So the Homage to Ice...the race that typically kicks off the XC mountain bike race season in early spring...you know...right around the time the weather is always a bit of a shite-show. And this year was no different...
With a dumping of snow on April 10th, and race day on April 16 it didn't look good. But DanOfSubstance (race promoter extraordinaire of Substance Projects) put on his superhero cape, recruited dedicated volunteers (including members of Team Van Go, I believe). They did some crazy ritualistic voodoo dance (I'm certain cats were involved...but I can't say how, exactly), made some course modifications, and crossed many body parts (but never cross the streams!!!) in hope that weather and conditions would work out.
And apparently, the MTB gods approved....a couple of days of warmer weather, trails maintenance and course modifications, the sandy soil of the Dufferin forest all came together...the forecast for raceday was +20 something, something!!
So on raceday morning, Jaimie, Giant, and moi, piled into the truck and headed to Dufferin forest. We got there almost two hours early and the parking lot was already full!! The promise from Dan of great trail conditions, and fun but challenging course, and the weather forecast (it ended up getting up to +27 that day!!) made this Dan's best attended race!! And it was great to see so many familiar faces, that hadn't made an appearance all winter. In fact even the LandHams showed up all the way from New Brunswick for a surprise appearance!!
And ApexTed the Nikon Ninja was on site to capture all the fun!
So, at 11am we are herded into the start corral, listening to Dan talk about voo-doo mastery before boom! We are off!! The race route was a 15km loop, with the Full Marathon racers doing 4 laps. The race started with a lengthy section of gravel road that allowed us to get sorted out avoiding a single track bottleneck. The road was actually so dry the group threw up a thick cloud of dust. The road led into a grassy road descent, that the dangerously packed group sped down...then a right turn through one of the few mud sections, and up a grassy road climb. I was doing my best to keep Giant in sight...he had started quite a bit ahead in the paddock. Normally, he would have been well ahead and out of sight by now...but he was not having a good start, and I was actually having a decent start for a change!! Jaimie was directly in front of me...he had trained hard all winter, and dropped a ton of weight (OK, not literally a ton)...he was lean and fast! NewieSteve was right next to me on his carbon Fatboy (that thing is as light and nimble as my titanium MTB!).
Then into the single track...tight, twisty... this stuff is the bane of my mtb race existance...my single track skill is seriously flawed...I train, I practice but some kind of mental block or CIA mind control trick keeps me from getting it right. I am stupid slow in this stuff. Jaimie starts to pull away, and Steve is rubbing my back wheel. Then a sharp left uphill switchback with a challenging log-over clogs the field and brings us all back together....but it is short lived. There is plenty of twisty single track...Jaimie begins to pull away...I push to keep him in sight. This section of the course included a number of challenging, but fun (because I do OK on them) log hop-overs.
Dan cheating on a log over
Then an extremely tight, twisty bit...in fact my bars wouldn't even fit through the trees...I stalled out and Steve, and a guy on a carbon Salsa fatbike passed me off trail. (I better remember to negotiate that next time!) I get back on and take after them.
Then the single track dumps out onto the mid way point station where VolunteerLiz is shouting encouragement. Followed by about a kilometre of very icy double-track, that served nothing but to spray your arse with freezing water...
Burnsy earning a cold keester
I caught Steve and the SalsaFatbike guy...then we turned left up the up the Amsterdam Brewery Big Wheel Ascent where I pulled away from the Fatbikes...yeah...this was a great hill. A grassy hill of death; a mushy, grassy, long, steep, double track climb that had my heart rate through the roof at the summit. It didn't help that as we approached the hill I could see Jaimie cresting the top, and I gunned it to catch him...but by the time I go to the top he was on fire and gone, and my lungs and heart were exploding!
KarenG fighting up the hill
This hill was so long and steep it needed two pics...
Then at the crest of the hill, we dove back into single track (fricken single track!!)... which included a steep, fast, rolling descent that turned right over a log drop...I flew over the drop....and landed squarely in the bush...off track...but quickly got back on...(I better remember to negotiate that next time!).
Then a couple of steep single track climbs that were so dry they were slippery, and reminded me that there was more than one challenging climb on the course. A longer section of dry double track led to a section of singletrack through a bed of dry pine needles; a final climb up a former downhill course led to the final section of double track and through the start/finish station I went...no Steve or SalsaGuy seen behind me...no Jaimie or Giant seen in front. Laps 2 (and 3, and 4) started with a section of thick mud single track, that got softer and deeper as the race progressed...then back onto the course.
Lap 2, saw me ride much of it with a strong singlespeeder who mentioned that he just passed SingleSpeedAlexa, and SingleSpeedSarah...I pressed on hoping to stay ahead of them (they are both incredibly fast!).
Lap 3, had me ride much with ThatGuy...a very strong rider on a fatbike!! He was kicking butt...and we took turns passing each other...until lap 4 when he pulled away. On lap 4 MikeL (an adversary of mine from last years OCups) caught and passed me on a flat section...I passed him back in a technical section...then on the grassy hill of death, he passed me...then at the summit he found a turbo boost and hit it. He was gone!! Boom!!! Where did that come from!!??
I fought to keep him in sight...but I never did catch him. In fact...SingleSpeedSarah caught and passed me...she so very often manages to catch and pass me near the end of many of these races!!
I pushed hard, not wanting to get passed again...crossed the finish...totally spent...almost exactly 4hrs...seconds behind MikeL...7th in my category (MasterMen). There was Jaimie who beat me by minutes...and Giant who finished 30 minutes in front of me...not so bad considering they are 35 years younger than me...(perhaps a slight exaggeration...). And Steve came rolling in soon after...
Then the podium presentations...
ThatGuy came in first in Fatbike, Burnsy came in second!! Well done!!
SingleSpeedSarah first in the Women35+, SingleSpeedAlexa second!!
KarenG came in 1st in Womens Half Marathon (2 laps of the course)
And no pic, but my nemesis serious competed in the Half Marathon Master Men SingleSpeed category and took third!!
So...this officially kicks off the XC MTB race season...just in time for a slight change of gears for this weekend.
The iconic P2A (Paris to Ancaster) is this weekend...so I recover from the H2i, and ready for the P2A. I have no delusions of grandeur for this one...not like this fierce fellow....
This race has just grown too big...my plan is to survive, and the goal is to come in under 2hrs30minutes...
Let keep those streams crossed in hopes of good weather this weekend!!