Paris to Ancaster 70k – 2022 Edition

Rebecca and I at the start line.

Welcome back P2A

After a 2-year (Covid-19) hiatus, the Paris to Ancaster Bike Race was back! For the first time I would be racing P2A with my adventure racing partner Rebecca, and my Bruce Trail running buddy Kris. We opted for the 70k race, my third time at this distance (Rebecca’s first, and Kris’ first time doing a bike race). There were also 20k, 45k, and 100k options this year (the 100k was new).


Rebecca and I paid for the pre-race shuttle. We parked one car at Ancaster High School across the road from the finish line at the Ancaster Community Centre, and then drove with our bikes 3k over to Walmart, where we put them on a truck and ourselves on a bus. While waiting for the bus to leave, we noticed a bike on the road ahead – a slight mishap with the driver having attempted to drive under a steel barrier with their bike on the roof of the car… the bus driver said it was the second bike she had seen on the ground. Hopefully they were still able to race!

Our driver let us out right at the start line at Waynco Aggregates in North Dumfries Township, where we waited for our bikes to come out of the back of the truck.

We were surprised to see only 3 portapotties for hundreds of riders… but we later learned there were additional ones in the parking lot (where our bus driver was supposed to let us out).

The weather forecast for race day was an incredible 20+ degrees Celsius, unseasonably warm (and dry!) for this race. I wasn’t alone wearing shorts, and many people were in short sleeves.

Kris eventually arrived at the start, and after watching the elite race begin (slightly delayed for some reason), we headed to the back of wave 4, the last wave.

Kris and I at the start line.

It was there that I spotted Erik, who I had met at the race in 2018 through a mutual friend, and who I saw again at the 2019 race.

With Kris, Erik and Rebecca just before the start.

The Race

As usual, I knew we were going to encounter paved roads, gravel roads, rail trails, farm lanes and fields, single track, and lots of mud. New this year was being overtaken by the 100k riders… and the chaos that ensued!

The race started and it wasn’t too long before the couple hundred riders in our wave spread out. Kris and I rode mountain bikes, and Rebecca a gravel bike. Before we had reached 14k, we saw a sign that said 44k to go. We were confused, because we were supposed to be riding 70k. The three of us rode together for a while, but after one section where we ended up in a very long line of people walking their bikes, Kris left us behind (we had told her that she didn’t have to stick with us). In this stretch there was a huge downed tree on the single track, but other than that it’s not clear why we were all walking. There was mud, but it shouldn’t have caused such a back-up. I ended up chatting with the people around me while we walked, and stood still, including another triathlete. For the first 15-16k (before we hit this section) we had been making good time!

This year’s route. Red = faster. Blue = slower. DO NOT RIDE THE COURSE EXCEPT ON RACE DAY (some parts are private property).

After this section, we never saw Kris again! She was doing an amazing job riding through the mud. I was more tentative this year than in the past, because I’m still healing from my Superman dive while skating this winter, and really didn’t want to fall.

We reached the aid station in Harrisburg at around 20k, which confused me further, because it was supposed to be at the 35k mark. We realized that for whatever reason, our race must have been shortened (this can happen due to poor conditions on course – for example, a section through private land that could be damaged if a thousand bikes ride through). We didn’t mind the shortened course, though I would have liked to know before the race started (no announcement was made). I found Erik here too, just like in 2019.

When a dozen or more 100k riders caught us, we were riding through a farm, on a series of hills that had mud pits at the bottom. They passed us at a high rate of speed, on the left, and on the right, weaving in and out of riders. It was pretty crazy. And it was incredible to see the speed and confidence with which they hit the mud pits! They just blasted straight though them. In this section I was trying to squeeze around the left side of Rebecca, but I clipped her with my bike and over I went! I fell onto my left (injured!) side, but was no worse for wear. Thankfully it was a soft landing. Rebecca’s shoe had a minor malfunction at this point but once she forced it back together we were on our way again!

Once we hit the Hamilton to Brantford rail trail around the 40k mark I was in familiar territory, having included this section in many of my training rides. Unfortunately I suffered some abdominal pains for the last 20k of the race – not GI, not a side stitch – which made my pace slow. I’ve had them before, on both my road and mountain bikes, and only ever on long rides. I haven’t figured out what causes them!

At the end of the Mineral Springs mud chute (through which I mostly pushed my bike, though I did ride a bit at the start of the mud) my dad, husband, and daughter were waiting for me! Alasdair had brought tools with him to help people clean mud and debris from their bikes. It was here that I caught up to Rebecca, who had gotten a short distance ahead of me.

Emerging from the Mineral Springs mud chute [picture by my dad].

Less than 2k later, I reached the Powerline mud chute, which I once again mostly pushed my bike through. Thankfully both mud chutes were downhill!

And then before I knew it, I was at the start of Martin Road, which ends with the 20% grade hill and then a short straightaway to the finish line. The hill was more congested for me this year than it was previously, so I was worried that someone would stop right in front of me and I too would have to stop. But I got lucky, and managed to power my way to the top! This section had great spectators on both sides of the road cheering for the riders, which helped push me up it. And then just like that, after 56.8k of riding, pushing and lifting my bike, I was at the finish line and Steve Fleck was announcing my name!

I found Kris, then Erik and finally Rebecca. After a veggie chili (thank you for the vegetarian option!), Rebecca and I drove back to Walmart to pick up her car, and I headed to Booster Juice for a drink – I was craving juice, and the only drinks at the finish were beer (which I grabbed for my dad), and water.

Thanks P2A for another great race!

Race stats:

  • Time: 3:33:21 (15.9 km/h)
  • Women 40-49: 30/31
  • Women: 125/135
  • All riders: 1145/1218

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Race report: My very 1st Paris to Ancaster 70k bike race (25th edition – 2018)

Having cheered on riders of the Paris to Ancaster 70k bike race many times in the past, I was well aware of the potential variability of late April race day weather – from sunny skies to rain, snow, wind and mud – and lots of it. But I never quite appreciated the mud chute at Mineral Springs Road in Ancaster – my usual spot for watching – until I did the race myself!

After winning my mountain bike last summer, I bit the bullet and signed up for the 25th anniversary of this race. After successfully completing the Steaming Nostril 65k bike race on April 8th, I was confident that I could finish the P2A.

According to the race website, “The 70km course consists of 24km of gravel and dirt roads, 5km of farm lanes, 19km of rail trail, 14km of single track (1-3km sections) and 8km of paved road.”

I paid $20 for the bus shuttle, so that I could get a bus to the start line (with my bike going by truck) and have my car waiting for me at the finish. On race morning I looked at the weather forecast (below zero at the start), and added layers to my original clothing plan. I scrapped the idea of wearing shorts and went with long pants. I also added a headband and my jacket, which I had hoped to do without.

With more than 2 hours to kill at Green Lane Sports Park in Paris before wave 4 was to start at 10:30 AM, I chatted with other riders, and made multiple trips to the portapotties. As the start time neared, I realized that I was overdressed.

At the start line of the 25th anniversary edition of the P2A – wave 4.

With the bang of multiple guns shot by people in period costumes, the race began! When the announcer (Steve Fleck) became inaudible after the gunshot, people joked that the speakers had been shot.

After the first few of the 600 riders in our wave began (the biggest P2A wave ever), other riders had the inflatable starting arch fall onto them as they rode under it. It was quickly righted and I didn’t hear about any injuries (just one damaged bike – hopefully a minor issue and they were able to race!). After a short section of gravel road, the route followed the Grand River along the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail.

From there, we rode a combination of gravel and paved roads, off-road sections including dry rail trail, wet and muddy trail, gravel farm laneway, single track dirt trails (some incredibly muddy), and wider dirt trails with varying degrees of mud. Overall, it was a less hilly route than I expected. Since I don’t have an odometer on my bike, I had no idea how far I had gone. My phone was tracking my progress, but it wasn’t accessible. I asked a few riders during the race, but I also knew that the aid station at the 35k mark would be the one sure sign of my progress.

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One of the few kilometres of paved road. [Photo credit: Apex Photography]

There were several sections of the course that were memorable!

Ditch and then 1st real mountain biking off road section (at 15k)

Just after the 15k mark, I was riding along the edge of a road when I encountered congestion as everyone got off their bikes and walked. It was soon clear why. I needed to take 5-10 steps down into a ditch, and then up the other side. With wooden skids at the bottom and tons of mud, it was completely unrideable.

Then after getting on my way again, I entered the first real mountain biking off road section, a single track bit through the woods. I loved this section, but this is where I totally understood a conversation I had overheard before the race about “avoiding other riders”. In this section, which was a little less than a kilometre, I likely would have been able to ride through it completely (or nearly!) had there not been people all around me. Partly I was very conscious of not wanting to get in people’s way, and partly I didn’t want to end up falling. At times I had to unclip and walk, because it was very muddy and other riders would stop dead in front of me when their bikes got stuck. Granted I did the same thing at times. In any case, this was a fun section of curvy trail through the woods.

Muddy trail more like a rail trail (at 29k)

I’m not sure quite how to describe this trail, other than to say it was wide enough for at least 2 riders to travel side by side, but it was dirt, straight, and very very muddy. It presented me with the deepest, thickest mud I have ever biked through before. Many people were walking, but I decided to take full advantage of being clipped into my bike (still very new for me on my MTB!), and to push hard through this section. I was by no means going quickly, but I was pushing as hard as I could to stay upright! At times my tires would get sucked into ruts and I was sure I was going over, but somehow I managed to lean or push harder and continue. I had to announce my presence a few times to make sure the walkers knew I was coming through. I had one guy following right behind me, and when we emerged from the mud (which had to be close to reaching my pedals!) he said to me, “Nicely ridden!” That felt awesome.

Harrisburg aid station (35k)

I hit the Harrisburg aid station sooner than expected (1 hr 40 minutes on my watch). My legs were feeling good, my energy was good, and the race was so far easier than I expected it to be. I texted my husband and parents to give them a heads up that I might be coming through sooner than expected. Ha!

I had a quick pee break, then stopped to add water to my gatorade, but the container was empty and the next one looked like nuun, so I scrapped that plan (I still had lots) and headed off.

Stomach pain (40k)

Yet again, I suffered an unknown stomach pain that comes out of nowhere. It’s rare that I feel it on my rides, and it’s only ever when biking, but it hurts like crazy and makes bumps unbearable. It feels more like a muscle cramp than a GI issue, but it’s frustrating because not knowing what’s causing it makes it hard to prevent it! I sometimes wonder if it’s a posture thing, but I’m affected on both my road bike and MTB bike. I suffered until about the 65k mark, though it eased off gradually so it wasn’t super intense the whole time. It did make me slow down in this section though.

Heading West instead of East at the 403 (47k)

Just before the 47k mark, we started heading West instead of East – this was slightly hard psychologically because it made it feel as though I wasn’t as close to the finish as I thought I was. We crossed under Highway 403 and headed East again.

Crossing Highway 52 (65k)

At all other intersections on the race route, police held up traffic and I just sailed through. But Highway 52 is a busy road, and so I waited for 5-10 minutes to be allowed to cross. There was a group of 20 or so riders by the time we crossed.

Mud chute at Mineral Springs Road (66k)

This section runs from Highway 52 to Slote Road, and while the beginning part is rideable (there are houses and it is driveable), the later part is not. This part of the road is blocked off with big cement blocks, and is overgrown with trees and bushes. I’m sure you could ride this section if you were one of the very first people passing through. But by the time I got there the mud was way too thick to ride. As I pushed my bike along, mostly downhill, it accumulated so much mud and vegetative matter that my front wheel wouldn’t even turn. My bike is not light, so carrying it was not an option, though I did have to keep lifting it slightly to change angles. It was tough slogging!! I heard my husband cheering for riders (walkers?) then saw him, my parents and my daughter. My mom had been waiting patiently for me with a little container of pure maple syrup – but I had no interest in it, despite having given it to her to bring to the race!

End of the mud chute at Mineral Springs Road. [Photo credit: Neil]

I spotted a lineup of riders waiting for their bikes to be hosed down – yes, during the race! We weren’t at the finish yet. I decided to wait, because I had no idea how I’d be able to ride my bike otherwise. While waiting 10 minutes or so for my turn, I picked out as much of the sticks and mud as I could. My dad said that next year, they will be there wearing gloves prepared to help people clean out their bikes! I’ve seen muddy bikes coming out of that section before, but this was crazy!

Bike wash at the end of the mud chute at Mineral Springs Road [Photo credit: Ailish]
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Attempting to clip in after the bike wash [Photo credit: Alasdair]

I said goodbye to my family and headed up the Slote Road hill. In my training I’d done all the gravel roads in this area quite a few times, so I knew what to expect until I reached the Powerline Road mud chute.

Powerline Road mud chute

The top part of this hill was rideable, but then… forget it! Another super thick muddy section that I walked down. I attempted to keep my bike out of the mud as much as possible. Didn’t I just get my bike washed 1-2k ago?!

Powerline Mudslide
Mud chute on Powerline. [Photo credit: Apex Photography]
The fall

My only fall in this race was on Martin Road before the final hill, on another very small hill that was super muddy. I fell – in slow motion – into a thick pile of very cushioning mud. As I started pushing my bike up to a more level spot, another rider fell in front of me, with his bike landing on top of him – he was still clipped in. I asked him if he needed any help extricating himself from his bike, which resulted in laughter around me. He was fine.

Martin Road hill to the finish line

I had 2 goals for this race: 1) to finish! and 2) to successfully climb up the Martin Road hill, which is how this race ends. Part of this dirt hill is a 17% grade. I rode the hill in training, after about 30k on area roads, and wondered how I would manage it after riding 70k. In fact, it went better than expected! I knew the hill, and knew that once I did the steepest part, the rest would be easy. I never felt that I was in danger of losing momentum and falling over or having to unclip. And since almost everyone around me was walking, I got great cheers from the crowd, and from one enthusiast spectator in particular – thank you random stranger! It helped get me up the hill!

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Woohoo! I made it all the way up the Martin Road hill (17% grade at one point)! [Photo credit: Apex Photography]

From there it was a very short ride to the finish line (at the 73k mark!), which was rather anticlimactic. I asked a woman to take my picture, then I decided not to get a bike wash given that I had somewhere I had to be later that afternoon, and after getting into the food line-up, I scrapped that idea too because there had to be 100 people in front of me. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that they were handing out P2A medals inside, and I missed out. I’ve never been in a race where you had to go elsewhere for a medal.

Done! [Photo credit: random stranger]

I really enjoyed this race, except for the part when my stomach was hurting. Thankfully, the wind wasn’t too bad, and I wasn’t too warm despite being overdressed. Despite thinking at the half way point that I might possibly finish under 4 hours, this was most definitely not the case. Next year! Because yes, I’ll be back!

Thank you P2A for a great race, and to the landowners who allowed us to tear through their properties – I thanked every person I saw who looked like they might own the land I was riding on, including the farmer on his front porch!


  • Distance: 73k
  • Time: 4:36:37 (15.8 km/h)
  • Placing women 40-49: 35/45
  • Placing all women: 129/150
  • Placing all riders: 1482/1623
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The state of my bike after the race.

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Race report: Steaming Nostril 65k Bike Race

In the days leading up to the Steaming Nostril 65k bike race, put on by Cycle Waterloo, I obsessively checked the weather forecast, but never once imagined what the weather might actually do to my bike…

I hadn’t heard of this race until February, when my friend Kristin posted about it on Facebook. I figured the timing and distance were perfect for a “test” race 3 weeks before the Paris to Ancaster 70k race, which I would be participating in for the very first time. If I couldn’t finish the Steaming Nostril, forget about the P2A!

In preparation for this race, I started riding outdoors earlier in the year than I ever have before, knowing that I needed to gradually build up my endurance – I did rides of 20k, 35k, 50k, 55k and 60k on a combination of gravel roads, paved roads, and rail trail in the weeks leading up to the race, each time jumping in my parents’ hot tub after the ride. You know you’re dedicated, committed, or just plain crazy when you have to take time off work to fit a long ride in. Just before my last training ride, I got clipless pedals put on my bike (make no mistake, I would be fully clipped in!). Nothing like an added challenge for race day.


I arrived at the Waterloo Rod and Gun Club in St. Jacob’s, Ontario just as a horse and buggy passed under the big archway. There are many Old Order Mennonites in the area, and this wouldn’t be the last horse and buggy I saw that day.

After signing a waiver and picking up my bike number plate, I got my bike ready, and briefly chatted with another rider who mentioned that she was going to put her foot warmers on. Why hadn’t I thought of that? After all, the forecast was for -2C feeling like -8 with the windchill (23 km/h winds gusting to 35). I thought she meant shoe covers, but when I found out she meant disposable foot warmers, and she had extras, I gladly accepted! Later when I went to put them on my socks, I discovered that the package only had one in it – so I put it on my left foot, and decided I’d do a highly scientific experiment to see whether it made a difference (I didn’t graduate with multiple degrees for nothing!).

[Photo by Kristin]

Eventually we headed for the start line, but cowered from the wind behind a large shed nearby. Kristin and I, as well as her friends Erik and Leslie, would be starting in wave 2 (i.e. the wave you don’t need to justify your participation in!).

[Photo by Kristin]

KM 0-2 (It’s only looking back now at the RunKeeper data on my phone that I can distinguish the various sections of the race course)

With about a minute to go, we made our way to the start line, and after a very long 30 second warning, the race began… straight up a grassy/snowy hill! Unfortunately, I struggled to clip my right shoe in, and somehow managed to climb the short but steep hill unclipped. I kept trying to clip in, to no avail. Kristin waited while I stopped and sorted myself out – by then, all the other riders had passed us, as had the VeloFix support vehicle and another support vehicle. What a way to start!

Start line for wave 2

We caught the back of the pack, which is where I expected to be in this race anyway based on last year’s results.


KM 2-4

This part of the race was probably the prettiest, along the Mill Race Trail which runs beside a creek, complete with ducks.

[Official race photo by Lauren Daniells]
[Official race photo by Lauren Daniells]

KM 4-22

I don’t really remember this section. My gloved hands were warm and my energy level good. But there was wind. In fact, I felt like I internally complained about the wind for the entire race. At some point, another rider told me that someone told him that we would have a tailwind for the second half of the race. I’m not sure if that actually happened though. I tried to draft off of other riders but couldn’t hang on to them (Kristin included). I also noticed early on in the race that my left shoe was probably done up a little too tightly – it was mildly numb (maybe it was the hand warmer [not foot warmer])!

KM 22-30

When I did my training rides and the Hamilton to Brantford rail trail got mushy, muddy and sluggish, I got off the trail and hit the gravel roads. During the race though, I was forced to ride about 8 km along a very mushy, sloppy, muddy, slippery, rutted rail trail where carefully picking your path was important! Being on a mountain bike, I fared better than some people around me on skinnier tires. In this section, I started to feel a pain in my stomach that I couldn’t figure out, have had a few times before (only when riding), and thankfully it eventually goes away on its own. I remember saying to another rider in this section that I wasn’t sure whether I preferred hard ground, hills and wind or soft muddy ground sheltered from the wind! The jury is still out.

KM 30-35

As soon as I got out of the rail trail section and hit the road again, I had a problem – I couldn’t shift my chain out of the small chain ring at the front. This meant that I couldn’t take advantage of the downhills (I couldn’t pedal!) and I had a top speed that was slow! It was frustrating, but I figured that the sloppy mess I had ridden through had frozen onto my bike. My left knee started to complain in this section, and I was feeling cold! Maybe it was the direction of the wind, but my upper body was cold and my poor feet were freezing! They must have gotten soaked by the slush. I grabbed a granola bar from my crossbar bag, but as I did so another one hit the ground. I wasn’t stopping. Another rider kindly offered me extra gels if I needed any. I was worried that my gatorade bottle would freeze, and it did, but never so much that I couldn’t suck the icy slush out of it!

I think it was in this section that police at an intersection stopped 3 horse and buggies so that I could cross the road! I saw many others during the race.

KM 35-40

In this section my upper body warmed up, but my feet were still frozen. The insides of my ski gloves were wet from sweat, and my fingers now cold. I had in my head that the aid station was at the 40k mark, but mostly during the race I had no idea how far I had ridden, because I don’t have a bike computer. I did ask other riders a few times, and was relieved when I heard that we were at 39k! I figured there would be mechanical support at the aid station and I might be able to get help for my bike.

KM 40-45

This section seemed long, because my fingers and toes were cold, and I wondered if the aid station had been packed up already! And then finally, there it was! I stopped for a quick portapotty visit and then asked about my bike, but the VeloFix guy confirmed that it was frozen and that there was nothing I could do. And apparently I wasn’t the first one with that problem! I grabbed a banana from a volunteer, and off I went.

KM 45-58

In this section all I remember is stopping to change my gloves, and then moaning and groaning aloud over and over and over again because my new gloves (thin ones under MTBing gloves under fleece gloves) weren’t warming up my frozen fingers. I started doubting that they would ever warm up again, and that I might get frostbite! I moved my fingers around, squeezed the handlebars, tried putting one hand between my thighs – nothing!

KM 58-59

Just after the 58 km mark, the course turns off road and onto a farmer’s field. While a couple of riders ahead of me were walking their bikes, I managed to stay upright, riding far left, as far from the thick gooey mud as possible and as close to the vegetative matter and wooden logs that made up a fence of sorts. I thought I might hit my pedals on the wood, but managed to avoid it. Sometimes I got pulled in the mud ruts, but was pleased to stay upright!

KM 59-61

This section would have been my kind of riding had I simply been going out for a ride on my bike. And maybe it still is. But after a short ride along a farmer’s laneway (belonging to the Martin family, apparently), we had to ride down a steep, muddy, rutted grassy hill that we were assured at the top was rideable. “For what skill level?”, I was thinking. Yet again, I stayed upright and breathed a sigh of relief at the bottom! Then the twisty single track-like riding began, where in a few places I doubted my new clipped in feet and my ability to get around tight, muddy, root covered corners. I walked around a couple, fell at one corner, and fell again later at another. I wasn’t injured, so it was all good! This section was marked well with caution tape, so it was easy to know where to go. I wasn’t the only one walking parts of this bit, including across a wooden bridge that I feared would take me down. And then I reached a mini aid station, where 2 awesome volunteers took sticks to the thick mud/vegetative matter stuck to my bike, and provided shots of pure maple syrup produced by the Martin family. Yum! A racing first for me. I have had Endurance Tap a couple of times, but this was thicker (partly frozen no doubt!) and oh so good. We were assured that it would help us get up the hill.

There was a big sign at the base of the hill “Hard but short” and “Easier but longer”. But “That doesn’t mean it’s easy!” one of the volunteers yelled. I went the easier route, but he was right, pushing my bike up that hill was anything but easy! At the top I met 2 riders who went the harder way, and who were walking towards me instead of away from me. I heard a volunteer yell, “You’re going the wrong way. Go left!” They turned around and I followed them. I figured at this point we probably had 10-15k to go. Imagine my surprise and excitement when I heard from one of the guys that the volunteers said that at the top of the hill there were only 6k left! Woohoo. “We can do this!” I said to my new riding buddy Andy from Burlington. We pretty much rode the last part of the race together. It passed the time and made it more fun. By this time my fingers had warmed up!

KM 61-65

The last bit was easy riding along dirt roads and then a farmer’s laneway. We weren’t sure exactly where the finish line was, but then realized as we got closer that we had to ride down the steep grassy hill that we started the race riding up. Kristin yelled my name as I approached the hill. I hoped that it wouldn’t be icy! It wasn’t, and just like that, the race was done!

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 6.45.53 PM

Sadly my phone died after the race, so I wasn’t able to get close up shots of all the mud and debris on my bike! I paid $5 for volunteers to hose it down. Best $5 I’ve spent in a while.

The post-race hot meal of chili (including meat or vegetarian), wraps, cookies and hot chocolate hit the spot! I enjoyed chatting with other riders after the race and comparing stories.

What an adventure! Some bits of the race were decidedly un-fun, like the frozen fingers and toes, stomach pains, and sore knee, but overall, it was a great experience. I survived my first road bike race! My first bike race was a mountain bike orienteering race last fall, and my second a fat bike race this winter. Given that I gave blood 5 days before the race, I’m kind of amazed at my performance. The timing wasn’t great, but as I said to the Canadian Blood Services staff, the lives of other people are far more important than my performance in this race, which I was doing for fun! It’s In You To Give!

Bring on the P2A!

I found this race to be really well organized, and the volunteers excellent!

[Photo by Kristin]

And as for that little shoe experiment? My toes were equally frozen in both shoes, so the little hand warmer had no effect. Statistically significant result, for sure!

Race results

  • Time: 4:01:30 (16 km/h)
  • Women 40-49: 8/8
  • Women: 21/21
  • All riders: 247/256

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