46. 24 Hours of Summer Solstice

20170625_014303 copyChico Racing’s 24 Hour of Summer Solstice (20th Anniversary edition).

Chico who there?

Chico Racing.

24 Hours of what now?

24 Hours of Summer Solstice.

sol·stice

noun (/ˈsōlstəs,ˈsälstəs/)

summer solstice, when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky at noon, marked by the longest day

Yup, the longest day of the year.  24 hours of MTB goodness.  24 hours of playing bikes…24 hours of BOOM.

Albion Hills.  2,300 riders.  388 teams.  17k.  It was AWESOME.

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Geoff S.  This guy flies.

When my pal, Geoff Simpson (from the Tuesday night King Weekly Series), said “Hey Colin, want to do the 24 Hour Race?”  I said “Um, okay” (because I never say no to a ride).

Best.  Answer.  Ever.

24 Hours of Summer Solstice was totally and completely, off the charts, outrageously awesome.  Honestly, it was lit AF–that’s what the youths nowadays would call it (because for some reason, they refuse to use actual words and have a propensity for acronyms). They might punctuate it with the word “fam” at the end (because, well, whatever).

Seriously though, it was fleek.  What? I spend my days with teenagers.  Their language is bound to rub off on me. Plus, it’s fun to use made up words, fam (note: I may have used the words “fleek” and “fam” incorrectly, but that’s totally okay with me).

As usual with something new for me, I was pretty nervous leading up to the event.  Since it was a last minute decision, I really wasn’t prepared physically for the race.  I worked late every day of the prior week, and even scheduled my daughter’s birthday party on the Friday night before the race.  Let me say this, nothing calms pre-race nerves like 12 screaming tweens…  I’m kidding.  Nothing scratches at your eyeballs–from behind–like a birthday party of 12 tweens.

But it wasn’t my lack of preparation or the course that worried me.  If anything, with a 17k lap distance, and a pretty epic spring of racing behind me, I’d faced way tougher endeavours in the last few months.  It was the whole “riding at night” thing that scared the bejeezus out of me (a real mom word, not a made-up word from the youths).

However, I’ve been steering my life by listening to the universe lately, and everything has been fine, so I figured I’d do it.

Two awesome friends (Dan Marshall from Substance Projects and Mark Summers from Joyride 150) offered to loan me some sweet lights for the race, so at least I’d be lit. Not like “lit fam”, but actually lit with 2,000 watts of illumination. They assured me there was “..nothing to worry about…” on my night lap.

Um, can I just say there was plenty to worry about.  Here are 4 things:

  1. NOT seeing where I was going
  2. seeing ONLY where I was going
  3. the boogeyman
  4. things that actually go bump in the night

Hey universe, help me out here…

(Sort of) Race Report: 24 Hours of Summer Solstice. Albion Hills (June 24-25, 2017)
Here’s my hour-by-hour (or so) recollection of the day:

9:15AM     

Arrive at Albion Hills. I couldn’t believe the sheer number of people, bikes and vehicles.   The ENTIRE park was buzzing with excitement, and so was I.

My team campsite was close to the chalet, and right in the middle of the action. Prior to the race, I had only met one teammate, but within 5 minutes, this new guy knew these guys were the real deal.  Honest to goodness, big boss MTB people, with hearts of gold.

Our team was Billy Biker and the Kickstands.  I was a kickstand!

These guys are awesome. They’ve raced as a team for the last 22 or so years, and had been doing it for so long they even had two teams on their site:  Billy and our team, and a team of their kids and their kid’s friends.

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A few kickstands (From l to r: Gregg, New Guy, Rich, Bill, Geoff, and Mark.  Photo courtesy Cynthia Husband)

11:30AM

Team meeting.  Okay, this didn’t really take place, but we sat around and decided the order of riders.  It was decided I would ride third because I’m not sure. At just over an hour per lap, that meant I’d be riding at around 3:30PM, at midnight, and at about 10:00AM.  Wait, at midnight…  This is where I got a bit woozy.

“Pfft”, I thought.  I could do this.  Bump in the night, schmump in the night.

12:00PM

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Race start.  Holy crap.  The population of a large village was there FOR A BIKE RACE. It was remarkable.  Bikers everywhere.

1:00PM

Our transfer point was an ad hoc location about 500m before the START/FINISH (shh, don’t tell anyone, it was 3 sites away from our campsite, and really really convenient). We watched Gregg finish his lap and hand the number card to Bill.  I changed into my kit, and Geoff and I went for a little zip around the campground to warm up a bit. Everywhere we looked, there were bikes and riders and families and awesomeness.  So awesome.

3:30PM (or so)

It was time for my lap.  I was warmed up (sort of) and mentally ready (not really). Bill got to the transfer site, I took the race plate, and boom, I was off.

I hit the actual transfer point, swiped the number card, and started the lap.

The course was sublime: great climbs, lots and lots of wicked trail features, fast and fun doubletrack, rocks and roots, spectacular singletrack, more spectacular singletrack, and even the brown monster.  It was everything a good MTB race should be, and everything a great MTB race is. Gotta love Albion Hills.

17_24hr_T_(12589)-(ZF-6967-87774-1-001)
A sweet shot of my bike (photo courtesy Apex Photography)

And to make the lap even greater, a lot of the course skirted the campground. People were cheering, hollering, and offering bacon.  Did you hear me?  Bacon.

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Nearing the transfer (photo courtesy G. Simpson)

I finished my lap without incident, and even saw my buddy Ted Anderton from Apex Race Photography on the trail.  Ted may be A race photographer, but I always think of him as MY race photographer.

My lap time was 1:04.  Not a great time, but not horrible given my lack of preparation.

6:30PM

I brought two boxes of Taco Bell burritos for my team (what you didn’t). Standing at the door of my RV, I only had to say one word: “Burritos!”

And just like that, I gave each and every one of them indigestion.

7:00PM to 11:00PM

I tried to catch up on some sleep from the week before, relax a bit, and just experience being surrounded by so much bike love and awesomeness.  Sleep didn’t come easy, so I had a bunch of short naps.  I brought a courier bag full of marking and it was staring at me from the top bunk of my RV like a giant sack of guilt, so that didn’t help. What a doofus.  Who brings marking to a bike race?   A teacher who is late with his marking that’s who.

When Geoff knocked on the door of the RV to “wake me up” I was already up and ready, and nervously pacing in my RV. The night lap was really weighing heavily with me.  Why would I choose to ride at night for the first time in a race?

12:15AM

Transfer point.  It was dark.  Waiting.  Scared.  Transfer the number card.  Boom, I was off.

I could see!

It was awesome.  How can night riding not be a regular thing? The short zip to the START/FINISH was cool, but the real fun didn’t begin until after that.  Alone in the forest, chugging and gasping until I warmed up, safe in a cocoon of light, I felt amazing. I wasn’t really alone though, because there were other rider’s lights zigzagging through the forest ahead of me and around me.

I was lost in a forest of darkness, streaking through the trails of Albion Hills, and could only see what was directly in front of me, but the clarity of it all was striking.

After my lap, I wrote on Facebook:

“Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself”

Ugh.  How sappy.  It was true, sort of, but I was high from the thrill of the ride, and feeling the bossness of owning the night. I wasn’t really lost, but the sentiment, however sappy, was on point.  Because I could only see directly in front of me, my mind was opened for everything else. It was meditative.  Me and my bike, pedal stroke by pedal stroke, tree, root, and rock.  The only way to move forward was by pedaling, and since I couldn’t see further than 10 feet, I only saw what the IMMEDIATE and pedaled towards the end of the beam of light, knowing that I could never catch it. It was so very Zen.

Plus, it was just really really cool.

I finished my lap, and nothing went bump, and the boogeyman didn’t snatch me.

Like everything else in riding, it was awesome, and enlightening, and just plain fun.

20170625_014313 copyWhy did I say yes to Geoff?  Because if I’ve learned anything through cycling it’s these three things:

  1. everything is always all right
  2. nothing bad ever happens to Colin on a bike
  3. sometimes you just have to listen to the universe

I’ve learned a bit about tire pressure, bike geometry, S-1, and saddle sores too, but that list seems to fit this exercise.

In a good bike race, you ride an awesome course. In a great bike race, your bike takes you on a journey.  The journey of the 24 Hour was awesome.

I went to sleep at about 2:30AM, with visions of night riding dancing under my eyelids. Awesome indeed.

9:00 AM

I was going to start my next lap in about an hour, and it was probably going to be the second last lap for the team.  We’d hit 21 laps overall.  But then we realized something.

Team Meeting.  Okay, it wasn’t a team meeting, but we sat around the site and realized that if I could start my lap at 9:55 (which was likely because Bill was on course and his lap times were blistering), and if I could nail a lap time of 1:05 (which was a bit less likely, but almost possible if the universe helped), and if Ed could nail a lap time after me of about an hour (totally likely because he was Ed and Ed wasn’t me), we could start our last lap at 11:50, which was well before the noon cut-off time, and would allow us to finish the race by the 1:00 cut-off time–and sneak another lap.  The team was a bit wary because they’ve already “been there, done that”, but it was MY first time, and I had neither been there OR done that.

“If you’re going to be, just be EPIC” I told them.  “Do it for Team Colin” I told them (okay, I just thought that part).

They agreed we should shoot for the last lap, and Geoff stepped up.  “I’ll do it”. Yup, our finish was going to be epic.

Bill finished his lap in 1:05.  Epic indeed.

I finished my lap in 1:05.  “I gave you three minutes, Geoff” I said, as I transferred the number card to Ed.  More epicness.

Ed was off like a dart, and I knew he’d be back in an hour.  He was back in 1:01.  The epicness was imminent.

11:50AM

Just after 11:50, Geoff started his lap.  Without a GPS for time, and tired from staying up all night, Geoff left the transfer point.  He would have to complete the lap, plus the additional 500m, in 1:10.

He flew. Like, literally, Geoff flew. That is all there is to say.  Geoff let the rubber fly. and nailed a smoldering final lap time. Our team did 22 laps, and finished at 12:53:16PM.

And, that’s it.  24 hours of EPIC awesomeness.  And here’s the best part.  Chico racing actually bent time so that it wasn’t 24 hours, it was 25.

End of (sort of) Race Report

Under an overcast sky, at about 1:30PM, we celebrated the winners.  Tag teams, solo riders, teams 4, teams of 5, teams of 6-10.  All of them awesome.  Everyone in the audience, equally awesome.  Honestly, check out Riot’s post about the race.  He is epic.

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David.  22 Laps Solo.  ‘Nuff said.

Then, under a canopy of rain, we waited to win one of the spectacular door prizes. The folks at Chico know something about prizes, and with an event of this size they were amazing. Gear, clothes, more gear, and a few bikes. Awesome.  Seriously, for those who left early, bad move.  I recognized two names of people who won but weren’t there because they left early, but I’m not going to be the one to say to them “Dude, you missed a $1,000 worth of prizes.

Alas, Team Colin won nothing.

Gotta say, for my first dip into the 24 Hour pool, it was pretty epic.   I was on a team of nine, and the actual racing for me fell a bit short of epic, but the event experience was unforgettable, and the 24 Hour vibe will stay with me for a long time to come. Plus, I conquered the night riding thing.

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Rob and Miro.  Tag team.  Awesome.

On my team, we only did two or three laps each, but we still felt pretty awesome. However, many other riders blasted truly epic performances. Watching Rob tag team it with his buddy (18 laps), and seeing Riot (13 laps on a singlespeed) and Raf (10 laps on a fatbike) solo the race, was awesome. Another of my racing friends, David V. soloed the race with 22 laps.  Now THAT’S truly lit.

24 Hours of Summer Solstice was awesome.  Riding in my balloon of light, watching the tree trunks zip past, and only seeing what I HAD to see—and only when I NEEDED to see it–was liberating. In my family and work life, I like to see the whole picture, and I spend my days overseeing the tasks of kids and a job , but at the 24 Hour, with my vision confined to a small patch of trail, I was reminded about the importance seeing what was directly in front of me.

And it was really fun too!

Ride.

 

Check out the results at Chico Racing.

And would you look at these sweet shots from Ted at Apex Photography.  If you haven’t bought your picture, do so.

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Here are some other shots from the days:

 

 

 

 

News: 24 Hours of BOOM

Well, I guess it’s time…24-hours-of-Summer-Solstice-1140x300

Earlier this season, it was time for Team Colin to do the full marathon distance in a Substance Projects XC Marathon race, so I did it.  50k at the H2i.  Here’s the link: Homage to Ice.

Then it was time for Team Colin to do the full Paris to Ancaster distance, so I did it.  70k at P2A.  Here’s the link: Paris to Ancaster.

Then, since I did those two races, I figured it was time for Team Colin to do two more marathon distance races in the the XC Marathon, so I did.  70k at the LSC (here’s the link: Long Sock Classic), and 74k at the Humbler (here’s the link:  Northumberland Humbler).

All of those races went fairly well (and by fairly well I mean to say that I didn’t die), so I figured it was time for Team Colin to do the full Singletrack Classic, and I did.  44k. Here’s the link:  Singletrack Classic.

But I never thought it was time for Team Colin to do the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice.  It has never been my thing:

  • It was too much time away from my family
  • It just seemed too big and busy of a race
  • I wasn’t ready to do it solo (and figured I’d only be able to ride a few laps if I was on a team)
  • Really, nobody ever asked me

You see, while I have a bunch of riding friends and people that I ride with on a regular basis (hey John, love ya buddy), I don’t have a formal MTB squad.  You know, a group of regular riders who send weekly texts saying “Dude, where are we riding this weekend?”.

Anyway, I just wasn’t interested in doing the race, and I didn’t think it was time.

But the universe thought it was time, and the universe spoke to me loud and clear.

Here’s what happened.  We’re going to travel back in time 6 days.  I hope I don’t wake up on a planet of apes.  Or worse, a planet with a pumpkin-faced idiot in charge of a launch button…

Saturday, June 18, 2017. Scarborough Ontario, My Bed, 5:38AM

I woke up early and couldn’t fall asleep.  It was about 5:30, and while I was tossing and turning, and replaying favourite rides (what, don’t you do that too) I started thinking about Chico Racing’s 24 Hours of Summer Solstice race.  The race had never even appeared on my radar in the past, and I don’t know why it did at 5:38 on a Saturday morning when I should have been sawing giant logs, but I started to think that it was time to start wondering about considering pondering the possibility of whether I should perhaps try to look into exploring the idea that maybe I should think about doing the race year next year.  Or the year after.

Honestly, I don’t know what sparked the idea, but it stuck.  I started thinking that maybe it’d be fun, or maybe I’d do it solo like Riot on Racing does, or maybe someday I’d be in a cool MTB squad and get a text that said “Dude, let’s do the 24 Hour”…

I fell back asleep and snagged an extra half hour of much needed beauty sleep, while visions of the race–and the sweet blog post that I’d be able to write if I ever did it–pedaled by…

And then things got a bit weird.  I woke up at 8:00, stumbled out of bed, and waited for my knees to start bending while I walked downstairs to eat.  By the 9th step I stopped walking like a drunken baby, but that wasn’t the weird part.

The weird part happened after my morning constitutional.  “Constitutional” is a classy way to say I peed.  You know, because I’m classy that way.

I checked my phone.  It was Saturday morning and I was waiting for my MTB squad to text…  I’m kidding.  No squad.

A few Facebook notifications and Instagram whatevers, some work email to ignore, and a message on the Team Colin Yahoo mail account.  “Who is contacting me on the Team Colin Yahoo account?” I thought.  “Nobody ever uses the Team Colin Yahoo account…”

Well, My buddy, Geoff Simpson contacts me on the Team Colin Yahoo account (actually this was his first time, but you get the idea).  Geoff does the King Weekly Series with me.  He’s a boss rider, and a cool guy.

Get to the weird point Colin…

Okay, here it is.  Geoff’s message said “Dude, let’s ride this weekend”…  No it didn’t. I’m not in his squad.

Yet.

Geoff’s message was better.  Geoff’s message said

“I know it is short notice, but are you available next weekend?   We are looking for an extra rider for our 24 hour team.   I know it is exam report card time and short notice but just wondering if you are interested?”

WOHOO. Team Colin has a MTB squad.  Okay, not yet.  Breathe Team Colin, he hasn’t asked you to be on his squad, he only asked about the 24 Hour.

So I stopped doing my happy dance and replied to his message.  It was a good thing I stopped dancing.  My kids were already up, and the sight of daddy doing the happy dance in his underwear, with morning hair, and still numb knees wasn’t pretty. Sorry kids.  Daddy is lame.  Click on that link.

My response to Geoff was a resounding YES–although in the coolest and most blase way (I didn’t want to sound too eager, lest he dismiss me from his squad without a chance).   You see, I don’ t know much, but I know this:  when the universe speaks, Team Colin listens.

So, on Saturday, June 25, I’m doing the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice, because there is no way I am going to pass up on the chance to be epic.

And I know something else too.  If you’re going to be, JUST BE EPIC.

And that’s what I’m going to do.  Just.  Be.  Epic.

  • I’m looking forward to the community and camaraderie
  • I’m looking forward to my first kick at night riding, alone, in the woods (okay, I’m not)
  • I’m looking forward to being scared in the woods (what, I’m delicate and things that go bump–or worse scratch–in the night give me the willies)
  • I’m looking forward to connecting with the billion riders who I usually meet at races
  • I’m looking forward to playing bikes, along with a few thousand other bike minded people for 24 hours of awesome, solstice-cracking, awesome-being, cycling goodness
  • I’m looking forward to the challenge, and the fun, and the whatever
  • I’m looking forward to pedaling waaaaaay out of my comfort zone

Like I said, I don’t know what to expect, but I expect to be surprised, and if I’ve realized anything on this biking journey, I’ve realized that when you listen to the universe, things always work out in the best of ways.

24 Hours of Summer Solstice, here I come–be gentle with me.

Oh, and to the guys on Billy Biker and the Kickstands, I’m sorry for, well, me. Whatever Geoff said about me to get you to agree to have me on your team is probably a lie.  I’ll do my best, but no promises.

24 Hours of BOOM.

Ride.

 

PS.  I don’t know where the Team Colin Support Vehicle (okay, it’s just my family RV with the letters “TEAM COLIN” on the rear bumper) will be parked, but if you see me, say hi.  There are ALWAYS popsicles (and sometimes freezies) in the freezer.  For the 24 Hour, there might even be Revelos and ice cream bars.  Team Colin loves iced treats.

UPDATE (Friday night).  I’m at a birthday party for my daughter.  She wanted beef burritos from Taco Bell.  Her twelve tween guests weren’t fans.  To make a long story short, I will have 20 beef burritos in the Team Colin Support Vehicle as well.  I’ll be campsite # something, in the Rustling Brook Campground.  I’ll update the Team Colin Facebook page when I land.

42. Why YOU Need to Race a Weekly Series.

Wohoo. It’s The Middle of the Week!

team-colin-King-Weekly-Series.jpgWait, what?

I know what you’re thinking:

Ugh, it’s the middle of the week.

Last weekend was so long ago, and next weekend is sooooo far away.  Hump Day…the day before Hump Day…the day after Hump Day…

Ugh.

That’s not what I’m thinking.  I’m thinking:

Wohoo, it’s the MIDDLE of the week.

Because whichever day it is in the middle of the week, it’s a weekly series race day–and that’s awesome.

So very very awesome.

I’m tired, I have work legs, I’m behind on every chore that ever existed, and my back and shoulders are still a mess of aching tightness, but for about an hour this evening, NONE OF THAT will matter.

What will matter will be my legs and my lungs, the trail, and the trees, and an hour or so of white knuckle, kick-ass, fast-paced shredding, with a bunch of awesome bike minded people.

Weekly race series.  Boom.

A few weeks ago, I gave a complete list of other alternatives to a weekly series race.  They included

  • Laundry
  • Cutting the lawn
  • Washing the dishes
  • Doing homework (what, I’m a teacher, I call it homework too)
  • Watching tv
  • Cleaning your bike after racing the Epic 8 Hour or or other big boss awesome race (the only REAL acceptable option on this list)
  • Any other mundane daily task that flesh is heir to

To be clear, I just quoted part of a line from Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” soliloquy.  He didn’t have a bike, but if he did, I’m pretty sure he would have said “To ride, or not to ride” instead of sulking about his castle wearing his little tights and taunting poor Ophelia.

For me, a weeknight ride is a stolen ride.  It’s stolen from all those things listed above. But all those things can wait.  It’s true.

Riding can not wait.  It’s more true.

The dishes will either grow legs and walk away, or somehow they’ll get done.  The grass will get longer, but you can cut it tomorrow.  The laundry isn’t an issue because we’ve all got something else in our closet to wear, and if we really want to wear last week’s dirty pants, we can just take them out of the hamper and put them on (really, they were okay when they hit the pile, and they’ll be okay if we put ’em back on for another day.

But a missed riding experience is something we can never get back.  The trail will never be the same as it is today…it could rain tomorrow…my bike might get stolen..there could be a zombie apocalypse…

Really, with those options, I think we’d all be fools if we DIDN’T race in the middle of the week.

It’s odd.  Riding has kind of (but not really) taken a back seat for me lately.  In the past month and a half, I did 4 big races, two weekly series races, a few little rides here and there, and 5 blog posts, but I  feel like I have to spend weekdays recovering from a weekend haul, and haven’t been riding as much as I should.

And that’s the great thing about a weekly series race.  I’m registered for a season, so the details (and even the decision) have already been established.  Having a definite date and time planned for a weekly ride is a great thing indeed.  Oh, and I get to play bikes with friends.

What?  You’re not a racer?

You feel intimidated?

You don’t think you can do it.

Well…

Yes you are a racer–everyone is a racer.

There’s no need to feel intimidated because weekly races are ALWAYS chill, casual, and relaxed.

And yes you can.  If I can race, ANYONE can race.

Here are five reasons why a weekly series is awesome:

  1. They’re less than an hour long
  2. The organizers will answer any email questions that you have, and help you through the whole process
  3. The people who race weekly series are the people you want to know (just trust me on this)
  4. They’re a great way to introduce yourself to a big race experience, and they’re not as tough as you’d think.
  5. While there are riders who are there to COMPETE, most are there just to ride hard. So, if you’re really worried about riding with a big mean group, seed yourself at the back of the pack, and within a few minutes, you’ll probably be riding alone.

Oh, and here are three simple rules to doing a weekly race:

  1. If you need to pass someone, ask, wait for a good spot, and announce which side you’re passing on.
  2. If someone asks to pass, pull aside when you can, and tell them to pass.
  3. Stick around after the race to chat with other riders.

By the way, I usually race the King Weekly series on Tuesday nights, but I’ve raced Durham too, and I plan to take a stab at each of the following this summer: Kelso; Coulson Hill; Durham; Hardwood Hills; and Albion Hills.  I’ve got links to each race after this post.

With all of the great weekly race series to choose from, and the now discredited list of alternatives, it isn’t a tough choice. Honestly, there is no better way to experience some great racing, some great camaraderie, and some of Southern Ontario’s awesomest trails.

And if you choose not to ride in the middle of the week, just remember Hamlet.  He didn’t ride, and look at what happened to him.  It involved a sword, some poison, and a bit of agony…

Ride.

PS

A few lines that didn’t make the blog:

Hey Laertes, instead of a duel, let’s go for a rip?

Shall we ride a lap, lady?

Frailty, thy name is a cracked frame.

Neither a non-rider or a non-racer be…

This above all: to the ride be true.

Something is rotten in the state of my cycling shoes.  Methinks tis my socks.

Links to weekly series sites.  Click and race!

And here’s a link to a Race Calendar blog that I wrote a while back.  It’s got bigger races, bigger awesomeness, and a summer full of great riding!

24. Great Albion Enduro

The Great Albion Enduro.

Superfly Racing said they weren’t just going to host an enduro race, but a GREAT enduro race.  Sweet.

The Superfly website billed it as follows:

“…one of Southern Ontario’s most popular riding centres, switch directions on half the trails, add some unique unmarked trails, AND add a chunk of pure singletrack in the Palgrave tract, along with several kms of rail trail, and what do you get?  The GREAT Albion Enduro.”

Lofty goals.  However, even though I knew Superfly Racing always stage awesomeness, I was still a bit skeptical.  I mean, without even scrolling down on the event website, they used the word GREAT five times.  Let’s be honest, I’m no stranger to awesome superlatives (and in this case, super hyperbole), but every time I use the word “awesome”, it’s because whatever I’m describing is totally, 100%, honest to goodness, awesome, so with such gratuitous use of the word ‘great’, Team Colin had to check out the Albion Enduro—sorry, the GREAT Albion Enduro–to see just how great it would be.

Wait a sec, what’s a Palgrave?

Which distance–40k or 80k?  I’m not a frequent Albion rider.  In fact, it would be only my second time there (My first was at Superfly’s Endur O-Cup in July.) and then I heard that the Green Monster was going to be at the end of the race.  The Green Monster is to climbs what bullies are to the school cafeteria.  Mean, dumb, and nasty.  Superfly’s website also said the race would give us about 800m of climbing.  I spent a good deal of time debating the distance.  40k would be fun, and 80k would be a slog—especially since the last time I tackled the Green Monster, it was in the middle of a 25k race, not the end, and this time I’d have to do it twice

But then I realized that I was up to it.  Prior to this season, an 80k mountain bike race or ride wasn’t even a distant aspiration, but after the joy I experienced in the 109k distance of the Eager Beaver, the fun of the 100k Kawartha Lakes Classic road tour two weeks after the EB, and the (almost) ease of the 38k Kingston XCM, I realized that distance riding wasn’t as tough as I always thought it was.  It’s kind of dumb that it took me four years to finally ride a hundred k, but there you have it.  Also, it’s nearing the end of the MTB riding season, so I’m in peak shape, and I figured it was time I challenged myself with a proper marathon distance.

So I registered for the 40k.  No, that wasn’t a typo.

My family wouldn’t be at the race—and I’m not just talking about my wife and kids.  I’m talking about my bike shop family, my Substance Projects family, and my MTB family at large.  Without my FAMILY there to help me celebrate the experience, I felt like a giant tree would fall in an epic forest, and nobody would be there to hear the BOOM.  Nobody would be there to share it with the tree.  Yes, I’m the giant tree in that analogy.  When I bust out my first epic 80k MTB ride, I want to be able to share it with the people who enabled me to get there—because that BOOM is going to be…wait for it…awesome!

Full Disclosure:  Sean Ruppel and Superfly are awesome, and I know they’re family to legions of riders, but they just aren’t MY family (yet) because I’ve only done a two of their races.  I always think it’s so wicked that pretty much EVERYONE in the MTB world is awesome.  My local bike shop is awesome, but I bet yours is too.  Likewise, my MTB family is awesome, and I know yours is too.

Registration.  With the inherent craziness of the start of a school year in a household that has two teachers, a 9 year old, and an 11 year old, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to race, and I couldn’t pre-register, but Supefly allowed Day-Of Reg., so I waited until the morning.  Rain was coming, and the old me might have crapped out, but the new me was actually looking forward to some nasty weather to keep things interesting.

If you’re going to play bikes, its way more fun in the muck.

To skip ahead to the end of the day, and to save the effort of reading this entire post, when all was said and done The Great Albion Enduro lived up to its name.  And more.  it wasn’t just all of the awesome (and great) stuff at Albion Hills.  It also included an awesome (and great) chunk of Palgrave, and all of the awesome (and great) extra touches of a Supefly Racing event (Sean Ruppel at the helm, wood oven pizza, a little sample of super hipster beer–courtesy of The Second Wedge Brewing co., handmade awards for the Clydesdales, the 3 Rox Racing yard sale, and live music.  Oh yeah, and a free shirt!

Race Report:  The Great Albion Enduro.  September 17, 2016

I met my riding buddy, John, a few minutes before the start.  After playing it safe at the start in Kingston a few weeks ago, we decided to seed ourselves closer to the front of the pack for this start.  We worked our way up as far as we could, and after a few course notes from Sean Ruppel, the race started.

John likes to hit his own pace, so while most riders rode single file, he darted in and out of the pack to pass.  I just tried to keep up.  The rain drops started falilng, and we spent the first bit on easy double track (with a smidge of singletrack) before looping back through the Start/Finish area.  The rain picked up a bit, and made for some slick grassy sections, and I realized that my Thunder Burt tires (with minimal knob) were a stupid choice.  A few slips and spins threw me off my game, so I spent the rest of the race riding very tentatively.  Stupid tires.

Pfft.  Stupid me.  When I knew rain was in the forecast, I should have changed them.

The course wound through some great Albion single track before a a quick zip along a side road that took us to the Palgrave Tract.  Ohhhhhh, a Palgrave is a forest….with trails. Sweet.  The Palgrave Tract was tight, twisty, technical, and tonnes and tonnes of fun:  great rock gardens; short, punchy climbs; sweet jumps and drop offs; rocks, roots, and general MTB goodness, and all the other ingredients of an awesome MTB mix.

We left Palgrave for a return along the side road, and zipped up to a short stretch of rail trail.  It was raining, we were booking it.  So awesome!  The thrill of pedals, trail, wind, and adrenaline.

The guy who drafted me the entire time on the flat stuff thanked me for the break.  If you’ve ever drafted behind a Clydesdale, I hear it’s pretty sweet.  We’re like a brick wall, and we create a LOT of suck.  I imagine the person behind me throwing their feet off their pedals and screaming “Wheeeeeee”. It’s just how a Clydesdale gives back.

You’re welcome, Otto.

The course took us back into Albion Hills and the race got even more fun.  Apparently, many of the trails were run backwards, but everything was new to me, so I didn’t know the difference.  The roots started to get wet, and there were a few slippy-slidey sections, but the rain never really took hold, and it was mostly just managably wet.

And then I lost a cleat screw on my shoes.    I tried to continue as my foot twisted in my pedal, but it was no use.  I had to dismount to fix it.  I spent a few minutes trying to fix it while riders passed.  The bolt sheared of, and there was no easy fix, so I spent a few more minutes trying to jam my clip back into my shoe so I could continue.  I couldn’t unclip in the event of a bail, but I could finish the race.  Tricky business, not being able to unclip.  Tricky business.

Okay, the tire choice was my fault, but the cleat thing was totally my shoe’s fault.

If my knobbyless tires threw me off my game at the beginning of the race, not being able to unclip really threw me off my game.  In truth, the inability to unclip made me ride through, over, and up many features that usually scare me, but I was so tentative, and I know I could have given more.

The last 15k was the pure, sweet, singletrack that makes Albion Hills such a great destination.  Damn, they know how to cut a trail at Albion, and damn, Sean nailed the course with the perfect mix of single and double track, trail variety, and just plain fun.

Not to mention butter tarts.  The aid station at around 32k had butter tarts.  Mmmmm.  Sweet buttery tart goodness.

It was another quick zip through a maze of Albion trails (apparently in reverse, but like I said, it was all new to me), to the bottom of that jerk, the Green Monster.

I have four words for the Green Monster:  You don’t scare me, you big stupid jerk.  Okay, that wasn’t four words.  And it wasn’t true either.  Like a true bully, the Green Monster had me shaking in–my clipped/unclipped shoes for the entire race–not because of WHAT it was, but what it REPRESENTED.  It wasn’t just big, it was at the end of the race, and it became bigger and bigger by the minute.  By the time I got to it, it was a giant ball of fear.  It was the kids who made fun of my Ozzy Osbourne 3/4 sleeve t-shirt, or my stupid glasses, or my shaggy 70s haircut.

Well, I’m not going to take it any longer you big jerks—I need these glasses to see, and I really like Ozzy Osbourne, and my mom makes me get this damn bowlcut every time we go to the barber.  I mean, um, I’m not going to take it any more because the only way to manage a big hill is to get to the top of it by any means necessary.  So, after fearing the hill for the entire race, and holding back so I’d have something to give when it came, I rode up half of it, and then gave up to walk—with everyone else.

Seriously, Colin, it’s just a hill.

After the climb, the course gave us one more k of sweet Albion trail before the finish, and as I found a final burst of energy on the last switchbacks down to the finish line, I heard the sweet acoustic echo of a folk singer crooning “Bobcaygeon”, one of my favourite songs.  What an awesome way to cap an awesome race.

And Sean even announced my finish.  He didn’t say “Team Colin” because we’re not super cool BFFs yet, but it was a nice touch to announce all of the riders

2:44.  5th place Clydesdale.  1,000m of climbing.

End of Race Report.

Sean Ruppel and Superfly sold themselves waaaaay short.  The race wasn’t just great, it was awesome.  Spectacular course, cool vibe, great music, terrific people, sweet t-shirt (even though it wasn’t Ozzy barking at the moon), and more fun than a 44 year old guy should be allowed to have on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

But here’s the funny thing.  It really was awesome.  And it sort of wasn’t. Everything about the race was awesome, but nothing about my experience was–there wasn’t a life changing epiphany, or profoundly challenging experience, or anything exceptional.  My blogs usually write themselves because I’m always moving forward (as a person, a rider, and a racer), and the content of my post becomes whatever challenge and circumstances brought me to the end of a ride, but this one was different.  Not bad different, and not unawesome different, just different.

It was my 40th race.

The 40th time I strapped a hemlet on my head and threw myself to the universe.

And nothing went boom?

So I had to dig.  But it wasn’t hard to find, because it was a Saturday afternoon and there was a bike race, and I did it.  And for as long as I’m able to pedal my bike, that energy will continue to create the most epic of booms.

Ride.

Sweet photo courtesy of Ted Anderton at Apex Photography.  He always makes me look better than I think I am.