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.
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.
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.
As 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.