107. Challenge Winter Fatbike Race

Hardwood Hills, Lots of Snow, Fatbikes, and a Bunch of X-Country Skiers

Sunday, March 1st.

Race #3 in the OnFatbikeRaceSeries: The Challenge: Winter Fatbike Race at Hardwood Hills (sponsored by Cannondale Bicycles, and presented byThe Crank and Sprocket Bicycle Company). Phew, say that three times fast.

I was buzzing.  The ingredients for a perfect fatbike race were lined-up: the legendary and grindworthy trails of Hardwood Hills, lots and lots of snow two days before the race, and stunningly perfect weather on race day.  Plus, for the last 6 weeks I’ve been eating well, riding hard, and actually doing stretches and stuff.  Geez, I friggin’ started doing some yoga!  Sure, I keep stepping on different body parts while I play invisible Twister, but at least the stretches make me feel better.

With that in mind, I made the trip to Hardwood to race.

This guy.

On a quick side note, for anyone emotionally scarred from the thought of me doing anything resembling yoga, no it is not pretty (and it’s definitely not quiet either–so much groaning and swearing).

So how was the race?  Um, it was a big nope.  Yeah, it just wasn’t my day.

Spoiler Alert:  It may not have been my day, but dang, it was awesome!

I just don’t get it though.  To prepare for the Albion Hills Fatbike race, I ate ALL THE FOOD from October to January (I call it super-choco-poutine-carb-loading).

And to prep for the Georgian Nordic Fatbike race, I had McDonalds for lunch THE DAY OF THE RACE.

Night laps at Joyride 150!

Anyway, here’s how it all went down.

The day before the race, Hardwood Hills posted they were grooming a few feet of snow that fell during two days of snow squalls, and would have to remove the singletrack portions of the race.  “Wohoo” I thought, “Lotsa snow will make it interesting, and removing the singletrack sections will make it fast.  Boom.”.  I’m not scared of soft snow, and as always, if it was easy, we’d find a way to make it harder, right?`

Yeah, um, nope.

Race Report.  Challenge Fatbike Race:  Hardwood Hills.  Sunday, March 1, 2020

I was on time, the sun was shining, I registered for the (full) four lap race, my gear was dialled, and I was ready to rip.

The announcer told racers that due to the conditions we could drop from the full to the half if we wanted, made a few more important points, and the race started….

The snow was too deep…my tire pressure was too high…I bailed hard midway on my the first lap…and my lap times were so bad that after two laps, I had to quit.

End of Race Report.

I’m kidding.  Really, it IS the end of the report, but I guess there’s a little bit more.  Aw geez though, what a crap show.

I was expecting a fast course, so I left my tire pressure at TOODAMNHIGH psi.  However–and I can’t stress this enough–with two feet of fresh snow in the last 48 hours (no kidding), it was loose and deep and soft, which is to say it was NOT FAST.  I spent the first lap stalling, sinking, and ghost-steering.

I felt like a newborn practicing ballet.

I can’t think back to s single strong moment.  My heart was there, and my legs and lungs were there, but there just wasn’t a chance for me to pedal.  I crested the top of the aptly named “Waterfall” descent, and the snow was hard and fast.  “Finally a chance to let ‘er rip”, I thought.

Except the snow was only hard and fast at the top of the hill…whoa, what the, hey hey hey–oof, ack, tumbletumbletumble.

I was standing for balance, and between the pitch of slope and the inertia, I bailed hard.  Soft snow or not, my body did not like the tumble…or the way the end of my handlebar buried itself and flung me.  Almost immediately, it was a shoulders-neck rebellion!

After the first lap, I dropped my pressure to STILLWRONGBUTBETTER psi, and my second lap was a bit faster, but my lousy times meant I’d be on course for way over three hours.

That just wasn’t in the cards for me.  Plus, my shoulders-neck were a bit crunchy, so I figured I’d consider myself lucky…

Ugh, with shoulders dropped, ego in hand, and a giant bird perching on my pouty lips, I trudged to the timing shed to inform them of my decision to be a big loser.  I mean, to tell them I suck.  I mean, to drop to the half.

And that’s the story of the time I crapped-out halfway through a race.

Post-race tradition at the Flashback Diner

Gotta say, no regrets.  When you ring your bell a bit (although it was more of a neck and shoulder twerk), it’s just not smart to keep pushing.  Moreover, this gig has to be at least a bit enjoyable.  Racing is not fun, and it’s never easy, but there is still enjoyment.  However, when you can’t steer, pedal, stay on your damn bike, and you create new swear words aimed directly at snow,  it’s time to be realistic–and sometimes that means making a tough decision.


Other End of Race Report.

Also, end of complainin’.  Seriously, I spent my day on a bike (Well, most of it.  I spent a bit of it sliding down Waterfall and then trudging back up to get my bike…and then back down to get my water bottle…), and any day on a bike is way better day than a thousand other things I could have been doing.

So thanks to Hardwood Ski and Bike for hosting us , and thanks to the trail groomers for doing the impossible  and thanks to The Crank and Sprocket Bicycle Company for the support, and thanks to the x-country skiers for sharing your trails.

Awesome indeed.

Ugh.  (photo courtesy Dan Marshall)

On a final note, way to go Hardwood.  The new digs are awesome.  This was my first time in the new chalet, and it’s a beauty:  wicked pro shop, great facilities, and awesome flow. It even still has that new building smell.

Sometimes you don’t finish a race, and it doesn’t feel great, but it ain’t so bad either, especially when you get to (sort-of almost) ride your bike in outside the middle of a Canadian winter.

Now I’m going to try to not step on my side gut flap while I try a new yoga position.




A final shot from the day:

Shikaze.  That is all.


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