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…
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
You never regret a race you did, only the race you didn’t.
It’s a Dan’s Race. ‘Nuff said.
If you have a bike, it’s the right bike. Period.
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?
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?
Playing bikes with a few hundred bike minded people for the afternoon. So cool.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
The 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.
Raf and Miro. 1st and 2nd fatbike in the 140k distance.
David V. Smoking performance–ON A MTB!
Gus and a Single Speed win! Boom.
My boy Scott. Great to see him.
A few Lapdogs, and me. Which one of these is not like the other…
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…
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.
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:
Riding in sand. I made up so much time and passed a lot of riders by keeping it rolling in the sand
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).
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:
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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:
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.
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!
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
Dan 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.
Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth it? Oh yeah.
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.
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.
Earlier this season, it was time for Team Colin to do the full marathon distance in a Substance Projects XC Marathon race, so I did it. 50k at the H2i. Here’s the link: Homage to Ice.
Then it was time for Team Colin to do the full Paris to Ancaster distance, so I did it. 70k at P2A. Here’s the link: Paris to Ancaster.
Then, since I did those two races, I figured it was time for Team Colin to do two more marathon distance races in the the XC Marathon, so I did. 70k at the LSC (here’s the link: Long Sock Classic), and 74k at the Humbler (here’s the link: Northumberland Humbler).
All of those races went fairly well (and by fairly well I mean to say that I didn’t die), so I figured it was time for Team Colin to do the full Singletrack Classic, and I did. 44k. Here’s the link: Singletrack Classic.
But I never thought it was time for Team Colin to do the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice. It has never been my thing:
It was too much time away from my family
It just seemed too big and busy of a race
I wasn’t ready to do it solo (and figured I’d only be able to ride a few laps if I was on a team)
Really, nobody ever asked me
You see, while I have a bunch of riding friends and people that I ride with on a regular basis (hey John, love ya buddy), I don’t have a formal MTB squad. You know, a group of regular riders who send weekly texts saying “Dude, where are we riding this weekend?”.
Anyway, I just wasn’t interested in doing the race, and I didn’t think it was time.
But the universe thought it was time, and the universe spoke to me loud and clear.
Here’s what happened. We’re going to travel back in time 6 days. I hope I don’t wake up on a planet of apes. Or worse, a planet with a pumpkin-faced idiot in charge of a launch button…
Saturday, June 18, 2017. Scarborough Ontario, My Bed, 5:38AM
I woke up early and couldn’t fall asleep. It was about 5:30, and while I was tossing and turning, and replaying favourite rides (what, don’t you do that too) I started thinking about Chico Racing’s 24 Hours of Summer Solstice race. The race had never even appeared on my radar in the past, and I don’t know why it did at 5:38 on a Saturday morning when I should have been sawing giant logs, but I started to think that it was time to start wondering about considering pondering the possibility of whether I should perhaps try to look into exploring the idea that maybe I should think about doing the race year next year. Or the year after.
Honestly, I don’t know what sparked the idea, but it stuck. I started thinking that maybe it’d be fun, or maybe I’d do it solo like Riot on Racing does, or maybe someday I’d be in a cool MTB squad and get a text that said “Dude, let’s do the 24 Hour”…
I fell back asleep and snagged an extra half hour of much needed beauty sleep, while visions of the race–and the sweet blog post that I’d be able to write if I ever did it–pedaled by…
And then things got a bit weird. I woke up at 8:00, stumbled out of bed, and waited for my knees to start bending while I walked downstairs to eat. By the 9th step I stopped walking like a drunken baby, but that wasn’t the weird part.
The weird part happened after my morning constitutional. “Constitutional” is a classy way to say I peed. You know, because I’m classy that way.
I checked my phone. It was Saturday morning and I was waiting for my MTB squad to text… I’m kidding. No squad.
A few Facebook notifications and Instagram whatevers, some work email to ignore, and a message on the Team Colin Yahoo mail account. “Who is contacting me on the Team Colin Yahoo account?” I thought. “Nobody ever uses the Team Colin Yahoo account…”
Well, My buddy, Geoff Simpson contacts me on the Team Colin Yahoo account (actually this was his first time, but you get the idea). Geoff does the King Weekly Series with me. He’s a boss rider, and a cool guy.
Get to the weird point Colin…
Okay, here it is. Geoff’s message said “Dude, let’s ride this weekend”… No it didn’t. I’m not in his squad.
Geoff’s message was better. Geoff’s message said
“I know it is short notice, but are you available next weekend? We are looking for an extra rider for our 24 hour team. I know it is exam report card time and short notice but just wondering if you are interested?”
WOHOO. Team Colin has a MTB squad. Okay, not yet. Breathe Team Colin, he hasn’t asked you to be on his squad, he only asked about the 24 Hour.
So I stopped doing my happy dance and replied to his message. It was a good thing I stopped dancing. My kids were already up, and the sight of daddy doing the happy dance in his underwear, with morning hair, and still numb knees wasn’t pretty. Sorry kids. Daddy is lame. Click on that link.
My response to Geoff was a resounding YES–although in the coolest and most blase way (I didn’t want to sound too eager, lest he dismiss me from his squad without a chance). You see, I don’ t know much, but I know this: when the universe speaks, Team Colin listens.
So, on Saturday, June 25, I’m doing the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice, because there is no way I am going to pass up on the chance to be epic.
And I know something else too. If you’re going to be, JUST BE EPIC.
And that’s what I’m going to do. Just. Be. Epic.
I’m looking forward to the community and camaraderie
I’m looking forward to my first kick at night riding, alone, in the woods (okay, I’m not)
I’m looking forward to being scared in the woods (what, I’m delicate and things that go bump–or worse scratch–in the night give me the willies)
I’m looking forward to connecting with the billion riders who I usually meet at races
I’m looking forward to playing bikes, along with a few thousand other bike minded people for 24 hours of awesome, solstice-cracking, awesome-being, cycling goodness
I’m looking forward to the challenge, and the fun, and the whatever
I’m looking forward to pedaling waaaaaay out of my comfort zone
Like I said, I don’t know what to expect, but I expect to be surprised, and if I’ve realized anything on this biking journey, I’ve realized that when you listen to the universe, things always work out in the best of ways.
24 Hours of Summer Solstice, here I come–be gentle with me.
Oh, and to the guys on Billy Biker and the Kickstands, I’m sorry for, well, me. Whatever Geoff said about me to get you to agree to have me on your team is probably a lie. I’ll do my best, but no promises.
24 Hours of BOOM.
PS. I don’t know where the Team Colin Support Vehicle (okay, it’s just my family RV with the letters “TEAM COLIN” on the rear bumper) will be parked, but if you see me, say hi. There are ALWAYS popsicles (and sometimes freezies) in the freezer. For the 24 Hour, there might even be Revelos and ice cream bars. Team Colin loves iced treats.
UPDATE (Friday night). I’m at a birthday party for my daughter. She wanted beef burritos from Taco Bell. Her twelve tween guests weren’t fans. To make a long story short, I will have 20 beef burritos in the Team Colin Support Vehicle as well. I’ll be campsite # something, in the Rustling Brook Campground. I’ll update the Team Colin Facebook page when I land.
It Was the WORST of Times. It Was The BEST of Times
The Substance Projects Long Sock Classic.
70k of Ontario’s finest single track.
1,600m of relentless, punishing, climbs.
Rocks and roots. Trees and sand. Grit and grime.
One boss Cannondale Trail SL single speed.
And lots and lots of teeny tiny poison ivy sprouts.
Over five hours of rolling time.
It was race #2 in the Substance Projects XCM.
Was it fun? Nope.
Was it easy? Heck no.
Was it worth it? You bet.
Was it awesome, and memorable, and totally boss? You bet…TIMES A BILLION.
Okay, so maybe it didn’t feel that way during the race…or immediately after the race…or the next morning, when my knees were fireballs of stiffness, when my lower back was a lava pit of torment, when my legs were wobbly stumps of ache, and when my new body part (now known as my SHOULDERNECK) was a lump of knotted agony.
But some time the next day (as soon as I could walk upright, and as soon as I had the strength to move all body parts independently and not look like a zombie when I wanted to see something to my left or right) it was totally worth it…and utterly awesome…and absolutely boss.
But mostly, the 2017 Long Sock Classic was a reminder of how awesome this MTB thing really is. If the Kingston O Cup was a reminder of our mud roots, the LSC was a giant wake-up call that this awesome MTB thing can also be really tough sometimes.
Prior to the race, I was worried about the distance. I’d never attempted 70k on a mountain bike and the magnitude of the undertaking wasn’t lost on me. By the way, I never even contemplated racing long distances until earlier this year when, on a whim, I decided it was time to race the big kid distance of P2A. After registering for the full P2A, I figured “What the heck, might as well register for the long course in the XCM as well.
However, the 70k at P2A a few weeks ago was mostly smooth surfaces, with little climbing, on a gravel bike. Even the 50k of the H2i didn’t compare. And 70k at the Ganny–a trail system renowned for nasty climbs and horrible awesomeness–was another thing altogether.
And because, well, I still don’t know why, I decided to register on my single speed. “Sure” I thought “Sounds about right. I’ll just ride further than I’ve ever ridden, without gears…”.
What was I thinking? I don’t know. I honestly and truly don’t know. I’d like to say I was being intentionally hardcore (grrrr) but I wasn’t (and I’m not). I’d like to say it was puffed-up confidence, but it really wasn’t. I’d like to say it was “for the challenge” but honestly, when I registered I had no idea what I was getting into. I think maybe it was just because I thought “Hey, it’d be cool to do it on my single speed” when I was registering. I should really work on my self regulation.
In any case, I was high on hopes, and (felt) up to the challenge. It was my 5th race in 7 weeks (my 7th race if you count 2 weekly series races), so my legs and lungs were in good spring shape.
The Team Colin support vehicle is packed: my helmet is washed; my bike is clean (my chain is literally gleaming); my kit is ready; and I’ve got a bag of electrolyte fizzes and energy chews, a tool kit and pump… I know the first 45 minutes will be spent with tight muscles and tighter lungs, and I’ll be panting like crazy until I warm up, and I know that I’ll feel strong and fast (for me) from that point until about the 90 minute mark. But then my back will pack up and go home, and I’ll finish my first lap in a goodly amount of pain about 15 minutes later… I’m not doing this because I like it. I’m doing this because I LOVE it. Each year I dread the “Hill on Top of a Hill”. But not this year. This year, I’m looking forward to it. Bring it on LSC!
Okay, full disclosure. I may have employed a bit too much bravado when I wrote that. I was wrong to talk about the Hill on Top of a Hill like that, and I don’t mind saying now I spent a good deal of time apologizing to the “Hill on Top of a Hill” during the race. Once again, I’m sorry for taunting you, “Hill on Top of a Hill”. My bad.
Kidding aside (okay, I’m not kidding–I’m sorry Hil, it won’t happen again), the LSC was also a great reminder, via a sucker punch to the gut, that no matter how much you plan, and regardless of how meticulous you are in preparing, nothing beats a last minute checklist to ensure you have your damn water bottles before beginning a 35k lap. I did not complete the aforementioned checklist until AFTER the race started. So, I was halfway up the first climb before I realized I was dry. I can’t believe that I actually contemplated racing without water for a moment. Fortunately, sanity caught up with me pretty fast, and I turned around for a quick zip back to the start. With two bottles of water snuggled safely in my bottle cages, I looked at my GPS unit, and saw that I only lost 4 minutes.
4 minutes. No problem. It’s a long race, I’ll make it up…
Yeah, I can say that now, but on Saturday all I was thinking about was my spot on the podium. I’m kidding, I wasn’t thinking about my spot on the podium (because there is no podium spot for me). I was panicked. It was the beginning of a long race, and I wasn’t thinking. So I sprinted (well, whatever qualifies for a sprint when you’re Team Colin–to the casual observer it may look like “just riding”, but inside I’m on fire and giving it everything I’ve got) for the first 15 minutes or so.
And here’s the thing about a 15 minute sprint at the beginning of a long race. It’s stupid. Like, really stupid.
But I booked it anyway.
At least I now had water. Yay, water…
After burning all of my matches on the fire road after the second START, and then all of my reserve matches just after that on the climb to get to the “Hill on Top of a Hill” , and then my extra reserve matches on the “Hill on Top of a Hill”, I was done for the day.
And I was only about 6k into the race.
I was 6k into a 70k race and I was spent.
And I didn’t have gears.
Aw c’mon. Really? I was on my single speed? What was I thinking? Oh yeah, I still don’t know.
I’ve always said that I feel every ounce of my weight in the Ganny. Every turn, climb, and obstacle is a challenge. Sure there are a few descents, but they’re usually rooty and rocky, and take almost as much concentration and energy as the climbs. Oh, did I mention my single speed has a rigid aluminium fork? Yeah, so that’s nice. Now, to be clear, there are some sections in the Ganny that I can really groove on, but riding in the Ganny is like riding through a giant, heartless, really really really mean, bank. And the Bank of Ganaraska is one tough lender. Because whatever joy you take in riding, the BOG (Bank Of Ganaraska) collects interest and a pound of flesh afterward.
And early spring in the Ganny is a special treat. It’s a bit soft and spongy, and the blanket of last year’s leaves conceal a delightful web of deep ruts, rocks, and other special treasures. It’s like knocking on the door of the Bank of Ganaraska on Halloween. Instead of a trick (or a treat), the BOG jams a twig into your wheel, punches you in the throat, and steals your bike.
Hey, at least I wasn’t worried about stick wrecking my derailleur–BECAUSE I DIDN’T HAVE ONE.
But I had water. Yay water…
Okay, so enough complaining about my single speed and the Ganny. I wasn’t at a tea party, and I was riding the bike I chose. Besides, what was I expecting, an espresso and a paceline? Boom. See what I did there? A little roadie zinger. Also, there were plenty of riders who smoked through the course way quicker than me. It likely wasn’t the bike, or the Ganny, or anything else. It was me.
Race Report. Long Sock Classic: Ganaraska Forest (May 20, 2017)
The first few hundred metres of the LSC is a gentle climb up some double track to a fire road. If I was with the pack I’m sure it would have been close and tight. When the course hits the fire road, things open up a bit, and I’m sure the pack of riders became close and tight AND FAST. The fire road is an undulating ribbon of deep sand, gnarly ruts, and dislodged boulders. It also either goes straight up, or straight down, which means riders are alternately chugging to keep pace on the climbs, or white knuckling it on the descents. Either way, both options take a great deal of skill and concentration. Take a read of Riot’s Race Report. He didn’t forget his water bottles, and he nailed the atmosphere with the other riders who didn’t forget their water bottles.
After the fire road, the track turns up a gentle, winding, climb that brings riders to the bottom of the “Hill on Top of a Hill”. It’s a 2k grind up that part of the hill, and leads to the bottom of a steeper hill. It’s brutal. This year, the climb was rutted deeply, and covered with leaves and branches for an extra bit of challenge.
But we all did it, and nobody died on the hill. Kinda felt like dying the second time I did it, but alas, I wasn’t so lucky.
Immediately after the HTH (Hill on Top of a Hill), the LSC hit the first bit of single track for a long section of awesomeness. The trail was tight, twisty, and FAST. It was a quickish 10k zip of sweet single track, punctuated by little shots of double track. Lots of space for passing. Oh wait, I was waaaaay behind the pack so there was no need to pass.
But I had water. Yay water…
I finally caught up to Angie Emsley, one of my racing buddies, who was taking a stab at her first marathon distance. She was riding strong. Nice work Angie!
Liz was waiting at the aid station with some much needed cheer and nutrients. Some e-load, bananas, chain lube, and jujubes.
I took a 2 minute breather. I wasn’t tired, but I was trying to pace myself for the long ride ahead. Angie stopped for a second, and left ahead of me.
The 12k or so after the aid station was tough. The track was raw, tight, and twisty. I was feeling the full effect of my early sprint, and the alternating climbs and zig-zagging was relentless and punishing. Like I said earlier (and last year too) I felt every ounce of my 250 pounds.
Strangely enough, however, my body wasn’t the mess I had anticipated. The early sprint really hit me, and I was slow moving. Also, most things ached, but my usual trouble spots hadn’t ignited to Pain Level: Inferno. I was really slow though. Did I already say that? Because I was really really really slow.
The last 5k was a swoosh down some awesomely fast and slightly technical double track, with a bit of single track nirvana thrown in for good measure, and then a grunty climb. After 2 hours and 27 minutes of riding, I hit the Start/Finish for a short recoup and refresh, before realizing something. My race was only half over. I was riding for 2 hours and 27 minutes, and I now had to do it all over again.
It was the same with my first marathon distance race the month before, the H2i. You know, there is no amount of positivity and awesomeness that can negate how hard it is to finish a really tough lap, and then have to start all over again. I knew every climb, root, dismount, and rock that was waiting for me, and it was a killer the first time. I was so bloody tired and spent. Clipping in for the next half was really really tough.
But I did. I pedalled, and I pedalled, and I got off my bike a few times, and I pedalled some more, and I finished. My friend and mentor Dan Marshall (also the organizer) once told me “You know how you finish a race? You pedal”. That’s what kept me going–knowing that if I pedalled enough times, I’d eventually finish the race. There were times when I was looking at the metres rack up on my GPS, not kilometres, and there were times when I just didn’t want to pedal, but I did.
And there were a few times when I had to dismount for a climb, and just walked alongside my bike for an extra minute because I couldn’t fathom having to get on my bike again.
But somehow, I pedalled enough times. I nailed the HTH, the awesome first sections of singletrack, the aid station, the nasty bit after the aid station, the swoosh of the last 5k, and I finally saw that last climb out of the forest and up to the FINISH line.
The Bank of Ganaraska collected a bucket of interest from Team Colin at the LSC, but I paid back every penny.
And, I now have a new qualifier after the race. But it’s not a BUT, it’s an AND.
I did the Long Sock Classic full marathon distance AND I did it on my single speed.
And I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
I’ll just make sure I’ve got water.
As always thanks to Substance projects, Dan Marshall, and the amazing sponsors. And thanks to Dan’s mom and dad, Sherry, Jenn and Simon, Liz Grootenboer, and Dan’s awesome team of staff and volunteers (especially the day’s cook, Lorraine), and my wife (tireless supporter and photographer) and my kids (cheerleaders, horn blowers, bell ringers, and little bits of awesomeness).
If you read this and have something to say, make a comment at the bottom, or send an email to me at: email@example.com
Oh, and since there were only two Clydesdale racers in the marathon distance, I placed second.
Post Race Recap (Wednesday, May 24–4 days after the LSC)
After my first kick at a marathon distance last month (the H2i), I was in rough shape. Like, really rough shape. I spent the next week recovering. After P2A a few weeks ago, I was also a mess for a few days. However, after Saturday’s race, I spent Sunday out with friends, and Victoria Day cutting the lawn and playing with my kids. Sure, I was tired and a bit sore (and yes, I had a loooong nap on Sunday), but I wasn’t completely zonked. In fact, I even raced last night, and I felt amazing. Hmm.
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)?
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.
“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?
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.
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?
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!
Besides, when you see pictures of the pros, are they clean and pristine, and riding on easy street? Nope.
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?
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
There 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.
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.
Look who showed up. Carl!
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
And we’re not going to see bikes from: Giant, Norco, Specialized, KHS, Cannondale, Trek, Santa Cruz, Devinci, Liv, Pivot, Rocky Mountain, Scott, Yeti, and Staran, and support a few local businesses: The Copper Branch, Hy-Hope Farms, The Merchant of Meat, and Primal Pizza.
Yup, awesome. Gotta respect DMBA for making the right call and cancelling tomorrow’s Demo Fest. It’s been raining all week, it’s not going to stop tonight, and there is just too much water on the trails. Because of the DMBA, the trails will live to be boss for another day.
Respect, respect, RESPECT!
Part of the DMBA mandate is to “preserve trail opportunities”, and cancelling tomorrow must have been a killer decision–especially given the amount of time and money that must have gone into the event, not to mention the few unreasonable people who might complain–but ultimately they have done exactly what we need them to do. They’ve shown exactly why they exist. They exist so that our sport will be protected.
We can’t ride on Saturday, but the trails will be there all summer, and with people like the DMBA advocating for US, protecting OUR trails, and giving US events like the Demo Fest, the trails (and the spirit and vibe of biking) are sure to be there for many summers to come.
It ain’t easy making tough decisions, but it’s called the high road for a reason, and DMBA just took it. All of us know this philosophy too well. When there’s a fork in the trail, and one side has a log-over, we nail the logs. When there’s a killer hill to climb, we attack it (and sometimes even repeat it). When our friends are playing golf and scrapbooking (not that there’s anything wrong with that), we RIDE OUR BIKES hard and fast.
And now, thanks to the DMBA, all that great stuff is protected just a little bit more.
If you’re really itching to ride tomorrow (and I know I am) here are a few other alternatives to Demo Fest:
Feel like an indoor rip? Take a shot up to Joyride 150 and try their new Flow Trail.
Really really really want to ride OUTSIDE tomorrow? Check the Team Colin Facebook page, or send Team Colin an email (email@example.com). Rumour is that a ride is planned exploring his famous “South Scarborough Loop” (a teeny tiny bit of road, lots of paved trail, a few climbs and other surprises, and a view of the lake).
Can you wait until Sunday? If so, make the trip east, O-Cup #2 at MTB Kingston (presented by Dan Marshall and Substance Projects) is on Sunday. MTB Kingston has been busy all week making sure the trails are ready for the downpour (sand, gravel, rerouting, and so on), and ensuring the trails won’t sustain any damage. Seriously, check out the Substance Projects Facebook page. These folks CARE about the trails and are knocking themselves out to make the race a reality. Dan, Substance Projects, and MTB Kingston support us, and it’s time for us to support them. Cold and (torrentially) rainy, with a chance of snow? Can’t think of a better time to crush it on a bike. Boom.
Behind on your chores? Spend a bit of time catching up. Seriously, with three races in April (and three in May…plus a few weekly race evenings), I am behind in everything that doesn’t have to do with bikes. My bikes are tuned, and my kits are ready to go, but my garage is a mess, my lawn needs a rake, the shower may be growing things, and the laundry pile is threatening to topple on one of my kids if they put one more sock on top.
Forgot to observe Star Wars Day? Say hi to Chewie, Han, Leih, Obi Wan, Luke, and the droids (even though they aren’t the ones you’re looking for), and watch a Star Wars movie (hint, episodes 4-7 are a good place to start)
Forgot what a non-biking weekend looks like? Read a book, watch a play, sleep in, snuggle someone, bash the mud off your shoes from last weekend’s P2A (or is that just me), clean your bike, visit a bike shop, spend the day in your pajamas and binge watch a new show, get caught in a Youtube Vortex, or otherwise revisit your non-biking life that usually gets put on hold during riding season.
I’m not glad the Demo Fest is cancelled, but I’m happy that our trails and our sport will remain strong and healthy because of the great leadership and forward thinking of the DMBA. I really believe that we’re stewards not just of our trails, but of our natural environment, and it’s nice to have a reminder about the effects of our actions.
So what if we can’t play bikes and eat pancakes tomorrow. There’s plenty of summer ahead of us.
Ride…just not at Durham tomorrow, and probably not for the next few days (unless you’re racing in Kingston).
PS. Hey, anything to say about the trails, riding, or bikes in general? Comment, or send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org