Sunday, September 29, 2013
I had been planning to do this as a 2-man relay, but my buddy decided not to do it so I did what any insane Ironman-type person would do - I signed up anyway for the solo category.
8 hours of mountain biking, straight, solo.
Beautiful setting up in Harwood Ski and Bike in Ontario. Each lap consisted of a 10km loop through mostly singletrack trails (with some doubletrack connecting the pieces). Most laps in 8 hours wins, and if it's a tie then it's whoever completed their last counted lap first.
My Race - Lap 1
I lined up somewhere in the middle of the 200+ riders. We started on doubletrack, and it thinned out a little, but then we got to the first singletrack and there was literally a line-up to get in. Lost a few minutes, but this was an 8 hour event and I was playing the very long game.
First time through the singletrack was a bit daunting, having not seen it before. I was pleasantly surprised, though, despite the names "Gnarly" and "Radical" everything was very rideable. Challenging, but rideable.
Then I wiped out. Stupid stupid stupid, just one moment of inattention and I caught the handlebar on a little tree. My shoulder hurt quite a lot as I got up, I was so pissed at myself. On lap 1? Really??
Got going again quick enough, the pain in my shoulder would subside in a few laps (but my pride hurt forever!).
Lap 2, 3, 4, 5...
It's all a bit of a blur, pretty much found a rhythm and kept on it. The fatigue and even a bit of cramping set in awfully early, but that's hardly a surprise given I didn't really train for this kind of thing!
Traffic was a bit of a problem pretty much the whole race. As a solo my pace was reasonably consistent, but by lap 3 or 4 the faster teams started lapping me. They were switching off, so they're fresh as a daisy and hammering it - meanwhile I'm pacing for 8 long hours! So a lot of my race was spent trying to let people by without screwing myself. The other side was me catching up to slower traffic, but I didn't mind slowing down for a bit if I had to.
That being said - most people were awesome about it. I found that especially true of the more experienced guys - they would always yell "great job solo", "keep it up solo", very supportive.
Of course that's 95%, not 100%... some people are pricks. One guy in particular tried to squeeze by me without calling out what side he was going on, and I ended up off the trail and on my ass! Boo.
There was one little spot where the roots were brutal and the dirt got worn away badly, you had to hit it with speed to get over it as you exitted the single track and got back on double track.
I had managed it the first 5 laps, but it was getting worse and worse... I messed up the angle, my wheel slid, and I went down hard. I'm pretty sure I landed on my bike, because my ribs hurt very badly. Took the wind right out of me. I popped up and assessed... I could breathe OK, but wasn't sure at all whether I was intact or not. Got back on the bike and just tried to get back at it.
But the pain was pretty bad, every bump was excruciating. It never entirely subsided for the rest of the race, only got manageable after awhile.
Lap 7, 8, 9, 10...
After that my pace dropped quite a bit. It was hard to attack the single-track due to pain and fatigue in my arms. There were some dark moments, some fun moments, times I wanted to stop and times I wanted to giggle like a schoolgirl. That's just the nature of endurance events, it reminded me a lot of Ironman actually! Good times, good times.
Nutrition-wise, I had a bottle every single lap, with one scoop of Heed, one scoop of Gatorade. Also had a couple of bananas, figured some solid food and potassium were important to keep the tummy happy. Worked out great.
I finished lap 10 with about 55 minutes to spare, which meant I had time for another lap. At this point I was cooked, the last thing I wanted to do was another lap! But another competitor I had met up with said "if you don't do it you'll regret it later!", those words resonated with me. My laps to this point had been in the 44-46 minute range, so I knew I could mail it in for 10km and get the 11th done.
This lap went pretty well, except I bit it again. Yes, another crash. @#$%! It was really mild, but with the bruised ribs and pain everywhere already it just sucked.
But I did it - finished lap 11 in plenty of time.
11 laps (110km), 7:49:57. 14/29 Men Solo 39 & under.
Whew! What a challenge. That was the second longest I've ever been on a bike, and to do it on singletrack mountain bike trails was tough. Full body pain.
Best of all - when I looked at the results, a bunch of guys had stopped at 10 laps, with times faster than what I had done laps in. By mailing in the 11th I picked up at least 5 spots! I don't blame them, it's tough, but to quote Tosh.0: "I'm better than you, nah nah nah nah boo boo, stick your head in doo doo"!
Not sure I will ever do this again without a teammate - stopping to eat/rest/chill sounds amazing. I'll savour this one for awhile, it was awesome and way beyond what I thought I could do when I signed up.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Well more specifically, we finished first out of all of the teams. Winning!!!
I have done a lot of races, and rarely have I come even close to getting a sniff of a win. Closest was a local 5k with a small field that I finished 2nd in... so this is really special!
We were the fastest canoe - in fact not only did no other canoe beat us, only one kayak managed to. That was the product of a lot of work this year, we got out on the water quite a bit and did a canoe race early in the season (Canoe the Nonquon). I get the impression the canoe is something most people just suffer through before getting to the stuff they're good at - for us it ends up being a place to make up minutes.
From that point on we were the rabbits out in front for everyone else to catch. I would guess the nearest team was at least 2 minutes back, maybe more at that point.
This year there was a run from the canoe to transition - about 1.5km. My buddy was in hammer mode, I was in "holy crap my heart rate is through the roof" mode. I slowed us down a bit, but that's the nature of the team event, you're only ever as fast as the slowest guy! Having a partner with a similar ability level is key. Oh and one you won't kill in the canoe.
Rocks and roots, which would have been challenging enough without the rain. But it rained all night and all race - everything was soaked, there were huge puddles of standing water everywhere on the bike course. Streams, even! Several of them!
But my buddy and I have done Paris to Ancaster year after year, so mud is no stranger... we hiked the bike when we had to, plowed through what we could, and hammered the rest. I doubt we had the fastest bike of the day, but we were steady and most of all didn't let the conditions bother us. Just another challenge to add to the "Adventure".
The team dynamic kicked in - he's faster in the technical stuff, I'm faster on the road sections, so he waited for me a bit and I waited for him a bit.
I loved this run - the trails were great, and very runnable (unlike the previous course where you literally climbed up portions!). The first half was the more challenging of the two - I slipped on a bridge that was soaked and slimy - but the second half was an almost flat run to the finish.
With about 2km to go I was still expecting some sub-4:00/km runners to blow through... it happened last year! I knew we had a pretty good lead going into the run (no other bikes were visible when we went into transition) but you never really know how good the folks behind you are. But then I dared to say "I think we could win this thing!".
We upped the pace in the closing kilometers as my buddy found his extra gear. Finally we came out to a road section - I kept looking over my shoulder expecting someone to pop out of the woods and chase us down, but it never happened. One last nasty puddle and we cross the finish line as the fastest team.
We had definitely won the all-male team category, the only question left was whether we were the top team overall. There were wave starts, so some of the teams that weren't all-male teams (co-ed, masters, parent+child) started in other waves. There was still a chance someone would finish behind us on the road but pip our time. One team looked close - but when the results were finally posted we were right there in black and white at the top!
Winning is awesome! I have a niggling feeling that the teams that beat us last year didn't show up, but you can't ever control who shows and who doesn't. We put together a great race that drew on our experience and lots of time in the canoe targeting this race, and ultimately we were rewarded. Feels great!
Sunday, September 15, 2013
Having never done anything of much significance in a previous Grand Tour, suddenly he's a beast, capable of handing 28-year-old Niabli his butt.
At the age of 41.
The evidence against the guy is admittedly far more circumstantial than against his ex-teammate and friend Lance (who had actually tested positive and such). So it's possible a 41-year-old who never accomplished much at the pointy end of cycling suddenly peaked and could burn away from everyone like he never could throughout his career.
For me, between Wiggins, Froome, and now Horner, it's painfully obvious cycling is still in the doping toilet. The UCI is more interested in appearing clean for those not paying close attention than to actually being clean.
Maybe that's why, at the age of 25, having completed his first Tour de France, David Veilleux is retiring. Who retires at 25 from a sport they're just getting the hang of? Maybe a guy who sees what it takes to go further and didn't want to do it.
Food for thought.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
This is one of the new Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) races, the 6th of their Toronto series. There was a 21.1k, 10k and 5k.
Most compelling feature of these races: the price. $15!
For that I got a race kit (in a pretty nice reusable bag), chip timing and some course support. Not bad.
On the negative side, there was no Gatorade at the aide stations, the 10km was actually 9.5km, and the course markings were pretty confusing. Also because they're doing it on the cheap, they use trails rather than roads, and they are entirely open to the public - so some competition for space.
Still, at that price, it's hard to complain too much (although I want to complain enough that they fix the course measurement - I always find that irritating!!!).
I had no expectations at all for this one, my running has taken a backseat to other pursuits, and I'm far from my lightest weight. Really I just wanted to keep it at my tempo pace (around 4:30/km) and push more if I could.
I pretty much did that, although a stiff headwind on the way back kept me from my 4:30/km pace. The course was about 500m short, though, so my time is deceiving... looks like I did pretty darn good! I didn't, just hung in there.
Saturday, September 7, 2013
MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) is organizing races now, so I'm going to try one.
$15 for a 10k - how can you go wrong? Supposedly it's manual timing (not chip) but they do publish results and otherwise take care of folks.
I'm not in great run shape right now, emphasis has been on cycling, so not sure what to expect. Anything under a 4:30/km pace would be lovely, I'll go out around that and play it by ear.