Elmira, Ontario. April 8, 2018.
Wow. Just wow.
It was probably one of my toughest races yet.
It was cold. It was muddy. It was really really hard.
It was 65k of some of the gnarliest, greasiest, and ugliest, gravel/road/trail/field around.
It was also 65k of some of the awesomest, and finest, gravel/road/trail/field around.
It was fast. Wait, did Colin just use the word fast in a blog about a race? Yup, I did. More on that later, because I have to finish introducing the race.
The race had it all: Some gross climbs–sometimes on a bike and sometimes not–up grass, gravel, mud, and pavement; a sweet zip through the main drag of Elmira; snowy, ice-laden limestone trail; slushy, water-sodden rail trail; sticky farmer’s fields; Mennonites; maple syrup; and even a few water crossings.
It had all that, and more, but what it didn’t have (and I can’t tell you how happy I am about this) was wind. It wasn’t a calm day by any measure (and it was still really really windy) but it wasn’t torrentially windy as it has been in past years. Not to worry though, Mother Nature still played bikes with us and offered plenty of cold and snow (and even a bit of sleet).
Cold, wet, and windy, with a few grinding climbs? Yeah, it was a gravel lovers dream.
It was the 2018 Steaming Nostril (presented by Cycle Waterloo), and…
It also was my first stab at the full distance.
Okay, with the introduction finished, maybe I should address that comment about “fast”. Usually, I say the word “fast” in the context of “Everyone else was fast, but I wasn’t”, or “Boy, I wish I was fast”, but not this time. This time, I was actually sort of, kinda, almost fast.
Okay, spoiler alert, I wasn’t that fast ( I think the “sort of, kinda, almost” in the last paragraph indicated that) but I was faster than usual, and looking at the results, I was faster than a whole bunch of other people too. Usually, if I perform decently in a race, I add the qualifier “…for me”, but this time, I’m not. I worked hard for it, and I’m owning it.
I wrote this on the Facebook after the race:
“I have to talk about Steaming Nostril. The race hit a few personal bests for me: It was definitely the coldest Spring race I’ve done (and I raced the Polar Vortex Homage to Ice IN A FOOT OF SNOW a few years ago); it was the grungiest race I’ve ever done (due to the cold and the lime on the rail trail that caked into impenetrable, frozen, concrete on my frame); and it was a personal best time. To put things in perspective, my time for the 40k Runny Nose distance last year (same course, just shorter and less gnarly) was 1:49. My time for the full 65k this year was just under 3 hours (2:58). Once again, I rode mostly alone (except for 4k with Lenka near the beginning, and a speedy tear with a small pack at the 40k mark). I feel strong and lean, and tired and awesome. By far, my toughest race yet, and one heck of a memorable rip.”
And that’s all I have to say about that.
But not really.
I’m really proud of my performance in the Steaming Nostril. It came at the end of an 8 week stretch of training, eating well, and riding hard. I raced MY race. I gave my heart, and my lungs, and plenty of phlegm (um, it’s called the Steaming Nostril after all…), and when it was done, I had no more to give.
No doubt, it came at a bit of a cost. I was exhausted for the rest of the work week. I wasn’t cramped and sore, but I sure was tired. Like, nodding off in my dinner, sneaking a quick snooze in between classes at work, and “resting my eyes” when talking to people tired. If tired was a contest the week after Steaming Nostril, I won. Except I missed the awards ceremony because my head was jerking around like a kid trying to stay awake in church.
It didn’t matter though, because the race was the kind of race I dream of. I’ll never stand on a non-clydesdale podium, and I’ll never be able to compete with the big kids, but a sub-three hour time on a wicked hard course is enough for me. I rode, I rode hard, and my body felt like the machine I know it has the potential to be.
Here’s a video I posted immediately after the race on the Team Colin Facebook page. By the way, can we talk about the hair for a second? Three hours in a helmet liner, and it’s still in in place. Yeah, boom. Here’s the video:
Race Report: Steaming Nostril. April 8, 2018. Elmira
The race started at the bottom of a field at the Waterloo Rod and Gun Club (no kidding). I was in the first wave, and after a harried sprint to the start because I was late getting to the race (had to turn around to go home and get my gloves, baaaaad situation), I positioned myself near the back of the pack. It was so harried, I was putting on my gloves with my teeth as I rode down the hill. No stretching, cold wind, heart pounding. It was not good. However, the cycling gods looked fondly on me, and the race start was delayed for just enough time to stretch, make sure I had everything I needed, adjust my seat height, and confer with my fellow Lapdog, Lenka Bee (who I rode with for the first bit). Another Lapdog, Paul Pee, also caught us for a sweet picture, and some good wishes.
The above pictures, respectively titled “Where’s my side gut flap?” and “Lenka Bee and Mee”, courtesy of Paul Potvin.
The pack climbed out of the field, up the wet, lumpy, grass, and a bunch of riders dismounted (probably bad gearing), but I didn’t hiccup. Up and over the climb for a quick rip down the road from the Rod and Gun Club (no kidding), and the race was on. It was a fast start. I felt like I was sprinting, but not really. I was passing people, but it wasn’t tough. I kept at it. The first hour or so was a blur of Elmira, a slushy river trail, and lots and lots of gravel and pavement.
And then we hit the rail trail: 15k of mushy, water-logged, soft, limestone. The mud was always greener (browner) on the other side of the trail, so it was a constant criss-cross situation to find the firmest line (hint, there was no firm line). It was a killer. Worse, with the constant flick of wet, ice-cold, limestone up the back, it was cold. Even worse, the limestone froze into an impenetrable frozen chunk on the drivetrain, between around the bottom bracket, and behind the seat tube. By the end of it, so many riders had frozen gears (and I don’t want to think about those with V-brakes). Gotta say, my Threshold (with hydraulic disk brakes and Di2) was an absolute dream. Shifting was precise and smooth for the duration.
With the first two hours out of the way, it was a coast to the end.
No it wasn’t, the hard stuff was just starting.
It got cold, my hands were frozen lumps, my feet were frozen AND WET chunks, and my legs were tired. A cramp started scratching its way into my calves, but I scratched it back. “Go away cramps, I’m riding”. No kidding, I actually said that.
By the way, my voice in my blog is pretty clean. I write this with the understanding that my kids will one day read it, and that my students can, on any day, read it. However, in real life, with a punishing wind, tingly-cold extremities, and failing legs, I DID NOT say “Go away cramps, I’m riding”. I cursed a wretched blue streak that included those words, along with other choice expletives.
That part of the race was really tough, and then, out of the blue, two riders passed me at a scorching pace. I booked it to catch up, took a wheel, and for about 7k, we held a paceline and maintained 35-38 kph. It was too much, and they dropped me, but the sprint invigorated me enough to get me to the farmer’s field, which was an endless walk along a fenceline and across a field, before dipping down into the river valley for a hike-a-bike/maple syrup break, before a slippery climb out of the valley (with the helpful hands of my pal Jenn Kay, and Steve Ess).
(From L to R, thanks to Lauren Daniells, and Steve Shikaze for the action shots)
From there it was a pretty quick shot back to the Rod and Gun Club (no kidding), and back down into the field to the finish line.
The Steaming Nostril does a classy job at the finish, and announces your name. That always makes me feel pro.
End of Race Report.
So that’s it. That’s the story of the time I raced the Steaming Nostril (the full distance) in the cold (and the wet) on an awesome bike, and even drank some maple syrup.
Boy, if this is any indication of how the 2018 race season is going to unfold, I’m ready.
See you at P2A!
Something to say about the race? Something to add? Anything to say about bikes? As always, comment on this post, write something in my Facebook page, or send an email to: TeamColinBlog@yahoo.com
Also, don’t forget to check the 2018 Race Schedule. I’ve tried to list all the races I could that are within a few hours of Toronto.