Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Friday, September 11, 2015

Racing in my stomping ground

This past weekend was the Ontario Marathon Championships for the cross country marathon discipline of racing. The race took place at the local trails here just north of Kingston; a two lap 79km course. Marathon races are a true game of attrition, and it was 28 degrees (before the humidity) on a technical, rocky course. I was feeling pretty confident, hoping for a top 3 result, figuring that local knowledge and good preparation would let me show my true fitness for the first time this season.

Riding the trails the day before with Taylar and Colin

I stashed my bottles in the barn for Colin to find and pass to me and hustled over to the start line. Marathons don't usually start overly fast, but I was on a mission that day, and got to the front position in the first few hundred metres. The course was farm lane for a kilometer before getting into some fast single track. Guys tried to get by me before the singletrack, but I kept the pace up and didn't let anyone by, and led my way through some really twisty trails. My good friend John Cauchi was riding my wheel in second place, and Luke H was on his wheel, with a whole stream of rides behind us. We got to a section int he trail that was a slight uphill and I put some accelerated, and now my group was less than five people at the breaking off the front of the group.



We popped out of the forest with a group of about 6, and I rode a good tempo across some very bumpy farm lanes/horse trails, and when I motioned for another rider to come forward and pull us in the wind, nobody came. I checked back and had about a 10 meter lead on second place. My options were to slow down and let those guys do some work while hiding from the wind, or just keep building my lead. I felt aggressive that day and kept moving away from them, and it was a beautiful thing to be on my Felt Edict 1 on that bumpy stuff! 

The next trail involved a quick left hand turn that nobody ever rides, and I made a mistake and got caught, so we were a big group riding through the soy field toward the first chance for a feed and the downhill jump track. Luckily Colin was on the ball, handed me his own bottle of water (no need for a repeat of the last provincial championships with the threats of disqualification). I led into the berms and jumps without looking back. 

Oldie but goldie, coming out of the pump track last year

Some kids from the Boys and Girls Club that I volunteered with doing the first set of pumps
When I finally did look back, I had hit all the jumps and berms so hard that I couldn't even see second place. See ya! I didn't plan on letting them find me either. I threw a savage first lap out, I knew where to go hard, where the hills were, and where it really wasn't worth the extra effort and to take a break. I had the proprietor Rob giving me time splits, and I liked them. I was solidly pulling away from second and third place with a minute and twenty seconds between me and second place by the time that I was going into the last trail of the first lap. I had a few goals that I thought would help me to wind; keep out of sight, use extra energy only on the hills or inclines, and ride smoothly. 

I came through the start/finish area and the crowd went wild! It was amazing, the people that knew me from Ontario Cup racing were really excited for me, the locals that ride at Kingston were screaming my name, and I was just looking for a water bottle. 

Unfortunately Colin wasn't there to hand me anything, but I'd be back through the feed zone in about half an hour, so I didn't stop and just kept going (trying not to be seen by anyone of course). I just spun my legs faster instead of pushing them harder, and kept out front with no sign of anyone else until I started lapping people. Not taking a bottle was a bit of a mistake, as I really felt dehydrated in the after the first third of the second lap, but I was being driven by something that hasn't happened all season - I was finally winning. 

This is how I looked after the race...Foreshadowing?

I stopped at every aid station after that, going crazy with how long it was taking to fill my water bottle, refusing to eat food, and hopping back on my bike. Being in first place brought me to a new level focus, it's amazing what optimism and reaching your potential can do. I even started planning my victory salute - all the big shots do it right? I was totally going to reel in the finish line like it was a big trout, and I did cross that line first. Everyone cheering me, yelling that I was a beast, and saying my name. I put my arms up and crossed that line, thinking that all of the work, injuries, frost bite, and perseverance was worth it. I won by 10 minutes, though my biggest competition didn't have the best races. 


Beer, great prize!

It was a tough haul, I make it sound like it was easy but that race, and the dedication that it's taken me to get through this season took some real grit, full of highs and lows. Highs are things like sauteing everything in butter the day before, eating things like rice cream (just ice cream on rice), having great shakes (thanks Progressive), and having an excuse to sleep 10 hours/night. Preparation and the proper support is key, I don't know where I'd be without MTB Kingston building these awesome trails, or always having Clif bar products at my disposal (I LOVE shotblocks, those kept me going through this race bigtime!). It's hard to say what makes me ride so much after nerve problems in my back, and with no good results this season, but it's a lifestyle and I really enjoy it. Motivation also comes from knowing that people are reading my blog, and when people ask me about my racing or grad school. 
Thanks guys, I'm now the Ontario Mountain Bike Provincial Champion of the World, or OMBPCW for short. I'll be racing Marathon Nationals this Sunday at Horseshoe Valley, hoping that aggressive tactics can bring me another great result, but the best kept secret in cycling is finally out - I'm actually fast!


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Provincials 2015, lucky to be in the results at all!

It's been a bit of a roller coaster of a year; I spent the first part just trying to find my form competing against those who had been down south training all winter, missed some bottle feeds on hot days, then there was the three weeks in bed with sciatic nerve problems, a big trip to Quebec for some big races in which I floundered after the back thing, then a flat tire in the last Ontario Cup! Needless to say, I felt like I would never really get to show the strength that I had built and rebuilt this year. In my last couple of weeks of training I've felt unstoppable -  sprinting my bike up to 64km/h, training huge hours at high power outputs day after day, sleeping early and eating right. I came into provincials thinking that it would take something pretty bad to keep me outside of the top 10.

Lots of nights spent rolling into town late after big rides
I loved the course, except for when I got stung the day before by a wasp! It turns out that I'm quite allergic to wasps now - and I got stung by a yellow jacket riding the course the day before. This time of year they're out of whack, I swear. The rotten fruit falling off trees is fermenting, and they're getting drunk on the juices - and wasps are just mean drunks. That's the only logical explanation for 7 stings in the last 2 weeks right?

does anyone know how to get rid of swelling? Benadryl doesn't work for me

The closest that I'll ever get to looking like Popeye, it's still swelling two days later


Apart from that my day was pretty great, and I got to stay on course in a farm house with a bunch great friends and a great dinner. What could go wrong tomorrow, right?


I got a good warmup before the race, even though I got stung again on the chest (seriously, why do bugs hate me?), I stayed focussed and the race start went according to plan, and I was probably 7th or 8th place going into the first piece of singletrack, and I came through the first lap just outside of the top 10. I  wasn't too fluid through the trails, I was pretty stop and go and guys were catching up to me in the trails that I'd usually use to distance myself from those behind me.

Check out my arm here, all of that fluid stuck in my swollen forearm makes me like Popeye!
Thanks Mary Lynch for the photo and the support over the weekend
Going into the second lap I was still riding strong, but by mid way through the lap I was starting to cramp up in my legs. For some reason my quads were seizing and calves felt like there were being charlie-horsed. No problem, this is why I pack space food, right? I slurped back a CLIF electrolyte gel, and avoided standing and pedaling until it kicked in (usually about 15 minutes, so 2/3 of a lap). By the time I got to the same spot the next lap I was still sitting and spinning my pedals fairly easily though the trails and up the hills. I had chugged all of my drink mix (a special potion of caffeine, electrolyte powder and sometimes beta-alanine), and I was still seizing up - so I slugged back another gel and kept putting in the effort - staying seated and spinning up the hills.

Staying seated through some pretty rocky business, thanks Marta Kocemba for taking the photos! 
It's been great to have you at the last few races.

By about my fourth lap (out of five), I had some flow mojo going in the trails and was getting down the big hill quickly enough to drop some guys. I came to the feed zone at the start of the fifth lap with high hopes of "picking off the zombies", and catching the guys who were really slowing down in their last lap until something happened that made me panic a bit.

Thanks Mary Lynch for getting a photo that shows my late race determination (or desperation). 
As I came into the feed zone for my final lap (fighting persistent and increasingly painful cramps), there was a mixup, and my feeder wasn't there. I went into my last lap with nothing to drink, on a pretty humid day.

All sweaty but still somehow smiling on my fourth lap.
Thanks Hannah Clarke for taking these pictures all season long!

As I came through a steep uphill near the start/finish there were spectators everywhere and I saw Simon (the rock in our team always helping us and keeping us together at the race), I yelled for some water, which turned out to be a pretty bad idea.

The drink that had a lot of repercussions after the race (thanks Marta again)
I survived my final lap without getting passed (or doing any passing unfortunately), and rode into 14th place (my best result at an Ontario cup, and this was provincials). I sat on the ground because my legs were not in the mood to hold me up anymore and was passed some more water which drank and cooled off my swollen arm a bit.

Funny finish line face, confused about what just happened and how I just finished the race I think
(Marta Kocemba photo)

Just happy to cool off my arm a bit. (Marta Kocemba photo)

As I was sitting down nursing my wounds I was approached by the commissaire.

"Did you take some water outside of the feed zone?"

He explained to me that I was disqualified for doing so, and that as an elite racer "I didn't know" or "I wasn't thinking" is not a good enough excuse. I told him that I just wanted to finish the race, and that I was cramping, but at my level of cycling there are rules and we have to stick to them. I tried to find the penalties for breaking these rules when I got home but I couldn't..

Great. DQ'd. It's not allowed for me to receive help outside of the designated feed/tech zone. I went to the commissaires about 15 minutes later to appeal to them, and they informed me that they were wrong. Because it is a provincial championship, it falls under the regulations of any pro championship race, and I would actually be fined $200. For taking a drink less than one minute after I passed through the feed zone. After a bit more talking, they decided to drop my fine to just a warning - for that I really thanked them. But now there is a black mark on my international cycling record that says I like to accept help in the wrong spots I guess. Could be worse, right?

Apparently all of the cramping wasn't a big surprise at all either, with all of my body fluid stuck in my arm there's less to move around to my muscles. I thought that it was pretty weird to cramp like that over nothing, and I'm happy to know that there may be a reason that was outside of my control that caused it. Stupid drunk wasps.

I've still got a couple of chances to keep it together for a great result! The Ontario Marathon Championships and Canadian Marathon Championships are this weekend and the next in Kingston and Horseshoe Valley, respectively. Then it's University Cup races and the Redbull Race the Place race coming up. Still training hard, eating right, stretching, and strengthening with as much motivation as ever!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

My Felt Edict 1: Bike Review

A lot of people (even strangers) have been asking me about my new bike; it's a big change that's long in the making: my first full suspension bike. Firstly, bikes these days are amazing. They've engineered them to absorb whatever you are riding over, while still being compliant when you push down on the pedals. Carbon fiber is not limited to the super high end bikes either, and it's much stiffer, stronger, and in many cases lighter than it used to be. Shocks have remotes that turn them on and off, or allow you to flip through different settings that dictate how the bike feels when you're riding it. Drivetrains (the gears and shifters and chains) are lighter, more precise, simpler, and have astounding gear ranges just in the rear cogs. New axels, wider handlebars, and the crazy ranges in tire treads, thicknesses, and rubber compounds have really given mountain bikes a new feel in the past few years.

To me, any rider who can only afford one bike should be riding a full suspension bike, they're super light, super stiff, and offer more traction in any trail than a hardtail. I also knew which bike company that offered full suspension race bikes I wanted: Felt. Ever since working at Muskoka Outfitters in the summer of 2010, I've had my eyes on these bikes. Being an employee at a bike shop gives you the inside scoop on all of the tech that the companies using, and quite frankly Felt really doesn't cut corners. Most companies use different grades of carbon fiber on their bikes, the more you pay, the more high modulus (light/stiff/durable) your bike will be. Felt is a small company <50 employees based out of California that basically got it's momentum as a 3 man company with the idea of making the best bikes, not the most bikes. The fact that most people don't know much about Felt and they they don't currently have any big teams just shows that they are a product driven company as opposed to a marketing-driven company.



My new Felt Edict 1 actually blew me away with how she rides. As a guy who's always raced a hard tail, you expect that a full suspension bike is going to bob every time that you push down on the pedals, that it will be heavy up the hills, and that the pivots will come apart. It took me a week to actually figure out which setting on my rear shock was locked out, the added traction of rear suspension has given me more confidence flying down hills, and even helped me to get up hills faster than before because the rear wheel doesn't bounce at all. Felt engineered the bike to have 100mm of travel in the rear, but kept the whole thing super stiff through the carbon linkage, and by not putting pivots in the rear. Instead the bike is engineered so that it has a certain amount of travel that's given by the rear shock, and once the rear shock is compressed, the frame flexes, resulting in smooth and stiff suspension.



Suddenly having another shock to preload has turned out to be tons of fun too, now I can preload and pivot my back wheel quickly and smoothly. This is a tough trick to do but in the right circumstances it lets me get around a corner without my brakes, it's important to have a bike that's laterally stiff enough to handle this kind of force, which the Edict does wonderfully. I can also preload before my hops now which is smooth, helpful, and fun!



The bike is a 22 inch frame with 29 inch wheels (the largest size bike you can buy really), but it whips around better than any 29er that I've ever ridden. Felt built the bike with a super steep head tube angle, which keeps the wheelbase tight, and the bike twitchy around tight corners. It also lets me lean through my corners better and keep a smaller "footprint" on the trail - letting me pedal around corners that were so tight that on other bikes I would have come to a stop to get through.


It's pretty rare that a bike looks better in person than it does on the internet, but I couldn't stop smiling when I unboxed this beauty. The pictures on the Felt site don't do the bright blue justice, and the Textreme carbon fiber is lighter, stiffer, and prettier than anything else I've seen. I love that checkerboard sheen that my bike has. It's an incredibly thin carbon fiber that is tougher because the wider strands laced at 90 degrees. Felt imports their carbon from Sweden, and though it's a crazy expensive carbon layup, you can get it on $6000 mountain bikes.

They kept the price very competitive on the bike by using the less expensive parts where it makes sense; wheels, shifter, and lockouts for the front and rear. All things considered however, this bike was 24. pounds with my pedals out of the box. The extra 2 pounds would cost around $4000 to lose, and since I got the bike I've put carbon wheels on it, and changed the stock mechanical lockout (which was warrantied anyways). Racers typically have two sets of wheels anyways (I know that I always have), and with such a stiff rear end I haven't found the need to put a remote lockout version of the shock on. I've raced everything from super technical courses like the Pan American course, to the fast and hilly Ontario courses like Albion Hills. I've found a new and reliable sidekick in all of my bike adventures, and am riding with more confidence and control than I have in the past.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Nationals 2015, Saint Felicien

It's been a while since my first elite national championship race in 2012, which was at St. Félicien as well. I'm happy to say that my blog writing has improved at least!

My last blog post alluded to the fact that I wasn't feeling strong yet, and that the blown disk/sciatic nerve problems were over - but all of that time stuck in bed had a real toll on my body as well. I had most of the week to prepare on the course, and I was feeling quite confident in my technical skills/speed and control through some pretty gnarly sections of the course. The course itself was amazing; it started with a steep gravel climb up to the top of a ski hill, then we descended through berms, over rollers, and over a bridge that crosses the course into a big rock garden. Next we climbed back up a bit, went through a big rocky feature, then over a drop that shot into a berm. After this was a climb that brought us to a flat section of fast trail then tons of man-made rocky features with spectators everywhere. Next was a steep, technical climb back to the top of the hill, and some fast trail before a totally steep and technical descent, more climbing, descending another total steep chute, and that was the lap (repeat 6 times if you are racing the elite men's category). 

Thanks Eric Barnabe for taking these photos
I was really happy with my tires for the course, and got to practice on consistent conditions all week - which made it all the more annoying when it poured torrentially the night before the race and rained all morning. This made the course a lot tougher, and watching the women's race was somewhere between funny and worrying, as you could see people falling everywhere. I switched my tires the day before the race so that I would have grip in the muck, and convinced myself that a race in such tough conditions may help to slow the other, fitter guys down a bit. 

All of that mud didn't stop my charm (Hannah Clarke photo)
The race start line was one of the most tense that I had ever been on, nobody was talking (french or english), the crowds were all completely silent, and I don't even think that there was any music playing over the PA system. Maybe it's because we had all seen how much the women were falling in their race, and were all a bit scared, but nobody was even looking at each other, everyone was just staring at the steep hill that we were about to climb, probably wondering if they'd have some sort of cardiac arrest induced by chasing the Pan Am champion up hills and through the bush for close to two hours. Finally the silence was broken "30 seconds until start", said the PA system, and then about a quarter of the guys started praying. 

The back of the race start, check out the focus on my face (André Chevrier photo)
The start was eventful, something happened probably 5 seconds into the race that almost caused a 12 person pile up, but we managed to stay on our bikes, and I felt strong as we shot up the hill - for the first 10 seconds, then I was just trying to move forward and not be last up the hill. As one may expect, it didn't matter anyways because there was a bit of a traffic jam going on anyways, so the leaders were already pretty much down the hill by the time that I could move at my own speed.

Pan Am champion still in good form leading the race, I'm in the traffic jam by the trees (André Chevrier photo)
I got into a groove, and made some passes in the upcoming section, aggressively moving my way into the top 20 (probably my favourite part of the entire race was when the trail widened up and I passed 3 guys at once as spectators were cheering and yelling). My speed was short lived however, as I opted not to wear glasses for the race, and I got a ton of mud stuck in my eye. Racing with the pros in the mud on a technical course with one eye closed is not ideal, so I slowed down and kept moving until the feed zone, unable to blink the much out of my eyes (contact lenses were also a concern). I came through the feed zone on the first lap looking for a neutral water feed, but the neutral feeds weren't ready for me (nobody gets a feed in the first 10 minutes of a race). I had a quick stop to rinse my eye and got going again, but by this point I had lost probably 5 positions. 

Chasing wheels early in the race, still clean and ready to put my surprise attack on these guys
(Eric Barnabe photo)

It's tough losing ground so quickly for a few reasons; firstly there's the obvious one that while everyone is going super fast and jostling for positions early in the race I was just trying to be able to see again. Secondly I was riding with guys that push me, meaning that I would ride harder because they are so close to my ability (if not a bit better). By the time I was moving again I was being caught by the last few guys (who are still incredible athletes - it takes real commitment just to make it to the elite category), but it's not the same as racing right beside the faster guys who I had worked hard to pass and to stay with. 

The paparazzi were sneaky in this race, hiding in the bushes (Hannah Clarke photo)

The rest of the race I worked on consistency and keeping the rubber side down. It was a tough race, but I was riding all the features, and apart from a bit of a pile up in a steep, muddy chute it was pretty incident free. I felt way better than the week before at Baie St. Paul, and my legs were strong - I just didn't have the lungs to support racing fast. I could push at about 85% of my normal self I think, but technically I was riding well, and I was stronger than the week before!

The picture quality isn't great, but watching this moment of racing is going to always stick with me, Quinton, you rock man.


It was great to race in Quebec, I met some pretty fantastic people, and they treat their athletes properly - free beer for elite athletes after the race. Because most of the elite athletes don't really drink, I was able to wrangle up some extra free drinks and had a good post-race social with my friends Dylan and Emily. None of us were overly thrilled with our race, but there was a second chance - the team relay is always the next day. The course would be the same as the elite course minus one of the super technical descents and some climbing. We decided to put a team in and give it a go. After a few beers I thought that the reason that I didn't go fast was simply because I didn't try hard enough, and was set on kicking ass in the relay to prove to myself that I was really fast.

A lot cleaner without that rain (Scott Lynch photo)
I did get blown out of the water, which makes sense because while the other athletes were still training 10-20 hours per week, I was sitting in bed. I'm happy to say I have power back in my legs, and the lungs will come back with time. At least I know where I stand, and the team had fun anyways!

What a buff team! (Sylvie Chénier photo)


I may only have a few big races left this season, but I've been training very hard again, I'm just as focused and motivated as ever, and with the support that I've got, I'll be flying at the Ontario Cup in 2 weeks in Muskoka.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Baie St. Paul Canada Cup, travels through the Quebec countryside

We're coming up on a week into our trip to Baie St Paul and St-Félicien for a Canada Cup and National Championships and I've been to a lot of cool places and done cool things! I'd love to be publishing some sort of hero post about how I was magically fit again, back problems didn't slow me down for long, and how I'm going to crush it at Nationals because I'm back to my regular season fitness. But things don't work out that way for me usually, so I just keep pushing through and enjoying the places that I get to be!

Baie St. Paul was a very tough course; it wasn't so technical that I was worried about any particular section, but the entire course was either uphill or downhill (nothing flat), and it was all very gnarly rooty, rocky. A super fun course that keeps you on your toes, but if you falter and lose focus - it was very hard to regain your momentum. The day was above 30 degrees and we were racing at 3:15, which is almost 2 hours later than my usual races.

The following is a video of basically the same course a few years ago, flip through it to see some of what we ride!


I honestly fell off the pace right from the start, unable to keep the pace going even in the uphill single track, I tried to push the negative thoughts out of my head, thinking that surely nobody could keep this pace in this weather on this course; unfortunately I don't think that I could either. It became a game of attrition, just trying to keep grinding at it until other riders wore down to the point that I could catch them. I was confused about where I was on course, messing up my lines through the technical sections, and even so weak that I couldn't shift my gears at points! But I finished. There was only 1 finisher behind me, but 5 guys didn't finish (that's a pretty large amount for the pro field in a Canada Cup that we all traveled a long way to get to), so I'm proud of just finishing given my health and recent setbacks!

Trying to maintain composure in this race was tough (thanks Scott Lynch for the photo)
The days following the race were spent watching other spectacular races like the Mountain Bike Criterium, which is mayhem! It's a lap that takes about 2 minutes to do, raced for 20 minutes or so with big groups. My favourite was watching the small kids ripping the course.

My buddy Dylan and I were making bets on these guys - I could totally be a bookie
We headed off to Mt. St. Anne that day, and I got some great riding alone in the forest, not worrying about race courses, or stopping for other riders, or where I was in the world. Turns out you can find some pretty neat places.

Not my usual worn out race face :)
I also love camping, which is how we got by from Thursday till Monday.
Our site at Mt. St. Anne was right by the trails (thanks Scott for the photo again)


Road tripping through the Quebec countryside has been fun, I'm bilingual so it's nice to have a chance to practice my french, and now we're in St-Félicien, Nationals is in two days, and I'm hoping to have my fitness back to how it was before my back disk/nerve issues. I'm loving the courses in Quebec, and the break from university, so good results would just be a bonus I guess!

Road tripping through Quebec and watching out for the bears that we saw
Some of the coldest water I've swam in in the summer (Scott Lynch photo)

On hot days, I don't discriminate where I get my water (Scott Lynch photo)


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Coming back at the provincial circuit

All things considered, this past weekend was pretty much the perfect weekend - I mean what more can a guy ask for? Good health, great support, camping, and fantastic weather. Oh, and giant inflatable pretzels, they're important too. As my last blog post says, I was off the bike for 2 weeks, stuck in bed due to a disk problem in my back pinching on my sciatic nerve. Luckily I bounced back so quickly that it alarmed the physiotherapist that I was seeing, who didn't look like he believed me when I told him that I had got back on my bike. This means that in the 3 weeks leading up to the race, I rode my bike 4 or 5 times. I wasn't really going for a good result; I would just be happy to finish the race, to support my friends, and to have a good time camping!

The race was at Albion Hills Conservation Area near Bolton, Ontario - which is a sweet course that hasn't been in the Ontario Cup circuit for 3 or 4 years. Another perk of racing at Albion is that the trails area awesome, and it is attached to a campground. I camped out with the Wolfpak crew, Sarah from Two Wheel Racing, as well as Davis and Hannah from AWI racing - couldn't have asked for a better crew!

I'm the lucky guy on the left, getting my legs stretched out
If we weren't joking by the fire or eating, we had the luxury of swimming to cool off (it was so hot this weekend that I was melting, but maybe that's because I'm used to days like these.

Alex and I are sharing the most buoyant pretzel in the world (thanks Mary Lynch for the photo)
The race course for the elite race was tough! There were two outstandingly unforgiving hills (the Green Monster and the Wall of Pain), as well as a bunch more hills, and insane sun that I just couldn't get away from - but at least there were gnarly features to huck off of in front of the crowds!

On the race start I was thinking mostly of how badly I just wanted to finish such a tough race, especially after being in bed for 3 out of the last 4 weeks or so. Once the gun went off, I was't too aggressive, and filed in near the back of the pack - waiting to see how the long, hot race would unfold.



I had a couple of pretty good laps, with a big collision with a tree, and fell into "no man's land"after that. "No man's land" is that part in the race where the guys behind you aren't fast enough to catch you, but you have lost enough ground on the guys ahead. It's a tough place to be, especially when you're not feeling good and you know that these guys have trained 30+more hours than you over the last 4 weeks.



I kept confident however, and really enjoyed having a cheering section at most places in the course! The tech features were a positive as well, and though there are no photos of me, this is what doing them looked like.

video

Big shout out to Andrew, who trusted me with his super expensive wheels not to do exactly what Sarah does in this video. It wasn't completely misplaced trust, I landed smoothly and a little closer to the rocks - his wheels are fine.



Currently I'm on the course for the Baie St. Paul Canada Cup bike race, staying at a campground with wifi...weird right? So I'm sitting in the shade by my tent, waiting for the race to start in like 4 hours - hoping to have my legs back to how I was feeling before this back problem!



Big shout out to CLIF bar for fueling this 2 week trip, and Thule for making me able to pack so well!


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Taking a step back

After finally feeling like I had my legs under me at the Canada Cup at Hardwood Ski and Bike (despite a bit of a lackluster result - I promise that I can do better), I got back to Kingston to relax for a day and then put in a solid training block before a trip that I've got planned to Quebec for Nationals and a Canada Cup. Days off, in my opinion are the perfect time to do other cool stuff, like rock climbing, running, swimming, the usual. I had an epic time rock climbing, finishing it all off with a core routine on the rings that makes people look like this:

Does anyone else want me to start an album of this man working out?
So Tuesday comes along, I've got a solid training plan for 3 weeks mapped out (thanks Andrew at AWI Coaching), and boom! Unmanageable amounts of pain through my lower back and down my legs. Turns out that I've screwed up a disk in my spine, which has bulged out of my back and is pinching my sciatic nerve. Since then I haven't really walked much, avoided carrying anything anywhere, and not been biking at all. My face looks like that if I get out of bed now. The last two days I've been out of the house and going to campus, I just take regular breaks and lie down lots! I've gotten to physio, and I've got some stretches that should encourage the disk to go back to where it belongs. It does suck to take time off and lie in bed for 2 weeks, but I'll be back in peak shape quickly after my back fixes itself - staying positive is the trick here.
If anybody has any advice for sciatic nerve problems and blown disks I would love any input that I can get! See y'all soon.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Panada Cup

This weekend I was racing in another Canada Cup, this one being arguably a bit more high profile; it takes place on the Pan American Games course at Hardwood Hills (Pan Ams is in less than a month now!). This brought athletes from all over North and South America to the venue (not to mention the cyclists from all around Canada), which is a neat opportunity for guys like me!

The dude from Columbia was very strong, and apparently a good starter
Thanks Hannah Clarke for always getting photos of our race
There's another reason that this race was very high profile for me; last year I broke my ribs there - I'll admit it, I was very afraid of riding that course again, and I didn't want to have to ride the chicken lines around the obstacles (what I mean by this is that any technical feature on the course had an alternate loop around it, but those took more time and weren't as cool). I borrowed a super light set of wheels with wide tires to help me boost my confidence, and got to the course early on Saturday to practice the course.

I can always count on teammates for help and support!
I got down to business with the goal of conquering every single obstacle on the course with the exception of "endo rock" where I broke my ribs last year. I figured that it wasn't worth the risk of me having a flashback and pressing the brake too much or something. I got my mojo quickly, and aced through the Disera Drop section (which scared me a lot).



Next was a crazy lineup of features, the first of which was a big rock drop (not unlike the one that I had broken my ribs on the prior year), followed by a massive hop over two stacked logs, then a downhill rock garden feature called boneshaker. I was working up the courage to hit the big rock line when team USA showed up. Normally I'd let them through so that I could continue to grow my bravery until such a time that I wasn't scared and would launch myself off of it, but my friend told team USA to wait, and then I really had to step up. I guess I work well under pressure, because I sent it right over the rock, hopped the logs, and that was it. I do admit though, that I was practicing my hops this week in preparation.



Once I got over that hurdle, everything felt easy, I had my flow and mojo, I helped friends and other riders to learn other sections of the course, and my bike was in perfect tune. I really just needed to get my mind around a few things and then I was fine. The weather was supposed to be nice, and I would have the race that I've been working towards, right?

This is us when we though that we'd have a sunny race


The race day was one of those days where it might rain, but it wasn't forecasted to, and everything goes the opposite of plan. I felt like the entire race was underneath a waterfall, which made the trails pretty greasy - kind of like someone had spread a few inches of peanut butter across the entire course. I was grateful to be using my friend's really nice carbon wheels, and also knew that I couldn't afford to fix them if I broke them, so I pumped my tires about 25% higher than I would normally ride with - just to be safe.

This is how we were feeling in the rain
Peter Kraiker photo 
The race start was chaotic as usual, and not even 10 seconds into the race I found myself skidding sideways to avoid crashing into someone - if someone 5 guys up touches his  brake, the resulting accordion effect is dangerous. I lost a lot of positions, but I kept upright and fought my way into a better position by the time we hit the singletrack. As usual, I couldn't ride my own speed because of how congested the trail was with riders, but I avoided crashes and kept the rubber side down, slowly gaining confidence on the slippery tires over the muddy terrain.

By midway through the second lap I was still pushing and making passes, hadn't fallen, and was shooting through all of the technical lines. My tires weren't doing me much of a favor in terms of grip (especially the rear), but I was riding with guys that I hadn't before, moving way up the field compared to the other two Canada Cup races that I'd done this year. I was feeling confident too, because in any section that I could actually pedal hard and use my fitness, I was gaining ground.

Thanks Eric Batty for cheering me on and taking such great photos, it means a lot to have someone that's been so influential in my cycling cheering me on.
By the third and fourth laps, enough people had been through the rainy course that it was totally loosened up and I couldn't ride up any of the hills, hike-a-bike time. I kept positive and rode my best, but I just couldn't keep up with guys who had made better tire choices, or were used to the tires that they were riding.

Another great shot from Eric http://www.ericbatty.com/
I was pulled due to the 80% rule (if you are not within 80% of the leader's time you are pulled off course in elite national races), but I had a lot of people come up to me after the race, saying that I looked stronger than I have before, and even my competitors passed on compliments. Things are looking good for me, I've got the perfect bike (with my own set of carbon wheels being built now), and though it may have taken me a bit longer than the other guys who spent time down south this winter, I am coming into form and there are more national series races in 4 weeks - just enough time to train and re focus for some great road trips, results, and races!

I would also like to thank my mom for coming out to the race this weekend! Love you mom!