Monday, April 16, 2012
Race Report: Paris to Ancaster 2012
Wow, what a mudfest.
There's always mud at Paris to Ancaster, but this year was absolutely insane. Every off-road was sloppy mud. The first half is usually pretty fast, not this year! Lots of running/walking in mud.
I started in the 2nd wave again this year, but with much lower expectations than previous years due to an injury that kept me from training for most of the winter.
My conditioning was a problem right from the start. The race starts on a fast flat rail trail; usually I can find a good group to stick with, but this year I just couldn't hang on to anyone (at least not without risking blowing up in the first 20 minutes!). It didn't help that every wheel you grabbed sprayed you with a mist of sand and tiny rocks... yikes!
The race then shoots off onto a rocky hilly farm road. This one was no different than usual, had me panting but keeping pace with those around me.
Then we got to the first off-road. This one is usually quick singletrack that is a lot of fun - instead it was a muddy slippery mess. I had to get off my bike after losing rear traction in the mud going uphill, that's never happened in there before! It was a sign this was going to be an extra tough year.
When we got out onto the gravel road leading to the first highway crossing, I was already feeling pretty cooked... looked down at my watch, 38 minutes in. A long way to go to be hurting already!
After crossing the highway, you ride in the ditch and then another trail. The ditch is always pretty dodgy, but the trail is typically pretty good. Not this year - it was soup. Everyone around me was walking, my wheel stopped actually turning from the mud build-up (should have carried it, I know better!). Disaster. I felt any hope of a decent time fading, my only hope now was that everyone else was having as bad of a day as I was.
There's a long road section which usually on the cross bike is a chance to make up some time, but I was pretty cooked so just tried to stay within myself and remember I had a long way to go before the end. This leads to another rail trail, which is always a bit messy and this year was no different.
I come up to this short steep downhill with a sharp turn at the bottom. It's muddy. There is a guy stopped at the top telling everyone "go ahead of me", but partially blocking the trail. Grrr. Then this other guy - I will call him Green Jacket - comes to a dead stop in front of me just as I'm about to go down... I unclip, he then goes, I follow him but I'm not in my pedal to weight the outside on the turn... and I go down. Damn you Green Jacket! I pop up relatively unscathed (other than my ego). The mud that caused the fall probably also softened the blow.
The Middle and Crash #2
Next up is a road section, which at this point were a relief. This farmer's driveway was covered in loose deep gravel... inexplicably, they were warning people about the "wet asphalt", but not the gravel.
After going through the town at the mid-way point, there was a lady saying "the mud is very slippery, slow down!" After the false warning about the wet asphalt, I just assumed this was like the rest of the slippery mud and kind of ignored her... aaaaaand ended up on my ass. Well, more specifically, I ended up with my knees smashing on rocks and both bleeding quite profusely. I wasn't quite sure how deep I was cut with all of the mud, only that there was a lot of blood... but it seemed to stop and my knees kept bending as I pedalled, so kept going.
From there, I was kind of mailing it in. Not totally, I still had little spurts now and then when I felt the competitive juices flowing (ie. when I caught back up to Green Jacket!), but mostly I was way off my race pace and intensity. Green Jacket re-passed me on the rail trail, I tried to get on the wheel of the last guy in his group but just didn't have... it was that kind of day.
The Mud Chutes
Usually these are the story, where the mud really starts - but today they were just more mud on top of the mud we'd already mucked through. I rode half, walked what I had to, half-rode-half-walked some of it - just kind of a trudge, as most of the day had been. At this point I was getting my familiar cramping, so it was just survival.
The Final Climb
I cramped up on one of the short hills leading up to the final climb... really bad, had to shuffle up the hill along with a bunch of others in various states of distress. But once I got going again I felt pretty good! Then I saw him... Green Jacket! I had caught him again. And he was walking! I rode past him feeling strong again, but then the grade kicked up and I just couldn't turn the pedals. Popped off my bike and trudged up with the rest of them, with Green Jacket right behind me... with about 150m left I got back on the bike and hammered it like it was the real Paris to Roubaix and I was in the stadium section, if I didn't achieve anything else today I was going to beat Green Jacket! Crossed the line caked head to toe in mud (except the red splotches of blood on my knees) victorious - I had lost to a few hundred people, but I beat the one guy that had come to matter the most.
I didn't really learn anything that I didn't already know... if you don't get the training in, you won't be able to keep up! That's really where my race began and ended - not only would I have been able to ride with some groups and get that advantage, but I'd have likely had less mud to deal with (it gets worse as more guys ride it). And I'd have been quicker!
I think a lot of people got in more riding time than usual for this race with the early spring, so the field was in better shape than ever (and I was in worse shape). And the mud may have made the mountain bike the better choice over the cyclocross bike for the first time since I've been doing this race... it could be a bit of a debate, but I was passed a lot my good MTB guys in the mud, and I'm not sure I made up enough in the other sections to overcome it.
2011 2:29:32 (316/1188)
2012 3:01:47 (597/1275) (provisional results, could change)
Big drop in the standings from last year, still top 50% but I can't be happy with that. Next year I will be back, in shape and ready to kill it.