Shortly after I started work at Simba, several people were recognized for signing up to ride the Whistler GranFondo bike race. Simba-logoed jerseys were ceremonially distributed, and everyone discussed training plans. That summer, those riders frequently did after-work group rides out to the top of Cypress, to Burnaby Mountain for frozen yogurt, to Steveston for fish and chips, out to the University of British Columbia, etc.
When September rolled around, the team competed in the GranFondo and came back with stories to tell of dancing at rest stops and a team atmosphere where no person was left behind. In the end the fastest of the fast completed the ride in around five hours, while the rest finished more-or-less together in front of the sag wagon. Even those who could have trained more (or harder) were well-supported by the rest of the team. Everyone finished, and everyone on Team Simba had fun. I decided right then and there that I wanted to be a part of this the next year.
I am a father of three and a manager here at Simba, so for me time is always tight. I started training by setting up a bike on an indoor bike trainer and did 10km indoor training rides every other night in my home office. In the cold of winter I started occasionally commuting to work by combined bike and transit. As summer approached and the school year ended for my kids, I rode to work more and more. My commute was my “free” time, and became the heart of my training for the big ride.
During Bike-to-Work week, I started to collaborate with my Simba GranFondo teammates on training and how we were all going to get in shape for the big day. I could not participate in every group ride due to my schedule limitations, but despite that the team was very supportive and challenged me to establish habits I needed to be successful.
I also began bike-commuting with a coworker and GranFondo veteran. As this year’s race approached, a Simba company challenge was issued: Who can ride the most mileage in August? We all tracked our riding mileage on Strava and created a group where we could see each other’s progress. As a team, we aimed to ensure that everyone had adequate training for the big race.
But then in mid-August, I felt a pain in my wrist that turned out to be a repetitive stress injury. It precluded me from continuing to participate fully in training. Ultimately I had to re-register for the GranFondo “Medio” distance of 55km from Squamish to Whistler. I was the only person on the Simba team to start so far ahead, but with the staggered start I had hope of seeing some of my friends en route.
On race day, after my halfway-there start, I reached the first rest stop for my route, the Salt Shed north of Alice Lake, and caught up with my colleague Caroline. She and I rode together, varying our speeds to our strengths; she climbed faster, but my heavier weight gave me an advantage on downhill and flat sections. We arrived at the Brandywine Chainup Area within seconds of each other. Here we met up with another Simba rider, Jenny. We talked teammate progress: Mike had had mechanical issues with his bike and was delayed, and no one had seen Trevor since the start. I recalled someone going through Squamish wearing what might have been a Simba jersey, but at the time I was too far away from the riders to know for sure. As it turns out, that speedy blur was Trevor on his way to a 4:38 finish at Whistler. Caroline, Jenny, and I rode close together for the remaining 18 kilometers. Caroline finished 5 seconds ahead of me, while Jenny and I crossed the finish together—at 5:58:33 for her, and 3:30:09 for me on the shorter distance. (Mike made it an hour and a bit later at 7:17:37.)
We finished up the day at a Whistler pub with a pint and compared our experiences; the climbs and descents, the other riders, how much harder we were all going to train for next year, who would ride again, and who wouldn’t (!).
Riding this year’s Whistler GranFondo as a member of Team Simba was one of the best experiences of my life and I can’t wait until the next race. Next year I want to do the full distance in between six and seven hours. As I write this, my injury has almost healed. I plan to resume training within the next two weeks. Team Simba for next year’s GranFondo is already starting to form, and between now and then, I look forward to many trips with the team for frozen yogurt at the top of Burnaby Mountain.