Dan Marshall’s Substance Projects is having a race on Saturday: The Eager Beaver 100 (with a choice of 160km, 100km, or 50km). Team Colin is not eager. Team Colin is terrified.
And I’m going to race it.
I’ve given this race a lot of thought. I’ve never ridden 100k. I’ve done a few 50k rides, and each of the very few times it’s been a very tough experience. My shoulders lock up, my neck aches, and my wrists cramp like crazy, sending zings up my forearms.
I am not a distance rider.
But I want to be.
I see so many riders who bang off a century like it’s nothing (and can easily ride well over a century) and I want to be part of that club. In truth, as much as I’m proud of my riding accomplishments, there is always a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that I’m not doing the full races. I do the short distance of the Paris to Ancaster and Steaming Nostril races, and I do the half marathon in Dan Marshall’s fat bike and XC Marathon race series. I won’t even be doing the full distance of the Eager Beaver.
In the past few months, I’ve reconciled my weakness—that I am not willing to put in the necessary training time to get better, and I can’t revolve my entire life around cycling—but that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied with the result. Like I said, I want to be part of that club of riders who ride a century, so when Dan’s race presented itself, I jumped at the chance. Okay, I didn’t jump–it was more like a twitch—but I think it’s pretty cool that my first century will be in a Dan Marshall race. Dan’s Homage To Ice was my first mountain bike race (a week after my first bike race ever) and he, and his series, have embraced my entry to the world of bike racing.
So, whether I’m ready for it or not, I’m jumping into the pool of…
…I’m not sure. Maybe it’ll be a pool of life-changing awesomeness. Maybe it’ll be a pool of stark, staggering disappointment. I’m not starting the race to DNF, but I still don’t know how I am going to finish.
On a side, but very pertinent note, I just got back from a three week driving vacation. Sitting in a car for 5,300km does not make for an effective pre-race training cycle.
On another side note, it is hot in Ontario right now. Like, Medieval hot.
I’ve been messaging the members of Team Colin non-stop for the past few days. “Which tires?” “Do you think I can do it?” “What food do I need?” Electrolyte what,. now?” “How many energy gels?” “How do I manage my neck, shoulder and wrist pain?” “What about spandex discomfort (read: testicle chafing)?”
The list of questions goes on, and they’re all valid questions, but I feel needy, uncertain, and tentative. Not cool.
Although seriously, which tires should I use; does anyone think I can do it; what about electrolyte caps, energy gels, and muscle pain; and how on earth will I prevent my testicles from chafing?
Mark Summers answered the last one. Bag Balm from Lee Valley. I’ve never seen a cow with chaffed balls, so I’m off to Lee Valley.
Although my wife was quick to tell me that cows don’t have balls…
But what about the other questions. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller…
Actually, the members of Team Colin have been awesome with me, answering each of my questions with patience and care.
Matt from my bike shop (Cycle Solutions) has offered to let me use his bike. It’s apparently a legendary gravel bike: a Santa Cruz Stigmata. I’m worried that it’ll be a poor fit, but Matt and the guys at the shop tell me it will help.
Dan Marshall has been literally holding my hand through the entire process.
My riding buddy, John has advised me on all things in general.
Mark has assisted me with my testicles. Wait, that didn’t sound right.
And yay, I get to do all of this on my blog, and expose myself as a lightweight in the world of riding. Wait a sec, that part is pretty cool. Under the “Colin” menu section, I talked about my first race in the past tense (more than three years after it). All of the races since have been similar, so my growth has been from within. This race is entirely different from every other one, so there are external factors that will also affect the process.
But it’s just the next step in the riding progression, right?
Well, on one hand, I feel like the worries I have are almost identical to my first race.
On the other hand, my first race was 40K, mostly on roads, and his race is 110k, mostly on gravel. To make matters worse, Dan Marshall is a sadistic race organizer. The climbs are sure to be killer, the trails are sure to be killerer, and the distance… Well, damn.
So why am I doing this race?
I’m not entirely sure. However, I can say that I think I’m ready for the race, and I know I’m definitely ready for the challenge. Plus, really, how many things in life can you do that are a total unknown. I don’t think the race will break me, but I know it will push me harder than ever before.
So, for better or for worse, on a borrowed bike, under less than ideal conditions, after three weeks of sitting and eating, I’m going to do a 110k gravel race tomorrow: The Eager Beaver.
And, as much as it’s going to hurt…
Post Script: I just saw some videos of a few of the sections. All I’ve got to say is: F*#k!.