The 2019 P2A70 is a Wrap!
Well that was fun.
Truthfully, it was actually kind of horrible. But the fun kind of horrible.
A giant, horrible, fun-bucket of playing bikes.
You have to get it in order to get it.
Honestly, there isn’t much I can say about the Paris to Ancaster bike race that hasn’t already been said online and in the media. 3,000 riders…Spring classic…iconic…muddy…
Seriously, the race actually gets press coverage. Cool.
However, all that stuff is just background for me, and P2A is way more than just a big gravel race (One of the biggest in North America. Boom.).
P2A inhabits a special place in my heart because six years ago, one morning in early April, it was my first ever bike race, and even though I didn’t actually ride from Paris to Ancaster (I wasn’t ready for the full P2A70, so I did the shorter distance, which starts in St. George) the race for me has become synonymous with Spring cycling badassedry.
The night before that first race is still vivid in my mind. Laying in bed, I was terrified and anxious, trying to sleep, wanting to sleep, NEEDING to sleep, but instead, I was consumed by desperate visions of all the horrible things that could happen. What if…EVERYTHING?
An hour and fifty three minutes. 8th pace Clydesdale (out of 37). Read all about it in my bio.
Little did I know then that cycling, and P2A, would become such a big part of my life.
I raced the 40k distance three more times (placing 6/21, 5/40th, and 7/31).
Wohoo. Four top 10 finishes (and check out that 5th place out of 40 riders)!
In those first years, I raced as often as I could, mostly MTB, and always the shorter distance of each race.
Also, all of those things I was terrified about actually happened, sometimes twice, and each time I managed. Yep, newbie jitters are real, they’re justified, and nothing is ever that bad.
And then I got cocky.
Actually, it wasn’t a matter of cockiness, it was more the fact that I always felt I only did half a race, and so, on April 30th, 2017, I did the full P2A70 (after giving Dan Marshall of Substance Projects my marathon cherry at the Homage to Ice two weeks earlier (50k MTB…on my single speed…awesome).
I never looked back.
Looking Back at P2A
I never looked back because every season I took a step or three forward.
Until this year.
P2A is the notched doorframe of my cycling life. The marks from each year tell a story. Together, they represent the transformation I made from terrified newbie who hadn’t even ridden 40k before my first race, to full marathon racer who nailed a 100k at last year’s Epic 8 Hour race (um, twice). Individually, the area between each notch tells me how hard I trained during the winter (or how hard it was to find time to train), and gave me a direct reference point for my early season fitness.
Each notch represented a piece of my journey.
This year, the notch tells something different.
It Just Wasn’t Easy
In every race, there comes a time when pedalling is just too much. In the 2019 P2A70, it was about five minutes after the start, on the first stretch of rail trail. I started at the back of Wave 1, and I was riding alone, waiting for my legs to find purchase, willing my lungs to open, and trying to maintain a respectable speed. I was passing people–lots of people–but it was harder than usual, and I knew I just wasn’t representing. I was riding at 29-32km/h, with zero motivation, and so much struggle. I had ALL THE struggles…
Gotta say, I actually got a bit sad writing that. For six years, I not only improved consistently, but I nailed bigger and bigger challenges, and I felt like my progress made exponential jumps.
As dang times a billion.
Here’s how it all went down.
We made it to the race on time, and it was nice to have a relaxed 45 minutes to prep my gear and pick up my plate. One of the benefits of belonging to a cycling club is that a club member made the trek to Ancaster the day before the race to pick up the plates.
Thanks fellow Lapdog CC member, Adlan!
The Start line at P2A is a unique animal for me. Aside from the sheer number of riders and family, since it’s point to point, you have to either arrange a shuttle, or bring a support crew. Cue family!
It’s become an annual springtime tradition for my family to load into my vehicle with early morning blurry eyes, make the (sometimes) harried trip to Paris, Ontario, spend a minute watching me start a race, and then try to find some fun AND make their way back to the FINISH line in time to see me finish (they’re 3/7!).
Of course, at the finish they have to wait for me to chat with my pals, chat with my other pals, line up for food, chat with some more pals, and then chat with some pals, before making the trek back to Toronto in what is always A GIANT FRIGGIN’ TRAFFIC JAM.
They’re awesome. It’s a long and stupid day, and they suffer through with patience and smiles.
Thankfully, there was no naked hijinx at the START like there was last year (when I was so late that I had to change inside a moving car ON THE BUSIEST ROAD EVER), however, that doesn’t mean I didn’t get naked.
I always get naked.
What? It’s a tradition
This year’s naked moment came AFTER I changed. I really had to pee. Like, really really really. Now, when you’re faced with a dilemma like a full bladder before a long race, you do what you gotta do…except the early spring trees lacked cover, and I just wasn’t comfortable whipping it out along the side of the road like PRETTY MUCH EVERY OTHER DUDE.
I’m shy like that.
My solution was to open the passenger side front and back doors of my truck, stand in between, and let ‘er rip.
Yes, that’s what I did, yes, my kids were still in the vehicle, and yes, I nearly drove them into apoplexy.
Also, who knew the word “Dad” could have so many syllables. “Eeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwww daaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaad.
For the duration of my pee, and for at least 17 minutes afterward.
My wife shook her head in equal parts shock, disbelief, embarrassment, and resignation (15 years, wohoo!).
Sometimes, you just have to pee.
A few minutes later, I started the race at the back of Wave 1…
Race Report: P2A70. April 28, 2019 (Ancaster, ON)
Like I said, I just wasn’t feeling it, so I did the only thing I could. I pedalled.
I pedalled as hard as I could. It was a lousy pace, but it was all I had.
Within a few minutes, fellow Lapdog, Aristotle came whipping by me, holding a staggering pace. He recognized me, and invited me to latch on, which I did, for a very brief time. Dude is lightening fast, and I just couldn’t hold on. It’s too bad; Aristotle is a big guy, and it’s always nice to draft someone who can pull me. Plus, his name is Aristotle. I could be philosophical about my attempt to keep up, but, well, you know, it’s only a shallow analogy.
I drifted alone for a while, until another fellow Lapdog, Andrew, came from behind. Were these guys just waiting behind me? Andrew’s pace was a bit rich, but it was 10k into a long race, and he was the lifeline I needed, so I wasn’t going to let him get away.
We rode together for the rest of the race. My lungs were (are) still mushy from Coldmageddon (and whatever nonsense has a hold on my respiratory system), and my voice was weak, so I let him do most of the talking, and it was nice. I love a long solitary rip, but I’m in no shape physically or emotionally this year, and Andrew was the perfect partner (even though I knew his easy pace was waaaay stronger than my struggling pace).
We rode together across fields, on roads, paths and the longest driveway ever, until the Harrisburg Aid Station, where we took a robust pit stop.
Back on our bikes. Access road, mud and field, rail trail, mud chute, more road, a trailside pee (Andrew even waited for me), a horrible rip on the other side of the highway (Hello wind, no, I don’t like you), and the home stretch to Ancaster.
I was pretty spent, so I took a break at the next Aid Station, but Andrew still had lots in him, so we finally parted (sad face) and he took off like the rocket he is (yes, that’s a nod to his pooch).
While I was trying to breathe, fill a water bottle, and eat half a banana, a bunch of really fast trains passed.
Aw dang it.
Back on my saddle again, it was only 10 or 15k to the end, so I pedalled.
Rail trail, some road, a brief shot on the highway, and then the mud chutes.
Some more road, another mud chute, and Mineral Springs, before the long haul on that damn climb. I saw Andrew cramping on the last climb, but I was in no shape to stop and help, and knew I’d cramp too if I stepped off my bike, so I pressed on.
I crested the top of the hill, rode under the finish line, and took a knee.
3:24. 20/49. Almost an hour longer than first place in my category. I was disappointed with my result, but happy to be finished. For the third weekend in April, I tackled a big race, and ended on flat lungs, tired legs, and a deflated spirit.
End of Race Report
That’s French for “sometimes bike races aren’t fun, but a bad day on a bike is better than a good day on a sofa”.
The FINISH was a giant homecoming, with Fellow Lapdogs, cycling peeps from all over, FOTC Bruce, and lots and lots of anonymous, mud-stained, sometimes grinning and sometimes wincing, cycling peeps. So awesome!
And the Good News is…
I raced my bike! Yeah, under less than ideal conditions, I raced my bike. It wasn’t an epic journey of self discovery or gruelling circumstance, it was just a tough race because of my poor health, and weak physical condition.
I keep on asking whether a sort-of in shape Clydesdale, who usually has “meh” results, can be sick, not train, and rely on base conditioning and muscle memory to do a big race, and the answer is yes. It won’t be pretty (it never is), it won’t be easy (it never is), and it won’t be fun (it always is), but it is possible and every race, however horrible, ends.
Here’s the best/worst part: Aristotle’s pace was just about where I was last year. He was 22 minutes slower than the top Clydesdale. While it’s lousy to know how far I’ve slipped, it’s nice to know what is within my realm.
And so I’ve got my work cut out for me.
Can I do it this season?
I don’t know. What I know is that it won’t be pretty (it never is), it won’t be easy (it never is), and it won’t be fun.
Who am I kidding, it’s always fun.
Something to say? Comment on this post, check the Team Colin Facebook page, or send an email to: TeamColinBlog@yahoo.com. Also, don’t forget to check out all the race day pics at Apex Race Photography. Awesome shots!
A giant nod to my guy Mike Dee at Gears Cannery for an 11th hour bike massage. When I dusted off my sweet Norco Threshold (LOVE. THAT. BIKE.) on Wednesday evening to change my tires, charge my Di2 battery, and scrape my drivetrain (yeah, that’s how I rock it), I noticed two pretty big problems: a bent derailleur and zero brake pads. Mike made my bike sing…and shift…and most important, stop. Dude knows how to work a camera.
Also, I wasn’t kidding about my drivetrain: