Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

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!