It seemed like a good idea at the time – a ride with no direction, no destination and no schedule. I had the day to myself, a beautiful day and a Rescue Bike – what more could I need? A better sense of direction apparently.
My first thought was to do my short 20km NW hill climb route before making a trip out to Chestermere along the canal. I’d done that trip a couple of times last year but haven’t been out there once this season. As soon as I left the house, I changed my mind, not wanting to ride along my daily commute to get there so I headed down 10th street’s bike lane into downtown.
With no real plan and without much reasoning – maybe I’ll ride up Edworthy - I headed west along the south side of the river taking paths unknown until I found myself at the base of what’s known in Strava as the Crowchild Popper. It’s not long, but it’s an average 15% grade for the first 300 meters followed by a further 10%ish grade for another 300 meters. It humbled me before throwing me out on Bow Trail like last night’s bar conquest.
I made my way up to Edworthy which involved some climbing, thankfully on a rather gentle grade. I’ve been to Edworthy before, but I’d always dropped in from the top so hadn’t climbed it. It was a popular place with lots of people going both ways along the hill. I coasted down to the bottom and feeling thoroughly warmed up thanks to the Popper, turned around and started heading right back up again.
There was a senior gentlemen in front of me riding a nice Pinarello at a very modest pace. I debated about following, my ego over-rode me and around we went. Briefly. I managed oh maybe 55 full seconds before I’d cooked myself and pulled over for some serious gasping and wheezing. The senior who was too slow to follow passed me without a word, but with a knowing smile. I couldn’t bear the thought of giving up, so I crawled back on and pointed for the top. I made it without any more stoppages, but I was back to hufflepuffling and chewing greedily on the Shot Bloks.
Not content with my performance, I headed back down. I wasn’t willing to go on until I’d ridden it or keeled over trying. This time, with more prudence and less ego, I pointed the Rescue Bike to the top, found my oblivious zone and pedaled. And wheezed, and dripped and gasped. I passed another poor soul but somehow managed to time it right where I didn’t get passed. I say time it right because shortly after I finished, a number of rather fit looking riders rather sailed right past my collapsing place exhibiting no indication of effort on their part. Cheeky. I managed a solid 211th place.
With no plan and absolutely zero desire to climb up further along Bow, I dropped back down into Edworthy, crossed the river and headed for Bowness despite knowing I didn’t have a plan when I got there. I decided to make the ride from Bowmont Park up to Silver Springs – a nice ride with a bit more reasonable climbing (not really). I headed this way despite knowing that I had no plan once I’d reached Silver Springs other than I wasn’t going back the same way.
I followed the bike signs along the street, wondering where I was going to end up. I’d managed 35km with a fair bit of climbing (by my standards) and was ready to start making my way home. I hadn’t thought through the nutrition side of things and was desperately short on food. I wanted to get home before I bonked out too badly. I tried to read the map routes on the YYC Bike Path app, but the street names were obscured when zoomed large enough to read, so I just followed the signs. This led to more climbing.
The remaining 18 kilometres of trying to get to Nose Hill were populated by long, seemingly endless climbs followed by brief, joyous downhill sections wherein I’d find myself utterly lost, stop to try and figure out my place and my route and realize I’d just wheee‘d my way down past a crucial turn, leading to now unnecessary climbing. I rode a bike path that went nowhere I wanted to be, I sailed past countless (un-bike-signed) turns, climbed back up, then down, then up. There may have been cursing, whimpering and some fetal ball positioning.
I was now well into bonking, barely able to maintain a pace that amused other riders and failed to bother the multitude of pedestrians on the path. My legs ached, my lungs were not amused and I had enough salt crusting on me to brine a flat of pickles. All I wanted was to get home.
I couldn’t help but draw parallels between my lack of riding plan (and it’s result) and a lack of goals in general. Sure – I managed to ride a couple of hills I’d wanted to and I toughed out considerably more climbing in a single ride than ever before, but the learning was painful and the lack of prep (food) was a disaster. How many character building events do we suffer through because of our lack of planning? Or maybe you’re the opposite – never veered from the plan. Never bumped into something unexpected. Surely there’s some happy ground?