blog banner

blog banner

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Race Preview: Sporting Life 10k 2011

The Race

Sporting Life 10K in downtown Toronto.

15,000 runners roaring down (yes, DOWN) Yonge street right through the heart of the city, ending at Fort York.  It's 10km and it's fast!  A bit pricey for a 10km but nice shirt, medal, and well organized. 

... and of course there's the thrill of having 14,000 runners chasing you down...

The Goal

Sub-42:00 (4:12/km pace).

I have no idea how reasonable this is, but it's the 10k goal I set at the start of the year and if I'm ever going to do it, it'll be on this super fast course!

I last did this one in 2009... that time I was barely sub-45:00, and it hurt like hell.  A couple of years of improvement and I should have a lot more in me this time.

A couple of pacing gotchas at this race:
  • First half is downhill, second half mostly isn't - you start out at faster than goal pace, but how much faster?  Too fast and you pay in the 2nd half (like I did in 2009!), too slow and you give away some of that free speed.
  • Tall downtown buildings screw up GPS - to be safe you really need to rely on kilometer markers and feel.  I am OK with my tempo and 5k feel, but I don't do 10km races often and don't have a good sense of what it should feel like.
Anyway, should be fun!  See you at the bottom.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Race Report: Paris to Ancaster 2011

One word: Epic

40 hours before the race...

Allow me to rewind to the Friday before the race for a moment... it's my last ride, giving my legs one last shake before the race, and making sure my bike is all ready to go.

I'm on a gravel trail near my house.  A man is walking his dog.  The dog seems to be under control - it's off the trail next to the man.  At the very last second, the dog darts across my path... and I smoke it.  It felt like hitting a bag of concrete... there was no chance, it just happened so fast. I go flying one way, bike goes another way, dog yelps. 

I lie there stunned for a few moments, and all I'm thinking about is Paris to Ancaster.  I've been looking forward to it since I bought my cyclocross bike in September, and now it could be gone... all because of some @#$%ing off-leash dog.

I get up, dust myself off.  Guy apologizes profusely.  Dog is OK.  My neck, back and ribs all hurt... I make it home, bike is OK, and I decide right there: I'm riding on Sunday.  I don't care if it takes half a bottle of Ibuprofen, I'm riding on Sunday.

24 hours before the race

The rain is pelting down, my backyard is a mud pit.  Standing water everywhere.  Winds so strong the rain is going sideways.

1 hour before the race

We make our way to the start area in Paris.  It's cold, it's windy, and out of the grey skies there's a sudden flurry of snow. 

After all that, when I got into the starting corral, I still felt giddy.  I just love this race, and somehow overcoming all that nature (and fate) dish out at you just makes it that much better!

The Race

It snowed.  The wind blew (70km/h!).  The temperature was about 3C.  The previous day's rain turned the course into a mud pit.

In short - it was awesome.  One to remember.

We joined the corral a bit later than usual, which put us back a few hundred riders in our wave.  The start was hectic, I passed dozens of people before the first corner... I don't know why slow people insist on seeding themselves at the front!  I knew I had to get past the worst of them before the rail trail, where it goes down to 2 wide, and for the most part this worked out.

Opening rail trail was a bit softer than usual, but still very fast.  I managed to find lots of draft off various folks, and kept my heart rate in check.

Ran up the short rocky section after the first rail trail, then mucked across the farm road.  Everything was going great, felt strong!

The first off-road was where the mud really started, it was really soppy and wet in there.  I've spent all winter getting used to off-roading on the cross bike, so it was a piece of cake.  I passed a bunch of people in the woods, some of them on mountain bikes who really should have been having an easier time than me!  These bikes are made for kicking some ass in the mud, and I made sure that's what I did.

I made it to the highway just as they were letting riders through, so no waiting there... that's messed me up in the past.  Next off-road was muddy as hell, but I held my own.  Then there's a farmer's field - super bumpy, and my back really started screaming at me... but nothing I could do about it at this point, just keep pedalling and bumping through it!

Road section was lightening fast with the strong tailwind.  The next rail trail was a mess, muddy muddy muddy.  Hit the halfway point feeling strong and good. 

Then on the next rail trail I felt the first signs of cramping.  I couldn't believe it - I thought I'd conquered it, but here I was only 1/2 way done and already getting cramps again?  I trained more than I ever have this winter, got out for rides almost every weekend...  I did specific burst intervals on the trainer to simulate the race, I just don't know what else I can do... so I backed off a bit and tried to spin through it.

The second half of the race was tough, there were some killer cross winds.  I managed to draft off a few big guys, positioning myself to their left for maximum wind blockage!

There is one field at this horse farm that was just killer... so incredibly slow through there, the ground was bumpy and soggy.  Some people were even walking their bikes... I managed to peddle through, but my back was once again screaming at me, now my cramping legs were too!

Final rail trail - tail wind, not too wet, very fast!  Ahhh.

Then the mud.  Oh my gawd there was mud, it's never been this deep and soupy, it really separated the men from the boys!  I was pretty ready for it mentally, so I trudged through where I couldn't ride and rode what I could.  Both of the official "mud chutes" were nasty... I managed to ride about halfway down the second one, before the guy in front of me went flipping over his handlebars!  Walked a short stretch, then got back on and mucked through the rest.

The uphill section just before the final climb was rutted and muddier than past years... I managed to wipe out into a big mud puddle.  There was a huge gap in the road, thought I could get through it, but didn't make it.  It was a low-speed fall thankfully, just popped back up and kept going.

The final climb... I rode almost all of it!  So happy with that, I thought my cramps would get me, but they never grabbed too bad.  There was one section where it gets super steep, I had to walk that, but the rest I pedalled.  The cross gearing isn't as easy as the hybrid I used previous years, so I'm really happy with this!

All in all a wonderful crazy experience.  I got muddy, I fell, I walked a lot - but it was just so awesome to overcome it all and finish with a smile on my face!

Final Result: 2:29:32 (316/1188)

My previous results...
2006 3:54:44 (970/1096)
2007 2:56:21 (632/1136)
2008 2:48:07 (513/1064)
2009 2:50:34 (429/1202)
2010 2:36:12 (463/1272)

... so with the new cross bike, it was my fastest yet.  Course was shorter than last year, but conditions were way worse.  Most importantly I launched myself up about 150 places!  So I'm really happy.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Riding Through Snow

I think I've got this mostly figured out...

  • Get your butt way back on the seat. You don't want any weight on the front tire, or you'll dig in and you're cooked!
  • Light touch on the handlebars. Let the wheel do what it's going to do, grip is going to come and go, so don't expect to do a lot of steering. Slight motions only or your wheel turns into a plow
  • Low gear and spin. Too much torque will spin your rear wheel, so keep your motion smooth and easy
  • Fall. I'm joking. But it'll happen.
Now that it's spring, it's becoming a fading concern... but I really wanted to get this post in to remind myself in December how to deal with it!