50. Graduation 2.0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope.

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

Ding ding ding ding.  We have a winner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I was off and riding.

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

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

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

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

Like I said, it was not an auspicious start.

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

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

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

Oh, and bacon.

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

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

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

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Thanks Barry.

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

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

Jenn and Mike arrived with Fatboy Nation.

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

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

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

So, to recap…

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

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

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Mud.  Awesome.

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

The course was anything but smooth.

So, to recap in a slightly more succinct list.

  • Aw dang it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

That race tho…The Eager Beaver 2.0

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

And I gotta say, I really dig it.

Yeah, I know, hokey.

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

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

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

The Eager Beaver 2.0:  boom

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

And I even learned a bit about bike diving.

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

Ride.

 

 

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

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Damn, Johnny is cool.

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

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

Thanks Team Van Go!  Please keep being you.

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

 

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

 

49. DO the Eager Beaver

It’s coming.

It’s almost here.

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

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

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

And the best part is…wait for it…

I.

Am.

Ready.

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Reasons Why YOU Should Do the Eager Beaver 2.0

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

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

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

See you Saturday!

Ride.

48. El Bandito 70/140

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mr. Dan Marshall. Love ’em.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was terrific.

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

A few observations about my pack:

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of Race Report.

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

These folks were pretty epic though.

 

 

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

I wasn’t wrong.

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

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

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

Was it worth it?  Ab.  Sew.  Lootely.

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

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

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

Ride.

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

47. Just Say NO to El Bandito

DO NOT Race the El Bandito.

Yeah, you read that right.  DO NOT RACE this Saturday’s El Bandito (Race #1 in the Substance Projects Stuporcross).

I’ve devoted some time to this, and I just don’t think it’s a good idea.  Here are FIVE reasons why YOU should NOT race the El Bandito:

  1. Northumberland County:  Have you visited Northumberland County?  It’s littered with picturesque farms and beautiful rolling hills.  Who wants to ride through that kind of place?  I mean, you’re going to have to ride by cows pretty streams, and gorgeous vistas.  Ugh.
  2. Substance Projects:  Yeah, Substance Projects.  There is nothing worse than going to a race and being greeted by the Substance Projects family.  Dan Marshall and his family (staff and actual family) are just too friendly and welcoming. Dan’s mom is going to smile, Dan’s father might talk to you, and Dan might even know your name.  Who wants that?  Not me.  I’d rather go to a race, pay my registration fee to a humourless attendant, never engage with the organizers, and be a faceless, nameless “number plate only” participant.  Yeah, give me more anonymity!
  3. team-colin-el-banditoThe Course:  It’s just going to be too hard (See #1 re: “hills”).  Why would anyone want the challenge of something difficult.  If Millennials have taught me anything, it’s that when something is tough, you probably shouldn’t do it.  Sweat doesn’t actually do anything except make your clothes wet, trembling muscles and sore legs all day Saturday aren’t good if you want to play in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament on Sunday afternoon–especially if Carrey is bringing his vintage hibachi.  (Note, I am not playing in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament on Sunday.  I don’t even know what Ultimate Frisbee is.).  Seriously, who wants to spend a few hours slogging their way through a course that promises to be difficult, hard, and just not easy?  Plus, they’re probably going to have fully stocked aid stations and a meal at the end of the race. One word: eww.
  4. People:  Has anyone in the history of cycling ever chosen to ride with a bunch of cool, bike minded people.  Why is this even a thing?  No sir, not for me, no thanks.  Why ride with people that you might have to talk to, when you can ride alone and savour the loneliness of a long distance ride in the absence of a riding community.
  5. Inagural:  It’s the first time for this event.  That means racers will be part of SOMETHING cool.  That’s just a whole bunch of nope.  Being part of an inagural race means that for the the rest of the season, racers will have to boast to their friends and explain how awesome it was.  “What, you weren’t at the El Bandito? Well, let me tell you how amazing it was and how cool I am for doing it…”.  No way. If I’ve learned anything about cyclists, it’s that they hate talking about their cycling experiences–especially when it’s a new or exclusive thing.

Okay, fine. this is all just a ploy to ensure YOU won’t do the El Bandito, because I really want to do the El Bandito, and I won’t be there.  I’ m too sick to race, and I don’t want to miss out.  It’s called FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), and I have it real bad.

For some reason, I do body functions big. I just do.  When I sneeze, windows rattle; When I cough, flocks of birds take flight; and when I get a summer cold, I really get a summer cold.  I’ve been sidelined in bed for almost two weeks.  Yay summer.  The quantity of phlegm, mucus, sputum, and snot originating in, and being expelled from, my body is remarkable. Worse, I can’t sleep, and I’ve spent most of the last 14 days too tired to function.

And so, instead of racing the coolest race of the season (and probably the decade, and maybe even the century), I’ll be home, rattling windows, scaring birds, and hacking my way through another Sudoku.

However…

If you are going to race the El Bandito–although I don’ t know why after reading my comprehensive list of reasons NOT to, here are some tips.

I went on a scouting mission with Dan Marshall a few weeks ago (before the onset of the plague that has befallen me), and experienced some of the worst the course has to offer.

team-colin-el-banditoThe sections we rode were crushingly hard:  All climb, all sand, all RAW, and every bit awesome.  Honestly, the sections we rode were cycling nirvana. While there is no actual singletrack in the course, some of the double track comes pretty close…and nothing beats sweet doubletrack…and nothing beats a long stretch of gravel…and nothing beats some…and nothing beats road, asphalt, poison ivy-lined trail, rock-strewn path, and so on.  The El Bandito has it all and the El Bandito is going to be awesome.

Disclaimer:  Dan has driven every inch of the course in his car.  True story.

Bike Choice

There has been a bit of discussion online about bike and tire choice.  Nobody knows which bike to ride.  Is it a gravel race?  An MTB race?  A CX race?  A sailing regatta? So riders are left wondering whether they should ride their hardtail, a fatbike, their cross bike, or their new Salsa Hammer Claw (I think it’s actually called a Warbird, but whatever).  This means whichever bike you choose, it’ll be the wrong one, and riders will have to suffer through their bike choice throughout the entire race.

And don’t even get me started on tires…

It’s a bike race.  Plain and simple, it’s a race, on a bike.  A dude always races P2A on a unicycle, and there were two riders who tag-teamed the 24 Hour on unicycles, so if your bike has two wheels, you’re fine.  Although if it has only one wheel, you’re probably going to beat me, because the P2A unicycle dude, and the 24 Hour unicycle dudes all beat my times.  Maybe that’s my problem, my OTHER wheel is really holding me back…

When Dan and I scouted, I was on my Norco Threshold (a CX bike) with 33mm tires.  It probably wasn’t the bike of choice, and I could probably use wider tires, but I survived. If 250 pounds of Team Colin can make it on THAT bike, and if 250 pounds of Team Colin can make it on THOSE tires–especially when he’s dogging an epic cold–whichever bike you choose will be fine.

Here’s a video clip of our scouting mission.

And another clip.

As Barry Cox said in his course review for the Lapdogs Cycling Club (READ IT ALL AT THE END OF THIS POST. SERIOUSLY, READ IT), pretty much any bike is suitable:  if you ride a hardtail MTB, you’ll be comfortable on the singletrack and sand, but slower on the road (gravel and paved); if you ride a gravel bike you’ll be faster on the road (gravel and paved) but slower on the singletrack; and if you ride a fatbike, you’ll be happy on everything because fatbikes are awesome.

Nicholas Leja wrote this on Facebook, and I think it captures the course.

team-colin-el-bandito-norco-thresholdDan rode his Salsa Thunder Hammer Bird (Warbird), with 39mm tires, and I think the course is ideally suited for the bike.  If I had a little bucket of spare money lying around (and if I didn’t have the worst cold humankind has ever experienced), I’d buy wider tires for my Threshold.  However, I have a set of CX tires that I used on my hardtail at the 2016 P2A, and that would be a good choice too  The terrain of the course isn’t the challenge, it’s the long stretches of sand.

Oh, and I don’t think there is a consecutive stretch longer than 100 metres that is actually flat.  The area ain’t called the Northumberland Hills for nothing.

For riders who do the Eager Beaver, the The El Bandito isn’t eager or a beaver.  It’s not a cross country marathon, and it’s not a CX race.  It’s a looooong cross race on steroids, with a touch of madness.  And it’s going to be awesome.

Awe.  Some.

Will it be easy?  No.  Will it be worth it?  Oh yeah.

Ride.

 

PS.  Unless heaven looks fondly on me and relinquishes its hold on my immune system, I won’t be there.  If you are, could you please devote a section to me?  Thanks in advance.

 

Some Resources:  Check out the Substance Projects Facebook Page, or website for more information.

Here’s most of Barry’s review of the course for his fellow Lapdogs:

The 140k course is hard. Murderously hard.
There is a steep climb within 100m of the start.  Unless you are one of the first few riders off the line you will likely end up walking it. Following this is a long rocky gravel road with a washed out bridge.
There are two run-ups on the 140k course. Or walk-ups. Because they are too steep to run. You may be able to rappel up, but you ain’t riding it. There is A LOT of climbing (2,000m+ on the 140). There is not much gravel but there is a lot of sandy ATV trails. Get comfortable riding in sand.
If you are on a CX bike run larger volume tires (700 x 36c at least) if you can. I was on 700 x 40 Clement Xplores and I felt that they helped me in the sand and on the trails, but there is a fair amount of paved road and they may have held me back a bit there.
There is no one ideal bike for this course. There are sections where I was wishing I was on my 29er hardtail. Especially the sandy sections, and a fairly long bit of singletrack and double track that runs thru Ganaraska Forest towards the end of the race. But had I been on an MTB I would have been cursing during the road sections. I think a CX bike (with bigger tires – see above) is the lesser of the two evils.
Save something for the end. The second half of the course is harder than the first. Pace yourself accordingly. The views and scenery are awesome and well worth doing the race.
In short, this is going to be an epic, awesome event. You probably won’t die.

 

 

 

40. P2A 2017

Well, That’s That

Paris-to-Ancaster-Climb
The Martin Hill Climb

P2A: Canada’s Spring Cycling Classic.

P2A:  The fifth anniversary of my first bike race ever.

P2A:  The cycling equivalent to root canal.

Boom!  And so, the day started.  Not with the cock of a crow (hehe) or the gentle chirping of birds outside my bedroom window, but with a BOOM.  A loud, crackling, thunder clap. Mother Nature was angry at something.  Like, really angry.

And so was I.  It was 5AM, I was about to take a stab at my first full P2A, and the thunder woke me up 90 minutes before my alarm (which was set for 6:30).  The day was going to be tough, and Mother Nature added her signature to it.  Call it pathetic fallacy.  Call it whatever.

I say:  Not cool Mother Nature.

SONOTCOOL.

The night before the race, I posted this on the Team Colin Facebook page:

P2A Eve. Is your bike nice and shiny? Bags packed? Energy gels gelling? Whenever you make it to bed tonight, I hope your sleep is filled with dreams of boss gravel, chutes of horrible mud, rain, wind, and a big grunty climb at the end of it all. It’s P2A, it’s awesome, and it’s going to be epic. Sleep well, and wake-up ready to punch P2A in the throat.

Well I wasn’t going to punch anything in the throat at 5AM.  All I could think about was the cold torrents of rain slapping my bedroom window.

I managed to fall asleep again, but still.  SONOTCOOL.

I woke again at 6:30 and felt a bit better.  For me, nothing can diminish race morning nerves and excitement.  This year’s P2A would be my fifth time doing the race, but only my first kick at the full distance.  I was EXCITED.  I was in okay enough shape, and eager to test myself, but the best part was that after the race this year, there’d be no qualifier:  No saying “I did the P2A” and have to add “but only the St. George distance”; no feeling that I only did half the race; and no feeling that I could have done more.  I had NERVES too, and that part of me was on overdrive.  I was hoping for a finish time of around three and a half hours, and the prospect of being in the saddle for that much time on such a cold day was humbling; the prospect of pushing my body to my limits was numbing; and the added prospect 30-50kph winds was, well, it was terrifying.

To add to the NERVES, I was still recovering from the gruelling mess that was the H2i two weeks prior, and the muscles in my new body part (known as my back/shoulders/neck/legs) hadn’t unknotted (which is why I was still in bed).

But then, EXCITEMENT kicked back in.  I was going to do a big kid race, and I was anxious to test my physical and mental limits (okay, I’ll get out of bed now).

Boom!  More thunder.  Well, so much for that.  I was pant-crapping terrified.  Every single worry of my first race five years ago came floating back at me.  How would I handle the cold…what if my new (to me) bike got angry and I had to deal with a technical…what about the rain…the wind…the crowds…the mud chutes and last climb and cramping and…

Dang, was it still like this for me after 35 races in the past four years?

Yes.  Yes it was.  Laying in bed I felt a healthy respect and awe for what I was about to do. It wasn’t going to be easy, it probably wouldn’t be fun, and it was sure to be horribly awful at times, but when it was over I was going to be sore and drained, and aching–hold on, I’m getting to the good part–and content in the knowledge that win or lose (likely lose), finish or not (50-50 odds), I would have given it all I had.  The excitement started to build.  This was going to be MY Paris to Ancaster, and I was going to OWN every second of it…

Boom?  Aw c’mon thunder, I was on a roll there.

Oh well, time to start the day.

The next few hours were a blur.  Get out of bed, jam some breakfast in my belly, do a pre-race checklist, pack the van, drive to Ancaster, pick up my number plate and registration kit, drive to Paris, find parking, change, stretch, pee, stretch some more, worry a bit, wonder if I should pee again, find Carl, my race buddy (who I met at Team Colin Day, and got to know the day before with a sweet warm-up ride),get into the start paddock. worry a bit more, adjust my glasses and gloves…

Boom!  With the report of a musket firing, the race started.  Hey, what’s with the BOOMS today? First it was Mother Nature smashing clouds together, and now it’s a dude in a boss beard, beside a bagpiper, starting the race.

Paris-to-Ancaster-startIn the first few seconds of the race I realized something.  Initially, I thought Mother Nature had a thunder storm to mimic the nerves and terror of P2A.  Nope.  Mother Nature had a thunder storm to mimic the epicness of the day.  She wasn’t angry, she just wanted to play bikes too.

Awesome.

Race Report:  Paris to Ancaster.  Paris, Ancaster (April 29, 2017)

With a bag piper playing us up a gentle climb, we turned onto the gravel driveway of an industrial area (that was now doubling as a Bike Water Bottle Recycling Centre), and onto the first stretch of rail trail. The pace was slowed by the sheer volume of riders, but passing was sort-of possible.  Carl and I chatted a bit, and kept each other in sight.  After a few k of the trail, we turned up a sharp, fist-size boulder strewn punchy climb that took most of us off our bikes.

Waiting for us at the crest of the quick climb–lurking for us–was the wind.  It defied us to keep pedalling.  We had 60k to go, and we were supposed to punch P2A in the throat, but it was a struggle just to keep the bike moving forward.  I think it’s safe to say that no cyclists have ever experienced a stronger head wind.  That’s probably, most likely, almost certainly, true.

We skirted a farmer’s field, onto a bit of windy road, a bit more windy gravel, some more windy gravel, a bit of windy road, and then took a shot at a sweet P2A SECTION.  A “section” is gravel grinder-ese for “rotten-awesome part”.  But it really wasn’t that bad.  A quick detour onto a farm for a little rip around a field.  The trail was bumpy, and the wind kept taunting us, but we kept at it.  Back on the gravel road, we continued against the onslaught of wind.  Every second against the wind was an absolute slog. The headwinds were brutal.  Even riding with a cross wind was tough.  Tailwinds were…well, I don’t remember much tailwind.  That’s the thing about a point to point race.  If the wind is coming from Point B, and you start at Point A, reprieve from the wind doesn’t exist.

This is where it’s good to have a race buddy.  Carl and I took turns slicing the wind, and our pace was strong.  It was a race after all, and while we weren’t pushing for a spot on the podium, we were pushing for the sheer joy of being AWESOME.

More gravel, more roads, more sections.

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A little gravel goodness (photo courtesy of photographybychyla)

More WIND!

Some of the sections were fun.  Some weren’t. The few thousand riders ahead of us had blended the sections to the consistency of oatmeal.  It was slow going, but everybody was in the same boat.  We hit another farm section for a long, soft, bumpy traverse between two fields.  It was fast moving, but zapped my energy.  At the far end of the field, we crossed the hard packed washboard that jackhammered my shoulders and killed my pace. Finally, the reward at the end of the section was…a sinking mess of driveway that drained the last bits of energy.

Some more field, a bit of road, and then we met with the 40k riders at the halfway aid station. Carl and I took a short break and I refilled my belly and my water bottles.

Immediately after starting the second half, we were met with the 70k/40k Rail Trail Logjam.  It was a 15 minute stall-a-bike, and it was a giant drag.  To be walking beside your bike when you want to RIDE is a horrible feeling–especially since we wasted time recovering at the aid station just a few k back.

On the road again, and battling the gruelling wind, it was another mix of more sections, single track, gravel, rail trail, road, and a few small villages.  My legs still felt strong, and I maintained a constant attack.  Passing slower riders, I’d look back often and see they had latched onto us for a draft.  But it never laster for long because they couldn’t keep the pace.  Group after group latched onto us and dropped shortly after, and we kept at it.  It was awesome.  There were plenty of faster riders that day (896 of them, to be precise), but it felt great to have the wheels and the legs to keep pushing.

Attacking climbs 50k into a race was a pretty humbling thing for me.  Only 5 years ago, I raced my first P2A, and marvelled at the stronger riders, and here I was, now one of them.  We were just booking it.  That subtle boom I felt in my chest the first time I tackled Paris to Ancaster (St. George distance) was now the thundering BOOM of my heart pushing me harder and faster.

Boom indeed.

Somewhere in the middle, I saw my guy, Ted Anderton from Apex Photography.  That was nice.

We hit the first big mud chute.  Gotta say, it was much less epic than years past.

Paris-to-Ancaster-mud-chute.jpg
Walking the Not-So-Epic-In-2017 Mud Chute (Photo courtesy of Apex Photography)

The condition of the mud made it unridable, so it was another drag of a walk-a-bike.   After that, more gravel and rail trail leading up to the second mud chute.  The wind really started to kick in, and the exposed trail was an absolutely killer.  We hit the second chute, and again, it was a bit less epic than past years.  At the bottom of the chute, it was a quick shot along Mineral Springs road to the finish line, which was at the top of Martin Hill.  The Martin Hill climb pretty much haunts my race nightmares year round, but this year, it wasn’t as bad as I expected.

It wasn’t easy, and I had to walk a portion of it for the first time (I am honestly blaming my 28 tooth cassette), but really, it was just a hill.  It was a big one, and it was steep, and it was at the end of a long race, but it was just a hill.  How do you finish a race?  You pedal.  How do you climb a big hill?  You pedal.  Or you walk.  The simplicity of it is pretty startling.  Throughout the race, when I had the legs to sprint, I sprinted.  Now that it was too steep to ride, I had to walk.  So I walked.  No biggie.

Also, when you take a closer look at the hill, it’s really only 700m of the gruelling stuff.  Pfft.

As it is every year, the crowds lining the hill were awesome, However, this year, my family was there and I got to high five my boy as I passed.  He ran beside me through the finish line.  As always, the finish line was everything that I’ve come to love about the sport:  People cheering, riders basking, and buckets and buckets of epic awesomeness.

And just like that, it was over.

End of P2A Race Report (NOT the St. George distance).

Hey, here are two fellow bloggers who nailed the day pretty accurately.  Have a read:

P2A:  It was cold.  It was windy.  It was awesome.

What, you were expecting a beautiful sunny day?  Well there’s no fun in that…

Paris-to-Ancaster-PostAnd here’s where things change gears a bit (see what I did there).  I was expecting a transformation of some sort (like I experienced in the Eager Beaver last August).  I undertook a pretty epic journey at this year’s P2A and I wanted to feel something epic inside me as well. But it wasn’t there.  Had I become inured to the experience?  No.  In fact, quite the opposite.

The transformation was there…

The satisfaction was there…

The realization of the depth of the experience was there…

But all of it was gentle and quiet (which is rare for me because I am the opposite of gentle and quiet). The journey of the day wasn’t finishing the course.  The journey of the day–the transformation of the day–wasn’t the DAY at all.

It was a slow burning culmination of 5 years of epically awesome boss choices.

Every part of the race was a choice.  From waking up, to driving 90 minutes to get there, to my warm up ride with Carl the day before, to what I wore, how my legs propelled me, and what kept me pushing when my body begged me to STOP.  I chose to be cold, and cramped.  I chose to have snot dripping from my nose and wipe it on my sleeve.  I chose to do the full distance even though I was terrified.

I chose to race even with the knowledge that so many were waaay better than me.

It was the same for everybody who raced P2A.  WE rode and trained.  WE registered and shined our bikes.  WE packed our kit bags, woke up early, and CHOSE to get out there and give it our best.

And whether we rode the 70k or the 40k.  Whether we rode a $10,000 piece of bicycle art or $100 piece of, well, you know.  Whether we rode beside our kids, on a tandem, solo, or with a group of buddies, we all made the choice, and we all have a story to tell.

Paris-to-Ancaster-3
Steve Shikaze (Ride Cycle Spin), Team Colin, and Carl

I have a story to tell, and it’s boss.  And so what if  I didn’t punch P2A in the throat.  I embraced it and let it become part of me.  P2A wasn’t AGAINST me.  P2A just wanted to CHALLENGE me to be a better ME.

When I started this blog a year ago, my first line was “My name is Colin.  I’m a rider.  I’m a dad.  I’m a husband.  I’m a teacher.  I’m a racer…”

Well, in April of 2017, I raced the Steaming Nostril (Runny Nose Distance), the Homage to Ice (full marathon, single speed), and P2A.  I can now say this:  My name is Colin.  I’m sore.  But it was MY choice to be sore, and it’s awesome.

3:40:08.  17/41 in the Clydesdale Category.  897/1426 Overall.  My 40th blog.  My name is Colin, and P2A was MY race this year.

Ride.

 

PS.  So, what have I learned about P2A in the past 5 years?

Here’s a completely, totally definitive list of 9 things:

  1. Shoulder your bike and walk the mud chutes.  A mud-caked bike doesn’t work.
  2. The Martin Hill climb really isn’t that bad, and there’s no point worrying about it, because it won’t change and it doesn’t care.
  3. Water water everywhere…  Drink lots of it to avoid cramping.
  4. Ride whatever bike you want.
  5. Register early.  Wave 1 or 2 if you’re doing the 70k and want to avoid the rail trail logjam.
  6. Pass when you have to pass.  Stop when you have to stop.  Book it when you can.
  7. Weather is weather.  It’s going to be unpredictable and crappy.  Dress appropriately and pedal your bike.
  8. Ride.  Just ride.
  9. Remember to remember all of it.  Breathe it in, soak it in, experience it.  Celebrate that you ARE there.

Hey, did I capture the day for you?  Were you there?  How’d you do?  Anything to add, ask, or say?  What’s your story?  Comment on the blog, or send an email to: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

Paris-to-Ancaster-Behind

And THAT’S how you write a 2,730 word blog.  Sorry for the length this time.

37. Steaming Nostril ’17

Great Gravel Grindage

Steaming-Nostril-Team-ColinFor the last year, I’ve been pretty steamed with the Steaming Nostril race–a 45k or 65k gravel romp through the horribly awesome, wickedly gravel, roads, hills, rail trail, and farmer’s fields of St. Jacobs.

I was angry at the race because it was so horrible last year.  I’m kidding of course, there is no such thing as a horrible race.

But last year came close.  It was awesome, but it was mostly horrible.  Cold, windy, snowy, windy, cold and windy. Worse, because of a poorly positioned horse and buggy, I missed a turn and added a bunch of pedaling to my race.  Horrible indeed.  Here’s my post from last year:  The 2016 Steaming Nostril

I was excited to be finally riding my new (used) Norco Threshold–a proper gravel ripper, and after last year’s Draft-A-Thon (at my expense–I’m talking to you, Runny Nose Rider), I was excited to explore the possibility of drafting.

Well, I’m happy to say that yesterday we made up.  The 2017 Steaming Nostril (Runny Nose distance) was, as the title says, a bunch of great gravel grindage.  Sure it was windy, but it’s tough to beat racing in 12 degrees on a sunny Sunday morning during MTB shoulder season.

Although it almost wasn’t meant to be.  The day started with tragedy.  While loading my new bike into my van, it tipped over and bent the heck out of the rear derailleur hanger.  I’d been plagued by drivetrain issues since buying the bike, but my shop finally had it purring the day before the race.  Now, unless the Steaming Nostril involved a puck and an ice rink, my hockey stick derailleur hanger wasn’t going to be any good.

Have no fear, Velofix was there.  Damn, that almost rhymed.

Here’s how it went down:

Me:  Thank god you’re here.  My rear derailleur hates me.

Tim:  It’s the morning of a race.  If you can pedal, leave it.  The last thing you want to do is snap it.

Me:  Well, it was bent into my spokes this morning…

Tim:  Okay, let’s take a look (Velofix Tim–that was his name–clamps bike on stand).  Oh no.

Okay, here’s where a little bedside manner would have been nice Velofix Tim.  The words “oh” and “no” together, half an hour before a race, are so very not cool.  Thankfully, I had another pair of bib shorts.  You know, because of the immediate and involuntary bowel evacuation.

Tim:  (attaching his Park Tools derailleur hanger bender-backer) Well, here goes.

While I waited for a the horrific “PINGK”  sound of my derailleur hanger snapping, I felt like I was going to throw up.

Tim:  Just a bit more…

Yup, I was definitely going to throw up.

Tim:  And some more…

I may have blacked out at this point.

Tim:  There you go.

Me:  Wha?  How?  Really.  How much do I owe you?

Tim:  Nothing.  Now get out of here and change your shorts.

Velofix Tim is my guy.  Seriously, I love you Velofix Tim.  Also, super cool van.

Velofix
Velofix Tim!

With my bike in shape, and weighing at least 10 pounds less, I was good to go.

Race Report:  Steaming Nostril–Runny Nose distance.  St. Jacobs (April 9, 2017) 

I did something I never do.  I seeded myself near the front of the pack.  I placed 10th overall last year, and 7th overall two years ago, so I figured (hoped) I’d have a similar performance this year.  It was the biggest crowd I’d seen at the race–52 riders in total–but I was chatting with my new blog/hat buddy Steve Shikaze, and I tried to play it cool.

Awooooo (that’s what I heard) and the race was on.  There was a little zip up a soft grassy knoll that was short enough to book, but tough enough to feel.  The 65k riders cheered and waved.  Nice.

Within a few minutes, we hit the Millrace Footpath–a 2k stretch along the river that is usually sheer ice, but was completely dry this year.  The pace was fast, but I felt strong.

Back on the road we left St. Jacobs, for the long haul:  gravel, road, and gravel for the next little while.  The wind was punishing.  I was riding alone, distancing myself from the pack behind, while watching the pack ahead slowly thin to lone riders .  Really, we were all ALONE.  While this year’s field was the biggest I’d seen at the Steaming Nostril, 52 riders does not allow for any pack riding the same way that it isn’t possible to NOT be in a pack when there are a few hundred riders (take THAT 65k riders–we couldn’t draft). By 8k, we were firmly into our respective race positions, and it was time to get into the race.  The wind was hammering us, so there was only one thing to do.  Pedal.

The distance started adding up.  My Garmin read 12k…18k…20k.  Wind, gravel, farms, and awesomeness.  I was into my groove, and struggling, but my pace wasn’t unmanageable, and I held speeds between 25-35 km/h.  Clearly my bike was a good investment.

And then the 20k mark.

Oh.  That.  Wind.

I hit the drop bars, lowered my head, and just gave it.  The wind was mean. Punishing. I still felt strong, so I increased my pace enough to close the gap between me and the rider in front of me.  Maybe I’d get a chance to draft after all.  It hurt.  A lot.  But I closed it.  When I caught up to the rider, I suggested we share the load a bit.  At least I think that’s what I suggested. My lungs were infernos, my legs were stumps, and I may have vomited.  In any case, he got the message and tucked in behind me.  I pulled for a short stretch, before tucking behind him.  Actually, it was such a crazy cross-wind, that we pretty much rode astride and barely behind each other when we were drafting.  Crazy wind.

And that’s when I got disqualified.

Yeah, disqualified.  Team Colin got disqualified (although not officially) on my 41st race.

I have finished every race I started.  Sometimes I start late, and sometimes I finish late. Sometimes I sail across the finish line, and sometimes I finish with one shoe on, one shoe off, and a taco for a front wheel.

But I ALWAYS record a time.

It was stupid, really.  Somewhere along the road, we missed a turn onto the rail trail, and skipped a 1.4k portion of the race.  Every turn was marshalled by police officers, but apparently, there was an unmarshalled turn that we missed. I was riding with dude, and we were probably tucked low and focussed on not dying, but we definitely missed a turn.  I didn’t find out until much later when one of the leaders passed and notified my.  It was devastating.  Up to that point I was feeling strong and confident.  After that, I felt deflated and stupid.  The wind wasn’t my enemy this year.  I was.  At the end, I found out that I missed about 1.4k.  It wasn’t enough to cause much of a time difference, and the officials said many others had done the same thing, but it was enough for me to feel absolutely, utterly, and totally bummed.  I may not be a good rider, but I race with all I can, and this really stung.

So, with a broken heart, I pushed on.  More headwind, even more headwind, maybe perhaps possibly a bit of tailwind, lots of gravel, a few paved sections, a bunch of horse buggies taking Mennonite families back home–and back in time–after church service.  It was a bright and sunny day, and I was racing my bike (that was performing like a champ by the way–thanks Velofix Tim) so it really wasn’t that bad, but my upcoming DQ was ever present in the back of my mind.

And then, at about 28k, I passed a farm with a few horses.  I said hello to the horses, because it really is rude to ignore them, and asked them how they felt about the state of American politics.  Unanimously, they said “Nay”.  But one horse stood out.  I called him (or her–I’m not an equestrianite) Fabio Horse.  Seriously, dude horse was rocking a wind swept mane of awesomeness that would broil a romance novel cover.  “Dude, you are awesome”, I said to the horse.  He (or she) said “Nay” but I think they were just playing coy.

Honestly, with Fabio Horse on this planet, I figured everything would be alright, DQ or not.

And then the farm.  Hey farm, I hate you.  Even Fabio Horse hates you.  Seriously, just ask him if he likes you.  No I don’t really hate you, but c’mon.  Even the route into the farm (which I knew would be tough) was tough.  At the farm, the rutted, soft descent was rideable, as was most of the valley, but that dang section did all it could to throw me off my pace, zap whatever energy I had left, and make me feel like a chump.

Except….Maple Syrup!

The farmer had shots of maple syrup.  I asked if they could give me an IV drip of maple syrup, but no luck.  Two shots of maple syrup later, I was off, and up out of the valley. Last year, there was only one route out of the valley–the Cliff of Exhaustive Swear Words.  This year, there were two options:  the shorter COESW, or the longer and easier route.  I thought I took the shorter route, but got mangled on the longer and easier route. What is it with me and signs?

Out of the valley, off the farm, and a few k to the end.  Here’s something I really like about this race.  Many race organizers exaggerate and give an inflated distance. The Steaming Nostril was supposed to be 40k, but it was just over 44.  The organizers love riding and racing that much.  Me too.  Nice work organizers.

It was a quick(ish) shot along our last taste of gravel for the day, through the last farm, and the finish line.  The crowds waiting at the Waterloo Rod and Gun Club were great, and it was a sweet lead up to the end as well.  The wind cooperated, and I booked a sweet sprint through the road crossing, and down to the finish line.  The announcer read my name as I crossed–always a nice touch and a very pro feel–and gave me a tenth place finish

Except for my DQ.

End of Race Report

Runny-Nose-finish
1oth Place finish!  Or not.

I approached the officials immediately and explained my transgression.  They were very cool about it, and since the next rider came in 8 minutes later, they kept the time and the place.  I guess I’m okay with the result, but there is still something scratching at the back of my mind: an unfinished race.  So not cool.

Steaming-NostrilThe day ended with some great bike and life chat with a bunch of awesomely cool people. The food was spectacular and plentiful, and the hall was just thumping with the adrenaline and post-race vibe.  I spent most of it with my new blog/hat buddy, Steve Shikaze (check out his link), a few lapdogs, and a bunch of other awesome riders (some of whom actually read my blog sometimes–so cool).  Names were exchanged.  Race stories were related.  Loved the vibe.

And guess what?  On the way home, I missed my turn from highway 85 onto highway 8. Damn signs…

And that wind?  Whatever.  Like I said last year, we didn’t bring our teacups to a garden party, we brought our bikes to a big boss race.  Can’t beat that.

Ride.

 

PS.  Hey, did I miss anything?  Were you there?  Want to say something, add something, or ask something?  Comment below, or send me an email (teamcolinblog@yahoo.com)

 

Look who I found.  A few blogger pals, and She Who Will Not Be Named (last year’s Runny Nose Rider–yeah, were buds now).