Is This A Logo??

Is This A Logo??

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Steaming Nostril - Review

So there we were, St. Jacob's, Ontario last Sunday April 3rd....trying to was -8 degrees Celsius (- 15 if you count the wind chill), in preparation of the Steaming Nostril bike race.  The Steaming Nostril is a 70 km gravel (mostly) race in the heart of Mennonite country, where horse and buggy abound....hence the name of the race...

And maybe where the term high horse comes from??  No....anyways...

Yeah, so it was cold...but I was dressed for it.  And several familiar faces at the start line amongst the 240 racers who braved the elements.

Pinoy Ryder and a couple of cohorts

JeffS, Giant, and a creeper

BobA and free manure???

Jenn and MarkR ... not tying their horses...

Jeremiah and Ian had driven all the way from North Bay territory!!  Even EnglishJim was present!!!

That's not him though...reasonable facsimile???

Anyways....yes, so we lined up and after a rather non-neutral neutral start...we were off.  The group stayed rather tight...then a hard right turn...strung the group out just a bit...then another hard right turn...then almost a stop...there had been a crash up ahead...several riders involved...and they sorted themselves out as the group passed....but this rather stretched the group out...and I found myself in a small group farther back than I liked...

I could see Giant...and Unglued, in a group ahead...damn!!  Then a hard left into the headwind...and it broke the groups apart...and stretched them out...many meters apart from each other...I found myself in a small group of about 4 riders.  However, in the headwind I had lost Giant and Unglued somewhere in the distance...double damn!!

Head down, into the wind, I pounded trying to drag my small group along, or bridge myself to the next group.  It took leg muscles still not properly warmed heart rate topped out, but I still couldn't feel that next gear clicking in.  (This is actually an issue for literally takes me an hour at full effort to properly warm up and feel like I can hit and maintain my peak output...).

Anyways, I finally did make it to the next group...which included SingleSpeedJoel, a fellow in a green jacket, a guy in orange, and a couple of other guys and gals...

We worked together for several kilometres, trying to catch the next group ahead, and me trying to get to my proper 'warmed-up' point.  Then a very fast group of three riders in yellow and black gear, who had recovered from the previous crash I mentioned, sped past us.  Orange guy, from our group, hooked on with them and tried to keep pace...I stood up to hook on with him, but I couldn't hold it...still not properly warmed up they slowly pulled away from me.  I looked back...our small group had shattered.  Green jacket was several bike lengths behind me, and the remainder of our group with SingleSpeedJoel was well back and spaced out.

The yellow-black folks had pulled OrangeGuy up to the next group ahead, and then dropped him there.  I put my head down, and worked to bridge to that group, through the cold biting wind...eventually I did...and again we worked together for several kilometres; and chatted some with GuyInBlack...trying to joke through the pain of effort.  Then there was GreenJacket....he had managed to bridge over behind me as well.  I looked down at my Garmin....we were just over 53 minutes into the race....and I could finally feel myself start to warm a new gear kicking in...or a new fuel source opening up...and I felt like I could open it up now and light it up some.

But first, I thought now would be a great time to eat and fuel a good surge.  I reached for my food (a feed bag/box on my top tube-head set juncture), but couldn't do it with my heavy winter gloves....I pulled a glove off with my teeth...grabbed my food, and...   So, how do you eat with a glove in your teeth??  Answer is, you don't.  I dropped my plopped to the gravel road behind me.  There was no way I could go on without a glove, it was far too cold.  I slowed, pulled over and went back for it.

As I grabbed it, put it on, and shoved food in my mouth several riders passed me....including SingleSpeedJoel and the small group I had left behind.  It doesn't take very long of being stopped to get caught.  But now I felt good...warmed up...and new fuel/food in me...I was ready now.  Head down, I buried myself to catch back up.  I  eventually caught SingleSpeedJoel and his group...he asked what happened...I explained.  Then I mentioned I was going to go to catch the next group ahead if anyone wanted to hook on.  Off I went to bridge to the next group.  Joel's group dropped back and didn't keep on with me.

Again, after burning a match or two, I caught the group I lost when I dropped my glove...GuyInBlack and GreenJacket.  I settled into the group to recover from the effort of catching back up.  GuyInBlack asked what happened...he said he looked back and I was pulled over turned sideways...I explained.  I rotated my way to the front of the group to take my turn pulling.  By now, I was properly and fully warmed up...I pulled hard.  After a while I realized no one was rotating in to take over pulling.  I looked back...GreenJacket was on my wheel, but we had dropped our group. 

GreenJacket was fast and steady!  He would pull away from me slightly on the to work just beyond my pace...I would catch and pass him on hills...thinking I dropped him only to have him catch and pass me on the flats again.  And so we went...passing the occasional racer who couldn't catch on...passing the occasional horse (nostrils steaming!) and buggy...passing by groups of Mennonite kids gathered at the ends of driveways to watch us go by.  I would call out hello...sometimes they giggled, sometimes they replied...but mostly it was just the silent 'children of the corn' look...

And then....we turned left onto a farm laneway...that had two way racer traffic on it.  While we stayed to the left side of the lane, racers were returning on the right...and they were all grimacing as if they had just endured an ordeal...and many were kicking mud off their shoes/cleats in an effort to clip in.  "Oh, no," I thought.  "What are we in for??"  I had heard a rumour of a ridiculously steep hill at the end, and we were nearing the 60km mark of this 70km race.  And yes, off the laneway straight down a very steep, tire wheel rutted, ankle deep mud chute.  Un-rideable by most CX bike standards (likely doable on a fatbike), racers were off their bikes and running/walking down.  At the bottom some riders attempted to ride/churn through the mud, but then there were three narrow, mostly submerged bridges through the twisty creek that were too slippery and wonky to ride.  This mud path continued for almost a km....then a 100 foot wall of mud.  A 50 degree steep twisty mud climb up the embankment.  A climb that was barely doable without carrying a bike.  There was Unglued...struggling step up, slide two steps back...and he was losing it!  He was angrier than this guy...

He was screaming and cursing so much even I was embarrassed...

But then, where do you think the nickname comes from?

I made my way by Unglued, jogging from the top of the steepest part to the laneway, if not almost completely whipped from the previous 60km of racing, this last bit was depleting!!  More food and back on my bike while kicking mud off my cleats...and getting clipped in.  I wasn't much happier than Unglued...I knew there was still a usually boggy farmers field up ahead to struggle through...and a long set of wooden stairs near the end to negotiate...

random racers up the mud chute

Anyways...back on the laneway...looking at people just making their way in, not yet knowing what they had in front of them...   Then back onto gravel road....I was mostly alone now....with the odd racer ahead...and behind.  Then after several kms of gravel, there was the farmer field...usually boggy, but this year it was gloriously frozen...and though rough as heck was almost easily rideable.

Then the field ducked into a couple of kms of very new, but very fun singletrack through the forest.  A rather dangerous bit in here that I would have likely walked if I knew it was there (that very narrow dip through the ravine at the bottom of the hill!)...then back onto pavement briefly before the course turned onto the last 3kms of rail trail.  In past years this rail trail has been either snow covered, ice covered, or a soft mess.  This year it was clear of ice and snow...and just frozen enough to be soupy but firm...totally rideable...but left the bike coated in frozen sand that clogged the back wheel.

Quickly through the rail trail...onto a 100 metres of road...then the stairs...

Shoulder the bike...then climb up the 75 or so set of wooden stairs...totally gassed...muscles not responding well to the new the stairs, through the few metres of wet grass to the finish.  Done!!  Time...2hours, 37 minutes.

There was JeffS, and Giant...they had finished several minutes in front of me...

Jeff was astute enough to take a post race pic of his fatbike...(yes, he is that fast...killed it on a fatbike!!)

Change into dry clothes...then into the mess hall for recovery food (great food!!), drink (great beer!), reminiscing, and the awards.

Kudos go to all who participated, won, including...

JennR...second out of all women...huge achievement!!

JeffS....second in the fatbike category...(how are these guys so fast on fatbikes???)

KarenG....first in women age 25-29  (right category Karen??)

In case you are like me and never get to see a medal...Jeff took a pic of his...very nice medals!

Even the back's were cool...

Yeah, you guessed it...this one was not Jeff's...

Anyways, that's it.  Very fun, challenging race...I think even Unglued would agree...even with the mud crap thing.  Very, very well off duty policeperson at every intersection;  big thank you to the organizers.  I will plan to be there next year, barring planetary catastrophe...

As for this weekend, no race planned....but...

Stay posted!!


  1. Nice report! I rode the Runny Nose (42 km) on my fat back and had to drag my heavy steel Surly Pugsley along with about 10 lbs of mud up that dreaded hill (now termed "The Longest Kilometre").

    Steve Shikaze (Jeff's slower older bro)

    1. Oh no!! It hurt me enough dragging my carbon Crux up there!!

  2. p.s. read my race report:

  3. p.s. read my race report:

  4. That mud section was killer! So were the lack of starting line announcements.