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5 Things I Learned from My First Fondo

February 5, 2015 in biking, Events, Exercise, Outdoor Activity, Race

Photo by: Sportograf

In September of 2014 I rode in my very first Whistler GranFondo, a 122km bike ride from Vancouver to Whistler, and it was an awesome experience. A Gran Fondo is defined as a big group ride that is usually longer than 100 kilometres or more. Riders of all skill levels and experience can participate and the ride is organized like a race; although it is not meant to be a race there are race elements built into it for more competitive riders. Whether you’re racing or just want the satisfaction of finishing the ride, gran fondos offer a challenging thrill for everyone.

As someone relatively new to road cycling, I learned a lot on the journey to my first gran fondo. Here are five (of many) things I learned from the experience leading up to the big day. Although these are not specifically about the day itself (maybe I’ll save that for another post) these were some valuable lessons learned along the way. If you are thinking about getting into cycling or want to ride in your first fondo too, I hope this provides you with some helpful insight.

1. Get fit. I don’t mean fit in terms of muscularity, endurance, and strength; although that will come with training. I mean ‘fit’ in terms of being properly fitted on your bike. A proper bike fit can help prevent injuries and reduce discomfort associated with a poor bike setup.


Many specialty bike shops offer bike fitting services that can help fine-tune your bike to your size and riding needs. I had a bike fit done with a professionally certified bike fitter and it was a really valuable learning experience. I only wish that I had done it sooner. The session consisted of a thorough analysis of my riding needs, goals, habits, posture, flexibility, equipment, even down to the type of eye-wear I use when I ride. They hooked up sensors to different parts of my body and measured my movements while I rode my bike on a stationary trainer. The sensors were connected to a computer which projected a stickman-like figure of me on a screen analyzing all my numbers – I felt like cyborg! After getting my bike fit, we made some adjustments to my bike’s set-up to give me a more comfortable and efficient ride.

2. No shame in spandex. Wearing the proper gear can make a huge difference to the riding experience. A good pair of padded cycling shorts and a proper fitting cycling jersey with pockets on the back are incredibly practical, especially on long rides. It’s amazing how much you can cram into those little pockets on the back of those tight little jerseys; I remember stuffing pb&j sandwiches, energy bars, a banana, and energy gels with plenty of room to spare.

Sunny day at Porteau Cove

A beautiful day at Porteau Cove, Photo credit: Chuck


3.  Cycling is not cheap. The start up costs add up. At first you think that all you need is a bike but think again. Once you get a bike you realize there’s a whole lot more in store. Here are some additional items for consideration.

– helmet (I had an old one but as I learned with child car seats, they have an expiry date)
– clipless pedals
– cycling cleats/shoes
– accessories; bike bump or CO2 cartridges, water bottles, bottle cages, lights, sunglasses, spare tubes, saddle bag, a multi-tool, tire levers, cleaning supplies
– apparel: shorts, jerseys, gloves, vest or jacket (for those rainy day rides)
– bike computer

Now you don’t have to get all these things at once and instead gradually build up to it. So while it’s not cheap to get started, once you have most of the essential gear, you’re pretty much set to hit the road whenever you like. However, after riding for a while and seeing many other bikes on the road, you may be tempted to get a newer, lighter, flashier bike with better components! I’ve often heard amongst other cyclists that the appropriate number of bikes you should own can be boiled down to a simple formula, n+1. With ‘n’ being the number of bikes you already own.

At the top of Cypress Mountain.

Atop Cypress with the support of ride leaders Kelly and Rob of the JUST GIVER 4PD cycling club.


4. Chamois cream is a thing. Once I started going on longer rides, I was thankful this existed. You can apply it to the inside of your shorts or directly to your skin. I always did the latter. Chamois cream improves comfort in the saddle and can help prevent chaffing. TMI.

Taking in the view at Whytecliff Park, West Vancouver.

Taking in the view at Whytecliff Park, West Vancouver. Photo credit: K.Jablonski

5. There is a lot beauty to be seen out there and it’s better seen on two wheels. I feel fortunate to live in such a beautiful place but I’m sure wherever you live the beauty is magnified tenfold when you’re on your bike, or maybe it’s just the endorphins talking.

Some of the places I biked to during my training rides (in no particular order)

Spanish Banks
Queen Elizabeth Park
Stanley Park
Iona Beach
Deep Cove
Seymour demonstration forest
Cypress Mountain
Steveston Village
Porteau Cove
Whytecliff Park
River Road
Pitt Meadows
Westwood Plateau
Burnaby Mountain
Belcarra Regional Park
Horseshoe Bay

These are all beautiful places in their own unique ways and sure you can also get there by driving or some other mode of transport but the journey of getting there by bike, the things you see along the way, the neighbourhoods you pass, the struggle, and the sense of accomplishment of getting there (and back) is much much more rewarding.

Happy to cross the finish line in Whistler, BC. Look at that smile!

Happy to cross the finish line in Whistler, BC. Look at that smile! Photo by: Sportograf

Thanks for allowing me to share my experience with you. If you have any questions/comments or if you would like to go for a ride sometime or just talk bikes, please use the comments section below.


A Family Affair

July 26, 2011 in Running

This past weekend was an exciting weekend for 14 reasons. 14 family members (including myself) completed the Peninsula Runners 5km run in Fort Langley, B.C.  For most of them, this was their first race. In our group, fitness levels ranged from mostly walkers, as well as a combination of walkers/runners.  For some of them, they had never even walked a distance of 5km continuously, until they started training for this event.

Details in preparation for the event:

Who: Me, 2 nephews, 3 nieces, 4 sister-in-laws, 2 brother -in-laws, one cousin and my sister-in-law’s niece. Ages ranged from 11 years to 55 years. Jerrick babysat during the training sessions, and Malaya was the water girl. My 78 year-old mom-in-law joined us for training and was able to walk the distances in a reasonable pace! She’s our hero!

What: I volunteered to train our family as a group in preparation for race day. In no particular order, training consisted of walking, walk/run intervals, stretching, strengthening exercises, and proper warm-ups and cool-downs.

When and where: We met every Tuesday for approximately 12 weeks. We started training at a local high school track and once we got some mileage and conditioning under our belts, we hit the pavement to better simulate race conditions. As it was challenging for everyone to commit to training as a group for more than 1 day a week, it was agreed that everyone would train independently 2 times weekly, in addition to our Tuesday training.

Why: It was a great way to see each other more often and support each other in achieving our personal goals. It was also a great excuse to spend more time outdoors during the summer months.

The greatest challenge during the 12 weeks of training was getting everyone (including myself) to commit to training independently during the week, outside of our group session on Tuesdays. But really, I understand the challenges of committing to an independent training schedule, when you have other priorities and when you don’t have that somebody to hold you accountable. I can only count on one hand, the number of times I trained independently during the 12 weeks for the run. My reasons for not training were weak. Laziness prevailed, but at least I had the Tuesday sessions to fall back on, as well as a 2 year old and a crawling 9 month old to run around after most of my days. That counts as training, right? Yeah, right. Despite my lack of training, I felt great during the run. Seeing family cheer me on along the route was hugely motivating. The weather was awesome and the race was well-organized. For race results, see:

What would I do differently next time?  I would continue to have the group meet once weekly to train, but then break the group up into groups of 3 to 4 people, who have similar schedules to train together as a smaller group during the week. That way, everyone will be held accountable to train more regularly during the week.

The greatest feeling was seeing everyone cross the finish line. It was a great day for a run and it was a great day to be with family. We did it!