I hope I am up for this challenge

Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour Challenge Roue: Me in 2004, in Kingston
Me in Kingston, 2004. Half way through the RLCT. I don’t think we even knew they were called ‘selfies’ then

About 12 years ago, just a few years after I had discovered how much I liked riding bikes, I decided to ride the Challenge route of the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour. At the time I wanted to test my limits. After limping back to Ottawa, clinging to the wheel of a kind, stronger rider I decided I’d never do it again.

I’m riding it on Saturday. I re-read what I wrote about that dire journey the other day and noted with interest that an awful lot has changed. These changes give me hope that despite my advancing years I’ll be up for this challenge.

What’s changed?

I’m fitter.

In 2004 I started off pretty pleased with myself for having ridden close to 1000km, the Ottawa Bicycle Club’s official minimum training recommendation for riding Rideau Lakes. So far this year I’ve put in 6200km of riding, including on a stationary trainer in winter. Back then I weighed around 80kg. These days I’m around 66kg. Weight isn’t an indication of fitness, necessarily, but it does mean your legs are pushing around less non-contributing flesh.

I’ve got better intel

I actually know what my resting and maximum heart rates are. And how much power I can put out before I start to fatigue and for how long. And how fast my pedals are spinning. How fast I’m going. How much time and how far to the next turn. An estimated time of arrival.

In 2004 my Cat Eye ‘bike computer’ told me how long it had been since I’d hit the start button and how far I’d come (based on what I’d told it about my wheel size and tire width). And that was about it.

I’m better trained

I have a much better idea about how to prepare to ride long distances. In 2004 I thought being “much more religious” about training meant getting out twice a week for “increasingly long rides”. If it wasn’t proof positive of my former idiocy I would laugh uproariously. As Joe Friel says, if all you do is go out and ride longer, you’re going to spend a lot of time on the bike and have a pretty tough time of it.

For the last two years I’ve been building my strength and aerobic endurance riding more frequently than twice weekly (usually four or five times weekly) but most of my rides have been shorter, more intense efforts. And it’s paid off. My power curve has moved up nicely. Although I’m no sprinter. My FTP has gone from 262 watts to 289 watts.

My bike weighs less.

7.6kg versus 10.2kg for the bike I was riding back then. And I know enough to know that’s not all that relevant. Aero is better. My bike is not Aero. But I’m not prepared to do anything about it.

I have a GPS

My 2014 post refers a lot to stopping to look at the map or stopping to wait for someone to show me the way. It’s not something I have do anymore. My head unit does occasionally have a brain fart. But it has a map built into it and even if the routing fails, for some reason the route cues always tell the story.

Does this mean all the challenge has gone out of The Challenge?

It is 200+ km in the saddle one day and then same again the next. So quantitatively it’s about the same as it ever was. You still do the sweeping hills into Kingston and the rollers through Lanark and Maberly.

But maybe there’s less drama? I missed the turn off to Appleton Sideroad the first time I did this ride. It seems incredible now. But nonetheless, the psychological impact of five extra kilometres was hard to overcome at the time, I recall.

GPS or no, I think I can rest assured I can spot Appleton Sideroad and get back to Ottawa from Almonte.

I was tired, hot and possibly underfed. So I stopped and had an Ice Cappucino from Tim Hortons. Yes, they had those back then. They were new and shiny. And stupid bike food. I have an actual plan for food this time.

The drama — I hope anyway — for me will be the time. I wasn’t very clear about how long it took last time. 7:23 moving time. 8:45 door to door I think. Based on how I’ve been riding of late, Ride with GPS thinks I can do it in 6:30.