Once again, Team Colin is holding a super sweet, totally awesome, massively huge, REALLY BIG GIANT GIVEAWAY.
It’s a FUNDEMIC!
My son suggested the first two names.
Once again, mountain biking is about to get a little bit awesomer, with the Team Colin Really Big Giant Giveaway (not to be confused with last Spring’s Team Colin Epic Boom Prize Fundemic, or last Fall’s Team Colin Epic Boom Giveaway Spectacular).
So here’s the thing: I have no ties to anyone, anything, or any shop. I’m not an ambassador, and I don’t get free swag. However, I write a blog, and my blog sometimes has a massive audience. So I reached out to a few super awesome people that I ride with/race with/like/whatever, AND THEY RESPONDED WITH AWESOMELY GENEROUS GIFTS THAT I CAN NOW BESTOW ON THE BIKING COMMUNITY!
No kidding. Here’s the list of goodies.
THE PRIZE DEETS:
My bike shop, Cycle Solutions, has authorized the bestowment of a FULL February Tune-Up. Yeah, a full tune-up that can be scheduled for any time during the month of February. Wicked.
Joyride 150, the hosts of Team Colin Day (um, Night) have authorized the bestowment of a free Day Pass. Very boss.
Dan Marshall from Substance Projects has authorized the bestowment of a free registration to not one, but TWO of his supremely cool races: A free XCM race reg, AND a free 45NRTH Ontario Fatbike Series (p/b Cannondale) race reg. So excellent!
Glenn at Pulse Racing has authorized the bestowment of a free reg to this Spring’s Singletrack Classic at Hardwood Hills. 25 or 50k of sweet Southern Ontario singletrack that hits all the best bits of Hardwood Hills. Teamm Colinn approved!
Apex Race Photography has authorized the bestowment of not one, but TWO different race picture downloads: a personalized magazine cover AND a digital download. Ted and his photography artists always capture the best race shots. Cool beans.
Adam at Chico Racing has authorized the bestowment of a few “24 Hours of Summer Solstice” jerseys, and is putting together a sweet package of MTB swaggy goodness. BTW, Adam is also providing a “24 Hours of Summer Solstice” shirt for EVERYONE who rides at Team Colin Day (um, Night) @ Joyride 150 on November 11th. Outstanding!
Evolution Cycles has authorized the bestowment of a $20 Gift Card. They’re are also chipping in a $20 Gift Card for EVERYONE who rides at Team Colin Day (um, Night) @ Joyride 150 on November 11th. Exceptional!
Jamie Davies, the same guy from Evolution Cycles has also authorized the bestowment of a free registration to a King Weekly Series race. Pick a Tuesday night from May to September, and kill it at Centennial Park in King City! So rad!
And finally, Sean from Superfly Racing has authorized the bestowment of a PAIR of passes to his Polar Rush Winter Obstacle Race. Yup, a PAIR of passes. Bring a friend and be SNOW HEROES on February 24th, at Horseshoe Valley! Brrrrrrrawesome!
How many times did I say “bestowment” in the preceding paragraphs? Lots and lots–because it’s a veritable gift bestowment fiesta!
Honestly, I’m going to have to cut the gift bestowment into two draws.
Wait a sec, I forgot the best part. Team Colin (hey, that’s me) is even kicking in a limited edition, very chic, Team Colin hat. Ka-BOOM.
The Big Giant Grand Prize
Team Colin special edition, free range, artisanal, comemorative hat
Registration to a Substance Projects XCM race
Joyride 150 day pass
2 passes to Superfly’s Polar Rush Winter Obstacle Race
FULL February Tune-Up at Cycle Solutions
20 buck gift card from Evolution Cycles
Apex Race Photography personalized magazine cover
Registration to a King Weekly Series (p/b Evolution Cycles) race
24 Hours of Summer Solstice jersey (which may or may not fit), courtesy of Chico Racing
Chico Racing Swag Bag
The Big Giant Second Prize
Registration to a Substance Projects/45NRTH Ontario Fatbike Series (p/b Cannondale) race
Registration to the Pulse Racing Singletrack Classic (at Hardwood Hills)
24 Hours of Summer Solstice jersey (which may or may not fit), courtesy of Chico Racing
Apex Photography digital download
Registration to a King Weekly Series (p/b Evolution Cycles) race
20 buck gift card from Evolution Cycles
Honestly, I’m in awe of the super massive generosity.
HOW TO ENTER:
It’s easy. All you have to do is follow my blog. No, this isn’t a “follow my blog type of contest”. You can unfollow the blog after the contest (and I really, honestly, might not be totally hurt), but it’s the only way for me to easily generate a printable list of contest entrants.
If you already follow the Team Colin blog (not the Facebook page), you’re in.
But if you don’t click, FOLLOW THIS BLOG somewhere on this page.
The draw will be held live on Facebook, at Team Colin Day (um, Night) @ Joyride 150, which is Saturday, November 11. Enter before that date to be eligible.
How about some small print.
THE SMALL PRINT:
Total value of “The Team Colin Really Big Giant Giveaway” is a kazillion dollars*
The draw will be held live on Facebook, at Team Colin Day (um, Night) @ Joyride 150, on Saturday, November 11. Enter before that date to be eligible.
Unfortunately, if you don’t come to Joyride on the 11th, or if you can’t meet Team Colin at a race, the hat, jersey, and Evolution Cycles gift card cannot be mailed–-but you still get everything else!
Prizes are NON-TRANSFERRABLE. All the sponsors are hard working businesses, and they just want to give back to the cycling community. To ask them to transfer your prize to someone else would be very not cool. I’ll email the winners names to each sponsor for prize redeem-ment.
Finally, the terms, conditions, and prizes in the Team Colin Really Big Giant Giveaway may change because, well, you know.
Don’t forget to come to Team Colin Day (um, Night) on Saturday, November 11th. Half price (that’s 9 bucks) admission, and rentals after 7PM. Just say “Team Colin” when you get there. Check out my blog post for details.
What can I say about the Sausage Suit ITT that I didn’t say last year? It was the same awesome course; pretty much the same awesome people; and the same awesome Team Van Go..rilla.
It was: Dufferin County Forest, Substance Projects, Dan Marshall and his crew, and some of the best MTB riders around.
What a great day on a bike!
The 2017 Sausage Suit ITT was so very, um, what’s that word…awesome.
I, on the other hand, was a shade less than awesome. In fact, I was so very UNawesome. It was the same story that I experience all too often: I felt strong, I pushed hard, I rode well, and my results were, um, what’s that word…crappy.
Even though I rode my bike so much over the summer…
And even though I raced five straight weekends in September–almost 350k of race pace ripping…
And even though I did about a billion races this season–including seven marathon distance races…
My time was…wait for it…five minutes faster than last year. Five lousy minutes. Honestly, I think I spent five minutes last year peeing in the middle of the race (What? I drink a lot of water), so after all my hard work this year, my results for the race were pretty much the same.
To make the sting worse, instead of my single speed, I rode my geared Norco Revolver hardtail. Yeah, I had gears.
Five stinking minutes (read that like a quick grumble, through gritted teeth, while you’re kicking a pop can).
But enough of that. It’s not new, it’s not news, and it really doesn’t matter because it was a Saturday, there was a race, and I raced. Also, I think I wrote the same thing for my last few races. For some reason, I’m just not performing as well as I’d like to on my bike this season.
Seriously though, what a great day on a bike.
Here’s what I wrote on my Facebook after the race:
It’s a wrap!
The 2017 MTB race season is officially finished, with yesterday’s rip through Dufferin County Forest, at the Substance projects Sausage Suit ITT. 30k of sublime single track, in one heck of an awesome place to ride. I placed, um that’s not important, and had an absolute blast. What a great way to end a terrific race season…
Sublime indeed. Dufferin County Forest is single track nirvana: awesomely technical, wickedly rocky and rooty, spectacularly climby, and scattered with absolutely boss log overs. Last year, I said “When a tree falls in Dufferin Forest, and nobody’s there, does it make a sound? You bet. ‘LOGOVER!!!'”. The log overs were awesome last year. This year, I think they were even better….
…and terrifying. I’m 250 pounds, and I ride in the big ring. So, aside from the terrifying prospect of a giant endo on the downward side of the logover, every time I tracked over the logs and bashed my chain ring, I winced and waited for the horrifying “TINK!” of my chain exploding under the horrific pressure.
I’ve only ever truly ridden Dufferin Forest on my single speed, and it has a much smaller ring that doesn’t hit the logs. Plus it has a sort-of chain guard, and a big burly chain. My Revolver? Not so much, and with my constant cross chaining, my chain is a ticking time bomb that really doesn’t need an excuse to snap.
It was so nerve wracking. I rode a 15k lap, with a billion log overs–twice. By the end of the race, my shoulders ached from all of the worried tensing after I lifted my front wheel, bashed the log, and waited…
My chain didn’t break!
Seriously, what a great day on a bike!
Even the weather cooperated. For a mid-October race with a mean forecast, I was expecting a mixed bag of lousy rain, biting wind, crappy course conditions, and plenty of “Ugh”, but the weather and the trail conditions were perfect. Sure, compared to riding on the surface on the sun like I did in the Epic 8 Hour a few weeks ago, it was about a billion degrees cooler, but it was still bare legs and arms weather.
Wait, can I talk about Team Van Go for a minute? Man, I love these people. Amazing energy, terrific attitude, and super chill vibe. They’re like the Fonz of the MTB world. Seriously, when they bump the side of their fist on a tree, the jukebox starts. No joke. I’ve actually seen Johnny do it. Here’s a link to their blog about the race. I can’t say more about the course that they didn’t.
And I can’t talk about Team Van Go without talking about the awesome things they do in Dufferin County Forest. Without their hard work and stewardship, the trails at Dufferin Forest would be half of what they are. The forest would likely be a tangled mess of B-Lines, and the Nirvana that is would likely be more like Nickleback. Yeah, I just ripped on Chad Kroeger (I tried to think of a lame 90’s band to counter Nirvana, but it’s a proven fact there are no lame 90s bands. Well, NSYNC and Backstreet Boys are from the 90s, but they’re just a bunch of pretty boys and not actual bands).
And just like that, I just nailed a Chad Kroeger rip AND a Backstreet Boys/NSYNC slag.
Seriously though, I get the sense that some of the stakeholders in Dufferin County aren’t playing well in the sandbox, and it sounds like there’s a bit of a mess lately. It’s great to know that Team Van Go and Johnny are at the helm of an effort to work together not only to maintain the status quo, but to move forward in the spirit of collaboration. Thanks Team Van Go, and keep up the great work! I can’t wait for next year.
Looking back, I can’t believe the SSIT was the race that almost wasn’t.
When I was packing my bike to leave for the race, I did a little bunny hop on my front lawn (because when you move your bike five feet from your garage to your vehicle, you ride it, and when you ride it, you ride it like a kid) and snapped two spokes.
It sounded something like this: “Get rad. Wohoo! (plink-thunk) Aw, c’mon”
It was 10:32 AM, the race was starting at 1:00, and it was an hour and a half away from my home. That left me with two and a half hours to finish packing, shower, get to my bike shop (Cycle Solutions, which is about 30 minutes away from my house in the wrong direction), and make it to the race.
It was what I can only call a half-ass shower. Literally. That’s an uncharacteristic cuss from Team Colin, but entirely accurate. I dried myself, finished packing, and flew to my bike shop. Fortunately, Mike Delat (totally my guy) pulled the quickest spoke change/rim true/cassette overhaul (because my cassette is ALWAYS a mess) ever. I felt like an indy car racer–a half showered, Formula 1 racer.
He finished and I looked at the time. It was 11:20. Traffic would have to cooperate with me if I was going to make it to the race on time.
I made it with 20 minutes to spare.
I changed into my kit, and, since it was that kind of day, I forgot to close the curtains of my RV while I was changing. To that end, I’m deeply sorry to my fellow racers for the horrific experience of seeing me change into into my kit (okay, squeeze, writhe, and jam into my kit). It ain’t called the Sausage Suit for nothing…
Nonetheless, what a great day on a bike!
And what a sweet way to end the 2017 Spring/Summer/Fall race season. I stepped so far out of my comfort zone, and absolutely shredded a bucket of milestones:
After a very wet, and time consuming pack-up with Substance Projects and his parents (man, these folks work tirelessly to make these events happen) I even hit a burrito stand on the way back home with Dan. Okay, it wasn’t a burrito stand, it was the Bar Burrito in the Tanger Outlets at Cookstown, but whatever. We even took a selfie. Dan hates pictures. I love pictures. I won.
What a terrific way to end a great day on a bike!
Let me say it loud and let me say it clear: BOOM.
I can’t wait to see what the 2018 season has in store for Team Colin…
PS. Thanks to Dan Marshall, Substance Projects, Team Van Go, Dan’s mom and dad, the staff and volunteers at Substance, and the unbelievably generous sponsors.
Also, the 2017 season isn’t really over. I’m planning on a few more CX races, I’m organizing Team Colin Day, Um, Night @ Joyride 150 (Tentatively November 11. Wait for details), I’ve got a sweet review of some winter apparel (courtesy of C2 Apparel), and hopefully a winter full of fatbike awesomeness.
Always great to see the Emsleys. Nick shredded the course while dad, and a slightly maimed mom, cheered.
I thought I was going to ride a little 10k lap, on a few sweet trails at Hardwood Hills.
I thought it would be challenging, and fun, and awesome, and EPIC.
I didn’t think I’d be riding my bike on the surface of the sun.
Holy crap, it was a scorcher. Like, face melting, core draining, electrolyte zapping, take-off-your-jersey, scorching hot.
“How hot was it?”
It was so hot, three of my water bottles spontaneously combusted.
It was so hot, a rider in front of me spontaneously combusted.
It was so hot, by the end of the day all the sand on the “Lookout” had melted into glass.
It was so hot, that when I rode to my pit area, it was an actual Dali painting. Aww, I really needed that clock…
Dayam, it was H. O. T.
Race Report. Fall Epic 8 Hour: Hardwood Hills. September 20, 2017 The race started at 10 AM, and my first few laps were strong and consistent. I held back and did three laps in an hour and 58 minutes.Noon. The sun rose in the sky, and my lap times dipped, but I still felt okay.2 PM. The sun hit full force, and I slowed to a crawl.4 PM. The sun actually got hotter, and I’m pretty sure I crawled with my bike strapped on my back for a few laps.I WANTED 10 laps. I NEEDED 10 laps. I could TASTE 10 laps. I was READY for 10 laps. I was primed, and fit, and had been looking forward to my first 100k MTB ride for a while.In the end I rode…I’ll get to that after the Race Report.The course was a mix of long and sinister double track climbs, a few harrowing and rocky double track descents, some nastily awesome rooty bits, some awesomely nasty dusty bits, a bunch of sweet technical trail features, and plenty of tight but flowy single track. The course ended with a shot on the Joyride 150 wall, a zip through the solo pits, a crunchy grind up a hill that was more wall than hill, and through some sweet BMX track with sweet jumps, rollers, and berms, before the START/FINISH/TIMING area. In truth, it was pretty much a perfect 10k of riding.End of Race Report.
So, how many laps did I do…
The day before the race, I was dialled:
My bike was freshly tuned (Thanks Andrew Maemura of Cycle Solutions); my kit was washed; my alternate kit washed; I had 20 litres of water and a bunch of pre race, race, and post race food (pasta, chicken, fruit and vegetables); I packed my cycling shoes, my other cycling shoes, a helmet, my other helmet, gloves, more gloves and LOTS of chamois cream; I had electrolyte this and energy gel that; a tent, a zero gravity chair, and my tool (and other stuff) table; I even packed extra non-spandex clothing. I. Was. Ready.
Mother Nature: “Let me just see if I can turn the heat up a wee bit…”. It was the planetary version of “Hold my drink”, but nobody, not even Mother Nature, was going to put down their drink because it would have either evaporated in a flash, or be drained by a thirsty rider.
It was like Mother Nature wanted to see what I look like poached.
“How hot was it?”
It was so hot, and I lost so much sweat, my pee was the consistency of salt.
I have a saying. “If you’re going to be, just be epic”. And as much as I try to live with that mantra in mind, really, I don’t mean truly EPIC. Usually, I just refer to the fact that if you’re going to do something, do it to the best of your abilities.
For example, if you’re going for a ride, and it’s going to rain, don’t cancel. Ride in the rain and be epic.
If you’re riding and you see a sweet trail feature, but there’s also a B Line without a feature, ride the heck out of the feature (Unless it’s a race. Or if you’re tired. Or if it’s really big).
If there’s a race, do it.
If you want to take a picture, lay in the dirt for the best shot possible. Wait a sec, that’s Ted Anderton from Apex Race Photography. AWESOMELY EPIC SHOTS APEX!
If there’s a glass of water, drink it.
If poutine is on the menu, order it.
If there’s a book, read it.
Okay, so clearly, there’s a sliding scale when referring to the word EPIC. However, whether it’s work, family life, or on a bike, really, I just want to be or do the best I can.
And so, it was a Saturday and there was a race, so I raced.
I could have registered as a team of 4 or 6…
Or, I could have registered as a tag team…
Or, I could have registered as a solo rider.
Yeah, right. Why on earth would anyone register to do an 8 hour race solo? Like 8 hours on a bike. Who do I think I am? I’m not ready for an 8 hour race. There’s no way on earth I could do an 8 hour race. Ride for 8 continuous hours? Like, be on a bike, without a real break, for 8 hours?
So…I registered as a solo rider.
Yeah, I registered as a solo because it’s EPIC. Really, it’s a no-brainer. The word EPIC is even in the title of the race. Sliding scale? Pfft. Epic is epic.
I knew it would be hard, and I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it, and I knew I would drag my body through a the wringer. However, looking back, I had no idea it would be as hard as it was.
Even though the course was easy enough (despite a few nasty climbs)…
And even though my bike co-operated like a seasoned champ…
And even though the crowd, and the organizers, and most of the riders, were awesome…
That heat. It slaughtered me.
I know we all have something that drives us or holds us back, but I have to wonder about the biology involved in propelling my 250 pound body up, over, and through a tough MTB course. Compared to a lighter rider my power to weight ratio falls short. Maybe that’s what keeps me slow. Maybe it’s a matter of one too many bags of savory sweet potato chips (and dip!). Maybe it’s a lack of physical conditioning. Whatever it is, it’s a thing, and it slowed me down. For a full read of how slow I’ve been lately, here’s my report of the Kingston XCM on September 2.
Honestly, my last few laps were embarrassing. I was literally gasping for air and pedalling in slow motion. Note that I didn’t say I “felt” like I was pedaling in slow motion. I was actually pedaling IN SLOW MOTION. I was like a mime on an escalator.
And this is where things took a turn. While I’m disappointed with my results, I know this: I didn’t stop. When I wanted to retreat into the Team Colin support vehicle and nurse a cold popsicle instead of ride, I kept riding. When I wanted to “be happy with 50k” and call it a day, I kept riding. When my back was on fire, and my lungs were bursting, and my wrists were like stone, and my back and shoulders were a clump of pain, I just kept riding. Sure, I stopped each lap for a 2 minute break, and sure, I stopped on course a few times in the last few laps to catch my breath, but each time, before I got too comfortable, I swung a leg over my bike, clipped in, clenched my teeth, and kept going, defiant and resolved.
Truthfully, the race wasn’t an epic life or death journey across a desert to escape a prison camp, but at the time, It sure felt tough.
And here’s where things took an even better turn. I call it the Matt Factor.
The Matt Factor is as follows: Throughout the day, even from the first lap, there was a tremendous amount of respect and encouragement from other riders.
“Nice work Solo!”, “Keep it up Solo”, “You got this Solo”. It was heartening and moving. So many riders, solo and otherwise, kept encouraging and pushing me (and everyone else).
“But why do you call it the Matt Factor?”
And then, somewhere in the middle of the race (honestly, much of the day is a blur to me), something happened. I was refilling my bottle inside my RV. I was tired, and hot, and I wanted to quit, and my pit neighbour, Mike Tourond (yeah, that guy) came around for a lap. He hammered on the side of the vehicle “C’mon, get out here and ride”, and he gave me a little push when I really needed it.
“Yeah yeah, but why do you call it the Matt Factor?”
And then, somewhere after the middle of the race (honestly, much of the day is a blur to me), it happened again. I was riding, I was in pain, I wanted to quit, and I felt a hand on my back. The hand was pushing me. Guiding me. My buddy Raf, even though he was probably struggling too (although I’m not sure he ever struggles on a bike–dude is made of steel), spent some of his much needed energy to give me a little push when I really really needed it.
“Okay, fine, but WHY DO YOU ALL IT THE MATT FACTOR?”
And then, somewhere near the end of the race (honestly, much of the day is a blur to me), it happened again. I was struggling, I was baking, I was EXHAUSTED, I wanted to quit, and Miro (who I only know in a periphery way through friends and Facebook comments), did the same thing. As he was passing, he put a hand on my back, and gave me a push when I really really really needed it. “You got this, Colin. You’re almost there”.
“Seriously though, enough of this, why do you call it the Matt Factor?”
Whether passing the starting pits, where Jenn Kennedy screamed “Wohoo, Team Colin! Solo!”, or being handed a wet towel by organizer Glenn, or on the BMX track and hearing Stuart screaming encouragement, or passing the volunteers in the forest who were hoarse from screaming, or passing the kids in the solo pit who were singing for EVERY rider, or the guy in the solo pit who rang his bell for EVERY rider, or passing Dan Emsley and exchanging a brief word, the crowd was totally and utterly invested in every riders’ success. It was remarkable.
“Blah blah blah, remarkable support, hand on a back…but that doesn’t explain the Matt Factor!”
And then, somewhere almost at the end of the race (honestly, much of the day is a blur to me), it happened again. I was spent. I was spent. I was literally limping along on my bike. It was somewhere mid lap, on the last lap, I was willing the race to be over, and I felt a hand on my back. I thought it was Raf again. It wasn’t. It was Matt. I had never met Matt before. He put his hand on my back to give me a push. He held it there, warm and comforting, and the race disappeared for just a moment. “You’re almost there Solo, just keep pedaling. The race will be finished before you know it.”. The support, encouragement, and and genuine sincerity of the gesture gave me a push when I really really really REALLY NEEDED IT.
THAT’S the Matt Factor. Yeah, the Matt Factor.
It was 5:30. I was almost there. It was almost over. “Yeah, I’ve got this”, I thought. “Yeah, I can finish this” I said to myself. “Keep it up Solo”.
It was my 9th lap.
I finished at 5:43. It was 7 hours and 43 minutes after starting. The sun was perched in the sky above, taunting, and as bright and hot as ever.
I didn’t hit 10 laps.
It was disappointing.
Honestly, I waver from feeling good about my result (19/31), and feeling like I somehow failed myself (and my team). I wanted to ride 10 laps. I wanted to ride 100k on a MTB, and I didn’t. I couldn’t.
Aargh. What if I hadn’t stopped for so long? What if I just rode a bit harder up this hill, or smarter over that trail feature? What if I had trained just a bit (or a lot) harder?
What if? So many what ifs. But only one pure and simple fact. I did it.
It may only be a bunch of people playing bikes in a race, but I rode for 8 hours. I rode as fast, and as hard, and as best as I could. I left NOTHING on the course. So what if the leader did 16 laps, and so what if my pit mates, Riot and Fig, finished 12 and 13 laps respectively. I did 9 laps, and that ain’t so bad.
Next year I’ll try again, and maybe I’ll hit 10 laps. 100k on a MTB. Now that’d be pretty Epic. I just hope we’re not riding on the surface of the sun.
PS. I started to think “Yeah, so maybe I can be a bit less epic, but still be epic…”. After all, I raced the marathon distance in the Kingston XCM on September 2, two CX races the next weekend, the 40k distance in the Great Albion Enduro the following weekend, 90k at the Epic Hour the week after that, and three weekly races in between. I don’t have to do it all. I mean…
By the way, thanks again to Pulse Racing and Glenn Meeuwisse (so many pairs of consonants), Hardwood Hills, the staff and volunteers, the amazing sponsors, the outstanding spectators (literally, they were out standing all day), the awesome sponsors, the wickedly fast and talented race teams, the epic solo riders, and Mother Nature for coming along for the ride and making the day that much more epic. Thanks also to the members of Team Colin for fielding so many needy questions from me in the days–and minutes–leading up to the race.
The Kingston Marathon and I have a long back story. Last year, I broke a few spokes about 10k into the race, then spent 15 minutes untangling them from my cassette and dislodging them from a snapped rear derailleur, and finished the race on a borrowed bike. In 2015, I couldn’t find the START line and sprinted 6k to the next Concession and back before finding the START line (10 minutes AFTER the race started). The year before that, the course beat me up so badly that I almost quit riding (not really, but it was just so hard that year), and the year before that (my first year racing) it was so hot on race day that I actually spontaneously combusted (totally true).
Alas, once again, FOR THE FIFTH TIME IN A ROW, the Kingston XCM kicked my butt.
Kicked it hard. Like, really hard.
Honestly, sometimes it’s exasperating being this bad in a bike race.
I get it. The reality of a race is never as pretty as it is when imagining it, but c’mon, I was ready for this race. Driving to Kingston the night before, I knew I was in the best shape of my life: I’ve logged about 800 kilometres of racing this season (and at least a thousand more in training); my weight is down; my muscle mass is up (I bought a Bowflex, dang it); my side gut flap is (marginally/slightly) smaller; I jiggle way less; and I even somehow managed to curtail my poutine intake (despite 4 weeks in Quebec, the Poutine Capital of the world, this summer. #willpower).
So how did I do this year? Let’s take a look at the math: In the half marathon last year (when I had a catastrophic technical failure) my finish time was 2:23. So this year, I was expecting somewhere in the neighbourhood of way under five hours.
Not even close.
In the full marathon this year my time was…
Yeah, almost six hours and twenty minutes. That’s over three hours per lap! I was so late finishing, that the podium awards for the race, the overall awards for the series, and the draw prizes were finished long before I limped my poor Norco Revolver under the FINISH banner. The parking lot was all but empty, and I swear I heard the raspy call of a vulture as a bundle of tumbleweed scuttled past me.
I felt like Klaatu, except the earth wasn’t standing still, everybody just went home.
At least Raf waited for me (love you bud), and the rest of Fatboy Nation, who cheered me on from the parking area as I crested the last climb (love you Mike and Jenn and Monika and cousin Jack).
And it was great that Simon, who was only registered for the half but decided to join me on a second lap, finished with me. I met Simon at the El Bandito, and we’ve been race buddies ever since. We’ve finished side-by-side three races in a row, and like every budding teenage relationship, we text each other before, after, and in between races. I want to give him a cool nickname like “The Frenchman” or “Le Bicyclettist”, but I think I’ll just call him mon ami. Awesome.
I can’t wait until my bestest riding buddy, John, meets him.
I also met another awesome dude while riding. Dan from Ottawa. It wasn’t just Dan from Ottawa’s first time at MTB Kingston. He was on a borrowed bike, and hadn’t done “one of these races in 10 years”. I flatted about 8k in (at least my derailleur was intact…) and he saw I needed help. We spent about 20 minutes trying to coax air into my tire, with minimal luck, and he didn’t leave until we were (sort of) finished. At least I had enough air to limp along the course to the road crossing, and then zip up to the barn for a proper pump. Dan from Ottawa, you’re awesome, dude. I may or may not have etched some unsolicited advice into your brain by encouraging you to finish, but I still maintain that nobody ever regrets a FINISHED race, regardless of how long it takes.
Seriously though, six hours and twenty minutes. Dang.
People often comment that I’m too self deprecating in some of my posts. Well, after Saturday, I’ve got six hours and twenty minutes of “told you so” to back me up.
And the worst thing is that I actually felt strong at the end. On my second lap, I booked all of Peter’s Loop and Sydney’s Loop (about 12k or rocky gruel) in less than 25 minutes, ripped through the last 6k, and even got out of my seat on the last climb out of the valley.
I’m replaying the race over and over in my mind. Did I get too much into my head and slow my pace too much? Did I actually get worse over the summer despite riding my butt off. Did I ride through a molasses vortex at some point early in the race and have bestowed upon me the super power of the Flash–ing Yellow Light?
My buddy Geoff says I “over trained”. Not likely. I may be in the best shape of my life, but that shape is still largely pear-like.
I just don’t know.
Sure, it would help if I had checked my tires for air pressure before the race or maybe if I’d brought a working pump, but that only accounts for 30 minutes of the SIX HOURS AND TWENTY MINUTES!!! (For proper effect, say that with echo).
Something happened to me, and it wasn’t just losing a lot of electrolytes. By the way, that’s a picture of my jersey after the race. It’s a black sleeve, and it’s not dirt.
Whatever happened to me really, really, really, reallyreallyreally, sucks.
In my defense, the MTB Kingston course is known for being technical, tight, and punishing.
But I’ve raced other tough courses.
And sure, 78k is one heck of a long race by any standards.
But I’ve raced similar distances this summer, (and I was on my single speed for the other ones (I actually felt like I was cheating this time because I had gears.)
Put in the most simple terms, this course wore me down. It scratched away every bit of energy, clawed at my resolve, and gnawed my body into a knotted mess. Actually, not my entire body (my usual problem spots: everywhere, and especially my back and knees, weren’t a problem) but my forearms and wrists took a particular beating.
I have to say, while I was strong near the finish of the race, back at the barn (near the beginning of my second lap), I was over four hours in, with almost half the race to go, and I wanted to quit.
It would have been my first DNF.
But here’s the thing: Team Colin does not DNF. It’s not in my DNA to Did Not Finish, and there was no way on earth I was going to Did Not Finish at MTB Kingston. “Today will not be the day you Did Not Finish, Colin…” I thought “…not today, not ever.”. So I didn’t Did Not Finish.
I FINISHED. It just took so darn long.
I’m not complaining (and honestly, how many people have the conditioning to attempt a 78k mountain bike race) but even though I consider it a gift to even be able to tank a big race, it’s still pretty demoralizing.
I was even heckled during the race. Because it took so much time to jam air into my tire, the half marathon riders caught up near mid-lap. The three leaders were patient and supportive, and so were the next 15 or so riders, but then a large pack approached, and without a pause, yelled ahead and told me to stop and let them pass. No kidding. “You might want to pull off the course and let is us pass–there’s a big group coming up”.
Um, no, I thought. It was a tight, twisty, and very technical section, and we were hitting a boardwalk every 20 metres, so there wasn’t any room to pull aside. “As soon as there’s a chance, I’ll ease up and let you pass”, I said.
I’m sure their urgent requests good natured, and they were simply caught up in race pace, but the first few seemed unnecessarily impatient–especially since they could have announced and passed me in the brush if they had the legs to do so.
I know it was a race, but I was racing too, and it wasn’t a World Cup qualifier…
I should say that most of the pack was cool, supportive, patient, and kind with their words (as are most racers and riders I encounter) but dang, I still had four more hours to go…
As the half marathoners were passing, it was great to see so many familiar faces. Every Dan’s Race is such an awesome reunion. Corey was in the lead pack; Wally and Sean were pretty close behind; Tyler passed; Donna and Peter passed a while later; and Barry, Ken, Robert, Tatiana, Chris at other times. Great riders. Check out Tyler’s post about the race at Team Van Go. He even gave a nod to me in his first line. Boom.
It was also great to be in the big kid race with a few other legends that I knew (or recognized), and it’s always a pleasure to see David (and Lorraine and the boys); Nick, Dan, and Angela; Erich; and Mykal. There were so many others that I recognized from other races too.
Farm track, farm field, roots, rocks, a bunch of bar checks, more rocks and roots, a lake, a flat tire (and half an hour to fix the thing), some double track, rocks and shale, boulders, a road crossing, a quick shot up to the barn to pump my tire and back to the road, a field of soy (if you build it, they will come–and make tofu, soy milk, and other soy-related products), a pretty farm lane, some sand, a barn, the sweetest flow trail east of Joyride 150, an awesome (and huge) jump line, forest, roots, roots, more roots, a bridge, another bridge, more and more bridges, “The Rocky stuff” (which was rocks, tight climbs, rocks, and rocks), a quick shot of gravel and up a rutted hill to the rest of “The Rocky Stuff” (which was EVEN MORE ROCKS), a zip around Peter’s Loop, a zip around Sydney’s Loop, 6k of some more rocks and roots, the “Drop of Doom”, and a grassy climb to the FINISH.
Lather, rinse, repeat (with an added 4k connector back to the START line, and a little stunt session somewhere in the middle), and 78k later, the race was over.
End of Race Report.
In a word, the course was tight, twisty, rocky, and technical.
Six hours and seventeen minutes, and a little trail rash from a spill. I like to do my own stunts.
MTB Kingston is hard core. These folks build and maintain some of the sweetest and most technical singletrack around. The result is an awesome and very punishing network of awesomeness, and one heck of a fun time on a bike. Gotta say, Rob Sangers and his people make some awesome fun.
Also, the Drop of Doom is scary as hell.
The race wasn’t a good one for me, but I got to spend a whole lot of time on my bike, with some amazing people.
And so, I’ll regroup, and rethink, and ride some more and then ride some more.
And I’ll still consider it a blessing that I can even attempt the distance, and be proud that I finished each of the four XC Marathon races this year. 272k of really tough, really awesome, really fun MTB racing. Boom.
But hear me now MTB Kingston: I’ll be back next year for my vengeance, and if the saying is true, victory is mine.
Wait, the saying is “Six time’s a charm”, right?
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Congratulations to overall winner, Cameron McPhaden (U35 Men), with a time of 3:39, and the other Marathon winners:
35-49 Men: Eric Jobin (4:15)
35+ Women: Jessica Nankman (4:15)
Clydesdale: Rafael Olejniczak (4:38)
Fatbike: Jack Padega (4:14)
Master Men: Garnett Abbey (4:12)
Single Speed: Joel Nankman (4:17)
Congratulations to the Half Marathon winner, David Klaver (20-34 Men), with a time of 1:40, and to the other category winners:
35+ Women: Donna Winters (2:04)
35-40 Men: Brook SMith (1:50)
Clydesdale: Ken Ruckstuhl (2:14)
Fatbike: Patrick Seguin (1:50)
Master Men: Martin Mueller (1:55)
Single Speed: Chris Frank (1:56)
U20 Men: Ryan Genoe (1:59)
U35 Women: Tatiana Chiesa (2:18)
Thanks again to Dan Marshall and Substance Projects; Dan’s mom and dad (Ron and Florence are a HUGE support for me); Sherry, Simon, and Jenn; my wife for waiting until the end, and then letting me chat with my friends; MTB Kingston, Rob Sangers, and the Drop of Doom; Cycle Solutions; Pearl Izumi, eLoad, and the other amazing sponsors; and Lorraine (best post-race BBQ ever).
And thanks to Barry for some much needed mid-race love and support (the dude even helped me with my helmet). Awesome buddy.
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?”
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sometimes the BOOM is epic, and sometimes it’s tiny.
The Eager Beaver 2.0: boom
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.
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.
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: email@example.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.
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…
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
You never regret a race you did, only the race you didn’t.
It’s a Dan’s Race. ‘Nuff said.
If you have a bike, it’s the right bike. Period.
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?
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?
Playing bikes with a few hundred bike minded people for the afternoon. So cool.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
The 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.
Raf and Miro. 1st and 2nd fatbike in the 140k distance.
David V. Smoking performance–ON A MTB!
Gus and a Single Speed win! Boom.
My boy Scott. Great to see him.
A few Lapdogs, and me. Which one of these is not like the other…
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…
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.
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:
Riding in sand. I made up so much time and passed a lot of riders by keeping it rolling in the sand
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).
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:
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org