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.
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 ...
... 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. ;)