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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Race Report: 24 Hours of Summer Solstice

The Race

24 hours of laps of a mountain bike course.  Most laps wins.

There were a bunch of different categories - we were a team of 2.  One person rides, the other rests, rinse, repeat!

We had done the Epic 8 Hour a few months ago, similar format - but the extra challenge of night riding and lack of sleep was going to be new...

Our Race

We got there with a few hours to set-up and ended up with a pretty nice set of digs.

I mean it's nothing compared to what some folks were rocking... RV's, cooking stoves, etc.  We also didn't use the tent much at all - the canopy things was way more useful.  Nobody wants to be in a steamy tent if they don't have to be.

Lap 1 (rest)
The Start

My teammate did the first lap - it had an extra loop and a lot of traffic/waiting, sounded kind of crappy.  Similar to our previous experiences at the 8 hour, just so many riders and not a lot of real estate early on.

The rain subsided early on, and we wouldn't see much more than a few drips for awhile.  Course wasn't too bad considering!

Lap 2 - 1h19

My turn, and my first look at the course.

I loved it!  The trails were beautiful, so much flow, everything was ride-able start to finish.  A few hills with some pop, but nothing quite as tough as the 8 hour.  Lots of fast double track too, gave good opportunities to fly down hills, spin, recover.

The only thing was my crazy high heart rate.  I wasn't pushing but it kept going waaaay up into the 180bpm range.  I don't know why.

Lap 4 - 1h18

Second lap - felt a bit of a burn, but nothing too bad.  Heart rate still bad, if not worse.

Lap 5 (rest)

Lap 6 - 1h20

Started to feel the first signs of cramping early on in this lap, which was ... unwelcome.

I've been having cramping problems a lot on these longer distance MTB races.  Just so many muscles get abused in so many ways.  If I'm too tense or panic in a corner, I tend to get muscles locking up, and it can be bad!

Fortunately I was able to stay light and spinny and recover - and the rest of the lap went great.

By this point I had eaten a lot of Cliff Shot Blocks and was good and tired of Gatorade.  Note to self for future: bring better solid food.

Lap 7 (rest)

Lap 8 - 1h29 (estimated)

First Night lap!  Started at about 9.30pm.

Night riding was tough.  We'd done a test run last week, but on a relatively unfamiliar course it was a different story entirely.  And the terrain was tricky now, some corners were pretty beat up.

There was also a lot of traffic now.  Seems like sundown brought out the speed demons - and they seemed to hang together, so when you had to let one person by there were a few others right behind them.

The freakiest thing to me wasn't the single track - I did alright on it.  It was the fast double track sections!  So many times we'd bomb down a hill and up the other side, but in the dark you just couldn't see.  I would still bomb down the hill but without being able to actually see!

It was fun, a bit scary.

Lap 9

I needed solid food so I bought this.

It was touch and go whether I could digest it in an hour.  I more or less did.  Winning.

Lap 10 - 1h33 (started at 12:45am-ish)

Second night lap.

I felt marginally better.  I know my pace doesn't reflect feeling better, but I was really pacing myself by now - lots of spinning and taking it easy, not pushing on anything.

Lap 11 - 1h39 (started at 4am)

My teammate had trouble riding in the dark, combination of poor night vision and not having a strong enough helmet light (note to anyone - the helmet light should be your strongest one, as it points where you're actually looking!).

So after a rest I took on what would be my final lap.

I felt pretty good at the start, but fatigue and darkness really caught up to me.  It was spitting rain, my glasses fogged up - so between the night and the fogged up glasses I had a hell of a time seeing anything.

By the time I finished the lap, it was pretty much light out... so I made it to morning at least!


We took a look at the forecast - horrible rain - and called it a day.  We were really doing this for fun/experience, and it was not going to be fun anymore!

Edit: Looks like the race was called off before 24h!  Rain was really bad.  So we didn't miss as much as we might have thought.


I don't seem to need sleep.  I felt fine on the 4am-6am lap - totally surprised that the lack of sleep didn't impact me more.  I was fatigued, but it was from ~9hours of exercise.

Food - I blew it.  I brought a bit of solid food but not nearly enough.  Would really have liked more real food - the burger worked (luckily) but that was risky.  Need good digestable solid food.

Team of 2 - kind of sucks.  It's just so much riding, and no rest.
Edit!  Team of 2 doesn't suck as bad as I thought.  We finished 7 of 21 teams, and looking at the results most of them took at least one break (a lap that is 4-5h means they weren't riding for a bunch)!  I just assumed they were going balls out straight through - but I guess those were mostly bigger teams I saw out there.  Another lesson learned - rest when you need it and stretch the effort out to 24 hours.  More fun, and maybe more laps?

Everyone in big teams was having a lot more fun, drinking beer and sleeping and stuff.  The whole event was more like "camping with some mountain bike racing".  Lots of families and friends getting together, pretty cool if you like that sort of thing.

Mountain Biking - I think I'm pretty good at it, but when you see guys who are ACTUALLY great at it... wow.  They just carve the trails without a hint of hesitation, carrying so much speed.  It's amazing.

I go sleep now.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Race Report: Storm the Trent 2018 (Hike)

I'm a week late but better than nothing, right!?

What a day, what a course!

New Venue

For the first time, this race moved to Haliburton.  This meant all of our old area knowledge was useless (not that it was of all that much use before!).

This part of the world is so beautiful, though.  View from the finish!

... but we'll get to that later.
Getting ready!!

The Start - Canoe

We started by canoe on the lake in Haliburton.

We had left our bikes across the lake - so I was kind of hoping it would be some kind of point to point... but instead we paddled around 2 lakes and a small connecting channel.  Very pretty, flat water.

As seems to be the case every year recently - we finished second.  Our boat is fast, but the guys that beat us are clearly stronger!  But we were at least close.

The only new thing this year was collecting information about future checkpoints in the race from the buoys on the lake.  I took the time to write down 2 of them at once, which in a wet canoe wasn't the easiest thing - but it all worked out alright!

Run #1 

One thing I screwed up - I had an extra bottle of Gatorade in the boat that I had meant to take on the run.. I forgot it.  This was bad.  Very bad. It was too hot of a day to be light on fluids.

We ran around the lake over to what appeared to be a conservation area of sorts.  It was pretty, lots of well defined trails.  We had very little trouble finding the checkpoints, but at this point the heat was getting to me...

This is where the eventual winners got past us - they ran so fast, some of the volunteers thought they'd cheated!  But we saw them on the trail - they were just bloody fast.  Meanwhile we were walking some of the uphills (OK, most).

Still, we hit the bike in pretty good shape, I think 3rd.

Bike #1

This one started out on some road/sidewalk, but quickly changed to a long rail trail section.
This is part of the rail trail we rode last year - see my report here!

Flat hammering, which I'm usually great at.  I had a tough time keeping up my teammates pace, though!  I think it was just the heat?  I wasn't feeling great at this point.

... and my fluid situation was biting me.  We weren't even half done the race and I was into my last bottle.  Dangerous situation.  I was trying to go easy on the fluid, but stay hydrated - mission impossible!  I started asking my partner if he'd have any extra he could lend me if I needed it.

A few climbs on a small paved road and we were finally at the next run.

Run #2

This was short and pretty easy.  Trails were a little funky, as were the checkpoint locations (at the top of a cliff thing and on a beaver dam??).  We saw the team that eventually won in there, and we'd assumed the other team we were always chasing was in there somewhere... based on the fact there were 4 bikes left at the start of the run!

Best of all... WATER!  I hadn't expected water on the course, so this was a huge relief.  I guzzled down a full bottle and filled up the other one - I was now flush with fluid and ready to rock.

My Big Screw-up

We got back on our bikes.

This race was so easy to navigate that I had paid zero attention to this checkpoint.  The bike is marked, how hard could it be?

From the map I thought the little road we had taken to Run #2 wasn't really a road - just a driveway - and that the bike continued on the road we'd started on prior.  So we climbed the lonnnnng climb back up to the road, turned, went down some hills... only to get to a complete dead end.


We doubled back now realizing the error and back to the checkpoint, just as another team of 2 guys was leaving ahead of us.

11.  Minutes.  F**k.  I couldn't believe it, I was so pissed at myself.

Bike #2

This was my favourite part of the entire day.  Beautiful winding hilly narrow road/ATV trails.

Almost no mud, strangely!

But those hills... wow.  My teammate struggled a bit here, which I was mildly thankful for as I needed to recover.  I felt great the rest of the race!

We passed a team that had split up (which is against the rules, I might add!).  The one guy looked like he was getting his ass kicked by the heat, other one blasted ahead without him to the checkpoint.  Pretty sure they were father/son.  Kid, you shouldn't leave your old man out to dry like that!!!

Final Climb


We caught one last team on this hill - it was a team of 4, so not in our category, but still felt good.

Managed to ride the whole thing while others walked.  Strava says the road section averaged 8%, but felt much worse!  And after that it turned off into a rough trail climb, that I'm sure was steeper and was definitely tougher.  At the end of a race it was a widow-maker!!!


The top of the hill!

We managed 3rd in our category (Team of 2 Male) and my error didn't actually cost us anything better on the day - so that was good.

Random Musings

New course/location - awesome!  Really enjoyed it.

Run checkpoints were a bit too straightforward for us... other teams are great runners, so we need something that throws them off haha.

The bike was sufficiently awesome.  Rail trail was a nice touch - I'm sure a lot of people haven't experienced that.  Hopefully they realize it's part of a huge connected rail trail system that extends as far as Uxbridge, Lindsay, Peterborough!

I'd love to bike on singletrack MTB trails, but those back roads on the way back to town were just as great!  Winding, hilly, rough, everything you need to put a smile on your face.

All in all a great, well-organized, fun event.  I'm certain we'll be back.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Race Report: Epic 8 Hour (2018 - Spring)

What a race!

We did this as a tag-team.  8 Hours of alternating laps with my teammate. I did the even laps, being in worse shape and slower... thinking being if we had time for an extra, he'd do it.

I love the format.  Nobody finishes last, as everyone of all abilities are on laps at the same time.  Sure, someone's on their 4th lap while someone else is on their 8th, but they still finish at roughly the same time.

The only problem - because it's laps and you have mixed abilities, there is traffic.  Just takes some getting used to, when to let people by, when to pass people, etc.  It's a balancing act - you don't want to spend your whole race taking an off line.  And just like my previous 8 hour, 90%+ are awesome about it, 10% or less are jerks or fail to call out what side they're passing you on, etc.  I'll focus on the 90%.  Mostly it was great.

The Course

I loved the first ~6km of the course, and loathed the last 2km. 

It started with a long steady climb, which was alright - I'm good at that kind of thing.  Then it alternated between single/double track - mostly flowy and fun.

Right about the halfway mark was another long steady climb - again, not bad, find a gear and steady up.   And some more nice flowy singletrack...

Then it got rough - and rougher as the race went on.  Some singletrack, but the sand really started getting dug up, and by the end there were sketchy roots and corners everywhere.

The last 2km were horrible.  A long steady climb that lead to a steep doubletrack climb - I didn't make it up without walking... and after a short downhill a horrible switchback-laden sandy rooty steep climb.  Again, much walking.  More on that below.

Finally a really cool descent - at first.  But every lap it got a little more rutted and by the end it was just sandy and horribly difficult. 

All... part... of the... charm?  Hmm.

My Race

Laps 2 and 4 were my first laps - it was tough.  I went way into the red, gasping. 

(I should preface all of this by saying I've only been on the mountain bike once this year so far... which was a mistake!)

Lap 6 was going pretty bad too, and then my chain went kablooey.  I fixed it pretty quick, maybe 5 minutes?  Had a quick link and the right tools.  Note to everyone!

... except... I accidentally routed the chain wrong, over this little black tab instead of under it.  Shifted like hell the rest of the lap.

Thanks to the help of the team next to me - I was able to fix that while I waited.

Waiting was interesting.  Every lap I'd have about 40 minutes to refuel and chill.  That lap I spent working on my bike, but still felt good starting each time.

Lap 8 is when things started to come apart.  In those last 2km my cramping got baaaad.  On the last downhill I put my foot down in the sand - and my leg just locked straight. 

Not.  Good.

I spent the break after that lap trying desperately to stop the cramping.  Nothing helped - I walked, I stretched, I laid down, it was awful - I wasn't sure if I could continue. 

Finally... it was my turn... I went back for my 5th lap (our team's 10th) and told my teammate I was cooked and wasn't likely to do a 6th, if I could even finish this one!

Lap 10... I spun it out.  Cramps actually subsided.  I kept the heart rate low, made sure not to put in any hard efforts, and walked a bunch of the hills in the last 2km.  It was tough and slow (7 minutes slower than my best) but at least I got through it!

After that I actually felt pretty alright.  Cramps subsided, I ate and drank some stuff.  So I decided WTF, I'll do the last lap.

Lap 12 - I had about 55 mins to finish this one - figured I'd mail it in.  It ended up being my favourite lap of the whole race - I felt good, there was less traffic by this point, I just enjoyed the course for what it was.  And in the end it wasn't even my slowest lap - the cramps kicked in again, but not as bad, and it ended up being my 3rd fastest of the day (of 6). 

All in all a good day.  Tough as hell.  But we figured some stuff out and with more training I figure I'll be alright.

Lessons Learned (Especially for 24 race in June!)

  • Lube every lap - chafing sucks
  • Fresh clothing - I could really have used a few changes
  • Repair tools - since there's a home base / pit, have EVERYTHING.  Every tool.  No reason to get by with what's in the little pack on the go.  Also multiple tubes and quick links.
  • Tunes would have been nice in between laps
  • Keep calm - I was too tense, and it contributed to cramping in my hands and arms.  Maybe legs.  I need to ride smoother and less "argh I'm going to die".
  • Spin.  Those big muscle efforts lead to cramps.
  • Clean the bike - and lube it.  Keep it like a well oiled machine.  Well, literally a well oiled machine.
  • Have a way to communicate between laps!  We didn't think about this - I ended up writing notes on some of the advertising we had in our race bags.  But in a tag team you never get to spend more than a few seconds during hand-off to talk, better to leave notes at home base.
  • Bring Beer.

The End.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Race Preview: Epic 8 Hour

Race website

An 8 hour mountain bike race - most loops wins!  We're doing it as a 2-man tag-team.

Laps are expected to be a little under an hour each, so thinking I'll get 4-5.

The venue: Mansfield Outdoor Centre

I've done two races here - one was a running race, similar format (6 hour tag team).  It was a lot of fun.

The other was a 30km XC race that went horribly (died in the heat).

I will definitely not die in the heat!  It's going to be cool and possibly rainy.

The format: Laps, Laps, Laps

The last time I did an 8 hour MTB race like this, I was solo.

The toughest part was really dealing with traffic.  After a few laps everyone of all abilities is mixed together, slower riders with Canadian Tire Specials who didn't take off their reflectors racing against borderline pros.  I'm pretty middle of the road, so I get it from both ends - sometimes I'm held up, sometimes I'm holding someone up! 

It's especially tough on the single track - as a solo I was pretty bagged by the end, so was trying to be courteous and let people through... but you still have your own race to focus on.  Trick is finding opportunities that don't cost you time.

The goal: Fun, Fun, Fun

This is as much a dry run for the 24h in June as anything, so looking to just soak it in and remember how it all works!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Race Report: Paris to Ancaster 2018

Quite the Day.

It all started so well.  The weather was reasonable, just above zero.  Sun was shining.  Wind was... horrible.

My fitness - horribler.

I really went into the red early, and it set me back for so long.  I never really recovered, was gassed for most of the race.

... and, again, 2/3 of the race in... derailleur hanger exploded.  Clunk clunk bang.

I didn't have a spare (new bike, you think I'd know better by now).  I switched to single speed but the chain went up a gear and was way too tight.

Ground myself back on the roads.  Well, started to, then my chain exploded about 6km from the parking lot.

Walked up hills, coasted down them, repeat.  Friend picked me up 2km from Ancaster.

Big fat DNF.

Ah well.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Race Preview: Paris to Ancaster 2018

The 25th ever Paris to Ancaster.

A right of spring for me since 2006.. 13th time in a row I've done it, haven't missed one in that time!

Me in happier times
Mud and stuff.

Well, less mud, thanks to some people who broke the rules and rode on private property before the race.  Shame.  Glad they were DQ'd, too bad they didn't catch them all.

I'm not really looking that forward to it as much as I used to. 

They've kind of screwed it up - trying to make it a weekend-long thing by forcing people to pick up kits on Saturday... that really left a bad taste in my mouth, as someone who lives 2 hours away.  It's shit, and probably why it hasn't sold out (at least as of yesterday).

Last year there were bad headwinds and new sections in the first half - which meant a lot of us ended up in congestion at the halfway mark when the 40k started.  I'm guessing a repeat, since the 40k start times haven't changed.

In case you can't tell, I'm getting a bit weary about this race... it's not getting better with time.  The organizers seem to not really be listening.

I'll see how I feel after tomorrow, but might take a break from it next year, try something else.

As for my fitness - it's way off, and this will be more of a ride than a race.

So yeah.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Getting Over It And Givin' 'er

So many false starts this year... it's been brutal!

Lots of little weird illness things.

But I'm finally over it.
One of my few February rides!

I've actually had 2 hour outdoor rides the last 6 weekends in a row!  So that's a win, especially in Feb/March in the Toronto area.

During the week has been much tougher, though... and some of those rides were probably ill-advised.

Last week I had the mid-week stuff down though, and this week too, so the regularity is coming.  Building to something good.

One month to Paris to Ancaster!

To the moon!