34. Wooly Mammoth

Clydesdale vs Mini Clydesdale vs Wooly Mammoth vs Mini Mammoth

This is going to be the shortest blog I’ve written.  And there’s a reason.  The content is BIG.

There is a great deal of debate online regarding the TRUE meaning of the Clydesdale category. Here, very officially, and in no way a response to Dan Marshall’s post on Substance Projects, is the correct breakdown of categories:

Clydesdale:  220 pounds

Mini Clydesdale:  200 pounds

Wooly Mammoth:  220 pounds (only in a fatbike race held between December and March)

Mini Mammoth:  200 pounds (only in a fatbike race held between December and March)

 

See this picture?  251 pounds.  Grrrr.

H2i-substance-projects-team-colin.jpg

That is all.

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33. Snumbler ’17

snumbler-salsa-and-meBest fatbike ride ever!  Saturday’s Northumberland Snumbler, race #4 in the 45NRTH Ontario Fatbike Series, was, by far, the most fun I’ve ever had on a fatbike.  Ever.

Wait, the Frozen Beaver was 10 days ago, and the Snumbler was 3 days ago?  Yup, two fatbike races in two consecutive weekends.  Please don’t pinch me–if this is a dream, I don’t want to wake.

So awesome.

The Snumbler was another great gig presented by Substance Projects and Cycle Solutions.  It was also at my favourite place to ride, Northumberland Forest.

Annnnnd, I got to spend the afternoon with Dan Marshall of Substance Projects (and Liz, and Sherry, and Jen, and Simon, and yes, his mom and dad), and Matt from Cycle Solutions, and a whole bunch of other cool racers (including Wally Ess, the winner of the Team Colin Epic Boom Prize Giveaway Spectacular).

But wait, there’s more.  It was especially awesome because of THE COURSE.  The course was a beautiful piece of fatbike beauty.  When preparing for the Snumbler, the God of Fatbiking bestowed upon Dan Marshall a special gift.

I imagine the conversation went something like this:

Dan Marshall:

Hey, um, God of Fatbiking (picks kale chip out of his hair, you know because the dude has 4 kids), do you have a sec?

God of Fatbiking:

Sure thing Daniel.  What’s uppeth (because the God of Fatbiking sort of talks like a Shakespearean character)

Dan Marshall:

I’m having a fatbike race on Saturday, do you think you could help me out a bit?

God of Fatbiking:

Sayeth no more Daniel.  I will bestow upon you the Gift of Legendary Fatbike Race Design

Dan Marshall:

Thanks.  And hey, can you watch the kids for me next week…

And the rest is history.  No, the God Of Fatbiking didn’t watch Dan’s kids, the God of Fatbiking gave Dan the Gift of Legendary Fatbike Race Design.  It was sent to him from Fatbike Heaven, carried on the wings of a Fatbike Angel.

Full disclosure, the aforementioned conversation did not happen.  Also, there is no such thing as Fatbike Angels.  However, Fatbike Heaven is totally real.

The course WAS Fatbike Heaven.  I literally yelped throughout the race.  “This is so awesome”,  “Wohoo”, and “ILOVETHISCOURSE!”.

I was ready to race, and before the race even started, I was in a great mood.  I spent the morning (and after the race) with my family at my mom’s place, which is just down the road.  Also, Saturday marked my almost 1 year anniversary as a blogger, which is kind of cool.  Finally, I was just really stoked to be spending it with my other family–you know, my bike family.

I was SO ready to race. My LEGS were ready to race. My BIKE was ready to race–okay, I had to borrow a bike, but my borrowed bike was ready to race.  My HEART was ready to race.

And I was late for the race.

What? Since I was at my mom’s I had a relaxing morning sleeping in, and then chatting a bit–which is rare because I usually wake up at about 6AM on race day and scurry around my house until I leave.

I made it to the forest with just 30 minutes before the race. I was almost frantic: I forgot pedals for my loaner bike and had to find a set to borrow; I had to register; I had to find my dickie and my helmet liner; I had to stretch my booties over my shoes; I had to choose my gloves; I had to choose a second set of gloves; I had to (unsuccessfully) try to mount my GPS on the handle bars; I had to chat with everybody (because that’s just what I do); I had to jam some food in my belly (also what I do); I had to find my sunglasses; and I had to lock and unlock my car a dozen times because I kept forgetting all the things I needed (again, it’s just what I do).

I finished everything with about a minute to spare, and made it to the start line in a nick of time.

And I had to pee. Aw dang it.

And so, while actively peeing, I heard Dan outside the Port-A-Potty say “30 seconds!”.  I was already standing, so I actually tried to loosen my shoulders and neck, and when I was finished, while putting on my gloves, I tried a few deep knee bends.  I zipped my kit, put on my other gloves, and booked it out of the Port-A-Potty.  Except that I forgot to wash my hands, so I took off my gloves, took off my other gloves, sanitized, re-gloved (and re-re-gloved), and I was off.

Yay, last place and I hadn’t even started.

Race Report:  Northumberland Snumbler.  Northumberland Forest (February 4, 2017)

The race started with a gentle stretch of double track, and, within a few hundred metres, it rose into a gentle, winding, climb through a planned forest.  It levelled out onto a beautiful field of majestic pine trees lining the trail.  It really was a beautiful sight, and it was immediately apparent that we were in for something special.  The course conditions were perfect.  Hard and granular, with enough fresh stuff to dig into.

I passed about 10 riders in the first few k, and seeded myself behind a small pack.  The pace was a bit slow, but it gave me a second to breathe it all in.  We were climbing a tight, switchbacked hill, and there were 3 or 4 levels of riders snaking their way up  through the trees.  The communal aspect of riding through a forest with a group of people  was deeply moving, and I started to wonder what everyone else was chasing.  Were they like me and just loved the race vibe, the chance to test their endurance while staying fit, and a chance to love the Team Colin Experience?  Were they chasing a spot on the podium?  Were they just starting out, and pushing themselves to the limits to see if they could make it?  What else were they chasing?

Whatever our individual pursuits, we were all on the same trail at the same time, doing the same thing.  Group boom!

With the pace, it even gave me a chance to talk to a rider in front or me, and we had a nice race chat.

Back to the Race Report.  After a bit of less-than-perfect-but-still-awesome-singletrack, we hit the first of two climbs.  It was a nasty short one that took me off my bike, and made me dig in for a hike.  When that was done, we hit some more sweet, winding singletrack.  Seriously, the course was truly a thing of beauty.  A bit of double track, some more single track, a few trail crossings, and we hit the other hill.  It was a long winding bugger that pushed me to my limits.  I was behind Karen G., and she rode the whole damn thing.  I didn’t want to let her get away, so I let her pace me, skootched forward in my seat, dug into it, and pedalled to the top.  Killer.

The climbs were few though, and they weren’t really that tough, but all was forgotten in the last few k.  The last bit of the Snumbler was absolutely spectacular.  A bit of gentle double track, some twisty singletrack, and then Dan treated us to a long, winding, downhill that felt like it lead to the pearly gates of Fatbike Heaven (totally a real place).  Seriously, when we were descending, I felt like I was about to sprout wings and swoop along the course.  Long, winding, beautifully groomed, and fast.

“Woweee”.  That’s not a description of what I felt, it’s what I actually screamed.  True story.

And then the course got fun.  No kidding.  It actually got more funner.  The funnerest.

A bit of wide singletrack led us to the final downhill that was like a roller coaster.  I can’t commit to this fact, but I think I unclipped from my pedals, put my feet out and in front of me, and actually giggled.

Dan gave us a mach-speed stretch of doubletrack that led to the START/FINISH.  OHMIGOD.  I actually got out of my seat for a sprint.  A fatbike sprint, 10k into a race.  BOOM.

Around the START/FINISH for a second lap.  Lather, rinse, smile,and repeat.  I’m pretty sure I maintained most of my speed throughout the entire second lap.  I finished strong and happy.

Booking it through the FINISH line, I think I yelled “I love you Dan Marshall” dismounted, and gave Dan a giant MTB/Fatbike hug.

Hugs all around!

Who hugs at a bike race? That would be me. I know it’s not very MTB, and I’m pretty sure it’s the opposite of gnarly, but I’m a hugger.  I hug the people I care about, and I really care about these people. The weekend before,at the Frozen Beaver, when I really didn’t want to race, these people elevated my spirit. At the Snumbler on Saturday, when I really wanted to race, they just made my day that much lighter.  So I doled out the hugs.

Team Colin hug!

End of Race Report.

By the way I’m a big fat liar.  The God of Fatbiking didn’t give Dan the Legendary Gift of Fatbike Race Design.  It was all Dan.  DAN marked the course.  DAN lugged a tire around the course a week before the race to make sure it was awesome.  DAN gave us all a great day.

Hey wait, Dan Marshall is also the God of Fatbiking…  Who knew.

And can I talk about my bike for a second?  Once again, I had to borrow a fatbike for the race.  This time, Dan Marshall answered the call of the loser-who-sold-his-fatbike, and offered to let me ride his 2016 Salsa Beargrease XO1.

Wow.  Whattabike.  I’ve had some pretty sweet luck with fatbikes this year.  Not only did I demo a Norco Ithaqua 6.1, and a Trek Farley 9.9 (both at the top of their respective game), but I also got to borrow a Norco Ithaqua 6.3, and now this.  Which one do I like the best?  The Salsa Beargrease.  It was nimble.  It was quick.  It was a sherbet coloured fatbike dream.  It stands alone (see what I did there, because there’s no stand).snumbler-salsa-2

It actually made me a better rider.  I’ve always heard about Salsa’s legendary fatbike racing groove, and now I finally get it.  The Beargrease cut through the trail like a bullet.  I’ve never felt as fast as I did on the Beargrease.  Maybe it was the course, maybe it was the forest.  Maybe it was because we were in Fatbike Heaven (totally a real place).  Heck, a bit of it may have even been my legs and lungs.  I still don’t know, but I know this…

Best day of fatbiking ever.

Ride.

 

PS

I’m editing this blog a few days after my 45th birthday, and a few days (plus one) after my blog’s birthday, which is February 6.  I spent my blog birthday with my other other family (my students) and then I booked it to Joyride 150 for Birthday Laps.  Birthday Laps is when you ride your age in laps on the XC Trail.  I did 50 laps this year.  I turned  45, but 50 is a cooler number.  Boom.

Yes, I rode 40k on Monday evening.  Yes, I’m tired. Yes, it was awesome.  No, I’m not sure how I’ll make it through the week without showing a filmstrip…

Look at the bike again.  Here’s a sweet hero-shot leaning against the Cycle Solutions team support vehicle…

Here’s the factory spec sheet 2016 Salsa Beargrease X01.  Dan dialed it in with an X9/XX drivetrain, Raceface Turbine crank, XT cassette on Hope hubs (with Rolling Darryl rims), a Truvativ bar/stem/post, and Dillinger 4 tires (which aren’t studded, they’re “semi-studded”–his words–with 120 on the front and 80 on the rear.  He’s also got a Fabric seat, which I think are a new sponsor of the series.  Damn comfortable seat.

Just look at it…

snumbler-salsa-cycle-solutions

Hey, did I get this right?  If you have anything to say about this race, the fatbiking, that sweet Salsa up there, or riding in general, fire a message or comment at me.  If you want it to be public, comment at the bottom, and it you don’t, you can send an email to: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

 

32. Frozen Beaver ’17

Race day!

team-colin-frozen-beaver

My first race of 2017.  My first fatbike race of the season.  My first bike race since October.

Race 3 in the 45NRTH Ontario Fatbike Series:  The Frozen Beaver, in Dufferin County Forest (just up the road from Mansfield Outdoor Centre).  The race was presented by Substance Projects and Cycle Solutions.

What.  A.  Thrill.

Was it easy?  No!

Was it cold?  Very!

Was it fun?  Absolutely!

Here’s the Team Colin Facebook post the next morning:

There is something about a “Dan’s Race” (that’s what I’m calling them now) that is hard to describe. He and his crew are awesome ambassadors and hosts, but the vibe is the thing. EVERYONE likes EVERYONE. You can strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, and by the end, you’re like lifelong buds. Even the chatter at the start line is fun…

But most of all, at the heart of each event, there is an awesome course that is equal parts gruelling, heart-bustingly fun, ear-to-ear awesome, and CHALLENGING. It’s never a walk in the park, but we didn’t sign up for a walk in the park–we signed up for a boss bike race in a (snow covered) forest…

And that’s it.  Heart.  Not just the literal meaning–because our hearts were bursting out of our chests.

And not just emoticon hearts–for each other, for Dan, and for our bikes (wait, bike love isn’t weird, right?).

There is so much more heart to it.  The heart of a race is a tough thing to identify.  Every race has one.  The HEART of a Dan’s Race is a giant, complex mesh of people, trails, bikes, dreams, super-cool-bike-vibes, riders, racers, sponsors, Dan’s mum and dad, some chili, and a billion things that I just can’t put my finger on.

So how’s this for irony?  I’m talking about the heart of a Dan’s race, but for the first time ever, I didn’t have heart at the race.  To be honest, my mind was elsewhere.  It was the end of a tough week, and I wasn’t emotionally or physically prepared.

But then I sat on my bike, the race took over, and the stress froze away (see what I did there, it didn’t melt because it was cold…).  However, as the initial rush of being on a bike numbed (I did it again, you know, because it was cold…), somewhere along the way, I had to resign myself to “just pedal to the finish”.

It’s wasn’t that bad, because, well, bikes, but it sure was a weird feeling for me.

Out bad race demons, out!

Phew, I’m glad that’s done.

Back to the Beaver.  I made it to the race over an hour early.  Not a common occurrence for Team Colin.  That gave me a lot of time to chat with my friends, get into my head, chill my muscles, and explore some glorious self-doubt.  Wait, what?  You’re not supposed to chill muscles before a race.  Well, you’re not supposed to psych yourself OUT, and you probably shouldn’t question whether you even belong on a bike in the first place, but some days are just like that, and Saturday was THAT day.frozen-beaver

No kidding, aside from all the other emotions, I felt so out of place.

My side gut flap must have looked huge in my kit…

Was my winter belly obvious…

Could I even it…

Which one of these is not like the other?  It was me, I was not like the others.  I felt like a warthog in a herd of impalas…

Party of Doubt done.  All is awesome.  How about a Race Report?

Race Report:  Frozen Beaver (January 28, 2017)

A few announcements from Dan, then the same few announcements again for the rest of the pack—BECAUSE THERE WERE OVER 100 OF US, YEAH OVER 100–and we were off. Up the access road, around a bend, and into a little jam before the single track started.  One thing was immediately apparent:  the conditions were spectacular.  Wide, hard, granular trails.  So sweet.  The Team Van Go groomers are at the top of their game.

Another thing was apparent. My bike shop was repping it hard at The Beaver. Throughout the crowd of riders, I saw they were all wearing matching Cycle Solutions long sleeve zipped lycra jerseys. They looked awesome.

The pack stayed together for the first 2k, down some fun and fast double track, through some nice tight single track, up and down some zippy hills, and then, suddenly, the foot of Mount “Whatthehell Dan”.  Really, it was just a big slog up a long hill that was probably ridable, but I lost my line near the bottom and had to dismount, so it became a big walk up a long hill.  Some of the riders around me walked too, and some rode it (awesome).

There was a bunch more sweet single track, separated by some wicked downhills that were terrifying.  Seriously, I can’t think of many riders who didn’t at least feather their brakes.  I wasn’t feathering–I was braking.  Hard.  The climbs were steep, but the descents were cliffs.

And the bottom of those cliffs had 90 degree turns.  So wicked!

Wait, can I talk about the giant ice boulders that littered the course?  The grooming machine must have churned up some hard or slushy snow that froze, because on either side of a perfectly groomed trail, there were torso-sized ice boulders. For the most part, they stuck to their line, and remained off the trail, but when a rider’s pedal clipped one, it got dislodged and became a frozen death ball in the middle of the trail.

I was behind a rider who clipped a good sized chunk.  She bobbled, and hobbled, and bobbled some more, but stayed on her bike.  Nice work nameless rider in front of me.  Even nicer that you didn’t kiss the GIANT BOULDER OF ICE that would have really hurt.  Like, a lot.

With 2k to go, and after some other sweet single track, and a few other cliffs, the trail found itself at the bottom of a curving climb.  It started nicely, but then it went up.  I cursed, unclipped, and dug my shoes into whatever snowy purchase I could find to make my way up the hill.  Except the hill was so steep that the toes of my booties slipped off.  It was kind of cold, but it kinda looked like I had Muppet feet, so that’s pretty cool.

Actually, it was really cold.  Around a corner, along some double track, and the lap finished.  I stopped at the START/FINISH line to fix my booties.  Except when you wear size 13 shoes, and booties only come as big as XL, it takes a while to get them off, and worse, to get them back on.  In the middle of a race, with frozen fingers, the booties were having none of it.

I lost about 5 minutes, and some hard fought places, but I got them back on.

Of course, they came off again at the first climb in the second lap, so that was nice.

After that it was 5k to the end, and the end of the race report.

I may have felt like a bit of a tool before, during, and after the race, but these people didn’t. Look at these boss racers.

Seriously, Scotty G isn’t even looking at the camera and he looks awesome. Tyler is cooler than cool.  Bearded guy–well, that’s just awesome. Matt—the King of Stoke reigns. Adam and those arms—What the?  And seriously, Jack, a wheelie AFTER a marathon race–you rule (by the way, check out Jack’s super boss review of the Windingo Ultra on Riding Feels Good)

There is also a picture of Karen G at The Beaver.  It’s low res, so I couldn’t post it, but how on earth does she pull off wearing white—in the winter (wait, it’s not weird to talk about winter white in a bike blog, right?).  There are a bunch of other awesome looking riders too. Here’s a link to shots from the day: Martin Lortz: Frozen Beaver.

By the way, all of the images of riders on this blog are from Martin Lortz.  Dude can snap a picture.

For the most awesome picture–possibly of all time–check out the Team Colin page on facebook.  The photographer captured a picture of me “taking Shikaze at the line”.  Yeah, that Shikaze.  He was starting his fourth lap and I was finishing my second lap, but he stopped to refuel when I was crossing the finish line, and the photographer snapped a sweet shot, and it looks like I beat him.

So that’s it.  My time at the second Frozen Beaver.  Thank you Substance Projects, Cycle Solutions, Dan Marshall, all the sponsors, Dan’s mom and dad (and Sherry, and Jen, and Simon too).

I’m not always going to Graduate, and the race may not change my bike life dramatically like it did last spring in the same Forest (Single Speed 101), but the elegance of the sport is never lost on me, because at the end of the day, it just didn’t matter whether it was cold, where my heart was, or how I did (spoiler alert, I did pretty badly).  What mattered was that it was a Saturday morning, I was on a bike in the forest, surrounded by people I love.  I didn’t bring my heart to the Frozen Beaver, but I found it somewhere along the way.

Ride

PSteam-colin-norco-ithaqua

My whip for the day was a sweet Norco Ithaqua 6.3, courtesy of Jamie Davies at Evolution Cycles in Richmond Hill.  Jamie offered to loan me his bike after reading my last blog.  What a sincerely nice guy, and his offer was a supremely gentlemanly move.  I picked it up on Thursday before the race.  Here’s what I think:  If you’re going to a bike shop to borrow a bike, the first thing you want to do is wear a jacket with stitched elbow patches.  You know, to make the guys think you’re cool…

Yeah, cool, like a book store owner, or maybe a dad.  Or not.

The Norco Ithaqua rocked.  Long and lean, with plenty of squish.  The glossy black carbon frame and fork, with green and white accents is so sweet looking.

frozen-beaver-ithaquaAs an added bonus, the bike matched my kit and helmet perfectly.  I think it was Zsa Zsa Gabor who said “If you can’t be fabulous on a fatbike dahling, you should at least look fabulous on a fatbike.”   Yeah, pretty sure it was her.  Well, at least I got that part right–side gut flaps and all.  Boom.

End of blog.

Hey, did I get this right?  If you were there, and you saw it differently, or if you just want to make a comment, let me know.  You can post a comment directly on this blog, or contact me at: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com.