The day after.

The day after is when you wake up in bed still feeling sore, but the good sore. Any rawness or fatigue from the day before has lifted with sleep, and you wake up thinking, "Yep, I did something pretty great yesterday."

I had the great experience of waking up feeling like that for more reasons than one today. I've been a racer for a long time, and I've done lots of different types of events. But help organize one? That was new territory.

Months back, my friend Kelly and I decided we wanted to bring a Women's 100km event to the Comox Valley. We're both cyclists, and even though we work together, for some reason or another, we hadn't been out for a ride together. I know different schedules are challenging, but the fact that we hadn’t ever ridden together told me there was something bigger at the core. Getting out to ride in larger groups of women doesn't seem to be the standard here, and really, is it anywhere yet? I've seen larger groups out riding, but they often seem to be dominated by men. Rarely have I ever seen an all-female group. So we chatted, and got down to the business of planning it.

And then something amazing happened. People got on board. We got local sponsorship for a meeting area, restrooms and showers. We had a local bakery on our route donate cookies and muffins. We found a venue for everyone to get together and share in the post-race exuberance. Bike shops promoted our ride and handed out coupons. Our spouses, children, and colleagues volunteered their time and waited for people at complimentary aid stations with fluids, food, and motivation. And then the biggie – Powered by Chocolate Milk came on as our main fuelling, gear, and – of course – sports recovery sponsor by providing chocolate milk. 

The purpose of this event was to make riding with women more accessible, make group riding exciting, and get more women out on bikes. We had several people who had never cycled 100km before – and this race gave them the opportunity to do that. I know that getting into the upper echelons of distance training and racing in any event is hard – logistics, motivation, fuelling, safety, and most of all, support are tough to come by – but we were able to provide all of that to these women.

We had women from 16 to 70 years old. We had all walks of cyclists: recreational, touring, cross riders, track stars, mountain bikers, and elite roadies. We had people who were nervous, and people who were so, so excited. We had people teach about road safety, and those who knew about riding in a pace line, fuelling and sports recovery. For me, it was so great to be able to talk about Powered by Chocolate Milk and explain how supportive they have been as a sponsor, and what they have done for so many other amateur, sub-elite, and elite athletes out there. It was heart-warming.

I used to be a Vancouver resident, but have since moved to Courtenay, BC, a cute little town snuggled between ocean and mountains. We never set out to compete, but I have to say, I had a proud moment when a little YVR bird told me we had more people out on our ride than the Vancouver riders. It gives me a warm feeling to think that we did something big here. I feel like the inaugural Bella Bicicletta Women's 100 will be a bit of a historical event in the record books.

From myself and Kelly, my cycling, organizing, occasionally stressing, motivating and inspirational partner, we thank Powered by Chocolate Milk and all of the participants.

Gillian Clayton & Kelly Mackenzie-Rife