65. P2A 2018

Happy Race Anniversary Team Colin!

That hill… (photo courtesy Lauren Daniells)

Well, there’s no doubt about it.  The Universe is actively conspiring against me this season.  My day-to-day personal situation is in absolute turmoil (although I’m still married and my kids are okay, so it can’t be that bad) but it looks like riding/racing/anything to do with bikes is going to be a GIANT challenge.  I started strong with my 8 Weeks of prep, and lots of gnarly riding this year, but the wheels have kind of fallen off the bike lately, and it just seems like even the smallest things are obstacles:

  • My parking spot at Steaming Nostril was the absolute furthest vehicle from the start line (um, because I was the last one to get there…), and I barely made it to the race.
  • After packing and prepping and psyching, for the Homage to Ice, lousy weather threatened my safety while driving, so I turned around and didn’t make it to the race.  Yeah, with a loaded van, I TURNED BACK while enroute to a bike race.
  • I didn’t even have the chance to barely (or not) make it to the O-Cup last week–a chance for redemption at Mansfield–because it was actually cancelled due to snow and poor conditions.
  • Finally, P2A made it almost impossible to race this year because they didn’t have race day plate pick up, and I couldn’t make it to Ancaster on Saturday.  Luckily a fellow Lapdog picked up the plates and brought them to Toronto.

Seriously, the Universe is actually altering weather patterns and changing established race policies in order to make it nearly impossible for me to race.

But it’s not working, because every time a wrench comes flying my way, I duck, weave, or otherwise avoid getting hit in the face.

And then came P2A race day…

It was going to be my second kick at the full distance.

We got up late.

I forgot my race plate at home (damn day-before plate pick up) and had to double back.

The drive took forever.

We got lost in Ancaster looking for the start, and pulled onto Green Lane at about 9:35, for a 10AM race start.

Traffic on the road was stopped dead.

“Okay Universe, so we’re going to play that game today?”.

I was driving.  My legs were stiff.  I was tired.

So I did what I had to do.  In sort-of active traffic, my wife and I traded spots in the car, and then I scootched into the back seat to change.

I did a mental tally of the things I needed to accomplish in the next 25 minutes:

  • put on compression socks:  30-90 minutes (what, they’re really snug)
  • check tire pressure: 1 minute
  • lubricate chain: 2 minutes
  • change into kit (aka Car Yoga):  7 minutes
  • gear check and pocket loading:  3 minutes
  • eat: 3 minutes (with a cramp) 5-8 minutes (without a cramp)
  • stretch:  5 minutes
  • warm up:  10 minutes
  • ride to the start line:  2 minutes

Okay, um, no.  I started changing while my wife found a parking spot, but most of that list would have to be axed.

Can I pause for a second?  The parking lot at a bike race is a special place. With no real change facilities, most people park away from other cars, and change when people aren’t around.

That was not the case for me on Sunday.  It was all 6 foot 2 inches of me wrangling out of my clothes and into my kit IN THE BACKSEAT OF A MOVING VEHICLE, ON A BUSY STREET FILLED WITH CYCLISTS AND FAMILIES, WITH MY CHILDREN GASPING IN HORROR AT THEIR NAKED FATHER.

Oh the horror.  This has happened to me in the past, and there is always a forgotten item or other SNAFU, so this verse isn’t foreign in my blog, but it’s never had this breadth of exposure.

By the time we parked at 9:42, a few thousand people had been treated to the sight of my naked butt streaking against the window in an epic battle of lycra, spandex, compression sock, glove, and sheer determination.  Still not sure who won in that equation but I’m pretty sure I know who the losers were.  “Look mommy, there’s a naked moose having a seizure in the back of that van…”

18 minutes to start: shove some food in mouth; finish changing; buckle shoes; grab water bottles; and try to stop being so damn rude to my family (with little success).

15 minutes to start: put on neck warmer, beanie, helmet, and gloves; lube chain and check tire pressure (damn, they’re soft, but good enough); wipe chain; be a jerk to my wife and kids; and jam some more food in my mouth.

10 minutes to start:  check kit; fizz a few electrolyte thingies; find GPS; apply chamoix cream (liberally), lip balm, and moisturize my face (what, I’m delicate); adjust seat; eat some more; still a jerk to my family; insert arms into arm warmers; and guzzle a water bottle.

5 minutes to start: last minute check of everything; hugs and kisses (even though I’m such a jerk); and sprint down hill to start line.

2 minutes to start: almost at the start line AND I FORGOT MY GLOVES.  Seriously, you’re kidding me, right?  Back to the van, apologize to family, put on gloves, and make a mad dash toward the starting line.  When I finally got into the start paddock, totally and utterly unstretched, cramped like heck, and harried and frantic to the core, I heard the announcer say “10 Seconds to start. 9, 8, 7…”.

10 seconds to start:  invent new cuss word.

Okay, great.  There was approximately 70k and a few hours between me and the finish line, my lungs were constricted, my muscles were tight, and I already felt a cramp in my calf.  The race did not start well.

On the plus side, I wasn’t disqualified before the race (although I’m sure I broke some OCA Anti-Nudity regulations), and I wasn’t killed by the START gate.  Also I really don’t have to write my blog this time.  Seriously, when you start a race like that, it pretty much writes itself.  My day was going to be filled with aches, and pains, and cramps, and general lousiness on a bike.

Except that it wasn’t.  Actually, the gong show at the start was nothing like the actual race.

Fast forward 3 hours and 15 minutes, and I finished the race with a giant smile on my face.  Honestly, it was a personal best in almost every way.  Despite being 5k longer than last year, my time was over 30 minutes faster.

Yeah, no kidding.  Some of my friends said their times were 15-20 minutes longer this year, and mine was half an hour shorter.

Photo courtesy Antonia Stevens

It was far from easy, and there were some really challenging times (especially in the 58k to 65k range), but it was a friggin’ awesome day on a bike, and I performed waaaaay better than expected.

I have to savour that for a while because it is clearly an aberration.

I mean, I know I took a different approach to prep this year, but I’m still me, my side gut flap still actually flaps while I’m riding (“flappa-flappa-flappa”), and while I feel a bit stronger (and maybe even possibly perhaps look a bit more toned–if you stand far away and squint), there isn’t much that can explain my (fairly decent) performance in this year’s P2A (and in the Steaming Nostril a few weeks ago).  Who knew nightly core exercises, some structured riding and a (very small) bit of strength training could make such a difference?

Race Report:  Paris To Ancaster.  April 29, 2018.  Ancaster, Ontario

Road, gravel, rail trail, gravel, farm field, double track, gravel, and repeat.

And repeat.

And repeat.

And repeat.

And a tunnel.

And repeat.

Add a few mud chutes near the end, a bit more gravel and road, and then a horribly awesome, painfully sweet, climb up Martin Hill Road, and the race was over. My family met me midway up the hill, and my son sprinted through the finish with me squealing “Faster daddy, go faster!”.

It.  Was.  Awesome.

Some of the gravel was smooth, and some of it was rutted.  Some of the pavement was smooth, but most of it was holey.  ALL of the farmer’s fields were gross and wet, greasy, and so very wheel-suckey.

The first 20k.  Photo credit:  PhotographyByChyla.com

Some highlights:

  • The rail trail at the beginning of the race was fast and wicked.
  • The rail trail near the end was long and tedious
  • With the relative lack of wind this year, most of the spinning was fairly easy
  • The double track in Harrisburg was fast and tight
  • The new part was “huh?”, followed by “meh”, followed by “cool, a tunnel” followed by “oh, okay”
  • The crowds.  P2A crowds are always awesome.  Huge cheers at the end, awesome property owners throughout, and great course spectators.  They really make the day.
  • It was my race.  I spent very little of the race on someone’s wheel, and rode my race at my pace throughout.  There is a cleanse that happens in a race like this, and it’s almost impossible to explain.
  • My legs.  They didn’t cramp.  Thank you legs.

End of Race Report.

Wanna see a picture of my bike for the race? team-colin-P2A.jpg

It’s a Norco Threshold SL, and it is sweet.  This may actually be my favourite bike.  It’s not just a rock solid and consistent performer, but it rides like a dream, handles like an extension of me, and just feels right.  Plus, it’s really good looking.

You know, there’s a lot of negativity about the race this year, and I hope it doesn’t detract from the awesomeness of the day.  It’s a huge blessing for all of us to be able to even think about doing a race like this, and we’re pretty lucky the locals tolerate us.  Seriously, their lives are thrown into chaos on race day, (and for a week or so prior) with cyclists, cyclists, and more cyclists, and from the pre-race disqualifications, to the non-pre-race registration pick-up process, to the almost murderous START gate crash, there’s been a bit of online bashing.  I like a good gripe fest as much as anyone else, but I have to say that P2A, regardless of any challenges, really lives up to its title as Canada’s Spring Classic.  For a few hours on an early spring Sunday morning, more than 2,500 bike minded people converge in a few small towns, along with their massive support crews, and a legion of race staff and volunteers, to ride hard, get filthy, and have an awesome time (even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment).  We clog traffic, but there is no chorus of honks and birds (you know the birds I’m talking about).  We close a few small hamlets, but the people don’t seem to mind, and instead they stand at the foot of their driveways and ring a cowbell, or better yet, build a little ramp.  Year after year, we trample a few laneways, farm trails, and fields, beyond recognition.

We cramp and ache and invent new ways to describe hell, but still we ride.  We annihilate our drivetrains and destroy our derailleur hangers, and still we ride.

And why?  Because it’s P2A, that’s why.

I figure we’re all chasing something, and I hope each of us found it at the top of that last bloody climb.  I know I did (as I do every year and every race).  So thanks P2A (even though you never reply to me when I send my blog posts to you).

Here’s a short story that sums up the experience for me.  I had to walk in the middle of the Martin Hill Road.  I ran out of gears, lungs, and legs.  The encouragement and chorus of cheers from pretty much everyone lining the hill was a pretty special thing.  However, a few spectators didn’t want to watch me walk.  They wanted to see me ride.  They yelled at me, “Get back on your bike, we’ll push you!”.  So I did, and they did.  Tired, sore, and so so so close to cramping, it was all I needed to make one final push to the top of the hill.  I don’t know who they were, but it doesn’t matter because we were there for the same reason: to make it to the top of that hill.

So that’s it.  Another P2A in the books.  It was the anniversary of my first race six years ago, and it was my 60th race.  Yeah, boom.

Before I finish, don’t forget to support Ted Anderton and Apex Photography, and Chyla of Photography By Chyla.  I’ll be buying pictures from both of them.

What a great day on a bike.  I couldn’t stop beaming after the race, and a friend commented, “You always have a great time.  You’re always so positive.”.  Yup.

Although my only problem now is that I think there is some significant therapy needed in my kids’ future (I wanted to Google “I think I scarred my kids for life because I did naked car yoga with them” but I was on a work computer).

And honestly, with this whole Universe V. Team Colin debacle, I’m starting to feel like Wile E. Coyote chasing Road Runner.  Everyone else seems to get through the tunnel so easily, but when I take a run at it, BAM!  Butte to the face.

That’s okay though.  I’ll just start bringing a sledgehammer to every race (which I’ll pack the night before so I don’t forget it) and when that hole appears, I’ll take a few swings at it first.  It’s Season VI and a few speed bumps aren’t going to hold me back.

Oh, and I’ll also bring a Blizzard to every race, you know, in case anyone I know feels like a DQ…  What, too soon?




So Now I’m a Lapdog Update:  Okay, so this Lapdog thing is pretty sweet.  Prior to joining the club, I already knew a bunch of fellow pooches (I think that’s what we call each other), but I’ve met a bunch of new and awesome people in the club and I can’t wait to get to know them better.  They’re also pretty chill, and I even rode the South Scarborough Loop with a fellow canis familiaris (or maybe that’s what we call each other) shortly after joining the club.

Membership also has privileges.  A club member, Steve Aich (pronounced H) picked up our plates in Ancaster the day before and brought them to Toronto.  He was also on hand at the end of the race with chocolate and smiles.  The club even had a few fellow hounds (?) acting as soigneurs.  I know eh, how french.

Pups.  We’re called pups!

Anyway, the club hired a few fellow pups to act as soigneurs, and they had the Gears Bike Shop van to transport bikes and gear, a tent, lots of other support, and some awesome camaraderie (even if I missed the club picture).  It made for a pretty cool experience.  I have to be honest, I’m still kind of struggling a wee bit with how to maintain my Team Colin identity and be a true pup, but I really like these people, and the club thing is going to stick.  Antonia Ess even took a bunch of pictures.  Here are her favourites:

A final word on tires.  People always ask about which bike and tires are best for the race.  The answers, respectively, are: a bike, and the tires you have.

Here’s my back tire.  It’s a bald Maxxiss Mud Wrestler, and it served me well.team-colin-P2A.jpg


2 thoughts on “65. P2A 2018

  1. Omg Colin, this is a good blog post. Made me laugh.

    Peace, love and stay real.
    Working together makes life better.
    Just keep doing the next right thing!


    1. Glad you laughed Scott. It’s good to know that my embarrassment has done some good… Clearly your eyes were not assaulted by me on Green Lane Sunday morning… Seriously, thanks for the comment. I never know where my blogs land, so it’s nice to know someone reads them.


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