Every time I read someone else’s riding blog, they seem to be way cooler than mine. Faster riders, with boss experiences, more discipline on a bike, and better results than mine. So, what can I add to the conversation about the Paris to Ancaster race (held on Sunday April 24) that hasn’t already been said by a bunch of other people with better stories? Well, I could talk about the climbs, the mud, and trail, or I could give a detailed race report about how boss I was (I wasn’t).
Or, I can talk about ME and MY experiences with the race.
So here goes.
P2A was my first race four years ago. I first talked about it in the “Colin” section of this blog, from the perspective of an inexperienced, absolutely awestruck, first time racer. However, now that I’ve done it four times (and with 30 or so other races in between) I can talk about it from the perspective of a somewhat less inexperienced, but still awestruck, racer.
So what have I learned, and how have I changed, in the past four years?
A whole bunch. And, well, not nearly enough.
Honestly, I’m just not sure. Some days, it feels like I’ve grown a great deal, and I’m becoming a more accomplished rider. Other days, it feels like I’ve actually become worse, or just changing in tiny increments, or at the very least, I’m no better than I was at the end of my first year.
But that’s not such a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing because everything that I’ve experienced on a bike has become part of the fabric of my life. I’m always either recovering from a ride, planning for a ride, lamenting that I can’t ride, or talking/texting/blogging about a ride. And because riding has become such an integral part of MY STORY, and altered MY LIFE so dramatically, who cares whether I’m getting better or worse, as long as I’m moving.
Because when you stop moving, you fall down.
I’ve had a few discussions with people lately about why I race. Sometimes I wonder what keeps me moving. Aside from not wanting to fall down, that is. Why did I race a single speed last week, when I didn’t even own a single speed bike until last October?
Why did I do a race series this winter on a fatbike, when I didn’t even own a fatbike until February—after the second race in the series?
Why did I even start racing to begin with?
The answer for each is the same.
And the answer is, because. There are a billion qualifiers that could follow the word “because”, but none of them really matter.
Because I like riding.
Scratch that–because I love riding.
Because I love the challenge.
Because I love pushing my body as hard as I can.
Because I love the thrill of speeding through a forest.
Because I love single track.
Because I love double track.
Because I love gravel, road, rail trail, logs, climbs, mud, slush, snow, sun, rain, sun, mosquitoes, poison ivy, and trying to pee while wearing a lycra bib.
Because it’s so damn much fun.
Because I love the joy of a sweet ride.
Because I love the smell of a damp forest, when the fog is lifting, and I’m riding a trail, and I feel like I’m a PART of the world around me.
And because riding is all those things, and so much more, I keep riding.
So, here’s what I’ve learned about P2A:
- Relax. I’m not in position for first, or second, or fifth, or tenth. Or anything. There is never a need to worry about ANYTHING on the race: Bad weather, cold weather, no weather, technical failure, accident, wrong gloves… Whatever the problem, my sponsorship is not relying on my performance. Yes, I’m aware I do not have sponsorship.
- Walk the P2A mud chutes. Since I’m not looking for a spot on the podium (see above), there is no reason to gum up my drivetrain, and then spend the time un-gumming it. Also, I’m sure as hell not going to be a photographer’s fodder when I sail over my bars into calf deep mud. So what if it takes me about three minutes to walk the chutes. I can live with that. Plus, if you’ve seen the top riders fly through the mud chute, they have nerves of steel and, skills waaaay beyond me.
- It’s just a ride. If I have the wrong tires, or if I get cold or wet, or if a tree blocks the course, I just relax, because each and every race is also a just a ride. Period.
- The last hill is a killer. I spend each year agonizing over it, brooding over it, dreading it, and worrying. And then I do it. And it’s done. I’ve done it four times: the first time, I grunted, groaned, and struggled a lot, but made it to the top; the second time, I had a crippling cramp about two hundred metres from top, but I made it to the top; the third time, I struggled, grunted and groaned, but I made it to the top; and on Sunday, I spent the race worrying about an impending cramp, but I made it to the top. I made a spreadsheet compiling all these results and noticed a trend. Each time I attempted the last hill, I made it to the top. It’s true. I have a pie chart.
- Paris to Ancaster is awesome. Almost 3,000 like minded people come together for the same “Becauses”. Residents line the streets to cheer us on. Traffic grinds to a halt to let us pass. The trails range from every type of condition, to every type of condition plus weather. The mud chutes change (but only slightly). And, most importantly, lives are changed—whether for the first time, with a personal best, with an okay result, or maybe just incrementally—for the better.
Racing Paris to Ancaster is the stuff that dreams are made of, and regardless of the outcome, I’m glad I get to be on a bike while it happens. And I don’t even ride the full distance (I do the shorter, 40k Saint George to Ancaster)
You want to know the funny thing about this year’s P2A. It actually started with members of the local militia firing muskets as a signal. The sound heard throughout the countryside was a reverberating, wait for it, BOOM.
By the way, I beat last year’s time by about five minutes. Not great. Not bad. Just okay. But I can live with okay. Do you know why? Because.