A Tale of 4 Races: Part 2
No two races are ever the same.
Even when you do the same race, on the same weekend each year, and the course is exactly the same, they’re still never the same race. In fact, when you do an 8 Hour race, like my last post, and rip the same lap over and over again ON THE SAME DAY, it’s almost like doing a new race each time. My hair style each morning is kinda the same. Some days I wake up and I look like a llama. Some days I look like an uglier llama. Some days I look like an ugly punk rocker lama with bad hair… But I digress. Every race is different.
And when you hit a big forest for a big race…well that’s something altogether different.
The Substance Projects Long Sock Classic (p/b Cannondale) was the second race in two weeks, and with over 350k of trails traversing the Oak Ridges Morraine, Ganaraska Forest is a BIG forest, and at 2 laps and over 75k, the LSC is a BIG race.
Course conditions, subtle (and not so subtle) differences in gear and equipment, physical condition, training, fuelling, and even a change in weather, can affect pretty much everything. Every race is a unique beast.
Yeah, “beast” is a good word to describe a race, and that beast is mean and hungry.
In an hour-long weekly series race, the beast takes a bunch of short nips at your heels while you sprint to the finish, and it’s kinda fun to play bikes with the beast.
In a gravel race, the beast gnaws at your legs for a few hours, and it’s, um, considerably less fun.
In a shorter MTB race, the beast is mean, but since the race is finished almost as quickly as it starts, the beast never really gets to sink it’s teeth into you.
In a mid-February fatbike race, the beast’s bite is full of frost. See what I did there. Because frost bite.
Sometimes a race is easy and the beast is nice. I’m kidding, a race is never easy and the beast is never nice.
The beast is especially mean in marathon races, and since most of my races are marathon distance, the beast I typically encounter is mean and cruel. It tears at my limbs and chews at my lungs for the better part of a day It’s fun, but not really (and definitely not until AFTER the race). The beast wants blood, and sweat, and tears.
And the beast always wins.
But it doesn’t win entirely, because Team Colin always finishes. I may be bruised and bloody, exhausted and spent, sweaty and covered in trail grime, and sometimes even a little shaken, but I always finish.
Take that beast (kicks beast in ‘nads)!
That’s what I’ve been doing this season: Finishing. The beast may be victorious, but after every race, it has to look at my grinning, satisfied face, and know that it’ll never really conquer me.
You know, the beast isn’t always totally bad. Sometimes, the beast carries with it a message, and it almost always takes me on a journey. I’ve learned to listen to what it has to say, and just let the journey happen. That’s where the magic happens.
And let’s also keep in mind that every time we race, we choose to dance with the beast. I choose to do so not just because I like dancing, but because I never know at the beginning of a race where the beast will take me. Magic indeed.
It’s no surprise the LSC pummelled my body. The race was two 36k laps, and it was punishing. It’s equally not surprising that it also took me on a journey, and like every other time, I totally wasn’t expecting it.
Here’s What I Learned
I learned the engine inside me is dormant this year. Between this respiratory thing and my broken heart, the resulting lack of training, and the horrible sleep patterns, I haven’t been able to activate the machine. Yeah, apparently, the machine has a START button, and it only switches on when I add some cardio and strength to actual cycling. Well, that ain’t going to happen with my body in this state this year.
By the way, when I talk about machine inside of me, I’m talking about when my legs are pistons, my heart is a big block engine, and my body purrs. I’m talking about when my bike and body are one, and it feels exquisite when it ignites.
I also learned that riding is fun. Well duh. Okay, that may seem obvious, but racing is different from a casual ride, and when a race is fun, that means you’re not pedalling hard enough. However, in my compromised state, that’s what I went back to: a fun rip. Gotta say, as hard as the LSC was, and as demanding as the course was, it was also a giant bucket of MTB fun.
The journey was just a big fun ride. Wasn’t expecting that.
Great to be reminded of how wickedly cool this sport is. Maybe the universe is saying something to me this season. Hmm.
Race Report: Long Sock Classic. XC Marathon #3 May 18, 2019 (Ganaraska Forest)
Okay, for the sixth race in a row, my lungs and throat and heart just weren’t co-operating. I could probably cut and paste the health situation from my last 5 race posts. No improvement, no change.
I COULD NOT fill my lungs with enough air. The constant threat of breath loss not only made riding a challenge, I was hesitant to refuel, lest I triggered a coughing fit.
Okay, I get it. I can’t ride, my results are bad, and my body is angry at me, so I did what I had to do. I rode, and I kept riding until I finished.
For such a gross spring, the conditions in the Ganny in mid May were perfect, and the course was spectacular. As always, the LSC started with a somewhat gentle climb, followed by series of white knuckle descents and grunty climbs on Line Road 10, a fire road that is more MTB than most singletrack. The “road” (seriously, that’s what they call it) is a killer. The course sweeps into the forest for a gentle introduction to the trails, and then up the hill on top of a hill that haunts my nightmares: a 2k climb up to a false crest, followed by the rest of the hill. I hate that damn hill. I actually have beef with that hill. A looooong history.
For those lucky enough to survive the climb, the LSC rewards with another 30k of classic Southern Ontario singletrack…before starting the second lap.
Honestly, there just isn’t much I can add to the conversation over the years that hasn’t been said. The Ganny is primo MTB. I love and hate it so much, and in equal measure.
The race is predominantly singletrack, with short rips of double track to connect trails, the scenery is beauty, and the terrain is rolling and fun. It’s a big, mean, hoot.
And then, in the last 5k, it actually gets more fun. The LSC finishes fast, flowing, and awesome. It’s an absolute rip. The course winds back to the start for lap 2. It’s not easy, it makes me shudder to think back to is, but starting the whole damn thing all over again was equal parts of terror and abject fear, mixed with a giant dose of foot stomping and “I DON’T WANNA!!!”.
Lather, rinse, repeat, and the race was over.
Five hours and 35 minutes. 75k.
I finished DEAD LAST.
12 riders DID NOT FINISH.
Annnnnnnd…I was the only big kid who raced. So, for the second XC Marathon race in a row, I won!
I’m not waving to anyone. Everyone left. I graced the podium alone.
End of Race Report.
So it wasn’t pretty.
And it wasn’t easy.
And it wasn’t fun.
But, there was a race, so I did it. It’s what I do (also, I’m totally lying, it was way fun).
Hey, guess what. That hill at the start–the hill on top of a hill that haunts my nightmares–it wasn’t that bad this year. Take that, beast.
The 2019 Long Sock Classic is in the can, and Team Colin FINISHED.
Did I capture the same race that you did? Something to add to the conversation…ask about bikes…whatever. Comment on this post or email: TeamColinBlog@yahoo.com. Also, check out the Team Colin Facebook page for other info and videos.
Thanks to Cannondale and the other sponsors, and Substance Projects. The Substance vibe is something that has to be experienced. Dan Marshall, his staff and volunteers, and his parents, have created such a comfortable and familial vibe. They truly care about the race experience, and it’s always like going home when I race with them. So awesome. Yes, there was a burrito situation after the race with Dan, Maximilliana, and Dan’s boy (and his pal). Mmmm.
Shout out to my guy David Vee. Love him.
Check it out: A trio of handsome…
BTW, For racers wishing to register for easy, click here: Learn to play Ukelele.
Finally, the title of this post “A Tale of 4 Races: Part 2”. There’s a reason for that. I had such a rough start to the season and couldn’t write, but something happened in these four races, and it’s all coming into focus now…