46. 24 Hours of Summer Solstice

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

Chico who there?

Chico Racing.

24 Hours of what now?

24 Hours of Summer Solstice.

sol·stice

noun (/ˈsōlstəs,ˈsälstəs/)

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

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

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

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Geoff S.  This guy flies.

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

Best.  Answer.  Ever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey universe, help me out here…

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

9:15AM     

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

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

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

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

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

11:30AM

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

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

12:00PM

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

1:00PM

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

3:30PM (or so)

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

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

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

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A sweet shot of my bike (photo courtesy Apex Photography)

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

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Nearing the transfer (photo courtesy G. Simpson)

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

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

6:30PM

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

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

7:00PM to 11:00PM

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

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

12:15AM

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

I could see!

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

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

After my lap, I wrote on Facebook:

“Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself”

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

Plus, it was just really really cool.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9:00 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11:50AM

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

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

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

End of (sort of) Race Report

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

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David.  22 Laps Solo.  ‘Nuff said.

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

Alas, Team Colin won nothing.

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

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Rob and Miro.  Tag team.  Awesome.

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

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

And it was really fun too!

Ride.

 

Check out the results at Chico Racing.

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

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Here are some other shots from the days:

 

 

 

 

News: 24 Hours of BOOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get to the weird point Colin…

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

Yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24 Hours of BOOM.

Ride.

 

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

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

45. Humbler TC: 17

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

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

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

74 kilometres.

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

1,400m of climbing.

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

It was my favourite race EVER.

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

WHATTARACE!!!

Here’s why:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yup.

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

Oh, and five King Weekly Series races.

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

But not today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of Race Report.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are four lights, and I am Team Colin.

Ride

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

43. Long Sock Classic

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

Ganaraska Forest.

The Substance Projects Long Sock Classic.

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

Over five hours of rolling time.

It was race #2 in the Substance Projects XCM.

Was it fun?  Nope.

Was it easy?  Heck no.

Was it worth it?  You bet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I booked it anyway.

At least I now had water.  Yay, water…

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

And I was only about 6k into the race.

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

And I didn’t have gears.

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

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

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

And then it collects an ATM fee

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

But I had water.  Yay water…

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I had water.  Yay water…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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One lap done, one lap to go.  Ugh.

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

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

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

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A little bunny hop at the end.

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

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

End of Race Report.

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

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

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

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

I’ll just make sure I’ve got water.

Ride.

 

PS

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

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

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

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Two Happy Clydes

 

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

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

42. Why YOU Need to Race a Weekly Series.

Wohoo. It’s The Middle of the Week!

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

I know what you’re thinking:

Ugh, it’s the middle of the week.

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

Ugh.

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

Wohoo, it’s the MIDDLE of the week.

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

So very very awesome.

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

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

Weekly race series.  Boom.

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

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

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

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

Riding can not wait.  It’s more true.

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

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

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

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

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

What?  You’re not a racer?

You feel intimidated?

You don’t think you can do it.

Well…

Yes you are a racer–everyone is a racer.

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

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

Here are five reasons why a weekly series is awesome:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ride.

PS

A few lines that didn’t make the blog:

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

Shall we ride a lap, lady?

Frailty, thy name is a cracked frame.

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

This above all: to the ride be true.

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

Links to weekly series sites.  Click and race!

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

41. O-Cup # 2

Did I Ever Tell You About The Worst MTB Race Ever?

O Cup #2 @ MTB Kingston.  What.  A.  Race.

What was it?  Was it a MTB race, or a Tough Mudder?

Wait, it was a Mountain HIKE race (see what I did there)?

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Mudfest! (photo courtesy Sean Hickman, MTB Kingston)

For my fourth race in five weekends, I thought I’d take it easy, and I registered for the Sport Men category (24k) in the Substance Projects, Scott O-Cup #2 Race (presented by Plastiglas and powered by Caterpillar), at MTB Kingston.

24k at MTB Kingston?  Pfft.  Easy.  After the freezing cold 40k windstorm that I struggled against in the Steaming Nostril, the 50k rainy mess that I conquered on my rigid single speed at the H2i, and the constant challenge of the 70k wind tunnel of Paris to Ancaster, I figured I’d seen the worst of Springtime in Ontario.

Me:  Is that all you’ve got Ontario?  Some wind and a bit of rain?  Hah!  I mock you and your weak weather!

Springtime in Ontario:  Hold my drink…

Stupid Team Colin and his arrogance.  Stupid Team Colin for slapping Springtime in Ontario in its metaphorical face with his riding gloves.

Stupid Team Colin.Team-Colin-O-Cup

“It’s my fifth year of racing” I thought “I’ve seen it all”.

I could not have been more wrong.

O Cup #2 was an absolutely gnarly, awesomely boss, mountain bike race.  I hated almost every second of it. Here’s why:

  • It was cold, damp and muddy.  (or, in Team Colin language, it was “Brrr and ick”)
  • I chose the wrong tires and couldn’t find purchase on most climbs, around corners, and just trying to pedal
  • I hiked my bike more often than I biked my bike
  • My drivetrain is now a rusted string of orange used-to-be-a-chain
  • My brake pads are not
  • I don’t think I’ll ever get the outside (or inside!) of my shoes clean
  • I don’t even want to try to clean my socks–mostly because I think they’ve just been through enough
  • I used the wrong lube (okay, I didn’t use any lube because forgot to lube my bike after cleaning the drivetrain the day before), and had to actually dunk my bike into a stream on my last lap in order to have a working drivetrain
  • Despite my best efforts with a hose after the race, my bike is now a mud encrusted heap of what was once carbon perfection

I could continue, but I won’t, because for every second that I hated the race, I loved it even more.

O Cup # 2 at MTB Kingston was AWESOME.  Here’s why:

  • It was one heck of a boss ride
  • It was MTB racing at its finest

End of list.

O Cup #2 at MTB Kingston was soooooo MTB from start to finish.

What, we thought a sealed bottom bracket was just a conversation piece?

We thought disk brakes were something bike manufacturers made just for fun?

Nope.

After the race, I heard some riders saying things like

“Well that was an expensive hike”

“There was just too much mud”

“It should have been cancelled”.

If you were one of those people, I hate to say it, but I think you got it wrong.

Team-Colin-O-Cup-Post
Team Colin Post Race: MUD & SMILES!

Our bikes are bred for the awful slop that Mother Nature threw at us on Sunday:  they yearn for muddy chain suck and the strain of trying to crank up slippy-sloppy climbs; they pine for the chance to (try to) shift through ten pounds of derailleur mud; and they ache to be spinning on mud-encrusted wheels that look like more like fatbike tires than the 2.2 Rocket Ron’s I (should have) put on the night before.

 

So what if our tires looked like homemade “Gift for the Cyclist in your Life” crafts on Pinterest after we rolled through a the carpet of pine needles on mud drenched wheels?

That’s MTB.

So what if it was really hard?

That’s really MTB.

So what if it was muddy?

That’s totally and thoroughly MTB.

And so what if  we’ll probably never again feel clean, and our bikes creak instead of purr, and there’s still sandy grit in our bodies where sand should never be, and…

That’s the heart of MTB.

I don’t say this in a chest-beating, full-of-machismo, way.  It’s just what we DO on a mountain bike.  We ride.  And no matter what the weather throws at us, or how the course conditions cry havoc and let slip the dogs of mud, we ride.

Seriously, did Neanderthal racers complain when their mountain bike races were held in a gruelling mess of knee deep primordial ooze?  No.  They said “Ooga booga, Ugh! Ugh! Ughhhhh!”, which , roughly translated, means “Awesome, it’s muddy, let’s race!  And could somebody please invent padded cycling shorts!”

Our bikes were bred from greatness, and designed to perform in precisely what we faced on Sunday:  Mud, and grime, and water, and more mud and grime and water.

I know I always say this, but we didn’t bring a teacup to a garden party, we brought a mountain bike to a race, and Mother Nature did everything she could to make it boss. The weekend before, at P2A, Mother Nature challenged riders with the strongest wind ever recorded on earth (totally true), and on Sunday, Mother Nature challenged us with a week of biblical rain.  Clearly, Mother Nature is hardcore.

And that’s awesome.

Besides, where’s the fun in going to work on Monday and saying “I did a mountain bike race on the weekend.  It was sunny, warm, and easy”.  If we wanted easy, we’d be tooling around a golf course wearing plaid socks and a heinous pair of walking shorts, deciding whether we need to chip the next shot.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that (golf, the socks, or the shorts–okay, maybe there’s something wrong with the shorts…).

We chose to spend Sunday playing bikes in the mud.  Boom.  These guys came just to watch.  Great to see you Angela, Dan, and Nick Emsley!

Team-Colin-O-Cup-Emsleys

Besides, when you see pictures of the pros, are they clean and pristine, and riding on easy street?  Nope.

Unless it’s golf.

Before a Race Report, I want to talk about the trails for a sec.  It’s usually not cool to ride when it’s muddy because our tires inflict so much damage on soft trails (Um, that’s why it’s called shredding).  People work hard to maintain trails, and mud riding can wreck all the hard work. Worse, the cycling community seems a bit salty these days whenever the question of trail closures and mud comes up.  Maybe it’s because this is a particularly long wet season, or because it’s been a horribly long winter.  Regardless, the sentiment reared its head a few times on Sunday, so I spoke to Rob Sangers, the owner of the private property where the race was held.  Rob is a HUGE cycling advocate and devotee. These are his trails, and he (along with a legion of MTB Kingston volunteers) made sure the trails were as good as they could be for the race, and they’ll be working hard over the next few weeks to repair the damage–which was likely substantial.  Aside from the fact that the race took place on only a small portion of MTB Kingston’s network, this was a calculated risk on their part.  They knew the challenges, and faced them head-on by reinforcing many of the trails with gravel and sand in the days leading up to the race, choosing trails that were rideable in the rain, and designing much of the race on motocross and farm track that was less susceptible to water and wheels.  Rob said “I’m not afraid of work. I’m a farmer.”  Indeed.  He’s got the right attitude, the work ethic, and the access to equipment to make it happen. This isn’t a group of riders spending a Saturday morning with a wheelbarrow and a shovel, this is a massive crew of trained individuals…with tractors.

Rob and MTB Kingston weren’t at the mercy of the OCA, and it wasn’t hubris or greed that made this race happen, it was love and passion for all things MTB. All parties collaborated prior to the race (and toiled to prep the trails), and will continue long after. In fact, they’re still working to make sure the trails are better than ever when the water finally subsides and the animals find their way, two by two, back home.

The result of their planning and dedication was a truly remarkable racing experience.

Wait, did somebody say Race Report?

Team-Colin-O-Cup-Commissaire-Jeff
Commissaire Jeff and a clipboard that means business.

I did the 11:45 start, in the Men’s Sport 45-49 category (boy, there sure are a lot of categories in an O Cup race).  The 9:00, 10:00, and 1:45 races followed slightly different courses, but the meat and bones of each course was fairly similar.  The meat and bones of the course, if you haven’t gathered was covered in mud, and it deteriorated throughout the day, causing a great deal of re-routing and section closure.  Commissaire Jeff, Rob, and Dan displayed a remarkably chill attitude when faced with the massive changes.  By race time, the 8k lap had been reduced to about 5k, and little did I know during my wave even the number of laps was reduced from 3 to 2.

Race Report:  O Cup #2 at MTB Kingston (May 7, 2017.  Glenburnie, ON)

The first bit of the race was a awesome.  There was a quick shot along a crowd-lined slope, through a barn, onto a 1k pump track (with some superbly dialed berms), and up a sweet farm track for a long-ish but gentle climb.  Then, we were back past the Start/Finish area for a hero sprint, and down into the valley along another farm lane.Team-Colin-O-Cup-Start-2

Then it really got awesome. The descent into the valley was our first introduction to the mud that would follow:  Deep, flowing, thick, and nasty–and this was on a wide downhill!

The course improved and as soon as we were under the forest canopy.  Everything dried and the course was fast and dry. No it wasn’t.  It was horrible.  The trails for the next kilometre were a mix of calf deep sludge, mud covered roots, standing water, and slick, sucking, muck.  I mostly walked, and rarely rode.  It was a SLOG.

When the course wound deeper into the forest, there was a nice stretch of mostly rideable single track.  Of course, “nice” is a relative term, and relative to the day as a whole, it was only marginally nicer than the previous trek.  It was slow and slick, and took every bit of concentration not to slide into a tree or kiss the muck.

Prior to the race, Dan suggested I ride with studs on my tires to help with traction. I always say “There’s already more than enough stud on my bike…” but he was right. Studs would have helped.  He’s also right when he laughs at me each time I make that joke because I am not the picture of studliness.

Studs or not, the last 500 metres or so of the race were totally unrideable for me. The mud was calf deep, and seemed even stickier than the rest.  My bike just wouldn’t roll. Worse, by this point in the race, my drivetrain was a hulking mess and I couldn’t crank on the pedals without my chain jamming into my chainstay The climb up to the finish line, and the 90 tight and steep corner at the top was a nice touch, and would have been great without mud, but alas, mud was the word of the day and, and mud it was, so I scampered up the hill as best as I could and bowed my head so the crowd couldn’t identify me.

Team-Colin-O-Cup-StartThe second lap was a case of lather, rinse, repeat–except in mud.  By this time in the day, the course was at its worst.  I pedalled when I could, trudged through the same slop, and just tried to finish the lap.

I didn’t discover the last lap was axed until I was finishing my second lap.  I was prepared to tough it out for another, but I’m glad I didn’t have to.  My time was 1:40 for 2 laps, and a total distance of just over 10k. Yeah, it was that bad.Team-Colin-O-Cup-Emcee

Congratulations once again to everyone who raced.  The results are listed on the OCA website.

It’s just too bad the emcee was so lame…

End of Race Report

The honest fact is that races like this are really really really tough.  It wasn’t a long race, but my lap time was over 45 minutes, and the difficulty of the terrain was so challenging.  So what did I do?  I pedalled a bit and walked a lot and walked some more, until I finished each lap.  I figure, you can’t finish a race dreading it, and you certainly can’t finish it by not moving, so I kept at it. Eventually, the race has got to stop, even when it feels like it won’t.

But you know, there was a plus side to the race too, because I had my bike with me. With all the shouldering, lugging, and dragging, I think we really had a chance to bond. I touched it in special places.  It’s a good thing I was wearing gloves.

Team-Colin-O-Cup-Start-2There was another plus, and it didn’t involve forbidden bike love.  I stuck around to see the Elite riders in the 1:00 wave.  By that time of the day, the course was absolutely mangled, but one by one, they sprinted past, and one by one I saw them nail the climb across the valley before entering the forest, and one by one, they RODE UP THE LAST CLIMB.

It probably wasn’t easy for them either, but they did it.  What a great reminder of what we aspire to, and what a great example of boss riding.  When I dreamt of MTB as a kid, it was races like these that made me want to ride.

Because that’s MTB.

We’re all MTB.  Seriously, anyone who did the race is now a member of the “MTB League of Bossness” (not a real organization).  Making the choice to enter the race was enough of a BOOM.  Starting the race after seeing the course conditions was another BOOM. Finishing the race was, well, that’s just damn epic.

Team-Colin-O-Cup-Band
“I’m with the band”

You know what else is MTB?  Substance Projects.  Slick event, fun time, and there was even a live band.  Yeah, a live band.  Literal mic drop!  This group of local high school students was amazing.  They had a tight and mature sound, and played covers, along with a few originals.  The future of rock in Kingston is safe.  Well done boys!  The Banters.  Check them out.

Back to the O Cup.  For those who took a look at the weather on race day morning said “Been there, done that” and decided not to race. That’s too bad, because sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of the true spirit of mountain biking.  There is no HTFU (and I really don’t like that term anyways), but there is a whole bunch of GIYBAEESOIBYDCGAAH (Give It Your Best And Enjoy Every Second Of It Because You Didn’t Choose Golf As A Hobby).

Maybe I’m seeing this wrong.

I don’t see the glass half full or half empty, I see it as 100% AWESOME.  The half full part is filled with the potential of what’s to come, and the half empty part is the experience of something awesome, something learned, and something DONE.  There are always a million reasons NOT to ride, and sometimes only a few reasons TO ride, but I have yet to regret the decision to ride.

Or maybe I’m just seeing AWESOME.

Now that I’ve “been there and done that”, I can say this:  I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.  Bring it on Springtime in Ontario.  Bring it on.

Oh, and the answer to the title of this blog (Did I ever tell you about the worst MTB race ever?):  It was awesome. The worst MTB race ever was awesome.

Because that’s MTB.

Ride.

 

PS.  Hey, did you race on Sunday?  What did you think of the course?  The band?  The mud?  The awesomeness?  Did you clean your bike yet?  Comment on this post, or send an email (teamcolinblog@yahoo.com).

A HUGE THANKS TO:

  • THE SPONSORS
  • SUBSTANCE PROJECTS AND DAN MARSHALL
  • OCA
  • COMMISSAIRE JEFF
  • MY RACE PHOTOGRAPHER FOR THE DAY, NORMA MACLELLAN
  • THE SMOKIN’ CARNIVORE FOOD TRUCK
  • THE BANTERS
  • MTB KINGSTON
    • Rob Sangers
    • Kyle Sangers
    • Wally Stanton (the dude who put a bridge in for us)
    • Sean Hickman (the dude who also took an awesome pic of me)
    • Peter Dawson
    • Chris MacFarlane
    • the MTB Kingston Youth Race Team (who used one of their practices to help)
    • and EVERY MEMBER of MTB Kingston who will be working to get the trails back in shape

Nothing would have happened without these people (and probably many more that I don’t know about).  Thanks again.  Many of us just showed up and raced, but you made the day an awesome reality.

BOOM!

News: Demo Fest Cancelled

Noooooooo.

We’re not going to play bikes tomorrow.

We’re not going to meet a few thousand bike minded people (love that saying) and talk about the greatest thing on earth:  MOUNTAIN BIKING.

We’re not going to have pancakes in the forest.

We’re not going to play on Joyride 150’s jumps and skinnies, and ride with the Ride Guides people.

We’re not going to see the staff and bikes from: Bicycles PlusBoyds SportsCycle LifeCycle SolutionsEvolution CyclesImpala BicyclesSpoke O Motion, and Station Ski and Ride (those are all links by the way, click on them).

And we’re not going to see bikes from: Giant, Norco, Specialized, KHS, Cannondale, Trek, Santa Cruz, Devinci, Liv, Pivot, Rocky Mountain, Scott, Yeti, and Staran, and support a few local businesses: The Copper Branch, Hy-Hope Farms, The Merchant of Meat, and Primal Pizza.

Nope.  None of that stuff.  DMBA DEMO FEST IS CANCELLED.

And that’s awesome.

Yup, awesome.  Gotta respect DMBA for making the right call and cancelling tomorrow’s Demo Fest.  It’s been raining all week, it’s not going to stop tonight, and there is just too much water on the trails.  Because of the DMBA, the trails will live to be boss for another day.

20170505_155034.jpgRespect, respect, RESPECT!

Part of the DMBA mandate is to “preserve trail opportunities”, and cancelling tomorrow must have been a killer decision–especially given the amount of time and money that must have gone into the event, not to mention the few unreasonable people who might complain–but ultimately they have done exactly what we need them to do.  They’ve shown exactly why they exist.  They exist so that our sport will be protected.

We can’t ride on Saturday, but the trails will be there all summer, and with people like the DMBA advocating for US, protecting OUR trails, and giving US events like the Demo Fest, the trails (and the spirit and vibe of biking)  are sure to be there for many summers to come.

It ain’t easy making tough decisions, but it’s called the high road for a reason, and DMBA just took it.  All of us know this philosophy too well.  When there’s a fork in the trail, and one side has a log-over, we nail the logs.  When there’s a killer hill to climb, we attack it (and sometimes even repeat it).  When our friends are playing golf and scrapbooking (not that there’s anything wrong with that), we RIDE OUR BIKES hard and fast.

And now, thanks to the DMBA, all that great stuff is protected just a little bit more.

If you’re really itching to ride tomorrow (and I know I am) here are a few other alternatives to Demo Fest:

  • Feel like an indoor rip?  Take a shot up to Joyride 150 and try their new Flow Trail.
  • Really really really want to ride OUTSIDE tomorrow?  Check the Team Colin Facebook page, or send Team Colin an email (teamcolinblog@yahoo.com). Rumour is that a ride is planned exploring his famous “South Scarborough Loop” (a teeny tiny bit of road, lots of paved trail, a few climbs and other surprises, and a view of the lake).
  • Can you wait until Sunday? If so, make the trip east, O-Cup #2 at MTB Kingston (presented by Dan Marshall and Substance Projects) is on Sunday.  MTB Kingston has been busy all week making sure the trails are ready for the downpour (sand, gravel, rerouting, and so on), and ensuring the trails won’t sustain any damage. Seriously, check out the Substance Projects Facebook page.  These folks CARE about the trails and are knocking themselves out to make the race a reality.  Dan, Substance Projects, and MTB Kingston support us, and it’s time for us to support them. Cold and (torrentially) rainy, with a chance of snow?  Can’t think of a better time to crush it on a bike.  Boom.
  • Behind on your chores?  Spend a bit of time catching up.  Seriously, with three races in April (and three in May…plus a few weekly race evenings), I am behind in everything that doesn’t have to do with bikes.  My bikes are tuned, and my kits are ready to go, but my garage is a mess, my lawn needs a rake, the shower may be growing things, and the laundry pile is threatening to topple on one of my kids if they put one more sock on top.
  • Forgot to observe Star Wars Day?  Say hi to Chewie, Han, Leih, Obi Wan, Luke, and the droids (even though they aren’t the ones you’re looking for), and watch a Star Wars movie (hint, episodes 4-7 are a good place to start)
  • Forgot what a non-biking weekend looks like?  Read a book, watch a play, sleep in, snuggle someone, bash the mud off your shoes from last weekend’s P2A (or is that just me), clean your bike, visit a bike shop, spend the day in your pajamas and binge watch a new show, get caught in a Youtube Vortex, or otherwise revisit your non-biking life that usually gets put on hold during riding season.
  • Want to support our sport so there are many Demo Fests in the future?  Renew your DMBA membership.  DMBA, YMBA, IMBA, HAFTA, GORBA, Team Van GoSCMBC, Shorthills, WCC, MTB Kingston, whatever.  Each of us should be a member of one of our organizations.  Each name above is a link.  Get clicking!

I’m not glad the Demo Fest is cancelled, but I’m happy that our trails and our sport will remain strong and healthy because of the great leadership and forward thinking of the DMBA.  I really believe that we’re stewards not just of our trails, but of our natural environment, and it’s nice to have a reminder about the effects of our actions.

So what if we can’t play bikes and eat pancakes tomorrow.  There’s plenty of summer ahead of us.

Ride…just not at Durham tomorrow, and probably not for the next few days (unless you’re racing in Kingston).

 

 

PS.  Hey, anything to say about the trails, riding, or bikes in general? Comment, or send me an email at: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

In no time, we’ll be doing this again:

team-colin-King-Weekly-Series.jpg