Monday, April 26, 2010
Athletes aren't the biggest fans of extra stress. We spend a lot of time preparing and planning to make sure that any distracting bullshit stays out of a race weekend. Alas, sometimes, it doesn't matter what kind of preparations you've made. Bullshit finds you anyway, and that's racing.
Saturday morning, I got up, got some fuel for me and the van and headed out to pick up KK on the way to Mansfield for preriding. It was a perfect morning. Sun was shining, not too warm, but you could tell it would be turning into an amazing day on bikes. ... Or would it?
KK and were chit-chatting about how nuts things have been the past week — she's finishing her semester at school and all the accompanying exams and projects that go with it; I'm busy at work, and trying to stay on top of training while working on the Raw Food Book and packing up all my belongings for moving day May 1. "This is going to be such a great day" was the sentiment in the car. In fact, KK hadn't even had an opportunity to ride her mtb yet because she's been racing road with her new team, Nanoblur. But then ...
"What's that smell?" I asked. "Is it me?" Then we slipped back into more conversation about how stoked we were to get up to Mansfield, what a beautiful day it was etc etc, temporarily forgetting about the assault on our olfactory systems. But then sure enough, at the next light ...
"No really, I think that's me ... I better pull over."
And then our preride plans went up in smoke.
As soon as we came to a stop, I knew for sure we weren't going any further. Smoke was pouring out of my front wheel wells, (yep, both of 'em) and the smell was for sure coming from me. And so there on the side of Airport Road, our dreams for a perfect day of letting go of some stress and previewing the race course were over.
Long story short, we plunked ourselves down in a countryside-ditch then waited for a tow truck and a heroic friend of KK's to collect our gear and take KK home while I went for a ride with "Eric-the-tow-truck-driver" to the garage. About half way there, he told me the following joke:
Parental Advisory ...
Q. What's the difference between a Ferrari and a freezer full of dead prostitutes?
A. I don't have a Ferrari.
*nervous chuckle*, Grrrrrreeeat. I'd like to get out now ...
Anyway ... so now what? No preride, that much is for certain. As for a ride to the race, KK came and got me later that evening and I spent the night up at her place (a little field trip back to my college days!) and then we took her car up to Mansfield on Sunday.
I had a great day. All the crap of the day before (the break-down, the "other" break-down, fighting with the garage [this is my THIRD time in for brakes in less than a month ... ahem], fretting over not seeing the course etc) turned into a big ball of hilarious and I bounced it to the very back of my mind, stopped taking myself so seriously and said hello to all the people I haven't seen all winter. Even Casey, of Kama Bay fame, was there supporting her beau who races in the 11:30 group. Oh, and as a little reprieve from the universe perhaps, the deluge the weather man had been calling for stayed away, as well as its accompanying low temperatures, making for near perfect racing conditions, all day long. You're welcome.
I headed out with KK for our warm up, and felt pretty good. I was excited to get out there, and mostly forgot about the fact that I'd never seen the course. Everyone was saying it was fast, soft, and fun with just a little bit of climbing at the start and half way through the lap.
The first lap was a little nerve wracking, but I stayed with the front of the race for most of it, jockeying for position between a few of my fellow mid-packers. I was a little tentative on the open sections because I wasn't sure when they'd close up again into single track. But that, and not knowing where the passing opportunities were for the riders overtaking me (from the men's categories that is) were the only limiters I found to not preriding. I found lines on everything the first try, at speed, and there was nary a dab to be had. So I guess I can stop fussing so much about preriding. Overrated!
The best part about my race was that even though it had definitely been a challenging weekend, I never once found myself in that place where I was wishing it was over, or praying for a flat tire. I was happy and cheerful the whole time, and I wasn't the only one. I got a ton of "hellos" as the guys' fields moved into ours, and Steve Neal was even kind enough to give me a wheel to draft for a little doubletrack-breather.
Although hilariously to me, I almost ended it early because my BRAKES failed in a fast loose corner, almost causing me to crash into the trees. Not sure how I kept it together, but I managed to stay upright. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a theme.
I managed to get around a couple girls and keep them behind me, with one more mark in sight coming into the last lap. I never caught her, but I WAS surprised to come around Devil's Drop on the heels of Helen Wyman, UK's national cyclo-cross champion and regular on the 'cross World Cup podium. She was in Ontario — I'm assuming — thanks to the Volcano keeping her here after P2A. The win went to Sue Stephens, with Heather Gray from Cycle Solutions in second and Sue Trimble (NORCO) back from "maternity leave" in third. I came 8th, and full results are up here. While I was hoping to be a little higher up the board, I knew coming into the season that I'd be using the early races to continue building fitness, so things are on track, and that's a great place to start. So I'm stoked.
As for KK, I'm sorry to report her derailleur decided to peace-out in the first lap, so her bad luck continued. I think something awesome must be coming her way this week. Her friend Ellen was along so I was happy to see her cheering at Devil's Drop, but a little taken aback that KK was standing beside her -- I hadn't realized she'd pulled out 'til then. Bummer.
So race day finished with an uneventful drive home (thank god), a sushi dinner for three (delivered!) and a movie on the couch at my place. That Willow Ufgood is one brave little Peck ... err ... Nelwyn.
Thanks to Dan for saving us on Saturday, KK for the driving, Ellen for the cheering ... and to all the others I saw out there either on course or off who yelled my name. Thanks to Sue from Arrow Racing for helping KK and I out with our feeds and as always, thanks to Sweet Pete's for all your help, especially Derek for the use of his wheel again this race, and in advance for fixing my brake problem ;) Til next time!
round and round and round and round.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
First Ocup this weekend!! Super exciting stuff, I know. This week has been a blissful bit of rest compared to the last minute cramming I did last week but I did find the energy to get to a massage, continue packing up my belongings for the May 1st Moving Day, and even get out on the bike, which is glistening at the moment thanks to some post-P2A TLC.
Everything seems to be set for a typical Ocup weekend: forecast is calling for rain, needed bicycle-part is still on back order, and the newspaper is warning the DVP is closed all weekend. Perfect!
I'm stoked anyway.
PS Course map is up! I've been doing mental laps all afternoon :)
Monday, April 19, 2010
The race I love to hate. Just getting to the start line is more hassle than I'm prepared to deal with and this year was no different, with the added bonus that the community centre was not open at the expected time, thus causing me to dance around like a moron while I debated giving up my wicked parking spot in favour of driving to the nearest Tim Horton's, or continuing to contribute to future kidney stones.
Once the doors were unlocked, there was registration to deal with. My name had never actually shown up on the "start list" prior so I half expected a problem. Luckily, my packet was there ready to go, but I had to fight for my $15 bus ride which I pre-paid and they didn't acknowledge. After a lot of "the customer is always wrong" sort of BS, I finally got my ticket.
The next part of the pre-race gong-show is my favourite: hand over your precious baby to a man in a cowboy hat to pile up haphazardly with all the other bikes in the back of a cube van. My girl's first scratch was obtained this way last year. But the other choice isn't very good either: park in Paris at the start line and then go back there to get your car at the end of the day. Boo.
So, after spreading my bad attitude around a little more at Paris to Ancaster registration, I got on the shuttle to take me to the start line. This part is tough too, because anything you bring with you on the bus, you'll have to ride with (or so I thought) so layers to stay warm have to be chosen very carefully. Later, I found out that there's actually a "bag truck" to take your stuff back to Ancaster. Doh.
Once on board the bus, I realized I forgot one very important thing: gels. Wow, see this is why you do a "warm up race". So I had to suck it up and ask other cyclists in Paris if they had any to spare. I was lucky enough to round up three this way. They weren't my brand, but beggers can't be choosers, can they. This would later come back to haunt me -- I use Clif Shots, because they're organic and don't have any of the usual chemicals found in energy gels. Turns out while I forgot about the good reasons for making this switch, my body did not and I was feeling very ill for the rest of the day. I got home and passed out for 3.5 hours, woke up, struggled to get some food in me, and then passed out again for a very fitful sleep full of nightmares about rail trails.
Alright so after a warm up, finally, my mood began to perk up a little to the idea of going really fast on my bicycle and despite the freezing cold temperatures and even a little rain, I was getting stoked. I ripped around the local roads more out of the necessity to keep warm as opposed to official "warm-up" and then made my way to the starting gates, where the body heat of the crowd was much welcomed.
KRIS!", I heard behind me. So far the only people I'd seen that I knew were Daffyd and Paul from RPM Spinning so I was very happy to see Mandy had decided to come out. We both remarked on what a shame it was that KK wasn't there to race this year and played a little catch up on goings-on over the winter.
And then we were off.
The start is the best part (well, besides the finish) -- it always feels like you're making huge gains as you rip up the outside past all the cross-dressers in their peleton who can't handle potholes or sticks, or grass like my mountain bike can. But then we get on the rail trail, and it's the first taste of the straight-line boredom that is the P2A.
On the first rail trail, it was easy to move up -- just latch onto the back of whatever train is moving the quickest. We were out on the road in no time and then my favourite part: the first loose gravel climb up into the farmers' fields. This is where all the cross-dressers have to get off, and where anyone on a mountain bike gets their's. So I left Mandy and some other girls in my dust and didn't see them again until the halfway mark.
Paris to Ancaster used to be called a mountain bike race, but this year especially, it seems to be all about the cross-bike. Thus, after a few road sections, I found it kind of lonely out there. I just couldn't hold their skinny-tired wheels for that long while I was pushing all that extra rubber (physics yo!) and so I often found myself off the pace line, sucking wind on my own. But when it was mountain bike time, I was super happy with the way I was riding. My favourite cross-bike moment: We're in a big long train through the single track when voices up front called back "whoa-up, slow down!" I veered into the rougher trail to the right to see what the problem was. A mud-puddle. "Slow down??" I exclaimed, "hell no, speed up!" and then I ripped through that mud puddle and splashed a few of them as they were shouldering their bikes. Tee hee.
Anyway, the race went on, and on and on, in that never-ending straight line style Paris to Ancaster is famous for. And that's when it taught me a lesson. I was following a cross bike very closely, trying to laze my way through some rail trail when it kicked up a sizeable stone. It was a perfect shot, right into my front tooth. I yelled about it for awhile "ow ow ow ow ow" trying to see if I tasted blood or if my tongue could detect a chip. Safe. Goes to show: never shit-talk the P2A because it'll come back and hit you right in the teeth. That's what I'm reading into the incident anyway.
So, now we're about half way. The half-way point is fun because there are kids handing out bananas and they set up a ramp too. I almost rode by when I heard a mom say "hit the ramp!" which I then noticed to my left. I had to really veer into it which meant my aim was a bit funny and I ended up hitting it at speed and crooked, which translated into a sweet little tweak on my air. To me this was full on panic time, but the kids were fooled, and they cheered and I somehow landed. phew.
The only thing left to look forward to now was the famous "Power slide" which is a rutted out ditch of a road, filled to the hubs with thick, sticky muck and I suspect manure as well. If it isn't muddy on its own, the race organizers take the trouble to hose it down for us. THANKS!
Funny, I'm stilly happy to see it though because it means we're almost DONE!! I rode it last year, but this year it was too much of a bog to pass so I had to put my feet in it, which I really detest. blech. At last, I was through and racing down the pavement with the excess mud flying off my tires into my face and my treads slowly regaining traction as they shed the muck.
One more thing to go: the dreaded Martin Side Road climb. Only 3.5 km left to go, all uphill, and steeper as she goes. But wait ... could it be??? No!! But it is!! MANDY!! Somehow, I'd closed the gap on Mandy and we were right back where we finished last year!! I gave it the gas, but she in turn was chasing another girl and I am confident didn't even realize I was behind her. I tried and tried, but it wasn't to be and the finish ended up being a repeat of last year: Mandy finishing just a small margin in front of me.
Final thought: you know when you get a bad hair cut? and you go home and stand in front of the mirror and you say to yourself: "remember this feeling. When you think you want to do this again, remember where you're standing RIGHT NOW, and resist!" So ... P2A ... I bid thee farewell.
Unless someone has a cross bike I can use.
PS, disclaimer: save this blog and show me when I sign up again next year, cross bike or not. P2A, the race I love to hate.
My girl (and shoes!), all Power-Slid out.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
And all through the house,
Racers are pacing ...
... trying to make sure they remember all the things on their list.
Sorry, were you expecting that to ryhme with "house"? How I hate to disappoint.
It's been a great Saturday ... started off with some light exercise and a Jugo Juice. Then I stocked up at the St. Lawrence Market and of course, remembered to pick up some clif snot ... uh ... shots. I prepped the bike, packed my things (hopefully ALL of them) and then it was just the usual pre race-day preparations: sit on my ass and stuff my face all. day. long.
I think I've got everything on the list ... so now it's just a matter of NOT sleeping through my alarm (like I did this morning *ahem*) and of course, doing my sun dance with my breakfast.
Hopefully all goes smoothly. Wish me luck at Paris to Ancaster!
PS - Do you think I could get away with headphones on this one?
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Even though there are no defending champions, a strong lineup of past champions, Olympians and world championship team members to make the 2010 Paris to Ancaster a very difficult race to handicap.
On the women's side, last year's winner Alison Sydor has now retired from elite competion leaving the field wide open. 2008 Olympian Leigh Hobson (nanoblur/gears) goes in as one of the favourites, with back to back wins the last two weeks at the Good Friday Road race and the Tour of Bronte. Past P2A champion and former Commonwealth Games medalist Sue Palmer-Komar is aiming to redeem her non-finish at last year's race and has recently returned from a Georgia training camp to get an edge on the locals. The biggest threat to either of these two will be Helen Wyman from Great Britain. Wyman is the reigning and 5 time nNational cyclocross champion, and has been ranked 3rd in the world. Should any of these three not bring their A game, Edmonton resident Pepper Harlton (Juventas) will be ready to challege for the win. As the 2009 cyclocross National Championship silver medalist, Harlton will be tough to beat.
On the men's side, Detroit's 2 time winner Mike Simmonson (Trek), former winner St. Catharine's Nathan Chown (Queen City Cyclist) and perennial podium finisher and former National Champion, Mike Garrigan (JetPower) comprise the best prediction for the overal podium. Add in a super strong array of talent from the under 23 Canadian National team and top Ontario teams and riders, and it looks like a very evenly matched top end of the men's field.
The P2A takes place on the roughest roads and trails we can find between Paris and Ancaster. A guided pre-ride of the final 15km of the race takes place at 2pm from the finish line and will include National team members and international champion Helen Wyman, as they get their first look at the course. 2000 riders are expected in the 60km and 35km races.
Full race details are available at www.parisancaster.com
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I'm in the middle of a pretty tough training block at the moment which will see me training through Paris to Ancaster this Sunday. In conjunction with the race, there's also the Grand Opening of the Hamilton Cycling Centre's new Training Centre. Ribbon cutting at 2pm at the Ancaster Rotary Centre. With more than 2,000 riders anticipated for the P2A, something tells me they'll be having a good turnout!
Until last night, I wasn't sure I was actually going to have a trusty steed for this thing, but thank goodness Derek and Sweet Pete's came to the rescue. Turns out the Bontrager wheel-hubs that are afixed to my Trek have a habit of self destructing. It's a common problem apparently. Which is why the part they need to fix it is on back order. Uh-oh. With no delivery in sight, I had to rely on the kindness of friends. Huge thanks to Derek for letting me use his very nice XTR rear wheel and hub. You've got me back on my mountain bike in time to get used to the position again! And thanks also for even letting me take them out on the race course. Fingers crossed that the part gets here soon.
In other news, the road bike is now at the shop too. After 5 years of abuse, my pedals and cleats are ready for retirement. So, a new set of Ultegras have been selected and are soon to be installed, along with a full tune up to keep my girl going. She's got enough kilometres on her right now to get to the moon. I'm scared this is the beginning of the end. When I ride it on the trainer, I can see the bottom bracket dancing around left to right. I don't think they even make some of the parts for it anymore, but she's still a beauty to me.
So, mechanical issues aside, things are set for a great season of XC (and some Super D ... and maybe DH?) in Ontario. My schedule is much more domestic this year because of the Olympics taking up vacation days, and to try and save some money too.
I'm looking forward to having more free weekends, that's for sure. Might actually get to go home to the beach ... or to the cottage ... or even just sleep in on a Sunday! Now that'd be nice!
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Couple rides planned too which will be good. Found myself on the trainer last night, perish the thought. Gave me a good excuse to watch too many episodes of Mad Men at least ... but while I was doing that I wasn't packing. But at least that helped get my Heart Rate up.
I can hardly believe that just a few short days ago I was lounging in a state of total relaxation at Kelowna's Big White Ski Resort. I have no photos yet, but rest assured Gerhard and I had an amazing time. There wasn't the spring conditions I was expecting, but it DID snow every day so the conditions were pretty okay. We found some great lines through the trees which were perfectly spaced. We oo'd and ahh'd over the snow ghosts the resort is famous for. And we even played Easter Bunny for a day, setting up an epic Easter Egg Hunt all over the mountain for Gerhard's friend's son. We spent 3 glorious days dining, skiing, hot tubbing, easter-egg-hunting, sipping buttered rums, and napping. And we totally jumped on the bed. Thanks Big White for a great vacation!
Disclaimer: if you're spending your own money (luckily, we weren't thanks to G's prize-winning skills) ... maybe look into somewhere else though. It was pretty pricey. Big White = big budget.
So after all that relaxing, it's time for April. I like it better when it's busy so I'm not complaining. After this weekend's fundraiser, there's still Paris to Ancaster, the first Ocup and then moving day to look forward to. Hopefully my mountain bike is all better by next weekend -- starting to get nervous! Hurry up Trek!