A few years ago, I found out about an event called the Ride2Survive. I was just beginning to get “fit”, and was looking for new challenges to motivate me. This event was a 400 km charity ride starting at 3:30 a.m. in Kelowna and ending 17–19 hours later in Delta.
I had to do this. I wasn’t really sure when, though, as it would take a huge number of hours dedicated to spending time just being on the bike. I was aware I wouldn’t have to be fast, as the ride goes only as fast as the slowest rider in a group.
I finally chose the Ride2Survive to be my “A” race (or event) for 2016, as this was the year I would only be cycling. After doing a couple of longish randonneurs (a 200 km and a 300 km), and many 100 km days riding to work and back, I knew I was ready for the challenge on June 18.
The minimum required fundraising was $2,500, which was fairly easy to attain by harassing my friends, family, and co-workers. All of the donation money goes to cancer research; your event entry fee pays for the event; and sponsors pay for everything else, including the tens of thousands of dollars of food. Due to my “laziness” I still had to pony up $350 in the end to hit the quota, but that was not a big deal, as I like to donate to some charity each year regardless.
My wife and family drove me to Kelowna on the day before the event and we checked into the hotel room. A mandatory rider meeting turned out to be very emotional. One of the police officers who was escorting us was First Nations, and he had a “talking stick” made for the event.
The talking stick went around the room, with riders and crew talking about why they were doing the event. “My father and mother died of cancer”; “My sister is in remission right now”; “I survived prostate cancer”; etc., etc. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. There was some talk about safety concerns, how to ride in a group, etc., and then we went to have our free meal for entering the event.
My wife and kids used the free pass to go to the H20 waterpark and let dad get a bit of sleep. I was pretty anxious and still emotional from the meeting, so I might have slept for 10 minutes. I had to wake up at 2 a.m. to have breakfast and get dressed, to be ready for the 3:30 start. I think I got about two hours’ sleep in total. Sleep is overrated anyway.
With police car escorts, and sag (support) and food wagons behind us, we took off. It was a pretty big deal: lots of people were lined up at the beginning, cheering us on and seeing us off. The group was split into three colours—red, green, and blue—with about 40 in each group. Everyone has a number, which you put on everything you own: bike, helmet, water bottles, spare wheels, you name it, so it won’t get lost.
Each group took turns at the front, as being in the back sucks (royally). The level of expertise in the group shows more at the back, because the “slinky” effect of accelerating and braking is worst there. On a group ride for 20 kms it wouldn’t be bad, but for hundreds of kilometres you would probably kill yourself, or someone else, before long. Being at the front was okay, or at least tolerable. A friend explained to me that the event was not a race, and I was aware of it. My average heart rate for the whole trip was 93 beats per minute, and I never found it hard physically. I was well prepared.
Every 1.5 hours or so there was a food stop. Each rider had a numbered bag, with the bags laid out in numerical order, so if you needed more or less clothes, a chamois, cream, etc., this was when you used it. Some smart people had portable chargers, and they would charge their GPS at the stops, as most GPS units will die during this long a ride (like mine did; I only got 360 or so kilometres before it died).
The professionalism of the people running the food stops was something out of the military, although with a fun background. People would be singing and dancing to the music playing in the background, while crew would go up to your bike and fill your bottles without even asking. I finally got rid of one bottle, as I didn’t need the extra weight of two full bottles all the time.
A lead vehicle had a woman with a PA system, and she played music and kept talking to us to keep us motivated. This was awesome, although I usually couldn’t hear most of what she was saying. This vehicle also regulated the pace of the group, as gaps would form and she would slow the front down, as well as keep us from going too fast down hills.
Rain was forecast, and hit the riders as they began the downhill stretch to Hope.
After the second stop we got to climb the Pennask Summit, and while many were dreading it, I was looking forward to it, like a kid waiting for Christmas. It’s been on my bucket list for a long time. A 1,200 m climb in 27 km: who wouldn’t want to do that!!?? This was when you easily saw who had prepared adequately for the event and who hadn’t. After only about 40 or 50 kms, there were people dropping out and hopping in the sag wagons. Many needed pushes up the hill, which was pretty cool. Each group had captains with radios, and the captains—who were very experienced cyclists and veterans of Ride2Survive—would push these people up the hill while riding, and sometimes make the inevitable decision to make them take the sag wagon. It would be a tough call, but you can’t stop 120 cyclists while you shake out a cramp or something. The show goes on.
The sag wagons picked up people who were physically or emotionally incapable of continuing. Some succumbed to the hills, and at least one succumbed to emotion, as her father had just died of cancer. The sag wagons would either carry them all the way back, or they would just sit out one leg and join the group at the next stop.
The weather was cool, and rain was forecast. It was inevitable somewhere along the route, and we hit it just after the old toll booth location on the Coquihalla, about halfway through the ride; so we basically rode 200 km in the rain. This was terrible, coming down Coquihalla pass, as you couldn’t pedal to warm up, and it was braking the whole way down to keep the speed of the group somewhat safe. I don’t think we ever went above 50 km/h for 50 kilometres. The cold got into your bones and muscles, but we finally hit a little uphill on the road near Hope, and warmed up just enough to take the chill off.
One fellow had the cold get the best of him, and he crashed bad. I never heard how he made out, but he was taken instantly to the hospital by the police and ambulance people who were with us. A few of us who saw the accident went to stop to help him (foolishly), but we were quickly ushered on, as there were professionals to take care of that.
To be continued