Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Monday, November 14, 2011

My race bike is for sale...

Those who I am lucky enough to have had supporting me this year whether through reading my blog, asking about my races, or just saying hi at the races know that I fell in love with my bike this year. Reality hits when you break 12 teeth though, and about $4500 won’t be covered by insurance of any sort...

I am selling my the bike that I rode back into the sport with. It’s a sad thing but I’ve got to sell my one of a kind bike. We’ve had a great season, and anyone who read my blog knows that my bike never left me hanging for a race. I custom picked all of the componentry and paint, the bike was handmade in Bromont Quebec out of Columbus Zona Megatube, it is size Large.I got it at the start o this season and have taken meticulous care of it (as I am an elite xc racer and need my bike to be in perfect shape). It was only ridden either in races or pre-riding for races. Everything in excellent condition. All components are either carbon or white (component list below) and the sales guy for the company told me at a Canada Cup that I had the nicest looking bike on display at their exhibition. The steel frame is incredibly durable and the most comfortable ride you can find - my buddy on a niner wants the frame, but the bike is selling as a complete. This bike feels like a 26er because it is so light and the head tube is so steep, but still rolls as fast and flawlessly as a 29er. I've ridden everything on this bike with no problems, from Mont Saint Anne Worldcup trails to southern Ontario hardpack tight turning tracks. It is sitting in the factory right now waiting to hear what colour it will be painted, you can choose the new colour if you want to buy it! Looking for $2500, let me know if you are interested, we can talk about the price.

Fork Reba RL 29er, lockout included 
Seat clamp Fsa Seat post SL-250 SBS SB20 WHITE 
Saddle San Marco Ponza 
Headset FSA 1-1/8 orbit-MX white 
Stem Truvativ Stylo World Cup white 
Handlebar Ritchey wcs "wet white" 
Front derailleur SRAM X.9 2X10 
Rear derailleur Sram X0 10 speed 
Shifters Sram X.9 
Chain Sram PC 1071 
Crankset Sram X0 2X10
Brakes Elixir CR white 
Cassette SRAM PG 1070 
Wheels Shimano XT WH-MT75 (we can talk about my race wheels too)
Tires Hutchison Python Tubeless Light 
I love this bike and don't know what I'll do to race or ride mtb with next year but I have no choice at this point. Email or call if you want pictures! 

519 362 3421
cfruetel AT uougelph DOT ca
Most recent picture that I have of what she looks like, in action!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Transition Towards a Training Blog

I guess that I’ve been neglecting my blog lately; nothing terribly interesting to say! I haven’t really been training since the Ontario Cup race at Kelso; I’ve just been keeping active in my cycling community! This week I got back on board with my training plan, and am so stoked for next season. I’m coached by Eric Batty at Mountain Addict Athletics and am super stoked. He’s got me doing a huge variety of stuff, 
everything from hiking to rock climbing, biking to skiing, and don’t forget the rest days.

One off season ambition of mine is to improve my rock climbing abilities and get into a couple of competitions. I have started training with my good friend David; he’s the co-president of the rock climbing club here at the University of Guelph, and is getting a “team” together for the very first inter-university climbing competition. It is my ambition to be on that team, and kick ass! It’s going to take a lot of work.

The workouts are pretty intense, we start up with traversing the gym

Here it is:
Start with traversing the gym – this means that you climb your way around the whole gym, not going more than 8 feet above the floor.

Next a rotation of five exercises;

leg raises on the chinup bar until you can touch your feet to your hands

chin-ups on what are essentially two wooden balls hanging from the ceiling


standing in the same spot on an inclined wall (inclined overhead) and you have to change your hands to different (very slim) holds 40 times

push ups

Quick break then we went on the wall for 15 minutes all at once climbing around the “new gym”. If you fall off it’s 20 situps and then back on the wall. This is an excellent endurance test, and it’s funny when people have to climb over eachother in the process.

The last planned workout was one where our hands were banded by elastic with a partner, and we had to climb the wall like that. This works out one arm a lot more than the other (the non banded arm), makes you work on finesse, and go slowly. Trust and teamwork are also essential. I was working Jen, and climbing is a great thing because men and women seem to be pretty equally good at it due to the finesse involved (she's way better and stronger than me though!).

This girl kicks ass, I'd be lucky to climb as well as she does!

I wrapped up the workout with minuters, climbing up and down the wall as many times as you can in a minute, then doing a minute plank, and repeating the process three times.

These workouts are happening every Tuesday at 10:00am, and anyone in the climbing club is welcome! If you don’t know about the climbing club it’s in the bottom of the athletic centre, where it occupies two fortified squash court rooms, and the small training room. Membership is $50 for the year of $30 for the semester, and your first visit is free. It’s a friendly great bunch of people and a nice atmosphere all of the time down there, open from 1:30 to 10:00pm. Happy climbing!

Monday, September 19, 2011

A big start to a big new season!

Well, schools back in and rolling in full force, which means a change in focus; my focus and effort on a bike go to the University of Guelph Cycling Club! For those who aren’t familiar, we have a superfantastic club here at the university with a very driven and talented race team component! There is a series of four races run by the University of Toronto (specifically Dave). UoG has been quite a powerhouse race team since its establishment (some 8 years ago) and we just keep gaining momentum every year. Our success is undeniably a function of how awesome friends we are our ability to help eachother out at races and with training, and the drive of the individuals in the club to train, and to achieve.  I am so excited to see so many new faces out this year at the events we hold and racing!

Half of the team here, cheering for the brave racers on the course!

The first race in the University Cup mountain bike race series is at Mansfield, and in my opinion it is one of the best races of the year. Mansfield is a two day event with three races; a criterium (an incredibly short course that you do two laps of), a time trial (another short course (about 3.5km) which each rider completes on their own as fast as they can), and Sunday is the typical cross-country mountain bike race.
We arrived on Saturday in the morning, set up camp, and registered for the races, fixed bikes, and then raced!

This tent needed some fixing, green wood and a roll of electrical tape got it up though!

The criterium is such an awesome event to compete in and to watch, because from the middle of the loop you can actually see the whole race. Riders are let out 3 or 4 at a time and must complete 2 laps; the top two of each heat move on to the next round. Shoving 4 racers at a time on a trail and telling them to do it as fast as they possibly can makes for a bit of a gongshow and some close calls – but everybody survived. Guelph had some really awesome results, with our boys Scott (a varsity Nordic skier) and Mark finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively. By the end of this event I was already losing my voice from yelling, cheering and heckling to the best of my ability. Next up was the time trial, which was a beautiful course of almost exclusively singletrack. After finishing Scott and his twin from Queen’s Brett came out to the biggest hill on the course with me to cheer people on. Weekends like these make me want to cheer more than I want to race sometimes, and we were told afterwards that it was very helpful to the riders.

Just a blurry streak of gold flying by in the crit!

After all the racers were done and everyone was either packing up for the night or setting up camp, a few of us guys from Guelph as well as a couple of U of T riders went out to the race course and cleaned it up. We cleared sticks, fallen logs, and half fallen trees (you should see Scotty W. with an axe!). I was pretty stoked that the guys from Guelph helped out with this (even our Alex, who hadn’t raced U-cup before was raking the trails with his bare hands), and it earned us free dinner from U of T. It’s so great that we can all camp and help each other out with absolutely no animosity between the teams.

Scott, later at the campfire while trying to wipe a smudge off his face ended up with a very smudged face

That night was one of the most fun nights that I’ve had in a while. We were camping out in a cleared area on the property along with University of Toronto, Trent, and maybe some other small university groups as well. One teammate in particular made the effort to ensure a great camping experience for everyone; our perpetual Rookie Dan. He brought bacon, trailmix, sportsdrinks, chips, and possibly most importantly, an axe and a saw. I don’t know where the energy came from, but soon I was out in the bush sawing fallen trees, balancing on fallen trees and sawing their branches, and chopping trees down. Dan was dragging the fallen branches out to near the fire pit would be, and soon more guys jumped in. Kelsey, Kyle, and our new first year Alex (who is dangerously fast) came out for the fun. Between us we demolished a bunch of dead trees, made a vine rope swing, and chopped through a log that was almost two feet in diameter (which took a few hours and about 10 coordinated guys to drag out). I have no idea where any of us got all of that energy from after racing twice that day, and how we managed to race the next day either! Once a substantial pile of wood was taken out, a tepee was set around a decrepit picnic table, and a fire was light both below the table and on top of the table. Needless to say this had flames greater than ten feet high, kept all that were near nice and warm, and brought the schools all together.

The camfire, and the bench that we chopped, and dragged out.

The next morning was cold, and I am very glad that when I finally did get out of my tent, there was bacon already cooked (courtesy of Danno) and the fire was still nice and warm. That day it wasn’t the race that I was really looking forward to; it was the totally awesome fun of cheering the racers up the hill. Guelph had a great showing, and the competition was stiff. For some reason the Men’s A field is now packed with elite men (almost all of which seem to be engineers; who I guess need some outlet and relief from school), and the other categories are quite serious as well. At the end of the weekend Guelph had two racers on the podium, and I am very proud of everybody. We did it all this weekend, we camped, we raced, and we built a stronger team. Looking forward to next weekend’s race at Boler Mountain in London! I dare some riders from Western to come out!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A seriously good kickstart to my fall semester!

Why am I an environmental scientist? It’s not because I’m a treehugging hippie, not because I really think that I’ll save the world with my science, and it’s not because I love to do schoolwork. I am an environmental scientist because I love the outdoors. I want it to stay the way that I can remember it when I was a kid, and I want everybody to have the opportunities and experiences that I have been lucky enough to experience myself. I also believe that anybody can make a difference, and that I can have an influence for the good.
One of the compulsary components of my program (Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences, majoring in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences) is a field course component. I chose to do the geology field course which involves a week up north in a small place called Espanola living out of tents and mapping the rock formations up there.
Which was awesome!
We all arrived early in the morning to meet out behind the Earth Sciences building on Monday and crammed our gear into the vans. We are a group of 21 students, a professor, a lab coordinator, and a teacing assistant. Upon loading the vans (mine was full of 7 guys) we found that ours had a flat tire. We arrived at the rental place with a caravan with a flat tire, and left in a gigantic Chevy Suburban. All it took was for me to make a comment to the guy in charge there and he upgraded our vehicle free of charge! Even in the suburban though it was a tight squeeze; I was sitting on a bench seat with my friends Kent and Scott (who is about 4 inches taller than I am). At least Kent was a good sport and took the middle seat.
When we got to the campground, I was thoroughly impressed! A beautiful campground on the shores of Lake Apsey, a few km from town and at the end of a dirt road.

One of the sites we camped at

 We had a great group of people, everybody camped, cooked together, swam together, socialized, and played games. Nights were eventful, but we all got lots of sleep and kept it together for the full days of hiking through the rocky northern terrain. We got to subdivide ourselves into groups of three, each group was designated an area to map. Me and my buddy Peter managed to convince another geologist friend who spends his summer in the Yukon working to be in our group, and we all worked well together splitting the jobs (strike guy, map guy, and diary guy).

Pete and Chris on Penguin Island

Our group got the most beautiful area to map; some would say an island, some a peninsula – depending on how long your legs are and how far you can jump. Our site was the furthest from the drop off point, and just hiking out there was a job, we had to use landmarks like the elephant rock, and avoid swampy areas. When you get out to where the island (Hereby known as Penguin Island), all that you can see is rocky shores, with few trees – most of which are jackpine trees (which I found especially endearing because they remind me of family camping trips when we lived in Thunder Bay). Not only were the rocks interesting in composition; but they were amazingly shaped as well. These are almost all sedimentary bedrock, which is prone to weathering (being worn down easily). The last glaciations carved pipes between the bottom of the ice and the rocks to let meltwater out which left half-pipes, tubes, quarter-pipes, and interesting striations everywhere.

Glacial pipes

 I would have a field day there with my bike for sure. The best part of all is that you couldn’t see any people or buildings out in the field. The east side of the island had some cool cliffs to jump off of, and to enjoy the view of the surrounding features from.

East side off the cliffs

Our group had a good dynamic; we kept up lively conversation the whole time. These guys have some senses of humour and after a three days in the field you wouldn’t believe the conversations that were taking place! It was tough slugging through the bush which is good because I consider that great training for the upcoming University Cup race series, so I have nothing to complain about! The weather was fantastic, however almost too fantastic. Unfortunately I’m covered in heat rash, but oh boy am I ever nicely tanned!

Looking up onto the island

I think I’m a bit weird compared to my colleagues though. Personally I can’t get enough of camping, and being away from society. The nice calm feeling of independence and the open possibilities of exploration that I feel when I’m camping is just phenomenal. I could live like this. When I mentioned this, everybody said it was about time that they got back to Guelph, and were getting sick of “roughing it” I guess. It took us three full days of mapping to get that island mapped (rock types, contacts, dykes, faults, etc,). And I’d do it all again!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The weekend that Sunday did not go as planned..

Gearing up for a pretty serious weekend, started with my buddy Dave coming to get me in his sweet new car. Dave had just got a brand new off-the-lot black Kia Forte 5 hatchback, it’s got a 6 speed manual transmission, power everything (even heated seats and air conditioning!), and just looks so nice! Needless to say we were stoked to get started on a very ambitious and adventurous weekend. We got on the road to Meagan’s place, she’s the best host and best cook around! Meg lived pretty close to where the race was going on, and I was stoked at being able to see her again. She had some wicked pasta, pork, and grilled vegetables ready that I ate in outrageous quantities (fuelling up for a weekend with a doubles shot of racing – what I thought would end up being more than 120km), and then a prompt bed time.
It was nice to be calm and close to the race course the morning of, and with such awesome food! That morning was an excellent chance to sleep in (until 8, wahoo!), and spend some time with Meg and Dave. We got to the race course, and luckily Cycle Solutions was a sponsor of the event, so I finally had tents and a trailer to hang out at, with food, drinks, company, and tools! There was a bit of an exhibition area; teams and clubs with tents set up, as this was a whole weekend festival.
The atmosphere was great, but the race wasn’t so much for me. After being called up by name to the start line of the “Pro Race” (which made everything worth it – I mean who doesn’t want to be called Pro in front of other racers, spectators, and some cameras??). About 100m into the race I realized that the “Pro” pace up the hill (about a 15minute climb up hill right off the start) was pretty ambitious, and maybe I should just ride my best and save my legs for the planned marathon race tomorrow. The course was pretty crazy though! Hills like no Ontario race, I could see Wasaga beach all the way across the bay from the race course! I had a fun time riding the terrain, but I wasn’t racing. Huge props to my buddies and teammates on the course though!

Can anyone pick out which rider I am? At least I'm still in the photo frame!

That night Meagan fed us well, and it was early bed time for Dave and I. We woke up, made some serious oatmeal (my favourite pre-race meal), and began to pack to the car for the marathon. Dave was the first one outside and all I heard was “Oh my god”. I rushed outside and couldn’t believe what I saw. Somebody had smashed the rear window of Dave’s beautiful new car in; it was parked right beside the house too. Needless to say that was the unfortunate ending to our weekend. Poor Dave. Meagan was shocked, and said nothing like that happened before, but there was nothing that we could do other than clean up the broken glass everywhere, pack the car very carefully, and drive home.
That marks the end of my big race season of 2011, though I am incredibly stoked for the University Cup Bike Race season, and school comes soon too. Unfortunately with the coming of school means the dreaded tuition monster, which I have to sell my bike for. For anybody who is interested it up for grabs for $2500, a hand-made in Canada Xprezo. This bike took me to where I wanted to be in terms of my race season, and on the trails. Post up if you are interested, price includes a free paint job any colour you want! It sucks to have to sell my baby like this but life happens, and at least I hope that somebody else can enjoy it as much as I do!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Uhh, now what?

When you’re out for a bike ride, typically after a ride, when you get back home – there’s always that dog that is from the house that is about 80% of the way up the hill. This is a nice little dog, but he never ceases to engage you in the famous “dog sprint” where you have to haul up that hill as fast as possible because this little ankle biter is on a mission! What would he do if I stopped? Well, nothing I bet - he just chases. This is a very well motivated and driven dog, intent catching you – but I don’t think he’s thought too far ahead and of what he would do next. I liken myself to that dog, this summer, since getting the green light on my cycling career from the doctors again; I’ve been dead set on cycling, with the seemingly unattainable goal of racing well in the elite category with the pros. I might not make it in the end, but I sure enjoy that ride!
The night before the race, my good friend from the University of Guelph Cycling team and I made up a feast before the race, we fixed and cleaned bikes ate like champs, the usual. At the end of that night as Dan was leaving I mentioned how all I wanted was to hang onto the elite riders up the hill (Ontario Cup 6 is tomorrow and it involves a gruelling climb up the escarpment, once at the start of each lap all the way to the top) on the first lap. Dan said that I would have no problem, that I am a different guy now than I used to be when we first met, that now that I am riding I exuded purpose, direction, and determination, and he was quite happy to watch me grow into the rider I am now (Dan was quite exorbitant with his words I felt, but nonetheless that comment has stayed with me, and it means a lot to me).
I kept nice and calm before the race, mostly because I was already definite dead last, and the only reason that I’m racing elite is because if I back down I’d lose integrity. Without integrity what does a person have?
On the race startline I was shocked again that I was sitting with the top riders, about to do 5 laps, and people would really watch my race. I made some cheerful jokes about all of us holding the pace until the top of the hill, and a couple of the guys joked back that that was a great idea! Too bad nobody did. Race started up and I was at the back of the pack; I surely wouldn’t keep pace up that hill, so I decided not to get in a pro’s way.
Back of the pack, off the start, figured that I belonged here (Rick Melhoff Photo)

Once we hit the bottom of the hill however, I got muscled out to the right side, where I knew that there was a skinny line with good traction to chug up. The hill can be divided into three tiers, the first is the longest, with the steepest section, then it flattens for a little bit and you cross over a creek (which I rode through the deepest part every lap to try to cool myself off) then it kicks up to another tough section (by this point you are very tired and feel like dying), it flattens out again, and kicks up one last very steep section. 
My wicked fast friend and fellow Xprezo racer Jon Slaughter (Rick Melhoff Photo)

I was in utter disbelief that by that first relief section, I had passed about four guys, and was sitting back to mid pack. I continued up the hill after that at the pace of the pack, not wanting to burn my matches for the five lap race. At the very last tier of the hill were spectators and a commentator. The fans were amazing, and the commentator was awesome! I didn’t even know some of the people cheering my name, but that shows how great the atmosphere at one of these races is!
Even organizer Sean Ruppel, having fun at the top of the hill with the megaphone!
(Rick Melhoff Photo)

Lap 1 of the race I struck up a friendship with another rider; Cory Hancock, his calm racing style kept me in check, and calmed me down. I remained in good shape until I decided that I was too fast for Cory (my appointed chaperone for the event) and bolted off on my own to catch other guys. Suddenly I was riding sloppy, and about a lap later Cory came up
“Look I caught you again”
Hmmm. Obviously I’m doing something wrong here. The last three laps I brought my pace right down to something that I figured was easily sustainable and rode mostly on my own, yelling at the 17-18 year olds if they passed “Lousy Kids! Hey...are you guys going to university in the fall? Guelph is nice!”  I had some issues with my bike through the race however; my rear shifting seemed pretty compromised. The best plan of action with this I figured was just to switch my front gears, and leave the back one in an ok ring. Obviously this slowed me down a bit, but not as much as a broken chain would...

Feeling the trail, the bike, the groove, and luckily not that tree! (Rick Melhoff Photo)

Until going up a hill on the last lap, about 1.5km from the finish, I shifted, and kept riding. About a minute later the shifter finally responded, and snap there goes my chain! I didn’t even have time to think! At least it was the last lap! I decided to run instead of fix the chain, and coast on any downhill sections that I could. I managed to run up the rest of that hill, coast down to the bottom of the ski hill, run across it and up the hill a bit more, coast down, and then run up to the finish line without being passed by another elite rider!
I finished 17th. Unbelievable. You’re kidding right? No, really?
Yep. 17th place. This is beyond where I thought I could ever be while I was in university, let alone the first year back after my head injury! My goals since I was about 17 years old and started riding have been accomplished, I’m that dog that chases the cyclists, and now it’s as if somebody has stopped and given me a treat, now what?

At the top of the escarpment, feeling good. Feel like this picture's appropriate here (Rick Melhoff Photo)

           Thanks are what! Thank you to everybody who has supported me on my way back into cycling! For the Eric Batty, one of my biggest supporters, he is an amazing coach, and managed to bring me back into the game after a horrible month of July with weeks off my bike and my breaking teeth fiasco! His continued support and flexibility is just amazing, because I know that I am not organized to get myself there on my own. Thanks to my family, always helping out financially, or at the races physically, you guys helped me through everything every step of the way! Emma, Johnny, and my sponsors have been wicked, hooking me up even with no past results; I hope that you have found the investment worthwhile! My friends have been wicked support too, thanks for putting up with my crazy lifestyle, and huge shout out to Dave Paradis who has been on a number of last minute road trips with me this summer, without him I wouldn’t get to some the best races and weekends of my life, and without everybody’s support, I wouldn’t have had a good time doing this!
                Unfortunately, I won’t be making an appearance at provincials, so this ends my Ontario Cup saga for the year. I managed to reach my goals, and overshoot what I thought was possible. Before the race I was scared, and talked to my buddy Aaron, a veteran of the circuit. He said no buts, defy the odds. In my opinion, I have, but without provincials to build towards I’m rattled up! Eric had a simple solution for this, a crazy and simple solution. The East Coast Open and Ontario Marathon Championships are both on this weekend. Big races and big opportunities.  I’ll be at both, here we go!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Welcome to the jungle

What is field work, really? 

The terrestrial crew (I was on the aquatics crew)

Going out and getting dirty? Yep. Fun/ Yes. According to plan? No.
This week I was sent out to a wildlife research station to stay for two weeks in Algonquin Provincial Park. The station itself is pretty hilarious. It’s been around for seemingly hundreds of years and you can feel (and see) the history of this rustic station around you. It turns out that my dad even went here! Sure enough he's in some photos on the wall.
Second from the top left, a "Turtler" apparently! (also known as Herpetologists)

The station is on a lake, known as “The Sass” comprises numerous cabins for sleeping accommodations, labs, and storage, some picnic tables for eating, a general kitchen and oldschool style cafeteria. Everyone at station is super nice, though it seems to be more of a drinking station with a research problem! Breakfast is at 7:30l, but you don’t see many people then, lunch is at 12:30, and dinner is 5:30. Food is unlimited. People go about their days by waking up, running their morning errands (canoe to get turtles, check plots, look at birds, etc.), eating breakfast, maybe some lab work until lunch, hanging out on the dock until dinner, eating some food, cracking some beers and maybe some more errands and social drinking. Everyone is super interesting to chat with and learn about their work, and super laid back. I like it here, though there’s no internet or phone reception.
The lab - right in front of the lake
The cookhouse! I gained weight from the unlimited food and the fact that I had no bike..

On my time off, I would canoe and get turtles out of the traps!

Being a guy who’s been put there for 2 weeks means I have to work basically nonstop to get done an insane amount of work in a short period time. Unfortunately my week went like this: it started out working out in the field, then processing the samples all night – until 1:00am sometimes [that was the night that I found my tent flooded too].  I love field work, and all of the adventures in the forest [not so much the lab work at night] – but it’s tough when I was getting almost no sleep and no ride time, by Saturday, I was much more worn out than I was willing to acknowledge, which is unfortunate because I decided to make my very first appearance in the pro/elite field.
The course is at Buckwallow Cycling Center is known as the toughest venue on the Ontario Cup circuit, much rockier and rootier than the other races and with no real down time. Typically I take a good break in the singletrack, and open up in the doubletrack – but in Buckwallow you’re pretty full throttle the whole way. Getting a bike over the rocks and the roots requires some serious upper body strength,  and with five 9km laps, you get pretty worn out. Additionally, though the trails at Buckwallow can be pretty flat ground sometimes but super twisty. If you’re feeling pretty fresh these factors just make the trails more fun, but as you tire, it’s hard to pick “the good line” through the trail, and if you’re not on “the good line” you are wasting more energy and time, which gets stressful too.
So I showed up at the course on Sunday morning, having not shaven in about two weeks (I actually can manage to look scruffy now), and been out of internet and cell phone reception for the week, to suprise the world with my debut on the “pro cycling” scene of Ontario. It was a great feeling to put my new race sign on the bike, double digits now (representative of elite riders), and how do you spell “badass”? With “ELITE” at the top of your race plate. It was a bit of a situation that got me into elite, I asked if I was allowed to race elite, and got a phonecall back saying I was now a pro/elite racer and that’s how it would have to be for the rest of the season. Well, okay. Let’s do it.

I knew that going into the race thinking I was in bad shape would obviously make for a very bad race, so I pushed it out of my mind that I hadn’t trained or slept for a week and that I was out in the heat. A foolish thing to do. In hindsight, I was in no shape to race but getting caught up in the moment causes you to ignore things and just jump in so to speak! The pace started out about as fast as my old category, but once we hit the singletrack it was evident I wasn’t racing the expert category anymore. The riders in the pro/elite field  are well rounded guys, not just cardiovascular machines. After a couple of trails, I found the pace unsustainable (especially while I was puking along the way!), I was simply not strong enough to that day handle my bike through the trails at that pace. By halfway through the first lap, I was riding my own race, but I kept my chin up and kept at it. By lap 2 I started to accept that it wasn’t just the elite pace that was killing me, and my heartrate monitor confirmed this. I was running at about 75% of my maximum heartrate, and would be right out of breath. By lap 3 I was finding myself at the end of trails with no recollection of how I got there. It was foolish of me to race, and the last half of the race (laps 3-5) I rode – not raced. Until on lap 5, where I saw another rider ahead of me a few turns in the trail! I picked up the pace (ever so slightly), smiled to myself, and worked at bridging the gap – nobody passes me in my last lap, and if you’re in my sights that late in the race, I’m determined not to lose the hard work that I had done. I caught him, and put some time in between us, managing to finish the race, and not in dead last either!  There is no way I would enter a race and then simply not finish, rather finish dead last than not at all, at least I’m proud of sticking it out.
It’s tough to make the plan now, can I race elite for the last few Ontario Cups? I don’t feel as though my performance on Sunday was a real indicator of how well I can race in the elite 5 lap race, but that’s not to say that I think I am  ready for sure yet.  I’ll work hard though, with hopes of one day earning a decent position in that category, but until then I may just be that guy who tried his best. It’s tough though, to build yourself up in less than a year to the level I am trying to compete at, while still attending University and being involved in the student and cycling communities of Guelph.  Either way – it’s time for secret training! 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Another weekend out of province

The Red Bull race was a very high-energy, high risk way of realizing I’m only human. Before the race had even started, I had fallen pretty hard and been bandaged up in a very big way by the onsite first aid. The race started off lamanz (I had to run a fair ways to my bike, then ride my bike for a lap), and in all of the excitement, I went down hard taking about a two foot drop down to a gravel turn, and because it was so early I got held up behind other riders before I could get back onto the trail. By this point I had blood all the way down my other leg, my mouth was still in pain from the tooth incident, and my confidence was utterly shaken up.  It was getting dark enough in the trails by the time I got to the singletrack to warrant a light, but I was too focused to turn mine on. The singletrack was surprisingly tough for a night race (the latter half of the world cup course), but that’s why it’s a Red Bull event, for spectators – it’s a paid event for people to do high risk things. One notable spot was going down a steep sandy rutted off camber (hill on the side of a hill) hill, then needing to turn immediately hard right and drop a few feet down some roots onto a sickeningly steep hardpack sand hill. They had a spectator section there, with lights and photographers blaring at the athletes, making it impossible to see where you were going. Needless to say a lot of guys were walking that section.  The course for the xc riders was essentially a climbing section, a quick open downhill, over a couple of bridges through crowds, climb up again, then a techy singletrack section then a downhill bomb to a ladder bridge through crowds to the finish line, where my partner was radioed to start his run down the hill.
Unfortunately, I got into a pretty down mental state, and was exhausted and in pain anyways - strung out from all of the damage to my mouth and a general lack of sleep. I’m ashamed to admit that during the race I was just dwelling on my weaknesses instead of building on my strengths, my performance was probably the worst I’ve ever done, luckily my downhill rider Andrew Gibson picked up the slack! I shouldn’t have really been racing in the state I am anyway, I forget sometimes that I’m really only capable of so much, I’m not superman – yet. The night was great though, a big dj tent, and a pumped up atmosphere, we managed to have a great time anyway.
Day two in Mont Sainte Anne was the world cup race (unfortunately I didn’t come to compete in it!), women’s at 11:45 (starring Canadian cycling’s sweetheart Emily Batty), and the pro men’s race at 2:30, with my coach and idol, the amazing mountain athlete Eric Batty.  I had a great time that day hung out with Emily in the morning; – she gave me a permanent marker and I made my “Team Batty” fanboy shirt and then I cheered. All I wanted was to show my support to Eric and Emily, especially Eric. Eric is arguably my biggest supporter, keeping me together and motivated. As my coach he keeps in touch, makes it his mission to keep up with not only how I’m feeling physically for training, but also mentally and emotionally. It’s especially great because he checks in with me, and it does really seem to matter to him.  For Eric’s race I was biking across the mountain to different checkpoints to yell encouragement, I felt just as into it as the racers!
After the race I met up with one of the Canadians I mentioned when I first started my blog! Ross,  the guy I met in the hostel in the mountains in Georgia went out for a couple of laps of the course. WOW. There is no way that I could ride that during a race. Its the kind of course they use to crown world champions, so of course it’s ridiculously tough. Not only is the course super techy, but it hits you when you’re the weakest. I’m talking about tough sections deliberately through the hills, or at the top of steep climbs when you are at your weakest, a truly trying event, it was no wonder that the pros were falling so much.
Day 3 of the weekend was an epic ride day. Woke up and met up with Jon’s coach Peter Glassford, and athletes Jared Stafford, and Andrew L’Esperance. Coffee was brief, then we packed up the condo and went out for our ride. We rode random trails around the hill, then went straight up to the top (a very big climb!). On the way up we met Krista Park of the United States, who rides for Stan’s Notubes, Cannondale, and Osprey packs (sweet!). She was super nice and we trucked up the hill together to the top of the gondola being used for the world cup downhill race, and took some trails down. 
Krista and I on the the way up!

This ride included rivers, waterfalls, stream crossings, and even double black diamond downhill trails. I’m very proud of my bike for staying in one piece, and of me for staying on it at such ridiculous speeds, and such unsuited trails! This was exactly the ride I needed to recharge, I got into a great groove, felt the trail, learned to trust my bike, and rebuilt confidence.
It’s off for another adventure now, I’ll in Algonquin Park for almost two weeks starting Monday the 4th of July. I’ll be camping out at the wildlife research station, working in tandem with another Guelph student and helping out with specimen collection for the the Barcode for Life, which is a global organization trying to determine the genetic DNA sequence of every morphospecies on the planet. This will involve limited (if any) cell phone reception, and internet, and   12-14 hour work days, with no weekends! But I hope to see everybody at the Ontario Cup Next weekend!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Surprise tooth removal!

We’ll get to that later though. 
I managed to survive the 24 hour race with a *patched up* mouth. The dentists rebuilt all of my teeth, but that is not to say that all is good. They are projected to be sore for a couple of months, which quite frankly sucks. After my initial brain injury, I lost my sense of smell – though I still have my sense of taste. This means that I don’t get the entire “flavour” (taste and smell combined makes flavour) of what I’m eating, but I am so grateful that I still taste, otherwise life is pretty mundane; so food and taste is a welcome relief to my day. With my teeth out of sorts I’ve been putting myself through unnecessary pain by still trying to eat anything I want (and not taking the pain killers).
24 hour racing food was done with some thought to both extreme calorie intake and sensitivity of my mouth. Six cups of cous cous (dry) which is so nice, they named  twice! That meant 2 huge Tupperware tubs of cous cous, some pretty terrible taco salad I tried to make, some fruit, and of course jells and bars. My team had a pretty sweet campsite though the endowment from our wonderful sponsors the Great Lakes Brewery...which was apparently at the other Cycle Solutions site. After inhabiting a dry site for a while, the guys decided it was time to perform a heist. We needed that beer, and it really wasn’t going to matter what the other tribe had to say. It was shocking what we found there. Two big demo tents that said Cycle Solutions, two picnic tables, and a big tub with ice and a 60L keg of Great Lakes Brewery Blonde. No guards, nothing. We even came on it from the east side, as the sun was setting west. A beautiful mirage is all it looked like.
By about midnight we received a visit from some friends from Bracebridge, and I was getting sick of my gearing (still being stuck in my big ring). My resources were few. An old grip-shift shifting set, made for 3X9 drivetrains (mine is 2X10), but these were mountain bike veterans I was with, and nothing beats a micro adjusting gripshift shifter. Of course with beer as payment, things weren’t done terribly efficiently (my teammate Allan showed up while we were doing this right after his lap, threw up for a few minutes, but some good old “puke and rally!” encouragement got him back, he didn’t go thirsty), but after a while I was set up with a working front shifting system, using what is known as the archaic technology of “Grip Shift”.
The rest of the race was good, 1 fall, but as I was writhing in pain on the ground Preston Wagler (one of the top ranked pro/elites in Ontario) passed me, which was motivating to get back up and I rode out a night lap with him only 3 minutes slower than my day lap times. The morning wasn’t awful either. At one point I thought we were battling for a position in the top 3, so I was motivated and rode a double lap – and then some, just to get a T-shirt from riding through a bog on a plank while spectators sprayed me with hoses and water guns. SO worth it. Unfortunately I was not feeling great after the race, the fall in the night had left me unable to really move my left arm (even needed help to get my jersey off), sleeping accommodations were simply the back of a Toyota Matrix with a 134 pound dog, but 24 hour races are fun, you meet new people, and my buddy Nico that came with me had so much fun that he even did extra night laps for another team! Mission accomplished.
Monday I registered for what will hopefully be the best race I’ve ever done! The Redbull Monte Descend race at Mont Saint Anne. This race is a promotional race in which a Downhill rider rides down the hill, then the cross country rider (me) rides a lap (apparently these are usually pretty uphill) it is done in a sort of tag team, I`ve called our team the ``Humpty Dumpties``, so watch out! The team that gets the highest total number of laps between 8:30 and 10:00 (pm, which means dark laps with lights) wins. The real grabber for this race is that first prize is worth $3000 which would definitely help with my $5000 in newly accumulated dental bills. Hopefully I can get some money, pay my bills, and still have enough to afford tuition for University.  The race is tomorrow (Canada day!), and the weekend has lots to offer.
Mont Saint Anne last year was the site of the world championships,  and a long weekend festival called Velerium. This year there is a plethora of races and events, including a world cup race on Saturday. Perfect weekend for a roadtrip to Northeast Quebec . Let’s go!

The day of departure for the race I had a quick appointment with an oral surgeon, just to talk about a plan of action for the tooth that has a crack all up the root. Strangely I was sat into an operating chair to wait. Then Dr. Watson came in, with needles. Apparently the x-rays were pretty bad, and after a quick chat and some poking it was established that I was having a tooth yanked.
Needles were poked, my tooth was clamped, and I saw a man giving some good effort on my tooth, back and forth until it came out. That simple! I think it’s crazy that I’m racing tomorrow, but that’s it ! The most painful tooth ever is gone!
Dave picked up a sorry solemn toothy guy after work, and the roadtrip began, until we found the Mandarin that is. I like 3 things, athletics, science, and nefarious deeds.  The mission was simple, eat as much is humanly possible, and get kicked out of the restaurant. I was unsuccessful at getting kicked out but the shenanigans were worthwhile. All loaded up with food I’m just waiting to see what tomorrow has in store! 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Serious inconvenience and another ambulance trip

The week started out so wonderfully! Monday was my off day, so I went to my first yoga class! Went to Bikram Yoga downtown, and got 10 passes for hot yoga classes (1.5hours each). Yoga was an adequate way I'd say of loosening up the day after a race, without straining myself too much really, and an interesting experience. It's basically like working towards being a peaceful contortionist, but without the circus. The "hot" of hot yoga wasn't too bad, my only complaint is how slippery I got (making the poses a lot harder) and my hands were wrinkly from sweating so much by the end. But I'd do it again, and you should too!
Tuesday had some hard training, 20 all out hill sprints over at the col du Watson with my buddy Nico, crawled home on the bikes, and went to his place for some good food.
It was Wednesday when things happened. I decided to head to Bulk Barn on my lunch break (Wednesday is student's discount day - making already cheap food cheaper). I got the usual; prunes, dates, soy beans, and then some raisins for my oatmeal, and headed back to work. On the corner by the Futureshop and Zellers (which I had ridden countless times commuting from my old house to campus) I took it really fast - with my big 30L pack on and groceries and stuff inside. In a split second, my back tire (700x20C and totally slick - least grippy tire possible) slid out. I went chin first to the pavement.
Instantly I could taste blood in my mouth, and feel bits of teeth everywhere. I spat into my hand just to double check, and yep big pieces of teeth and blood everywhere [uh oh.]. I grabbed my bike and walked into futureshop, with blood everywhere and thinking of the unfortunate implications of this fall. They called the ambulance, and I just sat there getting more and more bummed out about my state. My left arm hurt, right elbow and knee had hit the pavement hard, and of course my jaw hurt and chin was gashed. I don't know if you've chipped a tooth before, but it seriously hurts. Even breathing over a chipped tooth can hurt, and now half my mouth is chipped and damaged.
The ambulance guys got there and were shocked at how calm I was, and that I wasn't crying. By that point I had plenty of paper towel by my side saturated in blood and full of bits of teeth. The wait in emergency wasn't so bad- I was out of there in about 2-3 hours. Got my jaw x-rayed, and stitches put into my chin. Luckily I complained enough about stitches in my face that they only put 3 in, and the worst part of that was the freezing (I later found out that that was a tough place to freeze and he stuck me 4 times - which was much more painful than the stitches would have been, but I didn't want to feel them going through...weird!).
Now nicely stitched up, I luckily got an emergency appointment at the dental office not far away. The dentist there was shocked. He had never seen someone do this much to their mouth in one go, and assessed the damage with x-rays, and by sight. The whole time this guy was shaking his head, and trying to put it lightly that at least 8 of my teeth had been damaged heavily, would need a lot of work, and another several were damaged (mostly superficially...enamel chips gone - but not down to the really sensitive bits). Additionally I had bruised basically all the nerves in my teeth and anything to do with my teeth would hurt for weeks, even after he worked on what was left of my mouth.
By now, I'm quite familiar with what has to be done to "fix" a "tooth". He grinds at it for a little bit, scratches the surface of wound to make it more adhesive, puts some primer on it, and then some paste type stuff goes on that hardens with UV light. I complained that the top right of my mouth had the most painful spot, and he agreed that I was missing a considerable chunk of a tooth up there, so he fixed that one. After rebuilding me a tooth and upon polishing it he accidentally hit the one in front of it (which looked just fine).
This was when I thought the dentist and his assistant pooed their pants. They started freaking out and saying uh oh, oh no! That's not good!
They had just discovered that the tooth that I was really complaining about had a crack right through it all the way down the root, it just wasn't missing pieces so it looked fine until they touched it the right way. The dentist stayed for an hour and a half after work just to put a quick fix on the tooth. He ground away about half of it with the grinder drill thing, and put re made the top - hoping it would act as an adhesive for a bit. That one's going to have to be pulled out, and I'll need an oral surgeon.
That afternoon he got the top right back bit of my mouth to acceptable shape and said he would free some time to keep working on it the next day.
Today (Thursday) breakfast consisted of a milkshake - but that was too cold (fridge temperature) so I had to microwave it. Weird. But I went back to the same dentist,  and he went to town! I spent a long time in the chair (which isn't made for a 6'2" man), but he got all the other teeth fixed except two! The right side of my mouth isn't outwardly broken anymore (except the tooth with the quick fix - that's a whole new deal with an oral surgeon on a later date). I've spent over $1200 so far though, $500 of which is covered by the university, but this is going to continue to be very painful, and cost thousands of dollars more and take at least a few more weeks. Need that tooth fairy to come through with some magical dental insurance.. Worse has happened to me, and I can't ignore half teeth all over my mouth - they are an excruciatingly painful thing to have. But that's real life, and like I said, just a miserable inconvenience, it better not affect my racing too heavily. It's a bit of a worst case senario, I'm lucky a car didn't hit me too.
Who's racing at the 24 hour race this weekend? I am. See you there.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

For those wondering about my first paid race...

Lake to Lake was tons of fun! While it lasted. I got off the front in a group of about 10 guys, and it started out like a road race. People pulling (which I did too much of and Anton yelled at me for), people breaking away, people getting caught back, and then my flat tire happened...
Fortunately it was just a rock puncture, I lost about half of my pressure, but the sealant on the inside of the tire kept me going. After stopping to check it out, the gameplan was just to crack open a CO2 and re-inflate the tire at the first bit of singletrack...Besides I felt like a total power house! I had managed to stay with the group even while riding such low pressure, and then worked my way back into their ranks, surely I was in contention for the money, no?
Then another flat happened. This time it brought me too close to empty to want to keep riding on, so I stopped and reinflated the tire, and yelled out encouragement at my buddy Alex, and reinflated the tire. I still felt like a champ when I got back on my bike for the second time now and pinned down the trail. Before long I was on Alex's tail and told him to follow, but I guess I was so caught up in the moment that I didn't slow down and just kept going and he didn't keep up. I was riding through some tall grassy trails and couldn't see beneath me, and suddenly bam! Flat. This one wasn't going to re-seal I set about taking off the tire to put a tube in. Unfortunately the tire was too tight for me to take off on the side of the trail and I was at the mercy of the riders going by for both a tire lever, and a pump. Alex supplied the pump, and some guy racing with his daughter (on fathers's day!) supplied the tire lever, and Don (a friend) gave me an extra CO2 cartridge (I couldn't get that pump to work!).
By the time I was back on the bike though I realized the race was over for me. It took long enough that I stood basically no chance of catching back those top 10 guys (all of whom are fast elite-level racers), especially if I couldn't ride the trails at my own pace (stuck behind the slower waves of cyclists).
The rest of the race was a time-trial with huge breaks during the singletrack (of which there was 25km - that I hadn't hit yet). I learned my lesson though, the lightest tires on the market should not be trusted on a foreign course tubeless - they just pop like balloons. 
The week's been interesting since though, more on that later.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My first race in the "money division" looking pretty doomed right now! Today I had the intention of fixing, cleaning, and riding my bike, and cleaning my house for the big potluck that is going down tonight. WELL. The house got 1/3 of the way to clean, and I wandered out to the garage to start fixing my bike, to put new tires onto. I'm racing at the Lake to Lake 55km race tomorrow, and heard it's a pretty fast course, so decided to go with my semi-slick Schwalbe Furious Fred semi slick tires in 2.0 (low volume, and skinny). I sealed up the tires, and went to make them a bath. No plug. After a quick call to the land lord, and a trip to the river, I had tires that were [mostly] holding air. Then my buddy came by for a bit, and it was back to fixing my bike. Distracting things like making food for the potluck grabbed my attention, and I made some dirty rice and beans!
Finally I got to the bike, and found a broken shifter. Uh oh. A quick trip to the local bike shop found that any idea of front shifting tomorrow is out, so my drivetrain is now jimmied in the big ring, with a chain that I was told is in desperate need of replacement, and on top of that - apparently my tires are pretty bad for tubeless, and prone to rolling off.
the sleeping arrangements are kindof like burritos around here

But there's no time! No time to ride either! Upon arrival at my place, Anton was already there, and Erica came shortly after (only half an hour late, which is incredibly early!). We had a big party, and lots of cuddling.
Time for bed though, and some excruciating foam rolling. Hoping for strong legs tomorrow to push that gear! Poor bike is still dirty though...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Another weekend, and a shot for redemtion

Here we go. Another shot at a national race; the Canada Cup at Hardwood Hills ski and bike centre. This one’s not far from home (Bracebridge home) so Alex and I decided to head up north for the weekend, to stay at my old casa. I had an epic amount of stuff to pack (toolbox, compressor, bike, one spare wheel, extra tires, food, clothes, race stuff) and he obviously had his pile too, all set to fit in an ’02 hundai accent. For those who don’t know Alex’s car, it’s know as the Red Rocket, and it’s a small coupe, without a bike rack. I had my doubts as to whether we could fit everything in, but after doing enough bike race trips we have the art of packing totally dialled.  It took almost no time and we were on our way up north in good company and with high aspirations for the weekend.
Like this!

We realized we would be cutting it close to get to the course (ETA 8:30), but as long as there was daylight, we could sneak onto the trails. I announced that it was no problem, and I knew the way to the trails – so don’t worry, we won’t get lost. About 10 minutes later we drove right by the sign for Hardwood Hills on the 400 (I’m used to getting there from hwy 11) luckily there was a great option to do an ullegal U turn, which we promptly took and sped our way to the course. When we got to the course I left alex in the parking lot and ran to the administration house to see what’s up. Riding open till 9:00, it’s about 8:20. Good to go. Registered for the race, paid the entry for the trails (at total of $67.50 together – owwie!), and went to the car to put my bike together. On the way out to the start I ran back into the building for some water, and the trail master said “Wait, what category are you? You’ve have to be out of there in 32 minutes.”
“Senior expert sir! Don’t worry, course can’t be more than 25 minutes!”
“Okay if you’re that fast then go. But you only have 32 minutes.” He said somewhat reluctantly.
Would he actually have said no if I told him I was in one of the open categories? Harsh.
Loved the course, it’s fast, good flowwy trail – and they didn’t put any huge hurting climbs in it like normally! None of this climbing BS like Tremblant. There are some definite tricky spots – that I’ll want to try again and dial them in, but for now we just had to do a quick ride.
Some aspects of my bike made this ride more “fun” than others. Firstly I was testing a hypothesis involving the ideal gas law (PV = nRT) or in layman’s terms pressure times volume is equal to a constant. Essentially, this constant is the force necessary to hold a rider off the ground and keep the tire from flatting or rolling. Since I’m on a 29 inch wheeled bike, that’s a higher volume, and if the hypothesis I was testing (H1 I will be able to get away with less air, thus more traction) is true (vs the null hypothesis H0 that I would mess everything up and flat anyway), then I should be able to rock out with very little pressure, and thus sticky tacky grip.
I let a bunch of air out and then rode, never checked until afterwards, but I was riding 17 psi in the rear, and still less than 20 psi in the front (which had a tube). For those non-cyclists, that’s about half of what most people ride at, and I’m heavy so I should actually ride higher than most. Indeed the ride was sticky tacky, but my tires were rolling a lot – I couldn’t be as aggressive as normal. But I didn’t flat, and the tires stayed on the rims, so I did prove something – just don’t ever let them THAT low. I was losing power because my bike was bobbing with my pedalstroke even.
The other bit of fun was that my front shifter actually broke off while I was riding. The metal bracket just simply broke.  This left me laughing in disbelief, and wondering what the heck to do with the flopping front shifter that was only loosely attached to my bike with a cable. Oh well, I paid to get it, it’s Friday night, and I’m finishing my ride – in under 32 minutes! I wrapped it around my handlebar and left it hanging out front and watched it like a hawk. There is very high potential that this could flop down into my front wheel and end my life I guess. (stupid head injury.) I kept one eye on that and one on the trail – it’s a good trick, you should learn it sometime.
Weak (but light!) Dye-cast metal..

Saturday rolled around and I had a list to do: fix the bike, and ride more laps of the course! Ah, life is tough.  I managed in the end to use an old brake and an old shifter bracket to secure my front brakes and shifter – it was a bit uncomfortable and tighter to the grip, but it would have to do. Riding laps was fun, I practiced some stuff and looked at the different ways to approach obstacles – the course was weird in that the most daring way through the trail wasn’t always the fastest.
I had the pleasure of hanging out with my coach, Eric Batty (who was signing autographs) and discussed the course with him. He hopped on my bike and gave me some good advice. Because I’m so lanky and my hands are huge, I had my brake levers and shift levers pointed almost vertically down. This is not good because it forces them to be flexing the whole time that I am riding, and it does indeed get uncomfortable – but I always just thought I needed to toughen up.
That night Jon, Alex and I wen’t back to my Mom’s for a great meal. She’s awesome! Shrimp and veggie pasta with baguette, guacamole, and a really nice salad with pears (not to mention some serious dessert!). Jon was a bit of a last minute addition to the crew but Mom reassured that there would be enough food. But we ate it all, and threw another pie in the oven. Gooooood pie. Gooooooood times!
Ladies and gentlemen, this is now how you treat grips. Just buy lock-on.

That night, I got pretty jittery. Maybe because I was talking to my coach Saturday, but I really had the race on the brain. I stayed up just lying in bed thinking about the race, then stressing about not sleeping, then having a nose bleed. Well that's not ideal! 1:30 in the morning and I've got a gusher coming out of my nose! After a while it stopped bleeding and I resumed my attempting to sleep, which was more just contemplating why I had a nosebleed in the first place? Probably because I'm still so sick (spent the other night in the emergency room), and congested and I kept blowing my nose? Who knows. All I know is that there was blood before, during, and after the race.
I woke up way too early for this junk. 6:30. But I milled about the house and got bikes together and helped out here and there - always drinking water though, because I had sweated the whole night before (window open was too cold, window closed too warm...but more comfortable). Made some good old fashioned steel cut oats (with craisins in them because I was at home and had the resources!), packed up and rolled out.
Arrival to the race was a bit frantic; I had to track down my front wheel from Scotty, and only had an hour to do that, organize feeds, and warm up.
Luckily, I was told that the start was delayed 15 minutes! Yay! The only problem is that whoever told me that was sabotaging me! Start was at 1:30, and I luckily got worried that I saw nobody warming up any more, looked down at my clock, and saw it was 1:32. Better get to the start to investigate. I asked somebody along the way about the start time, and of course it was supposed to be 1:30, so I made my way desperately through the crowds and got to the start corral about 30 seconds before the start. Bad seating yes, but warm legs at least!
Guess who's not waiting for the start?? (stolen from Kyle's facebook)

Start of the race was a pretty brisk pace, but nothing I felt I couldn't handle. I was worried about the potential bottleneck at the top though, and soon found myself in the middle of a 40 person pack, riders in front, behind, and on both sides. Not good.
I made my move out to the right side, throwing accelerations, brakes, and buzzing a tire or two (not a good move). But when I got out I moved up a few spaces, and tried to get back in.
Unfortunately nobody was making room for me in the trail, so I was forced to ride in the bush beside the trail, which was soon turning left. The only thing I could do was to muscle in, and I managed to get in right beside (and into) my friend Kyle Schaltz, who asked what the heck I was doing? (He was sandwiched in between me and some guy from Quebec, the Quebequois guy fell..Ooops.
So I managed to get a spot on the trail, and to make some enemies in the first few minutes of the race...Interesting. The pace through the first few trails wasn't what I would say I'm capable of, but I wasn't about to throw down too many dirty passes, and I was working hard enough that I didn't feel like singing a song. As the group thinned out I realized how fast we were really going...FAST. By the end of the first lap there were already guys blowing up and falling behind fast, but I kept pace.
riding down the boneshaker, with my lover Anton watching (photo stole from Jame's facebook)

Lap two came with a surprise, a nice guy Alex and my old buddy Evan and I rode together, Evan stayed ahead (but not far enough that I couldn't see him) and Alex would lose me on the double track , but I was capable of catching his wheel in the singletrack. Alex is a fast guy, and I made it my goal to stick with him and see if I could edge on him by the end...I had a funny time that race in that I was always able to talk, just my legs couldn't put out the top power. It was as though my legs were not up to my cardio, but nonetheless my legs were still pretty quick. I striked up a conversation with Evan, let him know that the superior court for the guy who assaulted me and put me into the hospital for so long was the next day. He asked if I was racing angry? I just said racing stressed...Which I guess is true, but the best thing about cycling is it can take my mind off the pressures of the rest of life.
By the first big climbing section in the third lap though, I showed more power than the other guys, and that was the last we rode together. I kept an eye behind me on Alex and worried about his positioning, but eventually was at the point that I could see neither Alex or Evan. By that time I decided to ride conservatively, not taking more risks than I needed to, keeping the bike intact and not risking my head. This strategy paid off, as I placed 6th.  Even with a bit of blood coming out of my nose still, and despite dismal sleep, guess I should just not worry about that stuff anymore.
Hearing my position made me happier than ever! That is faster than I had been before the injury, without a doubt my best placing in an Ontario Cup, oh wait - this is a Canada Cup. YES!
All of the work that I had been doing paid off in when I realized how I had done, and I am so greatful of my coach Mr. Eric Batty (3rd in the pro/elite division!). I'm his athlete, just a meathead that does what I'm told, and he really deserves the credit for my outstanding improvements. Maybe I'll reach my goals this season after all. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How else to spend May 2-4?

Well we all know our own good formulas for long weekends, roadtrips, cottages, foreign places, and to most people copious amounts of alcohol. What would an over excited newly freed from school and (all seemingly responsiblities) cyclist want to do?
Road trip to Quebec for a Canada Cup race? I think so.
There are plenty of reasons to get out to Quebec for a Canada Cup race. Firstly, a road trip, Quebec is a very different place, and for a weekend, the atmosphere is perfect! Easy living, biking, and a general binge on good times and good company. Secondly, the terrain out there and the trails that they build on it are entirely different from here in Ontario, which makes a Canada Cup a whole new beast, and the riders a different bunch to race with as well. Lastly, the big races in Quebec are sponsored by the same guys who help me out; xprezo! (the amazing deals on condo living may have also helped out too). I was excited to go talk to the boys that made my bike, show them the finished creamsicle resembling product, but pretty nervous that they might not think I would be deserving of sponsorship.
The thing about being  a student with nothing to his name but a bike though, races are great, and so are road trips, but how do I get there? The solution to this problem came with a smile and offered wonderful camaraderie.  I caught up with my buddy Dave, and we talked about bikes, our new 29ers, and I told him how my bike is so much better than his because it is hand-made, steel, and I had ridden with the guys who made it, and they were real presence at races. Like the Canada Cup that I was eager to go to! Dave admitted that my bike was smoother, and he liked the "local" aspect of it, and soon his imagination was captured by what could happen across the Ontario-Quebec border on foreign soils too.
We started working on logistics for the trip and Dave was incredibly generous. As opposed to cramming 3 people and 2 very large bikes into his little Pontiac Sunfire, we were going to rent a car. Rates are cheap, and you literally don't even have to give them back the car if you get insurance - just the keys.
Dave was willing to front the rental costs if I would help out with gas and food for the trip - and put him up somewhere - sweet. We would hang out for the weekend, ride, race, and then enjoy the festive atmosphere at what must be the best race of the year!
Tremblant is an amazing course to go to because there are multiple disciplines of bike racing that go on that weekend, the XC (cross country - my discipline) on the Saturday, DH (downhill - lazy guys who ride chairlifts up hills and then ride down them really really fast) on Sunday. The course opens up Friday, and XC riders are only allowed on the trails here for this weekend every year, otherwise they are considered too technical and reserved only for the DH riders who scream through the terrain with bikes that absorb the bumps and can take a serious beating. The attitude in Quebec is great too, people are drinking wine, watching riders, socializing, and running back and forth between condos on the moutnainside. I was also seriously looking forward to "roughing it" with some of the boys from the team at the condo. We cuddle, we cook for each other, and we share the showers...
The day before our departure I got a call from Dave - "Hey dude, we're good to go. I got us an SUV. Sweet eh? We're going to ride in styyyyle."
Whoa. That guy is stoked. So am I. This is awesome.
A few phonecalls to get some proper tires to this race, and a new tool, and we're good to go. Left Thursday night after work, got there Friday morning. We outran some thunderstorms and showed up to the village on the side of the mountain in beautiful weather, and to some cheery greetings, and new bike stuff!
The nice bikes on the back deck!

 I was seriously looking forward to trying some new tires - no my cyclocross tires for me, I have options now!
Checking out the course Friday was a blast. My kind of course! Super fun, a couple of big grinding hills, but only one was terrible (and snowy). There were some pretty technical aspects of the course, and other sections where having the guts to ride the trickier line was beneficial. I love my new tires, high volume, skinny, and a rounded profile - perfect.
Last tier of a 3 tiered climb..notice the snow to the right (sorry it's blurry, I took this while riding)

I took a lap, went to register and do another lap - this time with Dave. At the top of the mountain it started to rain. No problem - I was going to wash my bike anyway...Just hope the cell phone in my pocket is ok. Then I got to the top of the bone jarring mega-long descent. And it poured. Hard. Uh oh.
Suddenly I heard all around me the squeak of people breaking, then no more. Everybody was off their bikes walking, the trail was a bit more like a stream, the wood bridges were more slippery, and I couldn't see through my glasses. And I had a cell phone in my jersey pocket, and I didn't want to miss the team dinner. Time to get out fast!
After that descent, I was confident for the race, loved my new tires, and had adrenaline surging through my body, a very quick shower and then I got to choose my dinner attire for this fine evening of condo living in Mont Tremblant. How about....My favourite suit? Tighty whities. Nice. Those may have been a bit too much? Or just a promise of how awesome the rest of the weekend will be. Everybody knows there's a direct correlation between tight men's underwear and awesomeness. It's why I'm such a champ! Food was great, company was weirded out, and I was treated like a garbage can who just eats everything nobody else wants, that's ok though!
The morning of the race started out with a small issue - we had not gone shopping, so I had no breakfast. Oh well, at least the weather was beautiful! No rain like last night, and the trails were likely to drain well. But good weather doesn't feed me [directly]. So I went knocking on condo doors. Oatmeal? Cereal? I heard that frosted flakes are great! How about waffles? Pancakes? Sausages rolled in pancakes fried in bacon grease? And baconaise? You never know what you'll get knocking on doors asking for food! Oh the possibilities!
I got quinoa. Plain quinoa. Well it's high in calories, protein, and quick to eat. Nice!
My breakfast campaign up the street

Still nervous for the race, I was feeling pretty primed up. Sitting front line at the start I made friends with a random guy from Quebec! Pace was pretty quick off the start up the mountain, and even though we bottlenecked into the first singletrack, I couldn't sing a tune this time, trails are tough - not like Ontario. I was sitting comfortably in the second "train" of riders through the singletrack, squeezing passes in where I could and getting upset that the front train was gapping us. At the top of the hill we came up to a muddy corner, that if you cut to the left, there was a drop of a few feet into a mud puddle - but a more direct line (I had done it the day before no problem). Everybody was taking the wide line out to the side, which made me more confident in my standing in the long run for the race, and I figured that cutting the corner - though more dangerous - would gain me at least 3, maybe 4 positions.
On the line

As I was going down the mucky hill to the drop, I was leaning my bike, and looking at the landing - a pit of unknown depth and composition. Taking the risk did not pay off. I went down a drop at an angle into a mud puddle, and flatted my front tire. The first thing that I thought was that I "burped" my tire (the bead of the tire had come out of it's place in the rim). This should be fixable...Just need to reseat the bead and get some more air into the tire! So I popped open my CO2 canister, was thankful for the ideal gas law, releasing the compressed CO2 into the tire – with no luck. Either mud had gummed up my tire, or my problem was bigger than I was hoping. That’s okay though, I always have a backup plan. I reached into my pocket for my spare tube, rolled it out, and then went to get the tubeless valve stem out of my wheel. It was stuck. I had jimmied it together to hold the air in properly before the first Ontario Cup, and thought nothing of it – proud I was able to get everything to seal up properly. I spent a good 5 minutes trying to get it out, then realized that I needed some better grip on the valve stem from behind. Some quick thinking and I remembered about a skinny L shaped allen key on my nice new tool, and after another minute of trying to jam and grip the valve stem but I got it out, and changed the tube just as my friends were coming up the hill to spectate the race. Luckily I brought two canisters of CO2, and cracked the second one to fill up the tube...Which didn’t fill up so high. I would guess at 15psi in my front tire. Oh well, just ride much more conservatively than I would have before, and try to somehow not flat out in Quebec – somehow.
See the guy bent over in the mud not racing? Yep..that's me.

This poor underinflated tube lasted about 10 minutes – just long enough for me to do all of the climbing of the first lap – until I popped it. I had no resources to fix my bike and suffered the second DNF (did not finish) of my life, after going all of the way to Quebec for the race.

It’s not as though the trip was all for naught though! A great time was had doing way too much fun stuff that I could never dream of putting on the internet - but I’m just that anybody who asks would get some pretty good stories! 
A real broment with my buddy John, there were many, many more that weekend 

There’s nothing quite like a good road trip or a race in Quebec, and last night my buddy called me up with the idea of going to Mont St. Anne on Canada day to race the relay (DH rider and XC rider, doing as many laps as they can in an allotted amount  of time). Last time I checked that race had a $1000 purse to it...Hmmm.