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Why Tuesday?

The Girlfriend's Guide to Health will be updated every Tuesday.... Stay tuned dear readers and let me rock your world.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

An Equal Opportunity

Ah sweet sisters (and yes, my brothers too). It has indeed come to my attention that the odd Y chromosome reads this blog and therefore moving forward let me say…. Welcome my cyber brothers, make yourselves comfortable and let the sisterhood wash over you. Allow me offer a heartfelt bienvenue as only a good Canadian girlfriend can. May you find our weekly witty banters as emotionally stimulating as my previous cyber sisters before you.

Will I, you ask, find a more gender neutral term for the GGTH?

Hell no.

Make no mistake, I am thrilled to have you en blog, if you will, but hey, a girlfriend has got to do what a girlfriend has got to do.

Rest assured my cyber brothers- I will endeavor to broaden the scope of the topics included here every Tuesday and try and meet a little bit of your needs as well.

Sure, we can discuss Testerone replacement every once in a while and yes, I may drop the word PROSTATE into polite conversation, but you will forgive me, dear boyfriends (and by that I mean platonic of course) if we keep some things sacred in the name of sisterhood?

And so in the spirit of a relatively brave new world that attempts at times to appeal to genders far and wide, I write this Tuesdays post from the seat of my bike. Rest assured I am not perched on said Cervelo pedaling for God and country. In fact at this moment I am seated on the floor of my walk in allowing the inspiration to wash over me.

But in reality this post was written this past Saturday while I rode for glory from Vancouver to Whistler in the Gran Fondo.

Make no mistake, the Fondo is by no means a man’s race. Cycling is very much a  female sport despite the fact that the Tour de France still does not include women.

Yeh, I went political. And I took the passive aggressive route. There. But really, mes soeurs? What the F? Remember when marathons were “men only” sports? In fact back in the 1960’s was it not a thought among medicine men that women running marathons would bang the hell out of their uteruses too much so as to prevent them from having babies?

Weren’t we in the dark ages…. Sure enough when Katherine Switzer ran the Boston marathon in 1967 as the first woman ever to register for the race and complete it. Sure enough 5 years later the Boston Marathon was open to women. It took some time but yes, indeed it is a man’s prerogative to change his mind.

And so this brings me to the world of cycling. I could not help but dream of the day when a female Tour de France will be a part of the cycling landscape as I found myself on top of my sweet Celia (yes, I name my bikes) in my second Gran Fondo Whistler.

Truth be told, when I completed the race 2 years ago, I vowed NEVER to do it again. Turns out, I am full of shit. For there I was with a bib on my chest, race number on my helmet and a song in my heart at the start line.

The Gran Fondo Whistler is 122 kilometre cycling race that begins in Downtown Vancouver and ends in Downtown Whistler. For those of you unfamiliar with the route…. Let me talk you through it.

It’s 6:35 in the morning in Vancouver. I have lined up along with 6000 other lunatics on wheels on West Georgia Street. I find myself in the 6 hour plus pace group. I was indeed built for comfort and not for speed.

Those of you who take issue with my time of cycling uphill for 122km in 6 hours or more, please allow me to invite you to go screw yourselves. I’m in pretty great shape- but I’m no cycling champ. I’ve got stamina for days but speed is not my strength. Besides, I have 3 full time jobs and I make dinner every night for my family. I am a loving wife, a pretty decent doctor and an occasionally reliable friend. I have a mouth on me that is pretty respectable and I can indeed shop for Canada (should it ever be recognized by the IOC as a sport). If you can do all that, in four inch heels and cycle to Whistler in less than 6 hours- have at me sister (or brother)… I’m all yours.

But enough with my rant…. Back to my race on Saturday morning….

We riders are all asked to remove our helmets and the national anthem begins. Of course, true to form, I start to cry. Yes, I cry when I hear my national anthem (I’m not a wuss- I’m a patriot, thank you very much) and I cry during racing events. Oh Canada at a racing event and I’m reduced to an emotional puddle.

The anthem ends, I dry my face and on goes my helmet. The starting gun goes off and the race begins.

The Fondo indeed is a rite of passage for any cyclist living in Vancouver. Not only is it a chance for the meek on wheels to inherit the road, so to speak, it’s a true test of endurance.

After a coordinated wave of starts geared toward each groups’ expected finish time, it was indeed my turn.

Ah the rush of it all as I cycled through the Stanley Park causeway…. ON THE ROAD. Sisters, I have ridden the causeway twice a day every day on my way to work- but always on the side of the bike path. THIS time, I was front and centre down the yellow line of the of the roadway as I made my way across the Lion’s Gate Bridge. Safe to say, Nobody puts baby in the corner. Truth be told, I had another 120km ahead of me, but it was indeed a small price to pay for a moment of glory. There we were, 5000 plus riders cycling over the Lion’s Gate Bridge on Saturday morning without a car in sight. Regardless of what happened over the next coming hours- I had THIS moment….

And then came the 10% hill grade that is Taylor Way. This was indeed the prologue for my day to come. For yes my sisters as I rode up that Motherfunhouse it dawned on me that there would be more to come…. A great deal more.

And sure enough as if on cue, Kate Busch started singing on my playlist….. RUNNING UP THAT HILL.

Yes, I rode the Fondo with a single ear bud in my right ear and a play list on my phone. Truth be told, I usually ride with a single ear bud in my right ear. I am never distracted and the music helps me pace. And so on that glorious Saturday morning, Kate Busch was singing me up that hill and the 75 more or so to follow.

Over the next 120 km I listened to Bruno Mars lament his relationships lost. I hummed along to Matchbox 20 as I made my way to Squamish. This indeed was the lovely part of the ride. The Ocean to my left and an entire lane of the Sea to Sky Highway before me.

I hit Squamish (KM 60 or so) with the Dunwells in my ear and a skip in my cycling stride.

And then came the Alice Lake Hill. This was of course followed by Daisy Lake Hill and a variety of other hills named after women and lakes. I have a variety of conspiracy theories on this one but I will spare you them all.

Safe to say that it is my estimation that men indeed name bad acts of nature after women. Want to dispute my claim? Hurricane Katrina. Boom. Nuff said.

And so it went up and up with 700metres to climb and 122km behind me as I ascended into Whistler, across yet another finish line and a moment of glory.

I was indeed a cyclist and regardless of time when the rubber hit the road, I was indeed good enough. The question was…. Was I too much?

A recent study presented at the European College of Cardiology Meeting on September 3, 2013 was a glimpse into that question. How much intense endurance exercise is indeed too much?

Researchers gathered vital statistics on Tour de France cyclists who road the legendary road race between 1947 and 2012. They looked at death rates and compared them to age matched French men (or controls) from a  similar time period.

The results showed a 41% lower death rate in Tour cyclists. There was a lower mortality rate from both cancer and vascular disease over time. On average Tour cyclists lived 6 years longer than the regular French male population.

Is the study a true scientific pillar on which to build my life? Hell no. Firstly, I’m not a Tour de France cyclist. I never will be. I was not built for that stuff. I don’t have the legs and I don’t have a penis. The Tour is still men only…. For now.

But the study does reassure those of us that transient endurance sports may indeed be beneficial. The key message, I think from this study is the word…. Transient. We all need some time off from intense exercise. That does not mean we ride 300km one day and then take the year off. In fact other studies point to the significant benefits of long terms constant exercise.

I like to think of exercise like any medicine…. There is indeed a dose response and sometimes, like a good platform heel, you can indeed have too much of a good thing.

So my brothers and sisters…. On this glorious Tuesday and on all others…. Ride safe, ride often and of course…. Ride strong.

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