Monday, April 30, 2007

Tall Tree Cycles

Some of you think that you are pretty smart, figuring out my hint the other night about my big news. Well, you were right!
Drum roll please . . . da-da da-da da-da da-da da-da da-da . . .
I am very pleased and excited to say that Tall Tree Cycles in Westboro are my new sponsor.

I am super stoked about this all. Will and Thom are two easy going guys who are really enthusiastic about riding and knowledgable about bikes. I like the idea of supporting a new store, one that's in my neighborhood, one that isn't huge and pushing stuff on you that you don't need. They here to support you and make sure what you're riding with/on works best for you.

I am very proud to represent Tall Tree Cycles and I feel that I have a place to "call home", so to speak - a shop/team backing me up. My role will be racing under their name, wearing their jersey/shorts, supporting their store, helping out at demo days, etc.

What's more is, that since Tall Tree Cycles are a Niner Bike rep, I will also be riding/racing a 29'er this season. This specific bike to be exact. I cannot wait to get on this bike! More to come on that.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday Drivers

When I woke up this morning I was disheartened to see the weather - rain. Not what the forecast called for. Had a ride planned for early this morning. Sat around the house, drank coffee and wrenched on a bike waiting for the weather to turn.

Finally was able to hit the road and do a real fun loop out towards Carp/Dunrobin with a bunch of clowns. Of course you're going to have fun when you ride with clowns!The "Human Fly" (aka Zamboni) and Hanna
- will you get a load of those goggles on Zamboni!
Tyronne, Testicle and Lenny (hiding in the background on his $50 bike)

Far too many visors, not enough shaved legs (only one, I am presuming & hoping it was Hanna), and our pace line really needed work - but what a hoot! Cheers.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Splish Splash

What's in a title?

I could be referring to the rainy weather that we had here today - drizzle hung in the air all day, damp and cold.

I could be referring to our bathroom renovation that is starting tomorrow, by this guy.
But what I am referring to is this . . . .

"Good God!"
I can hear the viewers say to themselves outloud.

Thought that I'd add a little 'real life' content. This is as close that I hope to ever get to internet porn.

What it actually is, well . . . . two things: my last bath in our tub before our bathroom reno and what I did tonight to relax. Though it's below the equator, I've kept it clean (pun intended!).

I couldn't be bothered to watch the Sens lose to New Jersey tonight . . . .I've lost interest in hockey since the Leafs did not make the playoffs.

BIG announcement for me on Monday! Come on back for some exciting news (well, maybe not so exciting for you as you are relatively unaffected by the meaningless things that happen in my life, but nonetheless it is certainly exciting for me!). Hint: tree + 29".


Saturday Morning Visitors

Mark and Declan dropped by for a visit this morning. What a good natured baby this little guy is! As Mark and I dranks coffee, talked bikes and shot the shite, he gurgled & gooed happy as a clam. Welcome to blogging Declan!

Where's Workshop Waldo?

That was my workshop last night. What a busy mess going on. Can you count the bikes? Can't see them all, but there were eight in there. Worked on half of them.
  • Commuter got new pair of Kenda Kwick Rollers slicks put on it
  • the Desalvo got it's new FSA carbon seatpost installed - my knee will be happy now!
  • prep'ed the Eclipse for Mark to pick up (hint, hint)
  • tore down Julie's bike and started the clean up/rebuild on it
This arrived earlier this week. A tiny little ipod shuffle - can you believe the size of the thing? An important training tool - keeps my ears happy and my mind occupied on those long, long rides. Will be using it to keep me pumped and alert in the wee wee hours at the 24hr races.
Box o'tires arrived Thursday. Still missing Dred Tread - back ordered.
FSA seatpost

May need to find a new home for the Stumpjumper. It's not that I don't love it, I do - very much so. Can't disclose anything else right now . . . . stay tunned, exciting news on the horizon.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Spurred on by my overwhelming sense of guilt and gluttony from Wednesday, I got out for a fast loop of the park yesterday. This week is supposed to be a recovery/rest week; getting ready for the start of mid-week intervals and long weekend rides - but couldn't help but to go for a rip through the park. Legs felt spunky and I think it was one of my fastest loops of the park. I was also trying to beat the threat of rain showers.

It's supposed to rain all day today and most of tomorrow. Screws up the ride plans. Hopefully it'll turn nicer later in the day tomorrow so I can get some miles in. I'm buying a cycling rain jacket tonight just in case - will go out regardless; need those miles in the legs.

Tonight I'll be working on bikes: getting my old road bike ready for Testicle, swapping tires on my commuter (just got a Kenda order in yesterday) and putting some new ones on my wife's bike, and starting the rebuild on Julie's bike. I also got my new FSA carbon seatpost in from Mike Desalvo yesterday too. Lots to do. Will post some pictures tonight.

More to come. Cheers.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mmmmm, cake

If you were looking here to read about a review of my custom road bike or what kind of ride I did today, you ain't going to find it. Sloth and procrastination ruled over me today . . .

I managed to convince myself to take the rest of the week easy as training bumps next week with intervals becoming a regular thing during the week, long tempo followed by a long endurance ride on the weekends. I was mentally weak today . . . . tough week all around, on all fronts - just wore me down.

So, what do I do instead of training . . . . I ate a quarter of an entire cake . . . . one that I was supposed to bring to a party tonight . . . then went to sleep for three hours.

Man, what was I thinking?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Do I really need a custom road bike?

My wife would tell you, "No" and for the most part, I'd agree with her. If you would have asked me a couple years ago who rides a custom bicycle, I would probably guessed a pro or roadie racer boy.

I'm not a road racer, nor pretend to be one - I'm too fat, too slow, can't climb, can't keep pace, don't know how to ride in a tight pack without someone yelling at me I'm doing something wrong, and so on.

I'd love to be thin, I'd love to be fast, I'd love to climb like a Nepalese sherpa strung out on coke, I'd love to know how to strategize in a pack, and so on. I'm 35 . . . . none of that is probably (some days I catch myself dreaming of it) going to happen anytime soon.

I could go out and ride the same stuff that I do now, probably at the same approximate speed, and do the same distances on a Crappy Tire (Canadian Tire is a hardware, sports, DIY store for you yanks reading this) $250 ten-speed special.

So why the custom ride? Simply put, I induge myself in extravagances that I don't deserve and susbscribe to my own personal cycling philosophy . . . . "Only the best for an average rider." Feel free to use that kids.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Rest day

Thank God it's a rest day . . . I would have hated going for a ride in this wind this afternoon! Good wind sprint training I guess.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Didn't get 100km in today, but almost - 96.2 km. Two day total = 202 km. I'm happy with that - plan was to start taxing the body to handle greater loads of work; getting ready for Solstice.

Another gorgeous day here in Ottawa - sunny and high of 23 degrees. Wind picked up later in the afternoon, which was surprising to me because it never seems windy to me in the park.

Mark met up with me at Gameline around 1pm, riding his 35lb commuter. The guy knows how to suffer . . . . it's been a month off the bike, set back by a wicked flue/cold, and rides that beast in the park. He did real well completing the loop.
Here he is climbing Pink And climbing Blacks
BlacksThe view from Champlain Look-off

On the way down Champlain we ran into Scott, Pascal, Brian and his wife (sorry Brian, I forgot her name!) who were out for a ride - prep'ing themselves for all their crazy adventure races. Nice seeing you guys!

Rode the loop and back to Gameline with Mark, then he had to jet home to wife and boy. Ended up riding the first 50km with him today - nice to catch up, haven't seen him since NC.

Left Gameline and headed back into the park for another loop.

Was running low on fluids, so I biked into Chelsea to fill up and grab a bite - that road is in terrible shape - like cobble stone in sections. Speaking of cobble stone and bad roads, the Paris-Roubaix race went on today out in Almonte - here's the link.

With fluids and some food in my belly finished up by doing the north loop then turned around and headed for home.
Total Ride Time: 4 hr 6 min
Average Speed: 23.2 km/hr
Distance: 96 km
Average Heart Rate: 139 bpm
- messed up after leaving Mark and forgot to start my heart rate monitor back up and didn't get total times in my zones. Average HR is much lower, going slower today. Average speed is also lower, hills.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


What a day! Doesn't get any more perfect. Here's what I did:
Chris and I took Jackie Boy to Bruce Pit early this morning for his walk. Jacks' LOVES the Pit! On the way there, stopped and grabbed a coffee to wake me up.

Got home from Bruce Pit and had breakfast. Was doing a long ride today so I wanted to top up on carbs to fuel the ride: OmegaWhey banana smoothie (yum!) and a bagel with peanut butter.After breakfast Helped Chrissie in the backyard raking and cleaning up. Finally drying up around here and is unbelievable outside. Chris loves gardening and has a bit of green thumb (I tell her to stop putting it up her nose, but she doesn't listen! hardy har har) and makes our place beautiful! She's the best!

Got ready to hit the road and was on the bike at twelve bells. Today a long ride was planned - couldn't entice anyone to come with me though today. . . . this clown will be coming with me tomorrow. Plan was a 100km endurance base ride, mixed with an hour or so of steady state effort in my muscular endurance zone.

Took the Desalvo out for it's maiden voyage. I've been waiting for a seatpost to arrive that fits my "bike fit" properly, but couldn't hold out any longer. Maybe a stupid move, could have injured myself not being all aligned up properly, but I couldn't take it any longer.
Headed south out of town to do my regular Manotick loop (from my place return it's just over 75km)I'm not going to go too much into the new ride, but it was INCREDIBLE ! I love this bike. So smooth, responds instantly and super comfortable. A review to come later this week.

Swung back in through Ottawa via Price of Wales, onto Island Park and across the bridge (by the way, there was a white water kayak competition going on at the bridge - would have liked to have stopped to check it out, but training comes first), up into Gatineau Park. Didn't go to far into the park - just up to the top of Pink, where I took this photo:You can still see some ice on Pink Lake. On my Wednesday ride up and past Pink, it was nearly all covered over - crazy what a couple warm days will do!

On the way home, I stopped off at Tall Tree Cycles to see Thom and Will who were curious to see the Desavlo.

Here's the numbers:
Total Ride Time: 3 hr 38 min
Average Speed: 30.3 km/hr
Distance: 106 km
Average Heart Rate: 157 bpm
Endurance Zone: 1 hr 20 min
Muscular Endurance Zone: 1 hr 22 min

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Just a beautiful day today - so nice to see the sunshine and warm temperatures. No way I wasn't going to ride today.
Did a short ride today - couldn't get out for a long one, not time for intervals - so I went out for about and hour and a half and just spun the legs out - flushed the crap from my legs brought on by yesterdays ride. Setting myself up for two long, back to back rides this weekend. Plan is to put in 100km rides on Saturday & Sunday. Not a tonne of miles, but starting to accustom the body to more work.

Zeal Dealies

Had my first road ride yesterday with the new goggles. The weather turned really nice yesterday with a few clouds in the sky so I was going to need a pair of sunnies. Gave the new Zeals a go.

I really like these glasses!

Here's the pros:
  • light weight
  • good coverage from wind - no wind in the eyes, even on decents
  • visibility - rim was not in my periphery or blocked my side view
  • the polarization was stellar!
  • didn't fall down my nose, even when they got sweaty
  • the arms bend out from your head (kind of curve around); fit nicely with your helmet on
  • the polarization changed as lighting changed

And the cons:

  • there is a rim on the bottom of the frame that could possibly keep sweat from rolling off- it didn't happen yesterday, maybe it won't
  • ummmm . . . . . ?

I loved how the polarization adapted to different lighting. It clouded over a couple of times while riding, but my view through the lens did not darken - stayed constant and clear. With the water on the road, from melting snow, there was a glare with the sun shining that would make it difficult to see. No problem for the Maestro - could see everything; didn't have to squint to see once. There were a few patches of snow on the road as I bombed down Blacks Mtn - would have been difficult to pick up the line through the snow and wet road without the glasses on.

These glasses have interchangeable lenses, but mine did not come with any. They are available, but the rep felt that the polarization on these glasses were so good and they adapted to various lighting that there was a large need to have them. Will post some reviews under cloudy conditions after wearing them in, when normally I'd wear a pair of yellow or red tint glasses. Cheers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Gatineau Ride Today

Ride Time: 2 hr 21 min
Distance: 62km
Avg Heart Beat: 157bpm

Spent most of the time (1 hr 3 min)in my muscular endurance zone and a good chunk above that doing some standing climbs.

Still snow at the top near the Fortune/Champlain intersection and couldn't get past it, so I climbed Black Mtn three times. First, just spun up focusing on keeping my heart rate at tempo pace, the second I did standing the whole way up and focused on keeping my heart rate in my muscular endurance zone, and finally spun up seated - in muscular endurance zone - concentrating on pulling the pedals up through the stroke and compared it to my second climb up.

Finally beautiful weather. Wore the Zeals today - very impressed. More to come on that.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


These brand new sunnies arrived today from Zeal Optics. The fine folks (thanks Scott for hooking me up!) put me into a pair of Maestro polarized sunnies.

Hopefully we'll actually get some sunshine here and I can give them a go. Feeling like a coal miner - always dark and dreary. I think we had more sunlight back in February.
Keep your fingers crossed for this week.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Wet, heavy and cold

Been sick, been busy.

Woke up to a pile of wet, heavy snow this morning. Isn't this mid-April?

Depressing, very depressing.

Rode the necessary evil tonight. Was dredding it, but managed to get myself on it. Did a 1 hr 15 minute tempo ride (avg heart beat = 165 bpm) with a ten minute warm up and cool down.

Looks like more of the same tomorrow. To early to start my interval training, don't like sitting hours on end on the necessary evil doing endurance. Looks like more of the same tomorrow.

The rest of the week is looking up . . . . but I am not going to hold my breath.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My Back Door(s)

This is the view out the back door of my house today. I would be a lot more bitter about being sick if it was sunny and warm right now. So instead, I'm going to rest and be grateful that I'm not missing any prime riding time. Still, I hate this fugging cold.

My good friend Tanya (a.k.a. "The Vegan Vagabond") rides for an organization called Organic Athlete "who's main mission is to promote healthy, plant-based living (i.e. vegan) through education, community and athletic example. So basically its like a team of vegan athletes supporting each other and encouraging others to join them!" Sounds like a great idea! Too each his/her own.

I'd like to propose an similar organization called "Eat Bacon". Our goal would be to promote unhealthy living, eating tasty food (ie. bacon, donuts, poutine, etc.) through sloth, procrastination and using unmotivated athletes as an example. It would basically be a bunch of people sitting around and trying to encourage each other to eat more and do less.

I've approached the Canadian Pork Council (yes, there is such a thing - just click the link!) to contribute as the main sponsors. It'd be a team made up of riders who don't really ride - they just need the stretchy lycra clothing to allow for their steady growing girth.
My other "back door"

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Stupid is, is stupid goes for a ride

I got home from work and felt spent. This cold/flue is beating me down. The little buggers at school don't help things either, "Mr. Barlow, could you help me?", "Mr. Barlow, I don't know how to do this!", "Mr. Barlow, my finger is stuck in my nose!" Damn you children - can't you solve your own problems? I'm sick, leave me alone. Ahhh, if it were only that easy.

Had to convince myself to get all bundled up and go for a ride - it certainly wasn't as enticing as sitting on the couch or going to bed. But I managed to get my snotty self out the door. Got as far as Champlain Bridge and had to turn back home. The cold air only aggravated my already raw throat and I spent the return trip whooping and coughing up a lung. They (people who know what they are talking about I presume) say that you should listen to your body. Maybe there is some truth to that- today for example, should have rested and taken in fluids. Other days when my body says, "sit in front of the jumping box and eat potato chips" . . . . well . . .

The worse part about this whole thing is that I haven't been on a ride (a real decent ride) for nine days - AND, with tomorrow's crap weather coming, I won't be on a bike until Friday. After the Icebreaker on the 1st of April, I spent the four or five days recovering from hypothermia, then was tied up with family obligations on the Easter weekend, and then I get hit with this death cold. I'm starting to feel pangs of anxiety about my training - "Oh no! My first 24 hr solo race this season is less that eleven weeks away. How am I going to fit all my training in?!?! My training is falling to pieces! I'm losing fitness! AHHHH What am I going to do?!?!?!" . . . .this too will pass.

I like reading other people's blogs. What draws me back for more is good writing, interesting stuff and photos. I haven't posted a photo in a while. Any one want to see what I look like all sick and gross?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Still sick

Nothing to report today. Still sick, feeling like I've been hit in the face with a hammer and goo is oozing out all the openings in my head.

Monday, April 9, 2007


Hope everyone had a lovely Easter weekend. I started out the holiday weekend like I do all big holiday weekends by eating everything that I could get my grubby hands on. I thought, "No sweat. I'll have this biked off by early next week."
This extra little bit of weight will "hopefully" be off later in the week as a nasty cold/flue has delayed any riding this weekend. Saturday night, while at a family member's wedding I got hit, felt like a bag of hammers, by it. Only thing that I'll be riding today is the couch.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Zeal Optics

Very excited to have a new sponsor supporting me throughout this season - Zeal Optics. Hope to have a review here on a pair of their sunnies sometime in the very near future.

Have a Happy Easter everyone!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

It's going to be a friggen cold weekend

Just got in from a quick spin on my single speed commuter. Had gears last week, now it has none. I've been meaning to strip it down for sometime to convert over to the simplicity and fun of a single speed. It's fairly light, comfortable to ride and quick. Gear ratio is 44:15. Should be a good commuter - it takes me between 35-45 minutes to get to work, depending on the lights.

Was hoping that this Easter long weekend would be sunny and fairly warm. The exact opposite is forecasted - cold, wet and gloomy - kind of like wearing your clothes in swimming and staying in them all day, not much fun.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

9th over all - it's official

The guys over at Bikenxs just posted the results from the race. Placed 9th in the 50km out of 22 riders - I'm happy with that finish considering the conditions were horrific, I was on my single speed the first time this year, and it was a training race for me. I was wrong with my first lap time, it was actually 1hr 13min and my second was 1hr 18 min (no surprise with how the course worsened with more rain and riders). Cheers.

Rain, 8 Hrs, Driving and Thank You

I was hoping to get out for a ride today. It's cold and rainy today - supposed to be all day and most all of the Easter Weekend. After this past weekend, I don't much feel like riding in the rain for a while. I optimistically put my trainer away for the season just before the NC trip in hopes that I'd be doing my training rides on the road - it's going to be difficult to take that beast out - a necessary evil perhaps.

Just registered for Chico's 8 Hr Spring Race at Mansfield on the May 26 weekend. Looking forward to that. Should be a good indication of how my training is coming along. The pace will be faster than what I plan on doing at the 24 hr race, but still will be a good prep.

On the way home from the race on Sunday, Rick was calculating how much traveling time that I had put in over the past two weekends just to go riding: aproximately 16 hrs each way to NC = 32 hrs; 5 to Port McNicoll + 1.5 hrs to Uxbridge + 4.5 hrs back to Ottawa = 11 hrs. So 11 hrs + 32 hrs = 43 hrs driving over two weekends just to go ride my bike . . . it was worth it!

On that note, I need to thank my wife, Christine, for putting up with me being away, the cash that I've blown supporting this addiction, and the anxiety over preparation for these two trips that I undoubtedly caused her with all my running around with my head cut-off type behavior. You're the best Chris!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Uxbridge - Part II

I said earlier that I would later be happy to have been the first group to leave the start line in the morning. As I pedaled up the first section of fire road, the conditions worsened. The 8 km sprint racers, the 25 k’ers had done a job on the course when they followed us through. It was much more difficult the second time. All of the double track seemed to become ten times worse, soupier, deeper and more difficult to get through. I ended up running close to a kilometer in total through the muddy double track section. My second lap I managed to set a faster time on the concession roads - maybe my legs were more warmed up or the previous weekend worth of climbing in North Carolina bumped up my pace, either way I felt really good. Cold, but quick.

I had to stop at the water feed to refill a bottle, at the start of the race I took two bottles (one in the cage, one in my vest rear pocket) and no hydration pack, as I went for weight savings. I had only two gels for the entire course - one each lap about mid way through. I felt like I had enough energy, but as one of the paramedics told me later (yep, paaramedics . . . it only gets better) was that I my body totally depleted itself during the race effort and also in trying to keep itself warm.

I was relieved to finally enter the single track, knowing that there was only about 4km of trail left before I crossed the finish line. The single track only diminished in condition as well with the number of riders on it during the rain. From a trail builders perspective, I really hope that the race organizers went back that day to do damage control.

One of the funniest things that happened to me in the whole race was in the last few km’s of the race, when I passed a woman who had obviously gotten into something way over her head (I think that she must have been doing the 25km race and I had lapped her) politely asked me as I climbed past her, "Excuse me."......I was ignoring her because I had absolutely no energy left to turn the cranks let alone answer her idiotic question, but again it came . . .. "Excuse me. When does the race end?" I thought to myself, "You’re kidding me, right?" I was annoyed, tired and just wanted to be finished, so I sarcastically shot back, "When you cross the finish line!" and kept on climbing out of her sight. What do you mean, "When is it over?" ?!?!

A few minutes later I caught my last rider who had earlier been two rises ahead of me on the concession roads and I managed to catch up to and sprinted him for the finish. I didn’t beat him as I hit a stump and got thrown a little sideways as I tried to go around him in the last 10-15 meters before the finish line. I didn’t care, I was just happy to be done.

I had a look around for Matt, Brandon and Rick to see if they had dropped out - conditions were horrible, cold and wet - there will be undoubtedly many dnf’s. However, they were not at the start line. I walked over to the timing tent, checked my time (unofficially 9th/22 riders in my age category, apparently the 2nd single speeder to come through and 2hr 30min time final- my second lap was the exact time as my first, talk about consistency!)and had a look around at the medal/schwag table, was going to grab a free sub- but didn’t feel much like eating. It was raining a bit heavier by now and I was soaked to the bone. I rode over to Rick’s truck to double check - maybe he had forgotten to unlock it - no such luck. Rode back to the finish line. Still no Matt or Rick. I found a pop-up tent to stand under. By this point my teeth were chattering and I was shaking pretty bad - no surprise, I had emptied the tank, was soaked to the bone and the air temperature before windchill was still only +3 degrees.

As my luck would have it, the tent I was standing under was adjacent to the Canadian Ski Patrol Tent who were doing the first-aide for the race. They spotted me and came over immediately. Started asking me some questions which I had a hard time answering (still don’t remember) and got some chocolate into me. Next came the space blankets and heavy warm wool blankets. I started to go downhill and fast. Matt crossed the line and spotted me - apparently I had seen him and called to him to take my bike and helmet to look after as the paramedics were taking me away somewhere warm.

I don't remember being transported by car to a shelter, but once there they stripped me of my race kit and wrapped me in warm blankets. Later I would find out that they took my core body temperature and it was 35.7 degrees - if it had gotten down to 35.5 degrees they would have shipped me off via ambulance to the nearest hospital. Fortunately I was under some excellent care and they gradually warmed me up - took the better part of an hour to get my temperature up just two degrees. Big thanks to the Dax who looked after me and his partner who kept a continuous supply of hot blankets coming. Rick and Matt eventually made there way over to me with some warm clothes, but not before Rick made his way onto the podium for finishing first in the Clydesdale category - nice job Rick!

Took me a little bit, but managed to get dressed and got into the truck and wrapped my sleeping bag around me for warmth. Was feeling much better. We stopped for a coffee and it all came good. Will take a few days off the bike to recover - my legs feel good, surprisingly after all the mashing on the pedals that I had to do to get through all that mud. Dax said that my immune system would be pretty low for the next few days following the race so to take it easy and rest up. That's what I'm going to do. Cheers.

I didn't get a chance to take any photos after the race, for obvious reasons, however Matt snapped one of Rick - will post later.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Uxbridge - Part I

It was quite a long write up, so I did part one today, the rest tomorrow
Had a restless sleep on an air mattress on Matt’s floor in Port McNicoll Saturday night/Sunday morning. Not so much pre-race jitters, just a bad sleep. Didn'’t help having Rick snoring like a jack hammer in the same room. Matt kicked our butts early enough on Sunday morning so that I could get get the proper fuel into my body so that I would be running efficiently for the race. I don'’t enjoy eating oatmeal, but it does the job. A serving OmegaWhey helped the oatmeal go down – I always find that when I add protein to my meal before a ride, I always feel & ride better.

Left for the race with plenty of time to get to Durham forest near Uxbridge, time to register, get ready and get a good warm up in. However, as luck would have it, things didn’'t run so smoothly. We got a little held up when we were pulled over, about a half hour away from Uxbridge, by “"the county’s finest"” doing 101 km/hr coming out of a 50 zone. Doh! We were just following Matt and Brandon, keeping the same speed and distance, but we got nailed.

So we were about 20-25 minutes later than we had expected. We had to sprint to the one day license (I’ve been procrastinating buying my UCI license) booth then over to registration. By the time we left registration, it was raining. Not a fun way to start a race. It was only about 3 degrees to begin with; the rain and wind was only going to make things much, much colder. The temperature and weather conditions would hurt me badly later.

Back at the truck we pulled on our race kits, checked our air pressure, grabbed food and tools and hit the port-a-potties. I was able to get real quick sprint warm up on the road that lasted only two or so minutes before I had to race back to get a spot at the starting line. I need a good warm up, but this would have to do.Just enough time before the race for a picture.
All the haste and rushing around prior to the start of the race was probably a good thing as my head didn'’t have time to think or worry about how I’d do in the race. In the past I'’ve always suffered a lot of anxiety from racing - one of the main reasons I'’ve decided to do as many races that I can this season is to try and shake that feeling and to go into races with a positive and fun frame of mind. Despite the craziness before the race, I’'m grateful that I wasn’'t standing around for a while before the start stuck in my own head.

There were about 50-55 riders lined up at the line ready to race 50kms. There were three groups to start, short track 8k’-er's; 25k’-er's; and us, the 50k-’er's. We started first, and later I was even more thankful that we got a ten minute start on the rest of the racers. Our race was a double lap of a 25km loop.

I noticed only a handful of single speeders and was a little disappointed that there wasn’'t a single speed category. I knew that there was a lot of gravel concession roads, fire roads, double track and only about 3-4 km of single track, so figured that I'’d spin out on the flats and downs trying to keep up with the riders in their big rings, mashing away and get spit out the back of any pack that I would be able to latch myself onto.

At the gun the mob of riders slowly crossed the line and had a long straight stretch of old fire road. The moment I was on the trail I knew that this was going to be a slugfest. The sandy/muddy soil was soft and very wet from the previous week’s warm temps and rain the night before the race. My goal was to try and keep Matt in sight for the first quarter or so of the race, using him to pace me. Matt is an experienced, fast racer and has put on a lot of miles over the winter and I knew that hanging with him in the first part of the race would set me up for a good pace time – but I figured that I’d eventually lose sight of him when he decided to drop the hammer.

He was in front of me until the first steep'ish climb on that fire road when I had to jack up the pace in order to keep my momentum up so as not to loose power and speed. The ground seemed to suck the life right out of me - every time I mashed down on the pedals it felt like I was going nowhere. I managed to get to the top of the climb before Matt and only glanced back once. Rick wasn'’t in sight, but I knew that he would be coming. The first section (about 2km) of fire road gradually climbed and would spit us out on a concession road. The pack bottlenecked at a gate that blocked the fire road/concession road and we were forced into single file to get through.

Once on the road, Matt’s comment, “I’ll get you on the road.” came true. He passed me and pulled in behind a small pack and began to conserve energy by drafting off of them. I stayed on his wheel and did the same. The concession road was completely soaked with rain and a fine grey, silty mud sprayed everywhere. Glasses were of no use, so I perched them on the end of my nose to protect my eyes from the spray off my front wheel. They would remain there for the remainder of the race.

The concession road seemed to rise and fall gradually over the next kilometer or so - we weren'’t on it very long before the race marshals waved us to the right up this soft, sandy climb (nearly killed me) that put us onto a fast downhill double track. The pack at this point was still riding relatively close together. I made up a lot of time passing guys here as I stayed on the outside part of the path. I found that the leaves insulating the ground must have kept it slightly frozen and firm compared to the more traveled centre part of the trail. This double track didn’'t last long and it spit us back out onto a concession road. I still stayed close to Matt using him to pace me.

As we approached the first climb on the concession road, the pack slowed and started to spin up it. Riding a single speed is damn difficult to spin slowly and slowing down robs you of your speed (hard to get back) and momentum. So I made the decision to leave the pack and pace myself up the hill on my own. I swore that I head Matt pull out behind me on my wheel, but once at the top I looked back and he wasn’'t there. It was the last time I would see him until the end of the race. I put my head down and kept turning the pedals over, trying to recover on the downhill. I managed to bridge a large gap between packs and catch a group of CX riders and stayed with them until we emptied onto the worst double track that I have ever ridden on.

It was a tight, old logging road, the width of double track. You could tell farmers led cows or horses through it, as there was manure here and there. I thought the first fire road was soft, but this was unbelievable. It seemed to last forever, but was probably only 3-4 kms long. Many sections you were better off dismounting and running through the thick, heavy mud. I’m glad that I had my shoes on tight because it was the type of mud that would suck your shoe off your foot. Later, after the race, I had heard how one racer got his bike so stuck in the mud that it took him and another rider to get it out. Riding behind geared riders I was glad that I chose to ride the single speed, as all you could hear where the grinding of drive trains, derailleurs clogging up and jamming and the odd profanity. I kept spinning smoothly.

Eventually we emptied out, after a slick and miserable downhill section, onto another concession road. It was a relief to hit it as my heart rate was spiking with the effort I put in to get through the difficult, muddy double track. I was glad to be done with that last section, but the nagging thought that kept going through my head was, “I’m going to have to do that again.” Seemed like the moment I hit the concession road it began to rain more heavily. I was getting wet and cold really fast. The road, being so open, seemed to act like a wind tunnel. This concession section was the longest of them and the one and only water feed was on it (on a corner, on a hill - nice!). I took some water and kept going. My only tactic was to survive at this point and what kept me going was trying to catch whoever I saw ahead of me. I made it a game, every time the road rose and then dropped, I would try and see if I could get a little closer to passing. Whatever mind game gets your through the suffering and torture. And it paid off as I managed to reel in a number of racers and pick them off one by one.

At the start of the race Matt and I discussed not going out too hard and hanging back a bit at the start and let riders burn themselves out. As a result, at the start I was more towards the middle to the back of the pack. Having that many riders a head of me was motivation to catch them.

The concession road finally came to an end and I had to take a hard left into the last 4 kms and it was mostly all single track. The first quarter was pretty fast and flowy, you had to watch the corners for roots and washing out. I think I kept a fairly good pace through it and managed to put some time between me and the last guy I caught. I had to dismount a few tight (180 degree) switch backs because I didn'’t have the legs nor the gear to make it up the muddy climbs - so I put the bike on my shoulder and hoofed up two or three climbs. The last bit of single track was more manageable and led back to the start/finish line.

At this point in the race I was trying to come up with any viable excuse to quit. I felt shattered and was freezing cold. I had to play mind games with myself to keep riding and not give up. Racing, what I am finding out, is as much mental toughness as it is physical toughness. Once I forced myself over the line, I knew that there was no turning back and actually began to feel better - I was more than half way done. I checked my watch and my first lap time was exactly 1hr 15min.

Bitting your nails about how it ends? It gets FUGLY. Come back tomorrow for the rest.