It was the inaugural Howling Coyote gravel grinder, presented by Substance Projects, and it was Epic. How epic was it? The race was so gigantically boss, it was staged in collaboration with basically EVERYBODY WHO LIVES IN MONO. As Riot on Racing’s blog says, it felt like the entire community was there in some form or another—even the mayor made podium pies.
While the race distances varied (20k, 40k, or 80k), the terrain did not: hills, hills, and more hills.
And gravel. Honestly, aside from a few main thoroughfares, EVERY road in Mono is gravel…on a hill.
Sometimes the hills were on top of other hills.
Sometimes there were hills around a bend (or two) in the road–at the top of other hills.
Sometimes the hills were just intimidating, straight-as-an-arrow, sweepingly long, down-down-down-up-up-up affairs.
Leading up to the race, I was fortunate enough to be nursing a slight concussion, so I did the 40k. Wait, what? A concussion is lucky? Yeah, lucky. I was registered for the 80k, but doctor’s orders prohibited me from a whole day on a bike, so I dropped to the 40k. In truth, aside from a low lying headache from a crash 7 days earlier, I didn’t have any symptoms of a concussion, so the move was as just a precaution.
I posted this on Facebook the night before the race
I knew I had to work my way back onto my bike in order to race tomorrow, so I left it as long as I could (just to be sure) and this evening, with daylight timing me, I took off for a 10k trial. Okay, first of all, how the hell was I supposed to do 10k? I didn’t even look at my GPS until I was 10k from home. In the end, it was a decent 20k shred (in about 50 minutes) with four good and proper climbs out of Highland Creek ravine. I was dizzy and a bit nauseous, but it wasn’t the concussion, it was the pace. Ready to rip tomorrow at the Substance projects Howling Coyote. I’m dropping down to the 40k (doctor and wife’s orders) which makes me a bit sad because I worked so hard to stand with the big kids in the 80k, but I think it’s for the best.
Looking back (and as much as I hate to admit it), I’m kind of relieved that I didn’t have to suffer through 80k of those damned hills. Like I said, I worked long and hard to be able to wait in a start corral with the big kid riders, but the risk wasn’t worth it.
How much climbing did the course throw at racers? Depending on whose GPS you trust, the 40k had about 900 metres of climbing, and the 80k had 350 million metres of climbing (that’s to the moon). No, I am not exaggerating.
Mono is a Hill Sufferfest.
On the other hand, suffering is totally my jam, and if I had a perfectly non-bashed melon, I would have gladly dragged my body up and down over every bit of the 384, 400, 000 metres of hills (again, totally accurate) in the long course.
That scenery tho. Wow. For its proximity to Toronto, Mono is a little piece of heaven. The hills are beautifully ugly to ride, but an absolute joy to behold.
Before I write a Race Report, I have to say this, and I need to bold it, center it, underline it and set it off in a quote box:
I’m a moron.
Once again, I missed the start of the race. No, I am not kidding. If you follow my blog, you may have read in the past about my challenges getting to the start line. If you don’t know (or remember), here’s a list of some of my more memorable entrances to the start line:
- That time I couldn’t find the P2A start, and changed into my kit in the van while my wife drove our can through active traffic, passing hundreds of horrified spectators (“Look mommy, there’s a naked moose having a seizure in the back of that van…”)
- My second race ever, when the officials wouldn’t even let me enter the driveway (to park, register, and get to the start) because “the race is starting and racers are going to be riding along this driveway any second…”
- That time I fell asleep in my RV, and woke up 15 minutes before the start of the Albion Endur-O-Cup.
- That other time I fell asleep in my RV and woke up 15 minutes before the Kingston XCM.
- That time at Northumberland Snumbler fatbike race when I was mid-stream peeing and the race started just outside the port-a-potty (finish, wait to finish, wash hands, re-glove…GO!).
- That time at the Singletrack Classic when my buddy was peeing, and we BOTH missed the race.
- The time next year AT THE SAME race when I was peeing and the race started (what is it with me and pee?)
- That time EVERY TUESDAY night during the summer when I try to make it across the city for the King Weekly Series and consistently miss the start (seriously, the organizers typically put my plate on my bike as I’m parking).
I could go on, but I’m ashamed.
Okay, one more…
- That time I got to the Steaming Nostril gravel grinder and was literally the last car to park, and had to ride 10 minutes to register and then had to go back to my van because I forgot my gloves, and then had to go back to the van because I forgot my something else, and then…you get the picture.
I’m a mess.
And I’m not even a hot mess. I’m just a mess.
If it can be forgotten before a race, I typically forget it.
I can’t believe I was late to four separate races this season.
At least I was on time for the Howling Coyote start. No I wasn’t. I missed that damn start. Make that 5 races.
And to make it worse, I think it’s catching. I drove to the race with mon ami, Simon (he’s French), and even though we BOTH got to the race in the SAME vehicle at least an hour before the race, we were BOTH late for the start for entirely separate reasons. Here’s the crazy thing. Mon ami, Simon (he’s French) is a military guy. Dude is organized and precise. No kidding, when we text, he gives time on a 24 hour clock, confirms details like we’re docking the space shuttle, and says “check” instead of yes. Dude. Is. Dialled. Oh, and I gotta say, he is totally rocking his new beard and slightly longer hair. Handsome!
Here’s how it went down. Simon was ready, but had to visit the registration desk before starting. I was caught up in the myriad of very (un)important last minute details: changing into my kit, last minute gear checks, filing my taxes, buffing my nails. You know, all the things that have to be done before a race, and all the things that don’t need to be done, but when you’re me, you find a way to need task completion.
I was in the middle of ironing a pair of slacks, and I heard a commotion outside my RV. “What the hell is that?”. It couldn’t be the race starting. Well, it was. I ran out of the RV in my sandals (and I don’t think much more) to ask the passing riders “Is this the 20k, or the 40k?”.
I finished changing, got on my bike, and went to the start line to find mon ami, Simon (he’s French). He was nowhere to be found. I saw the sweep, and he said there was nobody left, so I took off after the now long-gone pack of riders.
And then I returned to my RV because I forgot to put on my helmet. Yes, I forgot my helmet when I was racing with a concussion. If it can be forgotten…
I wasn’t late for the race, I was laaaaaaate.
With unstretched legs and cold lungs (it was chilly on Sunday), I did the only thing I could. I sprinted. Hard. I typically have one or two good matches in my body, so I made the sprint count, I booked it until I saw the back of the pack. Pfstttt, one match gone.
Then I booked it hard to catch up. Pfstttt, another match gone.
Mon ami Simon (he’s French) was wearing yellow, but I didn’t see a single flash of the colour immediately ahead, so I did the only thing I could. I sprinted. Hard. Pfstttt, three matches.
Wait, I don’t have three matches.
But I did on Sunday.
“Hey look, a yellow jacket”, and I sprinted up those first damn hills. No Simon. Pfstttt.
“More yellow jackets”, I sprinted through (most of) the forest. Nope. Pfstttt.
I sprinted to the first official. Nada. Pfstttt.
I sprinted up the next hill. This was getting ridiculous. How many bloody yellow jackets were there in the race? Answer: many. Pfstttt. Pfstttt. Pfstttt.
Just then, I remembered it was 2018, and I had my cell phone, so I texted mon ami to see if he could wait for me, and then continued, burning more matches along the way. Pfstttpfstttpfstttpfsttt.
I stopped few minutes later, sweaty and out of breath. HE WAS BEHIND ME!!!
Apparently, he was looking for me while I was looking for him, and I’m pretty sure we were both at my RV at the same time, but on different sides of the vehicle, trying to reenact a Monty Python skit.
Me: Hellooooooo (moves to driver side of vehicle).
Simon: Bonjourrrrrrr (moves to passenger side of vehicle).
Me: Simon (moves to passenger side of vehicle)?
Simon: Colin, est que c’est le here (moves to driver side of vehicle)?
I was wobbly, and spent, but I sorta felt awesome, and even though I had burned A LOT of matches, I had plenty more. However, I wanted to wait for my buddy. By the time mon ami caught up, my muscles were tight (and contracting by the second). Also, I think I contracted pneumonia.
I waited about 10 minutes. Turns out he introduced himself to the ditch on one of the hills. Oh, and I couldn’t find him at the start because he was peeing. Truth.
By that time, the race was no longer a race, so we just rode. We’ve been through a lot on bikes, and I wanted to ride with my guy.
At the first Aid Station, we took extra long, and had extra hot chocolate, and extra pickles and chips.
I figured the universe was talking to me (sometimes we just have to listen, eh). The universe separated me and Simon at the start, the universe told me to take my phone in the race (even though I NEVER do that), and the universe was giving me the chance to pull back. “Take care of your head” I thought. So I did.
And we rode.
I think it’s time for a Race Report.
Race Report. Howling Coyote: October 21, 2018. Mono, Ontario
End of Race Report.
Honestly, what else can I say about the course that hasn’t been said. My pals Steve Shikaze and Riot on Racing wrote pretty good Race Reports, and they put them out before me, so if you want to know about the course, give ’em a read. Love those guys.
So great to see Steve and Mike. The three of us haven’t been at the same race in almost two years.
Congratulations to all the winners:
So that was the inaugural Howling Coyote, and my entire blog was devoted almost entirely to peeing. Gotta say, there was so much more to the day: friendship, and awesomeness, and community, and bikes, and hills (did I mention the hills), and gravel, and Mono, and Substance Projects, and Apex Photography, and pros, and newbs, and everyone in between. So great to see so many first-timers (or not) tackling the 20k. You done good people. Thanks to Dan Marshall, Substance Projects, Mono, Craig and Linda, Madam Mayor, Dukes, Cannondale, and the sponsors, everyone else who supported the day, and especially the volunteers (Hi Dawna!).
Check out some of my cycling family and friends:
The inaugural Howling Coyote is sure to become an important part of the gravel scene in Southern Ontario, but there was even more to the race on Sunday.
There was a vibe at the race that I’m hesitant to talk about, but it’s important.
I may not wear the kit, but make no mistake, I’m a Lapdog. Cycling camaraderie and genuine friendship runs deep in the club, and many members raced under a dark cloud at the Howling Coyote (and at other races this weekend).
A fellow Lapdog died last week. His name is Steve Hart, and he was truly a prince. He was generous in spirit, kind and welcoming, and good natured. Oh, and one hell of a cyclist. We only really got a chance to talk a handful of times, but each conversation stands out. With heavy hearts, and led by a love for Steve, a group of fellow Lapdogs doing the 80k rode in a pack with him one final time. It was a sort-of Honour Guard for a fallen pal, and deeply touching.
Several times during the race, I took a moment to reflect on Steve, the cycling community, and the beauty of it all.
Rest in peace brother.