The 2017 Singletrack Classic: I AM TEAM COLIN.
Last Saturday wasn’t just my fourth time doing the Singletrack Classic, it was my first time doing the FULL DISTANCE (44k), and it was my fourth time TANKING the Singletrack Classic.
I’ve never had good luck at the race. Never. But, year after year, I bring my game face and the hope “this will be my year…”. I figure somehow it’ll turn around.
Once again, for the fourth time in a row, nope.
It’s not my fault, and it’s no fault of race or organizer. It’s not the fault of the trails, or my bike, or Hardwood Hills, but the Singletrack Classic is my race nemesis. My experiences in prior years were:
- “Aw c’mon, it can’t be broken!”
- “Aw, dang it”
- “AW, DOUBLE DANG IT!!!”.
My first year racing the Singletrack Challenge (it wasn’t the Classic at that time) was 2013. Actually, it wasn’t. I broke my arm three days before the race, while I was taking a last training ride.
“Aw c’mon, it can’t be broken! Hopefully I’ll get to do it next year” I thought.
So, my first year actually racing the Singletrack Challenge (still wasn’t the Classic) was in 2014. I didn’t have a broken arm, but my buddy was peeing when the race started, and we missed the start by a few minutes. Then, I spent the first 15 minutes sprinting to catch the pack, which burned ALL of my matches.
“Aw, dang it! Maybe next year” I thought.
The second year, 2015, was a RE-race. I wanted to experience the full–and punctual–joy of 22k of secret and reverse trails. However, it was not to be. My notes in 2015 say, I never really felt like I hit a sweet groove. I tried and tried, but I never actually felt like I was racing it.
“Meh. Maybe next year” I thought.
The third year, 2016, was a RE-RE-race. I was finally going to get it right. However, I got to Hardwood Hills late, only to discover that my free hub was thrashed, which meant I spent the race pedalling gently because I was afraid cranking it would strip the hub and send me over the bars. Also, I went to the race in an almost catatonic state because I had a really brutal work schedule in the weeks leading up to the race. So much for a RE-RE-race.
“AW, DOUBLE DANG IT!!! Maybe next year” I thought.
This year was a RE-RE-RE-race, and I was going to make it a good one.
Of course, it was my 6th big race in 8 weeks (plus 4 weekly series romps), so good luck if I was hoping for fresh legs… Pfft. Whatever. I felt strong and I had actually recovered from the Substance Projects Long Sock CLassic a week before (a sweet 70k on my single speed). Seriously, if I could manage 70k without gears, 40k WITH GEARS should be a snap.
Okay, maybe the word “recovered” from the race is a bit strong. I was “mostly” recovered.
To recap: 44k…22 gears…sort-of recovered legs. But as they say “4th time’s a charm”. This year would be MY year. A chance for redemption, and a kick at the long course. What could go possibly go wrong…
Let me cut to the chase: I was late, so I missed the start AGAIN, I broke 3 spokes about 6k into the race (resulting in a frame rubbing wobble for the duration), and someone stole my sunglasses.
Yeah, so that’s nice.
On the plus side, the race was true to the promised 44k of spectacular singletrack, my legs weren’t nearly as tired as I thought they’d be, the increased distance wasn’t a problem, and I didn’t think/say/feel “meh” once.
Race Report. Singletrack Classic: Hardwood Hills (May 25, 2017)
The race started with a pant and a gasp.
Off the start, the Singletrack Classic has a deceptively long, and genuinely sapping doubletrack climb. Because of the length of it (almost 2k), and BECAUSE I MISSED THE START FOR THE FOURTH YEAR IN A ROW, I spent the first 10 minutes clawing my way through the course. My lungs were tight, my legs were rubbery, and I couldn’t find a good pace. One word: Ugh.
Some other words: “When does this climb end? Oh, there’s the top. Nope, there’s more.” “Pant pant pant.”, and “Gasp gasp, GASP PANT GASP”.
About 15 minutes into the race, I caught Angie Emsley. She paces me in every race that we do together (and she’s also trying the big kid distance races this year). We rode together gently for a few minutes, until I finally felt warmed up and ready to rock.
I increased my pace.
“Tink…tink………KTLINK”. A few minutes after leaving Angie, three spokes snapped. It only took a few minutes to tape the broken spokes to the others (so they wouldn’t coil into my cassette like they did last year at the Kingston XCM), but the spokes were beside each other and the resulting warp was giant, so I spent the rest of the race looking like I was trying to scratch my bum on my seat.
Okay, so between the late start, and taco wheel wobble dance, maybe the RE-RE-RE-Singletrack Classic wouldn’t be a triumph.
But it was guaranteed not to be “Meh” either.
The race really is singletrack heaven, with long shots of tight and twisty singletrack that alternates between flowing and curvy, and constantly grindy and technical. The roots are wickedly rooty; the rock gardens are unflinchingly rocky, and the log overs are awesomely log-overey. The sections are punctuated by short doubletrack rips that were either fast and furious, or maddeningly steep and grunty. The race course nods at some of Hardwood’s best trails, and it’s awesome at every turn.
The first lap was a heck of a lot of fun, and ended with a delicate rocky descent, a quick zip through two culverts, and back to the chalet START area.
I took a minute to recuperate, refill my belly and bottles with some Skratch, and recuperate a bit more, and then I was back in the saddle, ripping that deceptive first climb again.
During the second lap, I passed a few new racers who were finishing the short course, and giving it everything they had. It was so awesome to see so many newbies. The distance is long enough to be a challenge, but short enough to be doable. I remember my first races. Man, they were tough, but so rewarding. I hope they continue to pedal out of their comfort zone, and stomp on their boundries. So awesome.
Lather, rinse (literally–it rained), repeat, and the race was over.
End of Race Report.
So that’s it. After eight weeks of epic racing, I finished the Singletrack Classic fairly unscathed. I didn’t place well, but I feel like I did well enough (for me), and for a bit of icing on the MTB cake, my lap times were only about 5-7 minutes apart from each other. Broken spokes? Pfft. Late start? Pfft. Flaming lungs and rubbery legs to start? Pfft.
Oh, except that some creep stole my sunglasses.
Yeah, seriously. I put them down when I took off my helmet between laps, and when I went back for them, they were gone. SONOTCOOL. I don’t know why I’m so upset, I mean, it’s not like it was the first time I wore them (yes it was), and they were half price after all (except that they were Smiths, which meant half price was still 75 bucks). Oh, and it’s not like I still have the case–with the other two sets of lenses–to serve as a constant reminder of a fellow racer’s craptitude.
Seriously, if you stole my sunglasses at Saturday’s race, you suck. They were white Smith glasses with rose coloured polarized lenses, and I really liked them. I hope you catch nose gonoherra, you big jerk. And just so you know, I get really snotty during races so I hope you washed them really well. I mean really snotty.
I have to say, the stealing-my-sunglasses-debacle created an unnecessary vulnerability at races. We leave our bikes unattended. And our helmets. And GPS units. And everything else. We’re all in the same boat, playing the same game. If people are going to start snatching unattended items at races, well that’s just not cool.
I’ve been thinking that between my bad luck, Grand Theft Sunglasses, and that giant climb, maybe next year I’ll forgo the Singletrack Classic, and finally shake off the demons that haunt me there.
Pfft. Who am I kidding, I’ll be there, I’ll race it, and I’ll tank it (or not), and that’s awesome.
I may have missed the start of the race a few times, or had an angry bike, or whatever, but I’ve experienced it all before. For me, it’s about the experience, and I won’t experience anything when I sit at home. The only bad races are the ones not done.
So I’ll race the Singletrack Classic next year.
…I’ll just be sure to staple my sunglasses to my forehead.
For a brief, shining moment, I was Jeff Shikaze! Or maybe he was me. The timers misread his plate number, and recorded my name with his time. Yes, for a brief time, Colin MacLellan was 10th place in the Singletrack Classic. Boom. And then, when they found the error, not-so-boom.
Did you race on Saturday? Was the experience the same for you? If you have something to say, comment on the blog, or send a message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I almost forgot. A word about the title. Hey, Pulse Racing: every year I register as Team Colin, and every year, you refuse to list my “team” on the results. I am a team. A viable, bike racing team. Does YOUR team have hats? Hmm.