53. My First CX Race

Wohoo, I didn’t get lapped!

Sunday, September 10, 2017.  Millbrook, Ontario.  My first Cyclocross race.

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Me.  My first CX race.  “I’m not getting lapped!” (photo courtesy Hinkel Yeung)

Trail Tours Cross, presented by Substance Projects and Bateman’s Bicycle Co.  It was the first race in the SubstanX CycloCross Series.

And, as the title says, it was MY first CX race, ever.

And, as the first line says, I didn’t get lapped.

Well, I got lapped, but not really.  I mean, I WAS lapped, but it wasn’t in my first race, and when I was actually lapped (in my second CX race on the same day), I was in the Single Speed category and apparently you’re SUPPOSED to get lapped.  Yeah, I’m a bit confused too.

But I’m not confused about this:  CX is really freakin’ awesome.  Like, totally, utterly, wickedly, giant boomedly, AWESOME.

Okay, full disclosure, it ain’t MTB, and my heart sings for MTB, but it’s really really really close.  By the way, that’s probably not the best slogan for Cyclocross.  “CX”:  It’s not MTB, but it’s really close”

It’s close because it’s very similar, but not really, and very different, but kinda the same.

Okay, now I’m more confused.

And to make matters worse, instead of being one big race with a bunch of different categories like MTB, a CX “race” is a series of shorter races with an actual crap tonne of different categories.

To put things into perspective, my last MTB race was a two lap 78k (or 37k) race, with a start time of 11:00 (or 11:30).  Trail Tours Cross was a 40-60 minute race, on a 3k lap, with a billion different start times, and 20 billion categories.  I’m sort of exaggerating, but not really.  And, because of the multitude of start times and categories, I got to do a Novice race at 9:30, and almost immediately after that, I did a Singlespeed race at 10:50.  So, my first CX “race” was actually was my first two CX races.

Wait, did that make it more confusing?

Either way, it was a blast.  Seriously, it’s the funnest.  It was so fun that I did my third CX race (or was it my second CX race) two days after, on Tuesday night, when the King Weekly Series MTB race shifted to the King Cross Weekly Series.

Aw dang it, I’m too old for this. My first cross race was two races, and my second (or third) cross race was actually my weekly MTB that became a CX series.  And I still don’t know if I should call it CX, Cyclocross, or just Cross.

And wait a sec, what the heck is a Cross race anyway?  Is it MTB?  Is it road?  Is it gravel?

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I love this shot (photo courtesy Hinkel Yeung)

Yes.  Put simply, Cyclocross is a MTB race on grass and gravel–and some trail–with lots of corners, and the occasional (somewhat-ridable-but-not-really) barrier thrown in for fun, ridden on a bike that looks like a road bike but is as close to a road bike as a potato is to a duck.

Put even more simply, it’s really just an easy MTB race, but on a different bike.  Sorry hardcore CX riders, but I’m just sayin’.

Oh wait, you don’t have to ride a CX bike, or a Cyclocross bike, or even a cross bike. Really, you can pretty much ride any bike you want.  Unless it’s a UCI Cyclocross race, in which case you HAVE to ride a CX bike, with tires that are between 30-38mm wide, and other restrictions.

Except, from what I’ve gathered recently, most CX races aren’t totally UCI and allow pretty much any bike.

So thanks for making it even more confusing CX race organizers.  Or should I say Cyclocross organizers.  Or is it Cross organizers…

By the way, here’s my bike.  Drool.

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My Norco Threshold SL.  So dreamy.

And what’s the deal with cowbells?  “Cowbell Cross” this, “MORE Cowbell Cross” that. Cowbell, cowbell cowbell.  As a genre of racing, you can’t settle on a bike, a name, or a start time, but you can agree on a style of bell?  And more of that bell?

I’m kidding of course.  CX rules are pretty deep and mighty (and they really aren’t “easy MTB races”–they’re super hard and technical) but for someone like me, it’s all a bit overwhelming.  Especially with all those cowbells ringing…

So, in an effort to make it a bit easier for newbies to join the ranks of the CX, I have a few tips and observations.  Oldbies need not continue reading.  I’m not going to get more funny, and you won’t learn anything.

Here are 12 things I learned about CX in my vast (three race) experience:

  • CX is technical and hard:  Bikes take one heck of a beating.  Like, a real crap kicking. That said, they’re only really hard and technical if you want to win.  If you just want to ride, they’re fun and awesome, and totally ridable.  Honestly, I’m taking my kids to the next race.
  • Narrow tires:  Speaking of a beating, 33mm tires are wicked fast, wicked hard, and wicked fun.
  • Tire pressure:  Make friends with your pump.  However, whatever pressure you choose, it’ll likely be wrong, but you never know.  If you’re riding a MTB bike in a cross race, increase the pressure (it’ll help you on the grassy sections).  If you usually ride your cross bike on gravel and rough road, decrease your pressure (it’ll help when you smoke a rock or root)
  • Pacing:  CX races aren’t designed for endurance.  They’re short laps in a short period of time, and require an entirely different pacing from a long MTB race or road ride. Think fast, hard, and relentless.
  • Barriers:  Every once in a while in a CX race, there’s an obstacle (or barrier, or step up, or run up…) that you have to somehow manage to get over with your bike. The pros bunny hop the barriers; the proficient riders hop off, carry over, and hop on in a one boss looking fluid motion; and the newbs slowly approach, brake, awkwardly unclip and dismount, clamber over, and clip in, in a long and horrible series of sasquatch-like grunts and maneuvers, before continuing.  Wait, is that just me?  Of course, the Joeys do this:
  • Laps:  Lots and lots of laps.  With a race time of 40 minutes to an hour, and a 2-3k course, you’re looking at 5-7 laps.  This means a pre-ride can give you a whole bunch of information about lines, timing, pacing, and other snags–that you’ll encounter at least half a dozen times in a race.  By the way, if you get lapped, you’ll get pulled out of the race.  Or not.  It depends.
  • Visibility:  With such a short course, spectators can see most of the action from one or two places.  This is good if you’re a pro and have wicked style.  This is bad if you’re, well, re-read #3 “Barriers” and imagine the same barrier over and over again–with an audience.  Hinkel Yeung was at Trail Tours Cross capturing the day.  Hinkel is one heck of a photographer, and has an awesome eye for a great shot.  Check out his photos of the race. All action shots in this post are from Hinkel.  Thanks for sharing your craft Hinkel.  Awesome.
  • Vibe:  The vibe at a CX race is pretty cool.  Lots of people, lots of spectators, and a really cool atmosphere of good natured trash talk, supportive encouragement, and bike-minded people getting together.  And cowbells.  Cowbells everywhere.
  • Terrain:  Grass, gentle single track, hard double track, sand, gravel, rocks and roots, and everything in between.  CX course designers don’t look for the easy line.  They create the hardest line.
  • Water:  Apparently, it’s verboten to have a water bottle in your cage in a Cross race and if you have one, you’ll look like a newbie.  Well, I get thirsty, and I always have one.  Plus, what if I swallow a bug?  If real CXers think I look funny with a water bottle, don’t ask me what I think of them and that infernal bell…  I’m kidding.  I really dig the bells. They’re fun.
  • Course:  In all of the CX races I’ve raced (okay, in BOTH of them) the courses had similarities.  The similarities are as follows:  They look like they were created by you and your friends when you got new bikes and wanted to have a race around your front yard. Seriously, CX is old school, “lets ride our bikes around and over stuff”, high energy ripping.  I didn’t grow up on the North Shore, and my childhood neighbourhood forest was a mess of trees with a walking trail.  When my friends and I wanted a cool off-road bike experience, we made an obstacle course around my street and tried to ride around, over, and through everything in sight.  It seems to me that same spirit runs deep in CX.  I’m pretty sure the kid from “Family Circus” is now a CX course designer.

Honestly though, what do I know?  I did a few races (and I’ll do a bunch more), but MY experience is just that:  MINE.  Your experience may be totally different.

Which is why YOU need to try one.

If you’re a CX rider, I’ll see you out there.  If you’ve always wanted to be a CX rider, what are you waiting for?  And if you’re not interested in CX, you really need to rethink that position.

Look at me, making friends with Commissaire Brad.

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Oh wait, I almost forgot to write a Race Report.

Race Report.  SubstanX Cyclocross Series #1: Trail Tours Cross (presented by Substance Projects and Bateman’s Bicycle Co.).  September 10, 2017.

Sand, grass, a sweet berm, a fast and bumpy descent, some cornering, a bit of double track, a bit of singletrack, S-turns, a splash of mud, more sand, some farm track, some more grass, a barrier, another barrier, two jumps, a step, and some grass.

And repeat.

And repeat.

And repeat.

And repeat.

And repeat.

End of Race Report.

…and a podium finish for Team Colin the single speed category (my second CX race).

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When there are only three people in a category, you’re kind of guaranteed a spot on the podium.  Single Speed love.

A report of the King Cross Weekly Series, is in the PS of this post.  Hint, it’s pretty much more of the same awesomeness.

CX.  It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s awesome.

Dinga linga linga ling.

Ride.

 

PS  The Next SubstanX Cyclocross race is this Sunday, September 17, at MTB Kingston. You can register for SubstanX Farm Cross here.  Thanks to Substance Projects, Bateman’s Bicycle Co., Danone, Pearl Izumi, Joyride 150, Amsterdam Brewery, Hinkel Yeung, and Trail Tours (for the awesome land use).team-colin-cx.jpg

And here, as promised, is the King Cross Weekly Series Race Report.

Race Report.  King Cross Tuesday Night Race.  Tuesday, September 12, 2017. Centennial Park, King City

Gravel driveway, grass, trees, more grass, across the driveway, more grass and trees, a neon orange barrier, some more grass, a zip around the port-a-potty (close your mouth), grass, some flowy singletrack, some grunty singletrack, some more flowy singletrack, some narrow and winding singletrack, grass, double track, some grass, and bask to the parking lot.

And repeat.

And repeat…

End of Race Report.

So much fun.  If you want to race King Cross, come to Centennial Park in King City (not the other Centennial Park–which also has a CX race) the next two Tuesday nights at 6:00. Get more information here:  Evolution Cycles.

Hey look, it’s me, Jamie, Ryan, and Tristan (dude is faaaaaaaaast on a bike).  10 minutes before this picture, the stuff in the concrete bunker behind us was a wicked CX race.

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And Take a look at my last blog post.  I’ve listed a few other CX races there.

Also, you NEED to check out Bateman’s Bicycle Co..  Rob Bateman and I finally got to chat on Sunday.  Dude is super cool, an awesome supporter of CX, and I’m just going to say it, he’s as handsome as heck.  His shop also sponsors a Bateman’s Midweek Cyclocross until the snow flies.  Here’s a picture of me and Rob (he’s totally going to be a BFF) enjoying our podium cookies (courtesy of Dan’s mom).
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And here are a few other pictures from the day.  They are, in no particular order:  Dan’s awesome support crew (Jenn and Simon, Sherry, and Ron and Florence); the podium crowd (with bells); and some of the folks from Bateman’s enjoying a Team Colin popsicle. …oh, and maybe a shot of me.

 

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52. Why YOU Need to Race CX

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Gotta be honest, I really don’t know why YOU need to race CX this year.  I don’t even know why I need to race CX this year.

Truthfully, I don’t know the first thing about CX.  Wait, that’s wrong.  I know that it’s a CROSS between road and MTB.  Well. sort of.  I think

Oh wait, I also know that a CX race has fences and barriers.  Or something like that.

And I know that CX races are on grass.  I mean, mostly grass.  And other types of terrain.

Okay, so maybe I’m not a CX resource, but the world wide web is.

The Googler dictionary defines CX as:

cross-country racing on bicycles

So thanks for that Google. Try not to be so precise next time.

How about the Wikipedia

Cyclo-cross (sometimes cyclocrossCXcyclo-X or cross) is a form of bicycle racing.

Um, okay.  Worse than the Googler.

I’m kidding, there’s more.

Races typically take place in the autumn and winter, and consist of many laps of a short (2.5–3.5  km or 1.5–2  mile) course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles requiring the rider to quickly dismount, carry the bike while navigating the obstruction and remount.

Okay, that’s better.  Sounds kinda cool.

Check out the rest of Wikipedia’s post here. CX

So now I know, based on my extensive research (or two clicks on my computer) the following:

  • races last about an hour, and consist of multiple laps of a short course
  • course conditions are a mix of everything
  • CX bikes are a cross between road and MTB
  • you’re probably going to have to shoulder your bike at some point
  • drop bars (or not); 33mm tires (or not); disk brakes (or whatever)

I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty boss.  Boss indeed.

And once again, riders and racers in Southern Ontario are blessed with a horde of different CX races from which to choose.  There are a bunch of established CX races and series, and a bunch more one-offs.  If that’s not enough, there are some great new opportunities this year.  In fact, my Tuesday night races series, the King Weekly Series (presented by Evolution Cycles), is even extending the season to add three cross races: King Cross.  Awesome.

To make it easier, races like Substanx and King Cross are promoting their CX races as hybrids, and allowing (nay, encouraging) a variety of bikes and riders from different disciplines to come out:  Fatbike, SS, MTB, whatever.

I’ve never done a cross race, but with so much choice, I think it’s time.

So, for my first cross race, I’m going to try Substanx, Dan Marshall’s answer to cross, presented by Substance Projects (yeah, cool name, eh?).  Substanx is a three race series, starting this Sunday, at Millbrook (near-ish to Ganaraska Forest).  Aside from the proximity to the city, and the fact that I can actually make the date, the race is sure to be another Substance Projects wickedly fun and awesome rip.

Oh, and there’s a rumour floating about that there is a special emcee for Substanx Millbrook.  It may or may not be Team Colin.  Shhh, don’t tell anyone.  Who am I kidding, tell EVERYone.  I get to race AND talk about racing–with a microphone.  Bee double oh, em.

By the way, my second cross race will be a few days after, on Tuesday night, at King Cross.

Back to the title of this blog post.  Why do YOU need to race cross this year?  Well, Sunday is coming up, and there’s a bike race.  I don’t know about you, but that’s enough for me.

Ride.

 

PS.  Here are some links to some pretty awesome CX rips:

Sunbstanx

Bateman’s Midweek CX

Evolution Cycles King Weekly Series: King Cross

Trek Cyclocross Series

Cookie Cross @ Christie Pits (CXTO)

Mad Cross, Baseball Cross, Dam Cross, CX O-Cup, Turkey Cross, Nordic Cats…Check out the OCA Events Calendar

 

Something to say about bikes, riding, racing, cross, or otherwise?  A race to add to the list of links above?  Comment on the link above, or send an email to: teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

 

 

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.

 

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.

Team-Colin-EB-Start.jpg
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:

Team-Colin-Eager-Beaver.jpg
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.

 

Team-Colin-Eager-Beaver.jpg
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.

Team-Colin.Eager-Beaver.jpg
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

Team-Colin.Eager-Beaver.jpg
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.

Team-Colin-Eager-Beaver.jpg
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.