43. Long Sock Classic

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

Ganaraska Forest.

The Substance Projects Long Sock Classic.

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

Over five hours of rolling time.

It was race #2 in the Substance Projects XCM.

Was it fun?  Nope.

Was it easy?  Heck no.

Was it worth it?  You bet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I booked it anyway.

At least I now had water.  Yay, water…

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

And I was only about 6k into the race.

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

And I didn’t have gears.

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

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

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

And then it collects an ATM fee

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

But I had water.  Yay water…

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I had water.  Yay water…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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One lap done, one lap to go.  Ugh.

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

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

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

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A little bunny hop at the end.

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

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

End of Race Report.

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

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

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

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

I’ll just make sure I’ve got water.

Ride.

 

PS

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

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

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

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Two Happy Clydes

 

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

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

38. Homage to Ice ’17

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Photo credit:  Jeff Shikaze

Single Speed 201.

Team Colin went for a big, giant rip in Dufferin County Forest on Saturday, in race #1 of the Substance Projects XC Marathon: The Homage to Ice (presented by Cycle Solutions).

And let me tell you this: Homage was paid.

Except that I paid homage to everything except ice.

Homage to rain and mud.

Homage to Dan Marshall.

Homage to the big boss riders who served my arse to me on a mud splotched,  platter.

And sure, homage to AWESOMENESS (just not mine)

On a very personal–and physical level– I paid homage to pain, more pain, a bit more pain, and then some other pain for good measure.

This is my 5th year racing Dan Marshall’s XC Marathon, and I haven’t missed a race yet. 4 races each year.  4 years.  16 races in total.  But this year, it was different.

This year I decided to race the marathon distance.  Yeah, the marathon distance!

Okay, it was really tough, but I’m going to say it right now.  Boom.

1 speed, 2 laps 3 hours and 50 minutes on my bike.

Lots and lots of rain.

A giant mass of KNOTTED muscle where I used to have shoulders (plus a pair arm flaps that are going to be basically useless for a few more days), and the gentle satisfaction that I DID IT.

Last place overall, 2nd place Clydesdale.20170415_154552

Lemme say it again.  Boom.

So H2i 2017 was my first kick at a full race.  My first kick at a race distance that I couldn’t even fathom attempting a few years ago.  It’s the first time that I don’t have to give a disclaimer afterwards.  “I did Race X–the half distance…”

BUT HOLY CRAP IT WAS TOUGH.  So very very tough.  Remember when I said it was an “…homage to awesomeness”?  Yeah, well it wasn’t.  It was gruelling, tough, and just plain hard.  Damnit, it was so hard.

When I finished the race, on the drive home, and in the days since, I’ve been feeling uncharacteristically bleak. Aside from being physically drained, I’m beating myself up for doing so poorly…for having spring legs…for not being able to get into a groove…for not training as much as I should have…for not training as hard as I should have…for getting passed by the half marathon leaders (who started half an hour later then I did) at the 15k mark…and for actually thinking I could do the full race.

Seriously, what possessed me, a half marathon racer (and not even a good one at that) to attempt the full distance?

I know someone has to come last, but still…

And to add insult to injury, there were even a few riders at the race who did the Tilsonburn 100 Mile race the day before.  Check out Riot’s post about it.  So let me get this right.  I couldn’t handle the race, but other racers did an ever BIGGER race the day before and still managed. I get it, I’m not them, but still…

My overall time was 3:51.  The winning Single Speed category time was 2:36.  Ugh. Seriously, I was an hour and 15 minutes behind first place.  Heck, I was almost an hour behind the second last place rider.  Double Ugh.

My first lap time was 1:48.  My second lap was 2:02 (what, I really needed a few breaks).

I felt pretty stupid, a bit embarrassed, and kind of demoralized.  But then I realized something. If I’d raced the half marathon, I would have beaten a few pretty fast riders, and placed 7/9.  Well that’s not so bad.  Hmm.  So everyone else had a tough time too. Sure, a bunch of riders were waaaay faster than me (in both races), but I held my own, and my results were consistent with my prior races.

Sure, I’m still not that great, but I’m not worse than I was last year, and I might even be getting better.  Edit.  I’m getting (a tiny wee little bit) better.

Flashback to race day morning:  It was 108 km to Mansfield, I had a full tank of gas, it was bright, and I was wearing sunglasses.  I was listening to some tunes and ready for my first big boy race. The forecast for the day was a high of 20, with a chance of showers. I was worried about tackling the full distance–no, I was terrified–but I was excited too. Excited to be challenging myself.  Excited to have the chance to push myself hard. Excited to be ABLE to even think about the longer distance.

But I was mostly worried.

It started raining while I was driving. Stupid forecast.  Fortunately, I was prepared for any weather. Bib pants or bib shorts;  Short sleeve or long sleeve jersey; full finger or fingerless gloves; and I even packed my neck muffler and helmet liner as a precaution the night before.

Wait, my gloves were still in the clean laundry basket waiting to be packed.

AW DANG IT!!!

I was supposed to get to Mansfield with more than enough time to prep.  I was supposed to have a relaxed drive.  I was supposed to STRETCH before the race. Nope. A quick exit…turn around…pick up my gloves…back on my way.  30 minutes lost.

I made it to the race about 35 minutes before start time.  35 minutes to mentally and physically prepare for the biggest race of my life.  35 minutes to register…say hello to everyone…change into my race kit…put some air in my tires..check and repack my tool bag..jam some food in my belly…think about the task at hand…

What the?  It was 10:59, the race was about to start, and I wasn’t ready.

Race Report:  Homage to Ice. Dufferin County Forest (April 15, 2017)

The race started, I still wasn’t ready, I hadn’t stretched, and well, I JUST WASN’T READY! The pack booked it down the doubletrack, and out of sight.  I wasn’t even on my bike in time to even see the tail end of the pack.

My gearing is pretty low, so I pretty much spun my wheels for the first few k of double track.  I passed two friends who were trying to fix a bent chain, and then hit my first sweet singletrack rip of the year.

The rain wasn’t heavy, so the course was wet, but not too muddy.  However, Dufferin Forest is so tight and twisty, and there was very little chance for me to just let it fly, no chance to find a pace.  Worse, between the tight trees, the slick mud, the giant (and awesome) logovers, and my gearing, I spent every pedal stroke either braking or trying to crank back up to speed.  I realized almost immediately that the day was going to be a slog.

And then it started to really rain.

I hankered in for the downpour, tried to maintain visibility though my glasses, and just tried my best to keep some sort of pace.  In dry conditions, the course would have been great but tough.  In the rain, the course was not great and tougher.

Dan Marshall always says that Team Van Go have a policy of turning every downed tree into a logover. He isn’t wrong.  The logovers in Dufferin County Forest are legendary: They’re big, meaty, rideable (but just barely) and fun.  If a tree falls in Team Van Go’s forest, does it make a sound?  Yup “Logover!”.  They were daunting to look at it, but awesome to nail–especially in the rain.  I spent the entire race alone–utterly alone.  However, I took some comfort that I was riding in Team Van Go’s forest.  They have such a cool vibe, and I always feel it when I’m riding there.

The course followed a bunch of awesome singletrack for the next 5 or 6k, and then, at about 8k, there was a wickedly sweet, twisting descent.  The rain made it slick and a little gnarly.  Awesome.

The course for the next while was tight and winding, uppy-downy, and tough.  Man, it was tough.  I just couldn’t find my pace.

And then it stopped raining.

No it didn’t.  It just rained harder.  There was more single track, punctuated with very short sections of double track, and then the course came to the first aid zone.  What the?  The aid station was at 12k, but it felt like I had been riding forever.

Liz and Jenn at the aid station were kind and generous with their words of support.  A quick snack, a bottle refill, and I was back on the bike.  More singletrack, a few grinding climbs, and the “10K To Go” sign.  Dang.  This wasn’t getting easier.  The rain proved to be a menace at this point, and it slowed me even more.  The climbs were even tougher, the corners were even sketchier, and it all just sucked.  I was off my bike to walk a bunch of climbs (but I attacked a few too), and then came The Wall.  I didn’t even try to attempt it, and dismounted when I started losing traction, and hoofed it up the rest.

“5K To Go”  C’mon.  This race was taking forever.

At about that point, my back didn’t want to play any longer, and went home. “Okay back, I’ll finish this thing without you”

And then the sun came out.  No it didn’t.  It just rained more.

Some more tight track, lots of mud that was quickly turning to muck, a few little climbs, and out into the driveway for a short zip to the finish line.

Phew, the race was finally over.  No it wasn’t.  There was another lap.  It was the halfway point of the race.  After an hour and 48 minutes, all that work, the slogging, and all the pain, I was only halfway finished. I needed a break, so I spent a few minutes at the Start/Finish.  I refilled my bottle, guzzled some pop, had a PB and J sandwich, and tried to stretch (Yeah, nice move dummy–you’re two hours late. Shut up brain).  And where the heck was my back?  Dang, I was sore.

At least the rain had finally stopped.

I was in last place, and I was looking forward to a complete rerun of EVERYTHING I just covered.  Every log over, every climb, every dismount, every wince, every muck pool Everything.  Every ache of my back and throb of my shoulders.

Yeah, my shoulders.  My single speed isn’t just rigid, it’s fully rigid–with an aluminium fork.  After 25k, my neck and shoulders were…  Well, they were sore.

I have to say, the stark realization at that point of the race was pretty bleak.  In the first few minutes of the second lap (really, for most of the second lap), I experienced my darkest time on a bike.

Dan Marshall always says you finish a race by pedalling until it’s over.  So I pedalled.

And pedalled.

And pedalled.

And walked a bit.

And pedaled.

The same climbs, the same descents, the same trees, the same logovers, the same everything.

With 1k to the aid station, I saw Jenn and Liz through the trees, and they rang their bells and hollered words of encouragement.  After the aid station, there was still 13k to go.  They were a beacon of hope and positivity.  Refill..stretch the shoulders to try and break up the knot…have a snack…back on the bike.

And then it got easier.  No it didn’t.  It got tougher.  People always comment about my enthusiasm for the sport, and I have to say that it’s a good thing I’m so amped.  It kept nipping at my heels and propelling me forward when all I wanted to do was quit.

10k to go…ugh.

5k to go…ughhhhh.

Out of the valley, back onto the driveway and the race was over.

They waited.  I was last place, and they waited for me to finish until they started packing up.  Dan didn’t scream my name, he SCREAMED MY NAME.

End of Race Report

I did it.20170415_153520

You know, I always talk about the love groove, and the strong connections in my MTB world, and I always say I know it’s not very MTB.  But I think I’m wrong.  I think the love grove is the very essence of MTB.  We’re all in the same boat.  We all love riding.  We all support each other.  I would not be riding without it, I wouldn’t have tried the marathon distance without it, and I wouldn’t love the sport so much if it wasn’t such a big part of it. It helped me finish the race on Saturday.  And whether it was Liz and Jenn at the aid station, or Dan screaming “Team COLIN!!!” at the finish, or all my fiends after the race, it was heartwarming and awesome.  That’s all I’ve got to say about that.  No it isn’t.  Can I talk about Heather for a sec?  She wants to the the 8 hour in May, and she’s training.  So what did she do?  After the half marathon, she did another lap.  Just because. No timing. Nobody cheering her on.  Just because she’s awesome.

I loved my first big race.  I laughed, I cried, I winced, and I experienced an epiphany.  But it wasn’t the epiphany I was expecting.

At some point in the race, or maybe it was some time after the race (don’t remember–delirium) I realized that I hit my riding ceiling. I realized that my ceiling–at this point in my life–is just a bit below a full race.

And it kinda sucks.  No, it doesn’t kinda suck.  It just plain sucks.  But it’s okay, because my ceiling 5 years ago was well below a half marathon.  And my ceiling next year?  In five years?  Well, who knows.

Scratch that.  I know.  I know it’ll be higher.  And I’ll make sure my gloves are packed the night before.

I raced the marathon distance in Saturday’s Homage to Ice.  Boom.

Ride.

PS.  Hey, did I capture the race?  If you were there, and I missed something, let me know. Anything to say?  Comment here on the blog, or send an email to: teamcolin@yahoo.com

And if you really want to read about last year’s course–my first time racing a single speed, check it out here.

Oh, one more thing.  Team Colin hats are in.  Awesome.

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News: It’s A Fundemic!

UPDATE:  April 10, 2017

CONGRATULATIONS TO CASS K., WINNER OF THE GRAND PRIZE (XCM RACE REGISTRATION, JOYRIDE 150 PASS, RYDERS SUNGLASSES–COURTESY OF CYCLE SOLUTIONS–FREE REGISTRATION TO A KING WEEKLY SERIES RACE, 2 PASSES TO THE DMBA DEMO FESTIVAL–ON MAY 6th–AND A TEAM COLIN HAT.  BOOM.

CONGRATULATIONS ALSO TO JEFF S., WINNER OF A KING SERIES RACE REGISTRATION, AND 2 PASSES TO THE DMBA DEMO FESTIVAL.  SMALLER BOOM.

Thanks to Dan Marshall and Substance Projects, Cycle Solutions, Joyride 150, Evolution Cycles, and DMBA.  So fun.

The Team Colin Epic Boom Prize Fundemic

Yep, a Mountain Bike Fundemic!  AND IT JUST GOT BIGGER!!!

Once again, mountain biking is about to get a wee bit awesomer, with the Team Colin Epic Boom Prize Fundemic (not to be confused with last Fall’s Team Colin Epic Boom Giveaway Spectacular).

What exactly is the Team Colin Epic Prize Boom Fundemic?  It’s a boatload of prizes, that’s what.

UPDATE    Not only is it all of the cool stuff listed below, but it now includes a PAIR of passes to the Durham Mountain Bike Demo Festival on May 6.  Wickedly rad.  

Dan Marshall from Substance Projects has authorized the Team Colin Blog to give away a free registration to one of his XC Marathon races this season.  Sweet.

The good folks at Joyride 150 want to help you get in shape for the race season–or maybe just have some fun going for a sweet rip on their new FLOW TRAIL–and have authorized Team Colin to include a day pass to the park.  Boom.

But wait, there’s more.  Evolution Cycles run the King Weekly Race Series every Tuesday night, from May to September, and Jamie Davies doesn’t want you to feel left out, so he is giving away a free registration to one of their weekly rips.  Pick a Tuesday night from May to September, bring your A-Game, and bust a lung at Centennial Park.  Kapow!

And there’s even more!  Matt Morrish and Cycle Solutions  have Ryders Eyewear sunglasses, and the want you to look cool.  Bam!

And to top it all off–literally–how about a Team Colin hat?  Team Colin hats are the perfect way to celebrate the Team Colin Experience.  Kaboom.

To recap:

  • Free registration for an XCM race this season.
  • Free Joyride 150 day pass
  • Free pair of sweet Ryders Eyewear sunglasses, courtesy of Cycle Solutions
  • Free registration to a King Weekly Series race
  • 2 passes to the DMBA Demo Festival on May 6
  • Free special edition, artisanal cotton, blue camo Team Colin hat

It’s a Fundemic!

Entering is easy.  If you already follow the Team Colin blog, or if you already follow the Team Colin Facebook page, just type a sentence with the word “Fundemic” on the blog or the Team Colin Facebook page (yeah, it’s that easy).  However, if you aren’t part of the team, all you have to do is one of the following things:

OPTION 1:  Follow the Team Colin Blog.  It’s not as bad as it seems, and you can unfollow it at any time after the draw.

OPTION 2:  Follow the Team Colin Facebook Page.  Once again, it’s not as bad as it seems, and you can unfollow it any time after the draw.

The draw will be held live on Facebook, on April 10, at 5:57 PM.  Yes, Team Colin’s kids can’t eat supper until they make the draw.

THE SMALL PRINT:
Total value of “The Team Colin Epic Boom Prize Fundemic” is, like a billion dollars*
The draw will be held LIVE ON FACEBOOK, on April 7, 2017, at 8PM.  Enter before that date to be eligible.
A full list of contest rules can be found at: http://www.there_are_no_rules.com
Unfortunately, if you can’t meet Team Colin at one of the XCM races, the hat and sunglasses cannot be mailed–but you still get your free registration to the races, the DMBA Demo Festival passes, and the Joyride 150 park pass,
Finally, the terms, conditions, and prizes in the Team Colin Epic Boom Prize Fundemic may change because you know, Team Colin makes mistakes and forgets lots of things.
*estimated value

News: 2017 Schedule

UPDATED:  MARCH 17, 2017)

It’s time.

It’s time for Team Colin to push a little bit harder.  With that in mind, when I registered for the 2017 P2A, I registered for the full distance.  And I’m terrified.  I usually do the half distance (St. George to Ancaster) and that always gives me a fair dose of doubt and anxiety.

And then, when I registered for the Homage to Ice (Dan Marshall’s first XC Marathon race of the year), I chose to do the full marathon distance.  On a single speed.  By the way, my single speed has an aluminium fork.  Yeah, no squish for me.

Why am I doing this?  Why is it time?  Because.  That’s the answer.  Because.

Because I want to finish a race and not have to say “I did the shorter distance”.

Because when I wake up on a race day, I want to make that day as awesome as possible.

Because my legs and lungs are screaming at me to PUSH.

Because.

So, I’m doing those races in April, plus the rest of the XC Marathon.  I’ll try to get to at least one O-Cup this season.  I love the Single Track Classic and Great Albion Enduro.  I’m game for the Kawartha Lakes Cycling Classic again this year, and I’d like to try to find the time to do a road race.  I’ll probably only get to one O-Cup, but I listed all the dates just because.

But wait there’s more.  Ontario is about to get a whole bunch cooler, with Dan Marshall’s, Substance Projects Stuporcross series.  Two big, boss, gravel races:  The Eager Beaver, and the El Bandito.  Awesome.

The cycling scene in Ontario is alive and well, and I am going to do whatever I can to experience as much of it as I can.

I’m going to kick off the Spring season on March 31, with the second “Team Colin Day, um, Night at Joyride 150” (more details to follow), and the season ends at the Toronto Bike Show and Sale, on October 14.

Here, for your reference is a calendar of all the 2017 races that I could/might/want/try to do, and YOU should definitely do.  Each race that I’m currently planning to enter is in BOLD.  The first race of the season is the Tour of Pelham (on April 2), then the Steaming Nostril (on April 9), followed by the Long Sock Classic (on April 15), and Hell of the North (on April 16). The first O-Cup is at Woodnewton (on April 23), followed by Paris to Ancaster (on April 30).  I’m planning to do the Steaming Nostril (Runny Nose distance), the full Homage to Ice, and Paris to Ancaster.

There are also a few Demo Days and such, but I don’t think the dates are finalized.  I’ll update this list when I find out.

2017 Race/Event Calendar 

March

  • March 31:  TEAM COLIN DAY, UM NIGHT @ Joyride 150

April

  • April 2:  Tour of Pelham @ Niagara on the Lake
  • April 9:  STEAMING NOSTRIL @ St. Jacobs
  • April 15:  HOMAGE TO ICE (Substance Projects XCM #1) @ Dufferin Forest
  • April 16:  Hell of the North @ Ballantrae
  • April 23: O-Cup #1 @ Woodnewton
  • April 25:  KING WEEKLY SERIES.  Every Tuesday until September @ King City
  • April 30:  PARIS TO ANCASTER @ Ancaster

May

  • May 6:  DMBA Demo Festival @ Durham Forest
  • May 7: O-CUP #2 @ MTB Kingston
  • May 13:  Epic 8 Hour @ Mansfield
  • May 20:  LONG SOCK CLASSIC (Substance Projects XCM #2 )@ Ganaraska Forest
  • May 27:  SINGLE TRACK CLASSIC @ Hardwood Hills

June

  • June 3:  THE HUMBLER (Substance Projects XCM #3) @ Northumberland Forest
  • June 11: O-Cup #3 @ Horseshoe Valley
  • June 18: O-Cup #4 @ Hardwood Hills
  • June 24/24:  24 Hours of Summer Solstice @ Albion Hills

July

  • July 9: O-Cup #5 @ Buckwallow
  • July 15:  Summer Epic 8 Hour @ Hardwood Hills
  • July 22: EL BANDITO (Substance Projects Stuporcross #1) @ Port Hope
  • July 29: O-CUP #6 @ Albion Hills

August

  • August 12: EAGER BEAVER (Substance Projects Stuporcross #2) @ Collingwood
  • August 26:  KAWARTHA LAKES CYCLING CLASSIC  @ Lindsay
  • August 27:  O-Cup #7 @ Sir Sam’s
  • August 27:  Grease Monkey @Paisley

September

  • September 2:  KINGSTON TROPHY (Substance Projects XCM #4) @ MTB Kingston
  • September 16:  GREAT ALBION ENDURO @ Albion Hills
  • September 23:  Fall Epic 8 Hour @ Hardwood Hills

October

  • October Something-or-other:  SAUSAGE SUIT ITT @ Dufferin County Forest
  • October 14:  FALL BIKE SHOW AND SALE @ Toronto

Most, but not all of these races are on the OCA website.

Here are some links to race organizers:

To help you organize a few of the big series, here’s a list of race series that I love:

Substance Projects XCM (presented by Cycle Solutions)

  • April 15:  H2i (Homage to Ice) @ Dufferin County Forest
  • May 20:  LSC (Long Sock Classic) @ Ganaraska Forest
  • June 3:  Northumblerland Humbler @ Northumberland County Forest
  • September 2:  Kingston Trophy @ MTB Kingston (Glenburnie)

Substance Projects Stuporcross (presented by Cycle Solutions)

  • July 22:  El Bandito (Port Hope)
  • August 12:  Eager Beaver (Collingwood)

O-Cup

  • April 23 @ Woodnewton
  • May 7 @ MTB Kingston
  • June 11 @ Horseshoe Valley
  • June 18 @ Hardwood Hills
  • July 9 @ Buckwallow
  • July 29 @ Albion Hills
  • August 27 @ Sir Sam’s

Weekly Series (usually May to September)

  • Tuesday:  King Weekly Series @ Centennial Park (King City)
  • Wednesday:  Spoke O Motion Weekly MTB Race Series @ Coulson Hill
  • Wednesday:  Superfly’s Wednesday Night Race Series @ Albion Hills
  • Wednesday:  Trek Wednesday Night MTB Series @ Hardwood Hills
  • Thursday:  BikeNXS Durham Forest MTB Race Series

Phew, that’s one heck of a long lost. Better get training.

Ride.

 

PS

Did I miss something.  If you want to comment, add a race, or say something to me, you can comment below, or send an email to:  teamcolinblog@yahoo.com

23. The Kingston XCM

2016 Kingston XCMWohoo, the Kingston XCM/        Oh No, the Kingston XCM

I have a love/hate relationship with the Substance Projects/Cycle Solutions XC Marathon Kingston Trophy, held at the MTB Kingston farm. On the HATE side, it’s the furthest race from my home (over two and a half hours drive), the date has fallen on a steaming hot day for the last three years, it’s the longest race of the XCM, and it’s one hell of a tough course. In the past, the race has just slaughtered me—I feel like a tool on the technical stuff (and have to walk many of the features), and I push so hard on the rest of it, that I always finish the race like a zombie. I’ve raced it three times, and each time I get beat up.

On the LOVE side of the equation, it’s a bike race, so there’s that. Plus, I figured I was up to the challenge. After all, I’m in way better shape this season because I’ve been riding my single speed so often, and I just did two, one hundred K rides in the last few weeks (although not on a mountain bike)…

Also, I had something to prove. Last year I missed the turn from the road to the Start line, and rode a frantic 6k prior to even starting the race.

And, since the Kingston XCM is the last mountain bike race, on the last weekend of the summer, it would be a great chance to squeeze the last bits of cycling out of an awesome summer holiday.

Finally, the Kingston XCM was the day that my wife’s cousin’s daughter was getting married in Niagara-On-The-Lake.

Wait, what?

Aw dangit. How on earth could I race in Kingston in the afternoon, and then make it to a wedding that was four and a half hours away.

Oh crap.

With a bit of fancy talk, my wife’s family agreed that I could skip the wedding ceremony, as long as I made it in time for supper at 7PM. Okay, maybe it wasn’t whole hearted agreement, but they more or less acquiesced to the idea. Wohoo for tacit approval!  They would pick up my wife and kids, and drive them to the wedding.  I’d show up for dinner in my car, and then drive them home.  The A-Team couldn’t have planned it better.

The race started at 11:30, and dinner started at 7:00: That gave me 7.5 hours of DO time. So I started doing some math. I love doing math. The race would last two and a half hours (or so); it would take me about an hour (or so) to cool down and shower; another two and a half hours (or so) to get back home to Scarborough; about half an hour (or so) to change; and about 90 minutes (or so) to drive to the wedding.  That’s about 8 hours of DOING, and a lot of “or so” that could complicate the endeavour.

Double crap. Stupid math.  Okay, so maybe I’d miss the first course, but I’d totally make it in time for the salad–I mean, what were the chances there’d be traffic or construction on the highway into, through, and out of, Toronto, on a long weekend?

Triple crap. The chances of traffic and construction into, through, and out of, Toronto on a long weekend were about 100%

Okay, so all I had to do was find a way to bend time-space continuum in order to accommodate me.

It wouldn’t be easy, but I’m Team Colin, and I’d find a way. My team was counting on me. Yes, I’m aware that I am the entire team.

I love planning, so the first thing I did was figure a way to break the day up into manageable chunks. I assigned 4 parts to the day I would now call

The Day Team Colin Did The Impossible.

Here’s the plan:

1.) Get to Kingston

2.) Cram body into spandex and race the Kingston Trophy XCM

3.) Drive home, shower, and cram body into a bow tie (and a shiny blue suit!).

4.) Drive to Niagara-On-The-Lake in aforementioned bow tie and blue suit, be charming, and engage in general wedding frivolousness.

Chunk 1: Get to Kingston

I figured I’d camp in Kingston so that I’d get a better start to the day. I conscripted my friend to keep me company and be my co-pilot, packed the Team Colin support vehicle, and drove to Kingston on Friday afternoon. Getting there was easy, I thought, I could totally make this happen.

Just after parking my RV on Friday night, a guy named Bryant popped up beside me. Bryant was using this race as a training ride for the Single Speed World Championships. I was the loser in the single speed category of the last three XCM half marathon races. There could not have been two more disparate riders camped out beside each other. He totally threw my confidence. I spent the night wondering why I was there, and how I could call myself a racer compared to him? It was my 10th race of the season, and I hadn’t been even close to the podium. But that’s for another blog post.

I shook it off, fell asleep, and awoke the next the morning, fresh and ready to race.

Chunk 1 completed.

Chunk 2: Race the Kingston XCM

It was a bit of a ride from the parking lot (and camping area), to the start line, which was on a farmer’s lane separating two fields. I met my riding buddy, John, at the Start Line, and we hovered near the back of the pack. Dan Marshall arrived, announced a few cautions, and the race started.

Race Report: Kingston XCM. September 3, 2016

The pack bolted along the gravel farm track, before heading across the field on a bumpy grind to the trails. It didn’t do much to thin the pack, and on reflection, our start position was dumb (even though it was nice to ride together for a while) because it was a dreadfully slow pace at times. We got hung up by the group every time there was a narrow tree gap, or at a tough technical feature. Kingston doesn’t have giant climbs, but it has rocks, roots, and trees, and the trail builders have mastered the craft of utilizing them very very well.

It’s not enough to call the trails at MTB Kingston awesome. They are funner than fun, awesomer than awesome, and excellenter than excellent. Put plainly, it’s a bunch of sweet, technical, awesome single track. We were going at a slow pace, but the tight corners, techhie rock gardens, and angry trees kept us on our game.

Just like the day was separated into chunks, so was the race: the north side that was perched on a ridge above a lake (with a sweet maze of tight and twisty single track); the corn field, barn, and pump tracks (so sweet) that led into some more super fun single track; the off camber section that led to what Dan called “The Rocky Stuff; and the last bit of single track that ended with a short climb to the finish. There would be aid stations at 15k (in the barn) and at 30k.

After the first few k, the trail widened into farm track, and John and I upped our pace. We passed a dozen or so riders.

We were at the 8-10k point of the race, flying through a corn field on the south side of the road, and it happened. TWINK! I popped a spoke. I didn’t think much of it, and kept riding.

GNARRRRRLTKTKTKTKTKTKTKTK.

What the?

My stupid damn spoke—a few riders passed–wound itself around my cassette—a few more riders passed–and jammed my rear derailleur up and into my other spokes. Riders kept passing.

I spent a few harried minutes trying to remedy the situation. Finally, with my spoke out of the way (and bent around a different spoke) and my derailleur sort of straightened, I got back on my bike and pedaled. It was no good.

After three more tries at straightening my derailleur and trying to ride, I was at least able to pedal. I was within eyesight of the parking lot and could have easily taken a DNF, but I was there to race, and even if it took me all night, I was going to finish.

Each time I pushed hard, my gears clunked and skipped. Through the barn, out onto the awesome pump track, and back into the forest. I could only coast or pedal gently, and kept getting passed.

And then, ahead of me on the trail, Matt Morrish (the manager of my bike shop—and sponsor of the race–Cycle Solutions) stood, bathed in a ray of light that broke through the treetops. Birds fluttered around his head, an ethereal glow surrounded him, and through the haze of my cussing and frustration with my disabled bike, I heard him shout, “Take my bike. Get on it. Ride. Ride! Go! Go! GO!”

He’s about my height (but not quite) and not even close to my size, but when your bike shop manager tells you to finish a race on his bike, well, you finish that damn race on his bike.

We traded bikes, and I was off. There was no time to adjust the bars or seat height, and I even took off with his water bottle and GPS.

I faltered, struggled, and generally looked like a boob. I’ve never ridden a full suspension, and felt like I wasn’t balanced. My bike for the race was my geared Norco Revolver (a hard tail with a 2x drivetrain), and I usually ride a rigid single speed. The bike Matt was offering was a full suspension behemoth, with a 1x suspension.

Plus, I didn’t know how the bike would handle the trail, how much I needed to work the bars at a log or rock, or even how to climb. And since his suspension was dialled for him (a mere wisp of a fellow compared to me) I kept bottoming-out at every log over and root.

I like to get out of my seat and grind up climbs, but I just didn’t have the comfort to stand. So, when we hit the off-camber section of the race (that went up and down a steep ridge a bunch of times) all I could do was stay in my seat and pedal the best I could. With no flow, poor cadence, and little climbing power, I rode like a chump.

And then came The Rocky Stuff. I don’t know who Peter is, but Peter’s Loop nailed me to a tree. It was awfully, horribly, awesome. It was especially tough on a foreign bike, and I had to walk more times than I care to admit, but I got through it. We sailed through the track on the side of a field, and came out to the aid station. Since I was panicked at the first aid station, I didn’t stop. Then, when I traded my bike with Matt, I forgot to look at the GPS to see where I was in the race. Consequently, I raced most of the course without a clue where I was. Based on how I felt, I figured I was the at first aid station (at 15k). I wasn’t. I was at the 30k aid station, and there was only 6k to go. I guess all the time I spent beating myself up made me forgot about my last two rides—both of which were over 100k, and both of which were somewhat easy. I was racing, I felt like I had only ridden 15k, and I was hardly tired. I finished fuelling, and got back on the bike for the last stretch of single track before the Finish line.

In those last few km, I finally felt comfortable on the bike, and had the confidence to book it. It was 6k to the end, and it was awesome. Great trail, great bike.

Even though I felt strong, I held back a bit in anticipation for the last climb, which always kills me.

It didn’t kill me this year. I don’t know why, but it didn’t kill me.

2:23. 4th place Clydesdale. Without my technical, I know I would have finished under 2:10. I’ll take it.

I cooled down, showered the race grime off my body, ate a burger, and came down from an awesome adrenaline rush.

The Kingston XCM may have hurt me in the past, and it did a number to my bike this year, but I think I proved my point.

Chunk 2 successfully managed.

It was almost 2PM. Five and a half hours until dinner.

Chunk 3: Drive Back Home

I made it home in by 5:30, showered again, and successfully changed from a guy crammed into spandex, to a guy crammed into a bow tie.  In the last few minute of the drive home, I started to feel the tiredness. It took me a bit longer than I thought it would to unload my bikes, shower, snack, and get dressed. By 6:15, I was back in the car.

Chunk 3 done. 45 minutes until dinner. 115km of driving. Okay, so maybe I’d make it for the desert table…

Chunk 4: Drive to Niagara

The drive across Toronto was slow at times, but the rest of the drive was smooth sailing. I made it to Niagara-On-The-Lake a bit late, but not too much. My salad was waiting at my place setting. I missed the soup, but I made it to the wedding. All in all, a win for team Colin. Boom. I can’t recall eating the salad, but after a day of racing and driving, it was good. I could have inhaled it with a straw.

Chunk 4 done.

I ate the rest of my meal, I danced, I was merry, I fell asleep in an armchair the foyer for a moment or two, and well after midnight, I sleep-walked to the car, and fell into a deep slumber as my wife drove us home.

Impossible day? Pfft. Impossible is just a big rock garden, or a gruelling climb, or a crazy trail feature. Sometimes you ride it, sometimes you walk it, and sometimes you carry a borrowed bike over it.

And that’s how Team Colin finished the race on someone else’s bike, and made it to Niagara-On-The-Lake in time for the salad

Ride.

PS.

For another perspective on the race, check out Riot On Racing’s post Riot On Racing.  There might even be a picture of Team Colin in the post…

14. Angry Face Bike

My Revolver has been pretty angry with me these days.

After a lousy performance at the Single Track Classic a few weeks ago due to a worn cassette (yeah, that was the ONLY problem), I needed a repair. So, I replaced the rear cassette and chain. Unfortunately, I also needed the chain rings replaced, which I didn’t do, so I went to Tuesday night’s race a few weeks ago without working gears, and lacking the ability to crank the one gear that I had.

It’s okay bike, I forgive you. Because I learned something.

I learned that if I can’t book it at a race pace, I can just ride. And that’s okay. It was nice to just get out and pedal through the forest. No burning lungs. No wobbly legs afterwards. No cramps. No sore wrists and throbbing back. Good lesson.

And my placing wasn’t horrible either. Really, I was just a few spots behind my usual standing. It made me think. If I can just ride at a normal pace in races, I’ll still do okay, and I might not be so zonked after the race. So there really isn’t a need to give 200% of myself in a race. Not just a good lesson; a good lesson with a handy outcome.

Thankfully, that half-baked, idiot-moron-dumbass reasoning lasted about as long as a tub of my hair product. Which is to say, it didn’t last long. What? Don’t touch my hair.

If I’m not riding in a race at race pace, it’s not a race.  Race pace shouldn’t be easy. Or fun. Or relaxing. It should be nasty and gritty, and involve lots of aching, cramping, and wobbliness.

I feel alive when my lungs are on fire. My body likes wobbly legs (because it makes me appreciate when they aren’t). And when I’m not cramping, it’s because I’m not moving, which is a giant waste of time.

And even though racing isn’t fun, and it comes with lots and lots of cussing, mixed with copious bouts of “Why am I putting myself through this?” the feeling afterward is always worth it.

On the other hand though, it would be nice to get a bit better.

So, after the moronic notion to “just ride” in races dissipated, I started thinking about a nagging idea I’ve had for a while: Pace. Pace? It’s been dogging me for some time, but I can’t seem to nail it down. I start a race and give it everything I have for every second until I have nothing left to give, and then I keep giving a very diminished everything until the finish.

But I have to reexamine that approach, because I am a mess at the end of a race. I don’t want to start lollygagging in a race like I’m in a parade. I’m talking about a calculated pace that will enable me to perform better, and ride across the finish line instead of scamper across it. In his blog “Riot On Racing”, Michael Tourond calls us zombies.

But I don’t want to be a zombie… What’s the emoji for petulance?

Pacing. I know it sounds pretty obvious to experienced riders, but it’s a huge challenge for those of us just starting—yes I still feel like I’m just starting even though I’ve been racing for four years—and when race starts, I immediately struggle to keep up with the pace because I don’t want to be stuck behind a slower rider. Survival takes over, and pace takes a backseat. And that’s stupid, because I’m not racing them.

I’m racing me.

So I’ve been investigating on the Google.

And on the Google I found a few things.  Unfortunately, my investigation raised a bunch of new questions. First, what on earth is Functional Threshold Power? Second, VO2? Seriously? Third, J-Shaped what now? Finally, huh? Just plain huh?

And to make matters worse, everything seems to be written for elite racers, and riders with a normal body type. However, when you’re like me–anything but average–the game is entirely different. I get it, we all have different body types and physiologies, and a multitude of other challenges, but I just can’t believe that the pacing and output considerations for a 150 pound rider are the same for a 250 pound rider. If they were, and I could match my power-to-weight ratio to other riders, I’d melt the rubber off my wheels.

Sonic Boom.

So if pacing and output are very precise considerations, and small changes make a huge difference for everyone else, where does that leave me, the husky rider–Hey, that would have been a great name for this blog: The Husky Rider.

And while I was thinking about all of this, I realized that it was Tuesday again, and Tuesday means King Weekly Series. Why think about pacing in a race, when I can actually pace in a race. So I experimented with pacing on Tuesday night.

Race Report:  King Weekly Series (June 14, 2016)  

Pacing For The Husky Rider (Hey, I knew that term would come in handy):

First, I did half of a warm-up lap, and it felt great. Ding. One point for my pacing experiment.

Then, because I was out on the trail warming up, I got to the starting line a bit late. No worries. I was two minutes behind the pack, and that meant I wouldn’t be relying on their pace. So I rode hard, at my pace. Not a killer race pace, but a very strong pace (which felt great because of the warm up). Ding. Another point for my pacing experiment.

After the first lap, I felt strong, so I rode a bit harder. And the funny thing is that I had matches to burn. Usually it takes me a long time to warm up in a race, but by the time I’m warmed up, I’m spent because I burned through all of my matches.

But I hadn’t burned any matches, so I still had a full pack. Ding.  A third point for my pacing experiment.

It all worked. My body was primed for a ride, I felt power as I rode, not struggle, and by the third lap (and the fourth lap that I did just because) I was able to amp-up my output a bit–because I could. I started a bit slower, I attacked the climbs, and reassessed my output as I rode (instead of my usual coping with my lack of power).

So I rode.

And my results for the night? Crap. None of it worked. If I had booked it at race pace, I probably would have been about a minute (or even two) faster per lap.

End of Race Report.

But thanks to my moody bike, I at least have a benchmark. I’m going to look into four areas:

  1. Warming-Up. This one is obvious.
  2. Neutral Starting. But I’m going to call it “Team Colin Starting” and try to ride my pace at the beginning. My races are long. If I get stuck behind someone, I’ll find time to pass them, which leads me to the next point.
  3. Power to Attack: If I have matches to burn, I’ll burn them when I need to pass, or when I need to climb.
  4. Reevaluating My Output: If I have more to give during a race, I’ll give a bit more. If I don’t, I’ll pull back a little.

And I’ll have plenty of time to put these things into practice this weekend at Dan Marshall’s “Northumberland Humbler” (A Substance Projects race), which is one of my favourite races of the year (although I think they’re all my favourites). I pre-rode much of the course twice on the weekend: Saturday and Sunday. It was a killer both days. I saw another single speed racer, Bob Ramsey, on both days. He’s awesome. He smokes me. How on earth am I supposed to beat a guy like him when he’s already way better than me, and training at least as much as me—and probably more? The answer is easy. I’m not. Because I’m not racing Bob. Or anyone else. I never was, and I likely never will be. I’m racing me.

And I’ve won every race I’ve ever done.

Ride.

 

PS.  It’s all better with my bike now.  We had a talk and worked things out.

12. SS at the LSC

For my Facebook status on the morning of the Long Sock Classic (race #2 in Dan Marshall’s XC Marathon series) I posted this:

Ganaraska Forest. Long Sock Classic. Single speed. Rigid fork. Not sure if I’m setting myself up for disappointment, or just a grueling grind of a day, but 20 years from now, I want to look back at my riding life and know that I raced a single speed not because I COULD (because today I’m honestly not sure whether I’ll make it) but because I WANTED to push myself.

I’d like to take credit for that thought, but Scott Glazier at Cycle Solutions planted the seed, and I just listened to him. I may have also been hearing Shia LeBouf’s character in the Transformers movie, when he was trying to convince Megan Fox to go for a ride in Bumblee.

And so, for the second time this season, at the start of a race, I looked down at my a with no gears. Also, for a second time this season, at the start of the race, I looked down at a bike with no gears and wondered why I was racing a bike with no gears.

The answer is because I wanted to challenge myself.   Of all the stupid, half baked, cockamamie ideas…  What on earth would push me, not just a Clydesdale rider, but Clydesdale rider at the top of the Clydesdale scale, to forgo gears on one of the toughest courses around?

Challenge.

And that’s not stupid.  Or half baked.  Or cockamamie. It’s awesome. Awe. Some.  I even dusted off the Team Colin support vehicle (my family RV) for the day. Sweet. It would have been sweeter if it was Bumblebee, but my RV has a shower.

Back to the LSC. The whole idea behind Dan Marshall’s Substance Projects is to have fun. But Dan also loves to build courses that are hard. He is a mammoth endurance racer who thrives on pushing himself to his limits, and he demands and encourages his racers to do the same. Substance Projects doesn’t run charity races in the park, they (HE) run badass XC marathons on killer trails. And the Ganny has hundreds of kilometres of killer trails to choose from, with some of the toughest climbs around.

Race Report:  Long Sock Classic (May 21, 2016)

Dan’s races are gaining in popularity, so instead of the usual 50 or 60 riders, there were just over 100 at the start line.

It started with a quick climb up some winding single track. Then it levelled for a second before hitting a nasty 2k stretch of dusty, rutted, rock covered, farm lane that was either straight up, or straight down.  The deep sandy mess at the bottom of each hill made for some sweet white knuckle ripping

My riding buddy, John, pre-rode the course and warned me about the sand. “Lower your tire pressure for some extra flotation”, he said. I always listen to John. It was a good thing.

When that treat finished, Dan gave us a break for few hundred meters, before starting the climb that haunts my mountain bike dreams all year: the hill on top of the hill. A 2k slog up gently winding track that finishes with…a steep climb up the rest of the hill. I wanted to pass the riders ahead of me, and I knew I had the legs to do it, but I held back because I was worried about that damn hill.

Damnit. I hate that hill.  And the hill hates me. But I always make it to the top. And to the other top too.  And this year I made it to the top without gears. Despite myself, I even passed a few riders too!

  • Team Colin: 1
  • Hill on top of a hill: 0

I usually spend the first 10k of a race hating every second of it, trying to warm up, and cursing myself for the decision to wake up early on a Saturday morning to race.  The LSC was no different, except that I was also cursing myself for leaving my Revolver (a bike with gears, not a gun) at the RV, and feeling unsure about whether I’d be able to even finish the race without gears.

Also, I was holding back because I was worried. I was letting the race get inside my head. My friend, Mark Summers, told me that I have to stop thinking and just race. “But that’s when I solve the world’s problems…” I told him. He was right though, so I let him inside my head, and I decided to race. He also said that a 30 second push to pass a rider yields huge results.

Push to a rider ahead of me, push a bit harder, and pass. That’s want I told myself.

Then, in between grunts and curses, I came upon a rider with one leg. Yeah, a rider with one real leg, and one prosthetic leg. It was like riding behind an internet meme.

“What’s your excuse?”

Or in my case, “Quit whining you big baby. Shut up, get out of your head, pedal your damn bike, and get to the finish.”

He was fast, and I had a hard time catching up to him, although in my defence, I only had 2 times as many legs as him, while he had 20, or maybe even 27, times more gears than me. I’m just saying.

I finally made it past him, and aimed for the next rider.

The next 15k were a blur of trying to keep up, trying to pass, getting passed, and passing.  Inside my head, I kept hearing my John “Relax on the handle bars and just take it easy.  Don’t tense up.”  So I tried to relax a bit, even though the Ganny has so many tight, twisting trails, and narrow tree gaps that keep us on our toes.

For some reason, the trail from about 20 to 25 was a killer. Even tighter, even twistier, and so so so climbier. Dan Marshall once told me “The secret of riding a single speed is to lay off the brakes”. Um, what about the trees? I tried to listen to him and keep my momentum, but I either felt like I was braking so I wouldn’t hit a tree, or braking so I wouldn’t crash on the down hill sections.

Also, the course this year had a lot more double track.  The gears on my single speed are okay on tight trails, long grinding climbs, and short grunting climbs, but they’re awful on double track. Too much time spinning.

With 1k to go, I was booking it to catch up to a group of riders, and I smoked a rock and got a flat. Boom (even my tires go boom)!  “Listen to me, bike”, I said, “If you think I’m going to stop now, I’m not”. Although in reality, I think I probably just yelled a few obscenities. I kept up with the rider in front of me, but I couldn’t pass him. I finished the race with a grunt, a smile, and a flat tire. I was even surprised at the finish with a visitor from the Ottawa chapter of Team Colin! Boom (that was me, not the other tire).

2:18. 67/101 overall. 7/9 Clydesdale. 7/7 Single Speed.

When it was over, the LSC clocked almost 700m of climbing. Dang.

It was a tough race: Gruelling at times, joyous at others.

Two more pretty cool things also happened during the race.  First, I feel like the single speed may be creeping into my blood.  Second, Team Colin played an even bigger role than usual. I only had one speed, but I had a symphony of voices inside my head. Thanks Team Colin.

Also, we’ve got new team hats!

Despite my poorer than poor results, while riding the single speed in the LSC, I felt more like a racer than ever. It says at the top of my blog, ”I’m a working father who trains for XC mountain bike races”. I don’t just train for them, I RACE them.

Ride.