Oak Ridges Moraine 400

From Kathy Brouse:

It is a given that all randonneurs laugh and joke and tease one another about our participation in this extreme sport. The distances are so excruciatingly long, the discomfort so intense, why oh why when we could be socializing, shopping, gardening, spending time with family, do we turn away from simple pleasures and sign up for a 400 km challenge, one of the hardest club rides. Why do we take off at 6am prepared to be in the saddle all day and most of the night? Is it normal, is this sane behaviour or does the obsessive pursuit of the series, the medal, the qualifying rides make us lose perspective sometimes?

You see I am pondering these philosophical questions this morning because yesterday I crossed a line, from the wacky to just plain nuts, yup I went there yesterday, to the dark side. I have officially  joined the group who cycle 200km brevets in the winter, in the snow, yes they have also crossed this line. My line was the Oak Ridges Moraine 400. I headed out with a group of 10 randonneurs yesterday morning, the forecast was not good, rain beginning at around 11am and settling in. I told myself I would enjoy a fast hard run to Orangeville, some good hill training and then I would head home as the rain set in. Which meant I would have to do the other 400 km in a few weeks in order to get my PBP qualifying rides done, something I did not want to do as I have other plans that weekend. But, as it turned out, the weather was great for cycling, a little cloud, a little sun, nothing unpleasant. So I kept going, despite the fact that I had ditched my warmer gear in my car- because I was coming back when the rain started.

But the weather was nice to Orangeville and then to Sharon. It did torrential rain for about 4 or 5 minutes in Sharon while we were snacking, but then it cleared and it was nice again. As I carried on I was even wishing I had purchased sunscreen at the Sharon control. And it stayed nice until 5:30 when it started to rain, but not heavily, while enroute to the control in Stouffville at 7:30. When Arthur and I left the Mr. Sub in Stouffville wearing all the layers we had, even a garbage bag cut out for my head and arms and newspaper stuffed down my front, it started to pour. It wasn’t pretty, it was horrible, it was that type of rain and wind that hits you in the face like a hundred little painful needles. And it poured like that for the rest of the ride. At the last control in Oak Ridges we purchased yoga towels ($30. plus tax) a piece to wrap around our core and more garbage bags to keep us warm and this did provide some relief. My feet and my hands were so cold throughout the night I couldn’t feel them and by the time we got to the home stretch, the only relief was climbing those hills on Old Base Line because the effort brought some warmth.

Arthur and I pulled into the Tim Horton’s at 4:40 am. We couldn’t talk, my mouth would no longer move to form words and my voice was just a raspy whisper at that point, too hard to talk. The relief of sitting in the warm car was intense but the short drive back to my place in Oakville was challenging, kept falling asleep and driving on the wrong side of the road. Fortunately, these are country roads and it was quiet, but I was driving like a very drunk person. I don’t know how Arthur managed to drive back to the city, I hope he rested and set out when he was ready to drive safely. I don’t know about the other people on the ride. Michael T and Smiling were ahead of us and must of made it back as, we did not see any bodies on the road in the last 100 km stretch. I hope the others made it back safely and that they will contact me because I am concerned, especially Charles because he was riding on his own most of the day, last seen at the Sharon control.

Thank you Arthur for sharing the suffering yesterday and for letting me wear your leg  warmers. He was sensible enough to pack boots and rain pants but would have been warmer if he had not handed over his leg warmers to me. You are a true friend, many thanks. The silver lining to all this is the completion of the 400km qualifying ride, all done now, yippee! The dark side is the positive proof that I crossed a line yesterday and this sport has made me lose perspective on decisions that affect my health and safety. A more sensible person (not a randonneur:-) would have turned back at Sharon (but, it was the second control, almost half the ride done) or phoned a friend to bring them home.

Now I have the Simcoe Cottage 600 to look forward to next weekend, the big ride in black bear country but we will all be safe because Liz is bringing her super duper bear spray. She says she will fend off the bear while we take off and wait for her down the road. Clearly nothing nuts about Lizzie, just a normal girl who enjoys to wrestle with black bears on a group ride!

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