Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Records are made to be broken

Since Provincials, I've really only done 2 solid rides. I was tired after the race, and felt that the week after would be a good time to recharge a bit before approaching the September races. I only did short rides until Friday, when I did a long MTB ride with Justin. Had to have been around 80km for me, and more for him coming from Welland. It was fun, and we went fairly quick.

On Saturday I made my way down the Canal path to Port Colborne into a good headwind. When I got there my average speed was 31.3km/h, so I decided to continue on and do the whole circle route rather than enjoying the easy tailwind back to St. Catharines. I kept my speed above 36km/h along the friendship trail with the help of the side/tailwind. By the time I got to Fort Erie, the winds had changed and I would have to face a side/headwind all the way to NOTL. I was hurting for long periods of time, but was determined to beat my record time for this route (3:58, 34.1km/h). I got my average speed up to 34.4km/h before NOTL, and then turned into a stiff headwind back to St. Catharines. This stretch was quite painful, and I had to completely empty the tank just to keep my speed above 33km/h. I got home in a time of 3:53, with an average speed of 34.2. I was very pleased with my effort, because I beat my record on a much windier day. Next season I will try to up that.

So that's it for endurance training for me. I don't think it can improve at this point in the season, so there's no use in doing anything over 4 hrs. My strength for the marathon championships, and Paul's will come from everything I did this season, not what I do in the next two weeks.

I am looking forward to the provincial crit this weekend, in Windsor. The course seems favorable to the sprinters, being a non technical, 4 corner square. My race will be 80km, starting at 5:15pm. The plan is simple; stay up front, and avoid being on the wrong side of a split. There are two $G's on the line, so I'm sure some big names will be out. Not sure what to expect, so I'm saying my goal is top 15. Good enough to get paid.

On another note, I made a couple purchases. I bought a new cross bike, a 2010 Spz Tricross Expert. Jake the Snake was getting on the small side, and has taken on the challenge of delivering Sara Byers to cyclocross victories. I will race a handful of cross, just for fun. I am not going to train for it, just go off my current fitness until it's gone. My first cross race will be the Jump the Cheeseburger race, because its in St. Kitts. It's the Saturday before Marathon Champs, so I will likely not push myself too hard.

Also I finally bought a power meter. I went with a Power Tap, although I initially wanted a Quarq. Having a power meter wheel seems to be more practical though because I can use it on my cross bike in the off season. Its also a fair bit cheaper than a Quarq. This thing will take my interval training to a whole notha level.

Peace out

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ontario MTB Champs

Woodnewton was pretty cool. The course grew on me during Saturdays pre-ride, and I kind of wanted to do a fourth lap, after a very fun third one. There was a lot of not so fun grassy doubletrack climbing, but the downhill singletrack following was all very fun. Nothing was very technical, but there were a lot of dips and loose turns. The berm'd downhill section was very very fun. We noticed that there was almost no singletrack climbing, and that passing on the ST would be tough. This meant that you had to go hard on the climbs to make your passes, and not be slowed by lapped traffic.

Justin's parents got us a good deal at a B&B in Port Perry. We had the whole house to ourselves, with a fully stocked kitchen to cook ourselves a pre-race feast.

We cooked some eggs and pancakes, and also ate bagels, cereal, bread and fruit. I think I ate a bit too much, maybe one bagel too many, because I felt full during the whole race, and my stomach was a bit upset from lap 3 to the end.

My start was good, and I made up some spots on the opening climb. I was about 15th after lap 1, with a bunch of guys just ahead. I caught up to Anton, and worked with him for a while. We caught Kyle D together and worked with him for a while. Together we caught and passed Souter, Then I got gaped a little by those 2, but closed it down. I was starting to hurt on lap 4, and when Anton hammered the early part of lap 5, he was gone. I had a weak last lap, and all I could do was hold my spot. I had some gas left, but with a lot of tension in my lower back, and an unpleasant feeling in my tummy, a fast lap was not going to happen.

I was soo close to the top 10, and set myself up for it early in the race, but couldn't finish the job in the end. Oh well, I am very pleased with 13th, considering that almost all the big guns were there. For that reason, I feel that it was a slight improvement on my Kelso result. Also, I never gained spots because of other racers mechanicals, or off days. It was all me.

Congrats to Justin who had a great race, finishing second in Senior Expert. That tops my best result last year, and he is still working on the farm. Also Etzl, who won the Cadet race, in what I heard was a very thrilling sprint. way to go man. And, Meg won the cadet/junior sport race, another great result for her.

Next stop: Windsor for the provincial crit.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Elliot Lake Report

Man am I ever happy that I made the trip up to the middle of nowhere for a weekend of racing. Even if there was no racing this weekend would have been great, because we did things right and stayed up at the Wilderness Lodge, 45mins north of Elliot lake.

The drive up went quite smooth, except for a long delay on the 400, because a lane was closed, for no reason. No big deal, I just had to go a bit faster to make the lost time up. We stopped in P-sound for an hour long ride, and our attempts to find a road near water turned into Le Tour de Dead Ends. The highlight of this ride was taking the road machine onto the Canadian Shield and tearing up some rock lines through the forest. Justin has some pics of that.

We made it to Elliot Lake around 7, then drove the road course, but kept going about 20mins past the turn around to arrive at thee Wilderness lodge. This place was beautiful. Its on the tip of a big lake, with a small beach, and nothing but Wilderness to see in the distance. Just big hills with cliffs and thick forest. The cabins are old, and a kinda run down, but it was clean and had everything we needed. Full kitchen, BBQ, table, couch, beads, deck, you name it. We put a lasagna in the oven then went for a swim. It was a little cool, but perfect once you got in. After mow'n down a large amount of everything, we fished for a bit, but had no luck. Shortly after the sun went down, the bats came out. These things freak me out a bit, cause they seem to like flying full speed straight at my face and then dodging me at the last second. It happened three times... Justin assured me that they were simply flying all wacky to catch bugs.

Saturday we woke up to rain, but I was fine with that. It would make the crit more interesting. We fueled up on oats, pancakes, eggs, bagels and bananas and got to the crit early enough to chill, watch the juniors, cheer on Noah, walk the course, and warm up. Warming up in the rain is no fun, but at least your ready for it when the race starts. We lined up, and as soon it started the pack stretched out very long and I found myself way too far back for comfort. I worked hard to move up, but when I got close to the front, the winning move was already clear. Guys were slipping and sliding all over the course, and I saw about 4 crashes unfold right in front of me. Nothing bad, just slide outs. I hung out in the chase group, and did a bit of work to prevent us from being lapped by the 5 leaders. We were going good, but some guys were taking the turns way to slow, and I think that was where we lost our time. In the end we almost caught the leaders, bringing the gap down to 5 seconds with 2 laps to go. There was some confusion in our group as some thought they were a dropped group, so our chase was disrupted, and they pulled away to a 11 second gap. Coming into the sprint I was near the back of our group, and had to start my sprint at the bottom of the hill. At the top I was leading and held off the others to take 7th. I was happy with that, but if we caught the leaders, that would have been a great finish.

Of course the sun came out after the crit finished, and it turned into a nice afternoon. I had 4 hours to kill before my start of the hill climb. We hung out around the crit start, cleaned our bikes, talked to other racers, ate and rested. We drove over to the hill and I did a 45 minute warm up. I felt like shit when I first started pedaling, but after the warm up I was ready to go. I was third last to start, with Ed Veal and Darko Ficko to chase me down. My TT started well. My plan was to get my heart rate up to 170 right away, and hold it there, with spikes to 180 on the steep parts and at the end. I was closing in on my minute man, pushing the big ring up the first pitch. When it got steeper, I decided to drop to the 39t to avoid grinding, and then disaster struck. I dropped my chain. I tried the shift into the big ring to get it on, and that failed. I ran out of momentum and had dismount. When pedaling and shifting it would not go on. I flipped my bike over and got my hands dirty manually re installing my chain. By the time it was on. Veal had gone by, but I was determined to pass him back. I caught back up to him, and followed him for a bit, then he put in a big dig and I could barely hold on. I was no longer in my mental zone knowing that I lost a minute+, and that even if I had the ride of my life, my time would still suck. I let Veal go, and I didn't pour everything into my effort. My anger was all that kept me moving along. On a slight downhill I put it back into the big ring, and my chain obviously dropped again when I shifted back down. This time I turned around to used the downhill for momentum while I shifted back to the big ring. I turned back up than cruised the last 200m to the top. I'm just going to forget about that one. It was totally my fault. I never fine tuned my front derailleur when I installed my new crank, because it seemed fine. With the Oval rings, it has to be perfect to work properly. Also, I was not shifting properly, as I was in big ring and big cog both times before the shift that caused the chain drop. Big big should be avoided, but with a double crank, the chainline is acceptable. I am going to put a chain catch on all my bikes. They look dorky, but after this disaster I realized how valuable they can be. 1/8th of a turn on the low limit had my shifting fixed for the next days road race.

After the hill climb we had to go to the meeting to discuss the road race course. Some questions were answered and Max's parents were recruited as our feeders. Then, it was back to the Wilderness lodge. About half way there I realized that I had forgotten to get gas. I would make it to the lodge for sure, but would I make it back to Elliot lake?

I got the BBQ fired up and threw some burgers on and Justin cooked some pasta. After we ate to the point of being completely stuffed, we went for a swim. Then, I caught a decent fish, apparently a large mouth Bass. It was my first cast with this certain bait, and I was unsure how to use it. I asked Justin, "how fast do I real this in?" "Fairly fast" he said, so I sped up a bit, then bam, and that's how you catch the big one kids!

After a mediocre sleep I woke to some shady weather on Sunday. I fried up some pancakes and eggs for breakfast, and ate them with a lot more syrup than the average person would. It was the good stuff though, from Niagara Maples. This enhanced my mood and good me ready to go. We left a little early in case the the other races would delay us, and to get some much needed gas. Doing the 45min drive on empty was exciting; I guess not knowing if we would make it got our adrenaline pumping. We made it, with 1L of gas to spare and we were early enough to watch the Cadet podiums, which St. Catharines dominated. I warmed a little, watched the Juniors finish, then after a brief downpour, our race began.

The pace at the start was fairly chill, other than some surges. Nothing to crazy happened before the first feed, which was a fail for most racers. We came into this feed zone with way to much speed. Why would they put it on a downhill like that? I actually lost fluids in this feed because I tossed a 1/4 bottle to make room for a full one.

Shortly after the feed zone, the big hills began, but the pace remained steady. I was out of water before the turn around, but I kept positive and thought about how much lighter my bike was with no fluids on it. The climb up to the turn around was the biggest in the race, about the size of two escarpments. This is where the winning move formed. I don't recall any insane surges, it was more like we were all climbing at our limit, and the strongest guys pulled away. The peloton was shattered from this selection, but came back together quickly. We kept the pace high heading back to Elliot lake, but the gap to the leaders seemed to be slightly increasing. Making it to feed 2 was a huge relief. I'm not sure I've ever been that thirsty before. Good thing I was able to get two bottles this time.

I don't remember any excitement going down until feed 3. I got one bottle here, 2 would have been better, because I was on course to run out shortly after the turn around. It was during this feed that Bayden took a little slam when his feed bag caught on something or another. Huge props to him for getting right back into the race, that looked like it hurt!

Guys kept attacking, and some went clear for a while. La Bicicletta boys did a lot of work to chase them down, and I mixed it up in the pace line for a bit. We caught them all around the last feed, and then the pace went way down, as the lead group of 5 had 8 minutes on us. I was thankfull that the pace was so slow because I was cramping pretty bad, and was very dehydrated.

We cruised along till the final 2ish km, where the pace ramped up and lead-outs formed for the sprint. I knew I had tones of kick left for the sprint, but was unsure if my legs would seize up or not on they way in. It was very tough to hold my good spot in the pack, because swarms of riders kept coming up the sides, and I would slip back. Before I could do anything about my poor positioning, the finish was in sight and the drag race had begun. All I could do was close in on the leaders. There was not enough road to catch them. Oh well, I was just happy to finish with the peloton, considering that I only lasted 2 of 12 laps at provincials last year.

Unfortunately, Justin broke a spoke and could only do one lap. Big bummer because he was very strong in the first quarter of the race. Max lost the pack before the first turn around when he dropped his chain (it sucks eh buddy), and could not close the gap. It is very respectable that he still finished the whole race with only one other guy to work with.

I loved this course so much. I hope it goes down again next year, but with proper feed zones. That was just retarded.

So post race we did some serious chilling and discussing, while enjoying some beers and mow'n all our leftovers. We got in one last swim, but it was a little to cool out for my likings.

On Monday we took our time heading out, than began the drive home around 11. A big Black bear crossed the road right in front of us only 15 mins into the drive. That was cool. I decided to not stop for a ride along the way as it takes to long to dig the bikes out and get changed. Instead, I made one of the best split decisions of my life. The new plan; go for a hike and swim at Grundy lake Provincial park. I had camped there a few times when I was younger, and remembered the amazing hiking trails, and huge cliffs they have to jump off into Gut Lake. We crushed the Gut lake trail in sub 1hr, despite the map saying it was a 1.5 hr hike. This trail is beautiful, like Buckwallow but not groomed for bikes, so you have to pic your lines carefully.

After the hike we headed over to the cliffs, and before the first jump Justin got attacked by a dog. I was walking ahead of him, and heard him yell "AHH FUCK" I turned about to say chill man there kids around, thinking that he stubbed his toe or something, but saw the parents pulling the dog back. The wound was not to bad, I'm sure it hurt, but no real medical attention was required. We were assured that the dog had its shots, then continued on with our cliff jumps. The big one is known as King Kong, and we did that a couple times before packing it in.

Then it was 5ish more hours of driving back to the armpit of Canada.

That is all
Thanks for reading and I hope to see you at MTB provincials this weekend.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Kelso O-cup

I succeeded in making the top 10! Thats if you exclude the 3 guys from New Zealand that beat me, so really I was 12th.

Highlights of the race:
- Sticking to my plan at the start and passing a few guys at the top of ascension.
- Crash #1 when Zack Winn ran an uphill in front of me, messed up the remount and swung his bike in my path as I tried to pass causing me to flip over the bars into the long grass.
- Crash #2 when I was passing an elite female on the long downhill. I called right so that I could nail the berm line, But she took the berm right, so I said "never mind, Left" and started to pass, then she swerved left right into my front wheel, and I went down hard. I somehow rode away with only a scraped knee, so it was not so bad. Losing the rider I was with at the time was a bummer.
- Catching that rider on the last climb of the last lap, and riding past him feeling like a million bucks.
- Catching Jamie Wagler on the False flat after that, and leading him to the line.
- Getting to sprint in the end and winning!

I was feeling kinda crappy on my 3rd and 4th laps, likely because I was all alone for them. I lacked motivation to hammer the doubletrack until I was caught by Preston Wagler, and I stuck with him and another guy for a while. I started to feel good on the last lap, and finished very strong, but it was too late to make up significant placings. So this was far from a perfect race, but it was still a huge improvement from my results in the spring. Not sure if I'm getting stronger, of if others are burning out, but I'll take it, and go for another top 10 at Provincials. I'm now tied for 18th in the series, with a solid chance to move up a few.

Next focus: Elliot lake.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

kelso Pre-pre-ride

I used today's work free day wisely and drove up to Kelso for some pre riding. Via Appleby line, the drive is only 45mins for me, and if I took the 407 to avoid the lights, it could be even faster. Not bad.

I did 6 laps with the closest point to the upper parking lot being my start/finish. I found the course to be very similar to last years, but with a different, longer trail after the top climb. You also only go part way down the escarpment later, thus only climbing part way back up. This made for a stupid slow off camber turn to start the climb, which adds a nice technical element. Some other trails seemed a bit different and there may be a new technical rock descent, but nothing crazy.

The big climb at the start seemed shorter to me and I was able to keep it in my 40t the first 4 times. I remember finding it tough to climb in 32/32 last year, so flying up in 40/32 was exciting. The hot muggy air was catching up to me though and I was feeling like poo on the trail up top. I gave into my 27t for the final 2 climbs, just to prevent fainting and so that I could hammer the upper trail. My current plan for the race is to only go as hard as I have to (avoid slipping back) up the opening climb, because there is a long fairly wide trail at the top were I hope to make some passes and then set a really high pace on the long single track section. I figure that if I hammer up the climb, My pace will suffer for about 5 minutes after. If I take that extra 10-20 seconds to get up, then I will recover much quicker and make that time up as well as gain some shortly after the summit.

It took me a couple looks at the rock gardens to figure out my lines. The rocks are not like the flowy ones at Buckwallow, that you can ride like dirt. These are pointy and random. I tried to find some crazy jump this, drop that lines to bring serious speed though, but nothing came of it and I stuck to smooth and safe. Besides a bail on pointy rocks is not worth trying to safe 2 seconds. I will stick to the safer way of saving time by buying the lightest parts for my bike ;)

On the news this evening they said that the air quality was so poor that an hour of out-door exercise was equivalent to smoking a pack of cigs. So that means that if I sat on my couch and smoked 3 packs today, that would have been better for my lungs than the 3:15hr ride I did. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger though, right?

I'm going to go up again Saturday for a few more laps. Its soo close, so why not? Looking forward to this race, and am confident that I can get a top 10, no matter who shows up.

See ya there

Monday, August 2, 2010

Canal Dayz

Yesterday was the Canal Days MTB race, taking place on Port Colborne's amazing HOOD trails. I had been looking forward to this race sine discovering the trails back in February during the Frostbike. I guess these trails are well suited to me as I love riding them and always look forward to the next singletrak section. They have a similar riding style to Buckwallow, where smooth and steady is fast. No long climbs, but loads of short punchy ones. The terrain is unique to Niagara with some cool surfaces to ride on. There is the usual Niagara clay, but a good chunk of the trails have this shale like rock, with lots of exposed roots, and bigger rocks to.

I arrived at the venue with almost 2hrs to get ready, and decided to ride a lap for a warm up. I just took it easy and focused on being smooth. After that I did some efforts on the Canal path so that I would be ready to go right from the gun. I did just that and sprinted down the starting stretch hoping to have a small gap going into the first tail. I saw Etzl had me covered, so I backed off a bit allowed him and Tom to lead. Tom went really slow on the first trail, on purpose I guess so that he could calm the pace down. Etzl and I passed him on the double track, then I took the lead for the next trail, to find that my rear tire was flat. Crap! No idea ho this happened, must have burped some air on the first trail, but I kept calm, grabbed my CO2, then pulled over, shot it in, then I was back up and running only seconds later, and only 5ish spots down. I hammered past those guys very quickly to catch JH by Cliffhanger. It was only Etzl ahead of him, and Justin was able to close the gap for me. Awesome riding!

I passed Etzl on the trail before Mud Lake, and after hammering through there I had a comfy gap. From there I just did my own thing and rode as smooth as possible. Later in the second lap my lower back was getting tense making me a bit little lazy when it came to going hard. I didn't make myself suffer like I would if there were spots to gain, but I prevented my pace from slowing. There were quite a few lapped riders to get by near the end, but they were all great about it, getting right off the trail and cheering me on. Thank You!!

In the end Etzl secured second, and Justin rolled in third. These guys were on their game and riding very well. Congrats on getting on the box with me.

On the woman's side, Tanya Hanham came all the way from Ottawa to take that victory. Congrats on that one!!

The post race patio party at the Funky Monkey was a good time. Food was great and many freebies where being thrown around.

The turnout for the event was very solid, and I'm sure it will continue to grow, and soon be nearly Squeezer sized. Thanks a million to all the Shorthills crew and volunteers who made this event happen. The amount of work that goes into this event really makes it stand out. I look forward to trying to defend my title at the Frostbike and this for years to come.

So its looking like I will be racing at Elliot lake in two weeks. This means three big weekends in a row, with road provincials in an MTB o-cup sandwich. Haven't quite figured out how I will bring my A game to all 3, it will be interesting........