Tag Archives: My Racing

The grinding 24 Hours of summer solstice mountain bike race

I’ve never done a 24 hour mountain bike race, and I suppose technically I still haven’t. I mean, I didn’t quite ride my bike non-stop for 24 hours, but the little timing chip I carried in my back pocket when I was on the course, did travel round and round for 24 hours, and that’s good enough for me.

I was part of a four man and one woman team for this adventure. It was something I’d never done before, not even close. My standard run out on the mountain bike is either a couple of hours messing around on the trials, or if it is a race, then an hour and a bit hammering around to the point of exhaustion before packing up and heading home for a beer. I’ve never hammered around for an hour to the point of exhaustion then sat around trying to recover (or sleep) before doing it again. And again. And again.

The event took place at Albion Hills just north of Toronto, last weekend (June 22 – June 23) starting at noon on the Saturday and finishing at noon on the Sunday. The weather was scorching and according to anyone I talked to after the event, we must have been the only pocket in all of southern Ontario that avoided the deluge of rain that swept across the provence that weekend. It rained only briefly on the Saturday morning and that only served the course well, packing down the dusty trails ahead of 24-hours worth of punishment by the wheels of 2,100 bikes. Had the forecast held true and it rained for most of Saturday, the course would have been a mud-bath by the time it came to the night. In short, the lack of rain saved us a nightmare.

The event was run by Chico Racing who passed up the Ontario Cup series at the end of last year to concentrate on events such as this. To say it was well run and every last detail accounted for would be an understatement. It seemed like there was exactly the right room in the park for all the cars and tents that would be arriving. Over the course of the weekend the camp grounds were bulging at the seems, cars were squeezed at angle they might fit (mine required minor trimming of a tree in order to fit in away from the park road), as 2,100 cyclists showed up to spoil the tranquility of the regular hill billy campers.

The start area included a day long barbecue for those in need of a feed and a stage from which there was a live band for several hours on the Saturday evening. They’d a kids race on the Saturday evening and the transition area for those in the 24 hour race was neatly covered by a tent from which incoming riders would dismount, walk through while swiping their timing chip card, and pass it onto the next member of their team heading out for some action on the course. Even out on the course the organisation was fantastic. The course was well marked, some sections had alternative routes for those not wanting to risk bike and limb by riding over it, there was marshal stations, and a hydration point which was basically in place for riders to grab a cup of cold water and dump it over your head.

I was fifth up in our five meaning I didn’t get going until about 4 p.m. That gave me time to gobble down some Pasta before hand and watch everyone else coming through. The longer I waited the more excited I was to get out there and see what this 16 kilometre lap was all about. My first lap was a 1 hour, 3 minutes, 12 seconds run before passing on the tag to my team-mate who went out on his shift and what a fun lap it was. I’d hazard a guess that about 85 percent of it was single track and none of it included any seriously long climbing. All the climbing was short, some of it was sharp, and it came quite frequently. Not a lot of the course was flat, but that was ok, it made for a lot of fun.

Out there on the lap I would pass some riders with a red tag on the back of their saddle. It was after passing a third one that another guy in front of me shouted, “Keep it going solo” that I realised these were those we had heard about. The ones who actually do this thing on their own, without a team. They are the animals of the summer solstice. Twenty-four hours of riding. It’s true they have the option of stopping for food or even for a brief nap, but I’d later learn that the fastest man completed 16 laps in the 24 hours, putting in an average lap time just ten minutes slower than my average day lap and on pace with my average night lap. That is insane for that length of time and all the power to him. I didn’t feel jealous of them when I would pull into the transition station and had off my tag while they took a slight turn to the right and headed right on up the trail again.

I came in from that first lap with the heart-rate pushing 190 and after sitting down to compose myself, desperately willing my body temperature to drop a good ten degrees Celsius, I remembered that in about four hours I’d have to go out and do it again. This time in the dark. Forget the solo men and woman — they were a different breed — for the rest of us folk, that fact of going again was something I had to bare in mind and be ready for.

The thirty plus degrees it had been during the day was starting to fall as the sun went down and by 10 p.m. I was back up at the transition getting ready to go again. This time I had my new Canadian Tire light strapped to my forehead (everyone else looked much more professional with one attached to the top of their helmets), a light on my handlebar and a little red flashing light for the rear. I’ve never rode a mountain bike course in the dark before; I was looking forward to the challenge.

I got about 1 kilometre into the lap when the first problem occurred and it wasn’t a crash or some wrong turn that sent me deep into the woods never to be seen again, or at least until morning, but rather the handlebar light flew off into the woods. I heard a crashing sound and wondered what had just flew off my bike as I navigated the switchbacks of the first downhill section as the lights of other bikes beamed all around me, bouncing off trees like some light saber battle in Starwars. It actually looked pretty cool. What wasn’t cool was me looking down to see the piece of equipment I’d lost was the front light. I stopped, dropped the bike and ambled off into the woods to see if I could find it.

Until that point, of which I’d had just a kilometre of riding — and only half a kilometre in the woods — to get used to riding in the dark with the lights, I had liked what I’d seen. I could see pretty well and was looking forward to the lap. But now how well could I see with one light down? I rooted around in the undergrowth for a moment before spotting the light (it had gone out). I walked back to the bike and fitted it back on it’s holder, but something felt wrong. One quick look at it was clear the light would be as useful to me on the forest floor as on my bike now … the battery pack had come out. Back into the forest I went.

Several bikes blitzed past with shouts of ‘Are you ok”, to which I could only reply, “Yep, just looking for my light”. I really should have said I was looking for my bike to see their reaction but I feared the kindness of these competitors might have been exploited as they stopped to help. One guy did stop. He offered his light finding services and joined me in the trees despite my pleas for him to keep going. I think he was just glad of an excuse to stop for a bit. I didn’t quite catch whether he was one of the red-tags signalling a solo rider, though I think not if only because obeying an excuse to stop when doing this thing solo might render you unable to start again. A moment later I informed him I’d just have to plod on without the handlebar light and hope for the best with the cheapo one on my head for the time I was spending looking for the lost batteries would be better spent risking my neck riding with one light.

“On you go”, he said and off I went and I’m not sure whether he followed me or decided to hang around looking for those batteries. When I came back through that section four hours later, he wasn’t there, but I never seen that battery pack again either.

It was challenging enough with that light down. Had I had a proper helmet light worth a few hundred more than the one I was wearing, I mightn’t have had any issues and might even have lapped as quick as I did during the day, what with the cooling evening, but I didn’t and I just had to take risks. Common sense would suggest taking it easy but I pushed when I could — which wasn’t a lot on some downhill sections, especially the fast open ones where you were forced to choose more than one line and with the inability to see more than ten yards in front of me while going at a rate of about ten yards per second, I had no choice but to go slower than I might have liked.

Still when you see that I finished that lap just 11 minutes, 22 seconds slower than I done my first lap in the daylight, you get an idea as to how much quicker I went than I probably should. It was quick enough that I still passed plenty on the downhill sections, but not quick enough in that for the first time that I can remember in my life mountain biking, I was looking forward to the uphill sections were I wouldn’t be going as quick and didn’t have to focus so hard. By the end of the lap I had a headache.

I retreated to the tent in the hopes of grabbing a couple of hours kip, but it was still quite warm out and an invasion of mosquitoes began to sieze upon my tired body. I didn’t sleep at all, I tossed, turned, ate a little, and scratched. The eating is a big part of the 24-hour race challenge. Sure it’s easy enough to plow the food into you during the day when you have four hours between rides (it might be a nightmare for anyone doing it solo, but that’s neither here nor there because I don’t think I’m ever like to have to find out), but at night when you need to lie down and grab some sleep how do you go about re-fueling the body? You can’t go eating a burger in the wee small hours of the morning, and a plate of pasta at 2 a.m. was out of the question.

Yogurts, energy bars, chocolate bars and electrolyte drinks was the meal of choice in the nighttime hours, that is when I could be bothered to fish around in my bag for something as opposed to lying there allowing the bugs to feast on me. I wondered if those mosquitoes were doing some kind of twenty-four hour race? I wondered because they weren’t going away, they continued to hover, to buzz around in the dark, and I wondered if I was their energy bar … was I fueling them to go and do another lap … a lap of the tent. Then tag in a partner and head back to the Irish body lying a tents width from the earth and get back to fueling up on his oxygenated blood.

Sorry Mosquito, but you’ve been disqualified for blood doping.

It’s funny the things you’ll think of at 3 a.m. as the alarm you never needed after all goes off warning you that it’s time to get up, kit up and head back to the transition area. It was a good thing I wasn’t in a bed because I didn’t have to try too hard to get myself up and going again. It was certainly a first … rising up in the dark to put on a cycling jersey and head out for a ride on the mountain bike.

In the four hours I had off I had plenty of time to sort out my handlebar light … that is go searching for the battery pack or borrow the lights from a team-mate. But I never did and so after finishing my last lap swearing against going back in to the woods again without the proper lighting, there I was, heading once more into the breach.

I got up to the transition early … I forced myself to always do this. I’d have felt awful had I shown up late for an exhausted team-mate coming into the finish, looking to had over and get to bed himself. I can think of no worse feeling in all of cycling than landing into the transition area at 3 a.m. and none of your team are there. I seen this happen to a few boys, their teammates back at the campsite in their tents sleeping, and them, walking the area, howling for his one-time friend like a lost child yelling for his mommy in a shopping centre. You can either go down and scream at them or head out on another dreaded lap. One guy chose the former, the other the later. Thankfully I was on a team where this was never an issue.

I wasn’t long into this lap when I began to worry about the predicament I was in. You see, I’d kind of breezed over the fact the light I had bought was a cheap one … change from a fifty … from Canadian Tire. I’d acknowledged this fact only in that I realised how stupid mine looked strapped to my head as though I were heading into a mine shaft by comparison to others who had theirs on their helmet. Now though I was being more practical in thinking beyond style … the package said the brightest setting would work for seven hours, but were they telling the truth? Was that seven hours until total blackout? … Seven hours if you’re lucky? Seven hours in dog years?

Was my mind playing tricks on me or was the arch of the beam growing narrower? Last lap it was to the edges of my peripheral vision, but now it was in at least a couple of feet. The bright spotlight was but the width of a basketball on the jungle floor a few metres in front of me, but the general light it was giving off was being overtaken by the blackness from beyond that was creeping ever slowly in towards the spotlight. Was this light about to go out? How would that render me?

Useless, scared, lost and in a serious state of panic were the words that sprung to mind. I had to push harder on the climbs to compensate for having to go a little easier on the descents and I had to get back to the start as soon as I could before this light burnt out. Then I’d have to walk back with nothing to navigate with but the dull flashing red light on the back of my saddle.

Every now and then someone would catch me or I would catch someone else and for a brief moment I could feed off their superior lighting. The forest lit up and I seen what a solid investment would have done for me. Then it went dark again and I cursed trying to use their lights because all it did was compromise my own night vision. There was never anyone slow enough who passed me that I might be able to latch on to, and nobody fast enough whom I caught that I could stay with. I got a few seconds of floodlight glory, and then it was back to negotiating the forest with what amounted to the same light off a birthday candle. Or so it felt.

About halfway around the lap the light suddenly began to come back on … that is, the great big light in the sky. Dawn was breaking and while it was still tough to see when I would duck into a single track section through the trees, the open sections grew brighter and brighter with each trip out of the trees and I soon found myself able to attack the downhill sections quicker now that I could make out every potential hazard.

The lap took 1 hour, 15 minutes, 52 seconds, a mere 1 minute, 18 seconds slower than the previous night lap. That wasn’t so bad after all, but then the last half lap was in growing day light. When I exchanged the timing chip I wished my team-mate luck and told him to enjoy the daylight.

I went to bed.

I think I got about an hour and woke to the news that I’d be going again in just over an hours time. Quick snack — yogurts, Mars bar, two Cliff bars, and a shot of hammer gel — and time to get the kit on again. I’d brought three cycling tops and two pairs of shorts with me. Given I’d been through three laps now, I had also gone through all my clothing. So now it was to find the least wet cycling jersey and to grit my teeth as it and a cool damp helmet went on my head for another go at this madness.

The forth and final lap, the sun up and the earth heating at the rate of what felt like one degree per minute. By the time I got my lap underway I was well and truly scorched again. But I didn’t care … I didn’t have a light on my head, I could see where I was going, I could see obstacles I couldn’t a few hours before, and I could enjoy this final blast of the course. I went all out, on a relatively empty stomach in a game of brinkmanship with effort and the bonk. I’d either blow up or storm home and despite the lack of sleep and food I wanted to try break the hour barrier.

I didn’t. I came in 4 minutes, 43 seconds beyond that, but with a decent time despite the restrictions. I felt good, I felt tired and that’s how you should feel after a twenty four hour race, even if you are one of five.

All in we finished 15th in our category of 51 having completed 19 laps which was mighty impressive. We earned that good result and everyone done their bit … nobody backed out and we all took a good pull. When we all got packed up and headed for home I made the short forty-five minute blast back to the city life, tossed the bike in my storage locker content to leave the cleaning until another day and then fulfilled an urge I had gotten during one of my night shift laps: To have some pizza. The smell had wafted across my nose somewhere out on the course despite the fact there was no pizza for miles around and when it arrived on the door and I sat down to eat it while cracking a can of cold beer. I never felt like I’d earned it more.

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Was that the worst day I’ve had on a mountain bike? Probably not, butit sure felt like it

Ontario Cup, Round 2: Mansfield Outdoor Centre

Well that was one of the worst days I’ve experienced on a mountain bike. That’s all I could think throughout the race and even after I had finished and looking back now a few days later I’m having to really dig deep into the memory bank to remember anything worse. They say the body forgets pain quite quickly hence why people run marathons again, why woman give birth a second time and why I continue to enter these races, and so with that in mind maybe I have had worse, in fact I am sure I have and I’ve simply forgotten about it, a mechanism of the brain that allowed me to enter on Sunday.

It didn’t help that I arrived a little later than I’d have liked. My wife and baby daughter had come along for the day out and as is apt to happen when you bring a baby anywhere, things come up you don’t expect and you never arrive anywhere on time. As a result I got time for a five minute warm-up at best … just a chance to run the old ticker up to about 150 beats per minute and back down again before taking to the cattle grid of my category ready to be shuffled forward to the start line and out into the misery.

And I knew what was coming. I’d done this course last year and it was starting in the exact same place: At the bottom of a steep climb. Probably only about 600 meters in length but one that got gradually steeper the longer it went and with an average gradient of 8 percent. When you’re faced with something like that then you had better well of warmed up or you’re going to get a nasty kick in the lungs when it comes time to start racing.

Because of the lack of warm up and knowing the climb that faced me I should have went off steady, even easy. Had I warmed up I would have planned to start within myself, let the fastest men ride off if need be and get over the climb with my heart-rate still somewhat normal so I could ride myself into the race. Without the warm-up I really should have crawled my way up the climb, but as is always the way with me I started out a little too fast and despite sitting up a little I was still going way to quick for my body … a body that had been relaxing a moment before only to be jolted awake by this sudden madness.

With the wife and baby about one hundred yards up the track I of course didn’t want to be out the back and so I had tried to keep pace. It didn’t help that my points from round one when I finish eighth resulted in a ‘call up’ to the start line making me think I was better than I obviously was.

Once the climb ramped up I knew I was in trouble and when I swung right upon reaching the top I could feel my lungs biting back. It was as though someone had reached in through my chest with a pair of forceps and prized those lungs wide open. The cool air of the late morning blew right in and the energy gel I’d consumed half an hour before was working its way back out of my stomach.

The first lap was a disaster.

Not to mention the fact that they had thrown in this savage single track climb that wasn’t a part of last years route and with me unable to get a practice ride in this weekend it caught me unawares. Nobody that I seen was able to ride the climb from the bottom to the top. One nasty little jolt up over the routes of a tree proved too steep for everyone and a line up of walkers was formed. I wouldn’t mind climbing off for a walk but with people behind me I felt obliged to run / walk fast and to me that’s even worse than riding hard.

I contemplated getting off the bike at the end of the lap and calling it quits and if it hadn’t been for my wife and kid who I’d dragged all the way up to this, I might have. But seeing them waiting for me at the end of the lap urged me to push on and see if I felt any better.

Bringing the baby for a day out resulted in me arriving later than I’d have preferred but if it weren’t for her I probably wouldn’t have finished so I was delighted to have them there. Suffering aside, the Ontario Cup series is a fantastic day out for both riders and their families. Lots going on and lots of fun.

The second lap I began to fair better as the second half of the first lap was generally flat with a nice downhill and I was able to regroup. Of course the climb at the start of the lap and that single track horror didn’t make things easy but the first lap had essentially been the warm up I should have had before the race and so I started to feel a little better, though not better enough to claim I didn’t ask why I was doing this while ambling up the climbs.

That second lap was quicker than the first though I tailed off again on the third and while it might have been slower than the first lap it didn’t feel quite as bad either.

I ended up 13th of 20. Highly disappointing because looking at the results from the race a few weeks before there were some that beat me by a lot more today and some I had beaten in round one who were much closer this time. A bad day and in cycling we all have them, I suppose. Time to go home and get out for a few more rides to try and fair a little better next time.

My claims that I might have to consider retirement were rebuffed once I had recovered … the brain once again forgetting just how badly it had been and was now convincing me that next time it would be much easier. I don’t believe my brain but I’ll go with it.

Race data from Garmin Connect

O-Cup 2013, Round 1: Woodnewton — Let the suffering begin

Finally it was time to see just where I was at in terms of my fitness acquired gradually over the winter and in a big last minute hurry throughout April. With all the road cycling I did home from work in April I never got much of a chance to get out on the mountain bike. Indeed, that’s quite an understatement as the first time I threw my leg over my mountain bike in 2013 and the first time since the Tour de King late last September, was the practice run at the course for this race on Friday night.

I remembered the course from last year and baring a short section it was virtually the same which, with my Garmin data from the year before, I could see just where I stood one year on. Unlike last year this race in Woodnewton was the first of the series and I was happy enough with that. The course itself was relatively flat with no serious climbing which is never a bad way to be broken into the season.

I went out with my age old tactic of taking it easy at the start and riding my way into the race. I did a minimal warm-up content to allow the first lap to be the warmup and then to push on and finish the race strong. I always have these grand ideas of pacing myself through I rarely ever am able to follow through on it once the race begins. Somewhere deep in my subconscious I realise I am in a race and therefore start to race. I was a little better this time and tried to blind myself to those around me, allowing the man in front to ride ahead if he was going a little too quick for my liking, and as a result I did feel stronger than I feared I would be going into the second lap. Indeed, I felt my third lap was quicker still, and so was a little surprised to see in the end that it was almost a minute slower than the lap before. Was I running out of steam or with nobody close behind me and nobody in view ahead to catch did I back off a little? I don’t think so because I crossed the line and needed to sit down right away.

I couldn’t compare either the second or the third lap to the first as the starting location was in a different location (see the map below) and the later two laps included a slower section to link up with the rest of the course by comparison to the first lap. Still, my second lap was an expectant 1 minute,  34  seconds slower than the first which was better than the year before when I lost 2 minutes, 7 seconds. My second lap was 33 seconds quicker than the third this year by comparison to it being one minute faster the year before. If anything that showed me that this year I was able to sustain my pace better lap over lap.

Of course, with an added technical section this year the average speed was slightly slower and that too distorts the comparison.

So what of results? Well I was pleasantly surprised to see that I finished 9th of 17 in my race. Last year I was 14th of 15. Unlike last years races the 30-34 Master Sport category started with the 35-39 group and in a combination of the two groups I came in 26th of 44. Pleasing enough for the first race and something to build on.

I’ve missed this challenge, not to mention fun (once the body recovers a little, that is) over the winter. It’s good to have it back again and I am already looking forward to the next race in late May where I will hopefully have a little more training under my belt and able to push myself that little bit harder.

Race data:

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/304978641

The Tour de King ends the season

The second annual Tour de King took place last weekend and like the year before marked the end of my racing season. Good weather is becoming rarer by the week and it’ll be less time than you think before those once hard and dry trails I spent an entire summer on, will be covered in snow. Thankfully last Sunday was one of those good days which was in stark contrast to the Tour de King of 2011.

I wouldn’t say it was hot … certainly not by comparison to the best of the summer months and had the temperatures been what they were for one ride in the middle of July we’d have complained about how cold it was, but for the last day of September it was a comfortable 15 degrees Celsius. Good enough for shorts though I went with a long sleeve top that by the halfway point I wished I could shed but had no conceivable way of doing so.

The Tour de King is a 50 kilometer — though closer to 40 than 50 kilometers — race through the township of King, just north of the Greater Toronto Area. It’s a point-to-point race over roads, fire roads and single track, meaning that upon finishing you either take a bus back to your car at the start or leave your car at the finish and have a friend give you a ride to the beginning. The final option is to ride back to the start when you finish, which seems well and good given it would still only be a 65km ride all in, but you’re never in any mood to traipse along the road back to the start after ploughing through the back roads and single tracks of King for the past two hours.

This year I went with the cars-at-either-end option which was handy though would have been even more handy had the weather been like it was in 2011. Last year the race took place in one of the coldest days of the later half of the year and that includes days in November and December when temperatures were unusually mild. It was just four degrees and about half way through it started to pour. Everyone arrived at the finish shivering before huddling together at picnic tables for their burger and beer while waiting for the bus ride back to the start. To get an idea of how much worse the conditions where (or of how fitter I am this year!) my finishing time in 2012 was 38 minutes, 24 seconds faster albeit with a course going in the opposite direction but one with more climbing in it. Yes, the conditions were miserable in 2011 though I more than enjoyed the racing part itself and entered again fully hopeful the weather would prove to be better.

It was better to the point that when I finished, the barbecue area was placed nicely in a sun spot that I went looking for a shaded area to sit. No free beer this year however.

The race itself was tough. I had done nowhere near the riding I had earlier in the season and so came into it with the kind of fitness I had way back when the season began. I got around okay, but the pace from the beginning was high for the mass start race. The moment the neutral car pulled out of the way the race was lined out along the back roads. It’s been a long time since I was involved in a road race and it’s been a year to this event that I was racing a mountain bike on the roads, though unlike the year before where the first half a dozen kilometers were on single track trails with the course coming in the opposite direction, there were lots of road early on in 2012. The pace was hot and I tried too hard to stay with it and when we hit the first single track — single track that was included last year but which I hadn’t planned for this year as it wasn’t on the map — I blew up. I sat up, paced myself better and spent the rest of the day in and out of small groups along road stretches and doing my own thing in the single tracks.

That’s the unique thing about the Tour de King as a mountain bike race with some of it on the road and some of it on trails. The race spreads out quickly and you form little groups for a while before pacing yourself out the back or up ahead. Unlike a road race where you know there might be 20km of road to the finish, it’s much different in the Tour de King. In that 20km you have to factor in the single track from which 5km of that is a different ball game to 5km on the road. If you don’t pace yourself for it, you’ll soon know about it.

All this amounts to a good challenge, but a lot of fun and a great end of season event. I wish I had been a little fitter than I was, but I didn’t suffer to the point of misery … just enough to know I had a good workout. And at least I was warm and dry.

Last year I entered what is known as the ‘Clydesdale’ category for those weighing over 200lbs. I didn’t go for that this year as having lost a lot of weight since the end of last year I’ve been racing at times just under 200lbs. As it turns out though, come the time of the race I was probably a hare over 200lbs and could have entered that category. I kicked myself for not doing so when I seen the results sheet and noticed that with my finishing time of 1 hour, 9 minutes, 40 seconds I would have finished second in the ‘Clydesdale’ had I went for it. Pretty sure in full gear I’d have passed the post-race weigh-in.

Derek Zandstra, he of recent participation in the mountain bike World championships put in the fastest time of 1 hour, 29 minutes, 59 seconds, showing the golf in class to weekend warriors like myself who trailed in just the 39 minutes, 41 seconds after him. He started in the first wave, ten minutes ahead of me, but I can’t use that as an excuse as the times were offset correctly. Suffice to say Zandstra had probably time to finish, grab a quick burger and ride back to the start if it so pleased him before I came over the line.

My time placed me 23rd of 59 in the 30-39 class, 25 minutes down on the winner. There’s always next year to bridge such a gape, though if I don’t cut out the beer and junk food too much, maybe I’ll be able to squeeze into the Clydesdale and pick up a podium finish!

Winning a series; and signs that the season is ending

This week was the final race in the Tuesday night series at Kelso Park. I’m gonna miss that series. 12 races, of which I took part in 10, throughout this fine summer went by like the summer itself, much too quickly. After winning two of my first three races up there in the Sport category, I never tasted victory again, but I apparently rode consistently enough through most races — even including that July dip in form when my brother came to visit and we spent more time eating out than out on a bike training, but with no regrets, of course — to finish the 30-39 age class in first place.

If I’m honest, I don’t remember the last time, if ever, that I won a mountain bike series? I might have when I was in my teenage years at the North Down CC winter mountain bike races that my dad and uncle would run and that would take place in far more hostile conditions to those I had to adapt myself to on these hot balmy Tuesday evenings, but I can’t be sure. I think I did, so I’ll choose to say I did, but I may not have and if it is the case that I did but just forgot about as a teenager is apt to do on the belief you’ll do it again and again anyway, then I won’t make the same mistake twice.

It’s been a fun season of mountain biking and these Tuesday night races have allowed for me to do more racing this year than I have since I was about 15, and even then this might be the most in a single year ever. It was nice to win twice in this little series even, as I say, if it was a mid-week series sport category, but it’s something that feels good no matter what the standard is and having not done that on a bike for about 15 years, it sure felt good and you remember why you enjoyed it before and wonder why you allowed yourself to wait so long to do it again.

Next Tuesday is a fun night of cycling related games, a barbecue and prizes. It should be fun though I can’t help but wishing that the series went on for another few weeks yet. The weather is brilliant and only the shortening nights are getting in the way of prolonging it into September.

My cycling will continue into October I would like to think, and I’ve two more race events to go — the provincial championships and the Tour de King — but these final days of August, the darker evenings, the ‘back-to-school’ signs for the kids, and, as has become a recent addition to my life, the run-in of the Baseball season, all point towards the end of another cycling season, and I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. Despite having done fifteen races already this summer, it’s gone way to quick and it almost feels like there hasn’t been enough.

Slippery when wet in Buckwallow

A great days racing at Buckwallow today. No hills on the course which suits me just fine, but a technically challenging course in parts with plenty of mud after a lot of rain earlier in the weekend. I finished sixth.

I probably could have went harder the last lap but didn’t see a single other rider to push me on and decided to just enjoy it … and keep a lookout for the bear. There had been reports of a bear being seen on the course the day before and so I figured it was worth keeping a little energy in reserve, just in case!

I didn’t get practicing the course before hand for they had cancelled the Saturday pre-ride due to the weather and not wanting several hundred mountain bikers ripping up the course a day before they needed to, which meant many of us rode it blind. I never like riding a course blind … you have no idea what’s coming up around the next corner and whether or not to conserve something for a hill that might suddenly appear. I was assuming this course might have at least one big climb to rip me apart, but it didn’t. Had it been very dry it would have been a super fast lap, but was it was with the mud, most energy was spent making sure the bike stayed upright.

All lost calories were replenished at a McDonald’s on the drive home. I haven’t been to one for years but with the traffic heavy on Highway 400 south and with Olympic sponsorship fresh on my mind, i couldn’t escape the lure of those golden arches!

I got home in time to get hungry again and head out to the Keg for some real meat and a cold beer … the wind-down meal of champions … or sixth place finishers in a men’s master-sport race 30-34.

Musings from race six at the Kelso mid-week series

I definitely felt better than last week but then again it was a good 10 degrees cooler and without the humidity. I also had the Garmin back on the bike and like the slave to it that I am becoming I was able to regulate my ride better. Halfway around the final lap I was sitting somewhere around 8th overall when I was able to push harder to the finish than I otherwise might have done had I gone off to hard at the start as I am prone to do from time-to-time. By the time I reached the finish I was up to forth, just thirty seconds off the win, and had won the 30-39 class in a sprint by half-a-wheel.

Below is my race details:

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/193204305