The 2006 Ride for Heart has come and gone. More than 13,000 cyclists and skaters took over the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway for the Becel Ride For Heart for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. This popular annual event raises funds and awareness for heart disease and stroke – still the number one killers of Canadians.
I went downtown to the starting location on the west side of the Canadian National Exhibition grounds with my friend Neil and his girlfriend Crystal. It had been raining all of Saturday, so thankfully, the bad weather went away at night. Conditions were perfect for the ride. In fact, even before the start, I wish I didn't bring my jacket, as it was already quite warm. At about 8:50, we started the actual ride. The course itself was no surprise; it started at the Dunn Street on-ramp to the Gardiner, went east to the DVP, then north on the DVP to York Mills, and then back to the start. You can see a pdf file of the route here. I was able to achieve my goal of finishing the 50 kilometer course in under two hours (finished it in 1 hour 57 minutes). The first half of the course took me about 1 hour and 12 minutes, and coming back, took roughly 45 minutes including a few photo breaks. I intend to post some pictures in the next couple of days (both my pictures, and some that were taken by the media).
Some people definitely took this opportunity to take pictures of the Toronto skyline. Short of renting a helicopter, or knowing someone in one of the lakefront condos, these kind of photo opportunities don't occur everyday. It is too bad that all I had was a crappy Canon A80. My brother is coming back from Hong Kong tomorrow with a Canon SD700, which would have been a much better camera for picture taking (I guess his Canon 1D would have even been better, albeit a much more weighty solution).
Assuming I'm in Toronto next year, I'll definitely look forward to doing it again and hope that I can get a few more of my friends to take part. That said, I would do a few things differently next year. Among those include:
- Getting more than 20 minutes of sleep the night prior to the event;
- Registering/arriving earlier, perhaps even choosing the 7:15 start time, so that stragglers can be avoided (more on that later), and also have better sightline for pictures; and,
- Eating a little bit more before the ride.
I was a bit disappointed at some of the riding etiquette that was shown by some of the riders on the course. Granted, I can understand that for many, it is their first time doing this type of a ride, but some things really should be common sense. This includes:
- The left lane should be be left clear for those that are passing/faster cyclists. On more than a few occasions, slow riders poking along at about 10 km/h drifted over into the left lane. That's simply a recipe for disaster, especially when there are people storming the course at 30-50 km/h. Stay to the right unless you are passing, simple as that;
- When you are done with the free water that the organizers gave out at the rest stations, don't toss the bottle out on the middle of the road. The people ahead of you had enough respect not to do toss their bottle onto your path, so you should respect those behind you in the same manner;
- The same goes for any food you might bring. I shock my head when I saw banana peels discarded on the Don Valley, right at the part where most people would be approaching top speeds;
- Hold your line. Even if you are going slow, don't weave. Passing cyclists expect you to hold your line, any unexpected movement could lead to serious accidents.
Lastly, people really should check the condition of their bikes before heading out on a ride like this. Sure, tire punctures may occur and seat adjustments may be necessary, but when you can't shift gears, you can't brake, or you have a squeeky drive train, the time to look after those issues is before the ride, not during or after the ride.
As with real life, a lot of things are simply common sense. Sometimes, a little more of that would make things much easier for a lot of people.
Despite all this, it was still an amazing event. I really hope that the Heart and Stroke Foundation reaches its fundraising goal of $2.15 million, and that public awareness for this cause that affects so many people has been increased. While the event may be over, I hope people continue to donate to the Heart and Stroke Foundation so that it can continue its research and education programs, and I hope both the participates of this event and the general public continue to pursue activities that contribute to healthy living.
Too much stress can actually harm your health and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. If you are stressed out, use this heart shaped stress toy from Becel to relieve your stress!
Update June 07, 2006 - Pictures are now available here.