Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

They were our biggest rival, but now..

Well, it's been a while – probably close to the longest period of time that I've spent since creating my blog that I haven't updated it, and for good reason! Last post described my life in Algonquin, which was great! I have since got back to the same nomadic lifestyle of spending a week here, a few days there, working and trying to keep fit – but with a difference – in January I'm settling down. Settling down for two years! I'll be living in Kingston, ON doing my Master's in Civil Engineering at Queen's University. That's right Mike and Dave, two more years of University Cup racing, and now I can harass the Queen's University team from the inside. I'm super stoked to be working with the Queen's team.
   But I can't forget where I came from

Because Guelph Cycling are the classiest folks I know

I'll have to teach the Queen's team a bit about cheering

And I'll never forget the first time we won the University Cup
And I'll always miss Moe Hill repeats

Before I get too lost in nostalgia and start crying I'll finish with saying who wouldn't want to be part of such a good looking team?
And of course excited for cross training with this guy

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ontario Cup 6, Germany, and Algonquin

Ontario Cup #6
Well, it’s been a while – the last time that I wrote in here would have been after the Nationals race at Hardwood, and since then a LOT has happened (which has also had a great influence on my racing).  First and foremost, I finished my work off at the farm and had my first trip to Europe! Tori and I both went to Germany for an interview actually (the company brought us over, and the understanding is that we are a bit of a package deal). This was an awesome experience; Southern Germany is so beautiful, and the food and beer is both plentiful and great. Unfortunately for my cycling however, I spent much of the time with company engineers drinking beers and no time on the bike.  We left Germany on a Tuesday, and that night I went to bed in Algonquin Park (one serious day of travelling).

They even rolled out the red carpet at our hotel in Germany!

Now I’m in Algonquin working a 7 week contract with the Ministry of Natural Resources living at the Harkness Fisheries Research Station.  Harkness is kind of like staying at a 5 star rustic resort; food is always cooked for me, I live in a little cabin in the bush on Lake Opeongo (the largest lake in the park), and they actually pay me to go hang out in a boat all day! The work I have been hired for is fisheries netting, currently we are doing a broad scale monitoring program which involves putting out and pulling in 18 or more nets every day. This means throwing out and pulling back into the boat sometimes more than 100m of rope attached to about 80m of nets (which is tough on the hands!).  A basic day at Harkness is: Breakfast at 7am (which is cooked), pack lunch and fill boat with gas by 7:30-8:00, net till 6ish, come back and eat, then camp fires, slack lining, euchre, running, or riding. Unfortunately again for my cycling, the food here is very good, I spent the first week and a half without my bike, and there really aren’t many trails that I’m allowed to ride on in the park. But I’m quite comfortable and happy here!

With fish geeks like Claire
Living on a Lake in our own little cabin village.

And from time to time going on flights in planes with ridiculous names like the "Turbo Beaver"

This past weekend was Ontario Cup number 6 at Duntroon, and was the first ride over an hour and a half that I had in 3 weeks, which also followed a 2 week hiatus from my bike. I have one great picture to sum up what happened:

That is the look of pain and determination on my face, because it sure took a lot of both to finish that race. Temperatures were a scorching 30 degrees (compared with Algonquin Park which has been cold enough for me to layer up to 4 layers while working), and the race was a doozy. Very hilly, and fairly technical, with creek crossings, big rocks, and tight trees. Normally I wouldn’t consider this a very technical course, but in my current state of not having ridden bikes, I was hitting my bars off trees, and not really riding as fast as I know that I am capable of at all. To compound things, my poor, shocked legs were spasm-ing for 4 laps out of the 5 lap race, ceasing up a lot. On the bright side, however, my bike worked flawlessly, I had some great fun on the trails again (finally), and they had cool features like this
The best part of every lap

As well as uncool features like this
My face looks worse than my rear at this point.

It wasn't my best race, but I finished a great personal trial, and have a couple of weeks to build toward Provinicals and see what kind of result I can scrounge out of a bit of an unlucky season! Anyways, I start work in about an hour – Just another day in Paradise!

Always some great photos here

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nationals: A lot of racing

As anyone who's paid much attention to my blog lately will know, this past weekend was a big one for me; Nationals. The Canadian National Championships was held just north of Barrie, ON and included a lot of different events that I was able to take part in. I went into this weekend with a bit of a "last race of my season" mentality for a few reasons, one of which is my new job in Algonquin Park! Other, potentially bigger things are happening, but I don't want to broadcast that on the internet, anyone can ask me in person though!
As for cycling, however I started the weekend on a much different note than I ended on! The racing at Nationals for me started on Thursday the 18th at the XCE or Cross Country Eliminator race. The idea of this race is to have riders go out in waves of 4 on a course that is only a couple of minutes long and has open, flat sections, then sudden highly technical obstacles that will cause a bottleneck. The course started on a flat, open wood chipped area, came through a big sweeping S-bend (which was for some reason hayed), then you had to either go around or hop a 2 foot tall log, ride through the forest for about 10 meters, go over some logs, then through some rocks (all tight trail), the course then opened up for a second before pitching riders off a stairset, through some trees, then up a rock nearly 4 feet in height. This rock was not too hard to make it to the top of, but you couldn't see the other side, which was basically a stairset of increasingly less wide rocks. The next section was a straight section with a bunch of small jumps, concluding in two large jumps, then a 1.5 foot drop around a corner and and straightshot to the finish.

I took the opportunity to race this with the idea of getting my poor performance in Sudbury out of my head. The race itself didn't turn out as I had expected; there was a qualifying time trial beforehand. I wasn't so excited about this, because I know that one of my strengths is to beat others to a bottleneck, and because it is always hard to gauge your speed without others to race against. This race was also less of a big deal compared to what else I had lined up so my strategy for the time trial was simple: hammer through the straight sections, and ride the jumps and obstacles conservatively. This didn't pay off however, and that was the end of my racing for Thursday. Though my racing was a bit of a bust, Thursday night was when I got over some of my biggest obstacles (mentally and on the course), and without this practice time on my own up the trail, I wouldn't have raced with the confidence that I did!

Part 2 - Nationals

By Saturday, everything was rolling in full swing at the Nationals course, exhibitions, tents, sponsors, and a big podium. The course was buzzing with excited spectators, and pro riders everywhere (Saturday is when the fastest riders race, followed by a more Ontario Cup type race on the course Sunday). As I got ready to race and started warming up, I couldn't help but to notice my company - Olympians, racers with reputations on the world stage, and so many riders with full trailers and support crews that follow them from race to race. It's pretty surreal to be competing at this level, but also a bit scary! Maybe I'd rather watch the pro race instead of race it? Time will tell I guess!

Looking down from the top of the jump course to the finish (taken from the Hardwood Ski and Bike Facebook page)

The race start was fairly typical for me - it happened too fast and I wasn't terribly well warmed up, so figures that I am riding in the caboose of the elite field, completely aware of the repercussions of what a bad start means. Because of my poor start, I was stuck behind traffic jams and unable to even ride my own pace (or the features of the course that I had practiced) for the first 2 laps (of a 6 lap race). I made back time on any open sections, particularly the start of every lap which is a long meandering slow hill. By mid way through my 3rd lap I had climbed the ranks to 25th or so - at Nationals! I was fighting a great race, and only gaining momentum until I had to stop and fix my bike for a couple of minutes...

Trying not to be too nervous and waiting for my call up
When I got back on my way I tried to push it like I was before, but 5 or more guys had gone by and as much as I hate to admit it, I lost a bit of my competitive drive. I hung in and kept plugging away racing my own race, but was pulled from the course going onto my 5th lap. In a race like this it is pretty normal; of the 40 starters, only 22 were allowed to go on their 5th lap. At least I could get the best of both worlds; race with the pros, then watch the pros! It was pretty cool to watch the end of the race as Canada (and the world's) top athletes went through the course on the same features that I had just ridden, awesome!

Concentration - looking down the trail

Up and over one big and intimidating rock! 
I took a lot more back from this race than people would think, and had a great time regardless of how I finished. It is awesome just to be in races of this caliber, the fact that I'm competitive at this level means a lot to me, so I don't focus so hard on results! As far as results go, I figure I slipped from 24th or 25th down to 29th by the end, but that's my absolute ranking in Canada! Cool! I fought a hard race and was competitive, which at the end of the day is all that really matters! My fan section was outstanding, thanks to all of the people yelling my name around the 6km loop, you were fantastic! I couldn't believe the support I got and even the next day people that I didn't know recognized me and said I did a really good job. Lastly, I'm happy that my technical skills were recognized, as I was told that I looked very under control and was dusting the technical sections of the course faster than a lot of guys who were riding them, and apparently not even everyone was riding the whole course and all of it's obstacles! I'm happy to have raced with the best, and to have raced my best.

This is a video of the fastest guys coming through one of the big rocks early in the race, even with the top pros we can see the "domino effect" of slowing, and that some guys still won't hit it! And we can see just how much Tori loves my buddy Kelsey, who is a total gentleman, and available, ladies!

Big thanks to Trek Bicycles and Trek Canada (Toronto/Barrie/Aurora stores) for not only supporting me, but for sponsoring such a major event! This is one of the reasons that I am so proud to ride with Trek

Friday, July 19, 2013

Building up to Nationals

This year, the nationals course is actually quite close to home - at Hardwood Ski and Bike which is just north of Barrie, Ontario! This is a top-notch facility that is home to a great development program, and as the name suggests, it is a year round facility with skiing in the winter. The trails here are taken care of and built by the Glenn (who doesn't need an introduction on the cycling scene), and are ridden and raced every week by a plethora of riders and range of age/skill levels. Glenn put lots of thought and effort into building the perfect nationals course, and the Elite (which at this level is almost synonymous with pro) course is full of action. The course is a 6km loop that doubles back on itself a lot, with tons of challenging obstacles, making this an incredibly spectator friendly and action-packed course; either the riders are climbing a hill or riding a technical section. The size of obstacles and technical toughness of these features however is leaving a lot of riders with mental blocks.
Personally, I was having some serious problems with these obstacles, and it affected me more than one would think. The features in question are two rocks that are big kickers that are about 2.5 feet tall. When I say kicker, I mean basically wedges that ramp you up that you have no choice but to jump off of. These are big features, but I knew that I had the skills to ride them. So why not? Why couldn't I just take the leap? The first one is the scariest, a really steep rock that pitches you right into the trees, but I should be able to get it. The fact that I wouldn't even try was bothering me and my affected my confidence deeply. I was simply disappointed with myself, which is a way I can't be before a race. Between these rocks and my burnt out state of fitness I was in a serious slump. In order to overcome these obstacles (which I knew were only in my mind) I just rode my bike through some of the faster and more technical sections, slowly boosting my confidence and handling skills back up.

We also set up a driveway ramp to all work together on these skills

But finally I got it

Getting over these obstacles was all that I needed to get me into shape mentally for the biggest race of my year, tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sudbury Canada Cup

This year has been quite a summer for me, if anyone has followed my blog lately it probably won't come as a surprise to hear that I had been a little nervous before my last race; the Canada Cup in Sudbury. Canada Cup racing is certainly a whole other step above any other racing that I do, the competition is fierce and people come early from across the nation to practice the course. These are the nation's top athletes, olympians, world cup racers, and the french. The aggression in the riders in races like these frightens me sometimes, and given how tired I am these days, I decided to get to Sudbury as early as I could. I arrived at Sudbury Thursday morning, set up camp (a friend of the family actually got me my own apartment). I'm lucky to have some great friends in town (the Wolfpack), and got out for plenty of riding on course.
The course itself is an amazing one, 6 km laps with tons of rock, one very punishing climb, and TONS of blueberries.

I was well prepared for the race in most every way, though admittedly a bit tired. The race start was chaos; 70 riders, with people jostling to have the best position. As one might expect, there was a big pile up probably 10 seconds into the race. My poor friend Matt's bike went flying about 10 feet into the air and everyone got jammed up. As I passed the the carnage I saw Matt looking around, dirty, bloody and confused looking for his bike. Of course I yelled at him where his bike is and seeing if he's ok but I doubt he heard. The usual pileups and bottlenecks happened in the first couple of pieces of trail but soon I was able to ride my pace. I wasn't moving quickly, but I ignored this in my head, refusing to think of how overtired I was feeling, but instead focusing on my strengths. As it turned out, my technical ability was gaining time through the descents and singletrack, but just wasn't enough to make up for my physical form. Though it was a 70 rider start, I raced the race on my own, wishing I had people to pace with. I fought a hard race, remembering a meaningful compliment that I received before the race
"You'll be fine Chris, I've seen you before, you're a fighter"
I fought my way indeed, and even when my bike started giving me troubles I was off, fixing it and back on board. But when it rains, it pours and unfortunately my bike began to act like a fixed-gear or a fly wheel and I could no longer coast. I tried my best to take apart the hub on the side of the trail, desperate to finish the race but with no luck. I was told though that I fought a great race, apparently always looking strong while coming through spectator areas, and I never really felt alone riding the course because of all of the spectators yelling my name/sponsors/race number.

steaming in for some water in the feed zone

I was lucky to race before my girlfriend this week and had a great time watching her and my friends race after me. We had practiced the course together and she was riding impeccably well - absolutely geared for a win! It was fantastic to see her coming through strongly every lap, and Tori took the senior expert women's field by over 12 minutes! All wasn't lost that day as I got to share the joy of a win with her and eat blueberries while watching it happen!

Wolfpack racing throws down with some big time results, local boys know it best!
Also U of G favorite up on the podium Will "the Shermanator" Clarke killing it!

Keep posted for more updates, the nationals XC eliminator is tomorrow, I've taken time right off the bike this week to hopefully get some rejuvenation in my legs and body - time to prepare for nationals!
Honourable mention to my car for rolling over 100000 this weekend!
is half a million too much to ask for?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Summertime update!

Summer 2013 has been an eventful and fun time, I've pushed myself to new challenges in more ways than just racing. In terms of races, I have had a great time camping out on the courses with my friends for the weekend (both at the Ontario Cup (broke my bike this weekend) and at the 24 hour race (which my team won)). Most recently I was pitted against extreme fatigue to finish a 60 km mountain bike marathon race in which I was stung by wasps twice on the shoulder, once on the lip, once just below my eye. This particular race was the breaking point for me it seemed as I had been working and riding and not sleeping well for the preceding weeks, I didn't know how I could keep my pedals turning. Another detail that compounded the issue was my losing a bottle on the second lap in 34 degree weather. I always say that I would rather finish dead last than not finish a race, and this one was pushing me hard, in the end, the real reason that I was able to finish the race is because I thought of all the support that I get. What I really mean by this is that every time that I'm in a tough place in a race, or thinking of whether to train or not in the rain, or whatever else may it be, I think of my blog, and the people that read this and send me messages. It shows a lot of support that you are just looking at this right now, and some of the private messages that I have gotten really mean a lot to me.

Looking confident on the start line
Not the same look on my face after the race

This brings me to the other bit that I alluded to above - I've been busy off the race course as well. Thursdays I spend riding with some really talented kids from the Collingwood area at Duntroon Highlands (which is also an Ontario Cup course). These guys rock! Thanks to Jen and Noelle for getting this program going and letting me tag along - I seriously enjoy coming and helping the kids to work on their bike skills. We practice different types obstacles and abilities, it is really inspiring to watch these kids try things that frighten them and watching them overcome these obstacles reminds me really what it's all about.

Lastly, the real way I've pushed myself out of my comfort zone recently is by taking some advice that was given to me - to do motivational speaking in some capacity. I went to a highschool in Vaughn and was incredibly well received by both the students and the teachers, while I made did two fifty minute presentations to over a hundred students on cycling, perseverance, and goal setting. I look forward to seeing where this goes in the future.

This weekend and the coming week are the two biggest races that I've got planned for the season; Canada Cup up in Sudbury, ON and Nationals at Hardwood Hills (north of Orillia). I am comfortable on the Canada Cup course in Sudbury, and have a great handle on most of the nationals course (though I've got some work to do still). Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mansfield Ontario Cup, great race with some bad turns!

Things certainly have changed a lot since the first Ontario Cup, and I mean big lifestyle changes; I am now a farmer! I work on a farm doing site cleanup (so not your conventional farming), which involves any mix of things to moving heavy metal and crates, fence removal, digging, and most importantly, driving things like backhoes and tractors. I’m now living in a chalet on the side of Talisman Resort, and my road bike is basically being ignored because of the abundance of trails and dirt roads (and SERIOUS escarpment hills).  This means that my life is basically perfect, though training after working or working after training has been tough – but I just try to work hard and ride harder!

For me, the race started Thursday as my girlfriend Tori and I went to help out in building a new trail section for the Ontario Cup, appropriately named the “Exit Wound”.  With less than 10 volunteers and a day of work, we had carved the craziest trail though the side of the hill complete with berms, drops (for the expert/elite categories only). The video below is a group of us riding the lap before the race, skip forward to about 10 minutes to check out the gnarly new stuff (though the whole video is pretty awesome, big props to Scotty Toucanlife for throwing it together so quickly)! In addition to helping out with trail building Thursday, I helped the race crew Friday, made some good friends while I was at it, and got out for a great dinner in Creemore (my first date with Sean Rupple, pretty special!).

Had a great time riding the course over the next couple of days with lots of buds, and got to feeling really comfortable and confident for Sunday's race, which is 90% of the battle. The day of the race came, and I felt calm, prepared, and showed up earlier than usual so that Tori could ride (she races in a separate race two hours earlier than my own). The first kink in the day arose when I was told that Tori would be finishing in a minute, what kind of guy would I be if I went off to do my warmup and didn't spare a minute? Besides, I love to watch her ride, and to cheer her through races! Unfortunately though, I missed her finish, missed my warmup, and nearly missed my race start. This lead to an incredibly poor start for me, and to those who don't know the Mansfield race course - it's a massive unforgiving hill.

Tori, going too fast for a camera to even catch properly (Jim Cassell Photo)

What should have been a confident race quickly descended into a panicked effort not to be the last man up the hill, and an embarrassing start for me. The laps were around 25minute laps for me, with two massive climbs, totaling in 200m of ascent per lap (times 5 laps makes 1km of total gain, which is insane for an Ontario Cup). My legs took about 2/3 of the lap to really warm up and have the blood flowing through them, and I was racing recklessly for the fist lap and a half, desperately trying to gain back positions that I had lost in my poor start. As I passed my buddy Mark Winfield who said I was having the race of my life, but soon reminded me to focus my riding (thanks dude!).

I continued into my third lap at a good pace, always hoping to catch more riders up ahead, but setting my own pace. In the elite section of the race course however, things turned for the worse. This section goes down the side of a steep hill with two log drops, followed by a berm and a rolling jump, then a 90 degree corner that shoots down an 8 foot rolling drop, and a double up root drop next to a tree.

Coming into the double up roots (Jim Cassel Photo)

The course by this time was getting rutted and I was still trying to work my way through the pack, carving my way and pushing hard into corners. Unfortunately I pushed too hard into the corner before the massive roller, and the tire "burped". Because I run tires without tubes on the inside (which gives you the advantage of more traction due to lower pressures), they can come off the rim, losing all of their air. This unfortunately happened to me just as I was going through the spectator area at the biggest drop, at which time I went OTB (Over The Bars). According to the kids that were watching I flew over the tape on the side of the course, somehow not even touching it, and had to scramble to get my bike, re inflate the tire, and hope that it holds air.
Picking myself up (more of this set here)

And picking up my bike
Less than 3 minutes later my tire was flat again, and I only had one shot of CO2 left to try to inflate it; things are looking grim. I took my time this time, inflating the tire with a CO2 canister and trying to spread the inner liquid latex solution of my tire around to clog the potential holes. By this time I had lost significant ground, and figured that my tires wouldn't hold air anymore anyway. But I have an old motto, I'd rather be DFL than have a DNF (rather Dead Freaking Last than Did Not Finish), so I chugged on, cautiously, on my iffy front tire. The best part about losing ground in a race at least is that you're passing people again, which sure feels good! This particular course was one that as I passed riders, they would ride behind me and gain momentum either by staying out of the wind in the wider trails, or almost getting sucked through the trails at my speed riding closely behind and following my lines. Either way there were many gentlemen who thanked me for letting them ride my tail, but who I dropped once the big hills came by. I felt great the whole day of the race, and didn't let myself be too bothered by the unfortunate events. I rode into a solid 18th place, actually my best yet Ontario Cup result!

Keeping it clean through the finish line turns

Blowing a kiss to my lovely girlfriend across the finish line.
Because in the end, this matters the most.

By the way, Tori had an outstanding race, coming in 3rd place in her category, and she's talking more and more about upgrading to the elite category and racing in the 1:30 race too!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Long Sock Classic

Weird name for a bike race, right? Why name a bike race the “Long Sock Classic”? Is it because only those with long socks are allowed to race? If so, how long must these socks be? Well, as anybody who has ever visited the Ganaraska Forest knows, there is a good reason for long socks. This venue is home to a thriving population of poison ivy, so in your complimentary race package is a set of excessively long bike socks, sweet!
The race itself is a 2 lap, 65km mountain bike race that spans the sandy, hilly acres of Ganaraska Forest, just south of Peterborough, Ontario. The race start shot us straight into a corner, then maybe a hundred metres before being shot into a twisty uphill bit of singletrack. My best buddy Alex Schmidt led out the race with his series leader jersey, and I was happy to catch his wheel after the singletrack. The next section was wide trail with lots of gradual uphill and Alex and I gapped off of the front of the pack. Alex set the pace so high that I couldn’t keep up, and soon found myself in a group of riders working with another guy to set the pace while Alex and one other were up ahead. Things were going well, and I was in front of the train controlling our pace through singletrack (still in the first 20 minutes of the race) when my shifting stopped working properly.

Sadly this is the only photo I have of the race, thanks Tori for everything else though!

I was confused, my bike is *perfect* and has had no problems whatsoever, then I realized it – my rear axel had come loose which meant that my derailleur had no solid point to pull from.  I had to stop and tighten everything up, by which point the guys that I was leading through the trail were gone. In my haste to try to catch back lost ground, I went flying off my bike and over the handlebars – resulting in a cut bleeding from my knee down to my socks. It was this point that I realized that though I had lost some ground, I have a long race ahead, and can’t afford to race and keep falling like that.

The next half lap was spent catching the guys back, with concerted efforts on all hills and conservative efforts in the technical bits. By the end of the first lap I was sitting comfortably in 4th. I maintained this position comfortably throughout the race, keeping a conservative pace, as it is the first long race this year.
Congratulations to Alex, you beat me fair and square in a long race!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Ontario Cup 1 - Woodnewton

This weekend was the first Ontario Cup of the season – a very nervous time indeed! The course was amazing with just the right amount of double track to space out the amazing singletrack. The venue was at Woonewton, and elite category is 5 laps with added technical sections; it’s a good thing that I got my new bike! This is the best partner someone could ask for during a race; the new Trek Superfly Elite SL (more on that later).
It was super nice to be back with my buddies that I haven’t seen since last season, and to really flex my legs for the first time this season. After pre-riding the course with the local legend Kelsey Krushel and following team Ontario Coach Mike Garrigan I felt confident in my handling abilities and my new bike.
The race itself was unlike any regular Ontario Cup - stacked category of 52 people, and pretty much a Canada Cup full of Quebecois racers. The start was hairy, I was stuck at the back, and as you could imagine the back of 52 super fast guys flying off into the trails. 

The race started out with a sudden burst, and I tried my best to make up because I was frustrated about starting at the back of the pack. I wasn't feeling great, but I thought that was all just me trying to find my race pace again. Unfortunately I was a little wrong. The first lap I threw down the effort that I would have been able to put out on a good day in Arizona, which I paid for dearly. Laps 2 and 3 were rough, I seemed to have no punch to my pedalstroke, and it hurt! Half the way through my third lap I threw the hail Mary - a double espresso caffeinated gel with 50mg of caffeine, just enough to get me through the race! 
I had always known that caffeine is a performance enhancer, but man does it have a strong effect on me because I don't drink the stuff.  Being my first mountain bike race (and one of my first rides) of the season, I found difficulties handling my bike with the speeds that I had even the day before.

Big congratulations to all the brave riders that went out to the first Ocup, and thanks for the Quebec guys for coming and making our Ontario Cup series a bit more fierce! 
Also big ups for Jon Slaughter, who really rode well in his first Ontario Cup since his broken neck (you may remember this post).

Never, Ever sprint with your tongue out like this...However you will win sprints if you do...(Jim Cassel picture)

Barrelling into a rock garden in the lap area, thanks to Lori Bailey for posting online

Great photo thanks to Lori again for posting online.

Spectator section rock garden, this claimed some riders and wheels. (John Fisher photo)

It's always great to see my longtime buddy John cheering me up the hill,
thanks for the photo and giving me something to smile about!

Kelsey's section of the course, gnarly stuff! (John Fisher photo)

Roller coaster ride! (John Fisher photo)

Friday, April 26, 2013

The least interesting start to the mountain bike season ever.

No serious, this is the least interesting kickoff to anybody’s mountain bike race season. Ever. Though it did start out promising...
Ironically due to the ridiculous prolonged winter this year, the Homage to Ice (kickoff race of the Ontario Marathon Series) was put off, making it the same weekend as the kickoff to the Eastern OntarioCup series. Both of these race series are hosted by Dan Marshall, who runs very friendly, fun races at relatively cheap entry prices (and the Marathons include free food afterward!), this makes them perfect for early calendar events, or introduction to racing!
Though I am a mountain biker and not a roadie, I found myself in an interesting situation this year, in a bit of a line for my new bike, and I’m actually a mountain biker who doesn’t have a mountain bike year round. With race season coming quickly, I had to figure out a solution. Luckily my great buddy Dave always has my back, and hooked me up with this beaut.

Singlespeed (no gears), fully rigid (no shocks), 29er (big wheels). This would take all I’ve got to race...Let alone race back to back days, but I’m always up for the challenge (plus with the upcoming Ontario Cup, I’d better start practising my mountain bike skills!).
Saturday was the day of the infamous Homage to Ice, one of the tougher bike races, typically marred by bad weather, long climbs, and the typical difficulties of the first race of the season. The course format is two 25km laps with a feed zone mid way through and one at the lap area, so I did what any guy with a fantastic girlfriend would do – packed snacks and asked my girlfriend to feed me. The day itself looked like a nice day, until the snow came! As I said in the first sentence of this blog writeup though, these are the least interesting races ever – so I’d better stop embellishing the story. About 45 minutes into the race, I realized that the only possible thing to go wrong with a singlespeed fully rigid bike had – the seat was coming off. I glanced down at my cycling computer and determined that I wasn’t far from the mid lap feed zone, so I could stop, grab food/drink, and fix my bike with Tori (my girlfriend). This was a bad idea as it turns out because the feed zone was far enough away that my seat rattled right off the post before I could get there. Before this point I was actually holding my own, in 6th position or so, jamming along some sweet trails, and feeling what it is to be on a mountain bike again! The seat however left me scrambling and searching through the leaves to find the pieces of the seat post that hold it on, and my hands quickly got numb. I kept calm and fixed myself up, but this pitstop cost me 15 minutes.

All smiles at the startline of the Homage to Ice!

No big deal, best 4/5 races wins the series, and I had another race to do the next day, so I set myself to joyride pace, and had a fantastic ride on the amazing course set out by Dan. As I worked my way back through the ranks (from dead last after the seat incident) I came across a lot of riders having a great time, including cycling’s proverbial rookie, and U of G favorite Rookie Dan (no really, look him up on Facebook – first name Rookie, last name Dan). Big props to Dan for taking such a huge race on (he rode full marathon length), it was a pleasure to hang and ride with him for a bit, but after some time with Dan I continued to work my way up through to the next friend in the race, who happened to be my old boss Dave. I love seeing Dave out at races because I feel partly responsible for his love with riding. I caught Dave, shared some food and we complained for a bit together, and then I was off up the trail once again. The next person I saw was my friend Lara, who is a total trooper! Lara broke her collarbone last year, and this was the first mountain bike ride since. When I came up on Lara she said she had gained a ton of confidence as the race progressed, but it was hurting a lot. We rode together and I was quite impressed with how well she could handle her bike downhill, but she needed a break after some time (I made sure to cheer her across the finish line though!).
Props on Guelph Teammates Alex Schmidt and Alex Lefebvre for 1st and 3rd place respectively!  I can’t wait for the next marathon!
Day two presented a technically challenging and shorter course, through the trails by Kingston. These trails are almost purely rock, roots, and small bridges over bits of swamp (with a couple of stream crossings). The terrain was fully of short steep uphills and was twisty enough that I had some serious trouble getting through on my singlespeed. Unfortunately, I had the wrong gearing for the race, which made each pedal stroke very slow, and felt as if I was lifting very heavy weights. Unfortunately, I was just not geared properly, and the only time that I made any ground was on straight sections of trail (which meant I only spent 10-15 minutes out of breath). Regardless, Tori had her first race of the season, and was looking strong! We had a super great time out at the East Ontario Cup and I can’t wait to do the rest of the races in the series (with my proper new bike...which I got today!).
Thanks do Dan Marshall for organizing such great races and fostering a super friendly environment, your race courses are amazing, and so are the volunteers that help out!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Inspired by

A buddy of mine has put an awesome website and video together here with a bike's life. Inspired by his photographs, here is a quick blip of my trip - from the bike's point of view. 
A hopeful departure from Canada

Left out on the roof

The afternoon off
Chased by shadows


Last Arizona sunset