I Should Have Stayed In Bed
The Substance Projects Ontario Fatbike Race Series, presented by 45NRTH and Cannondale.
Race #3. Georgian Nordic Outdoor Activity Centre, Parry Sound.
4 laps. 28k.
I was so looking forward to this race. Georgian Nordic is renowned for their trails, and is poised to become a fatbike mecca in the near north: awesome trails, fatbike rentals, and a cool vibe. I was so jazzed for the race (um, did I just say “jazzed”?). Even better, the race would be a chance to spend a day on a bike with my Substance Projects friends, and my cycling community. Best of all, a bunch of snow a few days before, no snow on race day, and sweet temps would make it that much more sweet. Honestly, when I was prepping for the drive up, I had visions of summer-like ripping.
I even left my house with plenty of time to get to the race (not my usual jam).
Heck, I even had time to hit Joyride a few times in the past few weeks so I was in sort-of racing form.
I should have stayed in bed.
I shouldn’t have made the two and a half hour drive to Parry Sound.
I shouldn’t have buckled my helmet, gloved my hands, muffled my neck, and clipped in.
Here’s the story…
When I left my house I was in great spirits.
However, three minutes into the drive, it all started to unravel. Wind threatened to rip my bike off my bike rack, so I pulled-off the highway for a massive reshuffling of everything in my vehicle so I could carry the bike inside. That shouldn’t have been a problem, but with winter riding (and bad packing habits—I just threw everything in the car) that meant moving my three kit bags, two pairs of boots, a duffle bag (and a pile of loose clothes that didn’t fit in the duffle bag), two food bags, a bunch of gear and stuff, cycling shoes, helmet, booties, and three jackets.
What? I don’t pack light. It’s kinda my thing.
I lost 20 minutes, but I was still looking forward to the race. Safely back on the highway, I still had plenty of time.
Traffic was uncharacteristically light, the roads were dry, and EVERYTHING fell into line.
Except I had a giant smoothie for breakfast (like 1.5 litres), and two water bottles enroute, so I really really had to pee. No problem. I thought I’d put some highway behind me, and then “just stop at a Tim’s or something…”
I waited as long as I could, and by the time I hit Barrie, I had to pee like a cow.
I pulled off the highway at what can only be described as the single busiest road in the world. It was New Delhi busy: 10 lanes of stopped traffic going either to or from one of the several massive Smart Centre Plazas, or the giant Costco. It was Saturday friggin’ rush hour and literally everybody in Barrie needed 4 litre jugs of peanut butter and/or Smart Centre stuff.
After about 90 minutes (which is exactly what it felt like with a gallon of liquid sloshing around my gut, I pinched-leg sprint-shuffled into a surprisingly vacant Starbucks, startling the baristas enough to look up from their phones.
Washroom sighted…not in use…mooooooooo.
And I was back onto New Delhi Way, and back on the 400.
Except looking back–and I only saw this an hour later–the venti Pike I ordered was probably a bad addition to my belly, because after losing 20 minutes reshuffling my load (geez that sounds dirty), and another 20 minutes peeing and venti piking in Barrie, I was now under the gun and would not have time to stop again.
At least the weather was co-operating.
Immediately north of Barrie, the snow started. It was a winter winder wonderland: snow draped trees, giant fluffs of heaven falling, and decent driving conditions, but it slowed my driving, further lessening my buffer of time.
No problem, everything was going to be fine.
And then the pee hit again. It hit like a massive, sloppy, slap in the face. Whoa, that was a horrible visual. It hit like…I don’t know what it hit me like because my brain was swimming.
In the space between Barrie and Parry Sound, aside from a rest stop at Severn Falls, and another when you pass Highway 12, the only thing that exists…is the space between Barrie and Parry Sound. Rocks lakes and trees and that’s pretty much it. It was beautiful, but not conducive to a roadside pee.
What, I’m shy.
I pushed on.
Well that was dumb. About an hour later, out of time and full of pee, I HAD TO STOP.
Lucky me (he said dripping with sarcasm, and thankfully that’s it) there was a Truck Inspection Area with a Porta-Potty. What Porta-Potties lack in the winter (smell) they make up for in frozen “uck” factor.
Wait a sec..moooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.
Back on the road, with only 25 minutes of driving left, I was on track.
I made it with lots of time to spare!
I registered, and started prepping for the race.
My bike had a flat tire.
Fortunately it wasn’t a flat from a hole, it was just flat because I forgot to tighten the presto valve the night before.
No problem. Pump pump pump…
Time to get dressed. Nope.
With my “pack everything” mentality, I brought EVERY THING…except a shell. I’d have to race wearing a down-filled jacket, and that meant I was going to overheat. I could mitigate that by de-layering a bit, which I did, but within the first 15 minutes, I was drenched. At minus a lot (I think it was minus 17 or so), and with sweat dripping from my forehead and freezing on my glasses (which were also fogging like crazy), I knew I was in for a tough race.
“No problem” I thought, it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the middle of winter, and I’m on my bike. Cool.
Read about my giant case of Nope in the Race Report:
Race Report: Georgian Nordic OFRBS. January 12, 2019. (@Georgian Nordic)
The Race: Lap #1
It wasn’t just cold–it was cold and chilly and damp and frosty. Worse after the endorphins of the start of the race wore off, I found it impossible to ride. It wasn’t a lack of stretching or not being warmed up, I just couldn’t find purchase in my legs. You know that dream where everyone is moving at hyper-speed, but you’re basically oozing? That was me. The simple task of peddling felt Herculean. Except at least Hercules was usually warm. Wait, I was warm too. Well, parts of me were because of my damn down filled jacket, but some other really important part of me were cold, like really cold. During a hike-a-bike on the first lap, the toe of my bootie popped off, leaving my little piggies with little protection. Booties have one job. It’s even in their name.
Nope. It was just the kind of day I was having.
Dripping wet torso.
Sweat saturated gloves.
It was such a shame, because the course was a thing of beauty: Wide swaths of groomed double track swooping through the forest. Georgian Nordic. Sweet.
Fatbike mecca, ‘member?
Also, my bike was a charm. I still had my loaner 45NRTH Wrathchild studded tires, and they performed like a beast. I performed like a beast too–except in the other way. I felt like a donkey trying to roller skate.
And I was sweating like I was in church, and losing water fast, so I took I drink.
No I didn’t, my water bottle was frozen.
A racer passed and quipped we were about to hit what he called “Singletrack from Hell”. Pfft. Pre-riders.
Despite everything, I was still having a blast.
More double track and some nice climbs, and then the course cut into the trees for some sweet singletrack. We were 5k into the lap, and it was Singltetrack Heaven.
Pre-rider dude didn’t know what he was talking about. ITWASAWWSOME!!!
….for the first few hundred metres. Then we hit a few big climbs and the deep snow. It was half hike-a-bike/half snow-skinny. One step of the trail, and “oof”, thigh-deep in snow. Okay, maybe pre-rider dude was right. The snow the week before took it’s toll on the groomers, and the course was, um, challenging.
It was a slog.
I wore knee-length skinnies over my bib pants, and they kept scootching down, which made every dismount a chore.
My cheery demeanour was fading. So was my energy.
My water level wasn’t fading though. I had plenty of water. None of it was in my body, and none of it was drinkable, and ALL of it was covering my torso…
Near the end of my first lap, riders were actually lapping me–and I was only 7k into a 28k race!
My first lap took about 45 minutes.
I wanted to take a break and drink, but instead I spent a few minutes trying (unsuccessfully) to wrench the toe of my bootie back over my toe.
Nope. And so, my toes would remain uncovered.
The Race: Lap 2
I was back on my bike for the second lap. Maybe the first was just an anomaly…
Sure enough, the terrain was easier going, and the crowd had dissipated, but still I found I couldn’t manage any speed. Every pedal stroke felt like I was riding into the wind up a hill with a giant elastic band around my chest.
The second lap was a mess, more getting lapped, more and more sweat, opaque glasses, sweaty hands, colder-than-cold toes, and too much dismounting.
My second lap took about 45 minutes.
At the START/FINISH, I made the trek to the parking lot to get a different pair of booties.Maybe they’d live up to their proud legacy. Gotta say, after 90 minutes in minus a lot weather, removing super tight, ice encrusted, booties–with frozen fingers–and putting-on NEW and even tighter booties was a challenge. Yay for pre-frostbite!
I took a drink of water.
No I didn’t.
With all of the bootie wrangling (geez, that sounded dirty too) I forgot to drink.
I felt like wringing my jacked onto parched but frozen lips. Hmm, that’s a new sensation.
The Race: Lap 3
Back on the course, after about 500 metres, the cramp hit. I wonder why? Could it be bad hydration?
My thigh buckled like a pouty lip.
“Um, that’s not good” I thought to myself.
I wish I had actually thought “Um, get back to the hut to hydrate and stretch your thigh, you giant moron”, but the thought didn’t even cross my mind. Pretty sure I could actually see the hut from where I was on the course, but it was just that kind of day.
I pressed on.
Sweet double track, and swooping trail. Still awesome, but I still had absolutely no speed.
On the Singletrack from Hell, the cramp hit me hard. Like, really hard. It wasn’t a full-blown incapacitator, but it was close.
The pain of a cramp is bad on a good day, but on a cold day, and now with daylight waning (and snow starting to fall–noice), and tired legs, and a sodden down jacket, and water dripping from my forehead, and toes uncovered (What? Stupid new booties—one friggin’ job…) I stepped off my bike to stretch my cramp.
Annnnnnnnnnd WHOOSH. In my delirium, I stepped off course, and was standing waist deep in show.
You might think that standing waist seep in the snow is not a good way to ease the discomfort of a cramp.
You are correct.
If I had remained there, frozen in place like Jack Nicholson at the end of “The Shining”, I would have considered myself lucky, but I still had a lap to to finish.I was well past two hours into the race, and it was only getting harder.
Pedal, pedal, walk and grunt. Ugh, I was going to finish this race.
My mind wandered. I thought about the epic playlist I brought for the drive; I thought about work, and family, and my birth kids, and my student kids; I thought about blueberry Poptarts, and avocados, and the Epic 8 Hour, and the word venti (20 ounces of coffee?), and that jerk Thanos and his stupid stone (whatever it’s called), and Crokinole, and my freewheel…
And I thought about my freewheel. You can pedal backwards on a bike, but you won’t move. If you want to move, you have to pedal forward.
So I pedalled.
Snow be damned, cramp be gone, sweat be drippin’ (so gangsta). I pedalled.
And I walked and grunted, but mostly I pedalled.
“S’no problem” I thought.I’ve been in worse situations. Plus, you know, bikes.
The falling snow got heavier, and Georgian Nordic was a giant snow globe.
I crested the small climb to the START/FINISH, and I knuckled-in for my final lap.
The Race: Lap 4
They called the race on me. It was too dark, and the official who pulled me from the course told me they were doing a “Minus 1 lap” for safety reasons. I wasn’t an official DNF, but it sure felt like one.
Defeated, cold, and tired, but especially, wet. I hobbled to the hut. The hobble was due in part to the cramp, but mostly because of the true shellacking I took on the course. It’s tough to walk your bike when your tail is between your legs…
And the DNF Walk of Shame is even worse when your damn up-turned booties make you look like you have two Muppet characters for feet.
“At least I was on my bike, and a bad day on a bike is still a day on a bike” I thought to myself, trying to at least pretend I had fun. After all, I wasn’t expecting a winter tea party.
I posted this on the Team Colin Facebook page: I got pulled!
End of Race Report.
In the hut…
Chili, chat, warm-up/dry-off…
I looked at my legs. My skinnies had zippers on the thigh. “I wonder what these do” as I unzipped.
Do you know what they do? They unzip in order to allow air to flow AND TO ALLOW FREE MOVEMENT WHEN ON A BIKE. With the zippers open, I could raised my legs freely. It turns out that I spent the race fighting against my pants.
Stupid guy wearing the pants.
After about 45 minutes, I decided to pack up. It was snowing hard, I was beginning to feel the cold. By the time I found dry clothes, and finished packing my bike inside my vehicle, I was feeling kind of dire. I was cold and shivering and spent, and my fingers were frozen nubs. I wriggled out of my damp clothes so I could warm up a bit.
But then, with my pants halfway down my legs, I realized I was still wearing my booties and shoes.
The stumps that used to be fingers had no effect on the zippers of my booties, and pulling them off was impossible. I frustration, I took a break to regroup. “I’m just going to sit here for a bit and try to warm my hands and feel stupid, and try to take THESE DAMN BOOTIES OFF IN A FEW MINUTES”.
Shoes and booties still on, pants halfway down (or halfway up if you really want to be optimistic), frozen hands.
And that’s the story of the time I found myself sitting in my truck, half-naked, full of shame, and utterly deflated.
Worse, I was sticking to my leather seats and didn’t have the strength to move.
Yay, a new post-race low.
Wait, that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell.
Also, it wasn’t until a half hour later that I realized I probably could have pulled my pants up while I waited to warm-up, but that’s just the kind of day it was.
I should have stayed in bed.
But not really, because, after all, bikes.
The Day after…
So it wasn’t all bad. A few things actually went right. The course, conditions, and weather really were sublime. Driving to and from was a nice treat. Also, there were a few moments in the Singletrack from Hell where I felt pretty good. In deep snow, the course becomes a 4.5” wide skinny, and the riding can be quite technical. There were many moments when I caught myself in the middle of a track stand, aiming my third eye (good ole belly button) in the direction I wanted to go, and maintaining balance. It was kind of boss. Finally, regardless of the result or the pain or the toil, I spent two and half hours ripping some of Ontario’s finest fatbike trails.
Plus, those tires and that bike (my Cannondale Fat Caad 2)…not a bad way to spend a Saturday.
So it didn’t go well, and yes, many things went utterly (and completely and totally) wrong, but that’s the nature of this gig. Despite the best planning, I forgot a very important item…and regardless of the prep, my legs still didn’t work…and in defiance of the weather and the terrain and the long long drive, things still went sideways…
But I made it back home with a story to tell.
I rode and smiled and cursed, and finished.
Well, sort of: Minus 1 lap.
Glad I got out of bed.
What do you think? Were you there? Anything to add? Any tips to offer or questions to ask (about fatbiking, biking in general, or blueberry Poptarts?). Comment on this post, or fire an email at: email@example.com
Also, don’t forget to check out the Team Colin Facebook page, or follow me on Instagram.
Finally, if you have something to write and want to submit it to my Friends Of Team Colin page, check out information here and start writing.
Fingers crossed, I’ll be at the next race in Kingston on February 9th (my borthday weekend!), and I’m aiming for Hardwood Ski and Bike on March 10.
Also, the Toronto International Bike show is coming up (March 1-3) and I will be there.