I was HOPING for vindication.
I WANTED revenge.
I NEEDED to master the MTB Kingston course once and for all.
- Vindication: 1
- Revenge: 1
- MTB Kingston: 1
- Team Colin: 0
Race #4 in the Substance Projects XC Marathon (A Little Story of Not-So-Boom)
The Kingston Marathon and I have a long back story. Last year, I broke a few spokes about 10k into the race, then spent 15 minutes untangling them from my cassette and dislodging them from a snapped rear derailleur, and finished the race on a borrowed bike. In 2015, I couldn’t find the START line and sprinted 6k to the next Concession and back before finding the START line (10 minutes AFTER the race started). The year before that, the course beat me up so badly that I almost quit riding (not really, but it was just so hard that year), and the year before that (my first year racing) it was so hot on race day that I actually spontaneously combusted (totally true).
Alas, once again, FOR THE FIFTH TIME IN A ROW, the Kingston XCM kicked my butt.
Kicked it hard. Like, really hard.
Honestly, sometimes it’s exasperating being this bad in a bike race.
I get it. The reality of a race is never as pretty as it is when imagining it, but c’mon, I was ready for this race. Driving to Kingston the night before, I knew I was in the best shape of my life: I’ve logged about 800 kilometres of racing this season (and at least a thousand more in training); my weight is down; my muscle mass is up (I bought a Bowflex, dang it); my side gut flap is (marginally/slightly) smaller; I jiggle way less; and I even somehow managed to curtail my poutine intake (despite 4 weeks in Quebec, the Poutine Capital of the world, this summer. #willpower).
So how did I do this year? Let’s take a look at the math: In the half marathon last year (when I had a catastrophic technical failure) my finish time was 2:23. So this year, I was expecting somewhere in the neighbourhood of way under five hours.
Not even close.
In the full marathon this year my time was…
Yeah, almost six hours and twenty minutes. That’s over three hours per lap! I was so late finishing, that the podium awards for the race, the overall awards for the series, and the draw prizes were finished long before I limped my poor Norco Revolver under the FINISH banner. The parking lot was all but empty, and I swear I heard the raspy call of a vulture as a bundle of tumbleweed scuttled past me.
I felt like Klaatu, except the earth wasn’t standing still, everybody just went home.
At least Raf waited for me (love you bud), and the rest of Fatboy Nation, who cheered me on from the parking area as I crested the last climb (love you Mike and Jenn and Monika and cousin Jack).
And it was great that Simon, who was only registered for the half but decided to join me on a second lap, finished with me. I met Simon at the El Bandito, and we’ve been race buddies ever since. We’ve finished side-by-side three races in a row, and like every budding teenage relationship, we text each other before, after, and in between races. I want to give him a cool nickname like “The Frenchman” or “Le Bicyclettist”, but I think I’ll just call him mon ami. Awesome.
I can’t wait until my bestest riding buddy, John, meets him.
I also met another awesome dude while riding. Dan from Ottawa. It wasn’t just Dan from Ottawa’s first time at MTB Kingston. He was on a borrowed bike, and hadn’t done “one of these races in 10 years”. I flatted about 8k in (at least my derailleur was intact…) and he saw I needed help. We spent about 20 minutes trying to coax air into my tire, with minimal luck, and he didn’t leave until we were (sort of) finished. At least I had enough air to limp along the course to the road crossing, and then zip up to the barn for a proper pump. Dan from Ottawa, you’re awesome, dude. I may or may not have etched some unsolicited advice into your brain by encouraging you to finish, but I still maintain that nobody ever regrets a FINISHED race, regardless of how long it takes.
Seriously though, six hours and twenty minutes. Dang.
People often comment that I’m too self deprecating in some of my posts. Well, after Saturday, I’ve got six hours and twenty minutes of “told you so” to back me up.
And the worst thing is that I actually felt strong at the end. On my second lap, I booked all of Peter’s Loop and Sydney’s Loop (about 12k or rocky gruel) in less than 25 minutes, ripped through the last 6k, and even got out of my seat on the last climb out of the valley.
I’m replaying the race over and over in my mind. Did I get too much into my head and slow my pace too much? Did I actually get worse over the summer despite riding my butt off. Did I ride through a molasses vortex at some point early in the race and have bestowed upon me the super power of the Flash–ing Yellow Light?
My buddy Geoff says I “over trained”. Not likely. I may be in the best shape of my life, but that shape is still largely pear-like.
I just don’t know.
Sure, it would help if I had checked my tires for air pressure before the race or maybe if I’d brought a working pump, but that only accounts for 30 minutes of the SIX HOURS AND TWENTY MINUTES!!! (For proper effect, say that with echo).
Something happened to me, and it wasn’t just losing a lot of electrolytes. By the way, that’s a picture of my jersey after the race. It’s a black sleeve, and it’s not dirt.
Whatever happened to me really, really, really, reallyreallyreally, sucks.
In my defense, the MTB Kingston course is known for being technical, tight, and punishing.
But I’ve raced other tough courses.
And sure, 78k is one heck of a long race by any standards.
But I’ve raced similar distances this summer, (and I was on my single speed for the other ones (I actually felt like I was cheating this time because I had gears.)
Put in the most simple terms, this course wore me down. It scratched away every bit of energy, clawed at my resolve, and gnawed my body into a knotted mess. Actually, not my entire body (my usual problem spots: everywhere, and especially my back and knees, weren’t a problem) but my forearms and wrists took a particular beating.
I have to say, while I was strong near the finish of the race, back at the barn (near the beginning of my second lap), I was over four hours in, with almost half the race to go, and I wanted to quit.
It would have been my first DNF.
But here’s the thing: Team Colin does not DNF. It’s not in my DNA to Did Not Finish, and there was no way on earth I was going to Did Not Finish at MTB Kingston. “Today will not be the day you Did Not Finish, Colin…” I thought “…not today, not ever.”. So I didn’t Did Not Finish.
I FINISHED. It just took so darn long.
I’m not complaining (and honestly, how many people have the conditioning to attempt a 78k mountain bike race) but even though I consider it a gift to even be able to tank a big race, it’s still pretty demoralizing.
I was even heckled during the race. Because it took so much time to jam air into my tire, the half marathon riders caught up near mid-lap. The three leaders were patient and supportive, and so were the next 15 or so riders, but then a large pack approached, and without a pause, yelled ahead and told me to stop and let them pass. No kidding. “You might want to pull off the course and let is us pass–there’s a big group coming up”.
Um, no, I thought. It was a tight, twisty, and very technical section, and we were hitting a boardwalk every 20 metres, so there wasn’t any room to pull aside. “As soon as there’s a chance, I’ll ease up and let you pass”, I said.
I’m sure their urgent requests good natured, and they were simply caught up in race pace, but the first few seemed unnecessarily impatient–especially since they could have announced and passed me in the brush if they had the legs to do so.
I know it was a race, but I was racing too, and it wasn’t a World Cup qualifier…
I should say that most of the pack was cool, supportive, patient, and kind with their words (as are most racers and riders I encounter) but dang, I still had four more hours to go…
As the half marathoners were passing, it was great to see so many familiar faces. Every Dan’s Race is such an awesome reunion. Corey was in the lead pack; Wally and Sean were pretty close behind; Tyler passed; Donna and Peter passed a while later; and Barry, Ken, Robert, Tatiana, Chris at other times. Great riders. Check out Tyler’s post about the race at Team Van Go. He even gave a nod to me in his first line. Boom.
It was also great to be in the big kid race with a few other legends that I knew (or recognized), and it’s always a pleasure to see David (and Lorraine and the boys); Nick, Dan, and Angela; Erich; and Mykal. There were so many others that I recognized from other races too.
A list of winners is at the bottom of this post.
RACE REPORT. Kingston XC Marathon: MTB Kingston (September 2, 2017)
Farm track, farm field, roots, rocks, a bunch of bar checks, more rocks and roots, a lake, a flat tire (and half an hour to fix the thing), some double track, rocks and shale, boulders, a road crossing, a quick shot up to the barn to pump my tire and back to the road, a field of soy (if you build it, they will come–and make tofu, soy milk, and other soy-related products), a pretty farm lane, some sand, a barn, the sweetest flow trail east of Joyride 150, an awesome (and huge) jump line, forest, roots, roots, more roots, a bridge, another bridge, more and more bridges, “The Rocky stuff” (which was rocks, tight climbs, rocks, and rocks), a quick shot of gravel and up a rutted hill to the rest of “The Rocky Stuff” (which was EVEN MORE ROCKS), a zip around Peter’s Loop, a zip around Sydney’s Loop, 6k of some more rocks and roots, the “Drop of Doom”, and a grassy climb to the FINISH.
Lather, rinse, repeat (with an added 4k connector back to the START line, and a little stunt session somewhere in the middle), and 78k later, the race was over.
End of Race Report.
In a word, the course was tight, twisty, rocky, and technical.
Six hours and seventeen minutes, and a little trail rash from a spill. I like to do my own stunts.
MTB Kingston is hard core. These folks build and maintain some of the sweetest and most technical singletrack around. The result is an awesome and very punishing network of awesomeness, and one heck of a fun time on a bike. Gotta say, Rob Sangers and his people make some awesome fun.
Also, the Drop of Doom is scary as hell.
The race wasn’t a good one for me, but I got to spend a whole lot of time on my bike, with some amazing people.
And so, I’ll regroup, and rethink, and ride some more and then ride some more.
And I’ll still consider it a blessing that I can even attempt the distance, and be proud that I finished each of the four XC Marathon races this year. 272k of really tough, really awesome, really fun MTB racing. Boom.
But hear me now MTB Kingston: I’ll be back next year for my vengeance, and if the saying is true, victory is mine.
Wait, the saying is “Six time’s a charm”, right?
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Congratulations to overall winner, Cameron McPhaden (U35 Men), with a time of 3:39, and the other Marathon winners:
- 35-49 Men: Eric Jobin (4:15)
- 35+ Women: Jessica Nankman (4:15)
- Clydesdale: Rafael Olejniczak (4:38)
- Fatbike: Jack Padega (4:14)
- Master Men: Garnett Abbey (4:12)
- Single Speed: Joel Nankman (4:17)
Congratulations to the Half Marathon winner, David Klaver (20-34 Men), with a time of 1:40, and to the other category winners:
- 35+ Women: Donna Winters (2:04)
- 35-40 Men: Brook SMith (1:50)
- Clydesdale: Ken Ruckstuhl (2:14)
- Fatbike: Patrick Seguin (1:50)
- Master Men: Martin Mueller (1:55)
- Single Speed: Chris Frank (1:56)
- U20 Men: Ryan Genoe (1:59)
- U35 Women: Tatiana Chiesa (2:18)
Thanks again to Dan Marshall and Substance Projects; Dan’s mom and dad (Ron and Florence are a HUGE support for me); Sherry, Simon, and Jenn; my wife for waiting until the end, and then letting me chat with my friends; MTB Kingston, Rob Sangers, and the Drop of Doom; Cycle Solutions; Pearl Izumi, eLoad, and the other amazing sponsors; and Lorraine (best post-race BBQ ever).
And thanks to Barry for some much needed mid-race love and support (the dude even helped me with my helmet). Awesome buddy.