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Gran Fondo for United Way, Whitby

The Ride for United Way was held on August 18th in 2019. It is an annual charity ride.

This was my first ever cycling race/event and I really had no idea what to expect. I had lots of questions before the event, eg. if I can ride my triathlon bike (yes I could), or if the aid stations will hand you the food/water like in a triathlon race (no they won’t, you need to stop).

There were 3 distances offered, 60km, 100km, 160km and a gravel ride option. I did the 100km ride as I was training for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship which has a 90km ride.

I also learned a lot of things during this event and the main one was that I need to adjust my expectations regarding organization when I enter a small local event.

Here is how the ride went: horn goes off, I take off, police car is leading the way. I feel like the queen of the ride with the police car in front of me, nobody anywhere close, I’m beating all men and women at this point, life is great, fancy training ride… until the police car missed a turn! And led me off the course! I even asked him at one point if we were going the right way, he said “I think so” and it turns out at that point we still were! This was a few seconds before he missed the turn! I never thought about checking the barely visible arrows on the road for turns since I was led by a police car!

He “only” added about 3km to the ride for me, so not that big a deal, but once he took me back to course, I was pretty much at the back of the pack. So much for beating all the guys in the ride! I started to chip away at them and I believe by the end I got up to 4th place, but there are no official results for the whole ride so I only think I came in 4th overall because the last guy I passed said there were 3 in front of me.

There were at least 2-3 more points in the race where I wasn’t sure if I was going the right way so I even turned around twice to check I didn’t miss a turn. There was no support at red lights or intersections, only on a few of them (when I was leading they stopped them). Towards the end I passed a guy (who I had caught once before and he passed me when I stopped to pick up a water bottle that I dropped, so I caught him again here), then I caught a red light, he caught up. I put about a minute between us, caught a red light again, he almost caught up. That was my “why do I even bother” moment. But then I only saw him after the finish – and behind me.

There was an option called “time trial”. I didn’t any explanation of what that meant, but I paid for the option and assumed my ride would be timed. That was not the case. What they actually timed was a 5k segment. I didn’t realize this until I got to that segment where there was a sign saying here starts the time trail. Ah, ok, let’s go for it then! I was still hoping they would time the full race but they didn’t.

There were prizes for the 5k time trial, I did it in about 7:28 or so, it was serious uphill. I came 5th overall including men and 2nd female on that segment so I won $50 (for 5th overall – they didn’t care about gender…). This was the first time I won actual money on a race (I had won gift cards before).

I have mixed feelings about the event. I appreciate the effort the organizers are putting into it. I understand it must be hard for them to co-ordinate everything, and they are doing it for a good cause. I still think even if it is just manual time entering it would be nice to have a race result even if it is only a fun ride. Especially if we are paying extra for a timing chip.

Would I do it again? Most likely yes. It is local, it has good atmosphere and with adjusted expectations it can be enjoyable.

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