For many years I’ve been fascinated by stories of folks taking long, human-powered journeys. People like Peace Pilgrim and Colin Angus inspire with their efforts and a part of me wanted to take on something similar.
No, I’m not quitting my job again and going on the road with a small yurt towed on a bicycle trailer (Maybe that’s next year’s challenge). I’ve signed up to participate in the Friends for Life Bike Rally. This ride, which takes place starting July 25th will take me, and several hundred others by bike from Toronto to Montreal. This is a huge challenge for me. The distance between here and Montreal is in the neighbourhood of 600 kilometres – just over 370 miles. The ride is six days long – most days’ rides are in the 100+ km (60+ mile) range. At my most active I was doing daily rides in the 40-50 km range and weekly totals in the 250 km range. So I’ve got a ways to go to get there.
Which brings me to the second, part of the challenge: Training. I have zero doubt I can do this ride but not without preparation. This requires a pretty large commitment to training. I’ve already started this one, starting small with spinning classes nearly every day and a few rides as well. When I can (weather/road condition-permitting) I intend to ride the 25 km each way to the edge of the city where my current client is. There’s a pretty substantial hill between here and there which will give me a nice challenge in the morning as well.
Eating and nutrition are being the third part of the challenge, and I suspect as my training gets more and more intense this is only going to get more difficult. The first thing that has to happen is my caffeine consumption has needed to drop pretty substantially. I was up to 6 mugs a day. I’m down to two now. I’d like to eliminate it entirely but those last couple of mugs are being tough to part with. The reason I want to give caffeine up is two-fold. First off, it stimulates the pancreas and seriously messes with my blood sugar levels. If I don’t eat enough and drink coffee I find myself feeling ravenous and low on energy. Second of all, the way I feel when I exercise with more than a little caffeine is kind of like it felt to work on a computer 15 or so years ago that happened to have the “turbo” button disengaged. I get out of breath faster, my heart rate tops out more quickly and I feel like there are whole energy stores that I’m unable to tap because of this. So as much as I like to work with a mug of hot coffee sitting next to me, that’s going to have to go by the wayside, sadly.
Eating in general is going to need to change as well. Eating healthily is going to take on a bit more importance in my life, for sure. And one kind of disappointing side effect is that my tolerance for spicy food is dropping. Oh I can eat it just as much as I could before and enjoy it when I do, but a few hours later when I exercise it turns my stomach to acid and is incredibly unpleasant. Guess I’ll save the vindaloo for my training breaks.
Overall I’m really looking forward to it. I’m trying not to think too far ahead lest I get overwhelmed, for example, at the prospect of keeping up with a bunch of fit, experienced people on a 100+ km training ride when today a leisurely 25 km commute is my speed. So for now I put it out of my mind and remember that the last time I switched from a mostly sedentary lifestyle to 3-5 days/week commuting 20 km each way my progress was quite rapid. There’s little reason that it should be any different this time – especially starting 7 months in advance.
The cause is a good one. The Toronto People With AIDS Foundation (http://www.pwatoronto.org) is the largest direct support service agency for people living with HIV/AIDS in Canada, providing patients with treatment programs, food assistance, and income assistance, all at little or no cost to the patient. But providing this kind of service (Last year alone, they provided over 62,000 unique services to more than 2,000 individuals.) costs a great deal of money and this is where the Friends for Life Bike Rally helps. Last year this event raised over $900,000.
They’ve given participants a pretty steep fund-raising goal but I’m certain that with a little help from everyone I can reach it. Any donation is appreciated and donations can be made online here. I’d really appreciate your support.