdm3 - Posted on 14 June 2011

It was a long spring of riding this 2011 for Meg and I. We had decided to embark on something that is most certainly the longest endurance event either of us had ever taken part in. Earlier in the year, after some discussion with friends, we signed up to take part in the Rideau Lakes Cycling Tour. Much to our luck, 4 of our friends (Steve, Deanna, Kevin, and Grant) went along with the plan and so we were now part of a group of six who would cycle through the Rideau Lakes region from Ottawa to Kingston on a Saturday and then turn around and come back the next day.

Meg and I took a spinning class over the winter (Meg took spinning the previous winter as well) both to keep fit and build up our legs for a season of road biking again this year. That worked quite well, but they say that in preparation for the tour that you should put in at least 1000km in the saddle beforehand in order to ensure your butt is ready for the saddle. Kingston, you see, is about 180km from Ottawa, and that means a lot of time in the seat on back to back days.

Meg put together a great schedule for us and we were pretty good at sticking to it. We slowly progressed our long rides outside from 60km on a blustery but sunny day the first week of April until our longest ride of 140km a few weeks back which saw us ride to Kemptville where we stopped for lunch before making out way back. In the process I put in around 1300km and Meg was pretty much the same, even with a three week trip to Africa throwing a wrench in her plans.

I would say that we were apprehensive, even with all those kilometers under our belts about how the tour would be. We hadn't spend a lot of time riding with anyone but each other and as a result didn't know what sort of a boost we'd get from riding in a pack or how we'd do at being able to keep up with the pace of our fellow riders. They are all good friends of ours and 3 of them had done the ride in the past so we knew they would do their best to help out when necessary.

Our group chose to do the "unsupported" Cruise route that the tour offers. This is a route with a capped number of riders that follows a more southerly path then the "Classic" route. In addition, while there are some 'organized' stops there isn't any real support. The organized stops are typically a sign where there is a washroom/porta-potty available, water and possibly food for sale.

We set off for our ride on the Saturday morning driving the short distance from our house to Carleton. We decided we'd pack our gear into one suitcase and also that we'd rather have the car available to drive home after the long trip home on Sunday. We were a bit late in getting away but met up with the rest of the crew, checked in, dropped our bags and were off. The ride to Kingston was a lot of fun. We had a wind at our back most of the way and we were all in good spirits. We all seemed to be fairly full of energy and ate up the distance without any real problems. The first part of the trip was familiar as we headed to Kemptville, and the first 140km or so are fairly flat and enjoyable. The scenery was great, as was the company we kept. We did a great job on pace with an average speed of 26.6km/r I think (my Runkeeper data is a little off as I forgot to pause when we arrived in Toledo) and total travel time of 6hrs 40min if I recall correctly. We had lunch at a church hall in Toledo where they were serving up some sandwiches and baked goods (I had a great grilled cheese sandwich - sometimes simple things are so awesome).

The last 30km or so into Kingston are pretty hilly as they run through cottage country on what becomes Battersea or Montreal road. By this time I was getting tired, and I'm sure Meg and others were too. But we all pushed on and finished strong. Getting to Kingston was a pleasure and we checked in, showered, relaxed for a few minutes and then hit the dinner pretty much as it opened at 5pm. While we were at dinner it started to rain pretty hard and no doubt some cyclists got caught up in it a bit which is too bad as the weather was pretty good the whole day.

I was a little surprised at how much I ate, but boy was I hungry. There was a wide array of food: roast beef, potatoes, carrots, corn, pasta with meat or veggie sauce, a salad bar, fruit, squares, ice cream and, ice tea, chocolate milk. After dinner the six of us sat around and had a few beers enjoying the company we kept and tales of the day and of the past. Then it was off to bed in preparation for the return leg.

We were all up early the next day, meeting for breakfast bright and early at 6:30. We were treated to eggs (blech), sausage, home fries, fruit, pastries and waffles for breakfast. After breakfast, final preparations were made and we were off and on our way back to Ottawa. The weather promised to be nice again this day and, though there were a few very light showers as we departed Kingston, the wind was at our back most of the way home again (what luck!).

We made our way through the hills which seemed a little tougher early in the morning and again enjoyed the ride. We made a slight navigational error, but continued on at the same pace as the day before. We passed through Battersea, Elgin, Jasper, Toledo and had some lunch in Merrickville at a chip truck Steve was looking forward to. Getting back on the bikes can be tough, especially when you know there isn't much further to go and so we all hopped on and started the last 70km home. We made some brief stops on the way as we had our (miraculously) only problems of the ride - Kev's water bottle popped out twice due to bumpy pavement and Steve's chain bounced off due to the same.

We skirted Kemptville, made it through Kars and Manotick before riding through Riverside South and back into the city. The ride down Riverside and Colonel By went by nice and quick and finally we were back. Due to our misnavigation and an idle attempt to follow the "official" route back we put on 189km on the way home but still managed the same average as the day before. 7 hours and 20 minutes later we were back in Ottawa and were clapped in as we arrived at Carleton.

We all checked in, took a final group photo and made our ways home to shower and enjoy a well earned (and much discussed on the ride back) set of takeout meals.

All in all it was a great experience and one that I'd certainly think about repeating again. Thanks again to our great companions Kev, Steve, Grant and Deanna. Meg and I enjoyed the trip and would do it with you guys again. :)

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