48. El Bandito 70/140

El-Bandito-Team-Colin.jpegAnd so, a legend was born…

Saturday’s El Bandito (the first race in the Substance Projects Stoporcross) was a spectacularly epic, mind numbingly gruelling, big boss, bike race. If you were in Southern Ontario just after 9AM, you must have felt it when the earth moved in the collective BOOM of 161 riders starting what I hope will become a Southern Ontario racing legend.

What, you weren’t there?  Such a shame.  You didn’t just miss a Dan’s Race (yeah, that’s thing), you missed the birth of a legend.

The El Bandito was everything a legendary bike race should be: tough and challenging, scenic and gorgeous, communal and welcoming, tough and challenging, fun, and really really really hard.  Substance Projects promised a bike race, and they delivered.  It wasn’t gravel, or MTB, or CX, or road. It was each of them combined into a sweet Dan Marshall blender of legendary epicness. At the core of the race, it was a gravel grinder to beat all–except there wasn’t really any gravel.

However, in another sense, it was a MTB race–except there was no singletrack, even though we hit a whole bunch of doubletrack in Ganaraska Forest, which was almost tougher than the singletrack.

However, in another-other sense, it was a road race–except most of the asphalt was patchy and tougher than gravel.

And in another-other-nother sense, it was a deep-sand/tall-grass festival of wheel-sucking slog.

There was even a last minute addition of a hike-an-asphalt-chunk section that was wickedly nasty.

Wait, I really want to talk about the rip through Ganaraska Forest.  It was too long to call a section, and every inch of it was a spectacular grind.  Each time we passed a connection to singletrack trail my heart felt a little tug, but don’t think for a second that the doubletrack wasn’t just as much nasty fun.  Honestly, I think the Ganny has some of the nastiest (read: awesomest) and gnarliest (read: really really awesomest) doubletrack around.  Ruts, rocks, roots, and hills made it every bit as challenging as the singletrack. In fact, because we were either grinding up, or white-knuckling down, trying to find the most managable line through the deep rutted track was impossible.  I should retire my wheelset after 10k of what I think is best described as “Aw, c’mon Dan, really?” terrain.  It was so tough, and so very fun.

The El Bandito was heavy on sections–Dan’s answer to Iron Cross–which were grossly awesome, sometimes hikable, wickedly hard, patches of surface, that riders somehow either rode over, walked along, or scrambled through–and they were always UP UP UP. One of the great things about the race was that the sections didn’t start until about 45k. There was a quick shot of sand at about 20k, but other than that it was pretty much 45k of easy rolling and then BAM! (not boom), Dan sucker punched us right in the spandex.

Easy rolling?  Yeah, no.  There was no easy rolling.  The Northumberland Hills are really really really, super extra hilly.  Beautiful from a car, gross on a bike.  The parking lot at Brimacombe was the flattest part of the day.  We were either chugging up a loooooooong and steep climb, or tucking in for a blistering descent.  Blistering indeed.

I just want to say it again.  I LOVED THE RACE.

Here’s my Facebook post from immediately after I finished:

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Mr. Dan Marshall. Love ’em.

This guy. This guy right here organized the perfect race. El Bandito was pure magic. From the first hike over Mount Chunky Asphalt, to the epic string of road, gravel, and everything in between, the race was an absolute beauty. Dan Marshall, I’ve always loved you, but I think I love you just a bit more after today. Thanks for making my cold worse, my Saturday better, and my legs sing. Awesome.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating.  The El Bandito was pure magic.  It was like Paris to Ancaster–but with hills (and no crowds).  The race was doable on pretty much any bike (except a road bike), and the terrain made it that much more interesting, but the real beauty was that it was so challenging yet doable, and I think that’s what will make the race weather the test of time.  Like P2A, pretty much any rider could suffer through it, and the sense of accomplishment at the end was staggering.  With 1,400m of climbing, and the relentless barrage of climbs and nasty bits, the race was far from easy (like, really really far), and the tough stuff was just Dan’s tacit reminder that we signed up for it.  Dan’s hint for finishing a tough race:  “Just keep pedaling” (D. Marshall.  Every time I ask him how he finishes a big race).

Oh, and the scenery.  The Northumberland Hills are almost too pretty.  Since the course summited pretty much every big road climb around Brimacombe, we were rewarded with some beautiful sights.

Oh, and Brimacombe.  Wow.  What an awesome facility for a bike race.  Great chalet, huge parking lot, giant BBQ, a balcony to watch all the action, and a terrific fit for a Dan’s Race.

Race Report:  El Bandito 70.  Brimacombe Ski Hill: June 22, 2017

My bike for the day was my dreamy Norco Threshold SL.

Honestly, Barry Cox already did the FULL course some awesome justice in a Facebook post, so I’ll post it at the the of this blog, but I want to report on something unique for me in a race.  It’s so unique that it’s the first time it’s happened in over 40 big races.  I RACED WITH A PACK!!!  Yeah, Team Colin raced with a pack. I’ve never been able to manage racing with a pack.  I’m either too fast or too slow (usually too slow, I’m just sayin’) but within about 7k of the start, I was riding with 3 other racers and after jockeying back and forth a bit, we started chatting and stuck together for the remaining 62k.

It was terrific.

For most of the race, I think our pace was faster than it would have been if we were alone, but for the last 20k, we were chatting and just talking, and I think our pace may have dropped a bit (although I don’ t think by much).

A few observations about my pack:

  • El-Bandito-Team-Colin.jpeg
    My Avg. Speed wasn’t as low as this.  I didn’t stop my GPS until 20 minutes after the race.

    Brent has an absolutely fearsome tuck.  Like, fearsome.  I maxed out at 76.58 km/h (yeah, on a CX bike with 33mm knobby tires), but he passed me.  He didn’t pass me, he smoked me.  Awesome technique.

  • Simon is awesome.  Dude loves to talk, and it’s all interesting.  Can’t wait to see you at the Eager Beaver, and I’m definitely taking you up on your offer of a sweet rip at Goodrich Loomis.
  • Stewart was worried for nothing.  Seriously Stewart, I don’t know if you’ll be one of the 20 people who read this (hi mom) but you rocked it.  I’m still not sure if we dropped you (unintentionally) or if you dropped us, but we broke up somehow around the 45k mark, and couldn’t see you.  We thought you were ahead of us.  Stewart admitted that he felt a bit overwhelmed at the beginning of the race when he saw all of the hardcore riders (and there were some seriously heavy hardcore racers), but races like this draw pros and first timers, and Stewart was closer to pro than newb.  I’m still waiting for that picture Stewart…

By the way, Stewart wasn’t on a 23 pound carbon CX dream.  He was on a commuter bike, and even rode with the back rack.  Dude was awesome.

El-Bandito-Team-Colin.jpegThe race was nasty and hard and so much fun.  Honestly, I don’t know how Dan strung together such an awesome array of terrain and challenges.  At every corner, and at every peak, we hit something new and wickedly cool.

And the best part?  Brent, Simon, and I crossed the finish line handlebar to handlebar to handlebar.  Great riding with you guys.

End of Race Report.

I placed at the top of the bottom third of riders, but given my cold, the preceding three week nap, and the whole snot factor, I’m okay with my results.

These folks were pretty epic though.

 

 

You know, I can’t believe I almost didn’t make it to the race.  I’ve been nursing the worst cold humankind has ever experienced (totally not exaggerating) for the last three weeks, and didn’t register until 9:05 on Friday night.  In fact, at 8:59 on Friday night, I wasn’t even contemplating it.  Looking back, my logic was sound for deciding to do the race.  I felt lousy, so I figured I’d rather feel lousy and on a bike, than feel lousy and be in bed.

I wasn’t wrong.

Was it easy racing with a cold?  No, not at all.

Did I give myself a hernia during a fit of hacking while stooped over my bars? Very likely?

Did I lose 10 pounds of snot during the race?  Definitely.

Was it worth it?  Ab.  Sew.  Lootely.

On a side note, my apologies to anyone riding within 3k of me on Saturday.  I cough loud, I hork loud, and well, I’m just sorry.

So that’s it, my cold is still hacking at my lungs and dripping out of my nose, I still get the occassional flu sweat, and my lower intestine may be strangulating itself inside my testicles, but there was a race on Saturday, and I did it.  Because, after all, nothing bad ever happens to Team Colin on a bike.  Boom.

By the way, if you didn’t make it on Saturday, don’t worry, I have a feeling the El Bandito will be back next year, although if I have another cold-mageddon, maybe I won’t.  Yeah, who am I kidding…

Ride.

 

PS.  I cannot end without a huge shout out, a giant high five, and a big sweaty post race hug for the Substance Projects crew.  Aside from the paid staff (and the staff from whose loins Dan didn’t fall), they are awesome. I’m so happy my friend Nadia joined my other (now) friend Lorraine at the BBQ, and the other familiar faces at the aid stations and START/FINISH were just amazing. I’m a little more than bummed that I didn’t get to see Florence and Liz Grootenboer, but that’s because Florence was trapped in the bushes for the day, and Liz was riding across the country to raise money for charity. Dan Marshall, Substance Projects, and the rest make the sport richer and we’re all lucky to have their dedication and support.  Big giant BOOM for Substance projects.

 

 

And here, as promised (and in its entirety), is the other Race Report, courtesy of legendary Lapdog, Barry Cox:

Race Report:  El Bandito 140.  Brimacombe Ski Hill: June 22, 2017 (by Barry Cox)

I was so apprehensive about this race. The pre-ride a week and a half ago was really, really tough. I suffered hard. I hated it. I wanted it to be over. I doubted my ability to even finish the race. I assumed I would be DFL.

Turns out the pre-ride was the best thing I could possibly have done. I took the last week and a half to eliminate many of the problems I had on the ride. I planned. I came up with a nutrition plan, used drop bags at the aid stations, and executed it. I removed the 120mm 17deg negative rise stem which came on my bike and replaced it with something more comfortable. I put gel inner-soles in my shoes to cut down on foot pain and shoe discomfort. Basically, I figured out what the problems were likely to be and tried to eliminate them.

I lined up towards the front of the start line but didn’t sprint hard off the start. I walked the bike down the first descent, upon which someone had dumped a bunch of jagged asphalt two days ago, rather than risk a flat or a crash.  Others didn’t and their day was over quickly.

The first 20 km of the race was mostly road. I found that I couldn’t put down the power in the climbs. My legs felt heavy. I compensated by trying to work with other riders on the flats, and getting as aero as possible on the descents. It almost worked, but I got passed a lot.

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Barry Cox.  Post race.  Alive.

20km in we hit the first sandy section. I was in a group and it took one of the riders in front off-guard. He went down hard, knocked himself out and from the look of it broke his collarbone. I stayed at the scene for about 5 minutes to make sure that help was on the way (I had the medical number on my phone) but after that there was nothing I could do to help – someone else who appeared to have first aid training was taking charge, so I decided to keep riding.

The first 45km was mostly pavement. I just was not going as fast as I would have liked and got passed by a bunch of riders. It could have been because I was using 700 x 40c tires with a lower pressure. But when I hit the first stretch of ATV trail (and and dirt) I was loving the tires and picked a number of other riders off.

I kept pushing and picked up a bunch of positions. I saw a lot of skinny-tired riders struggling in the sand and at about 55km got out on the road again. Then there was more sand and I was able to plough through by keeping my weight back, letting the bike find its own path and keeping a steady cadence.

The middle section of the ride was like that…make up ground on the ATV trails and lose a couple of spots on the dirt. By about 80km in I started feeling really strong and pushed a little harder. Just in time for a 5-6km grind of road climb.

I kept it up and around 100km hit what I knew to be a long sandy section followed by about 12km through Ganaraska Forest. On the pre-ride, this felt like it was never going to end, but on race day I felt great, kept pushing and made up 5 or 6 more spots.

Out onto the road at about 115km. At this point I did not have much left. My back was in knots. I hit a steep climb and had to walk the bike up. This slowed me down and bit but I think the time off the bike caused the knot in my back to loosen up. Back on the bike for the last 10k. There were some steep climbs and I went to a very dark place getting through them. Across the finish line and home. Was good for 34th place. Not sure how many riders there were, but I am guessing 60-70, so mid-pack I think. Not my strongest race, but I did better than I expected and had an epic, if challenging day in the saddle

What went right:

  1. Riding in sand. I made up so much time and passed a lot of riders by keeping it rolling in the sand
  2. Bike setup – 700x 40c tires were the way to go. And the shorter less slammed stem was awesome. Less foot pain (although I kicked in towards the end).
  3. Nutrition. I say down a couple of days before, figured out how many calories and how much in electrolyte bottles I would need, made some drop bags and stuck to my plan. A number or others bonked. I didn’t

What went wrong:

  1. Climbing. I felt overgeared with a 42t chainring and a 12-36 cassette. I think it hurt me having to bring the steep stuff rather than spin. Solution: I have ordered a 38t oval chainring which should help
  2. The road sections/putting down the power. My legs felt heavy. I didn’t fee recovered despite a lot of sleep and sticking to the plan this week. Maybe the CP3/20 should have been tuesday not wednesday?

Anyway, it was a good ride, with a respectable result against a very competitive field. I’ll take it.

End of Race Report (courtesy of Barry Cox).

This is the second time I used a guest voice in my blog, and I kind of dig it.  It happened to be Barry both times because they were both about the El Bandito, and he’s done the course twice, but I’m hatching a plan to include others in the future, and I’ve already talked to a few boss people.  I hope it works.

As always, if you have something to say about the race, riding, or BIKES, comment on the blog, or send a message to: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

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47. Just Say NO to El Bandito

DO NOT Race the El Bandito.

Yeah, you read that right.  DO NOT RACE this Saturday’s El Bandito (Race #1 in the Substance Projects Stuporcross).

I’ve devoted some time to this, and I just don’t think it’s a good idea.  Here are FIVE reasons why YOU should NOT race the El Bandito:

  1. Northumberland County:  Have you visited Northumberland County?  It’s littered with picturesque farms and beautiful rolling hills.  Who wants to ride through that kind of place?  I mean, you’re going to have to ride by cows pretty streams, and gorgeous vistas.  Ugh.
  2. Substance Projects:  Yeah, Substance Projects.  There is nothing worse than going to a race and being greeted by the Substance Projects family.  Dan Marshall and his family (staff and actual family) are just too friendly and welcoming. Dan’s mom is going to smile, Dan’s father might talk to you, and Dan might even know your name.  Who wants that?  Not me.  I’d rather go to a race, pay my registration fee to a humourless attendant, never engage with the organizers, and be a faceless, nameless “number plate only” participant.  Yeah, give me more anonymity!
  3. team-colin-el-banditoThe Course:  It’s just going to be too hard (See #1 re: “hills”).  Why would anyone want the challenge of something difficult.  If Millennials have taught me anything, it’s that when something is tough, you probably shouldn’t do it.  Sweat doesn’t actually do anything except make your clothes wet, trembling muscles and sore legs all day Saturday aren’t good if you want to play in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament on Sunday afternoon–especially if Carrey is bringing his vintage hibachi.  (Note, I am not playing in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament on Sunday.  I don’t even know what Ultimate Frisbee is.).  Seriously, who wants to spend a few hours slogging their way through a course that promises to be difficult, hard, and just not easy?  Plus, they’re probably going to have fully stocked aid stations and a meal at the end of the race. One word: eww.
  4. People:  Has anyone in the history of cycling ever chosen to ride with a bunch of cool, bike minded people.  Why is this even a thing?  No sir, not for me, no thanks.  Why ride with people that you might have to talk to, when you can ride alone and savour the loneliness of a long distance ride in the absence of a riding community.
  5. Inagural:  It’s the first time for this event.  That means racers will be part of SOMETHING cool.  That’s just a whole bunch of nope.  Being part of an inagural race means that for the the rest of the season, racers will have to boast to their friends and explain how awesome it was.  “What, you weren’t at the El Bandito? Well, let me tell you how amazing it was and how cool I am for doing it…”.  No way. If I’ve learned anything about cyclists, it’s that they hate talking about their cycling experiences–especially when it’s a new or exclusive thing.

Okay, fine. this is all just a ploy to ensure YOU won’t do the El Bandito, because I really want to do the El Bandito, and I won’t be there.  I’ m too sick to race, and I don’t want to miss out.  It’s called FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), and I have it real bad.

For some reason, I do body functions big. I just do.  When I sneeze, windows rattle; When I cough, flocks of birds take flight; and when I get a summer cold, I really get a summer cold.  I’ve been sidelined in bed for almost two weeks.  Yay summer.  The quantity of phlegm, mucus, sputum, and snot originating in, and being expelled from, my body is remarkable. Worse, I can’t sleep, and I’ve spent most of the last 14 days too tired to function.

And so, instead of racing the coolest race of the season (and probably the decade, and maybe even the century), I’ll be home, rattling windows, scaring birds, and hacking my way through another Sudoku.

However…

If you are going to race the El Bandito–although I don’ t know why after reading my comprehensive list of reasons NOT to, here are some tips.

I went on a scouting mission with Dan Marshall a few weeks ago (before the onset of the plague that has befallen me), and experienced some of the worst the course has to offer.

team-colin-el-banditoThe sections we rode were crushingly hard:  All climb, all sand, all RAW, and every bit awesome.  Honestly, the sections we rode were cycling nirvana. While there is no actual singletrack in the course, some of the double track comes pretty close…and nothing beats sweet doubletrack…and nothing beats a long stretch of gravel…and nothing beats some…and nothing beats road, asphalt, poison ivy-lined trail, rock-strewn path, and so on.  The El Bandito has it all and the El Bandito is going to be awesome.

Disclaimer:  Dan has driven every inch of the course in his car.  True story.

Bike Choice

There has been a bit of discussion online about bike and tire choice.  Nobody knows which bike to ride.  Is it a gravel race?  An MTB race?  A CX race?  A sailing regatta? So riders are left wondering whether they should ride their hardtail, a fatbike, their cross bike, or their new Salsa Hammer Claw (I think it’s actually called a Warbird, but whatever).  This means whichever bike you choose, it’ll be the wrong one, and riders will have to suffer through their bike choice throughout the entire race.

And don’t even get me started on tires…

It’s a bike race.  Plain and simple, it’s a race, on a bike.  A dude always races P2A on a unicycle, and there were two riders who tag-teamed the 24 Hour on unicycles, so if your bike has two wheels, you’re fine.  Although if it has only one wheel, you’re probably going to beat me, because the P2A unicycle dude, and the 24 Hour unicycle dudes all beat my times.  Maybe that’s my problem, my OTHER wheel is really holding me back…

When Dan and I scouted, I was on my Norco Threshold (a CX bike) with 33mm tires.  It probably wasn’t the bike of choice, and I could probably use wider tires, but I survived. If 250 pounds of Team Colin can make it on THAT bike, and if 250 pounds of Team Colin can make it on THOSE tires–especially when he’s dogging an epic cold–whichever bike you choose will be fine.

Here’s a video clip of our scouting mission.

And another clip.

As Barry Cox said in his course review for the Lapdogs Cycling Club (READ IT ALL AT THE END OF THIS POST. SERIOUSLY, READ IT), pretty much any bike is suitable:  if you ride a hardtail MTB, you’ll be comfortable on the singletrack and sand, but slower on the road (gravel and paved); if you ride a gravel bike you’ll be faster on the road (gravel and paved) but slower on the singletrack; and if you ride a fatbike, you’ll be happy on everything because fatbikes are awesome.

Nicholas Leja wrote this on Facebook, and I think it captures the course.

team-colin-el-bandito-norco-thresholdDan rode his Salsa Thunder Hammer Bird (Warbird), with 39mm tires, and I think the course is ideally suited for the bike.  If I had a little bucket of spare money lying around (and if I didn’t have the worst cold humankind has ever experienced), I’d buy wider tires for my Threshold.  However, I have a set of CX tires that I used on my hardtail at the 2016 P2A, and that would be a good choice too  The terrain of the course isn’t the challenge, it’s the long stretches of sand.

Oh, and I don’t think there is a consecutive stretch longer than 100 metres that is actually flat.  The area ain’t called the Northumberland Hills for nothing.

For riders who do the Eager Beaver, the The El Bandito isn’t eager or a beaver.  It’s not a cross country marathon, and it’s not a CX race.  It’s a looooong cross race on steroids, with a touch of madness.  And it’s going to be awesome.

Awe.  Some.

Will it be easy?  No.  Will it be worth it?  Oh yeah.

Ride.

 

PS.  Unless heaven looks fondly on me and relinquishes its hold on my immune system, I won’t be there.  If you are, could you please devote a section to me?  Thanks in advance.

 

Some Resources:  Check out the Substance Projects Facebook Page, or website for more information.

Here’s most of Barry’s review of the course for his fellow Lapdogs:

The 140k course is hard. Murderously hard.
There is a steep climb within 100m of the start.  Unless you are one of the first few riders off the line you will likely end up walking it. Following this is a long rocky gravel road with a washed out bridge.
There are two run-ups on the 140k course. Or walk-ups. Because they are too steep to run. You may be able to rappel up, but you ain’t riding it. There is A LOT of climbing (2,000m+ on the 140). There is not much gravel but there is a lot of sandy ATV trails. Get comfortable riding in sand.
If you are on a CX bike run larger volume tires (700 x 36c at least) if you can. I was on 700 x 40 Clement Xplores and I felt that they helped me in the sand and on the trails, but there is a fair amount of paved road and they may have held me back a bit there.
There is no one ideal bike for this course. There are sections where I was wishing I was on my 29er hardtail. Especially the sandy sections, and a fairly long bit of singletrack and double track that runs thru Ganaraska Forest towards the end of the race. But had I been on an MTB I would have been cursing during the road sections. I think a CX bike (with bigger tires – see above) is the lesser of the two evils.
Save something for the end. The second half of the course is harder than the first. Pace yourself accordingly. The views and scenery are awesome and well worth doing the race.
In short, this is going to be an epic, awesome event. You probably won’t die.

 

 

 

46. 24 Hours of Summer Solstice

20170625_014303 copyChico Racing’s 24 Hour of Summer Solstice (20th Anniversary edition).

Chico who there?

Chico Racing.

24 Hours of what now?

24 Hours of Summer Solstice.

sol·stice

noun (/ˈsōlstəs,ˈsälstəs/)

summer solstice, when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky at noon, marked by the longest day

Yup, the longest day of the year.  24 hours of MTB goodness.  24 hours of playing bikes…24 hours of BOOM.

Albion Hills.  2,300 riders.  388 teams.  17k.  It was AWESOME.

20170624_102550 copy
Geoff S.  This guy flies.

When my pal, Geoff Simpson (from the Tuesday night King Weekly Series), said “Hey Colin, want to do the 24 Hour Race?”  I said “Um, okay” (because I never say no to a ride).

Best.  Answer.  Ever.

24 Hours of Summer Solstice was totally and completely, off the charts, outrageously awesome.  Honestly, it was lit AF–that’s what the youths nowadays would call it (because for some reason, they refuse to use actual words and have a propensity for acronyms). They might punctuate it with the word “fam” at the end (because, well, whatever).

Seriously though, it was fleek.  What? I spend my days with teenagers.  Their language is bound to rub off on me. Plus, it’s fun to use made up words, fam (note: I may have used the words “fleek” and “fam” incorrectly, but that’s totally okay with me).

As usual with something new for me, I was pretty nervous leading up to the event.  Since it was a last minute decision, I really wasn’t prepared physically for the race.  I worked late every day of the prior week, and even scheduled my daughter’s birthday party on the Friday night before the race.  Let me say this, nothing calms pre-race nerves like 12 screaming tweens…  I’m kidding.  Nothing scratches at your eyeballs–from behind–like a birthday party of 12 tweens.

But it wasn’t my lack of preparation or the course that worried me.  If anything, with a 17k lap distance, and a pretty epic spring of racing behind me, I’d faced way tougher endeavours in the last few months.  It was the whole “riding at night” thing that scared the bejeezus out of me (a real mom word, not a made-up word from the youths).

However, I’ve been steering my life by listening to the universe lately, and everything has been fine, so I figured I’d do it.

Two awesome friends (Dan Marshall from Substance Projects and Mark Summers from Joyride 150) offered to loan me some sweet lights for the race, so at least I’d be lit. Not like “lit fam”, but actually lit with 2,000 watts of illumination. They assured me there was “..nothing to worry about…” on my night lap.

Um, can I just say there was plenty to worry about.  Here are 4 things:

  1. NOT seeing where I was going
  2. seeing ONLY where I was going
  3. the boogeyman
  4. things that actually go bump in the night

Hey universe, help me out here…

(Sort of) Race Report: 24 Hours of Summer Solstice. Albion Hills (June 24-25, 2017)
Here’s my hour-by-hour (or so) recollection of the day:

9:15AM     

Arrive at Albion Hills. I couldn’t believe the sheer number of people, bikes and vehicles.   The ENTIRE park was buzzing with excitement, and so was I.

My team campsite was close to the chalet, and right in the middle of the action. Prior to the race, I had only met one teammate, but within 5 minutes, this new guy knew these guys were the real deal.  Honest to goodness, big boss MTB people, with hearts of gold.

Our team was Billy Biker and the Kickstands.  I was a kickstand!

These guys are awesome. They’ve raced as a team for the last 22 or so years, and had been doing it for so long they even had two teams on their site:  Billy and our team, and a team of their kids and their kid’s friends.

photo 3
A few kickstands (From l to r: Gregg, New Guy, Rich, Bill, Geoff, and Mark.  Photo courtesy Cynthia Husband)

11:30AM

Team meeting.  Okay, this didn’t really take place, but we sat around and decided the order of riders.  It was decided I would ride third because I’m not sure. At just over an hour per lap, that meant I’d be riding at around 3:30PM, at midnight, and at about 10:00AM.  Wait, at midnight…  This is where I got a bit woozy.

“Pfft”, I thought.  I could do this.  Bump in the night, schmump in the night.

12:00PM

20170624_115430 copy

Race start.  Holy crap.  The population of a large village was there FOR A BIKE RACE. It was remarkable.  Bikers everywhere.

1:00PM

Our transfer point was an ad hoc location about 500m before the START/FINISH (shh, don’t tell anyone, it was 3 sites away from our campsite, and really really convenient). We watched Gregg finish his lap and hand the number card to Bill.  I changed into my kit, and Geoff and I went for a little zip around the campground to warm up a bit. Everywhere we looked, there were bikes and riders and families and awesomeness.  So awesome.

3:30PM (or so)

It was time for my lap.  I was warmed up (sort of) and mentally ready (not really). Bill got to the transfer site, I took the race plate, and boom, I was off.

I hit the actual transfer point, swiped the number card, and started the lap.

The course was sublime: great climbs, lots and lots of wicked trail features, fast and fun doubletrack, rocks and roots, spectacular singletrack, more spectacular singletrack, and even the brown monster.  It was everything a good MTB race should be, and everything a great MTB race is. Gotta love Albion Hills.

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A sweet shot of my bike (photo courtesy Apex Photography)

And to make the lap even greater, a lot of the course skirted the campground. People were cheering, hollering, and offering bacon.  Did you hear me?  Bacon.

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Nearing the transfer (photo courtesy G. Simpson)

I finished my lap without incident, and even saw my buddy Ted Anderton from Apex Race Photography on the trail.  Ted may be A race photographer, but I always think of him as MY race photographer.

My lap time was 1:04.  Not a great time, but not horrible given my lack of preparation.

6:30PM

I brought two boxes of Taco Bell burritos for my team (what you didn’t). Standing at the door of my RV, I only had to say one word: “Burritos!”

And just like that, I gave each and every one of them indigestion.

7:00PM to 11:00PM

I tried to catch up on some sleep from the week before, relax a bit, and just experience being surrounded by so much bike love and awesomeness.  Sleep didn’t come easy, so I had a bunch of short naps.  I brought a courier bag full of marking and it was staring at me from the top bunk of my RV like a giant sack of guilt, so that didn’t help. What a doofus.  Who brings marking to a bike race?   A teacher who is late with his marking that’s who.

When Geoff knocked on the door of the RV to “wake me up” I was already up and ready, and nervously pacing in my RV. The night lap was really weighing heavily with me.  Why would I choose to ride at night for the first time in a race?

12:15AM

Transfer point.  It was dark.  Waiting.  Scared.  Transfer the number card.  Boom, I was off.

I could see!

It was awesome.  How can night riding not be a regular thing? The short zip to the START/FINISH was cool, but the real fun didn’t begin until after that.  Alone in the forest, chugging and gasping until I warmed up, safe in a cocoon of light, I felt amazing. I wasn’t really alone though, because there were other rider’s lights zigzagging through the forest ahead of me and around me.

I was lost in a forest of darkness, streaking through the trails of Albion Hills, and could only see what was directly in front of me, but the clarity of it all was striking.

After my lap, I wrote on Facebook:

“Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself”

Ugh.  How sappy.  It was true, sort of, but I was high from the thrill of the ride, and feeling the bossness of owning the night. I wasn’t really lost, but the sentiment, however sappy, was on point.  Because I could only see directly in front of me, my mind was opened for everything else. It was meditative.  Me and my bike, pedal stroke by pedal stroke, tree, root, and rock.  The only way to move forward was by pedaling, and since I couldn’t see further than 10 feet, I only saw what the IMMEDIATE and pedaled towards the end of the beam of light, knowing that I could never catch it. It was so very Zen.

Plus, it was just really really cool.

I finished my lap, and nothing went bump, and the boogeyman didn’t snatch me.

Like everything else in riding, it was awesome, and enlightening, and just plain fun.

20170625_014313 copyWhy did I say yes to Geoff?  Because if I’ve learned anything through cycling it’s these three things:

  1. everything is always all right
  2. nothing bad ever happens to Colin on a bike
  3. sometimes you just have to listen to the universe

I’ve learned a bit about tire pressure, bike geometry, S-1, and saddle sores too, but that list seems to fit this exercise.

In a good bike race, you ride an awesome course. In a great bike race, your bike takes you on a journey.  The journey of the 24 Hour was awesome.

I went to sleep at about 2:30AM, with visions of night riding dancing under my eyelids. Awesome indeed.

9:00 AM

I was going to start my next lap in about an hour, and it was probably going to be the second last lap for the team.  We’d hit 21 laps overall.  But then we realized something.

Team Meeting.  Okay, it wasn’t a team meeting, but we sat around the site and realized that if I could start my lap at 9:55 (which was likely because Bill was on course and his lap times were blistering), and if I could nail a lap time of 1:05 (which was a bit less likely, but almost possible if the universe helped), and if Ed could nail a lap time after me of about an hour (totally likely because he was Ed and Ed wasn’t me), we could start our last lap at 11:50, which was well before the noon cut-off time, and would allow us to finish the race by the 1:00 cut-off time–and sneak another lap.  The team was a bit wary because they’ve already “been there, done that”, but it was MY first time, and I had neither been there OR done that.

“If you’re going to be, just be EPIC” I told them.  “Do it for Team Colin” I told them (okay, I just thought that part).

They agreed we should shoot for the last lap, and Geoff stepped up.  “I’ll do it”. Yup, our finish was going to be epic.

Bill finished his lap in 1:05.  Epic indeed.

I finished my lap in 1:05.  “I gave you three minutes, Geoff” I said, as I transferred the number card to Ed.  More epicness.

Ed was off like a dart, and I knew he’d be back in an hour.  He was back in 1:01.  The epicness was imminent.

11:50AM

Just after 11:50, Geoff started his lap.  Without a GPS for time, and tired from staying up all night, Geoff left the transfer point.  He would have to complete the lap, plus the additional 500m, in 1:10.

He flew. Like, literally, Geoff flew. That is all there is to say.  Geoff let the rubber fly. and nailed a smoldering final lap time. Our team did 22 laps, and finished at 12:53:16PM.

And, that’s it.  24 hours of EPIC awesomeness.  And here’s the best part.  Chico racing actually bent time so that it wasn’t 24 hours, it was 25.

End of (sort of) Race Report

Under an overcast sky, at about 1:30PM, we celebrated the winners.  Tag teams, solo riders, teams 4, teams of 5, teams of 6-10.  All of them awesome.  Everyone in the audience, equally awesome.  Honestly, check out Riot’s post about the race.  He is epic.

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David.  22 Laps Solo.  ‘Nuff said.

Then, under a canopy of rain, we waited to win one of the spectacular door prizes. The folks at Chico know something about prizes, and with an event of this size they were amazing. Gear, clothes, more gear, and a few bikes. Awesome.  Seriously, for those who left early, bad move.  I recognized two names of people who won but weren’t there because they left early, but I’m not going to be the one to say to them “Dude, you missed a $1,000 worth of prizes.

Alas, Team Colin won nothing.

Gotta say, for my first dip into the 24 Hour pool, it was pretty epic.   I was on a team of nine, and the actual racing for me fell a bit short of epic, but the event experience was unforgettable, and the 24 Hour vibe will stay with me for a long time to come. Plus, I conquered the night riding thing.

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Rob and Miro.  Tag team.  Awesome.

On my team, we only did two or three laps each, but we still felt pretty awesome. However, many other riders blasted truly epic performances. Watching Rob tag team it with his buddy (18 laps), and seeing Riot (13 laps on a singlespeed) and Raf (10 laps on a fatbike) solo the race, was awesome. Another of my racing friends, David V. soloed the race with 22 laps.  Now THAT’S truly lit.

24 Hours of Summer Solstice was awesome.  Riding in my balloon of light, watching the tree trunks zip past, and only seeing what I HAD to see—and only when I NEEDED to see it–was liberating. In my family and work life, I like to see the whole picture, and I spend my days overseeing the tasks of kids and a job , but at the 24 Hour, with my vision confined to a small patch of trail, I was reminded about the importance seeing what was directly in front of me.

And it was really fun too!

Ride.

 

Check out the results at Chico Racing.

And would you look at these sweet shots from Ted at Apex Photography.  If you haven’t bought your picture, do so.

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Here are some other shots from the days: