63. Hardwood Fatbike Race

When in Doubt, Race


Awe.  Some.


What a great race.  It was The Hardwood Fatbike Race:  Race #4 in the 45NRTH Ontario Fatbike Race Series (p/b Cannondale, Substance Projects, and The Crank & Sprocket Bicycle Co.).  Say that fast three times.

Yes, seriously, that’s the full name race.

When the organizers announced the name at the race they said “Go!” followed by “Good luck to all the racers in the Hardwood Fatbi…” and by the time they finished saying the full name of the race, Jack Padega was finished.

What an awesome rip.  It was a one two three punch of awesomeness, with perfect weather, spectacular course conditions, and a brilliant course (designed by Jacob McClelland–no relation).

Course designer extraodinaire, and 1st place short course (20-34), Jacob McClelland.

With temperatures hovering around zero, and a slight wind to moderate, the snow maintained integrity throughout, and with a course that seemed the perfect mix of wide, swooping double track and loose, twisty singletrack, the conditions for the race could not have been better

And it was almost the race that wasn’t better.

Here, in list form, are the various challenges preventing me from racing:

  • It was a fatbike race, and I don’t have a fatbike.  So there’s that.
  • We were supposed to take a family trip for March Break, so I hadn’t planned on racing.  So there’s that too.
  • Lately, I’ve been having difficulty leaving my kids to race because they are so damn awesome and snuggly and fun to be with.  So there’s that as well.
  • It was Daylight Savings Time, which meant waking up at what was realistically 5AM, and losing 60 minutes of much needed beauty sleep.  So that didn’t help. either

Put together, I didn’t think I’d make it.  In fact, the race wasn’t even on my radar.

But then I realized something.  I remembered the Team Colin Philosophy.  If there’s a race and I CAN do it, I DO it.  So, at 7PM, I sent a message to my pal, Dan Marshall (head honcho of Substance Projects) and asked if I could borrow his bike.  He has a sweet Cannondale Fat Caad.  Regardless of how he answered, I knew I still wasn’t sure if I COULD race.  I mean, I wasn’t in the mindset (or bodyset), and hadn’t even thought about the actual prep required for a race in the cold.

By 8PM, with the Team Colin/Dan Marshall texting done, I was able to discern the following:  he had a bike, he didn’t need it, and I could use it.  The course was either 20 or 40k, and registration opened at 8AM.

But could I do it?  I talked to my wife.  Well she was no help.  “Just go” she said, “I’ll do something fun with the kids”.  Damn supportive wife.  I mean, who does she think she is, allowing–nay, encouraging–me to just race?  What about my family responsibilities?  What about the laundry I had to do?  What about spending time with the kids on a Sunday afternoon instead of gallivanting all over the countryside playing bikes?

Wait, did I just switch partner roles there?  Awesome wife!

I still wasn’t convinced, and truthfully, I was pretty much resigned to not racing.

It was 9PM, and I was hungry too, so I probably wasn’t thinking right.  I’ve been on this 8 Weeks program to get ready for race season (and try to shed a few unsightly pounds), and this race was smack in the middle of my totally made-up, self-imposed program of eating better.  So what did I do?  I ate a bowl of Froot Loops (um, of course).

I mean, I figured I probably wasn’t racing anyway, so I might as well have a tasty snack that kinda/sort-of met the conditions of my program (totally not).  But then it happened.  Somewhere between the first bowl and the second bowl (why do I do that to myself) I remembered the TC Philosophy.

Aw dang it.  There WAS a race tomorrow, and I COULD do it.  I’ve never regretted racing.  So, I slurped the last but of sugary sweet remnants from my bowl, wiped my mouth, and got ready.  Not gonna lie though, I seriously considered having a third bowl.

It was 9:15, and, with a belly full of Froot Loops, I started getting ready.  Which gloves?  How many layers?  What about footwear?  Pre/Post race nutrition?  “Don’t forget to bring pedals Colin”.  What if Dan’s bike doesn’t fit well?  How cold is it going to be?  Can I even ride a 20k fatbike race?  Do I even want to ride a 20k fatbike race (of course I did, that one was silly)?  The questions conspired against me.

My biggest worry was attire.  I don’t really have winter riding apparel, so I was going to have to scrape together enough fall and spring weight things to layer myself into warmth.  My feet were going to be the biggest problem, because I lost my riding shoes (a sweet pair of Sidis that fell out of my car at the Bike Show), which meant I had to race with my old, very narrow, shoes.  Ugh.

Worse than that, not only was I riding a borrowed bike.  I hadn’t ridden a fatbike since last February, in the 2017 Snumbler.  And what about pressure?

Whatever.  It was all fine print.  I was going to race, and that’s always exciting.

Except for the 5AM part.  Who schedules a bike race for the morning after losing an hour of sleep?

The race started at 10AM.  I met Dan at 9:30, swapped pedals, did some car yoga to change into my kit (which takes a loooooong time, and sorry to any passers-by who may have inadvertently glimpsed a shuddering minivan and, upon closer inspection to ensure nobody was being killed, witnessed what can only be described as an epic battle between spandex and too much clammy body.  The spandex lost!

With 5 minutes to spare, I met my pal Ken Ruckstuhl, and we warmed up with a 30 second ride.  The bike was a good fit!

Cannondale Fat Caad.  Sweet.

Race Report:  The Hardwood Fatbike … Bicycle Co.  Sunday, March 11   

As is the case with EVERY race at Hardwood, the race began with that awful 2k climb.  I hate that climb.  I hate it like I hate rats.  It haunts me.  Worse, the last time I saw the hill was at the Epic 8 Hour, when I limped my way through my last laps after bonking spectacularly.  Cresting the endless climb, I got the cold sweats.  Yes, it was winter, I get it, all sweat would be cold, but this sweat originated from inside my soul.

I hate that hill.

But then, I gasped my way to the top, and “Wheeeeeeeee”:  rolling singletrack, awesome descents, and winding double track.

It.  Was.  Heaven.  It was an endless supply of awesome twisty sections, punctuated by fast, wide open trail.

Except that it wasn’t endless.  All too soon, at about 6k, we hit The Lookout, and after a quick zip of singletrack, we were on our way down some blistering double track to the finish line, to start lap two.

Lather rinse repeat, and the race was over.

Laps were 9k of big boss fatbike awesomeness.

Perfect conditions, a sublime course, and awesome weather.

End of Race Report.

So that’s it.  The race was over, and we convened for the podium and draw prizes.  It’s always so great to hang with my bike peeps.  It was a small crowd, and new and old friends gathered to talk bikes and relive the race.  I love that part.  I was 8/12 in my category (always a killer), and half place overall.  I hope I repped my new cycling club well.

Hey look, it’s me!

I sort of regret not doing the full distance, but the truth of the race was blunt, and between an unknown bike, the stark lack of gear, and zero prep time, I think I made the right decision.

Oh, and here’s the best part.  I often donate a Team Colin hat to the draw prize pile.  It’s a scary thing.  What if my hat is the last thing to be taken?  What if someone makes fun of me?  Nope, alongside an awesome array of shirts, calendars, beer and giant beer steins, and even a sweet jacket, my hat was the third item to be chosen.  Boom.

Oh, and here’s the best part.  I often donate a Team Colin hat to the draw prize pile.  It’s a scary thing.  What if my hat is the last thing to be taken?  What if someone makes fun of me?  Nope, alongside an awesome array of shirts, calendars, beer and giant beer steins, and even a sweet jacket, my hat was the third item to be chosen.  Boom.

Ken and his new swag.  Love the hat buddy.  Wear it well.

So, at the risk of doubling the word count of this post, thanks to The Hardwood Fatbike Race:  race #4 in the 45NRTH Ontario Fatbike Race Series (p/b Cannondale, Substance Projects, and The Crank & Sprocket Bicycle Co.) for an awesome time on Saturday.

And that’s the story of how Team Colin raced on a borrowed fatbike, with a belly full of Froot Loops, clad in spring weight clothing, and half asleep because of the time change.



PS.  The question of PSI always looms over a fatbike race.  So, using a proven scientific method that calculates ambient temperature and wind speed, divided by my weight, multiplied by elevation, I arrived at the ideal PSI of 47 nautical miles.  Damn.  So I did nothing and just used the PSI Dan had the last time he rode.  Except the rear tire felt a bit squishy, so I added 25 pumps.  Yay science!  For the purists, my PSI for the race was:  SOMETHING ON THE FRONT and WHATEVER+25 PUMPS ON THE REAR.

Also, congratulations to the winners:

Long Course:

  • Jack Padega (20-34) who was first overall (He was scorching hot, and lapped me early in my second lap.  Dude can rip.)
  • Preston Lortz (U19) and second place overall
  • My pal Jeff Shikaze (50+) and third place overall.
  • Alexa Storoniak (Women)
  • Steve deBoer (35-49)
  • Michael Padega (SS)

Short Course:

  • Natalie Thompson (Women)
  • Everett Wilkinson (U19)
  • Jacob McClelland (20-34)
  • Nicholas Carrier (35-49)
  • Jason O’Brien (50+)

Congratulations also to:

  • Mykal (pronounced Michael) Petersen for his first podium (3rd place) in 15 years in the long course
  • Tracy Roth for a sweet 5th place finish in the short course
  • Ken Ruckstuhl for winning a Team Colin hat
  • anyone who got up early and raced–we beat everyone who stayed home!

Here’s a link to the Zone4 race results

Thanks to Hardwood Hills, Substance Projects, The Crank & Sprocket Bicycle Co., 45NRTH, and Cannondale (look a that sweet ride I had for the day).team-colin.jpg

Dan, Tracy, and Team Colin met at the Flashback Diner in Barrie for some post-race embarrassment, I mean post-race noshing.  I had an open faced roast beef sandwich with fries…and flapjacks on the side.  With a water.  We made the server seat us at this booth:


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