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.

 

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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.

el-bandit0-team-colin.jpeg
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

19. Graduation

I could have titled this blog “That Time I Rode A Hundred K”, because it was my first (metric) century ride.

Or, I could have called it “That Time I Rode The Perfect Bike”, because I was on a borrowed bike that was perfect, and sweeter than sweet.

But I’m calling it “Graduation” because that’s what happened. I graduated from the Old Colin (whose longest ride prior to Saturday’s race was 50k, and that only happened on Thursday–two days before the race), to New Colin (who can ride pretty much anything). That’s right, I graduated to one of the big boys.

And let me just say this: Phew.  I was so worried prior to the race, but honestly, what a waste.  On Saturday, August 13th, 2016, I rode the 100k distance in Dan Marshall’s Eager Beaver (presented by my bike shop, Cycle Solutions) and it didn’t kill me.  Actually it was 109k, and actually it wasn’t that bad, and more actually it was actually almost easy. Not actually really easy, but not actually as tough as I thought it’d be.  Hm.

Okay, so if it was easy (or not really easy, or not as tough as I thought it’s be, whatever) I know that means I didn’t work as hard as I could have, but as a first timer riding a century, and a first timer on a gravel bike, I had no benchmark for pacing or performance.  Damnit Jim, I’m a 30k mountain bike rider!

Also, in a sense, I was totally, utterly, and grossly unprepared for the imminent gruelling experience. I got back from a 19 day, 5,300 km driving vacation, four days before the race (and only rode three times during the trip), and was full of American restaurant and/or junk food (seriously, the candy aisle in American supermarkets is a thing of beauty, and don’t get me started on the pop, er I mean soda).

However, in another sense, I’ve been preparing for this race for four years (plus a lifetime of messing around on a bike), and especially this season with the addition of a single speed to my riding.

Either way, prepared or not, I was going to race the Eager Beaver 100 (which I’m now calling the Eager Beaver 109). Dan Marshall and Cycle Solutions have been such a source of inspiration, information, and plain awesomeness for me. Dan’s Homage 2 Ice was my first mountain bike race four years ago, and he has mentored me since. I wanted my first century to be in HIS race.  The fact that it was presented by MY bike shop too was just too much to resist.

And so, on a borrowed bike, full of equal parts optimism, hope, and terror, I rode the Eager Beaver 109.

And it was awesome.

I don’t know if it was the sweet bike, my legs, my (sometimes lack of) training, the adrenaline, or the witches brew of energy gels, Endurafuel, electrolyte fizzes, peanut butter sandwiches, tortellini, bacon, beer, and granola sloshing around in my gut, but I did it.

Hold on a sec. Can I talk about my bike for a minute. I went to my shop, Cycle Solutions, for a quick check on my Revolver the day before I left for the race. While I was there, the manager, Matt Morrish suggested I ride his personal bike, a Santa Cruz Stigmata. What a bike.  Holy shit is all I can say. Holy shit.  That is all.

So the race started with a…okay, a bit more about the Santa Cruz Stigmata.  It is the sweetest whip I’ve ever whipped.  For the uninitiated, and clearly less hip than me, the youths nowadays call their cars whips–I’m transferring the slang to bikes.  Also I’m not hip.  Anyway, riding the Santa Cruz Stigmata for five and a half hours was like being serenaded by the most awesome five and a half hour-long 80s power ballad. Once again, holy shit.  By the way, I keep joking to myself that if I say Santa Cruz Stigmata enough times, Matt will forget I have the bike and I’ll magically own it forever. Santa Cruz Stigmata.

Before I go on, just a bit more about the bike. When I got it home from my shop, the day before the race, I only had to raise the seat and move the handle bar spacers. That’s it. I rode it around my neighbourhood for five minutes, and then packed it away. The next day, I raced it for five and a half hours, and it fit like a glove–a sweet, carbon fibre, glove. Santa Cruz Stigmata, you are one sweet bike.  I bet Matt Morrish, the manager of my bike shop (Cycle Solutions) wishes he had one just like mine. See what I did there.

Santa Cruz Stigmata.

I think it’s time for a Race Report.

Race Report: Eager Beaver 100. Saturday, August 13, 2016

Well, I rode the most awesomest bike.  I think it was constructed by fairies, or maybe the carbon was pressed in Mordor.  Wow.

Santa Cruz Stigmata.

The race started with a quick zip up the grassy ski hills of Highlands Nordic Centre in Duntroon, Ontario. Once at the top, we had an even quicker zip into the first rocky section, and the race was on. I started at the back of the pack, like I usually do, and just cruised. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of terrain, or how my body would react to the distance, and I sure as hell didn’t want to get a pinch flat from one of the billion fist-sized boulders, so I took it easy. Seriously, at 250 pounds, there is a lot of pressure on my bike, and I think my tires bear most of the brunt of my bad eating habits. Plus, I wasn’t going to win the race in the first 35k, and I don’t relish the thought of a crash. Crashing hurts.

The first 35k was almost like a mountain bike race. Horrid sections and grueling climbs. Dan gave us a cheat sheet, but I had my own notes (thank you Brother P-Touch) stuck to my top tube and stem, and I knew that 5 of the 6 sections (the loose, fit-sized, boulder-strewn farm track) were before the 35k mark. I also knew that most of the climbing was in the first 35k (up the Niagara Escarpment, down the Escarpment, and back up the Escarpment). So I basically set my legs on cruise control and rode. When I needed to walk, I walked. And when I needed to stop and help a fellow rider unclip her shoe (because she lost a cleat screw), I stopped to help a fellow rider unclip her shoe. Her name was Melissa, We couldn’t detatch her shoe from the pedal, and after a few minutes, I knew I had to continue riding.  I hope she made it okay.  I rode with a bunch of other awesome people in the first few hours.  Cyclists are so cool.

Just before the 35k mark, and after a few more gross climbs, Dan gave us an aid station at the 26.4k mark.

And what an aid station it was. The Johnny and Emily from Team Van Go were cooking bacon.  But it wasn’t just bacon.  It was Sport Bacon.  Between the sizzling bacon, and their and smiles for miles. It was awesome. To be honest though, the smiles weren’t even necessary–they had me at bacon.  I refilled my water bottles, popped an energy gel, fizzed an electrolyte fizz, Honeymaxxed, jammed as much bacon in my mouth as I could, grabbed a peanut butter sandwich from my food bag, stuffed it in my mouth, and I was riding again.

Well, almost.  200 metres from the aid station, the guys from Cycle Solutions were directing the 50k riders in one direction, and the 100k and 160k riders the other direction. They also had beer. I was faced with a dilemma. I had about 80k to go, a full gullet, and a mouthful of peanut butter sandwich.  But…when your buddy hands you a tall can of beer, and you’re in a hurry, you only really have one choice. You chug that beer like a frat kid.

And so, with 80k to go, a full belly and a mouthful of peanut butter sandwich, I chugged that beer for all it was worth.  Team Colin!

Awesome.

With a newly boiling belly, a bit more of that section nonsense, and a few climbs later, we hit the 35k mark, which meant the top of the Niagara Escarpment, and smooth sailing for the 12k to the next aid station.

At some point in that leg of the race–at the 100k/160k dividing point–Matt and the guys from Cycle Solutions were cheering us on from the bed of a pickup truck.  To say that Matt is enthusiastic about the sport would be like saying the bacon a few kilometres back was okay.  Matt was THE Eager Beaver.  Great times.

Second station.  Refill, stuff, and repeat (except without bacon and beer–sad face), and I was off again.

And then the rain started. Hey, here’s a funny story. A few minutes before the aid station, I thought to myself “It’s getting kinda hot. It’d be awesome if it rained a bit”. Well, it rained alright. Oh, it rained. It rained so much, there were puddles on the downhills. It rained in every direction—at the same time. For the next 50k, the rain pelted us, poured on us, and screamed at us.

And I screamed right back. It was awesome. Rain is the Clydesdale’s best friend, because I can tell you this about riders who weigh 250 pounds: We sweat.

And between the wind and the sheer quantity of water, I felt like Lt. Dan in “Forest Gump”.  I swung my legs over the bow of the Jenny and screamed “Is that all you’ve got?”. Wait a sec, Lt. Dan didn’t have legs. Whatever. It’s an analogy.

Also, never scream at a storm, especially if you’re asking if that’s all it has, because Mother Nature always has more, and on Saturday, at about 11AM, it had thunder and lightening.

To make a long story short, I didn’t get hit by lightening. So that’s a plus.

But I rode like lightening. It was 41k to the next aid station, and I started out with a group of about 5 riders. They were awesome.  We cruised along, chatting, until no one answered. I had dropped them all and couldn’t even see them behind me. So I rode.

Prior to the race, Dan told me to draft other riders. “If you don’t draft other riders, I’ll slap you” is what he said. But if there’s nobody to draft, what then? Ride, that’s what.

So I rode. Although I’m happy to report to Dan that I managed to draft a few other riders during the race…for about 20 minutes in total. Every other minute was me on my own. Boom.

Between the two aid stations, I was alone for about 35k. I passed three riders, and we exchanged brief pleasantries (“Still haven’t been hit by lightening. Eh? That’s nice.”), but that’s it. I maintained a speed between 23kph, and 28kph, with a few quicker bits, and not many slower bits. Honestly, I just cruised. Against the wind, down a hill, up a hill, I just cruised—on my Santa Cruz Stigmata.

Santa Cruz Stigmata.

And that’s when the elegance of a long distance ride hit me. The start line was a few hours ago, and the finish like was a few hours to come. It was raining, my bike was singing to me in the sweetest of 80’s rock ballad falsetto voices, and I was just riding a bike. With no beginning, and no end, and only the sound of my pedal strokes mixed with the rain, my breathing, and the constant push of my legs, I felt absolutely and utterly at peace. It was clarifying. Dang, I hate how wonky that sounds, but it is so true. Between the 60k and 80k, my life changed.

When I got to the 88k aid station, the woman behind the table asked how I was doing. I hadn’t thought much about my state. I was too busy being. I paused to think about my answer. I was surprisingly good:  I wasn’t tired. I had much more in my legs, and there was only 20k to the end. Refill, stuff, repeat, and I was off. Damn, no bacon.

I was shocked when my GPS hit 90k. Did I just ride 90k? I kept going. Somewhere in that last 20k, I had a burst of speed where I maintained between 30kph and 38kph for about 25 minutes. I was so in my zone.

Back into the sodden grass, of a farm, over the hills of the Nordic Highlands Centre, and through the slick mud, and I was done.

End of Race Report.

My wife was waiting for me at the finish line and the timers yelled “Team Colin!” as I coasted through. I got off my bike, and smiled from grit encrusted ear to grit encrusted ear.

109k. 5:30:02. 1896m of climbing.  Thank you Cycle Solutions, Dan Marshall, and Substance Projects.

And that’s how Team Colin rode a hundred k, on the perfect bike, to his graduation ceremony.  I’m not going to say I’ll ride the 160k next year, but the year after, well, you never know…

Santa Cruz Stigmata.

Ride.

 

PS.  Here’s a picture of my bike for the say.  No, you can’t have it.  Well, I guess you can if your name is Matt.  It’s a Santa Cruz Stigmata…

Stigmata

…and it’s called bike porn for a reason.  Enjoy.

18. Not An Eager Beaver

Dan Marshall’s Substance Projects is having a race on Saturday: The Eager Beaver 100 (with a choice of 160km, 100km, or 50km). Team Colin is not eager. Team Colin is terrified.

And I’m going to race it.

I’ve given this race a lot of thought. I’ve never ridden 100k. I’ve done a few 50k rides, and each of the very few times it’s been a very tough experience. My shoulders lock up, my neck aches, and my wrists cramp like crazy, sending zings up my forearms.

I am not a distance rider.

But I want to be.

I see so many riders who bang off a century like it’s nothing (and can easily ride well over a century) and I want to be part of that club. In truth, as much as I’m proud of my riding accomplishments, there is always a nagging feeling at the back of my mind that I’m not doing the full races. I do the short distance of the Paris to Ancaster and Steaming Nostril races, and I do the half marathon in Dan Marshall’s fat bike and XC Marathon race series. I won’t even be doing the full distance of the Eager Beaver.

In the past few months, I’ve reconciled my weakness—that I am not willing to put in the necessary training time to get better, and I can’t revolve my entire life around cycling—but that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied with the result. Like I said, I want to be part of that club of riders who ride a century, so when Dan’s race presented itself, I jumped at the chance. Okay, I didn’t jump–it was more like a twitch—but I think it’s pretty cool that my first century will be in a Dan Marshall race. Dan’s Homage To Ice was my first mountain bike race (a week after my first bike race ever) and he, and his series, have embraced my entry to the world of bike racing.

So, whether I’m ready for it or not, I’m jumping into the pool of…

…I’m not sure. Maybe it’ll be a pool of life-changing awesomeness. Maybe it’ll be a pool of stark, staggering disappointment. I’m not starting the race to DNF, but I still don’t know how I am going to finish.

On a side, but very pertinent note, I just got back from a three week driving vacation. Sitting in a car for 5,300km does not make for an effective pre-race training cycle.

On another side note, it is hot in Ontario right now. Like, Medieval hot.

I’ve been messaging the members of Team Colin non-stop for the past few days. “Which tires?” “Do you think I can do it?” “What food do I need?” Electrolyte what,. now?” “How many energy gels?” “How do I manage my neck, shoulder and wrist pain?” “What about spandex discomfort (read: testicle chafing)?”

The list of questions goes on, and they’re all valid questions, but I feel needy, uncertain, and tentative. Not cool.

Although seriously, which tires should I use; does anyone think I can do it; what about electrolyte caps, energy gels, and muscle pain; and how on earth will I prevent my testicles from chafing?

Mark Summers answered the last one. Bag Balm from Lee Valley. I’ve never seen a cow with chaffed balls, so I’m off to Lee Valley.

Although my wife was quick to tell me that cows don’t have balls…

But what about the other questions. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller…

Actually, the members of Team Colin have been awesome with me, answering each of my questions with patience and care.

Matt from my bike shop (Cycle Solutions) has offered to let me use his bike. It’s apparently a legendary gravel bike: a Santa Cruz Stigmata. I’m worried that it’ll be a poor fit, but Matt and the guys at the shop tell me it will help.

Dan Marshall has been literally holding my hand through the entire process.

My riding buddy, John has advised me on all things in general.

Mark has assisted me with my testicles. Wait, that didn’t sound right.

And yay, I get to do all of this on my blog, and expose myself as a lightweight in the world of riding. Wait a sec, that part is pretty cool. Under the “Colin” menu section, I talked about my first race in the past tense (more than three years after it). All of the races since have been similar, so my growth has been from within. This race is entirely different from every other one, so there are external factors that will also affect the process.

But it’s just the next step in the riding progression, right?

Well, on one hand, I feel like the worries I have are almost identical to my first race.

On the other hand, my first race was 40K, mostly on roads, and his race is 110k, mostly on gravel. To make matters worse, Dan Marshall is a sadistic race organizer. The climbs are sure to be killer, the trails are sure to be killerer, and the distance… Well, damn.

So why am I doing this race?

I’m not entirely sure. However, I can say that I think I’m ready for the race, and I know I’m definitely ready for the challenge. Plus, really, how many things in life can you do that are a total unknown. I don’t think the race will break me, but I know it will push me harder than ever before.

So, for better or for worse, on a borrowed bike, under less than ideal conditions, after three weeks of sitting and eating, I’m going to do a 110k gravel race tomorrow: The Eager Beaver.

And, as much as it’s going to hurt…

Ride.

 

 

Post Script: I just saw some videos of a few of the sections. All I’ve got to say is: F*#k!.