Thursday, April 30, 2009
I made the trip east to watch that race, and do some shredding myself. It was a muddy (but still awesome) three days of riding. The sun came out for race day, and we cheered on the riders from the side of the course, beers in hand.
That week was my first time downhilling. Today I registered with the OCA for my first DH race this weekend at Kelso.
And that's why "Lay Me Down" is the latest Race Track. My ode to Downhill!
Wish me luck!
PS - the trail photo in this blog's header is a primo MSA DH run.
Me, riding DH at MSA, 2008
Sunday, April 26, 2009
The Ontario Cup mountain-bike series kicked off today at Mansfield Outdoor Education Centre near Alliston. The weather man promised sun and warm temperatures, and that had most Ontarians stoked for the first nice weekend -- especially mountain bikers. It is a little tradition of mine that my first day in shorts (and my first sunburn of the year) occurs at the Mansfield race.
For as long as I have been racing, Mansfield has been the first stop of the provincial series. Because of the unpredictable nature of the weather and conditions this time of year its sandy, well-draining soil makes it an excellent early-season venue. No matter what mother nature throws at us (notwithstanding lightening or Armageddon), chances are the racing will be a-ok. Plus, it's a nice mix of flowy tight single track and climbing which makes it a little easier on racers getting out on their first course after a winter of accumulating cobwebs. The course caters more to riders' fitness than technical skills.
The weather was indeed unpredictable, and the forecaster was totally off-base. Instead of a 30 degree sunny sky, we were treated to a 6 degree deluge. The sunny, hot pre-ride from the day before was a distant memory as we scrambled to find yet another layer to keep warm and dry. We were early for the race to help out Tara, a fellow racer who's start time was a couple hours before ours. So we mostly just killed some time chilling in the minivan, trying to stay out of the weather.
Watching the rain come down I was oddly calm. It wasn't long ago the thought of slippery roots and muddly trails would have had me tense with nerves, but I really think my weekend in BC helped with my comfort in that department.
Soon enough, it was time to suit up, get the bike ready and head out for a warm up (which considering the pummeling the elements were throwing at us turned out to be not very warm at all!) Problem ... where the eff is my skewer? I looked everywhere and couldn't find it, then thanked myself profusely for being prepared enough to bring a spare. It didn't have a quick release, but at least my wheel would be attached!! After that bit of drama, I was off to the warm up, and then the start line.
The weather was cool enough to require arm and knee warmers. When I put my arm warmers on, they were still a bit damp from my sweat the day before -- the result of overheating on the balmy pre-ride. Sigh.
Off the start, KK sprang into action. She charged up the first climb and Mandy (of Paris to Ancaster podium fame) was right on her wheel. I was third wheel and well aware of it. At the crest of the hill, we were treated to a long fast descent and I pedalled up into the big ring -- the meat and potatoes -- and closed the gap. Just as the course pitched up into the first single track, I surged forward and jumped in first. "Holy shit, I'm in front" I thought and then did my best to gap them. I led the pack for the entire first lap, pulling away, then getting pulled back and getting away again. I was so excited I could hardly concentrate but I wanted it. Bad.
KK let me have my lap of glory (sadly at the wrong end of the race ...) and teammates cheered from the side of the course and the feedzone as I hammered through first. Then KK took her turn at the front and never looked back. She went by me like I was going the other direction. I gave chase, but knew I couldn't maintain the pace on the climb we were grinding. I hoped to see her again in similar fashion to the first lap, but she was long gone.
Perhaps I went out too hard, but shortly after KK got by, Mandy appeared again. She passed on some of the more technical climbing on the course and got away. I kept her in sight, kept the pressure on and we battled for two laps giving and taking. At last, at the end of the third lap, I got by her for the last time. She commented, "not going to give it up this time are ya?" in reference to the Paris to Ancaster tilt from last weekend. "Not today!" I called over my shoulder and went in for my final lap.
I chased in vain for KK, while stressing out about another Mandy-coup, and then it was over. It seemed like I had been begging god for it to be over only five minutes before. But when I crossed the line, I had to check with other racers to make sure I got my lap count right. It felt like it flew by.
I grabbed my complimentary chocolate milk, high-fived KK and rode off smiling my head off to spin out my legs. Today was my first time up on the Elite podium. Oh what a feeling! Rounding it out were KK with the gold and Mandy with the bronze.
Last season's model of oak leaf ... nothing more to see here.
The Ocup Circus is in town!
KK and I chilled out (literally) trail-side
Liz, post Sport race, hiding from the downpour
Stay tuned for a more coverage from the OCA report and just for fun, check out Andrew's version of the 1:30 race from the Expert male cateogry.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I just saw something from her new album Two Suns (released earlier this month) on MuchMusic and it reminded me of this genius video featuring bunny hops by bmx-ers dressed as bunnies (and other woodland creatures). Kind of a Donnie-Darko-on-his-way-home-from-the-bike-park sort of feel. Loves it. And will be checking out the new album tonight for sure. By the way, she's playing the Mod Club in Toronto this Saturday night!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Edmonton Canada Cup Preview from Mike Sarnecki on Vimeo.
136m of climbing
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Inspired. Danny MacAskill from dave on Vimeo.
UPDATE: Just found this little write up on the vid from CyclingDirt.org
Inspired Bicycles - Danny MacAskill April 2009
April 22, 2009
Filmed over the period of a few months in and around Edinburgh by Dave Sowerby, this video of Inspired Bicycles team rider Danny MacAskill features probably the best collection of street/street trials riding ever seen. There's some huge riding, but also some of the most technically difficult and imaginative lines you will ever see. Without a doubt, this video pushes the envelope of what is perceived as possible on a trials bike.
Credit to Band of Horses for their epic song 'The Funeral.' You can find out more about the band and their music at www.bandofhorses.com or www.myspace.com/bandofhorses
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Behind schedule, and still not quite packed after the minivan mission, I sprang into action. I admit, my race day prep left something to be desired, but that's what the first race is for: practice.
I had a pretty modest breakfast -- just a bowl of cereal and a glass of water -- and then threw my gear into a bag and packed up the minivan. I promised myself a stop at Tim's for some caffeine and a bagel, but didn't realize I broke the promise until I picked up my race registration package in Ancaster. So much for that.
I handed over my baby to a man with a big truck and hoped for the best. He promised I'd see it again in Paris at the start line, so I took care of some final touches on my prep then got on the shuttle bus headed for the start line.
Wasn't long before I located KK. She peer-pressured me into doing the race, so in return we agreed we'd work together. Paris to Ancaster is a point-to-point race of varying terrain over 60km. It is billed as Ontario's Paris Roubaix, a spring European road classic. However, racers ride CX or XC bikes for our version -- it's not a road race.
The course includes some doubletrack, rail trail, farmers' roads and fields, paved roads, gravel roads and pretty much zero single track. Combined with today's near-constant headwind, it was a real winner out there. But at least it didn't snow!
P2A also boasts that they have the largest field of riders assembled in Canada. According to the results, more than 1,200 finished the race.
KK and I warmed up, then sidled up to the start line. We didn't have a terrible spot, but it wasn't awesome either. The race started and we didn't even really notice. It took another minute before the riders in front of us were moving and we were off, threading the needle over dusty roads trying to beat as many as possible onto the narrower rail trail.
I felt good right away. KK stayed on my wheel and expertly took her pulls too. In fact, I think I swallowed a rock her wheel kicked up. The two of us have been hacking up mudpies ever since we crossed the finish line.
The middle of the race was pretty much the same old boring P2A ... long stretches of straight roads, switching off pulls into the headwind. There were a few notable highlights: we passed some kids with a "sweet jump" built in their driveway, so I hit it and they cheered. There were some other kids in a farmers' field that wanted high fives and so of course we obliged. You'd think we were handing out gold bricks for how excited they were!
The end of the race had a good tilt. We successfully navigated the sloppy, muddy, sticky, clay-based mudslides (bike still caked -- too tired to care) and rounded that last corner onto the famous final climb. KK pointed out a mark for me and sent me on my way to chase her down. I was still feeling really good so I went for it. My legs didn't let me down and I passed her after a moderate effort and some mountain bike handling (she was on a CX bike which is basically a road bike but with knobby tires). I gapped her and started to focus on the ever-increasing pitch of the climb. I had my face almost right to the bar when I decided I ought to check back. I think that look over my shoulder added another couple logs to her fire because the next thing I knew she was passing me back. I battled with her for a bit, but not knowing her category or my ranking, made an oxygen-depraved decision to let her go. I finished right after her as the finish line was basically the crest of the hill.
I finished strong, felt like a champ and put to rest my insecurities about having worked alone (ie without a coach) this winter to prepare for the season. So if I'd just got into the car and come home straight after my cool down, I'd have been super stoked. But it turned out there was a bonus! All that work added up to a silver medal! So I got to take home some hardware along with my big grin. KK was right behind me and shared the podium too. Oh yeah, the girl on the hill won our category. I'm lazy and she deserved it :)
Women's 20-29 Podium: KK bronze, Me silver, Mandy gold
Overall Women's Podium: Alison Sydor, gold; Melissa Bunn, silver; Michelle Cordy, Bronze
Crowding around to check results
The first thing you see when you come into the arena ... priorities!
A little piece of history (belonging to a giant).
Saturday, April 18, 2009
The Race Season just got a hell of lot less stressful. As of today, I am no longer a renter! I am no longer a beggar! I am no longer a detour on someone else's route!
I am a minivan owner!!
My best sponsors -- Mom and Dad -- really upped the ante on this year's support and put my name on the ownership papers of a 2004 Dodge Caravan. I had the pleasure of driving it from Bruce County to Toronto today and it was a dream come true. I kept looking around me and smiling out loud. Every hour or so it would hit me again: I have a vehicle of my very own!
I am guessing this beautiful gift will fit at least six bikes. Since I only have three, I'll never have to choose. I'll never have to worry about "carfew". I'll never have to worry about filling up the tank "just so" in order not to rip off the rental car company, or make too generous a donation. I don't have to worry about which Autoshare car is available, or when I can get around to pick it up. And I don't have to think twice about heading out for the weekend to races, to the cottage, to the beach or wherever I want to go.
So today was a good day. Now all I need are some soccer balls (and maybe a racing stripe!) ...
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
But forget him, check out his protege! This vid was too rad not to post. Thanks Rob!
Protege from Rob Fraser on Vimeo.
I took my 6 year old neighbor to the start of our new DH trail to practice. For his first time riding DH, he ripped big time.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
One last blast out west for winter/spring 09 took me to Squamish -- but I left the skis behind and packed up the new bike to test its mettle offroad instead. At the aiport, it was still clearly ski season -- at least judging by all the families lugging boot bags and ski sacks around -- and I was starting to wonder if I was pushing mother nature. Especially considering the Squamish weather report forecasted rain/snow mix and higher temperatures in Toronto.
The journey was blessedly uneventful. That's how I like my flights. We arrived without any delays and I had a smooth connection to the Whistler bus. I'd recommend it as a means to the goods if you're wondering how to get around from YVR. You can book through Perimeter Reservations and it was $70 round trip from Vancouver to Squamish. Turns out you can't leave Vancouver airport for less than that. Cabs downtown are about $70 bucks too. Rental cars even have a bonus $70 "location surcharge" there. So I was happy about the bus, for once.
After grabbing a sub to curb my angry appetite, I met a nice man who didn't seem to mind that I was chatting his head off. We shared a laugh at the ridiculous cash grab that follows cyclists around. "What's in the box? A massage table?" asked the bus reservations clerk. "A massage table would be nice about now," I answered, thinking seriously about a massage after lugging the thing around the airport. He didn't ask any follow up questions because he had to take a phone call. I was just about to get away with my luggage tag when he asked again. "It's a bike," I say quietly. He put the usual apologetic face on and informed me it would be an extra fee. "What if it was a massage table?" I asked. "It's just our policy" he replied, but what he was really saying was, "next time, just say it is a massage table."
Anyway, once on the bus, the full impact of my stoke combined with the winding roads to make me feel pretty carsick. Thank goodness what's-his-name let me yack away or else I might have had to throw up from the excitement.
I was the only one to get off in Squamish and spent an agonizing twenty minutes in the dark at the Adventure Centre waiting for the cab ... or wolves to drag me into the forest. Finally he arrived and I got paid-back for my chattiness earlier as he yabbered on about where the cops hide and stories of drunk drivers. Next thing I know, we're in a road block and the RCMP officer is asking for his license and wouldn't you know it? It's nowhere to be found. So close and yet so far!! Once we got that out of the way, I arrived at last to Cottonwood Road and the welcoming arms of my charming and handsome host for the weekend. Plus he had a cheese-board so I couldn't have been happier.
View Larger Map
With the bike built, it was time for bed. I knew that even with the late hour the jet lag and my own ridiculous excitement would have me up plenty early. What I didn't expect was sun in my eyes! Practically frantic with excitement, I loaded up my camelback and set out. It wasn't long before I met another couple dudes out for a sunny ride. They were headed the opposite way on the trail I was on ... Wonderland. How appropriate. They stopped to say hello and asked, "hey, are you that racer from Ontario?" Wow, famous already! Turns out the bike shop where I'd stopped, Republic, is run by a super nice guy who knows a bunch of the same people I know, including Sweet Pete. MTB is such a small world. He helped me get sorted out and gave some fabulous directions. Anyway, he told them I'd been in the shop that morning. I stood out on day-one anyway. For some reason I decided to geek-out in our new kits which I think are pretty dope, but also very ... lycra. And heckleable if you're just out for a trail ride. Still, I wanted to feel racy so I dressed the part.
Next thing I know, I'm in a peleton anyway. I was the 18th rider to join a Good-Friday group ride which became "The Blob". By the end, we were just a couple short of 30 riders. They treated me to quite an adventure. It was my first day really riding offroad, and my first day in BC and I swear it was the gnarliest trail I have ever seen -- including the time I went downhilling at Mont Ste Anne. And so the "girl from Ontario" continued to make a name for herself as she cheerily hiked-a-bike over drops and crags she'd think twice about on foot, let alone with only four inches in the front. It was fantastic!! We ripped around Alice Lake for four hours in a combo of freeride, XC and straight up DH trails including Jack's Trail, Marc My Words, and others whose names I can't remember.
Here are some shots from sunny day one (click the image to make it bigger):
The second day of riding ended up being -- no word of a lie -- the best ride of my life. I was discouraged because it was wet and grey out when I woke up. More along the lines of what the forecaster predicted. But with Matt and Joe on their way in from Vancouver, it was do or die. I knew Joe was coming, but I'd never met him before -- or so I thought. Turns out he was on the ride with the Blob the day before as well. See? Small world. We hopped into the Kona van and visited Tantalus bike shop to get advice on where to go. Then we headed up to Garibaldi Highlands behind Quest University for the goods. We climbed a logging road for an hour and 15 minutes ... even past the snow line ... before we ducked into Recycle. Along the way, the road narrowed into double track and pink ribbons began appearing with BC Bike Race marked. My heart was all aflutter.
Recycle ended up being some of the flowiest, whoop-worthy single track I've ever rode. It was perfect pitch for an XC bike and even though it was wet, it was tacky as hell. I could have done that all day. The three of us were hollering all the way and grinning like idiots. Best of all, as I got to know the limits of my bike, I found that she just kept on surprising me. I think this is definitely the start of a beautiful friendship. It hung onto the tightest switchbacks, descended like a champ without making me feel like I was on my way ass over tea kettle. The suspension did indeed stay active even as I grabbed fistfuls of back brake to get around the next glorious corner.
And so it went all the way back down into Squamish. Along the way, we visited a famed pump track just emerging from the forest floor. We ran into some guys out with chainsaws working on trail features and clearing. Obviously the builders in the area take a lot of pride in their work. Which I would like to take this opportunity to comment on. Everyone I met this weekend clearly considered themselves not only riders, but members of a community. It seemed that most of the conversations around me were about where to build next, trails being cut and sharing everything from homemade energy bars to best training techniques. Maybe it's just me but in Ontario/Toronto it sometimes feels like people keep their cards close to their chest until it's time to squabble over dirt jumps, the Don Valley or dog walkers. It was great being in a such a positive setting and it's no wonder the sport is thriving in Squamish. All the trails I saw (and I saw a lot by the end of the weekend) were beautifully maintained. There was no trash to pick up and everyone smiled at each other whether on bikes, walking dogs, or hiking with their families. It's a network to be proud of.
So here are some photos from day two:
Day three was the wettest day yet and the rain looked more like what we're used to in Ontario rather than the friendly mist you get on the west coast. Nonetheless, my friends from the first day promised to meet for a 10 am ride so I got suited up and headed out half expecting to ride alone. To my surprise, I had some company afterall! Mikhail (I think that was his name and apologize if I missed it!) was my Easter bunny and pushed my tired legs through precisely the workout I had hoped for. Tight, twisty singletrack with a few long falseflat efforts. Everything was emerald green from the moisture and the air was sweet and fresh, cooling my lungs with every breath. Although we didn't stay out long I was satisfied. We found ourselves back on Wonderland. Close by return!
So a huge thank you to everyone who helped me find my way this weekend. It was unforgettable and I can't wait to come back again. Test of Metal? Gearjammer? I'd even come for a twoonie race.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Applied to the race course, this song's lyrics have extra meaning. Sometimes, I admit to getting a little muddled (thoughts drifting to Wonderland, if you will) but channeling Gwen gets me back on track. "Life is short, you're capable!"
It's a good pick considering the imminent Easter long-weekend too, since it's got bunnies and the unmistakeably fresh air-of-Spring.
I love this video, love this song, and secretly have a girl-crush on Gwen Stefani.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Two things ...
Just wanted to mention Cycling Dirt (http://www.cyclingdirt.org/) to everyone. It's a new website, been up since beginning of this year, focussing on MTB and CX. A lot of pros are on it linking to their blogs, or blogging through Cycling Dirt. And also a lot of community members such as ourselves, too. You can write articles and submit them, post up photos and keep a personal profile where people can comment and network. And perhaps the best part are all the video features covering our events. Finally! Someone's putting the spotlight on XC! It's basically like facebook for bikes! What are you waiting for? Sign up, and see you there! (My screen name is krislake so look me up!)
The second thing is that Steve Neal (Ontario coach extraordinaire) has started a new website as well: http://www.crossfitorangeville.com/ and it has a forum. It's a great place to ask all those burning training questions you have. He's quick to respond and a huge resource. Take advantage!
Monday, April 6, 2009
"I can't," I said with a sigh. "I rode three hours today, and I need to do another three tomorrow ... if I have a beer, my legs will be shot."
After the usual group-discussion about how beer is actually good for you (duh!) he relented.
"Do you want a Coke then?" he asked, and I immediately felt like a giant cliche but grateful for his understanding. Normally I'd have to resist at least five times before I'd be left alone in beerless peace.
Coke is supposed to be on my personal list of banned substances (I used to be a Coke-a-day kinda girl ... got the cavity to prove it. And not that diet crap either!) but it's lower down than beer, so I accept -- it's Saturday night afterall. Woot woot, cola!
The funny thing is, I was probably even more buzzed off that one Caramel E-150d-coloured can of carbonated chemicals than I would have been off the beer. All I know is alcohol makes my legs knot up and Coke doesn't, so it wins.
That got me thinking about Coke. It's actually got a pretty colourful history and during race season, it even gets promoted off my list -- from guilty pleasure all the way up the ladder to energy drink.
The story of Coca Cola begins in the late 19th century. It was originally used as a medicine, shedding new light on Mary Poppins' theory. It was said to cure conditions including morphine addiction, indigestion, neurasthenia, headache, and impotence.
When it was first manufactured, the two main ingredients were cocaine and caffeine. The cocaine was derived from the coca leaf and the caffeine from kola nut, hence: Coca-Cola (poetic license with the "K" for the marketing machine).
In 1903, the cocaine was removed (for obvious reasons) but the coca flavour lives on. There's only one plant authorized by the American Federal Government to process the coca leaves: Stepan Company in New Jersey. Coca-Cola Bottling Company gets the cocaine-free leaves, while the extracted cocaine is sent to Mallinckrodt, a pharmaceutical manufacturer in St. Louis, Missouri. It is the only company in the United States licensed to purify cocaine for medicinal use.
Caffeine remains in Coca-Cola and is in fact what makes it attractive to athletes. In a recent study at McMaster, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism (and covered on CBC news), they found that caffeine can delay an athlete's perception of pain and fatigue. It also tricks your muscles into releasing more of the calcium they need to contract and relax.
In the Feed Zone at the race course, you'll often hear riders call out for Coke on their next bottle. When I first heard it, I thought it was a joke. A coke? At a time like this? "Wtf, would you like a burger to go with it?" I wanted to yell back. However, as I later learned, the request for Coke instead of water/energy drink has solid scientific backing. The night before a race, you open a bottle of "the real thing" and put it in the fridge to let it de-fizz. Cut it with some water and you've got all the sugars and 'pop' (excuse the pun) you need to get you through the last half of your race.
Team mate Derek collects his bottle in the feed zone -- not a Coke lap this time!
I haven't experimented with a Coke on-course, but I do have one on the drive up instead of a coffee. I find where coffee leaves my stomach feeling unsettled, coke just gets me going and feeling great (sometimes I substitute a Dr. Pepper, but that's beside the point). While on course, I get my caffeine from Clif Shots. Each gooey strawberry flavoured packet contains 25 mg of caffeine. But after two years of steady Clif Shot intake, I have to say I'm ready for a change. So maybe this year, I'll be the one riding through the Feedzone calling out my Coke-lap.
Interesting Coke facts:
- It's kosher at Passover!
- It's the same forumla it's always been (minus cocaine) -- in fact, Americans protested when Coke tried to change it in 1985
- Coca-Cola has been a sponsor of the Olympic Games since the first ever Games in Amsterdam, 1928; Caffeine has been an IOC banned substance (now restricted, but check my facts)
- The Coke formula is guarded under lock and key in a bank vault. Only two executives know it
- Cherry Coke is a Canadian thing. It was discontinued in 2000 (I loved that stuff)
- Coke has been shown to contribute to osteoperosis in women who drink a lot of it
- In one night, Coke can soften a tooth and melt meat
- Coke is great at cleaning coins, toilets, blood spots and washing paint off.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
A commute that I will always remember: Paris to Versailles with my sister, by bike