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Wednesday, 16 October 2019

8 Hours of Hurtin'

So yeah, I have been very neglectful, lazy, maybe even a bit of procrastination...

especially considering there have been a couple of topics that I wanted to post, chat, shout out about.

Anyways...I'm putting off procrastinating until later, so get ready for a couple of quick posts over the next few days...I hope...starting with this one.

As I have mentioned in past posts...if you can remember that far back, I entered this season with the intention to back off from racing, and just to get back to enjoying riding.  The events I did enter, like the Spring  Epic 8 Hour, the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice, and the Quebec Singletrack Experience, or backpacking the BT700, I approached with the the same enjoy the ride.  Those were the major events I planned to attend this season; along with a whole lot of just plain non-event riding...and then this came up.

And this event was intriguingly super-cool for a number of reasons.  First super-cool reason: It was being run\promoted by MarcWS.  Marc ended up inadvertently, unexpectedly, last minute supporting me for the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice...and did an amazingly, totally over-the-top job of it.  So I felt compelled to support his venture.  Plus Marc is a single doesn't get any cooler than that.

Second super-cool reason:  It was a gravel race.  I have done many 8 hour mountain bike races, but I have never heard of an 8 hour gravel race...I was very intrigued!  Especially considering my gravel bike is single speed...which leads to the next super-cool reason:

The course.  A 27 kilometre loop...with over 300m of climbing per loop.  On an almost closed course.  The course was basically a fireroad.  A single lane (real one lane...fitting one vehicle), linking the odd nearby cottage and the abundant ATV/snowmobile/mountain bike trails...which meant almost no vehicle traffic.  I think I may have seen two vehicles the entire day...almost certainly locals driving with cautious attention.  The surface included rocky hardpack, loose gravel, and the odd bit of sand where road work/culvert installation had recently been done.  Super-tough...but super-cool.

Fourth super-cool reason:  An aid station every 5 kilometres!  Because cell coverage on course was sketchy at best...mostly non-existent, there was always an aid station with in close walking proximity.  And every aid station was super supportive...with at least two volunteers heartily cheering you on at every lap!  Very motivating...especially as the day wore on and the single speed legs started getting rubbery.

Anyways, I could go on with great reasons to do this race, but these were the main ones. I went to Haliburton.  I stayed at a buddy's (thanks ChrisB!!) cottage for the weekend...a ten minute drive from the race venue.  Lois came along too (that never happens) for a relaxing weekend in the Haliburton forest.  My friend JohnL also attended the race.  We were both on Kona Ti Roves...but his was geared.  I was set up with a 40-13 single speed, and I was running 29x1.8 old school mtb race tires (Specialized Renegades)...29x1.8 equates to 700x45 in roadie terms.  I ran them softer at between 35 and 40 psi to help soak up some of the bumps, lumps, and chatter...hopefully float better over the sandy bits, and make for a more comfortable 8 hours.

The race started with a light cool rain...but the weather warmed up nicely as the day went on.  The 27 kilometre loop took me about an hour for the first couple of laps...but the repeated climbing, quickly caused that time to stretch out.  The course was basically roller after roller...with a couple of the climbs just long and steep enough to cause me to slow speed grind just to barely make it over the top (I guess the fact that I am currently weighing in at over 200lbs doesn't help...).  The descents were fast and somewhat sketchy into loose gravel and sand....a couple of them around sharp curves.  It took me three laps to learn to slow down around the curved loose descent at km 13...yeah I overcooked it three times in a row having to ride it out in the ditch of long grass...luckily surviving intact each time.  (Ya...slow learner...).  The cheering volunteers at each aid station were a very welcome motivation.

There were also great photog volunteers on scene...

Thanks for the great pics Jean!!
(Photo creds: Jean Horsely)

As it turned out I was the only solo single speeder, so there wasn't a single speed category.  I went into the race hoping to get in 5 laps...mostly worried about my tall gearing, and the extensive climbing...but as I rolled in to finish lap 5 I realized I had time to complete another lap.  I pulled up to my pit/cooler (ya the solo pits were right at the finish/transition zone), and realized I was out of water, and wasn't smart enough to reload at one of the aid stations.  However, as every good mountain bike knows...there are always beers in the cooler.  So one of those beers went into a water bottle and off I went.  None too one hour lap times had stretched into almost 1:15 for lap 5.  However, I went out for every lap with a grin on my face (that doesn't always happen in a mtb 8 hour).  The course was just so much fun....the climbs were just enough of a grueling challenge, the descents were high speed fun, the other racers were heartily pleasant....everyone was enjoying this unique event!  And the volunteers were amazing!!

As I finished lap 6 I was totally cooked.  I had about another hour to get in a 7th lap...but there was no chance of that happening...I was done.  The climb muscles were totally toasted...

But, I had come in 5th out of 21 solo males.  I was happy with that.  (My buddy John had managed 7 laps...awesome performance!!).

And I am already stoked (you can't have a mountain bike blog without the word 'stoked' in it at least once, right??), to do this race again next year!!  8 hours of gravel...amazing course, great people...nothing but pure fun!!

If you are looking for something different...and you enjoy a fun, tough have to do this thing in 2020.  I have a feeling this event is going to become another popular classic!!  Be part of it!!  I'm sayin!!

So there ya have it.  8 Hours of Hurtin' in Haliburton.  Just the first of the blog posts I need to catch up on...ya, I know...about time!!  So what's the next one?


Stay posted!

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Quebec SingleTrack Experience - A Race, A Ride, An Adventure's been almost 2 weeks since we got back from QSE (Quebec SingleTrack Experience) so I figured I'm overdue, as always, to put a review of the event into a post.

QSE...a 6 day mountain bike stage event, unlike most other stage races.  Each day a unique mountain bike experience, each day in another exceptional mtb destination.  I posted daily details of the experience on my facebook page  For all the exciting details, check out the facebook page.  However, in order to keep this post from becoming a novelic saga, I will keep this to a briefer review.

packed and ready

We drove up with NewfieSteve and PowerPaul

Home was a college residence for 7 nights.

At the HUB

The event centred itself around a permanent base camp (called the HUB), including a covered stage, bar, information/kit/clothing kiosk, seating, firepit, massage stations, yoga site.  Compared to other stage races that require daily relocation, the permanent base left one time to rest/recover, or visit the many nearby historic sites.

Lois loved the event as much as I did!

Lois attended with me...she did the tourist thing each day as I rode the event.  The event included extra activities and excursions, and with the HUB being within walking distance of the old city there were literally unlimited options to keep Lois busy.  (She absolutely loved the experience, and is as excited as me...or go back!!).  This really was our vacation...I planned to enjoy my rides, not so much race them...and come back every afternoon/evening so Lois and I could hang out together.

The event included a night ride of the Old City, the night before Day 1

At the Citadel with JennR and PowerPaul

Getting ready to roll Day 1 Vallee Bras-du-Nord

But mostly....the sucesss of the event centred around the quality and variety of the trails.  Trails that are genuinely world class...including the only permanent stage on the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup circuit for the last 30 years.  I've always felt fortunate to live in south-central Ontario (is that where we are??), to be so near such a variety of great trail options...but the trails at QSE are so much above and beyond what we have here.  After all, we were in the mountains...and the event included a daily shuttle out to another daily unique experience.



A quote from my daily facebook page post during the event sums it up nicely...

" A mountain bike Mecca. Today’s route required a gondola ride to the top of the mountain to the start line. From the top the route had us descend and climb the mountain twice. Sooo much tech. A brand new $150,000 trail, with so much high speed burmed flow the momentum threw you into technical stuff before you could second guess. So often I cleared a portion of the trail thinking “There is no way I should have attempted that on any bike!” Drops. Air catching jumps landing in roots and/or rocks. The climbs no less crazy. Looong rocky rooty steep climbs. Not ideal for the ribs I injured yesterday. My poor Raijin (Ti hardtail 29er) didn’t know what hit it today. I went in planning to adopt my 8 hour solo pace to play it as safe as possible. And I mostly managed to accomplish that. I rode with friends instead of raced them. Friends like Julie Rossal, Rick Ross (also on a Ti hardtail), the team of Steve Mcrossan and Mary Quinn. So many friends from Team Ontario are smashing the leaderboard!! I was happy to just stay upright. Such a great day, amazing trails, what a venue. Friends. MTB. Adventure. Ending each day back with Lois. "

And this went on day after day for 6 days!!  Ridiculously long, steep, high tech descents...high speed flow...4-5km least 2 each day.  Amazing mountain vistas.  Each day, a unique experience that left you exhausted physically and mentally, but so enjoyable it left you wanting more...

More Newfie

I have so many pics...trying to choose ones to include is a challenge!

Just one of the climbs

Another little injury on Day 3 
(Not the rib injury I took on Day 1)

Just one of so many unique features.

Just one of so many amazing sights...

If you think I am being overly positive about this event, I am...because it is totally warranted.  It really is that good.  However, there are a couple of things I will do different next time.  Yes, there will be a next time...we will be back again for QSE 2020.

I will consciously make every effort to not get injured on day 1.  Busting/bruising ribs on the first day made for overly cautious riding for the remainder of the event.

A couple of weeks later...blood from the 
injured ribs pooled in the hip before dissipating.

This year we treated the event as a vacation...I rode to enjoy the trails.  In 2020, we will go back twice...once in the spring as a vacation, where I can ride, and re-ride trails, and take a little more time to enjoy the Quebec culture with Lois.  Then again to attend QSE 2020...where this time I plan to treat it more as a race.  I will train for this, hoping my current endurance training/fitness, with a little bit of work, will translate into stage race (2-4 hrs/day) fitness.  One great thing about Quebec is that it is close enough (compared to BC) to drive or take the VIA train in less than a day.

I will have a different bike...a bike more properly suited for these type of trails.  My Kona Raijin, with it's hardtail XC race geomety, and 100mm travel fork was not enough...and the steep head angle made the descents challenging, if not almost treacherous (especially on the Enduro stage on day 5!).  The Raijin may have been OK on any given day, but over 6 days it took a beating...and so did I.  A bike with minimum 130mm full suspension travel would be much more that is the plan for next time.

RobR...podium finisher!

There was a rain/mud day, but the trails held up great!  
Mike VanDenBlender...smokin' fast podium finisher!!

JennR on rain day.  
Also smokin' fast 1st place podium finsher, 
3rd place women overall...gave the pros a run!!

KarenD...mud day...yet another podium finisher!

Bevin, Riot face??  This was Bevin's 3rd QSE...
one of the most respected mtb'ers around.  Skill, speed, and character.

Bevin has been adopted as the face of QSE...and multiple year podium finisher, 
this year was as a team with GaryS


Steve and Mary, teammates on and off the trail!

Kim, one of the toughest ladies on the trail...and podium finisher.


JulieR...tough, fast, podium finisher!

I told you I had a ton of pics!!

Even a pic from the bus/ to another stage...

A final point...the friendships.  New ones made, current ones cemented.  When you get a bunch of like-minded people...specifically a group of mountain bikers, out to enjoy an experience.  It was such a positive energy flowing through the very enjoyable.

A group dinner evening...

Drinks on the deck

The official group pic

So there you have it...there is so much more I could write about.  The details of the individual stages and trails, the organization, the food, the comaraderie and friendships, how well individuals from our 'Team Ontario' did on the leaderboard.  There was so much...

Forever, a Que-biker
There was also an amazing post event party with an amazing live band...
but I'm not allowed to post any pics from the fun...except this one.

So...if you are looking for another event to add to your calendar, this one is so worthy.  You could not package together your own vacation for the cost of this event.  And so many memories...

Eventually, we had to make our way home...

Anyways, I could seriously go on forever on this one...

Feel free to text, message, email me if you have any questions.  Check out the website...

In the meantime...

Stay posted.