Substance Projects, a Fatbike, Some Candles, and Georgian Nordic
Well you can’t beat that combination.
I mean it would be impossible to beat that combination, right? Substance Projects…at Georgian Nordic…for a fatbike race. Sweeeeeet.
Although…hmmm…I guess there could be a way to make it better. Like maybe if the conditions were spectacular.
Yeah, like that could happen…
Or maybe if the weather was perfect.
Pfft, not a chance….
Or maybe if the course was designed with the perfect mix of double track, singletrack, and half track (with a dash of wheel-track for good measure)…
Yeah right, all of those conditions could NEVER happen at the same time.
Ummmmm, actually, they did, because the 45NRTH Ontario Fatbike Series Race #2 at, Georgian Nordic was perfecto. Lemme yell it.
THE 45NRTH ONFATBIKE RACE #2 WAS AWESOME!!!
Spectacularly beautiful location, spectacularly beautifuller course, the wickedly cool Substance Projects vibe, and awesome weather.
Did I just write “beautifuller”? How dumb. I should have written gorgeouser. (yes, that’s a link to “Gorgeous” by T. Swift).
And wait, what’s this with candles in the title? Was there some sort of romantic vibe on course? Um, no, it wasn’t fatbike romance in the woods–although with such an awesome course, you’d think Dan was wooing us–it was TC celebration week! Yep, February 8th was the 4th anniversary of the Team Colin blog (hey, that’s me), annnnd February 6th was my 4th anniversary of fatbike racing.
Yeah, while my jokes may seem tired and dated (I get it), up until four years ago, Team Colin was just a cheeky hashtag (coined by the manager of my LBS), a lousy rider (me), and poor race results (also me), but after that, Team Colin (hey, that’s me again) became a blog with a bunch of awkward selfies (still me)…and a cheeky hashtag…and poor race results…
Also, hats and toques! Buttons too.
The year was 2016. I did my first fatbike race on a borrowed bike that was waaaaay too small for me (although I still made it fly) and Colin the horrible fatbike racer was born; I also wrote my first blog post about that race, after listening to Dan Marshall when he said “Dude, you should write a blog” (yes, it was as easy as that, and yes, I always listen).
Also, sandwiched between those two days, 48 years ago, is the anniversary of the day I squeezed out of my mom and announced my presence on this earth.
I screamed “waaaaaah waaaaah”, which is baby talk for “I’m here! Boom”.
Okay, so is this a blog about a race, or a blog about my mom’s…
To Georgian Nordic, I gotta say this: total beauty course. Like, wow. Aside from the trees and the rocks and the giant exposed Canadian Shield and the terrain in general (like that isn’t enough), the course was designed with maximum “Wheeeeeee”, “Ugh”, and “Hey now” factor.
Dear Georgian Nordic,
I love you.
Team Colin (xo)
The “Wheeeee” was induced by long swooping stretches of perfectly groomed double track and awesome lengths of even more perfectly groomed singletrack; the “Hey now” sections were raw and challenging half track and wheeltrack that kept us on our toes; and the “Ugh” factor was there to remind us that racing ain’t ever a free ride.
Btw, I don’t know whether half track and wheeltrack are actual fatbike nomenclature, or just things I made up, but make no mistake, HT and WT are very real.
Half track: (noun) Specific to fatbik racing, half track is when a trough of snow gets packed down by big fat tires, resulting in a trail that is about 12 inches wide. At the beginning of the race, the trough has soft sides, but as the race progresses and the temperature drops, the sides become hardened. It’s fun to ride because it’s tough to ride. You never know how hard the sides are, you never know how soft the trail is if you veer out of the half track, and the result is terror at the prospect of losing your line. It’s awesome and I love it. variation: Really narrow trail. Half track exists on EVERY fatbike trail system.
I kinda hate half track.
But mostly I love it.
Wheeltrack: (noun) Same as Half track, but even skinnier, awesomer, horribler…and so fun to rip. Wheeltrack is “so not fun” and “SOMUCHFUN!” at the exact same time. Sometimes wheeltrack is a quick shot at a low spot, and sometimes it’s a long stretch of “What am I doing, am I doing this, why am I doing this, I’M DOING THIS!”. The fun factor of wheeltrack, diminishes in direct relation to the time of day, and the number of a laps in a course. variation: Really really really stinkin’ narrow trail.
Wheeltrack is to fatbiking as a burp is to a romantic dinner. They’re both pretty awful, but also kinda fun too. I’m just saying.
Race Report: Georgian Nordic OnFatbikeRace #2. Saturday, February 1, 2020
For me, winter is for eating and gaining weight, not racing, so my results were less than spectacular. Actually, they were really really lousy, but more on that when I ignore them at the end of this report…
It was a 2PM mass start for both distances (4 lappers and the 2 lappers), but still a relatively small group. Given the cold and often challenging conditions, fatbike racing typically brings out the real heavies, and the start line was a who’s who of Shikazes, Frederiksens (SS), Brussos, and Benjiks. The heavies were so plentiful that 1/4 of the field finished within 10 minutes! I started near the back because my family came for the day to watch me, and I was chatting with them. Also, staying at the back gives me a good excuse to stay there…
Conditions were awesome, the main group was tight, and the temperature was balmy compared to last year. Also this time I was dressed appropriately (in 2019, I forgot a shell and had to wear my down filled jacket, resulting in…well, you can read about it here).
The course description was as follows:
- Double track
- A gentle climb
- A gentle downhill
- Half track on the crest of a hill
- Swoopy double track
- Riding beside some rocks
- Half track, followed by wheeltrack, and then some more half track.
- Singletrack in the trees!
- More singletrack in the trees.
- Doubletrack to the START/LAP/FINISH
- Lather rinse repeat 3 more times, and the race was over.
It was a only a 7 or 8k romp per lap, but Substance and Georgian sure jammed a lot into it. The technical stuff, while challenging and oh-so-cussworthy, made it a heck of a lot more interesting. Honestly, I didn’t bring my thermos to a bonfire (see what I did there, tea cup…garden party…), and I would have been disappointed if the course was a breeze. Coincidently, it wasn’t even windy throughout the day. The weather was perfect, and I even got to finish under a twilight sky swirling in big fluffy snowflakes.
Yeah, the big fluffy ones. You know the kind.
My lap times were an embarrassing 30 minutes each, but at least they were consistently embarrassing, and all landed within a minute or two of each other. With a few breaks to hydrate, clear some snot, and chat with my family, my overall time was 2:17.
Honestly, I feel I was ripped-off. I usually get a good story from a race–especially a fatbike race–but I rode strong (for the winter) and my pace was at least decent (for the winter), my clothing layers were perfect (for the winter), and even my hydration and fuelling were perfect (like, ideal pee colour).
Hmm. Maybe there’s something to be said about uneventful racing?
That said, I had an issue with my free hub, my booties popped off my toes after an hour (exposing summer shoes), my tire pressure was less than ideal (but also ideal at times), and I almost cramped (which really nailed me when I bailed), but these things are just part of normal racing and hardly bear mentioning.
I guess Georgian Nordic owed me one after last year when literally EVERYTHING (like, every thing) went wrong.
Georgian Nordic, Substance Projects, a fatbike, and me. Oh, and four candles, and four other candles, and another 48 candles.
End of Race Report.
But that’s not the end of the day. When the Family TC go somewhere, we GO SOMEWHERE. For a while now, I’ve been wanting to take my kids to the skating trail at Arrowhead Provincial Park, but it’s such a looooong drive from Toronto. So…we figured we’d make a pit stop on the way home, and skate at Fire and Ice. Okay, as my family reminded me, like a billion times, Huntsville “isn’t a pit stop on the way home daaaaaaaad”, it’s 90 minutes due east instead of directly south, and I gotta say, after a 2 1/2 hour drive to a race, 2 1/2 hours racing, and a short drive to the podium (at Trestle Brewing Company in Parry Sound, awesome), maybe skating for another hour in the cold wasn’t the best idea…
Anyway, we stuck to the plan. Plus, all the pictures on social media painted such an idyllic picture of the 1.2km skating trail…through the forest…lit by tiki torches…how pretty.
Yeah, um, no.
The reality was a billion people skating shoulder to shoulder, on an ice surface that I can only describe as deeply rutted velour, and an almost constant paparazzi-like flash of the Instagramers (who, given the dark could have just as easily stood in front of ANY trees in the province, just sayin”).
And worse, remember that birthday thing? Well, 48 year old eyes on a torch-lit skating trail…Um, no. I felt like I was skating in a blacked-out tube.
My retinas are still adjusting from a too-close selfie taker. Hey, I like a good selfie or fifty, but I also like vision and vision-related stuff.
My wife suggested that maybe we were a bit on edge after all the racing and driving and being outside in the cold all day (big fluffy flakes or not, it guess it kind of wears), so we decided to go back the next morning.
It was better. Like, WAAAAAAY BETTER. It wasn’t the serene Canadiana of the social media, but it wasn’t midnight armageddon on skates either. Also, sight. It didn’t hurt that the good folks at Deerhurst Inn upgraded us to a sweeeeeeet lakeside condo with two bedrooms and a pullout couch, and a good night’s sleep sure took the edge off. My kids had a good time too! By the way, when you’re a 12 year old boy, a pullout couch is literally the Best. Thing. Ever. Also, when you’re a 14 year old girl, not having to share a bed with your little brother is the Best. Thing. Ever. Annnnnnd, when you spend a day racing and driving and trying not to die on a “skating” (note the quotes) trail, an in-room coffee maker the next morning is the Best. Thing. Ever.
We later found out the night before was the first weekend of Fire and Ice, so that explains the crowds
Bee tee dubs (not sure if I wrote that seriously or ironically), Deerhurst also has skating on their lake, snow shoeing, x-country skiing, annnnnnd they also have have fatbike rentals. So awesome, especially for a wickedly cool family like mine.
So, a bike race, a beautiful drive to–and through Ontario’s Near North–some skating, a coffee maker, and then some more skating. Kaboom.
And yeah, winter may be for eating too much food, riding way too little, snuggling with my kids, and complaining about the weather, but I once read a quote
“If you choose not to find joy in the snow
you will have less joy in your life
but the same amount of snow.”
I really dig the sentiment.
It’s going to snow, so we might as well clip in, add a few extra layers, and battle the snot.
Oh, and it’s nice to blow out a few candles once in a while.
Some shots from the day:
And just to be clear, my bike shop is the bomb. I had a free hub problem on a ride a few days before the race, but couldn’t make it to the shop during regular hours. My guy Andrew stuck around to hook me up with a giant fix. It wasn’t my free hub–it was my derailleur, and my cassette, and my chain, and a cable, and aw damn I love my guy. Matt was even there (and yeah, I love him like crazy too).