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.
Final result: 5th of 23 women in the 19-29 age group, 16th woman overall.
Helen Wyman (British cyclo-cross champion), KONA
Melissa Bunn, STEVENS RACING
Laura Bietola, 3FOX RACING
Mike Garrigan, JETPOWER
Andrew Watson, NORCO
Peter Mogg, THE HUB RACE TEAM