55. The Epic 8 Hour

What.

The hell.

Was that?

The Epic 8 Hour, presented by Pulse Racing, at Hardwood Hills was an absolute killer.

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Photo courtesy Apex Race Photography

I thought I was registering for a bike race.

I thought I was going to ride a little 10k lap, on a few sweet trails at Hardwood Hills.

I thought it would be challenging, and fun, and awesome, and EPIC.

I didn’t think I’d be riding my bike on the surface of the sun.

Holy crap, it was a scorcher.  Like, face melting, core draining, electrolyte zapping, take-off-your-jersey, scorching hot.

“How hot was it?”

It was so hot, three of my water bottles spontaneously combusted.

It was so hot, a rider in front of me spontaneously combusted.

It was so hot, by the end of the day all the sand on the “Lookout” had melted into glass.

It was so hot, that when I rode to my pit area, it was an actual Dali painting.  Aww, I really needed that clock…

Dayam, it was H. O. T.

Race Report.  Fall Epic 8 Hour:  Hardwood Hills.  September 20, 2017 The race started at 10 AM, and my first few laps were strong and consistent.  I held back and did three laps in an hour and 58 minutes.Noon.  The sun rose in the sky, and my lap times dipped, but I still felt okay.2 PM.  The sun hit full force, and I slowed to a crawl.4 PM.  The sun actually got hotter, and I’m pretty sure I crawled with my bike strapped on my back for a few laps.I WANTED 10 laps.  I NEEDED 10 laps.  I could TASTE 10 laps.  I was READY for 10 laps.  I was primed, and fit, and had been looking forward to my first 100k MTB ride for a while.In the end I rode…I’ll get to that after the Race Report.The course was a mix of long and sinister double track climbs, a few harrowing and rocky double track descents, some nastily awesome rooty bits, some awesomely nasty dusty bits, a bunch of sweet technical trail features, and plenty of tight but flowy single track.  The course ended with a shot on the Joyride 150 wall, a zip through the solo pits, a crunchy grind up a hill that was more wall than hill, and through some sweet BMX track with sweet jumps, rollers, and berms, before the START/FINISH/TIMING area. In truth, it was pretty much a perfect 10k of riding.End of Race Report.

So, how many laps did I do…

The day before the race, I was dialled:

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Andrew making my bike sing.

My bike was freshly tuned (Thanks Andrew Maemura of Cycle Solutions); my kit was washed; my alternate kit washed; I had 20 litres of water and a bunch of pre race, race, and post race food (pasta, chicken, fruit and vegetables); I packed my cycling shoes, my other cycling shoes, a helmet, my other helmet, gloves, more gloves and LOTS of chamois cream; I had electrolyte this and energy gel that; a tent, a zero gravity chair, and my tool (and other stuff) table; I even packed extra non-spandex clothing.  I.  Was.  Ready.

Mother Nature:  “Let me just see if I can turn the heat up a wee bit…”.  It was the planetary version of “Hold my drink”, but nobody, not even Mother Nature, was going to put down their drink because it would have either evaporated in a flash, or be drained by a thirsty rider.

It was like Mother Nature wanted to see what I look like poached.

“How hot was it?”

It was so hot, and I lost so much sweat, my pee was the consistency of salt.

I have a saying.  “If you’re going to be, just be epic”.  And as much as I try to live with that mantra in mind, really, I don’t mean truly EPIC.  Usually, I just refer to the fact that if you’re going to do something, do it to the best of your abilities.

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Photo courtesy Apex Race Photography

For example, if you’re going for a ride, and it’s going to rain, don’t cancel.  Ride in the rain and be epic.

If you’re riding and you see a sweet trail feature, but there’s also a B Line without a feature, ride the heck out of the feature (Unless it’s a race.  Or if you’re tired.  Or if it’s really big).

If there’s a race, do it.

If you want to take a picture, lay in the dirt for the best shot possible.  Wait a sec, that’s Ted Anderton from Apex Race Photography.  AWESOMELY EPIC SHOTS APEX!

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If there’s a jump in a race, jump it! (Photo courtesy Apex Photography)

If there’s a glass of water, drink it.

If poutine is on the menu, order it.

If there’s a book, read it.

Okay, so clearly, there’s a sliding scale when referring to the word EPIC.  However, whether it’s work, family life, or on a bike, really, I just want to be or do the best I can.

And so, it was a Saturday and there was a race, so I raced.

I could have registered as a team of 4 or 6…

Or, I could have registered as a tag team…

Or, I could have registered as a solo rider.

Yeah, right.  Why on earth would anyone register to do an 8 hour race solo?  Like 8 hours on a bike.  Who do I think I am?  I’m not ready for an 8 hour race.  There’s no way on earth I could do an 8 hour race.  Ride for 8 continuous hours?  Like, be on a bike, without a real break, for 8 hours?

That’s nuts.

So…I registered as a solo rider.

Um, what?

Yeah, I registered as a solo because it’s EPIC.  Really, it’s a no-brainer.  The word EPIC is even in the title of the race.  Sliding scale? Pfft.  Epic is epic.

I knew it would be hard, and I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it, and I knew I would drag my body through a the wringer. However, looking back, I had no idea it would be as hard as it was.

Even though the course was easy enough (despite a few nasty climbs)…

And even though my bike co-operated like a seasoned champ…

And even though the crowd, and the organizers, and most of the riders, were awesome…

That heat.  It slaughtered me.

I know we all have something that drives us or holds us back, but I have to wonder about the biology involved in propelling my 250 pound body up, over, and through a tough MTB course.  Compared to a lighter rider my power to weight ratio falls short.  Maybe that’s what keeps me slow.  Maybe it’s a matter of one too many bags of savory sweet potato chips (and dip!).  Maybe it’s a lack of physical conditioning.  Whatever it is, it’s a thing, and it slowed me down.  For a full read of how slow I’ve been lately, here’s my report of the Kingston XCM on September 2.

Honestly, my last few laps were embarrassing.  I was literally gasping for air and pedalling in slow motion.  Note that I didn’t say I “felt” like I was pedaling in slow motion. I was actually pedaling IN SLOW MOTION.  I was like a mime on an escalator.

And this is where things took a turn.  While I’m disappointed with my results, I know this:  I didn’t stop.  When I wanted to retreat into the Team Colin support vehicle and nurse a cold popsicle instead of ride, I kept riding.  When I wanted to “be happy with 50k” and call it a day, I kept riding.  When my back was on fire, and my lungs were bursting, and my wrists were like stone, and my back and shoulders were a clump of pain, I just kept riding.  Sure, I stopped each lap for a 2 minute break, and sure, I stopped on course a few times in the last few laps to catch my breath, but each time, before I got too comfortable, I swung a leg over my bike, clipped in, clenched my teeth, and kept going, defiant and resolved.

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Yes, that’s a grimace.  (Photo courtesy Apex Race Photography)

Truthfully, the race wasn’t an epic life or death journey across a desert to escape a prison camp, but at the time, It sure felt tough.

And here’s where things  took an even better turn.  I call it the Matt Factor.

The Matt Factor is as follows:  Throughout the day, even from the first lap, there was a tremendous amount of respect and encouragement from other riders.

“Nice work Solo!”, “Keep it up Solo”, “You got this Solo”.  It was heartening and moving. So many riders, solo and otherwise, kept encouraging and pushing me (and everyone else).

“But why do you call it the Matt Factor?”

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Team Colin and Riot together…for the first time.  By the way, Riot and FIg are ripped.

And then, somewhere in the middle of the race (honestly, much of the day is a blur to me), something happened.  I was refilling my bottle inside my RV.  I was tired, and hot, and I wanted to quit, and my pit neighbour, Mike Tourond (yeah, that guy) came around for a lap.  He hammered on the side of the vehicle “C’mon, get out here and ride”, and he gave me a little push when I really needed it.

“Yeah yeah, but why do you call it the Matt Factor?”

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Jenn, Raf, and Me.  Nice hats!

And then, somewhere after the middle of the race (honestly, much of the day is a blur to me), it happened again. I was riding, I was in pain, I wanted to quit, and I felt a hand on my back.  The hand was pushing me.  Guiding me.  My buddy Raf, even though he was probably struggling too (although I’m not sure he ever struggles on a bike–dude is made of steel), spent some of his much needed energy to give me a little push when I really really needed it.

“Okay, fine, but WHY DO YOU ALL IT THE MATT FACTOR?”

And then, somewhere near the end of the race (honestly, much of the day is a blur to me), it happened again.  I was struggling, I was baking, I was EXHAUSTED, I wanted to quit, and Miro (who I only know in a periphery way through friends and Facebook comments), did the same thing.  As he was passing, he put a hand on my back, and gave me a push when I really really really needed it.  “You got this, Colin.  You’re almost there”.

“Seriously though, enough of this, why do you call it the Matt Factor?”

Whether passing the starting pits, where Jenn Kennedy screamed “Wohoo, Team Colin! Solo!”, or being handed a wet towel by organizer Glenn, or on the BMX track and hearing Stuart screaming encouragement, or passing the volunteers in the forest who were hoarse from screaming, or passing the kids in the solo pit who were singing for EVERY rider, or the guy in the solo pit who rang his bell for EVERY rider, or passing Dan Emsley and exchanging a brief word, the crowd was totally and utterly invested in every riders’ success.  It was remarkable.

“Blah blah blah, remarkable support, hand on a back…but that doesn’t explain the Matt Factor!”

And then, somewhere almost at the end of the race (honestly, much of the day is a blur to me), it happened again.  I was spent.  I was spent.  I was literally limping along on my bike.  It was somewhere mid lap, on the last lap, I was willing the race to be over, and I felt a hand on my back.  I thought it was Raf again.  It wasn’t.  It was Matt.  I had never met Matt before.  He put his hand on my back to give me a push.  He held it there, warm and comforting, and the race disappeared for just a moment.  “You’re almost there Solo, just keep pedaling.  The race will be finished before you know it.”.  The support, encouragement, and and genuine sincerity of the gesture gave me a push when I really really really REALLY NEEDED IT.

THAT’S the Matt Factor.  Yeah, the Matt Factor.

It was 5:30.  I was almost there.  It was almost over.  “Yeah, I’ve got this”, I thought. “Yeah, I can finish this” I said to myself.  “Keep it up Solo”.

It was my 9th lap.

I finished at 5:43. It was 7 hours and 43 minutes after starting.  The sun was perched in the sky above, taunting, and as bright and hot as ever.

I didn’t hit 10 laps.

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I’m pretty sure this was early in the race (hence a smile) and I was screaming “Love you, Ted!” or something like that.   (Photo courtesy Apex Race Photography)

It was disappointing.

Sort of.

Honestly, I waver from feeling good about my result (19/31), and feeling like I somehow failed myself (and my team).  I wanted to ride 10 laps.  I wanted to ride 100k on a MTB, and I didn’t.  I couldn’t.

Aargh.  What if I hadn’t stopped for so long?  What if I just rode a bit harder up this hill, or smarter over that trail feature?  What if I had trained just a bit (or a lot) harder?

What if?  So many what ifs.  But only one pure and simple fact.  I did it.

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Post race.  I could not move for a while.

It may only be a bunch of people playing bikes in a race, but I rode for 8 hours.  I rode as fast, and as hard, and as best as I could.  I left NOTHING on the course.  So what if the leader did 16 laps, and so what if my pit mates, Riot and Fig, finished 12 and 13 laps respectively.  I did 9 laps, and that ain’t so bad.

Next year I’ll try again, and maybe I’ll hit 10 laps.  100k on a MTB.  Now that’d be pretty Epic.  I just hope we’re not riding on the surface of the sun.

Ride.

 

PS.  I started to think “Yeah, so maybe I can be a bit less epic, but still be epic…”.  After all, I raced the marathon distance in the Kingston XCM on September 2, two CX races the next weekend, the 40k distance in the Great Albion Enduro the following weekend, 90k at the Epic Hour the week after that, and three weekly races in between.  I don’t have to do it all.  I mean…

…wait, the Dirty Enduro is this weekend, and they have a 60k distance…

Yeah, epic.

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Teamm Collinn and Glenn Meeuwisse.  We’ll be BFFs soon, he just doesn’t know it yet.

By the way, thanks again to Pulse Racing and Glenn Meeuwisse (so many pairs of consonants), Hardwood Hills, the staff and volunteers, the amazing sponsors, the outstanding spectators (literally, they were out standing all day), the awesome sponsors, the wickedly fast and talented race teams, the epic solo riders, and Mother Nature for coming along for the ride and making the day that much more epic.  Thanks also to the members of Team Colin for fielding so many needy questions from me in the days–and minutes–leading up to the race.

The results are posted here:  Epic 8 Hour Results.

Epic indeed.

 

 

And another.

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Photo courtesy Apex Race Photography

And another.

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Photo courtesy Apex Race Photography

Thanks again to Apex for making me look waaaaaay better than I am.

By the way, HUGE shout out to some of the awesome people I knew at the race:

  • Rafrider and Jenn.  You are just too cool.
  • Monika and Ironman Jack.  Dude is an Ironman, and Dudette is awesome)
  • The Bentleys (Hey Coach!)
  • Nick and Dan Emsley (Um, 14 laps Nick? Awesome)
  • Tom Beck (Are you kidding me?  13 laps on a singlespeed!  Weapon.)
  • Flat Pedal Chachies (Love the name, love the inspiration to do it solo–Rob–and love the push–Miro)
  • Backflips and Tailwhips (Thanks for the cheer at the end)
  • Brendan Arnold (Where’s that selfie we took?)
  • Christian (Always a pleasure Christian)
  • Heather (8 laps, and 3 of them were under 50 minutes…kaBOOM)
  • …and Brent (first race)
  • SupPups (2nd place.  Wohoo)
  • My frequent riding buddy throughout the day, Trevor (Great talking to you on the course)
  • Mike Tourond (12 laps?  With a broken finger something?  No way.)
  • Oh, and a GIANT thanks to my wife and kids for not forgetting who I am this month.

I’m sure I missed a few people, but you know, it really wasn’t my day.

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54. Great Albion Enduro ’17

36 Seconds

September 17, 2017.  Albion Hills Conservation area.

My third race of the month (or maybe my fourth–see last blog) plus two weekly series rips.

The second annual Great Albion Enduro.

team-colin-great-albion-enduro.jpgA good time was had by all.  A good time was had by me (even though, once again, Superfly wouldn’t list me as “Team Colin”, only Colin from Scarborough).

It was a GREAT equation (see what I did there):  Superfly Racing (who know a thing or ten about how to host a great time) + Albion Hills (which has some of the best riding around) + Sean Ruppel (who is always awesome).  Put it together and the result was a wickedly fun romp. Add a dash of the Palgrave, and it was a wickedly fun romp–on two different trail systems.

With a choice of three course options:  25k, 40k, or 80k (two laps of the 40k), the Great Albion Enduro had something for every level of rider. I chose the 40k distance, and rode my Norco Revolver hardtail.  I’ve been racing marathon distances on my single speed this year, and it was nice to have a bit of a break with the distance, and to use gears–although I kinda felt like I was cheating at times when I geared down for a climb, or geared up for a sprint (but it felt soooooo good).

I also chose the 40k because I really didn’t relish the thought of 6 hours on a bike after the mess that was Team Colin at the Kingston XCM two weeks ago.

Honestly, the level of awesome at the Albion Enduro was off the charts:  steep and grinding double track climbs; super fast and flowy descents (that sometimes carried gently into the next trail, and sometimes ended in a brake-chattering, 90 degree turn); tight and twisty bits of trail; sublime technical features; a sort-of totem pole somewhere in the middle; and loads and loads of sweeeeet singletrack.  Let me say it now, the three roller jumps in Palgrave were absolute perfection, and probably the most fun few seconds of a race I’ve ever done. Yep, pretty sure I squealed “Wheeeeeee” on each of the three jumps.

To top off the awesome, at the end of the race we were serenaded by the awesomest, most hipster singer, ever.  I could have listened to that dude all day long.  Hey guitar guy, if you’re one of the three people who read my blog this month, I love you bruh (hipsters say bruh–I’m pretty sure it means brother).  He actually played three of my favourite songs while I was eating lunch.  Dude was awesome.

Second Wedge Brewing was even there offering a free beer to riders, so that was cool, even though I don’t really drink.  Uh oh, did you hear the collective gasp from the MTB community?  “A MTB guy who doesn’t drink beer!  Oh the horror”.  Please don’t tell my roadie friends I don’t drink espresso either.

Aw man, I hope they don’t take away my race license now.

I guess while I’m at it, I might as well out myself as a hugger.  Yeah, if you were at the Chalet just prior to the race, and saw two guys in a loving embrace, that was me and Geoff.  Geoff showed me a calf stretch where you dig your heels into the ground and elevate your toes.  Since there wasn’t a 2 inch curb for my toes, he offered his feet.  I dug my heels into the ground, put my toes onto his, and he held me for balance.  I may or may not have put my head on his shoulder like a tween at a school dance. Gotta say, when two people are wearing spandex, and they’re that close, there are seven points of contact (Admit it, you’re doing the visual math in your head right now).

What, I hug all my MTB friends?

Geoff was riding the 40k with a friend, super endurance runner Mike, and he thought it’d be cool if I rode with them.  Yeah right, ride with them.  Geoff is FAST (like, lightening fast), and Mike is hardcore (like, 100 miles in 24 hours without a bike hardcore).  He and Mike, together now known as Geoff-Mike, were going to “ride at a relaxed pace” but I knew that Geoff-Mike’s “relaxed pace” was going to push me to my limit.

And.

It.

Did.

Forget all the love when we hugged, Geoff is a weapon, Mike is Superman, and I’m, well, I’m me.  Beside those two, I was like a duck at the opera.

They kept a tough pace, but it was awesome to push harder than usual.

Pacing is always a weakness for me.  I either go too slow for an entire race, or I go too hard for the first 80% of the race, and ride in a haze for the end.  With Geoff-Mike setting the pace, I worked to keep up, but they were consistent, so there was none of my usual sprinting past groups on the double track and then catching my breath in the singletrack. It worked!  We stayed pretty close together for the first third of the race.  However, as I was fading, we were separated and they got ahead.  Keep in mind they were still at a “relaxed pace”…

I felt like Wile E. Coyote trying to catch the Road Runner.  I’d spot Geoff-Mike a few riders ahead, and line the course in front of them with Acme bird seed.  I’d somehow come close to catching them, and “meep meep” Geoff-Mike was gone, leaving only a flickering outline of their profile.

I threw a giant boulder off a cliff, painted a fake tunnel in a tree stump, and strapped myself to a rocket while wearing roller skates, but just couldn’t keep up. After the rail trail, Geoff-Mike got ahead me, and stayed there for the rest of the race.

At that point, I settled into my regular SLOWER pace, and enjoyed the race.  I was actually alone for a few minutes, and it was nice to be part of the forest mosaic.  I love the community of a race, but I loooooove the feeling of being part of a forest, when it’s just me and me legs, two pedals and a pair of wheels, and the whirrrrrrr of a sweet drivetrain.

That weather tho…

Superfly Racing could not have asked for nicer weather.  Does Sean have an in with the MTB gods?

The easier pace and warm sun allowed me to think about pacing, and I had a nice “A ha” moment.  No, I wasn’t thinking of a Norwegian band (okay, maybe I was).  I was thinking about my next race and how I was going to pace myself more evenly and slow down at the start so I had more at the end.  Aside from being fast, Geoff is a technical and smart rider.  Thanks for the tip buddy.

And thanks for the hug stretch.  I mean calf stretch.

The Great Albion Enduro was also great because I was pretty much free of any technical and/or physical malfunctions.  No broken cleat bolts, flat tires or dropped chain.  No flying over my bars like an amateur stuntman.  In fact, my tires and tire pressure were perfect (pretty much a first for me) and for the most part, I stayed in an upright position, remained on my bike, and kept moving forward, for the duration.  Boom.

My guy, Ted Anderton from Apex Race Photography captured this shot of me.  If you were there and haven’t bought your picture yet, go to Apex Race Photography.  Ted always makes me look better than I am, although I always have a goofy look on my face because I’m usually yelling “Hey Ted, love ya, man!”.

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In the end, it wasn’t my best race or worse race; it wasn’t the toughest, or easiest race; and I didn’t push myself through an epic journey, or to the brink of physical and emotional exhaustion.  And that’s totally cool.  While it’s nice when a race changes me in some awesome way, aside from the pacing discovery, it was just a sweet afternoon of awesome riding.

And you can’t beat that…even though I spent most of the race dreading the climbs that I knew Sean would throw at us.  Sean built many of the trails at Albion, and he loves the Green Monster and the Brown Monster.  For anyone unfamiliar with Albion Hills, the Green Monster is is a grassy grind that wrenches every bit of energy from you.  The Brown Monster is the same grind, but on dirt.  Both monsters are jerks.

Race Report.  The Great Albion Enduro.  September 16, 2017.  Albion Hills

Giant jam of riders for the first 5k, and it was so slooow going; some sweet Albion Hills singletrack; a zip along an undulating stretch of pavement to Palgrave; 5k of the Palgrave (wheeee, wheeee, wheeeeeeee!); the same ribbon of road back, but it was cut short by a steep climb up to some rail trail (Hi Elizabeth); a quick shot of rail trail (I really booked it there); and back into Albion for some more sweet singletrack. The kilometres passed and I started to think we’d get away with a Superfly race that DIDN’T have a Monster.  We hit the “1k TO GO” sign and I breathed a sigh of relief. “Phew” I thought, “No killer climb.  Oh wait, there it is”.  I guess it was Sean’s way of reminding us we weren’t there to trade cupcake recipes.  Honestly though, big climbs are only bad when you think about them.  During the race (and thinking about them after the race) they’re just part of the awesomeness that we conquer.

A little grind up the Brown Monster; and then guitar guy playing us home.

End of Race Report.

My result?  Fourth place.  2:27:49.

Third place was 2:27: 13.  Yeah, I was 36 seconds slower than third place.

36 seconds!

36 SECONDS!!!

Come on?  I was 36 seconds away from a legitimate podium spot.  I was so bummed.

team-colin-great-albion-enduro.jpgSo I took a picture of me in a 4th place podium spot.  Just imagine I’m standing on a box that says “4” on it.  And I’m closer.  Oh, and I’m not a weirdo taking a selfie of himself in front of the real Clydesdale podium.

I never race for a spot on the podium, but I’ve never been so close before.  So very bummed.  But then I realized something.  I could have easily bridged a 36 second gap a billion times throughout the race.  Sure, third place guy (I’m shaking my fist at him right now) could have found a bunch of 36 seconds throughout the race as well, but…

Hmm.  That’s all I’m sayin’.  Hmm.

A list of the category winners is at the end of the blog.

Once again, the Great Albion Enduro lived up to its title promise…

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Tammy and her boy with Team Colin

Ted Anderton from Apex photography (that’s a link to the pictures from the day) was there to capture that time I took the B Line around a rock garden instead of the boss line (probably could have bridged a few seconds there…)…

An old high school friend, Tammy, was there doing her “Goal Race”.  She set a goal at the beginning of the season to do a big race, and did…

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Some King Series peeps.

Half of the King Weekly Series riders were there racing or marshalling (hey Paul, Elizabeth, Stuart, and Kent)…

My boy Sean Thibeault was there and took 1st place on a fatbike in the 40k…

A few hundred other bike minded people were there chasing the podium, looking for a cool shirt, snatching one last ride of the season, or just being epic…

And Team Colin was there having a blast, as I always do.

Ride.

 

PS.  Before the results, did I capture the day the way you did?  Something to say about this blog, or biking, or bikes, or anything else?  Comment here, or send a message to: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

And don’t forget to check the Team Colin Facebook page, or follow Team Colin on Instagram.

 

2017 GREAT ALBION ENDURO RESULTS (that’s a link to the full results):

40k Enduro

  • Under 18 (M):  Jack Gillies
  • 19-29 (M):  Michael Bayley
  • 19-29 (F):  Annie Nanowski
  • 30-39 (M):  Kyle Money
  • 30-39 (F):  Jennifer Bouchard
  • 40-49 (M):  Richard Pady
  • 40-49 (F):  Lisa Hutson
  • 50+ (M):  Michael Breault
  • SS (Open):  Michael Nazwaski
  • Fatbike (Open):  Sean Thibeault
  • Clydesdale:  Dan Nicks

80k Super Enduro

  • Open Female:  Sarah Caylor
  • Under 39 Male:  Liam Mulcahy
  • 40+ Male:  Tuan Tran
  • Fat/Single Speed Battle (Open):David Dermont

25k Fun Run

  • Open Male:  Jason Elisei
  • Open Female:  Jenna Dufton

 

51. Kingston XCM

21458411_10213644608411390_968093495_oI was HOPING for vindication.

I WANTED revenge.

I NEEDED to master the MTB Kingston course once and for all.

The results:

  • Vindication: 1
  • Revenge: 1
  • MTB Kingston: 1
  • Team Colin: 0

Race #4 in the Substance Projects XC Marathon (A Little Story of Not-So-Boom)

The Kingston Marathon and I have a long back story.  Last year, I broke a few spokes about 10k into the race, then spent 15 minutes untangling them from my cassette and dislodging them from a snapped rear derailleur, and finished the race on a borrowed bike. In 2015, I couldn’t find the START line and sprinted 6k to the next Concession and back before finding the START line (10 minutes AFTER the race started). The year before that, the course beat me up so badly that I almost quit riding (not really, but it was just so hard that year), and the year before that (my first year racing) it was so hot on race day that I actually spontaneously combusted (totally true).

Alas, once again, FOR THE FIFTH TIME IN A ROW, the Kingston XCM kicked my butt.

Kicked it hard.  Like, really hard.

Honestly, sometimes it’s exasperating being this bad in a bike race.

I get it.  The reality of a race is never as pretty as it is when imagining it, but c’mon, I was ready for this race.  Driving to Kingston the night before, I knew I was in the best shape of my life:  I’ve logged about 800 kilometres of racing this season (and at least a thousand more in training); my weight is down; my muscle mass is up (I bought a Bowflex, dang it); my side gut flap is (marginally/slightly) smaller; I jiggle way less; and I even somehow managed to curtail my poutine intake (despite 4 weeks in Quebec, the Poutine Capital of the world, this summer. #willpower).

So how did I do this year?  Let’s take a look at the math:  In the half marathon last year (when I had a catastrophic technical failure) my finish time was 2:23.  So this year, I was expecting somewhere in the neighbourhood of way under five hours.

Nope.

Not even close.

In the full marathon this year my time was…

6:17.

Yeah, almost six hours and twenty minutes.  That’s over three hours per lap!  I was so late finishing, that the podium awards for the race, the overall awards for the series, and the draw prizes were finished long before I limped my poor Norco Revolver under the FINISH banner.  The parking lot was all but empty, and I swear I heard the raspy call of a vulture as a bundle of tumbleweed scuttled past me.

I felt like Klaatu, except the earth wasn’t standing still, everybody just went home.

At least Raf waited for me (love you bud), and the rest of Fatboy Nation, who cheered me on from the parking area as I crested the last climb (love you Mike and Jenn and Monika and cousin Jack).

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And it was great that Simon, who was only registered for the half but decided to join me on a second lap, finished with me.  I met Simon at the El Bandito, and we’ve been race buddies ever since. We’ve finished side-by-side three races in a row, and like every budding teenage relationship, we text each other before, after, and in between races.  I want to give him a cool nickname like “The Frenchman” or “Le Bicyclettist”, but I think I’ll just call him mon ami. Awesome.

21390425_10213109376384898_200083758_oI can’t wait until my bestest riding buddy, John, meets him.

I also met another awesome dude while riding.  Dan from Ottawa.  It wasn’t just Dan from Ottawa’s first time at MTB Kingston.  He was on a borrowed bike, and hadn’t done “one of these races in 10 years”.  I flatted about 8k in (at least my derailleur was intact…) and he saw I needed help.  We spent about 20 minutes trying to coax air into my tire, with minimal luck, and he didn’t leave until we were (sort of) finished.  At least I had enough air to limp along the course to the road crossing, and then zip up to the barn for a proper pump.  Dan from Ottawa, you’re awesome, dude.  I may or may not have etched some unsolicited advice into your brain by encouraging you to finish, but I still maintain that nobody ever regrets a FINISHED race, regardless of how long it takes.

Seriously though, six hours and twenty minutes.  Dang.

People often comment that I’m too self deprecating in some of my posts.  Well, after Saturday, I’ve got six hours and twenty minutes of “told you so” to back me up.

And the worst thing is that I actually felt strong at the end.  On my second lap, I booked all of Peter’s Loop and Sydney’s Loop (about 12k or rocky gruel) in less than 25 minutes, ripped through the last 6k, and even got out of my seat on the last climb out of the valley.

I’m replaying the race over and over in my mind.  Did I get too much into my head and slow my pace too much?  Did I actually get worse over the summer despite riding my butt off.  Did I ride through a molasses vortex at some point early in the race and have bestowed upon me the super power of the Flash–ing Yellow Light?

My buddy Geoff says I “over trained”.  Not likely.  I may be in the best shape of my life, but that shape is still largely pear-like.

I just don’t know.

Sure, it would help if I had checked my tires for air pressure before the race or maybe if I’d brought a working pump, but that only accounts for 30 minutes of the SIX HOURS AND TWENTY MINUTES!!! (For proper effect, say that with echo).

team-colin.jpgSomething happened to me, and it wasn’t just losing a lot of electrolytes.  By the way, that’s a picture of my jersey after the race.  It’s a black sleeve, and it’s not dirt.

Whatever happened to me really, really, really, reallyreallyreally, sucks.

In my defense, the MTB Kingston course is known for being technical, tight, and punishing.

But I’ve raced other tough courses.

And sure, 78k is one heck of a long race by any standards.

But I’ve raced similar distances this summer, (and I was on my single speed for the other ones (I actually felt like I was cheating this time because I had gears.)

Put in the most simple terms, this course wore me down.  It scratched away every bit of energy, clawed at my resolve, and gnawed my body into a knotted mess.  Actually, not my entire body (my usual problem spots: everywhere, and especially my back and knees, weren’t a problem) but my forearms and wrists took a particular beating.

I have to say, while I was strong near the finish of the race, back at the barn (near the beginning of my second lap), I was over four hours in, with almost half the race to go, and I wanted to quit.

It would have been my first DNF.

But here’s the thing:  Team Colin does not DNF.  It’s not in my DNA to Did Not Finish, and there was no way on earth I was going to Did Not Finish at MTB Kingston.  “Today will not be the day you Did Not Finish, Colin…” I thought “…not today, not ever.”.  So I didn’t Did Not Finish.

I FINISHED.  It just took so darn long.

team-colin.jpgI’m not complaining (and honestly, how many people have the conditioning to attempt a 78k mountain bike race) but even though I consider it a gift to even be able to tank a big race, it’s still pretty demoralizing.

I was even heckled during the race.  Because it took so much time to jam air into my tire, the half marathon riders caught up near mid-lap.  The three leaders were patient and supportive, and so were the next 15 or so riders, but then a large pack approached, and without a pause, yelled ahead and told me to stop and let them pass. No kidding.  “You might want to pull off the course and let is us pass–there’s a big group coming up”.

Um, no, I thought.  It was a tight, twisty, and very technical section, and we were hitting a boardwalk every 20 metres, so there wasn’t any room to pull aside. “As soon as there’s a chance, I’ll ease up and let you pass”, I said.

I’m sure their urgent requests good natured, and they were simply caught up in race pace, but the first few seemed unnecessarily impatient–especially since they could have announced and passed me in the brush if they had the legs to do so.

I know it was a race, but I was racing too, and it wasn’t a World Cup qualifier…

I should say that most of the pack was cool, supportive, patient, and kind with their words (as are most racers and riders I encounter) but dang, I still had four more hours to go…

As the half marathoners were passing, it was great to see so many familiar faces.  Every Dan’s Race is such an awesome reunion.  Corey was in the lead pack; Wally and Sean were pretty close behind; Tyler passed; Donna and Peter passed a while later; and Barry, Ken, Robert, Tatiana, Chris at other times.  Great riders.  Check out Tyler’s post about the race at Team Van Go.  He even gave a nod to me in his first line.  Boom.

It was also great to be in the big kid race with a few other legends that I knew (or recognized), and it’s always a pleasure to see David (and Lorraine and the boys); Nick, Dan, and Angela; Erich; and Mykal.  There were so many others that I recognized from other races too.

A list of winners is at the bottom of this post.

RACE REPORT.  Kingston XC Marathon:  MTB Kingston (September 2, 2017)

Farm track, farm field, roots, rocks, a bunch of bar checks, more rocks and roots, a lake, a flat tire (and half an hour to fix the thing), some double track, rocks and shale, boulders, a road crossing, a quick shot up to the barn to pump my tire and back to the road, a field of soy (if you build it, they will come–and make tofu, soy milk, and other soy-related products), a pretty farm lane, some sand, a barn, the sweetest flow trail east of Joyride 150, an awesome (and huge) jump line, forest, roots, roots, more roots, a bridge, another bridge, more and more bridges, “The Rocky stuff” (which was rocks, tight climbs, rocks, and rocks), a quick shot of gravel and up a rutted hill to the rest of “The Rocky Stuff” (which was EVEN MORE ROCKS), a zip around Peter’s Loop, a zip around Sydney’s Loop, 6k of some more rocks and roots, the “Drop of Doom”, and a grassy climb to the FINISH.

Lather, rinse, repeat (with an added 4k connector back to the START line, and a little stunt session somewhere in the middle), and 78k later, the race was over.

End of Race Report.

In a word, the course was tight, twisty, rocky, and technical.

And hard.

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Six hours and seventeen minutes, and a little trail rash from a spill.  I like to do my own stunts.

MTB Kingston is hard core. These folks build and maintain some of the sweetest and most technical singletrack around.  The result is an awesome and very punishing network of awesomeness, and one heck of a fun time on a bike.  Gotta say, Rob Sangers and his people make some awesome fun.

Also, the Drop of Doom is scary as hell.

The race wasn’t a good one for me, but I got to spend a whole lot of time on my bike, with some amazing people.

And so, I’ll regroup, and rethink, and ride some more and then ride some more.

And I’ll still consider it a blessing that I can even attempt the distance, and be proud that I finished each of the four XC Marathon races this year.  272k of really tough, really awesome, really fun MTB racing.  Boom.

But hear me now MTB Kingston: I’ll be back next year for my vengeance, and if the saying is true, victory is mine.

Wait, the saying is “Six time’s a charm”, right?

Ride.

Something to say about this post, or another post, or riding, or racing, or bikes? Comment on the blog, or send a message to: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

Winners

Congratulations to overall winner, Cameron McPhaden (U35 Men), with a time of 3:39, and the other Marathon winners:

  • 35-49 Men:  Eric Jobin (4:15)
  • 35+ Women:  Jessica Nankman (4:15)
  • Clydesdale:  Rafael Olejniczak (4:38)
  • Fatbike:  Jack Padega (4:14)
  • Master Men:  Garnett Abbey (4:12)
  • Single Speed:  Joel Nankman (4:17)

Congratulations to the Half Marathon winner, David Klaver (20-34 Men), with a time of 1:40, and to the other category winners:

  • 35+ Women:  Donna Winters (2:04)
  • 35-40 Men:  Brook SMith (1:50)
  • Clydesdale:  Ken Ruckstuhl (2:14)
  • Fatbike:  Patrick Seguin (1:50)
  • Master Men:  Martin Mueller (1:55)
  • Single Speed:  Chris Frank (1:56)
  • U20 Men:  Ryan Genoe (1:59)
  • U35 Women:  Tatiana Chiesa (2:18)

21439306_10213109378384948_733766695_oThanks again to Dan Marshall and Substance Projects; Dan’s mom and dad (Ron and Florence are a HUGE support for me); Sherry, Simon, and Jenn; my wife for waiting until the end, and then letting me chat with my friends; MTB Kingston, Rob Sangers, and the Drop of Doom; Cycle Solutions; Pearl Izumi, eLoad, and the other amazing sponsors; and Lorraine (best post-race BBQ ever).

And thanks to Barry for some much needed mid-race love and support (the dude even helped me with my helmet).  Awesome buddy.

 

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.

photo 3
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.

IMG_2649
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.

20170625_134920 copy
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.

24-hours-of-Summer-Solstice-Team-Colin.jpeg
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.

17_24hr_T (6922)17_24hr_T (5598)17_24hr_T (4854)17_24hr_T (3460)17_24hr_T (581)

Here are some other shots from the days:

 

 

 

 

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)?

Team-Colin-O-Cup-photo-by-Sean-Hickman
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!

36. A Spring Ride

Nothing Like a Spring Ride

Spring started two weeks ago.

Except I think Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.

But I don’t care.

I don’t care because it’s not warm, but it’s warm enough to get outside.  I don’t care because the trails are too fragile to ride, but the roads, urban paths, and gravel aren’t.  I don’t care because THIS IS SPRING IN ONTARIO.  Unpredictable, cold, windy (I really hate the wind), crappy, horrible, and wet.

And AWESOME.  Yes, awesome.  It’s shoulder season, and while most of us are itching to hit some sweet singletrack, there’s still plenty of riding to be done.

And so, last night, after work, I was sulking.  I was sulking because I have this boss new bike, and for the past two weeks, I’ve been dying to let it roar.  Lately, so many riders have been posting pictures from their rides on social media, but I’ve been fairly inert. Forget the bike, the savage beast inside ME wanted to roar.  I NEEDED to get out for a ride, so finally I planned to leave work early and go for a romp on my CX bike–just some park paths, a bit of gravel, and bit of road, and a ravine or two, down to Lake Ontario. It wouldn’t be much, but enough to warm me up for Sunday’s Steaming Nostril, and tame my restlessness. And then I left work a bit late, and got home with only 2 hours before sunset.  Aw dang it!

My wife hates it when I sulk (but I wanna sulk…) so she said “Go for a ride”. What else could I do?  I squeezed every ounce of those dwindling hours of light.

I wrote this on my Facebook page:

…most people in my neighbourhood don’t even realize that we basically live right on Lake Ontario. It’s true. It’s only a quick shot up the road, through a ravine shortcut, into the park, up to my old high school, along a 2k road connection, down (and up) a sweet gully, over the train tracks, into Morningside Park, through the university campus and Colonel Danforth Park, straight to the lake, and then a quick boot to Rouge Beach. Yeah, I pretty much have beachfront property.

And would you look at the beauty I rode.

Norco-Threshold
My new (used) Norco Threshold SL.

It was my first proper rip on my new (used) Norco Threshold.  Forget that I had drivetrain problems; and forget the fact that I had to turn it upside down three times during my ride; and forget that I coiled the chain so badly around my crank that I bent the heck out of it and need a new one. Despite everything, this bike purrs. It climbs like a rutting bobcat, and tears at everything else like a tyrannosaurus rex.  What a rip.

I’ve lived in Scarborough my whole life, so it’s safe to say that I pretty much know most every rideable nook and cranny (although I’m always looking for more) around my house.  I don’t really follow a set route.  Depending on weather, conditions, and my mood, I usually just make it up as I go–and Wednesday was no different.  Wednesday was about climbs, wood chip trails, winding park paths, and repeat.  I had an hour to get to Rouge Beach (the furthest east I figured I’d make it), and an hour to get home before the street lights went on.  That was my usual curfew time growing up.

I made it to the beach.  And somewhere along the way, which is usually the case on a great ride, I changed a bit.   I remembered something.  I remembered the joy, bliss, and absolute peace of a ride.  I remembered the physical, emotional, and mental cleanse of a sweet rip.

I spent the winter riding at Joyride, spinning in my basement, and even on a fatbike (or three), and while all of it was awesome, nothing–and I mean nothing–beats being outside.

Part way through my ride, I also remembered that sweet climb up to a great lookout at the Highland Creek Sewage Treatment Plant (at the foot of Beachgrove Road).  It’s a quick detour, but totally worth it. There is a walking path climb that starts at the top of a paved climb, and it was dry enough to shred.  The paved climb is sprintable, but not really, so when I hit the walking path, my lungs were already burning, and my legs were on fire, but it didn’t matter because the change in cadence from the pavement to grass was enough to reinvigorate me.  I hit the climb and the wind kicked in (stupid wind).  I dug in and gave it everything I had left.  At that point of the hill, you can really smell the poop curing in the nearby sludge tanks, but it didn’t matter because I devoted my attention to managing the ruts, fighting with that damn wind, my legs, and my lungs.

And before I knew it, I hit the top for the sweet view.

But I was in the zone, and I didn’t remember to stop and enjoy the view.  I de-snotted, got out of my seat, moved back on my bike, steadied my grip on my brakes, and hit the descent on the other side of the hill.  More ruts, a bit of spongy trail, a horrible wall of poop smell, and I was at the bottom.  I shook it off, did a 180, and continued on my way.  It was 6k to Rouge Beach against a punishing head wind.  I kicked the wind in the throat, and made it the shack on the beach with just a bit more than an hour before dark.  I was feeling strong–not summer strong–but strong enough.  My back was feeling the climbs, and that bloody wind was just mean, but my legs felt good, and my heart was still beating.

Heck, it wasn’t just beating, it was singing.

I never really forgot how a awesome a great ride makes me feel, but between work (that’s been a bit of a mess lately) and life (that’s been a bit hectic lately), and trying to carve out some time for a proper rip, the joy took a back seat.  Not anymore.

It’s Spring, and I’m back in the saddle.  Boom.

I took a different route home, and made a quick stop on a bridge overlooking MY ravine. I made it home well before the street lights came on (phew).  My route was awesome, and I wondered about the awesome secret routes that other riders carve close to their homes.  That’s MY ravine in the background, but I also wonder who else OWNS it.  And how THEY use it on their rides.  A-Spring Ride

After a winter of waiting, the outdoor riding season (in shorts) is upon us, and I’ll take the uncertainty of spring weather, the waiting for the trails to dry, and the stupid jerky wind, because spring riding is AWESOME.  It’s not sweet singletrack, but you can smell it in the air. And I’m not talking about the smell of the poop from the sewage treatment plant–I’m talking about the smell of the eminent singletrack bliss.

I know it sounds hokey, but for me, nothing soothes the savage beast like a sweet rip. Initially, this ride was intended to be a warm up for this weekend’s Steaming Nostril (Runny Nose distance), but it became so much more, because at the heart of every great ride is fun, a bit of evolution, and just a great time playing bikes.  Team Colin:  1, Savage Beast:  0.  Roar.

Here’s to a season of sweat dripping into my eyes, cramped calves and sore wrists, the occasional sun burn, horribly awesome climbs, shiver-inducing descents, grit-covered water bottle nipples, the promise of the road, the grind of gravel, and miles and miles of sweet singletrack.

Even when it’s windy.

Ride.

 

PS

I’d love to hear about your secret route.  Or whether you think I got this right.  Comment in the space below, or send a message to: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

 

 

Review: Norco Ithaqua

The Norco Ithaqua 6.1.Norco-IthaquaMy first bike review.  The Norco Ithaqua 6.1.  What a bike.  I reviewed the bike in December, and tt was featured on Riding Feels Good.  
Now that I’ve reviewed a few others, I thought I’d include it in my blog.  If you want to read it, you can follow the link above, or read the text below.  The review was also featured on Norco.com.  Pretty cool.
Team Colin Reviews the 2017 Norco Ithaqua

Christmas came early this year for Team Colin, in the form of a test ride weekend with a 2017 Norco Ithaqua 6.1.  Norco’s answer to the question “Hey Norco, could you please build a racing fatbike for me?

 
They answered “Yes”, and the Ithaqua is many other things too, but at it its core, it’s just a big, mean, race-ready, fatbike.  It literally squashes the Sasquatch and Bigfoot (The Ithaqua’s little brother and sister), and rides like a raging behemoth.  This bike is one big mother.  Really, I think that’s what I like about it the most.  It’s long, lean, and robust–and its size and geometry combine for a tight, yet supple, and burly feel.
 
Wait, Itha what, now?
 
Ithahaqawaqana?
 
ITHAQUA.  Remember that name.
 
Seriously though, did I just write “burly”!  And what’s an Ithaqua?
 
Well aside from being Norco’s aforementioned big boss mountain bike, it’s a big boss legend too.  Here, from the Google, are some notes about the legend of the Ithaqua:
 
“Ithaqua is a horrifying giant that controls snow, ice and cold…prowling the Arctic, hunting unwary travellers and slaying them gruesomely.
 
Ithaqua is the only one of his kind.  Those who join Ithaqua’s cult will gain the ability to be completely unaffected by cold.”
(The Wikipedia)
I think the engineers at Norco read the legend, and then built a bike around it, because they have created something truly awesome.  Seriously, Norco didn’t just build a bike.  They built a legend. This bike is sooooo badass.  Yeah, I just cussed.
 
The Ithaqua frame is made of mid modulus carbon, and…BORING.  Okay, if you want to read the actual review part of this “review” (note the quotation marks, denoting how serious of a reviewer I am), you can scroll down to the “Norco Ithaqua’s Five Cs of Awesomeness”.  I’m not big on “mm”, degrees of anything, or specific specifics, but I think you’ll get the picture.  However, first, I want to gush a bit more. 
 
Well, the cat’s out of the bag.  I love this bike—I love this bike–and the tone of this post is going to be, um, glowing.
 
Full disclosure:  I’m not a techie cyclister.  When riders are comparing gear ratios and suspension travel, I’m more apt to say “Hey, cool bike”.  To be honest, I’m still not even sure why Kevin, the rep at Live to Play Sports, let me demo the bike.  True story:  when I left the warehouse, I speed walked to my van shouting “Start the car!  Start the car!” even though I was alone.  Shh.  Don’t tell Kevin–I want to try it again on snow.  Also, don’t tell Kevin that I yell to people who don’t exist in my car.
 
Okay, so I like the bike, but does the Ithaqua live up to its lofty, mythic name?
 
Yep.  Absolutely.  You bet.  Oh yes, it honestly and truly does.  And omigod does it ever.
 
I had the bike for four days, and tried a few types of terrain.  Unfortunately, the weather in Ontario can change pretty drastically in one week, and the demo days were snowless.  Boy, what a difference one week can make.  We’re on our third straight day of snow here.  Anyway, on the Day 1, I rode it on the streets around Mount Albert, Ontario, to get to their Christmas Parade.  True story—at times there more people were craning their necks to see the cool bike behind them than there were watching the floats.  The next day, I spent a few hours on the XC Loop pumptracks, and skinnies at Joyride 150.  Tooling around the park was awesome. Then, on Day 3 (the morning after Joyride) I met my riding buddy, John (and his friend) for a proper rip in Northumberland Forest.  After a rough work week, a few sleepless nights, and pounding the bike at Joyride for a few hours the day before, I was not in the mood for a ride.  Also, it was cold, and I was tired.  What can I say, I’m delicate.
 
And then I sat on the bike (vroom). 
 
And then we started riding (vroom vroom). 
 
And then we hit a few climbs and some technical stuff (VROOM VROOM). 
 
If I thought Joyride 150 was fun on the Ithaqua, ripping actual singletrack was a blast.  You don’t just ride over logs with an Ithaqua.  You ride up the trunk of a tree, through its canopy, and down the other side of the trunk.  This is a beast of a bike.  I thought I was Batman, riding something cooked-up in the Wayne Industries laboratory.  The bike climbs like a jackrabbit, handles trail features like a ballerina, and just rips like a demon.  Put plainly, it was gnarly and fun.
 
The next day, my demo weekend was over, and my time with the bike was waning, but I wanted to feel the thrill jut a bit more, so I spent Day 4 just messing around.  I managed to sit on the bike and play around as much as I could: In my driveway; around my house; next door to see the neighbours; or whatever.  I don’t think there’s a more fun ride when you want to play bikes, and as much as the Ithaqua will “hunt unwary travellers and slay them gruesomely” in a race, if you scratch its surface, it’s a bike, and bikes are fun—this one is just that much more fun because it’s made so well.
 
Enough gushing, here’s my review of the Norco Ithaqua 6.1:
 
For those inclined, here are the Specific Specifics on my demo:

Frameset

  • Frame:  Mid-modulus carbon fibre fatbike frame (weight:  1350 grams)
  • Fork:  Norco Carbon 150×15 Fat Fork  (weight:  690 grams)

Components

  • Seat/Seatpost:  SDG Duster RL/Race Face Next Carbon 31.6 x 400mm
  • Headset:  Angular Sealed Cartridge Bearings w/2x10mm Matte UD Carbon spacer
  • Stem:  Race Face Turbine 35mm/60mm
  • Handlebar:  Race Face Next 35 Carbon 760mm/10mm Rise
  • Brakes:  SRAM Level TLM (180mm front, 160mm rear)
  • Brake Cable Housing:  SRAM Hydraulic

Wheels

  • Hubs:  DT Swiss 350 (150×15 front, 97×12 CL rear)
  • Rims:  Sun Mulefut 80SL 26″ 32H”
  • Tires:  Kenda Juggernaut Pro 26 x 4.5 (Tubeless)

Drivetrain

  • Rear Shifter:  SRAM X1 11spd
  • Rear Derailleur: SRAM X01 11spd Carbon Cage
  • Cassette:  SRAM XG1175 10/42 11spd
  • Crankset:  Race Face Next Carbon 28T
  • Bottom Bracket:  Race Face PF92 Fat Bike BB

$6,099 (Canadian MSRP)

And here,as promised the

Norco Ithaqua’s Five Cs of Awesomeness

1.  CARBON

The Ithaqua’s frame is a thing of beauty,and you can’t get any sweeter than a carbon bike, but it doesn’t end there.  The fork is carbon, the handle bars, crank, and seatpost are carbon (Raceface Next).   Rides awesome, looks awesome, and lasts awesome.  Carbon.  Oh, and when it’s cold, you can lick carbon and your tongue won’t stick to it.  I mean, you know, if you’re inclined to—no judgement from Team Colin.

2.  CRANKING 

The cranking performance of this bike is phenomenal,  The driveTRAIN is a grinder.  Focus on the word TRAIN, because the Ithaqua’s 1×11 is unstoppable.  The 28 x 10/42 gearing is going to haunt my bike upgrade dreams for a while.  It took a beating at high speed, or at low cadence while hammering up a steep climb.  The Ithaqua doesn’t purr, it howls, and the drivetrain is designed for some serious forward movement.

3.  Componets

The build of the 6.1 is exceptional:  DT Swiss 350 thru-axle hubs, Mulefut rims, and Kenda Juggernaut Pro tires: Awesome.  Race Face Turbine stem:  whatever, it’s just a stem—but it’s stubby, it rocks, and with 760mm bars the bike handles nimbly, and solidly.  Every detail on the bike is meant to help win a race.  Even the SDG Duster seat is sweet (and it has orange accents to match the frame, natch).  Norco jams an exceptional pile of high end components on their bikes, and this one is no exception.  Seriously though, 76cm wide bars?  A w e s o m e.

Oh, and they’ve got these new, screw fit internal cabling ports that keep cables super snug.  Sweet.

4.  C’braking

Braking isn’t usually a review section (and “c’braking” isn’t even a word) but the SRAM Level TLM brakes are a work of art and deserve some love here.  They use DOT 5.1 fluid, instead of mineral oil, which will give awesome, consistent, braking in extreme conditions—and especially the cold. Plus, the TLM upgrade even has something called “Bleeding Edge” to make quick, RIDER, maintenance a snap.  These brakes could stop a, wait for it, TRAIN. 

5. C’geometry

Yeah, this word is a stretch, but I promised five Cs.  Any way you slice it, this bike performs.  Components and C’braking aside, I think the fit and feel of the frame is what really sings.  And I mean SING.  Sure, the components on the 6.1 are going to make a few things easier, and they may even win a race for someone who wins races, but the frame is the star here, and it is spectacular.  The top tune brings the centre of the bike pretty low,and gives is a zippy feel when cornering, and the head tube is steep and sharp.  Norco says: “…the bike features Gravity Tune, our unique geometry philosophy that adjusts the rear centre length in proportion with the front centre, giving riders of all sizes equal weight distribution over the bike”.  The name”Gravity Tune” may be a brainchild or a engineer or marketing guru, but whatever you want to call it, it’s awesomely sweet.

Okay, made up words aside, when the “Five Cs of Awesomeness “ are put together, the Norco Ithaqua is a stunning, race ready beast. 
 
However…
 
Kevin at Norco made me promise to find a few problems with the bike.  So, to appease him, here goes.  The first major problem with the bike is—I’m kidding, seriously, there’s nothing wrong with the Ithaqua.  At over 6 grand, how could anything possibly be wrong?  Honestly, if Norco couldn’t get it right (and boy, did they ever get it right) at this dollar figure, they’d be out of business.  Which I guess is the only problem. It sure costs a lot to get this level of perfection.  Are you happy Kevin?  Instead of being critical, I’m just outing myself as a big ol’ cheapo.
If I had to really search for something critical, I think I’d like to see a dropper seatpost. Given the size of the bike (and the price), I think it might be a benefit.  Also, I wonder how it’ll perform in the deep snow–especially when you have to dismount–and whether a dropper might make climbing and dismounting a bit easier.  Wait, is it just me who often has to shoulder his bike on trails…
 
If price is an issue, you can drop to the other models, the Ihtaqua 6.2 or the 6.3.  You lose a few things, like those sweet carbon components, but it’s the same frame, and I really think the frame is all the difference.  Plus, all models have SRAM Level brakes, and you’ve still got the same tires and wheels (although you take a bit of a hit on the hubs–which I don’t think is a big problem).  Finally, you get a lesser drivetrain, but I think the only disadvantage is the loss of a bit of durability, not performance.  And all of this for almost half the price. I gotta say that $3,600 for an entry level Ithaqua, is still expensive, but I don’t think Norco is trying to appeal to the average, looking-for-fun, fatbike rider.  I think they’re appealing to the racing, RESULTS-DRIVEN racer, hardcore racing, fatbike RACER.
 
And they’re probably looking for the average, looking-for-fun, fatbike rider too–just one who carries buckets of money in their jersey pocket.
 
It’s plain and simple, the Ithaqua is a racing fatbike, and to get this level of performance, it’ll cost some serious cheddar.  When I compare the bike to my Norco Bigfoot, it’s 10 times better, but only three times the price.  Hey, with that kind of economic justification, I think I may have just found a way to attack the N+ discussion with my wife. It would actually be like losing money if I didn’t consider buying one…   
 
What an awesome demo weekend.  It was Team Colin’s first legitimate demo, and one that’s going to be tough to top.
The Ithaqua has the heart of a race bike, wrapped in a fatbike shell, with the soul of a monster.  AND IT’S REALLY FUN TO RIDE!  Awesome.
 
Ride.