Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Canadian National Championships

The past week and a half I've been travelling around with my lovely girlfriend and our bikes, with the goal of finishing inside the top 20 at Nationals. First we set off for Sudbury, which is close to 8 hours drive from where we live in Kingston. The visit to Sudbury was great, I got to hang with some of my all time best buds and the trails were phenomenal, my racing however left something to be desired. I was super strong in flat and uphill sections, but for some reason, I couldn't find my mojo in the rest of the course. Friends said that I looked strong technically through the descents and spectator sections, but I just wasn't going fast enough. To me, the bad race didn't really matter - I was having problems gripping my bars without my gloves, I had to get off and fix my bike once, and most of all, I felt strong again. Any uphill or flat section where I could lay down some good effort I accelerated away from riders nearby, this means that I was in good shape for Nationals 6 days later.
I got down south and practiced the nationals course until I had it pretty well dialed in. I would be racing the elite, 6 lap race at Hardwood Ski and Bike on what will be the Pan American course for the upcoming competitions in 2015. The course had a lot of really cool and intimidating features, and plenty of places to hurt yourself...
This may seem over the top, but it's great!

Unfortunately, Thursday night just before Tori was participating in the Eliminator race, I took a bit of a spill. I came at a feature called "Endo Rock" at a way higher speed than I should have and got off balance mid air. I crashed down about 20 feet after I took off, smashing my chest on my handlebars, and skidding my head along the ground until I hit a log. This left me gasping for air for what seemed like an eternity, and my helmet was cracked in 14 places. I managed to get back on my bike and ride it down the jump track somehow, to make sure that I wouldn't miss Tori's race. When I got there everybody could see that something was wrong; I had blood down the side of my face, my eye was swollen almost shut, I couldn't stand up straight, and breathing pained me a lot. I had the medics on my case right away, checking to see if I had broken my neck, and trying to get me somewhere more stable. I had to watch Tori's race, however so I was a bit of a pain for these guys. I agreed to get out of my spandex, sit down and ice my ribs, but I was not leaving the action until all of my friends had finished racing.
After the racing had finished, my girlfriend and her mother took me in to the big hospital in Barrie (about 20 minutes away), and this was an ordeal. They rushed me straight to the trauma unit, and took 3 vials of blood, got a urine sample, and hooked me up to IV. This was all even more complicated that it should have been because I was quite dehydrated, and the nurses had to work hard to get the needles and tubes into my small blood veins. But I was not allowed food or drink, so that's just that. I was like a child in the hospital, arguing a bit over the IV especially (I don't like morphine), but I've learned that nurses, no matter what, get things their way. This massive intrusion was because they were pretty sure that by the sounds of things I could have damaged my liver or other organs in the area.
All smiles all of the time
The doctor finally got me X-rayed and decided that my organs were fine. Upon looking at the X-rays he showed me what looked like a cracked rib, and explained that the x-rays that he used weren't the highest quality, so we can't really tell what's broken or not but he figured that I'd cracked a couple of ribs and done lots of damage to my cartilage and musculature in the area too. Turns out that they don't really treat cracked ribs anyway, so I just had to wait for a nurse to take my IV out and I would be on my way. The nurse was a no nonsense kind of girl, and when I made mention of the size of my IV tube, she admitted that they put the biggest one in me and pulled it out quickly.
I got talked out of competing in the Nationals race by some good friends, but was pretty bummed to miss my chance, and to come so far and train so much without racing, but at least I could still support my friends while they raced! I'm just really bummed that it shoes a big DNF for "Did Not Finish" beside my name on the results, I hate those..
The next day I was actually recruited to help Pedal Mag with live feed of the race to their website, and got VIP media treatment for the weekend! It was nice to have something to do, and great to be involved, this way I could cheer (though yelling hurt), and do help the magazine all at the same time!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Vous ĂȘtes dans la mauvaise province!

The past week and a half have seen a major bike project and a surprisingly fun bike race, so first, the project: to build my own set of carbon wheels. I had broken my rear race wheel with one bad hit while "Gnarvesting" for a weekend with Kelsey at Sir Sam's and was in need of wheels that were once again round. Hopefully some that would stay that way for a long time, but still be light enough to be competitive at the highest level of cross country competition. Also this had to be done on a budget since all costs related to biking basically go into the pile that is the debt that I'll be paying back after I graduate. Chris right now wants good wheels, future Chris who's paying them off may not be so impressed, that kind of thing. So I optimistically bought some carbon wheels from China, and patiently waited for them to be built and to arrive.

The first criteria of a cheap wheel rebuild was that I was only replacing the rims; spokes and hubs had to come from my old wheels. Secondly, I can't afford to pay someone else to build them for me - so I had to do the labor myself. To use the same spokes and hubs I had to get an oversized 30 mm wide set of rims, they're seriously badass, and bigger means better right? At least they're stiffer and should hopefully last longer. It took me most of my Canada Day weekend, but BAM! I have some sweet sweet wheels who's street value may be close to $1600 if they had a name brand on them, and I'm happy about that!

As for riding the new wheels, well they're still round! I love how firm my bike feels when I'm doing technical bits of trail and going off drops or high speed turns or any combination thereof. The bad thing is that I already have one of the stiffest raciest frames on the market (Trek Superfly SL), and with these new carbon rims, I feel the trail a lot! Sure they're fast, but in flat trail where I'd like to sit down that has lots of roots and stuff, my back really takes a pounding. I'll have to grow into them I guess?

Living in Kingston, Ontario has me within a 2 hour drive to the Quebec border, and I needed to tune my legs up and get a feel for them after the problematic month and a half I've been having. I packed up the car, brought the best support I could get, and went to the Camp Fortune Quebec Cup.

Tori gave me a new bottle every lap, and stood out in 30 degree sun, thanks!

The course was super fun - not really much double track, just wide technical trail where you could make some tactical passes - but I saw a few that didn't go so well. I got to the race start a bit later but I heard them calling names so I figured that I'd be called up the same place no matter what. I heard my name said with a thick french accent and thought, "Finally, some respect!" as I grabbed my bike lifted it up high and began to make my way to the front of the group. Everybody stared at me and nobody was making way, when I heard "Do you understand french?" This is attendance." I guess that I wasn't going to get that call up after all...

Once the race had started I wasted no time in getting into the top 10 and riding quickly up the trails alongside the ski hill.
Sneaking up the side
Through the first lap it became apparent that the guys who had raced this course before knew a lot more about how to work the course through the race, and which lines were best to ride. I lost track of the guys ahead of me and was playing cat and mouse with someone trying to catch from behind, trying to keep my pace up through the downhill. By the end of the first lap I had been passed by someone, but I was going into the second lap (of 5) in good position. As I started working my way through the incredibly hot switchback section, unfortunately I had a bike malfunction which took a minute to fix, and lost me a couple of positions.
Keep reading to find out about the dirt on the shoulder, the blood on my knee, and the hole in my shorts!

After fixing my bike and riding on my own for a bit, I noticed that a couple of junior (17-18yr old) riders were catching me from behind, so I slacked my pace and let them pass me so that I could have some riders to pace with. The juniors were a treat while passing me; there was a small section of trail that was maybe wide enough to pass somebody, followed by a 90 degree turn to a steep, wide uphill section. As I was in the first section that I had just mentioned, one junior snuck by me, while the other was yelling for me to get out of the way. Obviously my plan was to wait for about 3 seconds to where the trail widened up enough for the 3 of us to ride side by side and then let them by and ride as the 3rd rider in a train. Junior #1 however in his great rush and excitement fell down in front of me as we were turning into the steep hill, I handily dodged sideways, but junior #2 behind me hit the other kid on the ground, and they took another few minutes to get by me.

Once they had caught me again I was surprised to see that these were not the smooth riders to follow that I was hoping for, but their panicked and excited style of racing kept me going quick - I just needed to give them their space. As we were sprinting along a slightly downhill and rocky section of trail, my chain magically popped apart, and I went down HARD. I pulled the seat out of the left side of my bum and found my chain, wrapped around a tree about 4 feet off the ground. I put the chain back on the bike and realized that it was my quick link that had come out - the one special link in my chain that could be taken apart by hand with no tool. I was a bit confused by his but took my time in putting things back together, got on the bike, and decided to ride a high tempo for the remainder of the race (the weather was 30+ degrees and the following 2 weekends are national level races, no need to over stress my body).

I rode in to a solid 13th place, and had a great time racing at Camp Fortune. It was also great to have some additional support from my buddy Alan, who  brought his super cute 1 year old boy