50. Graduation 2.0

Team-Colin.Eager-Beaver.jpgIt was not an auspicious start…

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EB 2.0 Kit.  Yeah, it all fit in my jersey pocket.

I was ready, my body was ready, I had water (unlike the Long Sock Classic), I had a pump (also unlike the LSC), I was on time (unlike EVERY race), I had my kit and my helmet and my gloves, and my everything else.

My legs were ready, my heart was ready, my bike was ready, my seatpost bolt…not so much.

Funny things, seatpost bolts.  They have one job–except when you don’t tighten them.

Yup, Team Colin didn’t tighten his seatpost bolt.

I know what you’re thinking, “You started a race and you didn’t tighten your seatpost bolt?  You’re kidding me, right?”

Nope.

I know what else you’re thinking, “Colin, you’re an idiot”

Ding ding ding ding.  We have a winner.

So, by the time we hit the first bit of deep muck, you know, about 200m into the race, my knees were hitting my ears and I completely stalled.

I looked like a clown riding a tricycle in a hurricane.Team-Colin.Eager-Beaver.jpg

I stopped, unclipped, raised my seat, and tightened the bolt with precisely 5Nm of torque.

Boy, I REALLY raised my seat. MY FEET COULDN’T REACH MY DAMN PEDALS.  I was pedaling like a newborn giraffe walking for the first time.  Aw, c’mon.  The race had barely started and I was already tanking.

I stopped, unclipped, lowered my seat to the notch that indicates the correct height (that I ignored a minute earlier), applied 5Nm of torque, and I was off.

By the way, 5Nm really is an elusive thing for me and I only ever assume I’m applying the correct amount of force…

But I was off and riding.

Until the first rutted and rocky descent.  Near the bottom of the hill, I catapulted over my bars and planted my face in the brush.  Planted?  No, I shoved my face into the bush.  If it was a wrestling match, I would have lost because I was completely pinned by my bike and my own body!  My back hurt, and my ego was hurter.

The wet scrub painted my glasses with droplets of water, bits of grass, pieces of twig, a splash or two of mud, and daub of idiocy.

And I painted the air with a giant blue streak of Team Colin approved, race-ready cuss words.

Later in the day, a friend who also crashed said “When I fell, I thought to myself ‘At least I didn’t go down as hard as that guy at the start’…”.  Um, yeah, that was me.

Like I said, it was not an auspicious start.

But it was a Saturday, there was a race, I had 106.8k to go, I was on a bike, and my back would probably right itself.

The day got better.  Like, a lot better.  Of course it got better.  How could it NOT get better. First, it really couldn’t get much worse.  Also, see preceding paragraph.

To cut to the end of the race, I rode with a new friend, I made a newer friend, and I finished with a lousy time.  However, while my overall FINISH time was bad, my overall RIDING time was awesome.

Oh, and bacon.

Back to the start of the race.  Here’s a cool EB 2.0 video from the folks at The Cycling Gym.

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EB 2.0 Start.  Hey look, it’s Raf in the lower right corner.

I sort of lied.  I wasn’t totally ready for the race.  I couldn’t find my electrolyte tabs in my kit bag, and I didn’t relish 5+ hours of leg cramps, so I reached out to the community to hook me up. The legendary Jack Padega gave me a tub of something for my pre-ride and two starting bottles, my blog/riding/just-plain-pal Steve Shikaze offered me some e-load (which I had to decline because of the astronomical sugar content), and Lapdog emissary Barry Cox offered me his spare tube of “Fizz”. Granted, the tube contained this:

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Thanks Barry.

But his offer was sincere, and he’s always ready to help me.  Plus, he took a minute to fish it out of his bag only minutes before the race started.

At the START line, I met a bunch of friends, which is always cool, and did a line of MTB hugs.

Jenn and Mike arrived with Fatboy Nation.

Raf was there too (on a tank), Scott and Shannon were there, and familiar faces popped up were everywhere.  Take a look at Raf’s Relive video.  Awesome.

My El Bandito friend, Simon, and I decided to start and ride together.  Little did he know that a minute after starting, he’d be waiting for me to tighten my seatpost bolt, loosen my seatpost bolt, and tighten my seatpost bolt again.

Or that he’d be waiting again for me to find my cool (and my pride) after a half gainer over my bars a few minutes after that.

So, to recap…

  • Electrolyte Crisis: Averted
  • Seat Height Debacle:  Corrected
  • Race-swearing Quota:  Met (heartily, and a bunch more for good measure)

At least I wasn’t “that guy who did a face plant…”.  Oh wait, I was.

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Mud.  Awesome.

I almost forgot.  The spill jammed my shifters inwards to a gross angle, and loosened my headset (which I couldn’t fix). So, I had to brake and shift with my hands at an arthritis inducing angle, while I clattered over every bump in terrain.  At least the course was smooth…

The course was anything but smooth.

So, to recap in a slightly more succinct list.

  • Aw dang it.

Whatever the opposite of auspicious is, that’s what the the first 2k of the race was.

And I didn’ t stop smiling for a second.  The course was perfect:  Climby, rough, long, and challenging.  What more could I ask for?  Mishaps happen, and things get forgetted, but a great ride is a great ride.

It wasn’t long before Simon and I were chatting like lifelong buddies, and I was looking forward to a great day on a bike.

At 10k, we hit the first big climb, the Murderhorn, and tried to conquer it, but eventually gave up (totally near the top…) and walked.

That’s when the race (and I) experienced a subtle, but kinda giant shift (see what I did there…because we were on bikes…shifting gears…).  We passed a rider who was limping, and a little trail dirty from a spill. She stubbed her knee (Stubbing a knee isn’t a real thing unless you have fallen off your bike and actually stubbed your knee.  Then it’s a real thing and it really hurts).  I asked if she was okay, and checked to see if she needed anything.  She seemed a bit rattled (yeah, I knew that feeling…), so Simon and I walked with her for a while.  She wondered whether she was injured or just hurt.  She was walking, so I figured she was just hurt.  I’m not a doctor, but I’m a dad, and my Injury Sense is acute.  By the way, when my son broke his arm two years ago, we didn’t realize immediately and he went to two birthday parties the next day (one of which was his birthday at the Indoor Bike Park, Joyride 150).  We didn’t take him to the emergency until the next next day, so my Injury Sense is actually non existent, but our hurt friend didn’t have to know that, and I encouraged her to ride.  She was signed up for the 100k, but contemplating bowing down to the 50k.  I may not be a good doctor (or an actual doctor–whatever, shades of grey) and I didn’t know if her knee had other plans, but I knew this:  You NEVER fail when you try.  So at the next aid station I encouraged her to keep going.

“We’ll ride with you for a bit, if you like”

Here’s where the subtle change really shifted (shifting–I did it again–oh, never mind…). The thing about Team Colin is that it’s not just me.  I’ve always said Team Colin is the people who support and nurture me, but it’s actually more than that.  Much much more.

Before I continue, I have to acknowledge that I am FULLY aware my blog is just a little speck in a huge universe of cycling, and it’s really not at all important, but it’s important to me (and I’m learning that it’s important to a (very) few other people too).  Team Colin is about the vibe, and it’s awesome.  No kidding, at every race, whenever I talk bikes, and each time I go to my bike shop, I am surprised by the people who talk about Team Colin. Some of them are riding titans, some of them aren’t, but they’re awesomely boss, and they get IT.  They get ME.

And that positive vibe is as much a part of me as it is a reflection of me.  As the VOICE matures and evolves, I understand more about who and what I want to be in cycling.

It’s the Team Colin VOICE.  I know it sounds hokey, but I’m okay with hokey.  I’m a dad and I also love Dad jokes!

The Team Colin VOICE is positive, fun, and always full of awesomeness.

Team Colin is part of a giant, loving, community.

Team Colin NEVER passes a rider who could use a helping hand or word of encouragement.

A race is a race, and we all know (sort of) what we’re signing up for, but dropping a rider isn’t my thing, and it’s not Team Colin’s thing either.

Simon and I didn’t help a hurt rider (Pretty sure she was only hurt.  Yep, pretty sure…), we just rode with someone who needed an extra set of wheels for a minute, in order to see the end of a race.  It wasn’t even a conscious decision.

We hit the 26k aid station and gorged ourselves with bacon (or was that just me doing all the gorging), and then we rode a bit more.  We hit the 44k aid station, stopped to catch our breath, and then rode a bit more. We talked and rode.

A 100k race isn’t tough for the entire time, but the last 20k or so can really wear on you, so at the 50k point, when I knew the race was about to get looooong, we made the decision to stick together.

And so, the three of us rode together for a while, and combined, for a few hours, we were the Team Colin pack.  Simon, me, and Jay Quallen.

We fell into a comfortable pattern of chatting, silence, and chatting (and peeing–uncharacteristically, the EB 2.0 was a three pee race for me–boy, I really conquered that electrolyte situation…).  Simon is seriously interesting, and has a story for everything, I like to ride in the lead, and Jay Quallen’s knee stub was a becoming a distant memory.

 

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Team Colin for a day!  I’ve got two things to say about this picture.  First, how did Simon’s shoes stay so clean.  Second, Jacqueline looked way taller on a bike.

We fell into a comfortable pattern of chatting, silence, and chatting (and peeing–uncharacteristically, the EB 2.0 was a three pee race for me–boy, I really conquered that electrolyte situation…).  Simon is seriously interesting, and has a story for everything, I like to ride in the lead, and Jay Quallen’s knee stub was a becoming a distant memory.

It turns out Jay Quallen is an actual celebrity.  Well, if you dig Canadian Business news. Jay is CBC News Journalist, Jacqueline Hansen. Sorry to out you, Jay Quallen (and thank you Kay & Peele for helping me pronounce your name correctly), but it was kinda cool riding with a TV lady. Plus, you’re really interesting (and way smart).

And even though my early bike gymnastics had torqued my back to a billion Nm, and I had a bruised thigh and sore ankle, my Injury Sense told me to just ride.  I willed the pain to take a rain cheque, and it did.  I’ve been saying “Ouchie” for the last two days but it only hurts when I move or remain still.

That race tho…The Eager Beaver 2.0

Last year, I rode almost the entire race alone, and found a bit of zen somewhere in the middle, when the heavens were crashing down, the beginning was as far as the end, and my body and bike melded together. It was life changing.  This year, the Eager Beaver 2.0, while exactly the same course as last year (with a bit of rain too) lived up to it’s 2.0 indicator.  The race was the same, but different, and so was I.  The race wasn’t epic on a grand scale, and I didn’t GRADUATE (to my first 100k, like I did last year), but it was epic to a smaller degree and I graduated to something else. I graduated to a realization that Team Colin is a reflection of, and contributor to, a vast and awesome cycling vibe.

And I gotta say, I really dig it.

Yeah, I know, hokey.

My finish time was just over 6 hours–an hour longer than I anticipated, and I know I could have easily achieved–but it was 6 hours on a bike, and it was 6 hours of awesome.

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Simon and me crossing the finish line a second time for a buddy pic.

Sometimes the BOOM is epic, and sometimes it’s tiny.

The Eager Beaver 2.0:  boom

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Epic photobomb by Stacy of Substance Projects.  She’s awesome.

And I even learned a bit about bike diving.

Thanks to Dan Marshall and Substance Projects, the army of volunteers and staff, the bevy of awesome sponsors, and Team Van Go.

Ride.

 

 

PS.  Can I talk about the 26k Aid Station for a second.  First, bacon.  That should be enough, but there’s more.  It was staffed by Johnny and Emily from Team Van Go.  I love these people.  They are the epitome of riding cool, and awesomeness, and community, and bigger awesomeness.  Aside from just being so nice, they’re epically nice.  Also, Johnny actually has a “bacon pose”.  Yeah, a bacon pose.

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Damn, Johnny is cool.

I don’t have a bacon pose.  I WISH I had a bacon pose.  The fact I don’t have a bacon pose is a testament to the failure of the 1970’s education system.  We had time to do the Health Hustle, but not to foster bacon poses…

And bacon.  I ate a LOT of bacon.  I seared my aesophogus becasue I get a bit impatient when some of it was still sizzling in the pan, but it was totally worth it and I’ll be able to talk again soon.

Thanks Team Van Go!  Please keep being you.

By the way, I don’t want to write looooong blogs (this one is 2,500 words+), but they keep happening.  Thanks for reading this far.  As always, if you have something to say about this race, my blog, or riding in general, comment in the margin, or send an email to: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com.   Comments on the blog are public, email is private.

 

All photos courtesy of Norma MacLellan, Simon Bourassa, me, and someone using Jacqueline’s phone.

 

49. DO the Eager Beaver

It’s coming.

It’s almost here.

The Eager Beaver 2.0:  Substance Projects answer to “What’s the Epicest Bike Race Ever?”.

Yup.  Two sleeps until gravel riders, MTB shredders, CX killers, and hardcore roadies from around the province, Quebec, and the States, descend on Nordic Highlands ski hill in Duntroon Ontario, for what I can only say is one of the toughest, most rewarding races of the season–and I don’t even do the full race.

The Eager Beaver is a big, boss, giant, killer bike race.

And the best part is…wait for it…

I.

Am.

Ready.

No more cold-mageddon to deal with.  That ship sailed about a week after the El Bandito.

Lots and lots of riding in the past few weeks.  (the El Bandito 70k, 6 longish gravel rides and 2 big mountain hikes in Quebec–blog to follow soon–all of the Hydrocut–also, blog to follow soon–two neighbourhood 25k rips, and even a King Race Series Tuesday night race).  All told, 13 decent rides in 22 days.  Yeah, Boom.

And for the first time in my riding career, I am not totally out of my wits with fear before the race.  Yeah.  After taming the Beaver last year (totally not as dirty as it sounds,, and a pretty epic season so far (maybe not epic for you, but epic for me), I’ve now got 7 pretty big races under my belt, and I feel good about mounting the Beaver this year (again, not as dirty as it sounds).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m scared as heck, worried like crazy, and tentative to the nth degree, but in a healthy way, not the usual nail-biting, pant-pooping, up-at-night-sobbing-in-the-fetal-position, sort of way.  It feels kind of boss.  2/3rd place, here I come!

Yes, I’ve started measuring my place by fractions.  I’m usually between half place and 2/3rd place.  It sounds way better than 60th place.  It gets a bit confusing when I tell someone I was 13/19ths place, but whatever.

The race is going to be awesome.  I can’t wait for it, and you should come to the race too. Here’s why:

10 Reasons Why YOU Should Do the Eager Beaver 2.0

  1. You never regret a race you did, only the race you didn’t.
  2. It’s a Dan’s Race.  ‘Nuff said.
  3. If you have a bike, it’s the right bike.  Period.
  4. Where else in the province can you take a stab at a 160k gravel grinder that has up to 2,000m of climbing, 80% gravel roads, killer “Iron Cross” sections, and 5 aid stations?
  5. Choice.  50k, 100k, or 160k.  If there’s something I can now say with absolute surety, ANYBODY can do 50k.  For inexperienced riders, it may not be easy, it might take a long time (and you might even be last place), but you CAN do it.  For additional information, see point #1.  Look at my pictures.  If I can do these races, who can’t?
  6. Playing bikes with a few hundred bike minded people for the afternoon.  So cool.
  7. Mother Nature is playing too.  We’re in for some booming and crackling on Friday, and a bit of rain (or maybe lots) starting Friday afternoon.  Who wants to ride in hot, dry weather when you can ride in EPIC weather.
  8. Free commemorative, special edition, Eager Beaver glass!  On a side note, I was talking to Steve Shikaze this week.  His glass from last year is his favourite glass ever.  Well, it was until he broke it.  True story.  Actually, I think his wife broke it.  Sorry to open an old wound, bud.  Wait, I hope Dan has glasses this year.  I should probably fact-check this before publishing…
  9. Sponsors:  Salsa Bikes and Cycle Solutions are sponsoring the race, along with Pearl Izumi and a bunch of other great bikey companies.  Read: wicked door prizes.
  10. The Eager Beaver 2.0 is Team Colin approved.  This is the last point because it’s the most ridiculous one because Team Colin is a fair rider (at best) and doesn’t have the experience or credibility to actually endorse a race, but if it works for you, cool. Honestly, the only reason I ride, race, and write about riding and racing, is because I love it so much and just want to share the groovy bike love vibe.

Back to the bike choice thing.  Really, the StuporCross Series is an epic BIKE race series, and while Dan promotes the race like a gravel grinder, a CX, gravel, MTB, or fatbike is suitable. Okay, a road bike might be a bad choice, but any other bike is cool.  By the way, for anyone who did the El Bandito, the Eager Beaver is sort of, but not really, similar.  I’ll be on my Norco Threshold.  It’s super sweet!

So that’s it.  It’s going to be awesome, and I can’t wait for Saturday so I can take another shot at the…well, you know.

See you Saturday!

Ride.

48. El Bandito 70/140

El-Bandito-Team-Colin.jpegAnd so, a legend was born…

Saturday’s El Bandito (the first race in the Substance Projects Stoporcross) was a spectacularly epic, mind numbingly gruelling, big boss, bike race. If you were in Southern Ontario just after 9AM, you must have felt it when the earth moved in the collective BOOM of 161 riders starting what I hope will become a Southern Ontario racing legend.

What, you weren’t there?  Such a shame.  You didn’t just miss a Dan’s Race (yeah, that’s thing), you missed the birth of a legend.

The El Bandito was everything a legendary bike race should be: tough and challenging, scenic and gorgeous, communal and welcoming, tough and challenging, fun, and really really really hard.  Substance Projects promised a bike race, and they delivered.  It wasn’t gravel, or MTB, or CX, or road. It was each of them combined into a sweet Dan Marshall blender of legendary epicness. At the core of the race, it was a gravel grinder to beat all–except there wasn’t really any gravel.

However, in another sense, it was a MTB race–except there was no singletrack, even though we hit a whole bunch of doubletrack in Ganaraska Forest, which was almost tougher than the singletrack.

However, in another-other sense, it was a road race–except most of the asphalt was patchy and tougher than gravel.

And in another-other-nother sense, it was a deep-sand/tall-grass festival of wheel-sucking slog.

There was even a last minute addition of a hike-an-asphalt-chunk section that was wickedly nasty.

Wait, I really want to talk about the rip through Ganaraska Forest.  It was too long to call a section, and every inch of it was a spectacular grind.  Each time we passed a connection to singletrack trail my heart felt a little tug, but don’t think for a second that the doubletrack wasn’t just as much nasty fun.  Honestly, I think the Ganny has some of the nastiest (read: awesomest) and gnarliest (read: really really awesomest) doubletrack around.  Ruts, rocks, roots, and hills made it every bit as challenging as the singletrack. In fact, because we were either grinding up, or white-knuckling down, trying to find the most managable line through the deep rutted track was impossible.  I should retire my wheelset after 10k of what I think is best described as “Aw, c’mon Dan, really?” terrain.  It was so tough, and so very fun.

The El Bandito was heavy on sections–Dan’s answer to Iron Cross–which were grossly awesome, sometimes hikable, wickedly hard, patches of surface, that riders somehow either rode over, walked along, or scrambled through–and they were always UP UP UP. One of the great things about the race was that the sections didn’t start until about 45k. There was a quick shot of sand at about 20k, but other than that it was pretty much 45k of easy rolling and then BAM! (not boom), Dan sucker punched us right in the spandex.

Easy rolling?  Yeah, no.  There was no easy rolling.  The Northumberland Hills are really really really, super extra hilly.  Beautiful from a car, gross on a bike.  The parking lot at Brimacombe was the flattest part of the day.  We were either chugging up a loooooooong and steep climb, or tucking in for a blistering descent.  Blistering indeed.

I just want to say it again.  I LOVED THE RACE.

Here’s my Facebook post from immediately after I finished:

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Mr. Dan Marshall. Love ’em.

This guy. This guy right here organized the perfect race. El Bandito was pure magic. From the first hike over Mount Chunky Asphalt, to the epic string of road, gravel, and everything in between, the race was an absolute beauty. Dan Marshall, I’ve always loved you, but I think I love you just a bit more after today. Thanks for making my cold worse, my Saturday better, and my legs sing. Awesome.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating.  The El Bandito was pure magic.  It was like Paris to Ancaster–but with hills (and no crowds).  The race was doable on pretty much any bike (except a road bike), and the terrain made it that much more interesting, but the real beauty was that it was so challenging yet doable, and I think that’s what will make the race weather the test of time.  Like P2A, pretty much any rider could suffer through it, and the sense of accomplishment at the end was staggering.  With 1,400m of climbing, and the relentless barrage of climbs and nasty bits, the race was far from easy (like, really really far), and the tough stuff was just Dan’s tacit reminder that we signed up for it.  Dan’s hint for finishing a tough race:  “Just keep pedaling” (D. Marshall.  Every time I ask him how he finishes a big race).

Oh, and the scenery.  The Northumberland Hills are almost too pretty.  Since the course summited pretty much every big road climb around Brimacombe, we were rewarded with some beautiful sights.

Oh, and Brimacombe.  Wow.  What an awesome facility for a bike race.  Great chalet, huge parking lot, giant BBQ, a balcony to watch all the action, and a terrific fit for a Dan’s Race.

Race Report:  El Bandito 70.  Brimacombe Ski Hill: June 22, 2017

My bike for the day was my dreamy Norco Threshold SL.

Honestly, Barry Cox already did the FULL course some awesome justice in a Facebook post, so I’ll post it at the the of this blog, but I want to report on something unique for me in a race.  It’s so unique that it’s the first time it’s happened in over 40 big races.  I RACED WITH A PACK!!!  Yeah, Team Colin raced with a pack. I’ve never been able to manage racing with a pack.  I’m either too fast or too slow (usually too slow, I’m just sayin’) but within about 7k of the start, I was riding with 3 other racers and after jockeying back and forth a bit, we started chatting and stuck together for the remaining 62k.

It was terrific.

For most of the race, I think our pace was faster than it would have been if we were alone, but for the last 20k, we were chatting and just talking, and I think our pace may have dropped a bit (although I don’ t think by much).

A few observations about my pack:

  • El-Bandito-Team-Colin.jpeg
    My Avg. Speed wasn’t as low as this.  I didn’t stop my GPS until 20 minutes after the race.

    Brent has an absolutely fearsome tuck.  Like, fearsome.  I maxed out at 76.58 km/h (yeah, on a CX bike with 33mm knobby tires), but he passed me.  He didn’t pass me, he smoked me.  Awesome technique.

  • Simon is awesome.  Dude loves to talk, and it’s all interesting.  Can’t wait to see you at the Eager Beaver, and I’m definitely taking you up on your offer of a sweet rip at Goodrich Loomis.
  • Stewart was worried for nothing.  Seriously Stewart, I don’t know if you’ll be one of the 20 people who read this (hi mom) but you rocked it.  I’m still not sure if we dropped you (unintentionally) or if you dropped us, but we broke up somehow around the 45k mark, and couldn’t see you.  We thought you were ahead of us.  Stewart admitted that he felt a bit overwhelmed at the beginning of the race when he saw all of the hardcore riders (and there were some seriously heavy hardcore racers), but races like this draw pros and first timers, and Stewart was closer to pro than newb.  I’m still waiting for that picture Stewart…

By the way, Stewart wasn’t on a 23 pound carbon CX dream.  He was on a commuter bike, and even rode with the back rack.  Dude was awesome.

El-Bandito-Team-Colin.jpegThe race was nasty and hard and so much fun.  Honestly, I don’t know how Dan strung together such an awesome array of terrain and challenges.  At every corner, and at every peak, we hit something new and wickedly cool.

And the best part?  Brent, Simon, and I crossed the finish line handlebar to handlebar to handlebar.  Great riding with you guys.

End of Race Report.

I placed at the top of the bottom third of riders, but given my cold, the preceding three week nap, and the whole snot factor, I’m okay with my results.

These folks were pretty epic though.

 

 

You know, I can’t believe I almost didn’t make it to the race.  I’ve been nursing the worst cold humankind has ever experienced (totally not exaggerating) for the last three weeks, and didn’t register until 9:05 on Friday night.  In fact, at 8:59 on Friday night, I wasn’t even contemplating it.  Looking back, my logic was sound for deciding to do the race.  I felt lousy, so I figured I’d rather feel lousy and on a bike, than feel lousy and be in bed.

I wasn’t wrong.

Was it easy racing with a cold?  No, not at all.

Did I give myself a hernia during a fit of hacking while stooped over my bars? Very likely?

Did I lose 10 pounds of snot during the race?  Definitely.

Was it worth it?  Ab.  Sew.  Lootely.

On a side note, my apologies to anyone riding within 3k of me on Saturday.  I cough loud, I hork loud, and well, I’m just sorry.

So that’s it, my cold is still hacking at my lungs and dripping out of my nose, I still get the occassional flu sweat, and my lower intestine may be strangulating itself inside my testicles, but there was a race on Saturday, and I did it.  Because, after all, nothing bad ever happens to Team Colin on a bike.  Boom.

By the way, if you didn’t make it on Saturday, don’t worry, I have a feeling the El Bandito will be back next year, although if I have another cold-mageddon, maybe I won’t.  Yeah, who am I kidding…

Ride.

 

PS.  I cannot end without a huge shout out, a giant high five, and a big sweaty post race hug for the Substance Projects crew.  Aside from the paid staff (and the staff from whose loins Dan didn’t fall), they are awesome. I’m so happy my friend Nadia joined my other (now) friend Lorraine at the BBQ, and the other familiar faces at the aid stations and START/FINISH were just amazing. I’m a little more than bummed that I didn’t get to see Florence and Liz Grootenboer, but that’s because Florence was trapped in the bushes for the day, and Liz was riding across the country to raise money for charity. Dan Marshall, Substance Projects, and the rest make the sport richer and we’re all lucky to have their dedication and support.  Big giant BOOM for Substance projects.

 

 

And here, as promised (and in its entirety), is the other Race Report, courtesy of legendary Lapdog, Barry Cox:

Race Report:  El Bandito 140.  Brimacombe Ski Hill: June 22, 2017 (by Barry Cox)

I was so apprehensive about this race. The pre-ride a week and a half ago was really, really tough. I suffered hard. I hated it. I wanted it to be over. I doubted my ability to even finish the race. I assumed I would be DFL.

Turns out the pre-ride was the best thing I could possibly have done. I took the last week and a half to eliminate many of the problems I had on the ride. I planned. I came up with a nutrition plan, used drop bags at the aid stations, and executed it. I removed the 120mm 17deg negative rise stem which came on my bike and replaced it with something more comfortable. I put gel inner-soles in my shoes to cut down on foot pain and shoe discomfort. Basically, I figured out what the problems were likely to be and tried to eliminate them.

I lined up towards the front of the start line but didn’t sprint hard off the start. I walked the bike down the first descent, upon which someone had dumped a bunch of jagged asphalt two days ago, rather than risk a flat or a crash.  Others didn’t and their day was over quickly.

The first 20 km of the race was mostly road. I found that I couldn’t put down the power in the climbs. My legs felt heavy. I compensated by trying to work with other riders on the flats, and getting as aero as possible on the descents. It almost worked, but I got passed a lot.

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Barry Cox.  Post race.  Alive.

20km in we hit the first sandy section. I was in a group and it took one of the riders in front off-guard. He went down hard, knocked himself out and from the look of it broke his collarbone. I stayed at the scene for about 5 minutes to make sure that help was on the way (I had the medical number on my phone) but after that there was nothing I could do to help – someone else who appeared to have first aid training was taking charge, so I decided to keep riding.

The first 45km was mostly pavement. I just was not going as fast as I would have liked and got passed by a bunch of riders. It could have been because I was using 700 x 40c tires with a lower pressure. But when I hit the first stretch of ATV trail (and and dirt) I was loving the tires and picked a number of other riders off.

I kept pushing and picked up a bunch of positions. I saw a lot of skinny-tired riders struggling in the sand and at about 55km got out on the road again. Then there was more sand and I was able to plough through by keeping my weight back, letting the bike find its own path and keeping a steady cadence.

The middle section of the ride was like that…make up ground on the ATV trails and lose a couple of spots on the dirt. By about 80km in I started feeling really strong and pushed a little harder. Just in time for a 5-6km grind of road climb.

I kept it up and around 100km hit what I knew to be a long sandy section followed by about 12km through Ganaraska Forest. On the pre-ride, this felt like it was never going to end, but on race day I felt great, kept pushing and made up 5 or 6 more spots.

Out onto the road at about 115km. At this point I did not have much left. My back was in knots. I hit a steep climb and had to walk the bike up. This slowed me down and bit but I think the time off the bike caused the knot in my back to loosen up. Back on the bike for the last 10k. There were some steep climbs and I went to a very dark place getting through them. Across the finish line and home. Was good for 34th place. Not sure how many riders there were, but I am guessing 60-70, so mid-pack I think. Not my strongest race, but I did better than I expected and had an epic, if challenging day in the saddle

What went right:

  1. Riding in sand. I made up so much time and passed a lot of riders by keeping it rolling in the sand
  2. Bike setup – 700x 40c tires were the way to go. And the shorter less slammed stem was awesome. Less foot pain (although I kicked in towards the end).
  3. Nutrition. I say down a couple of days before, figured out how many calories and how much in electrolyte bottles I would need, made some drop bags and stuck to my plan. A number or others bonked. I didn’t

What went wrong:

  1. Climbing. I felt overgeared with a 42t chainring and a 12-36 cassette. I think it hurt me having to bring the steep stuff rather than spin. Solution: I have ordered a 38t oval chainring which should help
  2. The road sections/putting down the power. My legs felt heavy. I didn’t fee recovered despite a lot of sleep and sticking to the plan this week. Maybe the CP3/20 should have been tuesday not wednesday?

Anyway, it was a good ride, with a respectable result against a very competitive field. I’ll take it.

End of Race Report (courtesy of Barry Cox).

This is the second time I used a guest voice in my blog, and I kind of dig it.  It happened to be Barry both times because they were both about the El Bandito, and he’s done the course twice, but I’m hatching a plan to include others in the future, and I’ve already talked to a few boss people.  I hope it works.

As always, if you have something to say about the race, riding, or BIKES, comment on the blog, or send a message to: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

45. Humbler TC: 17

It Was the Best of Times, it Was the Bester of Times.

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74k later and still smiling (photo courtesy of Dan Emsley)

Northumberland Forest.  Coburg, Ontario:  The 2017 Substance Projects Northumberland Humbler.

74 kilometres.

That’s the same as driving from the CN Tower to Barrie.  Well, 20k south of Barrie. 74,000 metres of singletrack, double track, old trails, new trails, fire road, access road, this side of the road, that side of the road, back to this side of the road again…  We even did a few sliart. That’s trails spelled backward.  You know, because we rode some of the trails in reverse.

1,400m of climbing.

That’s as tall as, well something really tall.

It was my favourite race EVER.

Let me say it again.  The Northumberland Humbler was, by far, my favourite race ever.

WHATTARACE!!!

Here’s why:

  • I actually started, raced, and finished my longest MTB race ever.  74k of BOOM.
  • It capped a two month spree of epic race awesomeness.  7 big races in 9 weekends, plus 5 weekly series races.  BOOM times 7, plus 5, divided by 9.
  • Northumberland Forest is one of my favourite places to ride–AND we got to try a new trail AND, a whole bunch of it was backwards.  MOOB (same joke as above)
  • I nailed a spot on the podium:  3rd place Clydesdale (and so what if there were only three Clydesdales and I was actually 2nd last place overall).  A podium finish is a podium finish.  One third of a BOOM.
  • I got to see my favourite biking sub-community:  the folks at Substance Projects.  A big Dan Marshall BOOM.
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    Jeff Shikaze, Team Colin, and Hair (photo courtesy of Jeff Shikaze)

    And, after almost five hours of sweating in a helmet, there isn’t a single hair out of place. Thanks to my race photographer and Fatbike God, Jeff Shikaze for the shot, and thanks to great hair product. L’Oreal BOOM.

  • Honestly, if you peel everything away (the challenge, the exhaustion, the poison ivy all over my legs…) the Humbler was just a big boss, 4 hour and 48 minute long, rip (although it was considerably less time for the rest of the riders…).  Bike playing BOOM.

I’m not saying it was easy, because it wasn’t, but honestly, it wasn’t that tough either.  I started strong and with a smile on my face, I was still grinning at the halfway point, and I finished strong, with a bigger smile on my face.  This race is a very stark contrast to the desolation and hopelessness (yes, actual desolation) I felt for the ENTIRE Long Sock Classic. Very stark indeed.  While the LSC was my toughest race ever, the Humbler was the funnestest.

You might think funnestest isn’t a word, but if you raced the Humbler, you would know exactly what I’m talking about.

I still can’t believe we did it.  I still can’t believe Team Colin rode a full marathon distance, on a single speed, and it didn’t kill us.  Didn’t kill us?  Pfft.  Actually, I felt almost good at the end of the race.

The Humbler marked the end of a nine weekend racing spree that covered a good chunk of Ontario’s finest bike trails, a bunch of different riding disciplines, and almost 450k of race-pace, white-knuckle, maximum heart rate, riding…

Wait, what’s this about 9 weekend epic racing spree?

Well, from April 9th to June 3rd I raced almost every MTB race within 2 hours of my house.  Here’s my Facebook post from the day after the Humbler:

8 weeks
9 weekends
7 big races
5 weekly series races
3 shots on the podium
Over 7,000m of climbing (um, that’s almost Mt. Everest)
Just under 450k of racing (and almost half of it on a single speed)

Yup.

  1. Steaming Nostril (April 9);
  2. Homage to Ice (April 15);
  3. Paris to Ancaster (April 30);
  4. O Cup #2 in Kingston (May 7);
  5. Long Sock Classic (May 20);
  6. Singletrack Classic (May 27);
  7. Northumberland Humbler (June 3).

Oh, and five King Weekly Series races.

And yes, I know Team Colin really isn’t that good of a rider, and I know there are so many riders who are way more epically awesome than me (they ride longer, faster, harder, and better, and their results are way better than mine–like waaaaaaaaay better), and because of that, there’s usually no shortage of self deprecation on my blog.

But not today.

Nope.  Because Team Colin is now sort-of-in-a-periphery-way-kinda-almost-maybe-close-to-being in the same league as the big kid MTBers.

Not really, but almost sort of.  Um, why do I keep referring to myself Team Colin?

And even though I’m not the traditional (okay, actual) definition of epic MTB awesomeness, I always place first because I’m not racing THEM, I’m racing ME.  Although saying that, I also know that if I’m the “only person in the race”, I also place last, but that’s not the point I’m making right now.  Right now, I feel good about my riding, and I want to hold onto it for a while longer.  Besides, if you’ve ever seen my results, you know there’s plenty of opportunity for me to feel crappy about my riding.

You know, I feel better than just good.  For the first time in my racing career, I feel kinda badass.  No, I feel wickedly badass. As I wrote in blog #38, this season, I stopped QUALIFYING each race, and I started OWNING each race: The full P2A, the full Singletrack Classic, and three marathons (on a single speed)!  So cool.

By the way, I didn’t start racing the marathon distances because I COULD, I started racing the marathon distances because I wanted to see if I could.  The rationale and mindset leading to that decision is for another blog post, because now it’s time for a Race Report.

Race Report.  Northumberland Humbler:  Northumberland Forest (June 3, 2017)

The race started with the Humbler’s standard quick blast out of the start, and a rip up a moderate double track climb.  There was a short rider snag at the first bit of sand, but then we were up the hill, and immediately into the sweet singletrack goodness that makes Northumberland my favourite place to ride:  long stretches of fast and flowy singletrack, awesomely railed berms, and sweet MTB awesomeness at every tree, root, rock, and stalk of poison.  For anyone familiar with the trails, we took the Hogsback bypass, which winds, in the gruntiest way, around the actual Hogsback. The bypass skirts a giant climb, but that doesn’t mean it’s gentle.  It’s almost 2k of continual output, which took us to the 5k mark.  Once at the top of that climb, I knew we didn’t have a significant climb for a long time.  The next 15k was a blur of more awesomely flowing singletrack, speedy climbs, and long descents (that always seemed to end in a 90 degree turn).  At the first aid station, I took a minute to recover with Liz, who was being assisted by Dan Elmsly, and then we we crossed the street for a quick zip alongside a pioneer stone wall (the fun new part).

At approximately 20k (across the road from the parking lot) the race transported us to Ganaraska Forest for a long haul.  Yeah, the Northumberland Forest actually becomes the Ganny for a while.  No it doesn’t, but it sure feels like it.  On that side of the road, the trails morph from the fun Northumberland vibe to the raw Ganaraska vibe.  While the trails leading into Stonewall (the fun new part) were awesome, the trails leading away from Stonewall (the fun new part) are a mean, raw and grunty mesh of tight and twisty, rocky and rooty trail that’s better suited for its intended use as motocross track instead of a mountain bike race.  It wasn’t a walk in the park, but that’s okay, because I wasn’t walking, and I had my bike.  By the time we were back on “this side” of the road, we were spent.

Fortunately, there were a few FAST stretches of trail that led to a faster switchback climb, and down to the START/FINISH line.

I hit the START/FINISH for a quick recovery before heading out onto the trails for a repeat.

Even though I felt strong, the first part of the second lap was the hardest.  I knew what lay ahead, and I knew it was still 35k until I could stop pedalling, and I knew the pain had to kick in eventually.

However, surprisingly, the pain didn’t really kick in.  On the other side of the road, just after Stonewall (the fun new part) at the 65k mark, the race became a slog, but I knew it was only 10k of lousy-ness, so I counted the metres until it ended.

And it did.  I hit the aid station for a get-off-a-bike-stretch-and-drink, before the last 5k, and a few minutes later, I finished my longest MTB race.

Smiling.  Grinning.  I was even ready to do another lap.  I’m kidding.  I was sore and tired, and I think I would have had a temper tantrum if I had to get back on my bike, but I’m not kidding about my smile.  It was an ear to ear, open mouthed, sweaty and spent, dirt-caked and trail-grimy, poop eating grin.  True story:  On the drive home, I was smiling so much that I felt like my cheeks were actually going to cramp.

End of Race Report.

So that’s it.  I rode hard, I felt strong, and I did it.

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Enter a caption

These marathon distances are tough, but after three of them in four weeks, I feel like they’re now well within my realm of possibility.  I’m not good at them, but I can still finish.

I should rephrase that.  I’m not good at them YET.

It was an awesome day from start to finish–and I even won a set of pedals (courtesy of Bateman’s Cycle).

After the race, when the podium was finished, and most racers left, Team Colin relaxed for a post race chat/popsicle with my pal Raf (from Fatboy Nation), and the Emsleys (from Awesometon–totally a real place).  Dan Emsley gave me a bear roast to cook when I got home.  Yes, an actual bear roast.  That night, I roasted it, and Team Colin sampled Haliburton’s best.

Seriously though, what’s with me always referring to myself in the third person?

With all the fresh bear meat in my belly, I felt like I was Nick Emsley, and without even knowing it, I roared “I AM TEAM COLIN”.  It was kind of primal.  Maybe it was the fresh bear.  Maybe not.  Either way, I immediately thought “Were the heck did that come from, and what’s with this third person thing?”

And then it dawned on me.  I. AM. TEAM. COLIN.  Say that like Jean Luc Picard telling Gul Madred “There.  Are.  Four.  Lights.”  It sounds way more boss.  It’s not the epic bike racing spree, or the bike love, or the positivity, or anything else that makes me Team Colin.  It’s not even the hats (although they are pretty sweet).  It’s a feeling deep down in my belly–a primal fire in my belly–that makes me who I am, and I am totally digging it.

There are four lights, and I am Team Colin.

Ride

 

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Now THAT’S a big podium… (photo courtesy of Jenn Kennedy/Mike Orsan)

Post race update.  During the race, one of the lead riders was hurt.  Three of the leaders, Nick Emsley, Rick Landry, and Seth Stewart, stopped to help.  The three of them are awesome.  I can only imagine how tough it was for the three of them to step out of race mode to help a fellow rider–and Nick Emsley is 18 years old.  These racers demonstrated a remarkable level of fellowship.  I don’t know Jeff and Seth, but Nick sure made me proud to know him and his family.  Nice work Nick.  You’re an example for the rest of us.

To Jeff, Seth, and Nick, the three of you are the undisputed Humbler winners.

If you have something to say about the race, or anything else, comment on this blog, or send an email to: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

 

 

 

43. Long Sock Classic

It Was the WORST of Times.  It Was The BEST of Times

Ganaraska Forest.

The Substance Projects Long Sock Classic.

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Long Socks! (I look like a tap dancer)
  • 70k of Ontario’s finest single track.
  • 1,600m of relentless, punishing, climbs.
  • Rocks and roots.  Trees and sand.  Grit and grime.
  • One boss Cannondale Trail SL single speed.
  • And lots and lots of teeny tiny poison ivy sprouts.

Over five hours of rolling time.

It was race #2 in the Substance Projects XCM.

Was it fun?  Nope.

Was it easy?  Heck no.

Was it worth it?  You bet.

Was it awesome, and memorable, and totally boss?  You bet…TIMES A BILLION.

Okay, so maybe it didn’t feel that way during the race…or immediately after the race…or the next morning, when my knees were fireballs of stiffness, when my lower back was a lava pit of torment, when my legs were wobbly stumps of ache, and when my new body part (now known as my SHOULDERNECK) was a lump of knotted agony.

But some time the next day (as soon as I could walk upright, and as soon as I had the strength to move all body parts independently and not look like a zombie when I wanted to see something to my left or right) it was totally worth it…and utterly awesome…and absolutely boss.

But mostly, the 2017 Long Sock Classic was a reminder of how awesome this MTB thing really is.  If the Kingston O Cup was a reminder of our mud roots, the LSC was a giant wake-up call that this awesome MTB thing can also be really tough sometimes.

Prior to the race, I was worried about the distance.  I’d never attempted 70k on a mountain bike and the magnitude of the undertaking wasn’t lost on me.  By the way, I never even contemplated racing long distances until earlier this year when, on a whim, I decided it was time to race the big kid distance of P2A.  After registering for the full P2A, I figured “What the heck, might as well register for the long course in the XCM as well.

However, the 70k at P2A a few weeks ago was mostly smooth surfaces, with little climbing, on a gravel bike.  Even the 50k of the H2i didn’t compare.  And 70k at the Ganny–a trail system renowned for nasty climbs and horrible awesomeness–was another thing altogether.

And because, well, I still don’t know why, I decided to register on my single speed.  “Sure” I thought “Sounds about right.  I’ll just ride further than I’ve ever ridden, without gears…”.

What was I thinking?  I don’t know.  I honestly and truly don’t know.  I’d like to say I was being intentionally hardcore (grrrr) but I wasn’t (and I’m not).  I’d like to say it was puffed-up confidence, but it really wasn’t.  I’d like to say it was “for the challenge” but honestly, when I registered I had no idea what I was getting into.  I think maybe it was just because I thought “Hey, it’d be cool to do it on my single speed” when I was registering.  I should really work on my self regulation.

In any case, I was high on hopes, and (felt) up to the challenge.  It was my 5th race in 7 weeks (my 7th race if you count 2 weekly series races), so my legs and lungs were in good spring shape.

Here’s what I wrote on the Team Colin Facebook page the night before:

The Team Colin support vehicle is packed: my helmet is washed; my bike is clean (my chain is literally gleaming); my kit is ready; and I’ve got a bag of electrolyte fizzes and energy chews, a tool kit and pump…  I know the first 45 minutes will be spent with tight muscles and tighter lungs, and I’ll be panting like crazy until I warm up, and I know that I’ll feel strong and fast (for me) from that point until about the 90 minute mark. But then my back will pack up and go home, and I’ll finish my first lap in a goodly amount of pain about 15 minutes later…  I’m not doing this because I like it. I’m doing this because I LOVE it. Each year I dread the “Hill on Top of a Hill”. But not this year. This year, I’m looking forward to it. Bring it on LSC!

Okay, full disclosure.  I may have employed a bit too much bravado when I wrote that.  I was wrong to talk about the Hill on Top of a Hill like that, and I don’t mind saying now I spent a good deal of time apologizing to the “Hill on Top of a Hill” during the race.  Once again, I’m sorry for taunting you, “Hill on Top of a Hill”.  My bad.

Kidding aside (okay, I’m not kidding–I’m sorry Hil, it won’t happen again), the LSC was also a great reminder, via a sucker punch to the gut, that no matter how much you plan, and regardless of how meticulous you are in preparing, nothing beats a last minute checklist to ensure you have your damn water bottles before beginning a 35k lap.  I did not complete the aforementioned checklist until AFTER the race started.  So, I was halfway up the first climb before I realized I was dry.  I can’t believe that I actually contemplated racing without water for a moment.  Fortunately, sanity caught up with me pretty fast, and I turned around for a quick zip back to the start.  With two bottles of water snuggled safely in my bottle cages, I looked at my GPS unit, and saw that I only lost 4 minutes.

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Coming back to the START for my @$&! water bottles.

4 minutes.  No problem.  It’s a long race, I’ll make it up…

Yeah, I can say that now, but on Saturday all I was thinking about was my spot on the podium.  I’m kidding, I wasn’t thinking about my spot on the podium (because there is no podium spot for me).  I was panicked.  It was the beginning of a long race, and I wasn’t thinking.  So I sprinted (well, whatever qualifies for a sprint when you’re Team Colin–to the casual observer it may look like “just riding”, but inside I’m on fire and giving it everything I’ve got) for the first 15 minutes or so.

And here’s the thing about a 15 minute sprint at the beginning of a long race.  It’s stupid. Like, really stupid.

But I booked it anyway.

At least I now had water.  Yay, water…

After burning all of my matches on the fire road after the second START, and then all of my reserve matches just after that on the climb to get to the “Hill on Top of a Hill” , and then my extra reserve matches on the “Hill on Top of a Hill”, I was done for the day.

And I was only about 6k into the race.

I was 6k into a 70k race and I was spent.

And I didn’t have gears.

Aw c’mon.  Really?  I was on my single speed?  What was I thinking?  Oh yeah, I still don’t know.

I’ve always said that I feel every ounce of my weight in the Ganny.  Every turn, climb, and obstacle is a challenge.  Sure there are a few descents, but they’re usually rooty and rocky, and take almost as much concentration and energy as the climbs.  Oh, did I mention my single speed has a rigid aluminium fork?  Yeah, so that’s nice.  Now, to be clear, there are some sections in the Ganny that I can really groove on, but riding in the Ganny is like riding through a giant, heartless, really really really mean, bank.  And the Bank of Ganaraska is one tough lender.  Because whatever joy you take in riding, the BOG (Bank Of Ganaraska) collects interest and a pound of flesh afterward.

And early spring in the Ganny is a special treat.  It’s a bit soft and spongy, and the blanket of last year’s leaves conceal a delightful web of deep ruts, rocks, and other special treasures.  It’s like knocking on the door of the Bank of Ganaraska on Halloween. Instead of a trick (or a treat), the BOG jams a twig into your wheel, punches you in the throat, and steals your bike.

And then it collects an ATM fee

Hey, at least I wasn’t worried about stick wrecking my derailleur–BECAUSE I DIDN’T HAVE ONE.

But I had water.  Yay water…

Okay, so enough complaining about my single speed and the Ganny.  I wasn’t at a tea party, and I was riding the bike I chose.  Besides, what was I expecting, an espresso and a paceline?  Boom. See what I did there?  A little roadie zinger.  Also, there were plenty of riders who smoked through the course way quicker than me.  It likely wasn’t the bike, or the Ganny, or anything else.  It was me.

Race Report.  Long Sock Classic:  Ganaraska Forest (May 20, 2017)

The first few hundred metres of the LSC is a gentle climb up some double track to a fire road.  If I was with the pack I’m sure it would have been close and tight.  When the course hits the fire road, things open up a bit, and I’m sure the pack of riders became close and tight AND FAST.  The fire road is an undulating ribbon of deep sand, gnarly ruts, and dislodged boulders.  It also either goes straight up, or straight down, which means riders are alternately chugging to keep pace on the climbs, or white knuckling it on the descents.  Either way, both options take a great deal of skill and concentration. Take a read of Riot’s Race Report.  He didn’t forget his water bottles, and he nailed the atmosphere with the other riders who didn’t forget their water bottles.

After the fire road, the track turns up a gentle, winding, climb that brings riders to the bottom of the “Hill on Top of a Hill”.  It’s a 2k grind up that part of the hill, and leads to the bottom of a steeper hill.  It’s brutal.  This year, the climb was rutted deeply, and covered with leaves and branches for an extra bit of challenge.

But we all did it, and nobody died on the hill. Kinda felt like dying the second time I did it, but alas, I wasn’t so lucky.

Immediately after the HTH (Hill on Top of a Hill), the LSC hit the first bit of single track for a long section of awesomeness.  The trail was tight, twisty, and FAST.  It was a quickish 10k zip of sweet single track, punctuated by little shots of double track. Lots of space for passing.  Oh wait, I was waaaaay behind the pack so there was no need to pass.

But I had water.  Yay water…

I finally caught up to Angie Emsley, one of my racing buddies, who was taking a stab at her first marathon distance. She was riding strong.  Nice work Angie!

Liz was waiting at the aid station with some much needed cheer and nutrients. Some e-load, bananas, chain lube, and jujubes.

I took a 2 minute breather.  I wasn’t tired, but I was trying to pace myself for the long ride ahead.  Angie stopped for a second, and left ahead of me.

The 12k or so after the aid station was tough.  The track was raw, tight, and twisty.  I was feeling the full effect of my early sprint, and the alternating climbs and zig-zagging was relentless and punishing.  Like I said earlier (and last year too) I felt every ounce of my 250 pounds.

Strangely enough, however, my body wasn’t the mess I had anticipated.  The early sprint really hit me, and I was slow moving.  Also, most things ached, but my usual trouble spots hadn’t ignited to Pain Level: Inferno.  I was really slow though.  Did I already say that?  Because I was really really really slow.

The last 5k was a swoosh down some awesomely fast and slightly technical double track, with a bit of single track nirvana thrown in for good measure, and then a grunty climb. After 2 hours and 27 minutes of riding, I hit the Start/Finish for a short recoup and refresh, before realizing something.  My race was only half over.  I was riding for 2 hours and 27 minutes, and I now had to do it all over again.

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One lap done, one lap to go.  Ugh.

It was the same with my first marathon distance race the month before, the H2i. You know, there is no amount of positivity and awesomeness that can negate how hard it is to finish a really tough lap, and then have to start all over again. I knew every climb, root, dismount, and rock that was waiting for me, and it was a killer the first time.  I was so bloody tired and spent.  Clipping in for the next half was really really tough.

But I did. I pedalled, and I pedalled, and I got off my bike a few times, and I pedalled some more, and I finished.  My friend and mentor Dan Marshall (also the organizer) once told me “You know how you finish a race?  You pedal”.  That’s what kept me going–knowing that if I pedalled enough times, I’d eventually finish the race.  There were times when I was looking at the metres rack up on my GPS, not kilometres, and there were times when I just didn’t want to pedal, but I did.

And there were a few times when I had to dismount for a climb, and just walked alongside my bike for an extra minute because I couldn’t fathom having to get on my bike again.

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A little bunny hop at the end.

But somehow, I pedalled enough times.  I nailed the HTH, the awesome first sections of singletrack, the aid station, the nasty bit after the aid station, the swoosh of the last 5k, and I finally saw that last climb out of the forest and up to the FINISH line.

Here are the full race results.  Pretty much everyone else was faster than me.

End of Race Report.

Easy2?The Bank of Ganaraska collected a bucket of interest from Team Colin at the LSC, but I paid back every penny.

And, I now have a new qualifier after the race.  But it’s not a BUT, it’s an AND.

I did the Long Sock Classic full marathon distance AND I did it on my single speed.

And I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

I’ll just make sure I’ve got water.

Ride.

 

PS

As always thanks to Substance projects, Dan Marshall, and the amazing sponsors.  And thanks to Dan’s mom and dad, Sherry, Jenn and Simon, Liz Grootenboer, and Dan’s awesome team of staff and volunteers (especially the day’s cook, Lorraine), and my wife (tireless supporter and photographer) and my kids (cheerleaders, horn blowers, bell ringers, and little bits of awesomeness).

If you read this and have something to say, make a comment at the bottom, or send an email to me at: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

Oh, and since there were only two Clydesdale racers in the marathon distance, I placed second.

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Two Happy Clydes

 

Post Race Recap (Wednesday, May 24–4 days after the LSC)

After my first kick at a marathon distance last month (the H2i), I was in rough shape. Like, really rough shape.  I spent the next week recovering.  After P2A a few weeks ago, I was also a mess for a few days.  However, after Saturday’s race, I spent Sunday out with friends, and Victoria Day cutting the lawn and playing with my kids.  Sure, I was tired and a bit sore (and yes, I had a loooong nap on Sunday), but I wasn’t completely zonked. In fact, I even raced last night, and I felt amazing.  Hmm.

News: DMBA Demo Fest!

What’s better than a sweet rip through the forest.

Um, nothing,  If you said anything else, you failed.

And what’s better than riding YOUR bike?

Again, nothing.  There is nothing better than riding YOUR bike.

However, testing a new bike comes pretty close–especially if you’re on the market for a new bike, or if you like super sweet high-end bikes, or if you’re like me and you just like everything about bikes.

If only there was a way to test a new bike, and maybe have some PANCAKES IN THE FOREST with a bunch of bike minded people (see what I did there)…

Or if there was a way to try a skills park created by Joyride 150, while rocking out to music by the Red Bull event team…

Or if there was a way to take a Ride Guides skills session, while checking out some awesome bike stuff…

And if only you could do all of this with your kids, at Durham Forest (one of Ontario’s best trail systems–with over 125 km of awesome trails).

Well you can:  The Durham Mountain Bike Association Demo Festival.

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Yeah, BOOM.

So, while last weekend was the official start of the Spring season (with the Homage to Ice), this event is the officialler (and very AWESOME) start to the Spring season, and I have no doubt it is going to be one to remember.

“Who is going to be at the Demo Fest?”, you might be asking.  The better question is “Who isn’t?”

Bike shops (by the way, each is a link to their web site):

Manufacturers:

  • Giant
  • Norco
  • Specialized
  • KHS
  • Cannondale
  • Trek
  • Santa Cruz
  • Devinci
  • Liv
  • Pivot
  • Rocky Mountain
  • Scott
  • Yeti
  • Staran

Plus a bunch of other cool bikey and food-like merchants, manufacturers, and what have you.

And the best part is, it’s FREE.  Yep, totally free.  Well, it’s free for DMBA members. What, you’re not a member yet?  No seriously, you’re not a member?  Well, if you aren’t a member (although you should be) you can get a DMBA membership here.  A basic membership is $31.

If you’re on the fence about membership, or having to pay an admission fee, think about this.  Not only does DMBA promote our sport and maintain our trails, they have assembled a ridiculous number of exhibitors (who are sure to bring some pretty choice rides–bikes most of us usually don’t get to a chance to taste).  Plus, all the cheap, cranky people won’t cough up the coin, so they won’t be there to rain on our parade.  Really, 10 bucks is a pretty sweet deal.  Sometimes you gotta pay to play, and I can’t think of a better recipient of some well needed funds.

Oh, and who doesn’t like group rides.  DMBA group rides are awesome–but you gotta be a member.

Speaking of rain, Durham Forest is a jewel in the rain.  It’s sandy and has great drainage. With over 125k trails, and encompassing Dagmar, Glen Major, and Walkers Woods, Durham Forest is my go-to for mountain biking nirvana.  It’s about 40 minutes away from my home, and always great for a sweet, technical, heart pounding, gut busting, ride. Oh look, a map to Durham Forest.  Thank you Trailforks!

If you haven’t ridden Durham, or if it’s your place, the Demo Fest is going to be awesome. And it’s not just demo rides.  There’s a bunch of other sweet things happening that day. Check out their full site for more information:  DMBA DEMO FEST.

Here are some more facts that you need to know

  • DMBA Demo Fest is Saturday May 6th, 2017 between 10am to 4pm
  • Durham Forest is located at 3789 Concession Rd. 7, Uxbridge, Ontario
  • There’s parking for 500 vehicles.
  • Registration is required to participate: DMBA members are complimentary, non-members are $10 (under 16 years of age free with paying adult or DMBA Member).
  • Registration fee includes access to all manufacturer demo booths to test premium bikes, and entry into amazing prize raffles.
  • Food is available for purchase, including pancakes, and lunch options from local businesses: The Copper Branch, Hy-Hope Farms, The Merchant of Meat, and Primal Pizza.
  • It’s best to register before you get there.  Do that here.
Full disclosure.  DMBA called this event to my attention, and gave me a few passes for friends, and a few more for the Epic Boom Prize Giveaway.  I’ve been a DMBA member for a while now, ride regularly at the forest, and was planning to write about the event in any case, but I think it’s important to be open about things like this.  I’m writing about this event because I think it’s going to be awesome.  Period.
Ride.

38. Homage to Ice ’17

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Photo credit:  Jeff Shikaze

Single Speed 201.

Team Colin went for a big, giant rip in Dufferin County Forest on Saturday, in race #1 of the Substance Projects XC Marathon: The Homage to Ice (presented by Cycle Solutions).

And let me tell you this: Homage was paid.

Except that I paid homage to everything except ice.

Homage to rain and mud.

Homage to Dan Marshall.

Homage to the big boss riders who served my arse to me on a mud splotched,  platter.

And sure, homage to AWESOMENESS (just not mine)

On a very personal–and physical level– I paid homage to pain, more pain, a bit more pain, and then some other pain for good measure.

This is my 5th year racing Dan Marshall’s XC Marathon, and I haven’t missed a race yet. 4 races each year.  4 years.  16 races in total.  But this year, it was different.

This year I decided to race the marathon distance.  Yeah, the marathon distance!

Okay, it was really tough, but I’m going to say it right now.  Boom.

1 speed, 2 laps 3 hours and 50 minutes on my bike.

Lots and lots of rain.

A giant mass of KNOTTED muscle where I used to have shoulders (plus a pair arm flaps that are going to be basically useless for a few more days), and the gentle satisfaction that I DID IT.

Last place overall, 2nd place Clydesdale.20170415_154552

Lemme say it again.  Boom.

So H2i 2017 was my first kick at a full race.  My first kick at a race distance that I couldn’t even fathom attempting a few years ago.  It’s the first time that I don’t have to give a disclaimer afterwards.  “I did Race X–the half distance…”

BUT HOLY CRAP IT WAS TOUGH.  So very very tough.  Remember when I said it was an “…homage to awesomeness”?  Yeah, well it wasn’t.  It was gruelling, tough, and just plain hard.  Damnit, it was so hard.

When I finished the race, on the drive home, and in the days since, I’ve been feeling uncharacteristically bleak. Aside from being physically drained, I’m beating myself up for doing so poorly…for having spring legs…for not being able to get into a groove…for not training as much as I should have…for not training as hard as I should have…for getting passed by the half marathon leaders (who started half an hour later then I did) at the 15k mark…and for actually thinking I could do the full race.

Seriously, what possessed me, a half marathon racer (and not even a good one at that) to attempt the full distance?

I know someone has to come last, but still…

And to add insult to injury, there were even a few riders at the race who did the Tilsonburn 100 Mile race the day before.  Check out Riot’s post about it.  So let me get this right.  I couldn’t handle the race, but other racers did an ever BIGGER race the day before and still managed. I get it, I’m not them, but still…

My overall time was 3:51.  The winning Single Speed category time was 2:36.  Ugh. Seriously, I was an hour and 15 minutes behind first place.  Heck, I was almost an hour behind the second last place rider.  Double Ugh.

My first lap time was 1:48.  My second lap was 2:02 (what, I really needed a few breaks).

I felt pretty stupid, a bit embarrassed, and kind of demoralized.  But then I realized something. If I’d raced the half marathon, I would have beaten a few pretty fast riders, and placed 7/9.  Well that’s not so bad.  Hmm.  So everyone else had a tough time too. Sure, a bunch of riders were waaaay faster than me (in both races), but I held my own, and my results were consistent with my prior races.

Sure, I’m still not that great, but I’m not worse than I was last year, and I might even be getting better.  Edit.  I’m getting (a tiny wee little bit) better.

Flashback to race day morning:  It was 108 km to Mansfield, I had a full tank of gas, it was bright, and I was wearing sunglasses.  I was listening to some tunes and ready for my first big boy race. The forecast for the day was a high of 20, with a chance of showers. I was worried about tackling the full distance–no, I was terrified–but I was excited too. Excited to be challenging myself.  Excited to have the chance to push myself hard. Excited to be ABLE to even think about the longer distance.

But I was mostly worried.

It started raining while I was driving. Stupid forecast.  Fortunately, I was prepared for any weather. Bib pants or bib shorts;  Short sleeve or long sleeve jersey; full finger or fingerless gloves; and I even packed my neck muffler and helmet liner as a precaution the night before.

Wait, my gloves were still in the clean laundry basket waiting to be packed.

AW DANG IT!!!

I was supposed to get to Mansfield with more than enough time to prep.  I was supposed to have a relaxed drive.  I was supposed to STRETCH before the race. Nope. A quick exit…turn around…pick up my gloves…back on my way.  30 minutes lost.

I made it to the race about 35 minutes before start time.  35 minutes to mentally and physically prepare for the biggest race of my life.  35 minutes to register…say hello to everyone…change into my race kit…put some air in my tires..check and repack my tool bag..jam some food in my belly…think about the task at hand…

What the?  It was 10:59, the race was about to start, and I wasn’t ready.

Race Report:  Homage to Ice. Dufferin County Forest (April 15, 2017)

The race started, I still wasn’t ready, I hadn’t stretched, and well, I JUST WASN’T READY! The pack booked it down the doubletrack, and out of sight.  I wasn’t even on my bike in time to even see the tail end of the pack.

My gearing is pretty low, so I pretty much spun my wheels for the first few k of double track.  I passed two friends who were trying to fix a bent chain, and then hit my first sweet singletrack rip of the year.

The rain wasn’t heavy, so the course was wet, but not too muddy.  However, Dufferin Forest is so tight and twisty, and there was very little chance for me to just let it fly, no chance to find a pace.  Worse, between the tight trees, the slick mud, the giant (and awesome) logovers, and my gearing, I spent every pedal stroke either braking or trying to crank back up to speed.  I realized almost immediately that the day was going to be a slog.

And then it started to really rain.

I hankered in for the downpour, tried to maintain visibility though my glasses, and just tried my best to keep some sort of pace.  In dry conditions, the course would have been great but tough.  In the rain, the course was not great and tougher.

Dan Marshall always says that Team Van Go have a policy of turning every downed tree into a logover. He isn’t wrong.  The logovers in Dufferin County Forest are legendary: They’re big, meaty, rideable (but just barely) and fun.  If a tree falls in Team Van Go’s forest, does it make a sound?  Yup “Logover!”.  They were daunting to look at it, but awesome to nail–especially in the rain.  I spent the entire race alone–utterly alone.  However, I took some comfort that I was riding in Team Van Go’s forest.  They have such a cool vibe, and I always feel it when I’m riding there.

The course followed a bunch of awesome singletrack for the next 5 or 6k, and then, at about 8k, there was a wickedly sweet, twisting descent.  The rain made it slick and a little gnarly.  Awesome.

The course for the next while was tight and winding, uppy-downy, and tough.  Man, it was tough.  I just couldn’t find my pace.

And then it stopped raining.

No it didn’t.  It just rained harder.  There was more single track, punctuated with very short sections of double track, and then the course came to the first aid zone.  What the?  The aid station was at 12k, but it felt like I had been riding forever.

Liz and Jenn at the aid station were kind and generous with their words of support.  A quick snack, a bottle refill, and I was back on the bike.  More singletrack, a few grinding climbs, and the “10K To Go” sign.  Dang.  This wasn’t getting easier.  The rain proved to be a menace at this point, and it slowed me even more.  The climbs were even tougher, the corners were even sketchier, and it all just sucked.  I was off my bike to walk a bunch of climbs (but I attacked a few too), and then came The Wall.  I didn’t even try to attempt it, and dismounted when I started losing traction, and hoofed it up the rest.

“5K To Go”  C’mon.  This race was taking forever.

At about that point, my back didn’t want to play any longer, and went home. “Okay back, I’ll finish this thing without you”

And then the sun came out.  No it didn’t.  It just rained more.

Some more tight track, lots of mud that was quickly turning to muck, a few little climbs, and out into the driveway for a short zip to the finish line.

Phew, the race was finally over.  No it wasn’t.  There was another lap.  It was the halfway point of the race.  After an hour and 48 minutes, all that work, the slogging, and all the pain, I was only halfway finished. I needed a break, so I spent a few minutes at the Start/Finish.  I refilled my bottle, guzzled some pop, had a PB and J sandwich, and tried to stretch (Yeah, nice move dummy–you’re two hours late. Shut up brain).  And where the heck was my back?  Dang, I was sore.

At least the rain had finally stopped.

I was in last place, and I was looking forward to a complete rerun of EVERYTHING I just covered.  Every log over, every climb, every dismount, every wince, every muck pool Everything.  Every ache of my back and throb of my shoulders.

Yeah, my shoulders.  My single speed isn’t just rigid, it’s fully rigid–with an aluminium fork.  After 25k, my neck and shoulders were…  Well, they were sore.

I have to say, the stark realization at that point of the race was pretty bleak.  In the first few minutes of the second lap (really, for most of the second lap), I experienced my darkest time on a bike.

Dan Marshall always says you finish a race by pedalling until it’s over.  So I pedalled.

And pedalled.

And pedalled.

And walked a bit.

And pedaled.

The same climbs, the same descents, the same trees, the same logovers, the same everything.

With 1k to the aid station, I saw Jenn and Liz through the trees, and they rang their bells and hollered words of encouragement.  After the aid station, there was still 13k to go.  They were a beacon of hope and positivity.  Refill..stretch the shoulders to try and break up the knot…have a snack…back on the bike.

And then it got easier.  No it didn’t.  It got tougher.  People always comment about my enthusiasm for the sport, and I have to say that it’s a good thing I’m so amped.  It kept nipping at my heels and propelling me forward when all I wanted to do was quit.

10k to go…ugh.

5k to go…ughhhhh.

Out of the valley, back onto the driveway and the race was over.

They waited.  I was last place, and they waited for me to finish until they started packing up.  Dan didn’t scream my name, he SCREAMED MY NAME.

End of Race Report

I did it.20170415_153520

You know, I always talk about the love groove, and the strong connections in my MTB world, and I always say I know it’s not very MTB.  But I think I’m wrong.  I think the love grove is the very essence of MTB.  We’re all in the same boat.  We all love riding.  We all support each other.  I would not be riding without it, I wouldn’t have tried the marathon distance without it, and I wouldn’t love the sport so much if it wasn’t such a big part of it. It helped me finish the race on Saturday.  And whether it was Liz and Jenn at the aid station, or Dan screaming “Team COLIN!!!” at the finish, or all my fiends after the race, it was heartwarming and awesome.  That’s all I’ve got to say about that.  No it isn’t.  Can I talk about Heather for a sec?  She wants to the the 8 hour in May, and she’s training.  So what did she do?  After the half marathon, she did another lap.  Just because. No timing. Nobody cheering her on.  Just because she’s awesome.

I loved my first big race.  I laughed, I cried, I winced, and I experienced an epiphany.  But it wasn’t the epiphany I was expecting.

At some point in the race, or maybe it was some time after the race (don’t remember–delirium) I realized that I hit my riding ceiling. I realized that my ceiling–at this point in my life–is just a bit below a full race.

And it kinda sucks.  No, it doesn’t kinda suck.  It just plain sucks.  But it’s okay, because my ceiling 5 years ago was well below a half marathon.  And my ceiling next year?  In five years?  Well, who knows.

Scratch that.  I know.  I know it’ll be higher.  And I’ll make sure my gloves are packed the night before.

I raced the marathon distance in Saturday’s Homage to Ice.  Boom.

Ride.

PS.  Hey, did I capture the race?  If you were there, and I missed something, let me know. Anything to say?  Comment here on the blog, or send an email to: teamcolin@yahoo.com

And if you really want to read about last year’s course–my first time racing a single speed, check it out here.

Oh, one more thing.  Team Colin hats are in.  Awesome.

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