Victoria Day ride

Victoria Day is a long weekend (a.k.a. bank holiday) in Canada, during which the Queen’s birthday is celebrated. Sort of. In cottage country May 24 is the traditional cottage-opening weekend after a long winter, although openings have been earlier in recent years due to weather changes.

Canada’s head of state is Queen Elizabeth. I am not a monarchist per se but I do have great respect for the Queen. More importantly, I strongly believe there are great advantages to having a constitutional head of state who is remote, non-partisan, and powerless. This arrangement twice served our country very well during the last minority government. It is, in my opinion, clearly superior to a presidential system.

Our own Victoria Day activity was a Sunday morning ride. We left the cottage in long sleeves with the sun filtering through new spring leaves along the cottage road. The road was freshly-graded and dusty. There was a fresh set of moose tracks by the beaver pond. At the highway we changed to bare arms.

Our route was not a long one. In the nearby village some local kids were jumping off the iron bridge into the river. “How’s the water?” “Great!” “Freezing!!” We passed the occasional cyclist riding in the opposite direction as we rode up rolling hills towards Minden, where there is a 10 km climb we wanted to try. The climb is not that bad. In fact, there’s not a lot to it except for a short, sharp section right at the start. Once we were over that section, the road settled back to its accustomed pattern of rolling hills, but always rising.

At the top of the 10km we made a turn and things became “interesting”. We weren’t the only ones who had been climbing. Temperatures had been steadily rising since we had left and it was now well over 30 degrees in the shade.

On the open highway with no shelter the sun was fierce. And, of course, the “againsterlies” started blowing. Both our energies flagged. The chain came off during a shift from inner- to middle-ring, and we tipped when Mary unclipped on the “wrong” side (we caught ourselves on time). Water was warm. Water was low. The chain came off again.

By the time we made it back over the dusty road to the cottage we were both beaten up. A snack, a cold beer, and a nap were in order. When I woke and stirred, both legs seized in a massive, powerful and very painful cramp. My inner quads were trembling with no hope of controlling them.

Leg cramps have hit me before after a hard ride, especially during or after sleep. It feels like my muscles are spring-loaded and ready to overreact at the slightest provocation. The only way to manage the cramps is to stay very still and breathe deeply until they pass.

I have been told that drinking lots of water helps avoid cramps, and was careful to stay hydrated. However I don’t stretch after riding. I should probably develop the habit.