The rain stayed away, but the day really never warmed up from the 9am start of the Pacific Populaire. I’d thought of doing this ride a few times before but something always got in the way. When I suggested doing it to Juerg on our 70k ride the week before – the first of the season – we both agreed that it would be good to get an early season 100k under our belts to see where the fitness was at. I sent an email to another friend, Ken, and the three of us decided to get together for the fun. Other than the Whistler Granfondo in September, I’m not really training for any cycling events, whereas the other two have a little Ironman thing in Penticton in a few months.
The first half – locating a latecomer
Juerg and I found each other around 8:30 as we were waiting in line to pay for the ride, but Ken was nowhere to be found in the mass above. We kept looking, but 8:40 and 8:50 came and went with no luck. About 8:55 I took another quick walk near the registration line in front of Riley Park on Ontario and he was just paying. We all basically hooked up as the ride was starting. Given the clog of riders heading north on Ontario to King Edward, speed was not an issue anyway. While the official card starting time was marked as 9am, it didn’t really start until somewhere between 9:05 and 9:10.
You can’t really think of the Populaire as a race of any kind. You hit lights constantly until you’re heading out 4th en route to the UBC hill, it’s a little slow getting back over to Vancouver from Richmond and then coming back to Riley Park via 16th and King Edward is another assortment of lights, stops and starts after you leave SW Marine. The ride gives you nice stretches of uninterrupted riding, though. Traffic was pretty good for the ride and, while the temperature really didn’t warm up much from the 6 degree centigrade start and the forecast sun never materialized, it never rained either, as it did both the day before and after.
Given that I’d only really done the 70k the week earlier and some trainer workouts over the winter, I was pretty happy with my ride. The three of us rode within about 20 feet of each other through about 90% of the ride. Since I don’t really have occasion to do a ton of long riding, it’s a bit of a caloric experiment when I go long. I was pretty well prepared for this one, bringing a Honeystinger Waffle, a couple of gels, a Clif Bar and about 400 calories in one bottle, with plain old water in the other. As we headed down through Richmond and then east along the river from Steveston toward the Woodward’s Landing checkpoint, Juerg went out ahead and took the wind on the chin for a group of about 20 of us. We didn’t quite make it all the way to the checkpoint before he stopped for a bio break. I was about halfway through my sports drink and decided to do one of my gels at this point. Probably 25 miles along and feeling fresh.
We got to the check-in and waited in a bit of a line, which you can see from the front in the picture above. It didn’t take long to get through and my time to this point was 1:56 of elapsed time. This didn’t factor in the 5-10 minute late start, so I’d say it was closer to 1:45. I didn’t check Garmin for the exact time, but using the player that the embed below links to, it would seem that we were about 1:35 of riding time to a little short of halfway.
The second half – starting with a waffle
I wasn’t sure when I’d have a good chance to stop again, so I scarfed the Honeystinger Waffle (a first) and I must say they are tasty, though hardly original. If I’m not mistaken they are exactly the same as Stroopwafels, an imported honey waffle cookie. The taste and texture is literally identical, even if the packaging (above) isn’t. Maybe I should price them both to see which is a better deal.
Heading out east to Westminster Highway via Queensborough Landing I decided to take a turn bombing away. I figured there was a good chance I’d fade a little later so I decided to pick it up and try to grind out some speed for a bit. Perhaps the oddest thing about this day is that, no matter which direction we were going, we seemed to have a headwind to ride into with the possible exception of heading north in Richmond. As we turned back westward to ultimately ride diagonally along the river toward the Skytrain overpass I backed off a bit thinking the better of riding too hard for too long. I started to trail my riding companions by probably 100 meters for a while, but by the time we hit the crossing back to Vancouver, I’d caught up again and had passed them again.
Connecting from Kent Avenue up to and along Marine toward 16th is largely a very moderate uphill ride. Other than drinking my water, I’d really taken in nothing between the Honeystinger in south Richmond at 30 miles and the moderately rising slope along Marine toward 16th, probably a distance of some 25 miles. As I closed in on 16th, both Ken and Juerg passed me and then rounding 16th for the final five or six miles, a few other riders also passed me. I could feel the energy flagging severely. It’s not like I didn’t know I should be taking in 300 calories or so per hour during this ride, I simply forgot about it in the second half. Maybe it was the gel and waffle in short succession just before halfway, but I never felt the need until the tank was suddenly empty.
It was clearly a case of too little, too late but I stopped probably somewhere close to MacDonald on 16th, took my other gel and the remaining gulp of my sports drink and sucked it up to finish the remaining three or four miles. The sugar fix was starting to hit me just as I finished so it didn’t have much effect for the last 15 minutes of the ride. Having run in this area plenty, I completely forgot about the kinds of short intense west side hills you hit as you mosey along 16th, Dunbar and then King Edward in getting back to Riley Park.
In the end I was about 5 minutes behind the buds, with an official elapsed time of 4:10, which was more like 4:00 to 4:05, while my official Garmin riding time was 3:40. Including the weekend before the race and earlier today, I’ve managed to get close to 250k in the saddle in that time. It’s a good start to the season, and with my knee cartilage damage, this is likely to be just the beginning of a bigger season of saddle time than normal.