Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Monday, April 30, 2012

My first race ever with Trek!

As far as I could tell, everything was lined up well for the first race, I had even filled my water bottles up the night before leaving (I get a fresh bottle every lap). I know that I got to bed late, and I woke up about four times the night before thinking “TODAY’S THE DAY.” and realized it would be 2am or something and I just had to pee. Morning came and I fueled myself with my favourite pre race meal (a giant bowl of oatmeal and eggs mixed into a big paste), and I even had my stuff together when Alex and his Dad came to pick me up. This would have to be my day, no excuses, right? My Mom, brother, aunt, cousin, and girlfriend would be there to support me, as well as the Trek Bicycles tents, and Barry who brought me a few things from the store. I was resolute to try my best, and most importantly not to be disappointed with myself. I’m new to the Elite racing game anyways so this race is a learning experience!

The elite men's startline, photo stolen from my buddy James 

Once the race started, I took my spot where I thought that I belonged; dead last. We proceeded to climb straight up the hill (a daunting task in a five lap race), and by the top I was second last, riding in a long train of riders. This was the plan; move up if I can, and finish the race – after all, I’m not really a pro. 

Hanging off the back, where I thought I belonged - didn't want to get in the real pro's way!

While riding at the back of a train of riders I quickly realized something; I was not in control of my own riding, I was riding slower than I would normally, and with much less efficiency. Obviously it would be advantageous to not be the “caboose”.  Throughout the first lap I made my passes here and there, and was ecstatic to pass any elite rider. By the end of the first lap, getting ready to head up the big hill at the start of every lap I was happy with my position, but could see a big group of riders further up with some notably fast boys in it, how was I still so close to them?

I always wanted an excuse to wear my mom's pink Trek cycling hat from the 70s, unfortunately
I forgot to take it off before the race, and raced looking like a bit of a clown!
(Photo by Carly Wilson)

By the end of that giant uphill I had passed every single guy that I could see on the hill, and a few had dropped off the group. I did get pretty breathless on the way up, but now it was my turn to lead the train, which proved advantageous indeed. Throughout the second lap, I was riding my pace in the singletrack, and hauling through the doubletrack. I learned to control the train of riders behind me, and spit a few “cabooses” off the back too. 

Leading the train, sticking out my tongue or something, and controlling my race.
(Photo by Carly Wilson)

The only thing that I was unsure of (which became highly evident in the third lap) was that I had clearly not hydrated properly! Every time that I would stand up and bend my knees to absorb the bumps jumping or the terrain beneath me, the tops of my quads would lock up (it felt like a paralyzing foot cramp searing up my quads). Though I finished off the water in my remaining bottles every lap, I could not shake the phenomenon; at one point, the guy riding behind me said
“I’m afraid of cramping..”
To which I replied
“I am cramping!”
“Uhhh. I’m afraid of cramping too”
I figured it would be a pretty bad idea to tell competitors of a weakness like that!

Quick little action shot, can you see where the trail comes from?

By midway through the third lap I was a couple turns ahead of the next guys back, and there was nobody in my sights ahead of me. At the pace I was going, I would possibly widen the gap between me and the guys behind, but I thought that as long as they could still see me ahead, they would keep their attack and likely reel me back in.
The turning point of the race was one quick instant! As a tactic to get far out of sight from the guys behind me, went full speed on a downhill with a very tight, loose corner and lost it. I fell pretty hard, and at the bottom of a steep hill too. By the time that I had remounted my bike, I was being passed by the guys behind me. By the time I had myself moving at a respectable pace again, they were far away up the trail. I did not chase. I was in a better position than I thought I would be capable of, and I was sure that I could beat one of the riders at least anyway (which I did); it was not worth risking my race, or taking the risk of another head injury because I got too caught up and started riding poorly. So I dialled back my effort 5-7% and sat in to ride my own race out. I certainly missed having guys to pace with, but catching them back would burn too much of my energy!

Red is my heart rate (a good indication of my effort) and green shows course profile

I'm totally happy with my results; 22nd in the race overall, counting the out of province guys. I had a great time, and am totally amped for my second season back on the bike! Thanks to all of the readers of my blog, my friends and family that come out to my races, Barry and Trek, and every single person that cheers me on during races, YOU ARE THE BEST!!

Getting to the finish line, in no apparent rush, and with a blissful grin on my face
a good day's work, and job well done!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A winter's worth of preparation, and my first race with Trek!

So here it comes, time to see how hard I’ve really been working and how will I stack up against the rest of the elite category for Sunday’s Ontario Cup. The race will be at Mansfield outdoor center, and this year I’m lining up with the big boys; the elite division. It’s crazy to think that two nights from now it will all be over and racing season will have officially started, but until then that’s all that I can think about…Of course I’m nervous!
I got my bike all cleaned, tuned and ready for the race on Friday, and today (Saturday) I went to ride the course. I was ecstatic with the weight of my bike (I know it seems like a petty thing to worry about, but it’s nice to have a light bike!). The only change I did from the stock build on the bike was to add bar ends, and white bar tape as grips, then put my old super light race wheels on the bike.

According to my housemate's luggage scale, my bike is just over 22 lbs!

My bike is ready, it’s clean, works well, and likes to go fast. Now, time to check out the course! Mansfield is an outdoor center on the side of a massive hill, so naturally there is a lot of climbing in the course. I have to say I love it (the course, not the uphills!) though! The course caters to speed demons, and there are almost no sections that are very technical. The hardest thing to do on this course is decide exactly how fast you want to throw your bike into the corners (and my new Trek Superfly Elite is a fast bike, it likes to go fast, and it takes me through those corners at alarming speeds). Last year I somehow managed to top out at 66 km/h during the race (if cycling computers are to be believed).

If computers are to be believed, I was going VERY fast in those trails

An alarmingly hilly profile with (unbelievable?) speeds

You can see from the course profile that I did 3 laps today and there are some monster up and downhills! I did the math, and we will be climbing more than 900m over 5 laps…Not bad at all for an Ontario Cup!
We’ll see how it goes tomorrow, I’m sure it will be a great race to build up from, and I look forward to the challenge! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Two weeks till race season!

I went to the big city the on the weekend to finish getting ready for the season and get my bike fitted to me at the Trek Store. I got down to the store and set up with the bike fitting center that’s right in the Trek Store. Barry (the store owner, and pretty much Santa Claus) set me up on a bike trainer and proceeded to take out levels and allen keys and got me pedalling. Within about 2 seconds he declared that my left leg was shorter than my right, and I still don’t know what to think about that! Next he raised my seat and moved it around and made sure that the angle of the seat no more or no less than 2 degrees (nose down). After seeing the gargantuan length of my arms Barry disappeared downstairs for a minute and came back up with a sweet white full carbon Bontrager XXX stem (12 degree, 110mm for the bike nerds), which was the coolest part that they had in the store for sure! It turns out that I’ve been riding with my seat way lower than I should (probably about 3 inches); which means I’ll put down more power and be more efficient now, but manoeuvrability is a little compromised. After setting me all up on the bike Barry had one more thing for me: my 2012 Trek kits! (which is really just technical jargon for spandex suits) I’m so happy about the colours and designs. They look AWESOME!

Tuesday was my first opportunity to show off the sweet new kit at the Speed River Cycling Club weekly hammerfest! I showed up at the meeting spot where there were about 10 of us grouped up. There were one or two comments on my new kit, but mostly the guys just thought I looked dumb because I didn’t bring any warmers with me. Apparently the temperature would drop to 3 degrees by 8...oops! The first Tuesday ride with the Speed River Cycling Club was...unreal.

Naive of the pace of the ride and the temperatures that were about to happen

I’m pretty sure that I cried the entire time. The group may have started out as a 10 person group, but there were only 5 survivors, and that’s all that I could do to end with them; survive. There were solid chunks of that ride that were greater than 50km/hr speeds (and I’m not talking about just downhills).

"Superfly Elite" my partner for the year!

My first ride on the newly fitted (and now personalized) Superfly (I know, best name ever for a bike, right?) was much more pleasant. When getting a new bike, there is a learning curve involved (so if you’re not feeling confident on your bike yet – don’t worry about it, just practise!), but I think that curve is far behind me! I can say that I will confidently ride that bike as fast as my legs will take me (which I hope is pretty fast!), and with confidence on the trails. I love my new bike, and things like the tapered head tube and front thru axel make that a notably stiffer bike than one would expect! I know that the bike nerds will judge the photos of my “customized” rig, so I’ll address that now. Bar ends are meant for gaining more leverage on your bike while sprinting and hill climbing, and yes, those bars are 680mm (really wide). I realize those are the most hipster bars that will likely be on the race course with the 12 degree sweep, bar ends, bar tape, and mega wide stance – but I had the bar ends so I threw them on! It was only after the fact that I realized I have a redundantly huge amount of leverage over my bike with the wide/bar ends combo. Maybe I’ll retape mid season, but I think it looks great and is comfy so I’m not messing with it now!

My other Trek kit, and newly fitted bike!