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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Race Report: Paris to Ancaster 2014

There was mud.  Lots and lots of mud.

And there were sticks.  Lots and lots of sticks.

And for the second straight year, one of those sticks flipped up and found its way into my rear derailleur.  Once again, the hanger did its job and failed spectacularly, screwing my race.


The Start

I was in wave 2, which despite it's name is the 3rd wave to start (there is an elite/VIP wave before wave 1).

This time we lined up very early.  I was actually surprised how few people were in the corral when we got there - we found ourselves way up in the 2nd row.

This paid off in spades... right from the start I was in the top dozen or so of the wave with some very strong riders.  As we trundled along the rail trail I found some excellent wheels to jump on.  I was putting in a fair bit of effort just to stick with them, but we were flying and I was as high up as 2nd place in our wave at one point!  I didn't let that wheel go lightly!!

Farmer's Field #1

As we left the rail trail the strongest in our group pulled away.  This was OK, I wanted to settle in a bit and recover.  Not easy while tackling the rolling hills of that farm lane though, but I managed.

Gravel Roads

This section is a bunch of rollers.  I didn't have anyone to draft off for most of it, so just got into the drops and tried not to put in too much effort.  Finally a group caught me so I tagged on to the back.

Highway Ditch & Short Muddy Trail & Farm #2

This part was muddy again this year... I rode most of it, dodging between guys who weren't as... capable?  Felt strong as I left that section through the farmer's field (which was wet and soggy).

The Orchard

For some reason I remember this as being muddier and more like trails, instead it was fast gravel.  Just settled in and pumped out a decent pace.

Little Rolling Road

Got on the wheel of some beast of a mountain bike guy... he was just killing it, he was big, and created a huuuge nice pocket.  It was great.  I took my turn for a bit, life was good!

Mud Rail Trail

This one has this dark black mud, kind of like sand, and lots of twigs.

And this is where my race ended.

All I heard was the familiar "plunk plunk BLAM" of a chain lunching itself, looked down hoping to find a branch I could dislodge and continue, instead saw my rear derailleur hanging in a twisted mess of chain and twig.

Again.  Two years in a row.

In frustration I threw my bike into the trees.  Then I retrieved it, and got to work.  I had a spare hanger, yay!

Changing a hanger takes time.  I made it that much worse when I screwed up the chain routing, and couldn't get my quick link to unlink!  Long story short I did a quick fix, and five minutes later my chain went ka-pow and I was dead in the water again.

I struggled with it for a bit, desperately needing a quick link to get back going... finally a kindly gentleman riding by stopped and gave me one!  I was over the moon, I was going to finish the race today.

Total time between the two stops: over 37 minutes.  It felt even longer, it was awful.  I'm not great at fixing bikes, but with the race pressure and everything it just made me that much suckier at it.

On the Road Again

Once I got going I was waaaaay back in the wave 3 folks.

Now I just want to say something before I go on.  Anyone out there given' 'er at Paris to Ancaster is awesome, front or back of pack.  Just lining up at the start line means you're willing to take something on that the vast majority of people wouldn't dream of.  So absolutely no disrespect.

But because I was now back there, I had nobody going my pace to draft with/off, and when we got to tight sections sometimes it was tricky to get through.


Went through the loose gravel farm lane, then through the town (village?  hamlet?)  of Harrisburg.  Every year a kid puts a ramp in the road and I'm always too concerned about my race to hit it.. this year I was so far back I said "f it" and boom, nailed it (to the applause of the family).  Awesome.  Those little things make the race special!

Middle of the Race

Rail trail, some roads, it all kind of blurs together... I was just moving on up as best I could.  There's a section off Powerline Road that's a muddy little road, that's where I DNF'd last year... still muddy, still good, got past it (yay!).  More roads.

New Section: Rectangle of Death

I don't know what they call it, but there's a spot where we used to turn left on the rail trail and head toward the finish... instead we turned right and headed away from it.

This could not be good.

First edge of the rectangle - fast rail trail.  Good.
Second edge - fast gravel road.  Still good.
Third edge - fast gravel road... ooooh wait, suddenly we're punted into a muddy grassy soul-sucking pace-sucking field!!!  Good lord.  This continued through the fourth edge, it was really tough slogging.  The landowner lady was out there welcoming everyone, to which most riders were shouting "thank-you!"... it was pretty and a tough challenge, but tough is the key word.  If your legs showed any weakness, this was a pretty tough nail in the coffin.

Rail Trail Again

Back to fast rail trail ... excepppppt there was a headwind.

I was still picking people off one by one, though, but nobody to draft off of - it was tough.

Then I had a new calamity.  I came on a particularly large group of riders (probably a dozen) who were 3-wide across the whole trail.  I called out the customary "on your left!", at which point the lady on the far left pulled over.  Just as I pulled out to pass her a rider came flying by GOING THE OTHER WAY!

Not someone part of the race, just a guy who decided this was a great day to go the opposing direction of a race.  I guess it's his right, but damn, I didn't see that coming at all.  The 3-wide was a bit annoying too, just a bunch of people not really thinking.  Me included I guess, should have been a bit more careful.

Long story short - I ended up off the trails in the dry bush.  A few scrapes, got back up, and kept going.  Eventually caught up to the people, I didn't say anything but I was still steaming.

Mud Chutes

After a few road bits we finally hit the mud chutes.  I did my best to ride them, but there was so much traffic and people getting off to walk, it was impossible.  They were soupy and muddy, pretty much as bad as ever.

The Final Climb

Good lord this climb is a beast.  I rode the entire thing, though, didn't walk a step, I think that's a first.  No cramping!


3:19:49... ouch.

I know it's not apples to apples, but if you subtract the 37:26 I spent fixing my bike it'd be a 2:42:23 finish.  It's hard to know for sure - I got a 40 minute break nobody else did, but I also lost all opportunity to draft and was held up a fair bit by slower riders.  Not an exactly science, but I'm pretty sure a top-400 ride was there for me today with my fitness level.  I felt awesome all day.

Best of all, I had a blast.  From hitting the ramp, to the generosity of the guy who gave me the quick link, to the people cheering the final climb - it was just as excellent an experience as always.

See you in 2015.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fake Bike Trip Report #12 - Manitoba and a Change of Plans!

Manitoba at last!

1877km down in my fake bike trip from Toronto to Edmonton.  Finally out of the enormous province of Ontario.

Change of Plans

At just 3369km, Edmonton is just a little too close to Toronto for my liking.  I need something bigger and badder.

The answer, of course - keep going.  All the way to Alaska.

The new goal is the 6,148km trip to the end of the Alaska Highway.  Delta Junction, Alaska, here I come!

Race Preview: Paris to Ancaster 2014

This will be my 9th Paris to Ancaster!  Hard to believe I have been at it this long. 

The Hybrid Years
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)
The Cyclocross Years
2011 2:29:32 (316/1188)
2012 3:01:47 (597/1275) 
2013 DNF (mechanical)

Last couple of years have been disappointing.  2012 I was recovering from an injury, 2013 I was focused on marathon training (and then DNF'd!).
I really want to get back to my 2011 form, and I think I'm pretty close.  This year I've managed more off-season biking than ever - Sufferfests on the indoor trainer, plus a fair bit of outdoor miles already. 
To the moon!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Race Report: Uxbridge 1/2 Marathon

Beautiful Race!

We were out biking yesterday, and we saw the kilometer markers set up.  I remembered this race, looked it up when I got home, and somehow ended up at the start line the next morning.


This race is probably the hardest course I've done.  It's hard to really sum up how brutal in a chart, this comes kind of close...

First 7km

The first 7km are mostly road (with two trail sections tossed in) and gradually uphill.  I settled in pretty easy and felt good, tried to really dial it back on the uphills rather than attacking them.  Everything felt really good, pace was better than I was thinking (under 5:00/km to the highest point in the course).

8km-14km - Trails!

Around 8km the real trails start, true off-road stuff.  As a bonus, there was still snow (!) covering the trail in a bunch of sections, a bit slippy and tricky at times!  There were a few sharp climbs, a few fast descents.

I'm a particularly good descender.  Not just because I weigh more than most runners...  I've really honed my technique thanks to some words of wisdom from an old ultra runner I knew.  I let it go, let the hill fling my legs back, no braking, go for it!  It's more controlled falling than running... and if you get it right, it takes little energy, just courage.  I always pass people downhill, today was no exception.

Last 7km - Wooden Sticks Golf Course

Truly a beautiful golf course.

We ventured out onto the golf course cart paths.  I thought "whew, should get easier from here!".  Wrong.  It got worse!  The surface may have been nice asphalt, but the cart paths curved and undulated.  There was pretty much no point from there to the end where we weren't going either up or down.  And some of the ups were so steep they slowed me down to almost a walk... it was brutal stuff!

Much more suited to golfing and driving a cart around than running on.

Somehow I managed to really hang on to my pace.  I picked off a few guys late in the race, which felt amazing (typically on the downhill!).

The closing kilometer is diabolical.  All I wanted was a nice flat zip to the finish, instead there were two steep climbs left to tackle.  The last one is almost literally a wall... you can see the building at the finish, but a long windy trail to get up there!

There was a guy behind me that I had passed a few corners earlier, I could feel him hunting me down, so I knew I couldn't let up... somehow I dug deep and dragged my sorry carcass up that thing, but it hurt.  Hung on and charged to the finish.


1:42:47 (4:53/km - 26/179 overall, 4/21 Men 30-39)

I'm totally stoked.   I mean it's way off my best, but this course was way off the kind of course you'd go for a best on!  I was just hoping to come in around 5:05-5:10/km, but my heart rate stayed low and it felt really good so managed to find more than that today.

Feeling really great!  This is shaping up to be a solid season.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fake Bike Trip Report #11

1674km in the books of my fake bike trip from Toronto to Edmonton.

That puts me in Dryden, Ontario, home of this giant moose thing (apparently named "Max"- who knew?).

By my math it also puts me just 10km shy of the halfway point!  And I'm still in Ontario... this province is enormous.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fake Bike Trip Report #10

My fake bike trip is back on track... especially now that I'm able to bike outdoors!

March 17 week = 127km
March 24 week = 192km

And this week I managed an 87km ride already, with the weekend still ahead...

Total: 1432km.

14 and a half weeks in, so I'm pretty close to the 100km/week I wanted during the off-season (pre-season?).  Now those numbers should ramp up, although I will be doing a lot of off-road that doesn't exactly rack up the mileage as quickly...