Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ontario cup 2, delayed report and more!

Been at a lot of stuff this past little while! After the camping trip, and Ontario Cup number 1 my poor bike had some scratches! Scratches just won't do on a steel bike, the bike will begin to rust. So I needed some touch up paint! Being a student, I was not in the position to buy real paint. So I got some nail polish and patched it up. This was much harder than it sounds. Gotta be just the right colour, right? So my roommie Colin and I made a trip to the mall, he wanted a yoga mat and tennis racket (I know, does it get more feminine?), and I wanted my manly nailpolish (fixin' shit is manly). Colin was a solid one stop shopper, but I dragged us all around the mall to all of the little girl stores to check for the best colour. This involved going to stores, painting a nail, and going to the next store to paint the next nail and compare them. Shoppers drugmart which was on my thumb was best.

Though there are a few problems with being a guy who has nail polish on his hands. First of all, EVERYBODY has to comment on it and ask if you know it's there.
"Oh gosh, nail polish on my hands? Well it's more likely than you think, I pissed off my girlfriend and she likes to sneak attack my fingers when I sleep."
What are you expecting me to say?
The true story of fixin' my manly was badass any way, and I just got the "you care that much about a bike" look, it happens.
The next problem being a guy with nail polish is that I really don't have any nail polish remover. So it was more than a week of comments on my nails, but I went home for the weekend and my wonderful mother commented, was concerned, and fixed it up. Good old acetone!

With the bike all set, and some *patchy* orange patches on the bike I was ready for Ontario Cup number 2:  Woodnewton. Woodnewton is a course that I had never ever been on; its debut was in the summer that I didn’t race but I heard that it wasn’t a great course. Very little flow and two big hills, bad for a 29er, but you win some you lose some. It can’t be that bad, right?
The latter bit of the week was a bit concerning. It became clear that the race was going to be a sludgefest, mud mud mud. Last time I was racing I had built a whole repertoire of tires for all conditions,  so a muddy race was uncomfortable, but if I was in the mood to handle my bike properly I could even gain an edge on the competition.  With my new 29 inch wheeled bike came new tires. I only have 3 sets. A set of Hutchison Pythons (I hate these), a set of Schwalbe Furious Freds (semi-slick and no volume, not good for mud or rocks, or wet), and a set of cyclo-cross tires (road tires with knobs). Nothing here is good for mud.  Or wet of any sort, especially wet rocks.
I thought long and hard about my tire choice, and decided to go with a bit of a risky strategy: the cyclocross tires. I could justify this decision with the idea that skinny tires will sink to the bottom of the mud, not be wishy washy through the top of the mud, seems valid, right?
Friday my buddy Alex and I went to the course to check it out, and I had a pretty ridiculous looking bike: almost the biggest mountain bike you’ve ever seen with tires from the road department. This was what I had, nothing gained, nothing ventured right? Also what are my options? None.
skinny tires, big bike!

The course was in fact pretty sweet, flowwy and lots of double track – good for a guy who is taking a huge gamble on tires, with a new bike that he’s not quite used to riding, with a 29 inch wheelset. The problem was that there were also “rock gardens” (a field of rocks put into the trails to add a tough dynamic to the trail) and I would almost definitely flat my tires riding them on this terrain, but I didn’t have a choice.
The end of the course had a 20-20 foot down hill rock garden that was convenient for spectators to watch, and had big rocks. I was terrified of knocking myself over the handlebars and hitting my head on the rocks, ending up dead. Also I didn’t want to get a flat tire (a huge risk with the tiny little tires I had on), and I didn’t want to look like a JIT (junior in training). This would be a killer for the race. 
Volkswagen van packed tight for the roadtrip home and to the races!

Saturday I got home to Bracebridge to see my family, and was relieved when my buddy offered me some tires! A knobby high volume front, and a fast rear tire. After thinking long and hard, I threw the big  knobby one up front, and decided to keep a ‘cross tire in the back. The cross tires propelled me well, they just didn’t stick in the corners, but the knobby front tire is for that.
 After a bit of a hectic weekend at home, and a very unnerving day of riding with flat tires and trying to seal them tubelessly, I was just going to take the race in stride. No expectations, I mean how could I? My tires were ridiculous, my sleep was still lacking, I felt unprepared, and it was a course that lends itself to flat tires, especially for a guy with a ‘cross tire (which is pretty uncomfortable when inflated to 60 psi). So I went with a smile on my face, got a new kit (team uniform), and even though the weather was awful,  was smiling on the start line! Who cares! It’s just a race!
An unfortunate discovery before the race that the tire choice did indeed not grip mud

On the start line, I got unlucky seating-but the false flat start should spread the group out a bit, and I wasn’t worrying about things any way. Looking around, I realized that this was my first time racing with my buddy Simon in an Ontario cup ever, and was pretty scared of his speed. Just as the race was getting started, the announcer started to sing
“Down by the bay, where the watermelons grow, back to my home, I dare not go. For if I do, my mother will say have you ever seen a _______ with a ______, down by the bay!” [repeats forever]
I was unhappy about this silly song getting stuck in my head, and sitting out in the rain and complained heavily, but that didn’t start the race any sooner..
Tucked back in there, complaining on the start line makes me happy!
The pack spread out a bit as the race started, but once we reached the singletrack, it was a major bottleneck. Slow riding. Time to sing.
“Down by the bay, where the watermelons grow, back to my home, I dare not go. For if I do, my mother will say have you ever seen a _______ with a ______, down by the bay!”
I sang for a few minutes as we went through the singletrack and jumped on the pedals as soon as we were out, making passes and smiling the whole way! By the end of the first lap I was in pretty good shape and in good position, as I came up on the big rock garden I felt like, why not? Let’s do it! Bad and humiliating idea, I messed up and had to run my bike through the spectators favourite section, lesson learned.
Covering up my folly with a smile for the people!
  On the way out for the second lap the track was slow and swampy. One precarious spot was a wet bridge over a creek that was surrounded by mud on both sides. I watched the guy ahead of me to judge where the sweet spot through the ruts would be, I noticed he was off balance. Yes, yes, come on....”YES!” [he fell in the water..hilarious!] The worst is that as the whole ordeal was happening I was cheering him into it...
The rest of the race I just kept it up in a solid groove, really enjoying the course, the conditions, and my bike! This was the first time I really felt at one with my new big wheeler.  As I passed by my buddies they were yelling at me to race and stop smiling, I just flipped ‘em the bird and told them it was a great day for a bike ride!
Smiling and speeding through the hills!
And up the hills!
There was a little mishap on lap 2, but I kept smiling and took a minute to fix my stuff, I had been riding well, so I was sure I would catch the 4 or so guys back that passed me.  I crossed the finish line not with a last effort, but a huge smile and was content with my performance, and absolutely apathetic about what my actual position ended up being. (11th though, not bad!). Tremblant next weekend, the Canada cup, May 2-4, and an epic roadtrip. Living the dream!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Is this camping, or University?

So I just got back from this week of camping out of farms and bird monitoring stations out on the Bruce Peninsula, wow. The first day of class we filled out this "tell me about yourself", I opened with a solid picture:
and said that I liked bikes and tight underwear. I answered the last question (What do you hope to gain from this course?) with "I hope to learn some new skills in the field, and to make some great friends camping along the way!
Did I ever! The group of 14 was divided into 2 caravans, I was in the red one with Cameron, Bailey, Elisabet, Hilary, Shannen, and sometimes Angela. Every good travel vehicle needs a name (I got very attached to my partner Henry the pickup truck one year), and it's awesome to have something to bring the van together - to improve the group dynamic! I threw out the name the General, after the General Lee, I'd say that the significance is pretty evident:

The name was adopted with great enthusiasm, we even had a controversial flag. I spent basically the whole week with Cam and Shannen, it was alright, I guess. Cam has a ridiculous sense of humor, and we would just build on eachother until what we were saying was no longer discernible to others, or if they knew what they were saying, they were in a laughing fit. That guy was hilarious, though most of what we said if you missed the start of our conversations, you would think we were rambling on completely inane discussions. Shannen is a bit like the female version of me, it's scary. But of course we hit it off huge because I love myself, that's how cyclists are, right?

The week was full of adventures, hiking waking up early, staying up late, board games, card games, and a bit of drinking too. The first day at our cabin up at the top of the peninsula was a great adventure! I ran along the beautiful beach of rounded rocks (being careful!) to the next settlement up. I didn't do it fast (you couldn't, the ground was way too unpredictable), and it was full of cool washed up stuff and the Niagara Escarpment came  almost the whole way down at one point. I decided to go spelunking up a crevice (spelunking is cave diving please don't mistake it for the first Urban Dictionary definition). The crevice/caves were a whole new microcosm, mossy and damp, with bits of snow, and I was looking around in awe when I heard something move within the cave. Normally I'm not afraid of bears, but this is the kind of place where a bear would feel trapped and need to fight it's way out. So I reverse spelunked back to the beach and kept it going down the beach.
The next morning my old housemate Erin wanted to get out running at 6am...Why do I do these things again? Shannen left in the opposite direction at the same time, and we got bored of running the beach after about 2 minutes and ran down the road after Shannen who was standing on the flooded bit of the road (about 1.5feet of icy water), she started to ask what to do, but I just led the charge right through the water. The other two followed. We ran on some dirt road, and attempted to go down some flooded trails, but after 100m of running on flooded trail I was sick of it! My feet never got numb! They just stayed really cold! Ended up doing 1 hour run in the morning and 2 hour bike at night, brr.
The best day that I had was at Tobermory, a day of free range hiking, spelunking, and climbing! Amazing times with amazing people, hilarious too! My buddy came and I were particularly prestigious that day, full of scientific discussion of snails, and risking our lives for each other rock climbing!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Back on the Ontario Cup circuit!

Well there it went! My first O-cup race back! Wicked times! Were they wicked good? I guess so. Wicked painful? Yep. Wicked awesome? Of course!
Woke in a sleeping bag up on a mattress pad in the middle of my room surrounded by bikes. Checked out my new kitchen and pulled out the steel cut oats. Went to the stove, crap. No elements? That's unfortunate. How about the microwave? Surely all is not lost! Nope, I guess we don't have one of those yet either. Hungry, and knowing that it's a good idea to eat breakfast before a race I got a devious idea...The apartment downstairs! Is the door locked? Nope. Are there people sleeping? Yep. After a quick cost-benefit-analysis I decided I had best eat something, so I went downstairs and started cooking. My new housemate Colin woke up too, so I cooked him some breakfast and we had sat in an empty room eating. Good stuff! Looked around the house, made plans and got stoked about the new place!
Upon arrival at Mansfield there were raindrops on the windshield, but nothing big. As soon as we parked I tried to get out of the van, but I was in the back seat. There were child locks. And I had to pee. That was a quick scramble to the bush as soon as I got let out. I then suited up and looked for the Cycle Solutions team tent, dropped off my bag of feeds, and registered for the race. While registering I looked out the window at where I had perched my beautiful new ride, and saw a few people really looking at it! I looked back a minute later and a few more people had gathered! Nice! Sponsorship is deserved! That bike is pretty, and wow she rides well! I walked back out to get my bike and a few guys just kinda walked away awkwardly...hahaha
Then I went over to say hi to my good friends and sometimes major support crew the Batty family. They're basically a family of very talented cyclists. All pros. I had trained with Eric before, and am excited to still be in touch!
I saw a lot of friends before I got to warm up, it was super nice to be back on the circuit! People were really happy to see me back into racing, and I was greeted by smiles all around! I missed these people and the atmosphere here a lot. I had a quick discussion with my coach (who deserves his own full blog post - so he's remaining unnamed for now), and asked if it was good that I didn't feel too strong today. "Well, you're using this one as a training race" Oh, okay. So my legs are supposed to feel the burn really hard this week? Uh huh..Well this year is more of a build year for the future anyway.
This is more my fault than the fault of over training though - I'm running on an average of about 4 hours of sleep a night this whole week, with the move from house to house going on I've been BUSY. This means as I kept training hard, I didn't rest hard, and I fell behind a little bit in where I should be...But that's life! Otherwise it had not rained yet, and I was still quite confident in my abilities!
After a good warm up, I went over to the start line, and my corral was totally full! The guys in my category were all lined up way too early! This meant that I would have a bad seating, which could be detrimental up the first huge hill climb. Luckily I'm pretty sneaky and creative, and realized that as they opened my corral to let everyone go from the holding area to the start line, I could just sneak in through one of the other corral entrances. Sweet. Devious.
The race started, and I went off hard. For about 100m. Then I realized that wow. This was a crazy testosterone driven pace, that I would refuse to keep up the whole way up the first hill, I had 35km to prove my speed in the race, why blow up in the first one? So I held back, pedaling up the hill, still with a searing pain in my legs that I refused to acknowledge. We reached the top, spread out already. I got into the first piece of singletrack on my own, but quickly caught the train right ahead of me, and made passes here and there. But they weren't easy. Would this pace seriously be kept up the whole race? Or is it just the typical way of the senior-expert racers - first lap of testosterone and then settling in? Wow it's been a while. How do you pace? How do you eat? How do I race this brand new bike? Better find that out soon.
I kept pace with the pack on the first lap, keeping an eye on all of the attacks and accelerations and just calmly pedaling my bike along. I noticed some funny things today, firstly I wasn't doing as good of a job of handling my bike as I did while pre-riding, and my chain was dropping without being prompted, and then not shifting back up! That's annoying...Better keep the bike in the big ring...
The first lap was a bit of a mad race, and in the second lap I settled in a little bit, and lap 3 just sucked. By that point I was hardly able to propel myself up any hills. Seriously, I either wanted to throw up or walk, but mostly both. Was this due to poor race diet? Poor fitness? Tired legs? Or some combination thereof. Lap number three was a good time of reflection, I was still passing people, but man I was working. Maybe my expectations of myself are a bit high, considering everything? This is not a good way to think in a race. By lap 3 I was coasting a lot more too, having a sore back from sitting and pedaling through everything without rear suspension, but the new bike railed the trails nicely! Lap four was a sufferfest, and I was in a bit more of a survival mode than the usual last kick that I used to put out. The last stretch of the lap I noticed my buddy coming up behind me. Dave, he's quick. Also Dave is on a 26 inch bike from xprezo, which was a different shade of orange. He ended up catching me, and passing me at the top of the last downhill, after which I just had a flat section and a bit of a chicane course through a field till the finish line. By this point I had realized that I had no power left in my legs, and was content to ride behind him and see what happened.  I guess that I looked too comfortable, because spectators were yelling at me that I was basically being stupid by not passing him. So I did, and we rolled up to the last little straight before the finish line neck in neck.
I don't lose a race at the end like that. That would be just silly. I refuse to lose a position in a final sprint after holding it for so long.
But Dave inched ahead of me coming out of the corner (it's those light little 26 inch wheels! acceleration!)
I had my hands on my bar ends, and cranked my bike into action. I beat him by about 3 inches. Then we collapsed into each other and were given chocolate milk. Race done. wow.
Later my Aunt Kim (who surprised me by showing up at the race!) asked why we rode across the line together hugging, and whether that was allowed? This comment made me smile! I explained the situation, and that I was actually closer to vomiting than winning that sprint, but just got lucky.
Looking forward to continuing my race career, there's nowhere but up to go from here!
It's now 12:30 at night and I have to pack up for a week out on the Bruce Peninsula! Which is exciting, but I just want to sleep!
Photo courtesy of my good friend Carly! Who also had a great race today!