The Hills Are Alive and my first DNF

I got down to Victoria well past midnight and quickly found an area to park the truck and tuck in for the night. After a surprisingly good sleep, the day looked promising with clear skies for the start of the Hills Are Alive 300km brevet.  I got to the starting point and had time to get things ready and prepare for the day ahead.  My handlebar bag was full and I had an extra wool base layer shirt and sweater in my bag so that I would have a change of clothes later on down the road. When I took off a layer around the 50km mark, it was stuffed with no more room to spare (note to self, pack lighter from now on!).

Mark prepping us at the start

We left the starting point just after 6:30am and were led out by Mike and Brynne on their tandem.  It was a nice, comfortable pace that I should have kept, but a few of us passed them around the 10km mark.  I rode with 3 others for a bit, but they pulled away and I didn’t want to chase too hard this early in the ride, so I let them go.  I ended up riding about 30kms by myself and was feeling good.  I stopped at the 39.1 km mark to flip my cue sheet and a couple of rider caught up, and I ended up riding with them until Prospect Lake Rd.  It was nice to have company again, but I could feel myself pushing harder at times than I would have if I were by myself.

The first control (your choice) was in Sidney and we stopped at 7-11 to get our control card signed.  This seemed to be the logical place as it was right on the route and others were there when we arrived, or who were pulling in when we were leaving. I bought a chocolate milk and took off my heaviest layer and stuffed it into my already full handlebar bag.  Half a Snickers later I was on my way.

Doing our thing

From there it was up to Land’s End / Swartz Bay then down the other side of the peninsula.  We were riding pretty quick and pushing on the rolling hills, but I was feeling good.  We came upon a “Secret Control” on Downey and I filled my water bottle and had a couple of infamous brownies that are laced with some secret rando ingredient.  Damn, they were good.  I was feeling really good at this point and pressed on quickly.

Secret Control around 66.5km

Secret Control around 66.5km

After the secret control, we turned on to West Sannich road and rode it until we came upon Wallace Rd. I like Wallace Road as it’s usually pretty quiet and there seems to be a lot of other cyclist on it. When we came back out to West Sannich road, I could feel my right knee starting to hurt, but nothing unbearable, so I pressed on.  By the time we came to Prospect Lake Rd. I knew I had to slow down, so I started falling off the back of the rando train.

Beautiful morning

Prospect Lake Rd. is a beautiful road that I haven’t ridden before and if my knee wasn’t bothering me, I would have really enjoyed it.  At this point I knew that it was my Iliotibial band that was acting up.  I had the same thing happen about a month ago on a ride that I was pushing hard on.  Unfortunately on that ride, I had to push on and it got increasing worse, even after a 20 minute break.

By the time I got to Munn Rd, I couldn’t put any pressure on my right knee, so I stopped to assess the situation.  A couple of ibuprofen and a knee massage with some Rub A535 were self administered, along with some walking around.  The strange thing is that I could stand and walk without any pain, but as soon as I got back on the bike it was right there.  I rode most of Munn Rd. with just my left leg doing the pushing and I think if the scenery wasn’t so nice, it would have been hell.  I pretty much knew halfway along Munn Rd that I would have to DNF (Did Not Finish in rando speak) at the next control.  All the big climbs were still ahead and from previous experience, my knee wouldn’t improve by ‘riding through it’.  Since I did a lot of climbing up on Prospect Lake Rd. and Munn Rd., I was pretty sure that there would be a good downhill sweep and I knew that I could probably limp along to the next control and let the volunteers know my fate.  As fate would have it, Mark (the ride organizer) heard of my condition and was at the side of the road just before the control waiting to check up on me.

Mark was very kind and drove me back to the starting point, where my truck was parked. When I was going over the Malahat on the drive home, I saw Mike and Brynne hustling up the climb.  I gave them a honk, but I’m not sure if they knew it was me cheering them on, or some irate driver.  I saw Steve at the top of the Malahat waiting for riders to video them and at least I got a wave back when I honked and waved.

When I got home I took a couple of more ibuprofen and iced my knee.  This morning I could feel it when I got out of bed and also on the stairs.  I’m not too worried about the knee as the last time it happened, I rode the Victoria Populaire the next day with Norie.  It hurt a bit during the ride, but I stopped halfway through, took some ibuprofen and massaged my knee with some Rub A535.  I think what helped was riding at a comfortable pace and not pushing myself.

This brings me to what I learned on this ride:

  1. I’m 45 now and not 25 anymore.
  2. Stretch before I get on the bike.
  3. Start near the rear of the pack to avoid chasing all the fast guys at the front.
  4. Ride at a comfortable pace and don’t worry if people pass me.
  5. Don’t be afraid to stop and get off the bike to stretch or have a break.
  6. Stop at the controls and get off the bike and relax.
  7. Remember that it isn’t a race!  Take my time and don’t worry about my final time, as long as I finish within the time limit.
  8. Pack lighter and maybe get a small seat bag to hold my tools.
I want to thank everyone who volunteered and helped make this ride possible.  I especially want to thank Mark Ford, the ride organizer, for not only driving me back to the starting point, but for also organizing such a great ride and beautiful weather.
Special thanks also goes out to Vik and Mike/Brynne for offering me a place to crash when they heard I would be sleeping in my truck.
Here is a link to a bunch of great pictures that Vik, aka the Lazy Randonneur, took.  Here is his Ride Report from a Volunteer’s perspective.
Here’s a video that Steve M. took of the ride.
Here are a few more pictures from the ride.
My helmet rigged with a light

My helmet rigged with a light

The cockpit

Munn Road hills

More hills

I have a race next weekend where there are team-mates counting on me, so I think it was the right decision to stop when I did.  I’m going to look into what I can do to strengthen my Iliotibial band as this is the 2nd time it has acted up. The last time I iced it and massaged it with Rub A535 and took ibuprofen which seemed to work.  In the grand scheme of things, it could have been a lot worse. On a positive note, I got in just over 100kms on a beautiful morning, and rode with some great people.
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6 Responses to The Hills Are Alive and my first DNF

  1. Mark Ford says:

    HI John:

    Great report – take care and rest the knee this week, so you can race on the weekend.


  2. Dave Macmurchie says:

    Thanks for the report, and good luck with the knee. I have had my share of knee problems (torn ligaments a couple of times) and anything you can do to keep small issues from becoming big ones is important. That’s a tough ride, and you were wise to leave it when you did.

  3. Pingback: Hills Are Alive 300K… « The Lazy Rando Blog…

  4. thelazyrando says:

    Good effort John. Better to live to ride another day than damage yourself to the point a long recovery is necessary.

    safe riding,


  5. Guido Van Duyn says:

    Hi John, Thanks for the story, I hope you recover soon!


  6. william olson says:

    here’s another little blurb about the Myrtl Routine:

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