99. Scrappy Badger

I Was WRONG?

Well this is new.

I was wrong.

Hmm, so that’s what it feels like…

I’m kidding, I’ve made a life and a career out of making mistakes.  Sometimes, they’re big mistakes, and sometimes they’re small.  You know, like buying gas station coffee.

But I gotta say this:  Scrappy Badger?  Pfft.  More like Deaf Housecat with Arthritis.

I may have started the 2019 race season with a cough and a whimper, but I’m finishing on strong legs and giant lungs, with a huge smile on my face.

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Ripping a section (photo courtesy Apex Race Photography)

Boom.

Aw heck, KABOOM!!!

I don’t know what happened, but the Scrappy Badger (you know, the race that had me hating my bud Dan Marshall on the pre-ride) was actually kind of fun.  Okay, it wasn’t fun in the traditional sense of fun (like a sweet game of naked Scrabble), but for a bike race, it was a ripper.

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The gentle climb at the start Ripping a section (photo courtesy Gord!)

Maybe it was it the fact the temperature on on the pre-ride was hotter than Satan’s armpit, while race day was balmy and cool, like the beard on the dude pouring Satan’s craft beer (damn, that was a hard fought analogy).

Maybe it was it the fact that I wasn’t trying to keep pace with bicycling legend Dan Marshall (who drove me like a rental car).

Or maybe it was two months of riding in between (and so much gravel, MTB, and hiking)?

Yes it was!

It may have also been the fact that mon ami Simon (he’s French!) and I spent the first half of the race spinning gently while chatting, which meant I had plenty of gas for the last 30k.  Who knew that when you don’t gun it from the start, and actually pace yourself, a race can be sorta fun?

It may have also been the fact that mon ami Simon (he’s French!) and I spent the first half of the race spinning gently while chatting, which meant I had plenty of gas for the last 30k.  Who knew that when you don’t gun it from the start, and actually pace yourself, a race can be sorta fun?

It may have also been the fact that mon ami Simon (he’s French!) and I spent the first half of the race spinning gently while chatting, which meant I had plenty of gas for the last 30k.  Who knew that when you don’t gun it from the start, and actually pace yourself, a race can be sorta fun?

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Me and mon ami (photo courtesy Apex Race Photography)

Race Report:  Scrappy Badger.  September 14, 2019.  Baltimore, ON

The race started at Baltimore Community Centre, but it didn’t  There was actually a neutral roll-in for 2k from the Community Centre down the road to the START, which was a real-life, working gravel pit!  And so, as I wrote in my Pre-Ride Report, we started from whence we came.  So awesome.

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From whence we came (photo courtesy Gord!)

If you know the area, the course went basically from Baltimore to Castleton, and then back again, along every piece of ugly asphalt, uglier gravel, even uglier gravel, and taking a detour at every stretch of farm track, atv trail, goat path, and seasonal river.  Oh, and drumlins.

The Scrappy Badger had ALL the drumlins.

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Welcome to Northumberland Friggin’ Drumlin County (photo courtesy Gord!)

The course followed the same route as the aptly named “Northumberland Nasty” bike race, and can be summed up by one very short stretch of the race.  At about 45k, I was rolling past Drumlin Lane, somewhere just a bit northeast of the bustling hamlet of Eddystone.  The name gave me a sick feeling.  “Drumlin?”, I thought to myself “Well, that can’t be good.”.  I’m an amateur geographer (really, I’m not) and I know a lot about drumlins and glaciation (really, I don’t) and a moment later, there it was, looming up ahead, like a big thing that looms over a small thing (geez, analogies are tough today).  It was a giant drumlin.  Drumlins are strange things.  They aren’t cute, like their name suggests (“Aww, let’s run through the fields of heather on Drumlin Lane…”) they’re big and ugly and a real pain in the calves (see what I did there, because leg cramps).

Btw, for those unaware of what a drumlin is, it’s basically a hill of stuff left when the glaciers retreated.  From the Google:  “A drumlin is a small hill, tending towards an egg shape, with its steepest slopes and summit at the up-ice end. Drumlins are found in groups or swarms, with the tapered end of each hill pointing in the direction of glacier flow.  And they’re a giant pain in the ass for cyclists.”

Thank you Wikipedia.  Also, I may have added the last sentence

Let me say this:  Northumberland County is full of drumlins.  They’re friggin’ everywhere.  It should be called Northumberland Friggin’ Drumlin County.  I think it’s on a Welcome sign somewhere near the happy town of Grafton.

Well, if you know anything about Dan Marshall and Substance Projects, you know that when a Dan Marshall race encounters a drumlin, a Dan Marshall race goes up and over a drumlin.  Dude treats drumlins like they’re features in a MTB race.

Ugh.

Over the 78k of the Scrappy Badger, we mounted about 3,800 feet of drumlins.  They just didn’t stop.

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Photo courtesy Gord!

Anyway (oops, I totally got off track), the Scrappy Badger took a long but gentle climb off the start, and really, the first 20k was pretty decent, but after that…

The hills were mean and long; the sandy parts were soft and deep (and mean and long); and the gravel was gnarly and technical (and mean and long).  The rain the night before helped, but there were still many spots that were mean and hungry, and rain means puddles.

Those sections tho…

Brutal.

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Did I mention the sand?  (photo courtesy Gord!)

When in the deep sand, I found a good rule was to always stay in a wheel track, except not always because sometimes the sand was compact…and there were giant puddles…and some mud…and the gravel was meaty…and the sections just got worse (except they were worse from the beginning)…and then the wind started to howl…

Honestly, a true Race Report is hard to write because the course just didn’t let up, and after a while, it all looked the same.  Sure, it was beautiful, and I never noticed during the pre-ride how close it came to the lake (there were actual vistas of the lake), but there was just so little time to breathe it all in–what with the prolonged heart attack and sustained leg cramps…

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Hey, is that the lake behind me?   NOTE:  we were only stopped because heavy equipment was coming up the next section, blocking our path.  (photo courtesy Gord!)

Even the downhills were challenging, because most of them either ended in a sharp turn, turned from asphalt to gravel (and then ended in a sharp turn), or funnelled us into a giant sand box.  Looking for a long, sweet, paved descent?  Nope.

Geez.  Fist sized rocks, a foot high drop-off on one of the sections, thigh deep ruts, a bunch of wind, and over and over again.

So many sections.

And hills!  In the last 15k, I stalled on 3 pretty big climbs.  Fortunately, they were on asphalt instead of gravel, but by that point, it really didn’t matter.

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One of the last climbs—but not the actual last (photo courtesy Gord!)

The race ended with a long and gentle slope downhill, and a quick gravel rip back to the FINISH at the gravel pit.

End of Race Report.

So why did I have such a fun time?  Um, bikes.  Also, because I had a wingman.  Actually, Le wingman.  Mon ami, Simon (he’s French) was there after a summer long cycling hiatus that he spent on a soccer pitch with his kids, and riding those damn drumlins and sections was pretty sweet with my pal.  Also, as I said, the gentle pace made the grind more bearable.20190914_151152.jpg

During the race, I also connected with a new pal, Gord, who took many of the course pictures posted in this blog.  Thanks man, it was great to share the last 20k with you.

I also met Lee from Iowa at the Scrappy Badger, who was here to check out the Ontario gravel scene.  Lee was plowing through the course at the most consistent pace I’ve ever seen, and we nipped past each other a few dozen times (what, I took three pee breaks), before chatting at the BBQ when it was all done.

 

My official time was just under 4 hours.  On one hand, ouch, but on the other hand, I’ll take a 20km/h pace given the course conditions.  Plus, as usual, the race was all mine.  No drafting, no taking a wheel: 100% Team Colin.

Btw, first place finished in 2:16.   Whoa.

Did I mention I raced for free?  Legendary Lapdog Barry Cox (his words) couldn’t make it to the race, and put his registration up for grabs.  Boom.  Thanks Barry.

Legend, wait for it…3axncu

…ary.  Also, dude, shirt game is on.

The inaugural Scrappy Badger was even better than I expected…and I didn’t even have to start eating earthworms, insects, and grubs (like a badger–see my last post).

And with that, Ontario gravel race season is over…almost.  Superfly Racing’s Reggie Ramble is in two weeks, and I can’t wait.  With three distances (65k, 130k, and 200k), and starting in the town of Warkworth–which is in a valley surrounded by, you guessed it, a bunch of drumlins–it’s going to be awesome.  Also, Sean Ruppel, a dude named Reggie, and Superfly Racing.  ‘Nuff said.  So wicked.

Ride.

 

 

PS.

Apex Race Photography was at the race, nailing all the sweet shots.   Love my guy Ted.  You can order your photos at the Apex Race Photography site.  They’re free this time.  Thanks sponsors.

Here are some shots that I took of my Substance Projects (and extended) family, and even my actual family (hi mom):

 

Feel free to comment on this blog, or send a message to: TeamColinBlog@yahoo.com

 

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