Markham – Lindsay 300 km Brevet

People have been so great about sending ride reports, we have three for this ride! Interesting to get different perspectives on the same ride. Thank you to Stephen, Peter and Alex for contributing!

Ride Report from Stephen Jones:

With a forecast calling for rain all day, seven brave souls started off on the Markham-Lindsay 300. The group included a few experienced riders, like William and Stan, but four of the riders were newcomers to our particular brand of insanity. Peter P, Hannes, Andrew, and Alex were all attempting to complete their first 300.

We started out heading up Ninth Line from Markham. The rise between Major Mackenzie and Elgin Mills often splits the group, but I was pleased to see the new guys gamely hanging on. Stan, riding with his head rather than his heart, dropped off the back to ride his own ride. Ninth Line is in horrible condition and gets busier every year. Fortunately, we were early enough to not have much traffic to deal with. There are signs that the road will be improved over the next few years, but it’s a slow process.

The group stayed together through Stouffville and Web road, but the rollers on 2nd Concession proved too much, and we got our second split, with William, Peter and me in the lead group. The wind was developing out of the south-west, which gave us a nice tailwind and a sense of déjà vu as we backtracked large portions of last weekend’s Markham-Woodville ride. We managed to get to the first control before the store was open for business. So, we recorded our times and then headed off to Little Britain and the promise of butter tarts at the bakery.

Lindsay’s Tim Horton’s was very busy, so we didn’t buy anything. There was even a line for the washroom, which we gave up on. We got a bystander to fill in our cards for us and found a convenience store on the way out of town to top up fluids and food for the stretch to Millbrook. As we turned south, the winds started to work against us, and the long rollers started to take their toll on Peter, who is now looking into switching to a more reasonable gearing setup. He was riding a 53/39 crank with a 12-25 cassette, compared to my 50/34 with an 11-28. Having to push the bigger gearing on his bike made the ride just that much more difficult.

Lunch was a quick bite at Subway. It’s not fine dining, but the washroom was clean, and you can fill your water bottles for free from the soda fountain. I was looking forward to doing CR10 south from Millbrook. Typically I find myself riding this road the other way, and my legs remember a fair amount of climbing when going north. Turns out there is some climbing going south as well. This section, from about 150 km to 250 km, is the most challenging with lots of climbing. A stiff wind from the south-west added to the difficulty. Peter was gamely trying to keep up, but fell-off the pace when William and I felt the stirrings of our inner terriers and chased down another cyclist on one of the climbs.

The route has been changed a little since the last time Markham-Lindsay was offered to eliminate a section of Ganaraska Road, which can be very busy during certain times of day. The route now follows the revised Granite Anvil route to cross Highway 35/115 into Orono. Orono proved to be a very picturesque little town, but we didn’t stop as the next control was just ahead.

The name of the next control, Enniskillen, is bigger than the place itself. By this point, we could no longer see Peter behind us, even looking from the tops of hills. A somewhat woozy William decided that a large shade tree was in need of company and set up for a picnic underneath. Since he and the tree seemed to be getting along, he sent me off to finish the ride on my own.

Along Myrtle road, I was just starting to think that we might actually be able to finish the ride without any rain, and that I was going to look a bit foolish telling everyone to bring their rain gear. Of course, ten minutes after that, the sky opened up in a real deluge. Oops. The rain wasn’t unpleasant, and even inspired an offer of charity. A passing motorist pulled alongside with his windows down and asked me if I wanted a lift.

The rain didn’t really last that long, and was heavy enough to wash the grit away so I didn’t even get that dirty. The winds seemed to die down a little bit as well. The run into Uxbridge took me past a showcase of large estate homes. A quick turn-around at Macs Milk, and it was into the home stretch through my regular training grounds.

Back in Markham, I asked a couple of fellows standing outside to sign my card for me. They asked how far I had gone, suggesting 10 km as being a long distance. I think the truth strained their credulity. After a pleasant chat, I reset my GPS and headed home.

It took until noon on Sunday to account for all the riders though email. Peter and William finished together. Stan came in on his own, and Andrew and Alex got in in the dark after being chased by an invisible dog. We had one DNF due to stomach problems, but everyone is home safe, which is what counts.

Congratulations to all, especially the first time finishers. See you at the next one.

Ride Report from Alex Weber:

This was my second ride with Randonneurs Ontario, and my first 300 km ride. There were only about 8 or 9 riders on Saturday. We stayed in a group for the first 20 or so kilometres, but then the more experienced riders took off at, what seemed like, a break-neck pace. The weather had been calling for thunderstorms for several days back, and although the clouds loomed ominously above us all day, we never got more than a few sprinkles. After 50 km, there were only three riders in my group: myself (Alex), Andrew, and Hannes. It was at this point that Hannes told us he wasn’t feeling good, and was going to drop out. To be honest, I understood why, since he looked white and sickly. Amazingly, Andrew talked him into riding for more, so we slowed down our pace and tried to ride better as a group.

The next 150 km involved short stops, rolling hills (*shakes fist*), and head wind. I distinctly remember that after Emily Provincial Park, the scenery became very beautiful and there weren’t too many cars around. It was around this point that I had to point out to my riding partners just how awesome the whole experience was, and that I was really happy to be there at that moment. At the 200 km mark, Hannes had had enough, and told us he was dropping out. He would ride to Oshawa and take the train back to Toronto. We were saddened by his decision, but understood.

The next 100 km were alright, but for the first 50 km I was really starting to slow and felt like I wasn’t getting enough energy. I can’t remember the control, it was before Uxbridge, but I was convinced that I would stop there and grab something more substantial than a cliff bar, a PB&J sandwich, or baked potatoes to eat. No such luck. All there was a convenience store…so I bought some cheese curds.

Once we got to Uxbridge, I wolfed down a slice of pizza, finished all of my food, drank a chocolate milk, and drank way too much water and Gatorade. It was at this point that night was descending, and as we began the last 40 km of our ride, I realized I ate too much and was worried I might puke it back up. Luckily my stomach knew better and I miraculously made it up several hills with only suspicious burps.

Night riding is both an eerie experience and a sublime one. There’s something about the stillness and the solitary blanket that night brings that both relaxes you, and makes your brain think of worst-case-scenarios in macabre detail. Our single dog chase happened somewhere on a country road with no visibility except for our lights on the front of our bikes. Andrew yelled “GO! GO! GO!”, and as I gave my legs hell and forced them to accelerate faster than I knew they could go, I couldn’t help but be struck by how surreal it is to be chased by an invisible set of jaws that you can only assume will devour you if it could grab hold of your leg. Luckily it tired and we escaped unscathed.

We finished at 11:15 pm, happy and safe, and looking forward to a bath and getting off our saddles.

Fantastic ride! Can’t wait for a 400 km!

Ride Report from Peter Phillips:

My first 300 km ride.

I did my second Brevet and first 300 km ride this Saturday. The group of us left the Tim Horton’s with rain threatening all day. The group split sometime after our first pass through Stouffville. Stephen, William and I went ahead at a quicker pace. We hit the first control at Leaksdale shortly after the “open time” on the control card, but the control was not open. So we rode onto Little Britain for bakery purchases and re-fueling. Butter tarts might be God’s gift to cyclists.

We experienced intermittent misty rain through to Lindsay. More re-fueling and back on the road. The ride continued at a quick pace with Stephen and William leading the way. The sun started to break out as we rode into the next control in Millbrook. After a quick lunch stop, we now faced the more challenging part of the route, between 150 and 250 km. I lost touch with Stephen and William at about 180 km and resigned myself to finishing solo. I needed more frequent re-fueling, in Orono and again at the control in Enniskillen. I have to admit I had reached the low point of my ride… looking for the easy way back to the car.

To my great surprise, William was napping under a shady tree across the street from the Enniskillen control. We started out together eager for the “short” hop to Uxbridge. For me, the ride was becoming more challenging and difficult. It finally occurred to me that my gearing was totally inappropriate for the route… I will put on proper gearing on the bike for the next ride! We had dodged the forecast of rain for much of the day, but we encountered very heavy rain for about 20 minutes between Enniskillen and Uxbridge… serious climbing and descending in pouring rain is not fun!

The last few kilometres to Uxbridge were a bit of a blur for me: fatigue, dehydration and stomach distress (I will have to stay away from Gatorade). After a longer stop in Uxbridge, fortified with a gel and a hot chocolate, we faced the final part of the ride. It felt good to hit familiar roads like Wagg and the final turn south at Mussellman Lake. It felt really good to once again turn up the pace as we “raced” downhill to the finish. The topper for the day… it starts raining again just as we finished.

I am happy to have completed the adventure. I know I got off course a few times, as my computer says that I did 311 km. And a big thanks to William for riding with me through those last 90 km. While I did not finish as quickly as I had hoped, I learned a lot from the ride to apply to future rides 400 and 600 km rides.

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