I could have titled this blog “That Time I Rode A Hundred K”, because it was my first (metric) century ride.
Or, I could have called it “That Time I Rode The Perfect Bike”, because I was on a borrowed bike that was perfect, and sweeter than sweet.
But I’m calling it “Graduation” because that’s what happened. I graduated from the Old Colin (whose longest ride prior to Saturday’s race was 50k, and that only happened on Thursday–two days before the race), to New Colin (who can ride pretty much anything). That’s right, I graduated to one of the big boys.
And let me just say this: Phew. What a waste of worrying. On Saturday, August 13th, 2016, I rode the 100k distance in Dan Marshall’s Eager Beaver (presented by my local bike shop, Cycle Solutions). Actually it was 109k, and actually it wasn’t that bad, and more actually it was actually almost easy. Not actually really easy, but not actually as tough as I thought it’d be.
Okay, so if it was easy (or not really easy, or not as tough as I thought it’s be, whatever) I know that means I didn’t work as hard as I could have, but as a first timer riding a century, and a first timer on a gravel bike, I had no benchmark for pacing or performance. Damnit Jim, I’m a 30k mountain bike rider!
Also, in a sense, I was totally, utterly, and grossly unprepared for the imminent gruelling experience. I got back from a 19 day, 5,300 km driving vacation, four days before the race (and only rode three times during the trip), and was full of American restaurant and/or junk food (seriously, the candy aisle in American supermarkets is a thing of beauty, and don’t get me started on the pop, er I mean soda).
However, in another sense, I’ve been preparing for this race for four years (plus a lifetime of messing around on a bike), and especially this season with the addition of a single speed to my riding.
Either way, prepared or not, I was going to race the Eager Beaver 100 (which I’m now calling the Eager Beaver 109). Dan Marshall has been such a source of inspiration, information, and plain awesomeness for me. His Homage 2 Ice was my first mountain bike race four years ago, and he has mentored me since. I wanted my first century to be in HIS race.
And so, on a borrowed bike, full of equal parts optimism, hope, and terror, I rode the Eager Beaver 109.
And it was awesome.
I don’t know if it was the sweet bike, my legs, my (sometimes lack of) training, the adrenaline, or the witches brew of energy gels, Endurafuel, Electrolyte fizzes, peanut butter sandwiches, tortellini, bacon, beer, and granola sloshing around in my gut, but I did it.
Hold on a sec. Can I talk about my bike for a minute. I went to my shop, Cycle Solutions, for a quick check on my Revolver the day before I left for the race. While I was there, the manager, Matt Morrish suggested I ride his personal bike, a Santa Cruz Stigmata. What a bike. Holy cow is all I can say. That is all. Holy cow.
So the race started with a…okay, a bit more about the Santa Cruz Stigmata. It is the sweetest whip I’ve ever whipped (for the uninitiated, the youths nowadays call their cars whips–I’m transferring the slang to bikes). Riding the Santa Cruz Stigmata for five and a half hours was like being serenaded by the most awesome five and a half hour-long 80s power ballad. Once again, holy cow. By the way, I keep joking to myself that if I say Santa Cruz Stigmata enough times, Matt will forget I have the bike and I’ll own it forever. Santa Cruz Stigmata.
Before I go on, just a bit more about the bike. When I got it home from my shop, the day before the race, I only had to raise the seat and move the handle bar spacers. That’s it. I rode it around my neighbourhood for five minutes, and then packed it away. The next day, I raced it for five and a half hours, and it fit like a glove–a sweet, carbon fibre, glove. Santa Cruz Stigmata, you are one sweet bike. I bet Matt Morrish, the manager of my bike shop (Cycle Solutions) wishes he had one just like mine. See what I did there.
I think it’s time for a Race Report.
Race Report: Eager Beaver 100. Saturday, August 13, 2016
Well, I rode the most awesomest bike. I think it was made by fairies, or maybe the carbon was pressed in Mordor. Wow.
Santa Cruz Stigmata.
The race started with a quick zip up the grassy ski hills of Highlands Nordic Centre in Duntroon, Ontario. Once at the top, we had an even quicker zip into the first rocky section, and the race was on. I started at the back of the pack, like I usually do, and just cruised. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of terrain, or how my body would react to the distance, and I sure as hell didn’t want to get a pinch flat from one of the billion fist-sized boulders, so I took it easy. Seriously, at 250 pounds, there is a lot of pressure on my bike, and I think my tires bear most of the brunt of my bad eating habits. Plus, I wasn’t going to win the race in the first 35k, and I don’t relish the thought of a crash. Crashing hurts.
The first 35k was almost like a mountain bike race. Horrid sections and grueling climbs. Dan gave us a cheat sheet, but I had my own notes (thank you Brother P-Touch) stuck to my top tube and stem, and I knew that 5 of the 6 sections (the loose, fit-sized boulder-strewn farm track) were before the 35k mark. I also knew that most of the climbing was in the first 35k (up the Niagara Escarpment, down the Niagara Escarpment, and back up the Niagara Escarpment). So I basically set my legs on cruise control and rode. When I needed to walk, I walked. And when I needed to stop and help a fellow rider unclip her shoe (because she lost a cleat screw), I stopped to help a fellow rider unclip her shoe. Her name was Melissa, We couldn’t detatch her shoe from the pedal, and after a few minutes, I knew I had to continue riding. I hope she made it okay. I rode with a bunch of other awesome people in the first few hours. Cyclists are so cool.
Just before the 35k mark, and after a few more gross climbs, Dan gave us an aid station at the 26.4k mark.
And what an aid station it was. The crew at Team Van Go had sizzling bacon and smiles for miles. So awesome. I refilled my water bottles, popped an energy gel, fizzed an electrolyte fizz, Honeymaxxed, jammed as much bacon in my mouth as I could, grabbed a peanut butter sandwich from my food bag, and I was off.
And at the 26.6k mark, the guys from Cycle Solutions were directing the 50k riders in one direction, and the 100k and 160k riders the other direction. And they had beer. I was faced with a dilemma. I had about 80k to go, a full gullet, and a mouthful of peanut butter sandwich, but when your buddy hands you a tall can of beer, and you’re in a hurry, you only really have one choice. You chug that beer like a frat kid.
And so, with 80k to go, a full belly and a mouthful of peanut butter sandwich, I chugged that beer for all it was worth.
With a newly boiling belly, a bit more of that section nonsense, and a few climbs later, we hit the 35k mark, which meant the top of the Niagara Escarpment, and smooth sailing for the 12k to the next aid station.
At some point in that leg of the race,at the 50k/100k/160k dividing point, Matt and the guys from Cycle Solutions were cheering us on from the bed of a pickup truck. To say that Matt is enthusiastic about the sport would be like saying the bacon a few k back was okay. Matt IS the Eager Beaver. Great times.
The second station. Refill, stuff, and repeat (except without bacon and beer–sad face).
And then the rain started. Hey, here’s a funny story. A few minutes before the aid station, I thought to myself “It’s getting kinda hot. It’d be awesome if it rained a bit”. Well, it rained alright. It rained indeed. It rained so much, there were puddles on the downhills. It rained in every direction—at the same time. For the next 50k, the rain pelted us, poured on us, and screamed at us.
And I screamed right back. It was awesome. Rain is the Clydesdale’s best friend, because I can tell you this about riders who weigh 250 pounds: We sweat.
And between the wind, and the sheer quantity of water, I felt like Lt. Dan in “Forest Gump”. I swung my legs over the bow of the Jenny and screamed “Is that all you’ve got?”. Wait a sec, Lt. Dan didn’t have legs. Whatever. It’s an analogy.
Also, never scream at a storm, especially if you’re asking if that’s all it has, because Mother Nature always has more, and on Saturday, at about 11AM, it had thunder and lightening.
To make a long story short, I didn’t get hit by lightening. So that’s a plus.
But I rode like lightening. It was 41k to the next aid station, and I started out with a group of about 5 riders. We cruised along, chatting, until no one answered. I had dropped them all and couldn’t even see them behind me. So I rode.
Prior to the race, Dan told me to draft other riders. “If you don’t draft other riders, I’ll slap you” is what he said. But if there’s nobody to draft, what then? Ride, that’s what.
So I rode. Although I’m happy to report to Dan that I managed to draft a few other riders during the race…for about 20 minutes in total. Every other minute was me on my own.
Between the two aid stations, I was alone for about 35k. I passed three riders, and we exchanged brief pleasantries (“Still haven’t been hit by lightening. Eh? That’s nice.”), but that’s it. I maintained a speed between 23kph, and 28kph, with a few quicker bits, and not many slower bits. Honestly, I just cruised. Against the wind, down a hill, up a hill, I just cruised—on my Santa Cruz Stigmata.
And that’s when the elegance of a long distance ride hit me. The start line was a few hours ago, and the finish like was a few hours to come. It was raining, my bike was singing to me in the sweetest of 80’s rock ballad falsetto voices, and I was riding a bike. With no beginning, and no end, and only the sound of my pedal strokes mixed with the rain, my breathing, and the constant push of my legs, I felt absolutely and utterly at peace. It was clarifying. Dang, I hate how wonky that sounds, but it is so true. Between the 60k and 80k, my life changed.
When I got to the 88k aid station, the woman behind the table asked how I was doing. I hadn’t thought much about my state. I was too busy being. I paused. I was surprisingly good. I wasn’t tired. I had much more in my legs, and there was only 20k to the end. Refill, stuff, repeat, and I was off. Damn, no bacon.
I was shocked when my GPS hit 90k. Did I just ride 90k? I kept going. Somewhere in that last 20k, I had a burst of speed where I maintained between 30kph and 38kph for about 25 minutes. I was so in my zone.
Back into the sodden grass, of a farm, over the hills of the Nordic Highlands Centre, and through the slick mud, and I was done.
End of Race Report.
My wife was waiting for me at the finish line and the timers yelled “Team Colin!” as I coasted through. I got off my bike, and smiled from grit encrusted ear to grit encrusted ear.
109k. 5:30:02. 1896m of climbing. Thank you Cycle Solutions, Dan Marshall, and Substance Projects.
And that’s how Team Colin rode a hundred k, on the perfect bike, to his graduation ceremony. I’m not going to say I’ll ride the 160k next year, but the year after, well, you never know…
You can read a complete bio on my blog: teamcolinblog.wordpress.ca