For those of you who have never been to Canada's capital city (not Toronto!!), the one thing that brings athletes flocking to the area all year round is the attraction to the racing routes and teams who train daily in what we locals like to call "The Gats". Otherwise known as the Gatineau Hills.
What makes this place so special is its design. The many roads that wind their way into the Gats do not follow a traditional "up" direction. There is never more than 1.5 kilometer uphill before you reach a crest of a downhill. Sometimes of equal length...sometimes longer. This makes for a perfect training area for runners, cyclists, inline speedskaters, longboarders, skate skiers...etc.
Last night I decided to break the virginity cycle and join the hundreds of people training in the Gats. With the mercury peaking at 35 degrees (95F) and the blackflies and dragonflies in full force, I donned my white cycling suit and headed up. What followed was the hardest workout on a bike I have ever done. By far.
Although only 27kms in total, it took me 1.5 hours to finish what has been nicknamed "the loop" by the veterans. A treacherous loop of climbs for 75% of the way followed by fast and short downhill reprieves. I wanted to stop after kilometer 2. Instead of the uphills being short and sweet, they are loooonnggg 4% inclines that literally have most people off their bikes walking. At the lowest gear, you are moving about a foot for every 4 pedal strokes. It is that steep. Conversely, the downhills are anything but a "wheeee" moment. Peaking at speeds of 60kph (37mph), I found myself braking most of the time. Not being familiar with the area and especially not having the experience of the other riders, I was not comfortable with traveling at that speed with nothing more than a thin layer of spandex to protect me. Plus when my bike started to shimmy, I got way to scared.
If you can believe it, I was lapped by the pro peloton at least once. That means that there were about 40 racers who were able to cycle over 50kms up and down hills in less than 45 minutes. I don't know how they do it. Seems impossible. I have a totally new respect for those pro guys. Yet again, there is a reason they look like they do and I look like I do.
By the time I finished the loop I was in a miserable mood. I was beyond tired, cranky but somewhat reluctantly proud of myself. I had never done anything like that before. I am in no rush to go back but I know that in order to improve I really should. Other racers suggested I do that loop 3 times a week. I don't see how that is physically possible right now as I can barely walk today. ;)
Here are some pics.