8 Hours, 30 Minutes, and 2 Bikes
I have the hurts.
Saturday’s Epic 8 Hour, presented by Chico Racing, at Mansfield Outdoor Education Centre was a killer, and that’s all there is to say about it.
Except that’s not all I have to say. There’s much more to say about the Race-That-Shouldn’t-Have-Been-But-Was-And-Then-Almost-Wasn’t (But-Still-Shouldn’t-Have-Been ) And-Then-Was-But-Was-Still-So-Very-Hard.
Full Disclosure: I just wasn’t ready for the race. To qualify that statement, a rider (especially a rider of my, um, limited talents) is never really ready for an 8 Hour race, but I simply was not physically or mentally prepared for the onslaught of hills, exertion, and stamina required to complete 8 hours of MTB.
I wasn’t there for scones and a cucumber sandwich at high tea, so I wasn’t expecting it to be easy, but I wasn’t expecting, well, hell.
Let me say it again. I was not ready for the distance. I was not ready to race.
I WAS NOT READY.
My family is in a bit of turmoil lately, and our schedule is totally upside down, so I never even had a chance to prepare. In fact, I’d only been on a MTB once this season, and it wasn’t even my bike–or a real ride. I demoed a Norco Optic at the King Weekly Series two weeks ago for a quick 10k rip.
So, leading up to the race, I was un-ridden, I was tense and overwhelmed with family duties, my back was a mess, my chronic shoulder pain was chronicking, and my knees had taken a giant beating from kneeling while installing a floor in my basement.
With that in mind when registering, I registered to race solo.
Wait, what? Solo?
Yep. What else could I do? There was a race, so I did it.
I don’t want to belabour the point, but let me paint a picture of a snippet of last week. I spent Monday and Tuesday evening on my knees after work until about 11PM installing a floor; Wednesday was a Gong Show of struggle until I somehow found myself mowing my lawn at at 9:30 (with a headlamp lighting my path); and after what I can only call a very harsh Thursday I found myself in my driveway, at 6AM on Friday morning, replacing my RV battery. By the time I left my house to drive to the race at 9PM on friday evening (after getting my kids home from school, fed, and to and from a birthday party), I was frazzled, tired, and in no spirit to race.
But there was a race, so I did it.
I got to Mansfield at about 10:30, and as I hunkered down for the night, I took a positive approach, and was almost looking forward to some reprieve from the busyness of late. A quiet night alone in my RV meant I could clear my mind and maybe even mentally prepare for the solo jaunt the lay ahead.
Nope. It was cold, and I didn’t have adequate blankets, so I spent the night shivering. Worse, I forgot my nasal strip thingies, so I spent the night mouth breathing through an arid esophagus. I was up 4 times during the night, and finally awoke for the day, at 6AM with chattering teeth, a frozen nose, and what used to be a throat.
I’m known for finding the awesomeness in EVERYTHING, and I always have a great time, especially when I’m on a bike, but a solo 8 Hour is a different animal on a good day, and this was far from a good start.
“It’s okay”, I thought “I’m racing. It’ll be fine. I’ll just relax, and just ride”, and that would have been all I needed on any other day, because I gotta say, the course was sublime. The climbs were tough enough to be fun, the double track shots were punchy and fast, and the singletrack was challenging enough to keep me on my toes, but fast and flowy enough for a good and proper rip. Just not for me on Saturday. I wanted to find my groove…
During the first lap, when I thought I’d warm up, I didn’t.
During the second and third laps, I waited to feel strong and confident, but I wasn’t.
During the fourth and fifth laps, I tried to find the flow of the course, but it wasn’t there.
I looked for that time in a long race when the riding just happens, but it just didn’t happen.
And then, nearing the end of the sixth lap, just as I was making a 90 degree turn into a punchy climb, finally, I felt something. Actually, I heard something.
I know that sound. It’s the Clydesdale’s death knell. I broke a spoke. “Can’t be that bad”, I thought to myself as I looked to see if my wheel was out of true. It looked fine, and I’ve finished many races with a broken–“TINK”. Another spoke broke.
Annnnd, brrrrrip, brrrrrrip, brrrrrip. Tire, meet chainstay: Chainstay, meet tire. My wheel was toast. It was almost 2:30, I was four and a half hours into the race, and my bike was useless. What started as a bad race quickly turned into a bad non-race.
Not cool universe, not cool.
I limped into the solo pit area and accepted the inevitable. I was going to DNF. It was my 61st race, and my first DNF.
I had my single speed bike in the pit area. I brought it to the race as a “ride to registration and back” bike, so I hopped on, tucked my tail between my legs, and left the pit area for the 2k grunt back to the FINISH line. With tired legs, a sore shoulder, and no desire to be there, I did not relish the thought of my impending DNF, but I have to say that I think I felt more dread having to ride my single speed to finish the lap. It was going to be a rough 2k. I usually ride my singlespeed in long races, but I was not in shape for it this year. Heck, I could hardly do my first six laps WITH gears, and now I had to finish a lap without the aid of a granny gear AND on a rigid aluminium fork. Ugh.
But then I remembered that Cannondale had demo bikes at the race. My pal, Cannondale Neil, could let me finish the race on a sweet Scalpel demo.
The single speed limp to the FINISH line was tough, but eventually I made it. Awesome. I even wrote my blog title in my head: Cannondale Saves the Day for Team Colin!
Cannondale Neil at the Cannondale tent didn’t have a bike for me. It was out on a lap, but I could wait for it to return. He suggested I do a lap, and he’d hold it for me.
“What, do a lap on my single speed? Um, no. I’m tired, and I’m sore, and I really just don’t want to.”. If I had the energy, I would have stomped my feet in petulance.
“Get out there!” he said.
With much coaxing and a pouty lip, I figured I’d at least try a lap instead of waiting around. It would be my 7th lap, and I might be able to do a lap after that, so I could at least end the day with 8 laps. “I’ll see you in an hour…or so” I told him, knowing “or so” really meant “and much longer”. I left the corral for what would be a brutal grind, happy at least that the race would be over in 2 laps.
IT. WAS. A. TOUGH. LAP. From the first climb, to the last roots of Exit Wound, every pedal stroke was horrible. My arms ached, my legs burned, and my heart was leaping (albeit weakly) out of my chest. Worse, without a suspension fork, the jack-hammer of a course gave me an instant headache.
I returned to the FINISH even more tired, and even more sore, and really really just not wanting to ride anymore, but I figured I could while away the day, and limp through an 8th lap on a sweet full suspension demo.
Nope. Cannondale Neil didn’t have a bike for me. Aw, come on.
It was 3:30. I know it’s not very MTB, but I wanted to lay down and cry. I wanted to cry because while on my 7th lap, enduring the slow release pain of the race and really just not having fun, I realized something. Team Colin does not “Did Not Finish”. There is no room for “Did Not Finish” in my blog (unless to say that I do NOT “Did Not Finish”). Sure, once you finish at least one lap in an 8 hour race, you can’t really DNF, but not in my books. In an 8 hour race, if you don’t ride for 8 hours, you DID NOT FINISH. It’s my thing. I’ve written about it before, and I’m bound by it.
And with the knowledge that I was not going to “Did Not Finish”, I wanted to lay down and cry because I knew I was GOING TO FINISH…but I had to do so on my single speed.
My mentor and pal Dan Marshall always tells me how to finish a long race “You just keep pedaling.” So I put my head down and I pedaled. And pedaled. And pedaled. Okay, somewhere in the middle, I swore–like a lot. I swore at the hills and the roots. I swore at my broken spokes and the cold morning. I swore at the rocks and the trees and everything else that stood in my way for the next 9k or so.
And I walked.
But mostly I pedaled.
Somehow, I finished most of the lap, and when I hit the solo pit, I knew the day was pretty much done (well, I was done), so I pulled out my chair, made a sandwich, and settled in for a long chat with my pit neighbour, Alex Gee (who crashed on his second lap, and and wisely took a DNF after breaking his helmet). I figured I’d stick around the pit area long enough to destroy any chance of a final lap. It’s uncharacteristic of me, but my spirit–and my body–were crushed. Besides, 8 laps wouldn’t be so bad.
And then, mid-bite of salami, I realized something. It WOULD be that bad. You don’t finish a race on a chair. You can’t stop racing because you don’t want to race anymore. I took a look at my Garmin. It was nearing 5PM, and if I booked it to the FINISH, I had time for 1 more lap.
I made it to the FINISH at 4:57, and went to the Cannondale tent to pick up the demo Scalpel that was waiting for me.
Nope. Neil didn’t have a bike for me. AW. COME. ONNNN!!!!
And just like that my blog title went from “Cannondale Saves the Day for Team Colin” to “@*&$#!“ which, roughly translated is a hybrid word blend of “Arrrrrgh”, “C’mon”, “SRSLY”, and a whole bunch of cuss words.
Neil had a bike for this lucky rider though. Cannondale and Gears Bike Shop teamed up to award a sweet bike to former Lapdog, Nicole (who now races for Bateman’s, and rides with Dark Horse). It’s Cannondale CAAD-X. Sweet.
Yes, they GAVE her a bike to use in a different race, but a bike for me for THIS race? Nope again.
So what did I do?
I just kept pedaling.
Slowly, grindingly, painfully sore, I just kept pedaling. At times, I was riding slower than a walking pace. But still, I rode. I WANTED to stop. I NEEDED to stop, a cramp started in my right calf and threatened to MAKE me stop, but still, I rode.
Once again, somehow I finished the lap. I didn’t stop at my pit because I didn’t want the extra time on my results, and I just wanted to finish the day.
I arrived at the FINISH, after 9 punishing laps, at 5:44PM. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t that bad either. Seven hours and 44 minutes after starting a long and grueling race, I was finished. Now I really wanted to lay down and cry. The emotion and exhaustion were just too much.
But I couldn’t lay down and cry, because I had one more lap to do.
“Wait, what? No. NO FRIGGIN’ WAY!”
Yeah, in my ignorance of the ways of the 8 Hour, I didn’t know that 6PM wasn’t the END time, it was the CUT-OFF time for starting a lap. As long as a rider started a lap by 6:00, and finished by 6:40, it would count.
I tried to do the math. How long did the last lap take? I didn’t know. Honestly, I didn’t even know if I could even finish a lap, let alone do it in 55 minutes. I hadn’t stopped at my pit to refuel in over an hour, my cramp was threatening to punch me in the throat, and I was just baked.
But there was a race, I was there to race, and there was no way I wasn’t going to squeeze every last drop of horrid pain from the day.
I didn’t even look toward the Cannondale tent for a bike.
Head down. Just keep pedaling.
Every time I exerted, the cramp in my calf pounded, trying to scratch its way out. Every time I stopped exerting, the cramp in my calf pounded, trying to scratch its way out. My headache turned into a throbbing clatter of brain against skull, and at every bump, I swear I heard my eyeballs rattle. The last lap, my 10th lap, was brutal.
The first hill; the stuff that was supposed to be flowy but wasn’t; the other stuff that wasn’t flowy for me either; the “Caution” descent; the ride left to drop-off; the turn where I broke a spoke; the solo pit area; and the last 2k to the end of the race…they all passed in a slow motion tableau of pain and obstinance.
Pedal, pedal, walk a bit, pedal, walk a bit more, and pedal some more.
With the switchbacks of Exit Wound, looming ahead, the race was over. It was 6:30 and I had ridden for 8 hours and 30 minutes. It wasn’t until the day after that I looked at my results and saw my last two laps were the same times as my first laps. I have no idea how that happened.
My friends were at the finish line: Lapdogs, Team Van Go, Jen and Mike, some King Series peeps, and a bunch of other cycling buddies. I’m not proud of the whining in this post, and I’m not happy with my prep, physical performance, or soreness, but the race was over, and I knew that I’d feel happy about it at some point in the coming days.
After the race, Jenn asked me when the race stopped being fun. It was NEVER fun. From the first pedal strokes, to the last pedal grunts, there wasn’t a single moment of fun for me. I just couldn’t find my groove. Racing, even when it’s painfully hard, is always fun for me, but it just wasn’t at the Epic 8 Hour. It wasn’t the course or the people or the organizers, or anything else (they were all epically awesome). It was me. I just wasn’t ready.
How about a Race Report?
Race Report. Epic 8 Hour: May 12, 2018. Mansfield ON
I started tired and weak.
I swapped bikes somewhere in the middle.
I finished tired and weak.
End of Race Report.
I placed 21/35 in the Solo category, but I think I actually made my own category on Saturday: Solo Half Singlespeed Clydesdale. So that’s a win for me!
Looking back, I guess it wasn’t all bad. Actually, it was pretty awesome. As I said, the course, the people, and the organizers were great. The Chico vibe, as usual, was awesome, and Chico, as usual, nailed the day to perfection. From the pancake breakfast, to the race support, to the announcing, and organization, these folks are dialed. From an organizational perspective, every aspect of the day was perfection, and they delivered the pro experience to all riders. Thanks to the sponsors: Cannondale, Gears, Skratch, and Axis Gear. I didn’t get a picture with Adam, but Sean posed with me for a second. We’re not BFFs (yet), but I think the picture on the right clearly shows we’re well on our way…
Also, the Matt Factor was pretty strong at the race. So much love and support for the Solo riders. Really, so much love and support for all riders. From the dude at the end of the solo pit area, who rang a bell for EVERY rider ALL day (dude, your beard game is strong), to the spectators lining the FINISH, to the riders on course, the MTB love was peak. For an explanation of the Matt Factor, see my post about my first 8 Hour race at Hardwood Hills last year.
My fueling and nutrition was on point too. Legendary Lapdog Barry Cox (totally his words) e-introduced me to Hammer rep, Richard Bowers, who talked me through a regimen for the day. I modified his plan slightly (to my advantage and to my folly), and even though I was tired, I didn’t bonk (yes, there’s a difference). Throughout the day, I consumed 6 or so servings of Hammer Perpetuem, a bunch of electrolyte fizzy things, a few bottles of Skratch, and some actual food. It worked. However, in my pursuit to hydrate, I drank about 15 litres of fluid, which caused a problem.
I peed a lot. Like, every lap.
And they were considerable pees. I started to worry. “Where is this fluid coming from, why isn’t it staying in my body, and how on earth can I keep riding if I’m losing so much water?” My pee was clear though, so I thought that was a good sign, but still…too much peeing.
Also, I’m sorry for saying pee so much. At least I didn’t expose myself to everyone, like I did at P2A a few weeks ago. For a full description of LOTS OF TEAM COLIN NUDITY, check out my P2A post: “Look mommy, there’s a naked moose having a seizure in the back of that van…”. Spoiler Alert: I’m the naked moose.
My nutrition plan sort of worked. In the last few laps, I inadvertently skipped the fueling part of each lap, and I almost paid for it with a cramp, but the cramp was only a threat (thank you calf). There’s a complete list of the good, the bad, and the ugly of my nutritional intake for the day after this post.
My guy Ted Anderton from Apex Race Photography was there, snapping away at every rider–for 8 hours–with the patience, craft, and stamina of a god. I look chunky and out of shape in ALL of his pictures, but I’ll buy one. You should too.
Cannondale Neil. Hmm. What to say about the guy who took my race from “Cannondale Saves the Day!“, to “@*&$#!“? I love Neil. He’s a Facebook buddy (and quickly becoming a personal pal), and without him, I probably wouldn’t have finished the 4 laps on my single speed. He didn’t have a bike for me, but he had words of encouragement and positivity. He pushed me to keep riding, (“Get out there and ride!”) and without him, my blog might have been titled “My First DNF”. Neil transcended his role as Cannondale rep, and was just a bike guy pushing me to race better. Awesome.
So, to wrap it up (and at well over 3,000 words, I think that’s a good idea), it was a hard race, but I did it. So what if I’m walking like that cockroach dude in “Men In Black”. So what if my right knee is still throbbing two days after the race. So what if my chronic shoulder pain is more chronicker. So what. There was a race on Saturday, and I did it. It’s what I do.
The Spring Epic 8 Hour lived up to every inch of its name, and eventually, the pain in my joints will subside (and when I move, my joints will move too). Better, the bossness of it all will only grow. I rode 95k on Saturday. Boom.
Hey, anything to add to this post? How did you do on Saturday? Do you race? Do you want to start racing? If you have something to say, or just want to talk bikes, comment on the blog, or send an email to: TeamColinBlog@yahoo.com
Congratulations to my pals who just crushed it at the race:
- Jeff Shikaze with a 1st place Men’s Solo (over 50)
- Mike Nyby with 13 laps
- Tom Beck with 13 laps
- Mike Orsan with 12 solo laps
- Mike Tourond with 12 laps
- Cass K with 9 laps
- Lenka Bee and Darcie DoubleYou with 13 laps
- Barry and Andrew with 14 laps
- Adam Hill with a mind numbing 17 laps (don’t know him, but big props)
- My Lapdog clubmates: Ian P’s team; Shelley’s team (with Wendy, Paul Pee, and Kimberly); Oggie’s team; and a bunch of other Lapdogs who I don’t yet know.
- My King Series peeps (Otto, Kent, Darrell, and Glen)
- Team Van Go times two
- The Shikaze ladies
- Norco Performance Bikes (because my guy Mark was an unlisted rider, and I love him)
Congratulations also to all the other riders who, instead of sleeping in on a cold Saturday morning, chose to be boss and awesome. It takes a lot to do what we do.
Race Day Nutrition:
- Peanut butter and jam sandwich
- a bowl of Rice Krispies (because I can’t eat gluten) and a cup of blueberries (with LOTS of sugar)
- a handful of almonds
- 1.5 scoops of Perpetuem
- an electrolyte fizz
- about a litre of water.
During the Race:
- 5 x bottles of Perpetuem mix (1/5 scoops per bottle)
- 8 x electrolyte fizzes
- salami and cheese sandwich
- peanut butter and jam sandwich
- 2 cups of pineapple
- several handfuls of almonds
- last night’s leftover chicken soulvalaki (1 piece of chicken and some rice)
- chocolate bar
- 10-12 water bottles (including the Perpetuem and electrolyte bottles)
- Ah Caramel treat
- lots of chips
- a few handfuls of almonds
- 3-5 water bottles
- a canoli that my wife saved for me when I got home
- all of the chocolate that I could find in my house
The Day After:
- Pasta salad with a spinach and goat cheese salad, and 10 treat size chocolate bars