Thursday, September 30, 2010

Decisions, decisions ...

In order to make the winter shipping date I've got to decide which bike I'm going to race next year, and fast.

Should I go for the bike I KNOW will be awesome (since it's the one I've been on the past two seasons but with a fancier new suit)?

Or should I dabble in the unknown world of hard tails with 29-inch wheels?

They cost the same coincidentally. Comments welcome -- i really need help with this one! Vote on the right.

And thanks for your help!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Parting is such sweet sorrow ...

It all seems so sudden.

Just a few days ago, we were frolicking in the late season conditions of Hardwood Hills. and now, an empty space on the rack where you used to rest.

Dear bike, how I miss you already.

I remember the first day we met. It was at the shop, and the boys wouldn't let me take you home because you looked too good in the window.

Our first ride, and how fast we bonded.

Our first time off-roading, which was also my first time ever riding in BC. Together we conquered some of Squamish's most amazing singletrack, including the Test of Metal.

It was with you that I first attempted the Tremblant Canada Cup ... which was also my first race in Quebec.

On your back, I had my best season ever with all kinds of podiums, PBs, and just amazing rides.

And lately, we've just managed a great three for three podiums for the end of 2010, including a 100km ride I wasn't even sure I could do -- but we did it, together.

I wouldn't be the rider I am today without you.

We've spent so much time together, playing, working, hanging out. It's hard to imagine a replacement. Will it be as good? Are the best races yet to come?

I hope you'll be happy in your new home. And at the same time I feel like a loser for suggesting you'd even know the difference.

Afterall ... you're just a bike.


Race Report: Fall Epic 8

The last of a string of late races, the Fall Epic 8 certainly lived up to its name. Rain makes any ride "epic" in my book. And rain it did.

Our team was four strong, with Tim, and the Kiwis, Bryant and Carlene rounding us out. We agreed that we'd signed up for this thing to have fun, but were quickly in the lead and found out that in fact, winning is fun. So we ended up with a bit more focus than we'd originally set out for, which I think was just as well since that's the sort of juice you need to get through 6-8 hours of constant drizzle.

I got the first go-round, and had a grand ol time slip sliding around on the roots. By the second lap, I'd figured out a little more of the course and conditions and hooked up much better. My third and fourth might as well have been dry because I was comfy as could be.

8 hour courses are so fun -- nothing to dread, all flow, lots of single track and rad people to share the trails with. In the end we were able to hold onto gold, putting an extra lap into second place. Nice end to the season.

Thanks Don Rats, and Kiwis!! We done good, and it was great hanging out with everyone for the day. Isn't that the best part of 8 hours?

Also, huge congrats to Matt Spak for his win and former teammate Evan Sharpe for his silver in the solo category. I can't imagine going around in circles for 8 hours, but on a fun course like that, maybe it's not out of the realm of possibility. Y'all got me thinking ...

And to Martin, (fellow Sweet Pete's racer) and his team *chapeau* for your fine podium result as well!

Holy crap, DOUBLE RAINBOW!!!!!
A nice parting gift from mother nature.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Race Report: Paul's Dirty Enduro

Another first! No, not first place ... first time trying out another one of the great fall mountain bike events Ontario has to offer. Many of you were kind enough to pledge my 100km singletrack race adventure and let me tell you, your donations went to a great cause, a great race, run by a great bunch of volunteers.

We got to Ganaraska just as the sun was peeking out over the horizon. It was a long day in every sense of the word. At the start, I don't think I was totally awake yet. At "go" I had that "oh yeah, there's a race today" thought that usually means I'd be coaxing heavier-than-usual legs through the first few minutes.

Kind of like the marathon last week, after about 20km, I considered myself "in it". But by then, Queen Heather had already put about 5 minutes into me. Hmmm. I decided that since pacing would obviously be the main challenge of the day I'd just concentrate on holding onto second.

The First 40 Kilometres

... were not my favourite. We were using trails shared by dirt bikes which meant that every climb had basically one line: up the middle of a ditch just a little wider than your pedals. So that meant any slip and you were digging your foot into the side. And slipping was hard to avoid since most of the dirt would be better described as wet sand. With mud puddles. I was glad to put those behind me.

Enter Gavin

Another challenge was riding alone in the woods. With so much terrain, and so few riders, there was very little to keep the mind on track. I was day dreaming non-stop. Musing over the porcupine quills I saw scattered on the trail. Scaring up grouse. Freaking out over the complete carpeting of poison ivy on the forest floor. And then a friendly guy came up behind me and we decided to ride together for both our sakes. All of a sudden a whole hour was down but since we were chatting the whole time, it felt like a few minutes, and our average speed had increased. Awesome. Huge thanks to Gavin, otherwise, I don't know if I would have gone out for the second 60km loop.

The Pit Stop

As you've probably gathered, the course was made up of a 40km loop and a 60km loop. Between the loops, we rode right by the car so I had a chance to make a pit stop, change bottles, take off layers, neutralize poison ivy, eat and then get back on the trail. Of course, my timing was impeccable, and I ended up setting out right behind the racers starting the 60km distance. That meant a huge field was between us and the rest of the 100km riders. Oh no. Gavin and I worked together to pass as many as possible on the open sections, opting to hurt a little now to save a little waiting later in the singletrack. It was going great, we were having a good time and moving at a good clip despite the many "slow-trains" we rode as we worked our way through the field. And then ...

Garmin Fail

... I looked down. And my Garmin was GONE. In a race this long, that little gadget was keeping great company monitoring the passing kilometres and tracking our average speed. Not to mention, I'd only had it returned the night before (thanks Sweet Pete's!) after the LAST time it jumped off my handlebars. That incident resulted in a replacement unit. The one that was now presumably lying in the dirt somewhere. Design flaw? I think so. In a flash decision I told Gavin the fun was over for me, I'd have to turn around. I knew I wouldn't be able to find peace about a [expensive] lost tool unless I'd done all I could to try to find it, so I turned around to ride upstream in a river of riders. Before long, I got to a marshal and stopped to ask her if anyone had turned it in. She said she hadn't had one yet. I was in the middle of making sure it was alright with her to continue into tighter terrain against the grain to try and find it when ...

Garmin Guardian Angel

... a young man, I think from Mountainview Cycling Club (or else a similar blue and white kit) stopped and said, "Are you looking for this?" and pulled my Garmin out of his jersey pocket. Holy shit. The odds are staggering and thank goodness for him!! I made him stop long enough for me to give him a big hug before turning him loose on the singletrack once again. As for the Garmin, I replaced it in my jersey pocket, NOT the stem mount. Huge thank you to you, whoever you are.

Where'd you come from?

After the Garmin incident, things started going downhill -- figuratively speaking. Literally speaking, they were still going very much UPhill. I knew I was losing speed, but I was confident I could keep 'er going enough to hold my position while keeping suffering to a minimum. So at check points, I let myself get off the bike and enjoy some orange wedges and bananas. I chatted with the volunteers and other racers and then moved on. This was great for a couple rest stations, but then seemingly out of nowhere (but actually out of my own lax riding), third place was on my wheel, then cheerily calling a pass and wishing me a good ride. Wha ...?! How did I let this happen?

So I paced her for a bit to get an idea of what kind of effort I'd need to put her behind me before unleashing an Ocup-Style final 30km. This was actually hugely enjoyable (ha -- read "painful") because the second loop was much more flowy than the first, with way better dirt too. Riding fast is always fun, and it was nice to know I had deeper fitness than I'd thought. Mental strength on the other hand ...
Well it was also very nice to see the finish line, let me tell you.


I ended up in second, as planned and took home a neat little pottery plaque and a medicine ball for my efforts. We all enjoyed an awesome chili lunch and a good sit in the grass chatting with riding buddies and new friends we'd met while neutralizing poison ivy with a garden hose.

Huge thanks to the volunteers who put out a massive effort to make such a great event run so smoothly. And heck, they even ordered up good weather. Would I do it again? Hmmm ... ask me when my body stops aching. ;)

Dear Garmin ...

An Open Letter to the Fine Folks making GPS Products at Garmin

First of all, let me say I love my Garmin Edge 705. We've been running, walking, riding, skiing, hiking and even driving together since last Christmas.

However, it didn't take long for one major design flaw to show its face. The stem mount.

It's just not very good.

In fact, one day "just riding along" my beloved Garmin managed to jump off its mount while we were completing a workout on the asphalt. The impact was enough to kill my baby. Luckily, I was able to get a replacement just in time for a 100km mountain bike race over some of Ontario's most demanding terrain.

Excited to finally have my Garmin back, especially for an event where geographical information is so helpful, I set out eagerly watching the kilometres tick closer and closer to that big 100. Around kilometre 50, I looked down and my heart nearly stopped. It was gone.

Once again, with next to no help from me (that is to say, I hadn't crashed or knocked it with any of my limbs) it had jumped ship. Crestfallen, I knew given the high monetary value of the gadget that I would have no choice but to give my best shot to finding it, even at the cost of the race.

Miraculously, thanks to a friendly fellow-rider (and Garmin user, coincidentally) my Garmin and I were reunited and I was able to complete the race with only a little bit of time lost.

So Garmin, in my opinion, something needs to be done.

I hope future models come with a stronger, more effective mount. But for all of us already using and enjoying our Edge 705s, could I suggest, or ask over the existence of some sort of leash system?

Until this problem is solved, I guess I'll be zip-tying mine to my stem, over the exisiting mount. I got the idea from a rumour I heard about your own pro road team. Hmmm ...

Thank you for an otherwise great product -- I hope this letter helps to make it even better.

Kristen Lake

PS - if you agree, add your thoughts to the comments below.

Garmin's stem mount: Does this look reliable to you?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Race Report: Ontario XC Marathon Championships, Mansfield

From left: Celine Foreht, Kristen Lake, Tanya Hanham

After a bit of a lack-lustre Ocup season, I've decided to regroup and throw my hat in for a few fall races. So far, I'm liking the results!!

Yesterday was the first of three races on my Renaissance tour. Substance Projects hosted the Ontario Marathon Mountain Bike Championships at Mansfield. The weather forecast was calling for rain, and I didn't even care. If it rained, it would just be more epic. But -- it only rained enough overnight to make the dirt absolutely perfect. PERFECT!! Perfect, I tell you.

At 74km, the race would officially be the longest of my career. I wasn't sure how I'd feel but I couldn't help thinking back to last year's Winter Wow in which I bonked like I've never bonked, and that was only 40km. Could I do another 34 after that? Time would tell!

Jerome and I carpooled up and in the car I was not exactly energetic. Thank goodness he was driving, because I could barely keep my eyes open. Warm-up wasn't much more inspiring. So, not surprisingly, I didn't have the greatest start. Off the line, I settled in and tried to stay with Celine, who'd pulled ahead. I was doing okay at it too, but then I made my first mistake -- mis-steering on a descent, causing me to hit a tree, stop and consequently lose all my momentum for a long straight away. I waved so-long to Celine, and then two more ladies.

This scenario replayed about 10 times I think: catch up with the girls, make a silly error, fall behind again. Handling wasn't there, and fitness was taking its time to show up! I rode with Tanya (the Vegan Vagabonde) for a little while, and she actually helped me to cheer up. I got my head back into it, gapped her, and then found myself very much alone in the woods. Without being able to see the girls ahead or behind (or any riders for that matter ... hmmm) I found some focus and finally started to ride the way I wanted to. My legs decided to join the party and I settled into a great rhythm. And then, when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but Dan on the moto, and about 5 riders near. They were stopped by the way. Never a good sign.

Turns out, somehow seven of us managed to independently make the same wrong turn. None of us was the wiser, as there were arrows the entire time. Dan, the race organizer suspects someone in the woods moved them. So, while we thought we'd passed the "first" check point, in fact, it was the last. Dan was kind enough to put us back in at the 20km mark, since that seemed to be what the consensus of the bike computers indicated. Unfortunately, there was no way to know if the rest of the women's field were now ahead or behind us. Frustrated, I found all NEW focus.

The first bit of fun after we were dropped back on course was a gnarly rutted descent made of wet sand. Riders could disappear into the rut it was so big. So it was crucial to stay on the off-camber banks. Somehow, I bumped and jumped my way down ahead of everyone else. Only to have to stop for a giant stick stuck in my derailleur at the bottom, and once again, I was waving so-long to the women. Something snapped in my head. There was no way I was wasting my entry fee and all that work now. With lots of race left, I put my head down and thought of only one thing: catch those girls.

After the descent, there was the famous Simcoe County Forest rutted out sandy CLIMB, a regular feature on Winter WOW race courses. (What goes down, must go up? Is that how it goes?) Riders were getting de-biked all around me but I wasn't having it. That climb would pay. I beat on it like a crazed chimp (how's that for imagery?) and managed to expell all my frustration by the top. Then it was go time.

The rest of the race was a completely different story from the bumbling, clutzy first 20km. I was feeling Racy. At one point, I noticed a climb, which caused me to notice that I hadn't been noticing the [plentiful] climbs -- always a good sign. I had the legs I wanted, the headspace I wanted, and sometimes it felt like an hour would go by before I had to touch the brakes -- just totally perfect, tacky Mansfield flowy singletrack. I rode with some dudes and then left them behind. Found some new riders up the course, then motored on by them. I felt powerful for once! Unstoppable!!

And then I felt really really bad. Just like that. It was after the final checkpoint, so I knew the end was near but my garmin is in the shop, so I had no tools for timing or distance. There were also no reference points marked on the course -- I hadn't even seen a course map. I suspected at one point that we'd made it back to Mansfield Outdoors Centre Property because I spotted a "Happy Trail" trail sign. I took it as a sign of hope. After the first cracks in the veneer, the crumbling started in earnest. Trees and shrubs looked like animals, or shady characters. You know it's getting into rough territory when you start talking yourself through stuff. And really rough when you start talking to god. Like, "God? Can you hear me? Please let this be the last section of single track?"

At one point, I saw a logging road I thought I recognized (I don't know HOW, beacuse I had no idea where I was and they were all starting to look the same at this point) and I thought I would just take it to the end and call it quits. Crazy talk of an exhausted madwoman.

Anyway, things were rough, but I was still moving, still coaxing race gel and fluids into my upset tummy, still racing, but still not sure what my position was. Was I ahead? Was Celine right behind me about to take a pass? It was enough to keep the fires burning. I conquered a silly little descent that hasn't been on a race course for me in a few years which I could never ride before, got stoked and then found myself passing the main Chalet! I was shredding the final straight away!! Surely within a couple pedal strokes, the finish would be visible! I would be done!! I would be victorious!! but mostly, I would be DONE!! And then ... the arrows seemed to be pointing right. Not straight. Right. Back into the woods. Back into more singletrack. Nooooooo!!! I didn't want to believe it, but my bike was making the turn and I had no choice but to follow along (although I did spare some headspace to contemplate a DNF a few hundred metres from the end).

You thought that was bad? It gets worse. What was waiting for us around that right turn? Only the biggest, steepest climb of the day. What. The. Fudge. Heartbroken, I dropped my gearing into the granny and started my grind. I could see more of what lay ahead by now, and saw that the top wasn't actually the top -- it now appeared there was a second part to this monster. I couldn't take it. I walked. Eventually, I made it to the top, and as my heart pounded in my ears, my arms, neck, legs, back and hands ached like they've never ached, I rode the final descent and grassy straight away to the line.
I even remembered to put my hand up (just in case I'd won, which I still wasn't sure of).

Turns out, I was number one. Congrats to all who finished the race!! It was a tough, tough day. But in just a few hours, I found my happy, racy place again. A great way to go into winter training.

Post-race BBQ

Next up? Paul's Dirty Enduro. And to cap off the season, I joined a team for the Fall 8 up at Hardwood. A visit to Mansfield, Ganaraska and Hardwood before packing up mountain bikes for the winter is an awesome way to spend the fall. Can't wait.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

$100 for 100km

Paul's Dirty Enduro -- It's officially on my calendar. 100km of singletrack for me, 100 dollars raised for others.

I think it's the 15th time this race has been run, but it's my first time to line up. Here's hoping I can even ride all 100km of singletrack ... in a row.

But if the going gets tough, there are plenty of inspiring things to pull me through. First of all, Paul's story, and the love and support he still inspires today.

Paul was a young man who loved to ride bikes -- mainly in the Ganaraska Forest where this race is being held. According to his friends, he'd gather up fellow-riders and rip the trails all day long. He'd always say, "Let's do 100km!" but they never actually did.

He passed away by taking his own life in 1996. This event is run by his friends and family who come together year after year in his memory. They raise money for the Canadian Mental Health Association, put on a full day of activities and from all accounts, everyone has a good ol' time.

If you want to read more about Paul, his sister wrote a beautiful article in the Globe and Mail you should check out. I posted it below as well.

As for the race, I'm told it's 100km, mainly singletraick, never the same trail twice. I hear there's poison ivy, and its winners are worshipped like royalty. And I'm also looking forward to a promised hot lunch (which will probably be a cold dinner by the time I actually [literally] crawl over the finish line.)

If you want to show your support I'm trying to raise $100 for the event. I gave myself a head start with $20. Link to my fundraising page, follow the directions and be sure to print your tax receipt.

Then wish me luck on the 18th! Oh, and if someone could come and drive me home, that would be awesome ;)

By Mary Lou Archibald

Globe and Mail

My brother’s life is a dirty and exhausting endurance race that never ends, despite the fact he committed suicide 14 years ago today.

Every September since Paul died in 1996 at the age of 34, family, friends, mountain-biking enthusiasts and greenhorns have gathered in the Ganaraska Forest near Peterborough, Ont. We honour Paul’s life, sustain his passion for racing and the Ganaraska trails, and talk about the mystery and heartache of knowing that someone you can’t live without thought you would be better off without them.

On the one hand, Paul Rush was a rough-and-tumble mountain biker who could always be counted on to pull ahead in the home stretch during 24-hour relays with his biking buddies. He was a humble and hard-working cyclist, the strong and often silent type with broad shoulders, solid legs and a heart that could climb the steepest hills without missing a beat.

Paul loved to ride the trails, the more offbeat and rugged the better. His dream was to do a 100-kilometre endurance race, not to prove he was better or stronger or faster than anyone, but because it was a new challenge and adventure. It was inevitable that the Dirty Enduro race that started because of him includes a 100-kilometre trail that winds in one big loop with a new view at each twist and turn, which is exactly the way Paul would have wanted it.

On the other hand, Paul was a real character with an offbeat sense of humour. He had twinkling Irish eyes that reflected his appreciation for a good time with family and friends. Women loved Paul, not just for his charm and good looks but also for his sensitivity and vulnerability.

He had four older sisters who loved to spoil him, and a couple of girlfriends who probably would have married him in a flash if only he had popped the question. Yet he remained the eternal bachelor. I questioned this many times, and he always told me he was afraid of getting married and having kids because he might screw it up. I should have known this was a sign of his insecurities, but he always said it with a chuckle and such casual flair that I thought he was pulling my leg.

Paul was a big tease with everyone, especially kids. Nieces, nephews and friends’ children could not wait for him to shower them with attention. Young ones and even too-cool tweens would sidle up to the friendly giant, knowing that when the moment was right he would scoop them up and twirl them, bench press them with his big “muskles” or cart them around the block on the back of his bike.

His love and affection were unconditional and unencumbered. You could be yourself with Paul, and no matter how shy or quiet you were, you always knew he had no expectations. And he made a mean pizza from scratch, turning the kitchen into a cheesy disaster area, but the results were mouthwatering and the cleanup with Paul always fun.

Unfortunately, Paul was also a man who lived with the “black dog” of depression for years, a dark secret we live to regret.

Paul was raised in an era when boys were taught to deal with their anger or frustration by scrapping, or shutting up. Going to the doctor was for pregnant women and old people. And talking about it was something you were only allowed to do in the church confessional, to ask forgiveness for feeling this way when you should be grateful you have a roof over your head and food on the table.

So when Paul had thoughts of suicide, and even attempted it unsuccessfully, as we later discovered, he sucked it up because that was what real men did. When he told us that stray dogs were chasing him during his solitary bike rides, little did we know the animals that were really haunting him were in his mind.

Paul lost his job, and he told us it was because his boss was a jerk. He probably was, but what we didn’t see was that Paul’s anxiety, in the days before employee mental health was a sincere consideration, led to behaviour that was typically dealt with by pushing the difficult worker out the door.

In the end, it was not the stray dogs or the tough terrain that took Paul’s life, but his own desperate desire to end his pain.

So every year we gather, and what started with a few close family members and friends and a pot of chili 14 years ago has become a big event with hundreds of riders and volunteers, and more than $17,000 in donations. The funds are used to raise awareness about suicide, especially among young people.

The cause has become a potential source of healing instead of pain. Family and friends would much rather see Paul leading the pack in the 100-kilometre race year after year. Instead, we gather annually to watch others continue the race, and it is a bittersweet ride. Whether they participate for the thrill, or to honour someone who suffers from mental illness or tragically took their own life, the participants at Paul’s Dirty Enduro continue his life journey on his behalf.

Mary Lou Archibald lives in Brantford, Ont.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

You Belong With Us.

Haha, best ad ever. Last time I had on a bridesmaid dress I had similar tan lines and 9 stitches in my shin (for a tea-length frock ...)

These are my people!

Found it on the report IMBA and Sacred Rides put together on women in mountain biking. Check it out:


Monday, September 6, 2010

Canadian on the box!

Nice to see our own Steve Smith up on the podium for the men's DH World Champs at Mont St Anne. Many respectable finishes for our riders, wish I had been there in person to cheer everyone on!

I think I owe this thing a bit more of an update than that but it's still the holidays, so that's all for now. More later ;)