Bits and Pieces 200 and a perfect end to the 2013 season

Ride report by Kathy Brouse:

Warning: If you were unable to get out on your bike yesterday due to family commitments, work or sickness, reading this ride report will hurt.

Liz drove out from Auburn on Friday night to join us on the Bits and Pieces and what a great ride we all had- Brian, Liz, Jerzy, Stan, Bob M and newcomer David P. It was a beautiful fall day and the colours of the trees, while not quite at their peak, were gorgeous. As the name suggests, the Bits and Pieces is made up of bits from the best of a number of TO routes. Starting in Mississauga the route makes its way west to Bell School Line, north on 6th Line Nassagaweya, west to Georgetown and north to Holton’s Bakery in Erin at 80 km. The four of us in the group at that time stopped for delicious apple fritters and coffee before heading north and west across the Hillsborough Hills to Wellington 29, and looping south and east to the Trail Eatery in Campbellville. As our group of four headed out back to the start, Bob and Stan pulled in, David had dropped behind. The sky was blue, the weather was perfect and the last leg of the ride was fantastic. Brian lost his car key on route and phoned his wife to meet him at the truck with the extra set of keys. Shari was of course overjoyed to lend support and drive from Oshawa with the spare key and join us for dinner at Montana’s after the ride. The beer and wings was a perfect finish to a great day on the bike. The rest of the meal was a bit disappointing, but that’s another story. Picture a plate of nachos and cheese so rock hard and cold that a special drill is required to break up the pieces. At least Brian and Liz didn’t have to pay and Liz said she would pick up a Happier meal on the way home.

So that’s it folks. The official end of the 2013 Toronto chapter rides. It’s been a great season, I’ve had a blast; riding my favourite routes with good friends and finally completing a 1200 km brevet. I will miss my cycling buddies and hearing the crazy stories and adventures. Can’t wait to hear about Vaune’s adventure in California at Furnace Creek 580 next week, good luck Vaune, we’re rooting for ya, and Liz’s adventures on the Taste of Carolina 1200 in two weeks. Go girls go, you make us proud!! Try to make it out on a cold and snowy evening to the awards dinner in February because it is always great to reconnect and see everyone (looking so clean and fresh in their non-cycling gear!) Dream good dreams, make big plans, stay safe on the road and see you out in 2014!

Added comments from Liz Overduin:

You would never know that you were off the bike this season for 6 weeks with a broken arm Kathy – you looked great and rode strong! Congrats on an amazing season.
We did this ride in 9 hours and 45 minutes. That is considered a “sub-ten”, something I have never done. It is actually something I had hoped never to do. Kathy told me not to say that because it would confuse the Toronto Randonneurs. But for me, if you do a 200 in less than 10 hours, you have not stopped enough to have fun. However, it was a very fun ride, with the sights and smells of Fall as well as the camaraderie for those of us lucky enough to find time for yet one more 200 km brevet. Brian, a Champion of Granite Anvil, gave us some tips and a few secrets on how to get a good overall brevet time without a fast cycling speed average.
I was happy that we could go out together to eat afterwards – although it was a first for me to pick up one nacho chip and have the whole meal lift off the plate!
The Awards Dinner and Bike Show will be here in no time – until then, enjoy life in the Winter ways, watch movies, spend time catching up on all the things you put off so you could ride your bike.

Tour d’Essex 200

Ride report by Liz Overduin:

Just thought I would send out a ride report about the Huron Chapter’s most southern brevet and last brevet of the year. John Maccio did a great job of organizing the ride and getting word out to local Windsor cyclists and Detroit Randonneurs – thanks John. We had a total of 15 riders out to enjoy yet another gorgeous day after a soaker of a night (made for nicely washed roads). Although this route does not have the challenge of hills, it does have the reward of great scenery. We cycled along canals, marshes and the shores of Lake Erie, Lake St Clair as well as the Detroit River. Thanks to local riders, those of us not familiar with the area were given a bit of the history as well as explanations of the sights along the way. Our group of 15 also enjoyed a great lunch with some beverages in Kingsville, and one very patient waitress. With one more unscheduled stop for a Gelato just 15 km from the end, we all agreed it was a great ride. Not wanting our time together to be over, we drove to a great restaurant which John recommended (Armandos – Italian of course!) where some of the spouses joined us and we had dinner outside as the sun went down. During dinner, the two cyclists from Detroit, Makoto Miwa and Dennis vanStee, also wanted to thank the Ontario Randonneurs because last year John Maccio had told them about this ride in Windsor and they were inspired to start their own club – The Detroit Randonneurs. Their club is growing they have some great rides which they would love to have us come and ride.

As well, it was very exciting for me was to have my nephew, Eric, join us for his first ever brevet ride, and his first ride over 100 km. He did great, even hanging on for the final 2 km sprint to the finish at over 40 km/hr – as all of us more seasoned Randonneurs watched them pull away ahead of us. And, get this…… Eric’s wife and 5 children were waiting for him at the finish, with cards they had made, and even a necklace saying “I rode 200 km”! A cyclist who enjoys long distance rides, and a supportive spouse and family – now that’s a positive combination!

Thanks for a great season, and here’s looking forward to 2014!!

Big Chute 200 a wet and wonderful day

Ride report by Kathy Brouse:

You may have looked out your window yesterday and seen all that rain and thought to yourself, “I really dodged a bullet not going to Big Chute 200” but for those 5 intrepid souls that rode the Big Chute 200 out of Barrie to Honey Harbour, to Coldwater and back to Barrie, that was not the case. Well, I can only speak for 3 intrepid souls because Henk and Fred were on a mission and rode the route much faster than Arthur, Stan and myself. We had a great day: great scenery, interesting adventures and great camaraderie, what more could you ask for?! We had to carry our bikes and step gingerly over a tricky road closure on Upper Big Chute road, slipping and sliding on the wet wooden planks and yes it did rain all the way to Honey Harbour, but it was not cold and the rain did not interfere with the enjoyment of the ride. Warmed ourselves with delicious grilled cheese sandwiches and coffee at the General Store CafĂ© in Honey Harbour and then back on the bikes for the 40 km stretch to the Big Chute, which is undoubtedly one of the prettiest stretches of road on any of our routes as it winds through rocky landscapes, inland lakes, cottage country. And, it did not rain for this stretch of the ride, well, only a little. The temperature dropped after Coldwater and it did get a bit cold on the bike, but eventually the rain stopped and the last 40 km into Barrie was dry and the countryside sublime. We did get the shakes and the shivers at the end when we stopped generating heat on the bike, but the pumpkin soup and crab cakes at the Crabshack in Barrie made it a great end to an adventurous day. And, this will make our Huron chapter cousins smirk, we had virgin ceasars at the Crabshack and they were delicious!! If you have not done the Big Chute 200 yet, you must come out with us next year and enjoy the falling leaves and all the beautiful fall colours.

Added comments from Liz Overduin:

Ahhh, yes, Kathy, virgin Caesars is a start – I love it! We will have you Cheering with a beer yet!

I also agree that the Big Chute brevet is gorgeous, even in the rain with the leaves all shiny and bright and inhaling the smell of damp leaves. It should be a mandatory ride for every Randonneur, actually for anyone who cycles.

Granite Anvil 1200 Brevet…another perspective

Ride report from Bob Koen aka BC Bob:

Day 1

The Granite Anvil 1200 km brevet is all about exploring rural Ontario. It starts on the eastern outskirts of the big cities and manages to circle all the way around the Toronto area without ever getting into any densely populated areas. All of the first afternoon is spent riding through the farming country in the western part of southern Ontario. This area represents what I used to think most of Ontario looked like. Huge expanses of corn fields and not much else. Flat as a pancake. Except that the flatness is deceptive, it isn’t really flat in the area that we rode through. There were lots of shallow rollers that gradually gained altitude. By my altimeter the high point of the ride was in a corn field north of Grand Valley. In the evening we did a long descent out of the corn into the Beaver Valley and then a long climb out of there and got a fine view of Georgian Bay before we descended past the Blue Mountain ski area. Then we went through Wasaga Beach and finished the day at Midland

The day started well enough for me. After the usual sprint start (that I no longer even bother to attempt to hang onto) I settled in with a group that was going at a brisk but manageable pace. I didn’t know any of the riders in the group at this point. The organizers had us put frame plates on our bikes which had our names on them. What a great idea! I was just getting to know the names of some of the people when I had to drop out for a second to check a strange noise coming from my bike. It turned out to be a failed rear tire. The tread had separated from the sidewall in one area and there was a bulge where the tube was trying to poke through the casing. I put on my spare tire and continued on but now I was last on the road. I caught a few stragglers over the next couple of hours to the first control, but none of these were travelling at a compatible pace so I soldiered on alone. The group that I had cycled with earlier was already gone by the time that I got into the control, so I had a quick bite and headed out. Soon I had some company in the person of Peter from England. We had a good chat over the next couple of hours but he would neither pull nor draft, so sharing the workload wasn’t going to work in this case. By now the forecast winds had sprung up and we were struggling into a stiff headwind all afternoon. I learned later that the winds had gusted to 40 km/hr and discovered that corn fields even at maximum height in late August do not make a good wind break. Fortunately for me I have aero bars on my bike and was able to make good use of them. Peter did not have aero bars and struggled mightily to stay with me. Drafting would have been a good idea for him and I wouldn’t have minded doing all the pulling. He eventually dropped off the back and looked like a hurting unit when I last saw him.

I finally caught up with the group at the second control after chasing for 200 km through the brutal headwind. I had been quite worried before the ride that my fitness wasn’t up to the task of a 1200 due to not enough riding in the previous months. My confidence improved a lot after my performance that afternoon.

We all left the second control together and spent the rest of the evening riding through the ski area country and then through the resort beaches area and arrived at the overnight control in Midland at about 11:30 pm. This stage was 398 km and gained about 2800 meters of elevation. The control was in a motel. There was dinner and breakfast food laid out by the volunteers. Due to some scheduling quirk I ended up with a room with two queen beds all to myself and slept very well.

Many randonneurs think that the success of an ultra brevet is measured by your finishing time. The fewer hours you spend out there, the better you are as a rider. Not me. I measure success by how many hours of sleep I get while still finishing within the 90 hour limit. This night I was able to get 3 1/2 hours of sleep. 4 1/2 would have been possible while still leaving an hour of margin before the control closed. But the organizers had recommended 2 hours of margin and the consensus of the group was to go with that. After chasing for most of the day on the first day I was quite happy to forgo the extra hour of sleep in order to have some companions for the next day.

Day 2

We left Midland at 4:15 am and rolled along through the early morning to a staffed control at Big Chute. Hot coffee, hot soup, and hot chocolate got us moving along nicely through the awakening day to the next control at Houseys Rapids. Here there was a ‘restaurant’ serving breakfast. It was quite an experience. It looked like neither the restaurant nor the restrooms had seen a health inspector in this millennium. But the food, when it finally arrived, was good. After that a long stretch of reasonable road on ON-118 allowed the pace to accelerate and spelled the demise of the 8 person group. Liz and Cincinnati Jim (I think) disappeared off the front and were not seen again until the following day. Marti, Fixie Dave, Florida Don, and Rich all fell back a bit and I ended up riding much of the rest of the ride with Kathy Brouse of the Ontario Randonneurs. We regrouped later for dinner in Haliburton before tackling one of the more memorable climbs of the ride. The route sheet made mention of the steep descent off the other side and the organizers had arranged for volunteers to be on hand at the top to warn riders to take it slow. The descent wasn’t too bad though; it was the cliff that we had to ride up to get to the descent that I remember most.

It got dark at about that point and so we rode on through Wilberforce (my favourite place name of the ride) and on into Bancroft under a nearly full moon. It was magic. We arrived at about 10:30 and had a nice meal before turning in for a glorious 4 1/2 hours of sleep. Or so I thought. While having some dinner at the control before turning in Florida Don and Fixie Dave arrived and Don immediately asked Vaune, the control captain “where am I”. This sent Vaune into spasms of hysteria. Don wasn’t close to being out of it, although it may have seemed that way to Vaune. It’s just that northern Ontario is a long way from Miami Beach both in a geographical sense and in a perceptual sense. Don was clearly stoked to be there.

My 4 1/2 hours of sleep turned into 4 1/2 hours of wakeful rest. I wound up with a cot while my room-mate slept in a comfortable bed and snored like a chain saw. Such are the joys of randonneuring.

Day 3

Kathy and I left Bancroft at about 4:30 am and rode out of town to the north, the way we had come in. We soon encountered the last poor soul still going the other way toward Bancroft. We felt awfully sorry for him as he was looking at maybe 1 hour of time in Bancroft before the control closed and he had to be on his way again into what was promised to be the hardest day of the ride. We later learned that not only did he make it out of Bancroft but he finished the ride as well. Chapeau to him.

It was extremely cold for August. I registered 3 degrees, Kathy’s thermometer registered only 1 degree. The saving grace was the series of very steep hills that we encountered in this stretch. Going up was a lot more pleasant than going down. Eventually the day lightened enough to see the surrounding terrain from the hill tops. There was fog in the low lying areas and hills poking out all around. Very beautiful. Then we rode up the aptly named Siberia road where we encountered a few climbs which culminated in one 100 meter ascent with a 19 percent grade. I had heard that the toughest climb of the whole ride was just before Barry’s Bay, which was the next control but still 30 km away. I was really worried that if the climbs were already this extreme and the hardest one is still 30 km away, then what are we in for? It turned out that this was the hardest climb and things got a bit more moderate on the way into Barry’s Bay. There was an excellent country restaurant there that was doing a great business among the randonneur community. This place was organized in a way that the ‘restaurant’ in Housey’s Rapids never will be, and we all got fed up right quick.

After breakfast we stopped by the control which was at the local community centre. A couple of the local politicians were out there welcoming us to their humble community and handing out pins and such, and claiming that it usually wasn’t this cold in August. Never trust a politician. Back on Siberia road I was noticing a certain plant growing beside the road that I had only ever seen before in the Yukon.

The rest of the day featured several more noteworthy climbs, never all that long but always plenty steep. Then there was the 31 km of loose gravel on Buckshot Lake road. Buckshot became a swear word after that. I think that this was the low point of the ride for myself, and for Kathy, and for several others also. The road had been torn up in preparation for a tar and gravel or chip seal type of surface, except that the tar hadn’t been added yet. What was left was loose gravel that was more tiring to ride than the steep hills that we were now leaving behind.

A couple of more controls passed by, including a lovely stop at the beach by Sharbot Lake. Then it was on into the gathering darkness on mostly level and nicely surfaced roads for the final 80 km to the final overnight stop at Napanee, where we arrived at 11:30 pm. Once again we could afford 4 1/2 hours of sleep and made good use of the time.

Day 4

We left the control at 5 am and immediately went to a restaurant about 3 blocks away where we whiled away another 45 minutes having a nice breakfast. We were on familiar terrain now and knew that the ride was in the bag (barring any substantial bad luck) and that we could take it easy. Liz and Rich had caught up to us at Sharbot Lake the previous evening and so we were now 4 for the remainder of the ride. There was a beautiful foggy crossing on a wide bridge leading over to the peninsula that comprised Prince Edward County just as the sun was rising. Another magic moment.

We rolled on through Prince Edward county as the morning progressed. By early afternoon we left the flatlands behind and entered into the Bewdley hills. The Ontario people knew all about this area; and I had encountered it on the 2009 Granite Anvil. It’s a real kick in the ass right at the end, just to remind the riders that it ain’t over till it’s over. And this ride is much like PBP where there is quite a bit of bonus distance to cover after the 1200 km mark. Unlike PBP though, the Granite Anvil gives you bonus hills as well as bonus distance.

We finished at 6:08 pm for a ride time of 86:08 over a distance of 1223 km with 10,100 meters of climbing (about 33,000 feet). Each of the first 3 days had about 2800 meters of climbing while the last day had about 1700. But the majority of that 1700 meters happened in the last 100 km.

Conclusion

This edition of the Granite Anvil 1200 km brevet was a truly wonderful ride. The organization was superb and the volunteers really worked hard to make sure that the riders were well taken care of. The whole thing went off without a hitch, from my perspective. I’m sure that from the volunteers and organizers perspective there was a lot of scrambling and just plain hard work to make my experience so great.

Hats off to Dave Thompson, Dick Felton, Peter Grant and the rest of the organizers and volunteers for putting on such a first class event.

Route sheet

I want to make special mention of the route sheet. This was the brain child of Peter Grant and was really a work of art. It was so accurate as to be almost bizarre. At around the 990 km mark my Garmin odometer disagreed with the route sheet by .08 of a kilometre. I was never out by more than a kilometre over the whole ride. Peter explained that the way it was done was to pre-ride the route using a Garmin and then extract the turn by turn information from the Garmin and use that to create the route sheet. This guarantees that the distances to each turn are accurate, but with one caveat. It’s only that accurate for riders using a Garmin. I have both a Garmin and a regular cycle computer and the two never agree. The Garmin always gains about 1 1/2 km per 100 km over my carefully calibrated regular cycle computer. I am very impressed however with the repeatability of the Garmin devices. The other nice thing about the Garmin is that it did not reset itself at 20 or 24 hours of riding as most regular cycle computers will do.