Andy McKay

Sep 12, 2015

My first Gran Fondo

In January I finally decided to join the Gran Fondo from Vancouver to Whistler.

It’s something that I’ve wanted to do in a long time, but between here and there I had a few obstacles. I was overweight and definitely not in shape. It was something I felt I couldn’t really do. It was a challenge, and I was going to have to work at it.

Over the past 8 months, I’ve been cycling. A lot. Some weeks I’ve been doing as many as 300km on a bike. Training runs would with be MEC, or up to the top of Seymour Demonstration Forest or up Mount Seymour.

The first time Mount Seymour took almost 2 hours and absolutely wiped me out. The next one was faster. The next one was fun, I got to the top and wanted to do more.

In between riding, I’ve gone to the gym to lift weights regularly. I’ve lost almost 40 pounds in weight.

I’d started by putting myself in the 7hr+ category and just being glad to make it. With a week to go, I dropped myself into the 5hr+ category and dropped my t-shirt size by one.

This was based on a similar ride I did in June from Whistler to Vancouver. That ride has much more downhill, but was also about 10km longer. It took 5h 46m.

Yesterday the ride started at 7am from Stanley Park, leaving from Stanley Park and heading over Lions Gate was a bit of mess with it being way too crowded. The ride out of Stanley Park and over Lions Gate without any cars as the sun rose over the horizon was just plain stunning.

Climbing up Taylor Way and then Horseshoe Bay wasn’t that hard, and a really good over taking opportunity. In fact, it seems the hills became my overtaking opportunity where I’d dig in and overtake people.

Riding up to Squamish was fun, the views were just fantastic. We got lanes to ourself and had chance to enjoy the view of beautiful sun, cloud and mountains. Everyone I rode near was nice and friendly.

I got to the Alice Lake rest stop (71.8km) in 2h 48m. I was going well over my average of around 24km/h. The next part I’d originally been dreading, was a long slow climb out of Squamish up to Cheakamus canyon but that wasn’t that bad either.

Then I got to Daisy Lake area, the sun came overhead and everything fell apart. My back was hurting and getting worse, I had just completely run out of juice. The climb is slow and tedious without much break. I was dropping gears and slowing down - so was everyone else.

I knew if I stopped, I’d never start again. This was a real struggle for me and it felt like the point it would fall apart. I could have slowed down and dropped back, but I was racing for myself, I wanted to do well. Everything I’d been working for in the last 9 months was dependent on this part.

Going past Function Junction was a relief, I knew the road had yet more hills, but I could do this bit, I’d done it before and giving up now would just be pointless.

Arriving in Whistler I was tired and all my emotions, of not just the ride but all the damn work I’d put into it, were bubbling up. I’d done it. And I’d done it in 5h 2m.

I’m pretty damn proud of myself.

And then I signed up again to do it next year. And I’ll beat my time.

PS: Thank you to work for supporting my ride financially with its benefit program and my friends who helped out, including Ella who drove me there early in the morning.