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!

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