The Epic 8 Hour, presented by Pulse Racing, at Hardwood Hills was an absolute killer.
I thought I was registering for a bike race.
I thought I was going to ride a little 10k lap, on a few sweet trails at Hardwood Hills.
I thought it would be challenging, and fun, and awesome, and EPIC.
I didn’t think I’d be riding my bike on the surface of the sun.
Holy crap, it was a scorcher. Like, face melting, core draining, electrolyte zapping, take-off-your-jersey, scorching hot.
“How hot was it?”
It was so hot, three of my water bottles spontaneously combusted.
It was so hot, a rider in front of me spontaneously combusted.
It was so hot, by the end of the day all the sand on the “Lookout” had melted into glass.
It was so hot, that when I rode to my pit area, it was an actual Dali painting. Aww, I really needed that clock…
Dayam, it was H. O. T.
Race Report. Fall Epic 8 Hour: Hardwood Hills. September 20, 2017 The race started at 10 AM, and my first few laps were strong and consistent. I held back and did three laps in an hour and 58 minutes.Noon. The sun rose in the sky, and my lap times dipped, but I still felt okay.2 PM. The sun hit full force, and I slowed to a crawl.4 PM. The sun actually got hotter, and I’m pretty sure I crawled with my bike strapped on my back for a few laps.I WANTED 10 laps. I NEEDED 10 laps. I could TASTE 10 laps. I was READY for 10 laps. I was primed, and fit, and had been looking forward to my first 100k MTB ride for a while.In the end I rode…I’ll get to that after the Race Report.The course was a mix of long and sinister double track climbs, a few harrowing and rocky double track descents, some nastily awesome rooty bits, some awesomely nasty dusty bits, a bunch of sweet technical trail features, and plenty of tight but flowy single track. The course ended with a shot on the Joyride 150 wall, a zip through the solo pits, a crunchy grind up a hill that was more wall than hill, and through some sweet BMX track with sweet jumps, rollers, and berms, before the START/FINISH/TIMING area. In truth, it was pretty much a perfect 10k of riding.End of Race Report.
So, how many laps did I do…
The day before the race, I was dialled:
My bike was freshly tuned (Thanks Andrew Maemura of Cycle Solutions); my kit was washed; my alternate kit washed; I had 20 litres of water and a bunch of pre race, race, and post race food (pasta, chicken, fruit and vegetables); I packed my cycling shoes, my other cycling shoes, a helmet, my other helmet, gloves, more gloves and LOTS of chamois cream; I had electrolyte this and energy gel that; a tent, a zero gravity chair, and my tool (and other stuff) table; I even packed extra non-spandex clothing. I. Was. Ready.
Mother Nature: “Let me just see if I can turn the heat up a wee bit…”. It was the planetary version of “Hold my drink”, but nobody, not even Mother Nature, was going to put down their drink because it would have either evaporated in a flash, or be drained by a thirsty rider.
It was like Mother Nature wanted to see what I look like poached.
“How hot was it?”
It was so hot, and I lost so much sweat, my pee was the consistency of salt.
I have a saying. “If you’re going to be, just be epic”. And as much as I try to live with that mantra in mind, really, I don’t mean truly EPIC. Usually, I just refer to the fact that if you’re going to do something, do it to the best of your abilities.
For example, if you’re going for a ride, and it’s going to rain, don’t cancel. Ride in the rain and be epic.
If you’re riding and you see a sweet trail feature, but there’s also a B Line without a feature, ride the heck out of the feature (Unless it’s a race. Or if you’re tired. Or if it’s really big).
If there’s a race, do it.
If you want to take a picture, lay in the dirt for the best shot possible. Wait a sec, that’s Ted Anderton from Apex Race Photography. AWESOMELY EPIC SHOTS APEX!
If there’s a glass of water, drink it.
If poutine is on the menu, order it.
If there’s a book, read it.
Okay, so clearly, there’s a sliding scale when referring to the word EPIC. However, whether it’s work, family life, or on a bike, really, I just want to be or do the best I can.
And so, it was a Saturday and there was a race, so I raced.
I could have registered as a team of 4 or 6…
Or, I could have registered as a tag team…
Or, I could have registered as a solo rider.
Yeah, right. Why on earth would anyone register to do an 8 hour race solo? Like 8 hours on a bike. Who do I think I am? I’m not ready for an 8 hour race. There’s no way on earth I could do an 8 hour race. Ride for 8 continuous hours? Like, be on a bike, without a real break, for 8 hours?
So…I registered as a solo rider.
Yeah, I registered as a solo because it’s EPIC. Really, it’s a no-brainer. The word EPIC is even in the title of the race. Sliding scale? Pfft. Epic is epic.
I knew it would be hard, and I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it, and I knew I would drag my body through a the wringer. However, looking back, I had no idea it would be as hard as it was.
Even though the course was easy enough (despite a few nasty climbs)…
And even though my bike co-operated like a seasoned champ…
And even though the crowd, and the organizers, and most of the riders, were awesome…
That heat. It slaughtered me.
I know we all have something that drives us or holds us back, but I have to wonder about the biology involved in propelling my 250 pound body up, over, and through a tough MTB course. Compared to a lighter rider my power to weight ratio falls short. Maybe that’s what keeps me slow. Maybe it’s a matter of one too many bags of savory sweet potato chips (and dip!). Maybe it’s a lack of physical conditioning. Whatever it is, it’s a thing, and it slowed me down. For a full read of how slow I’ve been lately, here’s my report of the Kingston XCM on September 2.
Honestly, my last few laps were embarrassing. I was literally gasping for air and pedalling in slow motion. Note that I didn’t say I “felt” like I was pedaling in slow motion. I was actually pedaling IN SLOW MOTION. I was like a mime on an escalator.
And this is where things took a turn. While I’m disappointed with my results, I know this: I didn’t stop. When I wanted to retreat into the Team Colin support vehicle and nurse a cold popsicle instead of ride, I kept riding. When I wanted to “be happy with 50k” and call it a day, I kept riding. When my back was on fire, and my lungs were bursting, and my wrists were like stone, and my back and shoulders were a clump of pain, I just kept riding. Sure, I stopped each lap for a 2 minute break, and sure, I stopped on course a few times in the last few laps to catch my breath, but each time, before I got too comfortable, I swung a leg over my bike, clipped in, clenched my teeth, and kept going, defiant and resolved.
Truthfully, the race wasn’t an epic life or death journey across a desert to escape a prison camp, but at the time, It sure felt tough.
And here’s where things took an even better turn. I call it the Matt Factor.
The Matt Factor is as follows: Throughout the day, even from the first lap, there was a tremendous amount of respect and encouragement from other riders.
“Nice work Solo!”, “Keep it up Solo”, “You got this Solo”. It was heartening and moving. So many riders, solo and otherwise, kept encouraging and pushing me (and everyone else).
“But why do you call it the Matt Factor?”
And then, somewhere in the middle of the race (honestly, much of the day is a blur to me), something happened. I was refilling my bottle inside my RV. I was tired, and hot, and I wanted to quit, and my pit neighbour, Mike Tourond (yeah, that guy) came around for a lap. He hammered on the side of the vehicle “C’mon, get out here and ride”, and he gave me a little push when I really needed it.
“Yeah yeah, but why do you call it the Matt Factor?”
And then, somewhere after the middle of the race (honestly, much of the day is a blur to me), it happened again. I was riding, I was in pain, I wanted to quit, and I felt a hand on my back. The hand was pushing me. Guiding me. My buddy Raf, even though he was probably struggling too (although I’m not sure he ever struggles on a bike–dude is made of steel), spent some of his much needed energy to give me a little push when I really really needed it.
“Okay, fine, but WHY DO YOU ALL IT THE MATT FACTOR?”
And then, somewhere near the end of the race (honestly, much of the day is a blur to me), it happened again. I was struggling, I was baking, I was EXHAUSTED, I wanted to quit, and Miro (who I only know in a periphery way through friends and Facebook comments), did the same thing. As he was passing, he put a hand on my back, and gave me a push when I really really really needed it. “You got this, Colin. You’re almost there”.
“Seriously though, enough of this, why do you call it the Matt Factor?”
Whether passing the starting pits, where Jenn Kennedy screamed “Wohoo, Team Colin! Solo!”, or being handed a wet towel by organizer Glenn, or on the BMX track and hearing Stuart screaming encouragement, or passing the volunteers in the forest who were hoarse from screaming, or passing the kids in the solo pit who were singing for EVERY rider, or the guy in the solo pit who rang his bell for EVERY rider, or passing Dan Emsley and exchanging a brief word, the crowd was totally and utterly invested in every riders’ success. It was remarkable.
“Blah blah blah, remarkable support, hand on a back…but that doesn’t explain the Matt Factor!”
And then, somewhere almost at the end of the race (honestly, much of the day is a blur to me), it happened again. I was spent. I was spent. I was literally limping along on my bike. It was somewhere mid lap, on the last lap, I was willing the race to be over, and I felt a hand on my back. I thought it was Raf again. It wasn’t. It was Matt. I had never met Matt before. He put his hand on my back to give me a push. He held it there, warm and comforting, and the race disappeared for just a moment. “You’re almost there Solo, just keep pedaling. The race will be finished before you know it.”. The support, encouragement, and and genuine sincerity of the gesture gave me a push when I really really really REALLY NEEDED IT.
THAT’S the Matt Factor. Yeah, the Matt Factor.
It was 5:30. I was almost there. It was almost over. “Yeah, I’ve got this”, I thought. “Yeah, I can finish this” I said to myself. “Keep it up Solo”.
I finished at 5:43. It was 7 hours and 43 minutes after starting. The sun was perched in the sky above, taunting, and as bright and hot as ever.
I didn’t hit 10 laps.
It was disappointing.
Honestly, I waver from feeling good about my result (19/31), and feeling like I somehow failed myself (and my team). I wanted to ride 10 laps. I wanted to ride 100k on a MTB, and I didn’t. I couldn’t.
Aargh. What if I hadn’t stopped for so long? What if I just rode a bit harder up this hill, or smarter over that trail feature? What if I had trained just a bit (or a lot) harder?
What if? So many what ifs. But only one pure and simple fact. I did it.
It may only be a bunch of people playing bikes in a race, but I rode for 8 hours. I rode as fast, and as hard, and as best as I could. I left NOTHING on the course. So what if the leader did 16 laps, and so what if my pit mates, Riot and Fig, finished 12 and 13 laps respectively. I did 9 laps, and that ain’t so bad.
Next year I’ll try again, and maybe I’ll hit 10 laps. 100k on a MTB. Now that’d be pretty Epic. I just hope we’re not riding on the surface of the sun.
PS. I started to think “Yeah, so maybe I can be a bit less epic, but still be epic…”. After all, I raced the marathon distance in the Kingston XCM on September 2, two CX races the next weekend, the 40k distance in the Great Albion Enduro the following weekend, 90k at the Epic Hour the week after that, and three weekly races in between. I don’t have to do it all. I mean…
…wait, the Dirty Enduro is this weekend, and they have a 60k distance…
By the way, thanks again to Pulse Racing and Glenn Meeuwisse (so many pairs of consonants), Hardwood Hills, the staff and volunteers, the amazing sponsors, the outstanding spectators (literally, they were out standing all day), the awesome sponsors, the wickedly fast and talented race teams, the epic solo riders, and Mother Nature for coming along for the ride and making the day that much more epic. Thanks also to the members of Team Colin for fielding so many needy questions from me in the days–and minutes–leading up to the race.
The results are posted here: Epic 8 Hour Results.
Thanks again to Apex for making me look waaaaaay better than I am.
By the way, HUGE shout out to some of the awesome people I knew at the race:
- Rafrider and Jenn. You are just too cool.
- Monika and Ironman Jack. Dude is an Ironman, and Dudette is awesome)
- The Bentleys (Hey Coach!)
- Nick and Dan Emsley (Um, 14 laps Nick? Awesome)
- Tom Beck (Are you kidding me? 13 laps on a singlespeed! Weapon.)
- Flat Pedal Chachies (Love the name, love the inspiration to do it solo–Rob–and love the push–Miro)
- Backflips and Tailwhips (Thanks for the cheer at the end)
- Brendan Arnold (Where’s that selfie we took?)
- Christian (Always a pleasure Christian)
- Heather (8 laps, and 3 of them were under 50 minutes…kaBOOM)
- …and Brent (first race)
- SupPups (2nd place. Wohoo)
- My frequent riding buddy throughout the day, Trevor (Great talking to you on the course)
- Mike Tourond (12 laps? With a broken finger something? No way.)
- Oh, and a GIANT thanks to my wife and kids for not forgetting who I am this month.
I’m sure I missed a few people, but you know, it really wasn’t my day.