Through our tweets back and forth, I got the basics of it and looked it up online for a few more details, which I found on Wikipedia. To make a long story short, the Donut is an informal ride held every Saturday and Sunday morning (and Holidays) that attracts well over 100 cyclists for rides ranging from about 85-125 km depending on the route taken. Its actually been a bit of a cycling tradition in Toronto, dating back about 35 years now. The reason it's called the Donut ride is that it starts in the parking lot of a donut shop, or at least it did in the early days. Apparently, the donut shop is now a bagel shop.
Anyway, you don't have to be at the start to join the ride. A lot of riders join in as the peleton progresses north, which is exactly what I did. Turns out the route runs relatively close to my house, so I joined in at roughly the 10k mark. There was a pretty large group and being somewhat unfamiliar, I chose to jump on to the tail end and see how it went. I have to say that it was very cool being at the back of a peloton of what was easily over 100 riders, and maybe closer to 150. It reminded me a lot of watching a shot of the Tour peloton taken from a motorcycle at the back. All I could see ahead was a sea of helmets. I did notice though that a lot of riders were wearing local team kits, so it was apparent that this wasn't going to be any kind of leisure cruise. These were real cyclists. I was feeling pretty confident that I could at least hang on to the back though as I have been thinking that I'm in pretty good riding shape. As a matter of fact, after 600k in a little over a month, I'd say I'm probably in the best cycling shape of my life.
This is where my story starts to tred the fine line between a good thing and a bad thing though. Once out of the city and onto the clearer roads to the north, the peloton picked up the pace significantly. I wish this was an exaggeration, but I was dumbfounded at the speed at which it took off. Like I said, I'm in the best cycling shape I've ever been in, and these guys dropped me like a bad habit on New Year's Eve. I was riding literally at about 112% and could not even come close to staying in touch. Sure there were a few stragglers that were in the same boat as me, but even staying with those guys was a monumental task. Here I was at maximum capacity and these guys made it look effortless.
Fortunately there's a coffee break at the halfway point and a lot of the group came back together. It was shortly after the remount that I managed to snap my picture and I was happy that I managed to stay with this group for some time. Eventually though, I got dropped again and was once again left with a handfull of stragglers that it took all of my concentrated efforts to stay with. Before long, I was alone and heading home.
Now I'm not quite sure how to look at this. A couple weeks back I talked about wanting to maybe race again. That's pretty much out the window. Finishing last is one thing. Getting destroyed doing it is something different entirely. On the other hand, I did do 86.5km in 3h07 for an avg of 27.75kmh, which is faster than my usual. So it was either a very good personal ride, or a very discouraging group ride. I'm leaning to the former as I'm actually not that discouraged. I sure would like a nice new carbon-fibre road bike though. Yeah..that's right. I can always blame it on the bike.
Oh, and as a footnote, the guy who tipped me off to this ride apparently has over 7000k in this year, compared to my now 696k. Maybe the distance and training is the secret, but even if I could do 7000k, I just don't see it improving my performance much more than its current state. Hell...I'd have to quit my job to have the time to do half that anyway. Hmmmm... (to be continued).