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Hairshirt 2009

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After hearing about the TBN TNT Hairshirt three years ago, I thought it was probably the craziest idea for an event ever. 200 miles (322 km) in one day, from Toronto to Niagara Falls and back. Naturally I couldn’t wait to be a strong enough cyclist to be able to enter it. This year everything seemed to fall into place. I started training much earlier than usual. The only potential snag was the impending thundershowers. But as Owen the organizer said, “more good rides are ruined by bad forecasts than bad weather!”

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The ride started off relatively easy. I was dropped from the pack right away. I figured I should save my energy anyway… it’s a marathon, not a spirnt. I love the serenity of riding solo, but sometimes it helps to have some company. Thankfully I had @shapelike, @caffekat, @eskwire and @bwinton along for the ride via twitter on my iPhone. About 250 km in, it started to rain. By the time I stopped to put my electronics in plastic bags it was pouring. The distance was just over my previous longest ride, so by this point I was absolutely beaten physically and mentally. Somehow I thought walking would be a good idea. Maybe I was hoping for a car to come by and pick me up. But I got back on, and then the same thing happened which happened on my first single century. In a defiant fit of determination, the harder it rained the harder I pushed. Nothing could stop me…

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…until the rain let up. The pain crept back, and I descended the escarpment. As soon as I hit the bottom the downpour returned, even harder and colder than before. I took shelter beside a building to wait it out, then limped back to the closest Tim Horton’s to “reassess my situation.” When I said reassess I meant “call a cab.” While eating my soup and coffee, I got an outpouring of encouraging tweets. That was what changed my mind. I was only 54 km from home, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all? It wasn’t easy, but I eventually made it in 18 hours and 18 minutes. The event certainly lived up to its namesake, which according to TBN, was a “medieval form of monasterial punishment and penance, in which monks wore shirts woven of very coarse horse hair, causing them to experience extreme discomfort.” It was by far my most challenging experience. There was a lot I got out of the ride. Sometimes when you’re faced with adversity you can give it the finger and use that to your advantage. But other times you really do need someone else, even if it is just for a little encouragement.

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