At this point yesterday, I was riding back to a convention centre near the airport with several other ‘rebels’ who had been told that to ride back would be ‘at (our) own risk’. They delayed the ride less than an hour after it had begun because, well, we were all in danger of being hit by lightning and/or drowning.
I first heard thunder about twenty minutes after we left the CE Centre and made sure my phone ringer was on as loud as possible because the Ride Guides (like me) were supposed to get a call if there were race delays. I didn’t get one. I am not sure if it’s because they were priority calling the site volunteers at the rest stations first (where everyone was told by a harried-looking woman standing in ankle-deep water while thunder struck rather nearby (worst Lear ever!)) not to move, or because my phone refused to keep a signal out in Manotick.*
ANYway, it does not feel safe to stand under food tents supported by metal poles in a storm, so some people (like me) opted to hide in doorways of St Mark’s High School (while I thought about how embarrassing/unsafe it would be to get hit by lightning while using a portaloo). The school’s soccer team had been about to start a practice, but WOULDN’T LET US IN THE BUILDING. Okay, there are rules about letting strangers into schools, but it was a Saturday, few students were there, and I doubt any of the riders was packing heat or planning to steal overhead markers. Ridiculous.
It was about 20 minutes before someone finally confirmed that the ride wasn’t just delayed, but cancelled completely, and that shuttles and trucks were on their way to pick us and our bikes up.
Several minutes later, the rain let up. There were very clearly dark clouds in all directions but quite far off and there were still no shuttles or trucks in site. People were showing up to pick up stranded riders/family members. Some people asked if they were allowed to ride back. The race organizer, who had just arrived by car, said she didn’t recommend it because they couldn’t guarantee anyone’s safety. But, really, isn’t that always this case with this kind of thing? I mean, event organizers can do their best, but the universe is too random for guarantees. I mean, she didn’t even know when the shuttles would be arriving. We were all soaked to the bone (the rain was very good at penetrating every gap in Gore-Tex, and most people weren’t biking in rain gear because it would have been too hot) and freezing cold (the wind was diabolical) and pretty damned miserable.
I notice a few people taking off, including a couple of Ride Guides (a nice French lady and a woman who looked strikingly like someone with whom I went to high school, but far less olde), so I decided to join them. It was only 13km, and without the restrictions of my silly little pace sign (still hanging off the back of my bike)**, it took about half an hour to get there, even though we had to stop to see if a crazed-looking woman who had even left the airport’s weird private road network yet was okay. (If you ever get a chance to bike on the not-usually-open-to-the-public bits of an airport, do. It’s fun.)
I don’t fault the race organizers for anything, though. I mean, yes, they should have known that the weather was not going to work much earlier than they did (it had stormed all night as well), even though it was clear at 8am. But this is only the third year that Ride the Rideau has run and everything went perfectly conditions-wise, so the logistics in case of emergency had never been tested. I do hope that the food intended for the end-of-ride barbecue was donated somewhere worthy. I hope that, in future, they will have a clear rain date in mind as well, so that they can make a call to delay before 700 people should up to ride.
That having been said, I will participate again next year (and not forget my bike check ticket, nor my rider #, which was pretty embarassing — I am not at my best pre-dawn, it turns out)) and I’m going to start recruiting friends and acquaintances to join me, in hopes we can form a team. My mother died of cancer in September 2006, so this event has taken on great meaning for me. I hope some of y’all will consider joining me next year (you don’t have to be fast, nor do you need a road bike (I even saw a few Townies out there)) ; doing this alone is really hard sometimes (I cried when I finished last year, but there was no one there to lean on) and I’d love the support. Also? It’s an amazing cause and a good day out (when not being electrocuted). Please come! You have a year to get ready! I’ll do up the spare rooms and prep the sofa in the loft space/mancave!
* I got a few tweets to let people know I hadn’t been electrocuted, but received few tweets back and couldn’t send text messages, nor receive calls, including a generous offer to come pick me up (thanks Mark!) until after I was back at the convention centre.
** I had been biking ‘too fast’ for my pace, per three people who had cycled by me in the first 13km and teased me about it, btw. I always forget that my ‘average’ speed on the way to work is slower because of traffic lights. There aren’t so many in rural bits. I was the only Ride Guide not on a road bike, including the ones who had to stick to a 10-15km/h speed. How? Huh? One of the ones in my speed group told me that she wished she had brought her commuter instead, because it’s hard to go ‘so slow’ on a road bike. I didn’t mention, at least initially, that I only have the one bike and it’s fine for this kind of thing even if I want to go faster. It ain’t a race, lady. But maybe this year’ll be the one when I get a road bike; I’ll have a look around at the end of the season. BIKE SHAME.