Is This A Logo??

Is This A Logo??

Sunday, 20 September 2015

XC Marathon Nationals Championships - The Race Review




Yeah, Nationals.  Championships.  You would think that would be a bit of a clue, wouldn't you?  Guess I'm naive (native??) like that....

Anyways, Lois and I (yes Lois joined me for this race!!  Good thing too!) headed up to Horseshoe Valley (the venue for the event) early Saturday morning.




8 degrees and pouring rain.  Well maybe it wasn't raining up in the Barrie area...

It rained the entire way...and in fact it rained the entire dang day...and it may have got up to 13 degrees...perfect racing weather....not.

Anyways....we get to Horseshoe, I register....and get the bike ready.  I prepare to get myself ready, but I already felt like this...




Freezing cold, already wet, I get kitted up in the truck, with the warmest clothes I brought...and go warm up.  As I am warming up (as much as you can 'warm up' in freezing rain)....other racers are also warming up and I notice there are really none of my regular friends/colleagues/fellow racers here; but there are several pros/semi pros presents.  Like Zandstra, Glassford, Watson kind of pros.  Great...and I begin to wonder what I have gotten myself into...and how badly I am going to get my ass handed to me (normally I'm OK with ass-handing, but...).

Anyways, I noticed Louda warming up...finally someone I know...but she is much faster than I, so I don't usually get to see her much.  I also notice that JeffS (the self anointed official photographer of Riot's blog) is not here, and there are none of the ApexRacePhotography (the official photographers of everything MTB) crew around.  Fearing that there would be no photos to make my blog post almost readable, I asked Lois if she would mind taking some pics for me...she immediately took a couple of selfies...









I suggested it might be better if she took pics of racers....so she took these...









Oh well....maybe she would get the hang of it by race time...and she did...

So back to the race....I got myself into the paddock....well near the back.  Given the quality of my competition, I didn't want to be in anyones way.



thedumbopinion is commissaire and he wanders over to the paddock and says to me "Riot, are you going to win this whole thing?"




See, Lois got some good pics after all.

The front of the paddock....not where I am...


Anyways...SuperflySean does the call-ups...counts us down....and bang!  The race is on!  The start is nice and slow from my perch at the back of the pack.  Onto the trails and into the cold and rain.  The race has a start loop of almost 4km and 200m of climbing!  Including the stupid dirt road climb.  It's stupid, cuz it's easily doable, but it so long, and loose, and wet that it sucks the life out of you....especially if you are trying to do it as fast as possible.  Nice start....and nice way to get into the race.

 This is right off the start....not yet into the hills...


So....into the start loop....up the singletrack climbs....doubletrack climbs...fireroad climbs (that stupid long sandy fireroad)....back down the ski hill through winding singletrack...a racer who had already broken a chain in the first 5 minutes of the race.  Through the back of the feed zone, then up a very loooooong slippery grinding grassy climb where some racers were already walking their bikes ... (there was the racer who had snapped his chain...already repaired and back at it!) then finally out of the start loop.  Through the tunnel under Horseshoe Valley road and through the open field, in the driving rain and wind (Holy Moly it's cold!!) into the Copeland Forest trails.

Into the Copeland trails, at least out of the wind....but the climbing.  Climbing, climbing, climbing.  Steep singletrack switchback climbs.  Steep doubletrack climbs.  Steep rocky climbs.  Steep rooty climbs.  Most of them were rideable but many were not.  Just too steep, and in these conditions too slippery.  There were many racers walking their bikes up hills.  (There was the racer who had broken his chain earlier...walking his bike...but this time it was a broken seat post; having a bad day!!)  And most of the downs were so steep and fast before you knew it you were back into another climb with little time for recovery.

My quads were stiff and sore for three day after this race (like an old fashioned leg weight work out) from the intense climbing.

Then into an off camber descending twisty singletrack section.  Wet and very loose.  Wet, loose, twisty, and just steep enough that as I went to turn around a twist, my wheel and bars turned...but the bike didn't.  The front wheel had become so caked with mud there was zero traction...and into the bush I went with a crash.  Metis, titanium, mud, and leaves bouncing into the forest.  Pick up my bike, bottles and food that had dropped, make sure I still had my technology attached...and carried on.  But I must have crashed at least 4 more times on this section before I realized I was better off to hike my bike here (yeah, I'm slow/stubborn like that...).  Eventually hiked/ran out of this section....but my shoes had become so caked with mud it was difficult to clip in anytime I had to unclip from this point on.

Another long climb....long descent....then it was out of Copeland....back through the tunnel into the Horseshoe resort side of the road.  I passed a racer in a red jacket as I entered the feed zone....Lois graciously handing me a new full water bottle as I passed.




 The fast guys coming through the feedzone



Me coming into the feedzone


Then into the Horseshoe trails....which were composed mostly of the O'Cup race courses....including the long long stupid sandy fireroad climb.  Me and the racer in the red jacket I had passed earlier had a bit of a friendly rivalry going taking turns passing each other.  SuperflySean had put some extra non-O'Cup trails in this race.  Mostly very very steep loose muddy descents...technical with rock roots and drops.  Too slippery for me, so I walked/ran them...so slippery, in fact that I ended up on my arse sliding down them a couple of times.  RedJacket would pass me running down them....and I'd pass him on the climbs.  And some of the nastiest rock gardens on the course were in this race...very nice when wet in the rain.  

Me picking my way through the nastiest of the rock gardens.



Louda, a much worthier rider than me, flying through the rock garden like it was a flat.


And damn...somewhere along the way, I'd lost my new water bottle!!  Shite.  But as we came down through the back of the feedzone....I grabbed another one from Lois.  Lois asked me if I was going to continue, I said "of course."  Apparently many racers had quit after one lap, discouraged from the tough course and conditions.  Lois did an awesome job making sure I was fed, taking pics, and continually cowbelling me on!!  Many thanks were given this day...and still are!!

Coming down into the back of the feedzone.



Then it was back up into that looooong stupid grassy climb...

The loooong stupid grassy climb

Then it was through the start/finish....lap one done...2hours38minutes...then into lap two.  Through the tunnel, across the grassy field...still with RedJacket on each others wheels, into the Copeland Forest side.  

On one of the long rocky slippery Copeland climbs that we managed to ride part way up....then walk/run the remainder....RedJacket stopped to refuel (eat), I kept going, leaving him behind.  I didn't see him again for the remainder of the race.

Then going up another climb farther on, there was a red jacket in front of me.  What the heck??  I struggled to catch him, and passed...it wasn't RedJacket, in fact it was a racer with the same red CrankTheShield jacket that I was wearing.  I passed him heading up a very long loose rocky climb.  As I climbed, from somewhere in the forest ahead and above came a whistle and a yell to "give 'er!!  Keep going!  Hurry up!!"  As I followed the climb into a switchback there was a racer waiting.  He was the one yelling....he said "Sorry, I thought you were someone else."  I said, "Same jacket."  He said, "Yes."  I said he is right behind me... and laughed as he waited and I continued on.

Then into that loose single track where I crashed on the first lap, except this time I got off and ran/walked right off the bat.  No more crashing.  But CrankJacket and his friend passed me here...they were much faster running their bikes than I was.

I caught them again, as we crossed from the Copeland side back into the HorseshoeResort side, and passed them as we climbed into the feedzone.  Another new bottle from Lois, and into the trails.

The trails had gotten even slicker...climbing even more challenging.  Those very steep technical descents put me on my arse again.  Up the stupid loose sandy road climb.  My quads were now on fire.  I was still ahead of CrankJacket and his friend....and I used them as motivation.  I was getting excited to almost be finished!  And looking forward to the finish, I sped down a descent that had gotten very very slick since the first lap.  I washed out, going down at speed.  Then BAM!!!  Directly into a tree with the side of my head and shoulder.  Trees have no give....felt like a cement pillar.  Knocked myself silly... once I realized what just happened, I shook my head to get the cobwebs out.  Shoulder and rib very sore....very surprised nothing was more damaged!!  (The shoulder and rib are still sore...but OK).  After a quick check the bike was OK too...it actually didn't make contact.  However, the tree looks like this now...






On the bike and on I went, still a bit foggy, but still motivated to stay in front of CrankJacket.  (You know...better to come in 50th than 51st....or whatever it may be....I knew I was getting my arse handed to me by the very high quality of racers in this race).

Through the back of the feedzone where Lois was now alone, as the bulk of the racers and their assistants had already finished ahead of me, but she cheered me on, cowbell a clanging.  And continued to cheer as I continued, struggling up that looong, now even more slippery grassy climb.  I was so spent...wet...sore, and not sure how injured I was.  Still motivated to stay in front of CrankJacket and friend....then finally, finally through the finish, where Lois was waiting and SuperflySean announced my finish.  5 hours 22minutes...7th place out of the 10 racers in my Category (age 50+).

You know it's a tough race when someone like Louda (a very experienced, fast, fast racer) says its tough.  She finished 5th in the Elite Women category at 4 hours 35 minutes.  Very well done!!  Lois caught a pic of Louda at the finish.



As it was still raining....and I was still hurting....and whining like Fig.  In truth, this is likely the toughest race I have ever done.  So much climbing, combined with the conditions....and extreme competition.  I was so done, cold and wet, we headed straight for the truck to dry off, clean up, and go.  This race in the books.

What's next?  The Fall Epic 8 Hour on the 26th.  So working towards that.  Lot's of longer rides to train (as you can see by the Strava widget on the right border)....and CoachRob wants my weight down to 172 by then.  So this is the diet plan Lois has put me on...


Just kidding, she has made me do my own cooking....which is a good enough plan on its own...
Or maybe I need this guy...





But I'm more likely to end up like this guy...








I don't know why I put that last pic in, it doesn't have anything to do with this post.  I just thought it was funny....Lois says it's mean.  She is probably right...




Anyways....once again, very off track....and I think we are probably done here.  So I guess the next post will be a review of the 8 Hour.

Stay posted!




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