Thursday, 30 July 2015

Ottawa Gran Fondo 2015 Part One: Prologue

I had always enjoyed reading about large organized rides.  I really wanted to try it out and get a feel for the experience.  The Gran Fondo seemed like a good place to start; it was a long distance ride with lots of support.  Aid stations with food and water, roving support and repair units and lots of fellow cyclists to enjoy the ride with.

With choices of 65, 100, 180 and 235 kilometers, I went with the 180km route.  I figured this was a distance I could handle but later noticed the elevation... 990 meters of climbing!  As a heavy clydesdale I was always at my weakest when climbing elevation.

My training took three forms; distance and climbing.  For distance, I began to ride more and more with local cyclists, my every day riding increased in distance and duration.  I also tried to have one long distance ride per week.  Climbing consisted of finding hills and climbing them; eventually I headed out on trips to places like Gatineau Park.  Both distance and climbing taught me a lot about myself, what I could handle and how to pace myself appropriately.

The night before the Gran Fondo I went in to pick up my bag of goodies and my bib shorts.  Now, in European sizes I have to go up a size, and race cut usually means going up a size or two, so I had originally ordered the shorts in 4XL.  When they handed me my shorts, they gave me a 3XL.  I was informed there were no 4XL's and they could get them for me after the Fondo.  Disappointed, I tried the 3XL on... and it fit great!  I guess all the training paid off and had slimmed me down a bit.

The timing setup for this year's Gran Fondo was kind of interesting.  There was an electronic strip embedded in a sticker that would hang from the seat post, which would be read by sensors along the way.  This is how they measured time for the 4 timed sections of the ride as well as the entire ride itself.

The Gran Fondo also held a Nutritional Seminar.  I'm very glad I went to it!  Not only did I get a few extra samples because few people attended, I found I was making some severe mistakes in regards to my nutrition on the bike.  To date I usually just packed water and Clif bars.  After a ride I would always come back bloated and would have endurance issues with anything above 100 km.  In the seminar they explained to avoid anything with protein and fat, since it just made digestion more difficult.  When you are riding endurance you are simply burning carbs, so stick to food and drink high on the glycemic index.  I was also neglecting electrolytes.  So I planned to switch to just gels and sports drink for this ride.

In preparation of the ride, the bike I selected was my Valence.  It was a road endurance bike that was literally designed to ride Gran Fondo distances comfortably.  With tires at a 25mm width and a carbon fiber fork and seat post, it would give me plenty of comfort on an aluminum bike.  I added some Profile Design water bottle holders to the seat post which would also give me a total of 4 bottles.

Since I have more than a passing relationship with Bad Luck, I also over-packed a bit.  Three tubes along with four CO2 canisters (the new bottle holders had 4 CO2 holders).  I packed my usual emergency kit of a multitool (with chain braker), tire levers patch kit and tape (duct and vinyl pieces rolled onto a light piece of plastic).  To make sure my phone had enough juice I brought a few USB batteries along with a cable.  I packed my smaller saddle bag as it was the only one that fit with my new rear bottle holders.  Anything that didn't fit in there got stuffed into my front bag.  I also planned to bring my foldable goggles and first aid kit, but opted to leave them behind at the last second.  I did pack some sports drink powder and a scoop in case an aid station had no sports drink.
Gels and carb pre-loaders packed for the Gran Fondo.

As I mentioned earlier, I packed enough gels to last me for eight hours, just in case.  I half-filled all my bottles with Gatorade and left them in the freezer overnight; in the morning I topped them up with more cold sports drink.

My final preparations were simple but some of the most important.  A big pasta supper and a good night's sleep!

Continued in Part Two: The Ride.

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