The Shawarmanator entails punishing your legs and mind to a certain level: that point where you are increasing your breaking point, and that all you can do to finish is imagine a Shawarma feast at Shawarma Palace…
Early March, eyes glued to the weather network to see if the temp is above -5 degrees. That’s my cut-off for a 5-hour ride (anything colder and I just can’t sustain enough heat, or have to wear so much clothing that I feel like I’m going tobogganing).
Aaron Fillion (2009 Canadian Elite Road Race Champion) asks me to ride to the Clearance-Rockland course, then ride the course and then ride home. The plan: leave from the West End at 9am, ride there (55 km), do the course, (85 km of rough roads, gravel and dirt) and ride back (55 km). So what’s a 200km ride between friends?
We’ve done the ride before… once. I was not so fit and it literally took me a month to recover, but it’s 2011 and I just got back from World’s CX in Germany, so I m fit. A young up-and-coming cyclist is to join us part way in, and a few others will meet us for the actual race course section. SO we leave my place then clip in from 0 to 300 watts in the first 2 minutes. The parkways are empty, the air is cold and I’m not sure if we’re riding so hard because its freezing or Aaron is trying to kill us–this is going to be a 6-hour ride after all.
We’re chatting up a storm, talking about how it’s useless to train easy: “why would you want to make yourself good at riding easy” is our general consensus. The roads are fairly flat for the first 20 kms, so the pace is staying at 300 watts. I flip through my Garmin screens: wow we’re averaging 280 watts. Then the roads start rolling and so does Aaron… 300 turns into 400 watts every time there is a slight rise in elevation, and just to make sure I don’t crack, the pace slows back to 300 watts on the more flat sections. I’ve finished 2 bottles and we’re not even at the “course” yet.
We meet the up-and-coming young prodigy. I try to tell him, “Hey kid, you know Aaron and I are old, but we’re pretty strong and we’ve been around the block…so you better eat and drink today ‘cause last time we did this ride we did over 5000 kj’s”. We tell him we are stopping once before the course and once after and that’s it, so eat up buttercup! He shrugs and says “nah man, I m good”. Oh really. His coach had told me he was slaying it in Arizona all winter. Ok, let’s see what he’s got.
So we’re riding and I’m pressing the pace on every sharp steep uphill. I know that to really hurt people you have to put them over their limit–at least double threshold–so I try to keep it in the big ring and push at least over 600 watts on the short uphill gravel sections, just to feel the burn. At one point the kid flies by me. Wow, that’s impressive.
A few people join us, but Aaron and I ride at the front for the most part not letting the others get more than an inch. Generally the pace stays steady, but it’s always creeping up until a turn or a stop sign or until we have to check a map to make sure we are still on course.
I start feeling the need for sugar. Luckily I’m armed with my secret weapon: a hand full of black licorice from the corner store and I’m going through it. I love licorice. It’s pretty much like a gel, except it’s way better and cheaper. So I let that kick in. Still hungry. Start rummaging the pockets: figs, dates, rice pita, all shovelled in face. Hmmm… we’ve still got about 85km to go. I start thinking ice cream. Stop I say, stop thinking about ice cream, Shawarma…yes Shawarma. How good would that be? Frigin’ good let me tell you. Crispy chicken with searing hot potatoes–I can smell the salt crystals melting on top of the potatoes. I want to drown myself in creamy garlic sauce. I want to bathe in Garlic sauce. I make a deal with myself. You must do over 5000 calories and hit over 500 watts for 2 minutes and you’ll get your Shawarma. So I think I can do it if I get a red bull at our last stop. Aaron must be thinking the same: he gets a double Rockstar. Oh my God, we are all going to die today.
Hellacious. That’s the pace on the way home. Everyone who is with us is now stripped down to just jersey and shorts and pockets busting with all kinds of spandex and warmers. Faces are long, dirty, covered with mud, and some with salt as the temperature is actually beaming hot. Chains are dry and covered with caked mud from the off-road sections of the ride. The gears are squeaking and barley shifting. Legs are burning, mouths and faces are dropped and almost eating the handlebars at this time. Every stoplight is a respite from the pace. I need a break. I can’t match Aaron today. He drives us all the way back to the Ottawa parkway. I contemplate smashing into a pothole to purposely get a flat so we can rest for a few minutes.
I toggle my screens. I need to hit my objectives for my Shawarma and I want the potatoes tonight darn it! It’s my birthday after all. Maybe I’m going to want a mango juice, extra garlic. I find a ninth life in the last hour of this misery. Man how good is that chicken going to be and the rice better be hot. How do you say crispy chicken in Lebanese? Shookran means thank you; I think. I wonder if the Shawarma guy will know I’ve been riding… I probably have wind burn. I’ve lost a lot of salt. I could probably even get pickles. Oh yah pickles are amazing! I wonder what would happen if you rode with pickles. Stop. Focus. Drill it. Pickled turnips are my favourite. More power… push hard… we’re almost home. I feel like my legs are bleeding. I wonder how many calories are in the hummus, but no oil on the hummus. I’ll definitely get at least one pita, maybe two… but if I’m getting potatoes, I’m just not sure. Can you bonk more than once during a ride? Man that chicken better be crispy. I can almost smell it. I wonder if there’s another Shawarma place I could ride to? I wonder if Natasha will get a platter or just a wrap? Focus, ride.
Our friend the young cyclist is completely bonked. We’ve broken him. We’ve crushed him. We’ve stolen his life force. He can’t ride. He’s literally riding sideways. He’s not sure where he lives. We’ve gone too far. We have to slow down for him. But I’m still not at 5000 kj’s. I start pushing him. Push him for 7km’s down almost all of the 7.5 km Rocklcliff TT course. I’m using arm strength and that won’t even show in the kj’s… sweet… for sure I get dessert today.
Aaron says he may do another hour; he doesn’t feel the chain. I literally shower with my shoes on and tell Tasha to start the car. We’re at Shawarma Palace in about 20 seconds. Natasha is driving, I m so hungry, I get out of the car while its still moving. I get the Shawarma and it’s so good I almost lose consciousness. I get the mango juice. I’m back to life… ahhh just another day, just another Happy Birthday. I’ve been Shawarmanated.