This past weekend I did my first XC race. I was pretty much garbage but I figured I'd write this down for review later. Essentially all my failings as a rider were exposed. Those failings were:
I'm terrible at cornering. Unfortunately singletrack is full of corners and I was all over the brakes.
I'm a bad mechanic. My crank arm came off at the end of lap 2 of 3.
The first lap consisted of me moving steadily back once we hit the twisty bits, which I expected, but I lost ground a bit faster than I thought I would as I kept getting knocked off where I managed to do just fine in the pre-ride. I would then let a bunch of people past and saw everyone who was out on the course.
Most of my fellow riders were very supportive, except for one who felt the need to yell and talk trash even though he was as slow as I was overall.
Gotta keep the focus on just using these to force me to get better on the bike. CX season approaches.
What's better than a brand new carbon road bike that weighs in at just 6.8 kg? A brand new carbon bike that's been fit to me, with components of my choosing, and has my name painted on the side.
This bike has been a long time coming. I could have replaced my terrible road bike with a less terrible road bike at multiple points over the last 2 or 3 years, but I've been planning out this purchase, and waiting until I could do it right.
Julien, owner of Vitess, has been very patient with me over the years and has always had time to spend with me even when it was clear I wouldn't be a customer for a while. This personal attention is what I think has kept my interest up over time. There's a lot of sexy bikes out there but there's a lot less where you're getting help from the guy with the vision.
Initially this is what got me really interested. Here's a guy trying do bring something a bit different to the world of cycling. Building a different kind of manufacture and build model, and building a brand that is synonymous with a high level of personal attention and lots of configuration options.
Julien isn't trying to sell the most bikes. He isn't trying to be the cheapest. He isn't trying to be the the most expensive. He's delivering both a fantastic bike, and a fantastic experience that, overall, is great value. Given that that's exactly what I've been trying to do in my own business at Audaxium, it really appeals to me.
Still, the bike itself is nothing short of great just on it's own. While I've just gotten back out on the road recently after the crash, the rides I have had on the bike, including tonight, have been smile filled the entire way. It handles beautifully.
And, when I'm not on it, it's beside my desk where I can gaze upon it. I just don't get tired of looking at it. It's the only black and white Vitess you'll find. And given I had the paint scheme tweaked a bit, in all likely-hood, this bike will remain an original work of art.
I've got a new stem on order, white on black of course, and a new black on black seatpost, both courtesy of 3T. My flexibility is also getting better, and despite what Julien says, the stem will get dropped down, perhaps even to a slammed position. (He writes hopefully)
Soon I'll take some more photos of it when it's fully kitted out with bottle cages etc. And I'll post more when I take it out on it's first long ride.
During the past few years, we've been taking the kids with us as my lovely wife has done her trail running series around Southern Ontario. These are her goal races and they're on the calendar as soon as they're announced. It's a family obligation that we're out in support and it'll take a very special bike race to get me off the hook from attending. We've been watching, taking pictures, and enjoying the scenery in the various conservation areas where these are held.
The great thing about these races, put on by 5Peaks, is that they have a kids race just prior to the regular event. Usually only about 100m or so, sometimes 200m, it's attended by everyone from toddlers to grade-schoolers. They get a bib, and toe the same start line as their parents. They get some swag at the end of the race which usually ends up getting confiscated after some inappropriate use.
It's always fun to watch. No matter what, the horn will go off, there'll be a made scramble, many cheers, and 1 kid bursting into tears at the surprise of it all. They'll get carried by Mom through the course. She's a runner anyway.
Once the first race was done, our kids have been looking forward to these mini events for quite some time. Well, mainly. They never ended up not doing one, but the enthusiasm sometimes waned, especially when it was cold or wet.
At the end of last year, both kids moved up to doing the adult race. We did the last race of the year as a trial to see how they would fare.
The question, at least the obvious one anyway, is, when is the right time to start your kids running?
The answer, in my opinion, is as soon as they can. People don't simply wake up one day ready. Running starts on the playground around the swings, during a game of tag, and around the house while screaming.
We often get "interested" comments, when we mention our kids' running exploits. But they're not the only ones out there, it's just that we've socially conditioned everyone to percieve activity as an abnormal state.
So here are my top 10 tips on running with kids
1 - Start early, regularly, and slowly. - "Going for a run" sucks. The first thing you should not be doing is dragging your kids along on your recovery run. Just make sure they have an opportunity to run around as much as possible. The worst thing I've heard a parent yell to a kid was "Don't Run" during a sunny day in a grassy field.
2 - Run. - Kids, it appears, look up to their parents. At the very least they need to see running as a normal thing, even if they don't seem all that interested in wearing lycra.
3 - Make the unknown known. - The kids don't take kindly to uncharted territory. If they get familiar with an activity long before doing it, there's less for them to fear.
4 - Expect rejection. - We know our kids love running and racing, but even still, when asked if they want to go for a ride, sign up for a race, or go to track practice, we'll often get a resounding NO! "I am never riding again!" is a relatively common statement. Let them be, and ask again later when a better mood strikes, and the situation is a bit different. Nagging won't work.
5 - The less bribes the better. - Running and racing can be about cookies and ribbons at the finish line, but it's best if that's secondary to the experience. Experience is sustainable and can be remembered by looking at race pictures like the one at the top of this post.
6- Walk. Our kids don't seem to have the ability to really regulate their effort. They'll run till they are exhausted and it'll be difficult to get them moving again. Even if you're moving at a snails paice, enforce walk breaks until they figure out how to ease off the throttle.
7 - Mid run melt downs. - They should be expected, and they're not the end of the world but I'm terrible at these. In our last race, this past weekend, I was running along behind kid #2, looking at flowers, and having a chat with the chatter box. All of a sudden it was all tears and "This is boring", "I'm never doing an adult race again". We're at the farthest point from the start, and I'm fearful I'll be labeled BadDad, by everyone who starts to pass us. I get super frustrated, but try and take the pressure off by saying OK, to pretty much everything, and saying "lets go back". By the time we got to the end he was happy to sprint me to the line saying, "see how short that was dad?"
8 - Last is ok. Setting expectations that any result is a good result is important. So is slipping, falling, crashing, and getting wet. But don't wait until after your kid comes last in his first bike race. Explain that early. I like showing the kids videos both of people who finish well down the order. Youtube is full of inspiring videos.
9 - Falling. - Similar to previous, explain about picking oneself back up. Videos are the best for this. Everyone likes a come from behind story.
10 - Being competitive. - Fun is first and foremost, but it's ok to try and pass people and gain a few placings. Nothing will inspire a kid to keep at it, and maybe even go on a "training" run with his Mom, if there's a medal hanging on the wall and the memory of doing his best.
11 - Bonus Tip, Congratulations. - Explain to your kids the importance of helping and congratulating their fellow runners or riders. A collegial atmosphere, and new friendships are the best things ever. At the end of his last bike race, kid #1 was dispondent, refusing to talk. He hit a tree and then got spooked by all the older riders lapping him. As soon as Max, an older kid on the team, came up to talk to him and ask him how it went, his mood changed instantly and he was asking when the next race was.
My wife has kindly bandaged me up and and purchased me a burrito to make me feel better.
So this was my third year doing P2A and i'd graduated to the top 100. While still a bit sick I woke up feeling pretty good.
Tom and I warmed up in the rain, and got ready. everything was going to plan. It was going to be muddy and hard.
Off we went at the horn, a number of Lapdogs in the first wave. We went up the road, turned right and flew down the shallow gravel road, mud flying. I moved past a couple guys. and we turned right again. The pace was quick but comfortable. A few guys were being aggressive but no big deal.
I was pumped to see the leaders just ahead.
I think I remember someone swinging left, across my front. I distinctly remember my front wheel going hard left. I yelled. And I remember hitting the right side of my head.
I later learned the left side of my helmet took the impact, hard, and cracked at multiple spots.
I heard Tom telling someone to get an ambulance and felt someone holding my head. Voices surrounded me and while I was scared, I knew I was in good hands as everyone was talking like Doctors.
I have no idea how long I was in the mud. But it seemed like a couple minutes. Apparently 20 elapsed before I got carted away.
It seemed like hours until they got me off the spine board at the hospital. I guess it was as it was about 12:45 or so I think. That was nerve wracking.
I seemed to hit every part of my body. Both sides of my head, face, both arms, back , both legs, hands, hip and shoulder. It must have been spectacular.
My neck and brain seem fine but tender, and I've got an AC Seperation I've just Googled. The usual road rash will heal.
I really should shave my arms too. It would have been nice today. Hair sticking everywhere!
The Bike? Shifters both turned in with some serious grind marks and dents. A bent derailleur hanger and, strangely, my rear skewer, non-drive side, has been ground down at least 5mm! Fork and stem are twisted and basically the whole deal needs to be stripped down to look for damage.
Special thanks to Giro for protecting my Melon. I've not personally seen a helmet look so bad
Biggest thanks go to all the people who stopped to help. I didn't see any of you but heard about it after.
5 or 6 people from the Lapdogs gave up their day to make sure I was ok and did a fantastic job. Adrian from another club also quickly stopped to attend to me. Thanks to everyone. I'll thank you all in person as soon as I can.
And next year I'll be pushing to the start of wave 2 to earn my way back into wave 1.
Now, I am tired on top of tired. But the bike is clean and the recovery tights on. After running, of all things, with the kids on Friday, and killing my legs, I'm looking forward to a day off.
The race started at a farmhouse near Uxbridge. A quick sign-in, no numbers, just coffee, a photocopied map, and a mad panic to get changed and say hello to the usual suspects. A large contingent from Quebec gave it a nice feel.
Going into this I had checked out a quick online map of the route, and it indicated there were two rated climbs, and I knew there was at least one section of mud and some gravel road. I mentally planned on a long flat day sitting on a wheel.
I should have done a little more recon prior.
The race started with a neutral start, which I thought was a great idea, up a gravel road. A civilized start. Then, after the first rise, the horn went and and the watts went up.
I had illusions of getting on the back of the lead group at least initially. I think if I was warmed up, and better rested, I might have stood a remote chance. But the lead 30 or so riders slowly opened up the gap while my legs begged for mercy.
I think I was that guy who lost the wheel.
At the end of the first 5 km or so, my pre-race wish was granted and a group of 5 or 6 of us got into a group including a couple guys I've raced with in CX, and a strong female francophone who deserved to be farther ahead.
We hit the paved road, and got into a great paceline, and because we were all of similar ability, and moved along at a steady rate between 30 and 40 km/hr. Really a good bunch.
We picked up Mr Dermont, who'd been dropped, by the main group and picked up the pace.
The first section came up as a surprise to me and fortunately I was 3rd wheel at the time out of roughly 11. It was 3km of sandy single track, with a few twists and ruts and some downhill bits where apparently Dermont had a spectacular crash. I hope he's ok. We went through at just under 30km/hr.
A smaller group formed, of about 7 guys after slowing up a bit and got back into our rhythm, flew through Musslemans lake, and on and on.
First though a short downhill sand and rock section where I gave up braking and just crossed my fingers and let it run.
Then on to the Marsh.
The marsh bit was about a 2 km section of very wet trail with some large boggy puddles and deep mud. One gent from LFG - Spidertech? rode the whole thing. I did not, but I did get through fast enough to take a pee and jump onto the back of the group which had split up. We reformed and kept up a good pace, not quite as quick as before.
Riding riding. Still heading away from the start, me fucking with my brakes as I now had a bit of brake rub that was annoying me.
Through the somewhat undermanned aid station, where I HAD A COKE! It tasted amazing. First time in ages but I had zero hesitation in grabbing it.
We then made our way to the "Hell" section, having eaten some extra food and fuel on the advice of Mark M who informed us it would be hard to drink.
We turned up the section, but before doing so, I decided to lose my mind, misinterpret the signs, and crash into another rider and lose ground.
Nothing broken, and my brand new kit didn't seem to suffer any major damage.
I chased back on, sat in for a while, and made my way up 14 km, yes, 14 km, of loose gravel "rail trail". It was unrelenting. It went on and on.
In the last 3-4 km or so, the terrain switched to dirt, sand and rock, and I moved up a bit.
And then there were 3 or 4.
It gets a bit fuzzy at this point. There was still 40km to go, heading back to the finish. There were a lot of hills. 34-27 kind of hills.
We stuck together for quite some time, picked up a rider, making us 5, and were closing in on another, when we followed him through an intersection. I had lost the wheel, but I was pretty sure we should have turned. I yelled, chased and yelled and we turned back and checked the sign. Yup, I as right.
We yelled but the rider ahead didn't hear and kept riding. I'm guessing he made it back.
We picked up a rider we dropped, who had made the proper turn, now about 25km left, 5 of us rolling through, keeping it easy on the climbs.
At around 20 to go or so, Mr LFG kept the pace high up a hill, and I stayed on his wheel. We could see what was probably Mr Moote far ahead, and we rode together up a few hills until the elastic snapped and I was on my own.
Those last kilometers were quite tough. Three guys about 200m ahead and lots of rolling hills. My legs kept going but only under duress. I eventually lost visual contact but passed two guys who were absolutely shelled and looked like they had just ridden RAAM.
This post doesn't really convey how I feel about this race. There were some fairly boring road sections, but being in a good group was loads of fun. The tough sections were tough, and the hills were great. It was what I imagine a classic spring race to be given we don't have any cobble here. The length makes the 60km P2A seem easy although the pace is somewhat higher there.
My only disappointment was how only 2 other teammates showed up. Easter/Passover surely tied up quite a few with family obligations, but it's a race that should be supported and was by others as apparently it was a large number of entrants. Crazy road O-Cups with entire fields being DQ'd don't hold a candle to our local Hell of the North.
So I earn enough points to get out of the house for 3 hours. A clean bike, some shaved legs, and a desire to put in a hard workout.
Maybe I just don't have the focus. Maybe there's just too many damn stoplights. Maybe I need to learn how to get my hr monitor to beep.
Basically I rode at random efforts, while thinking I was working steadily.
I've come to the conclusion that I need to find a more inspired route and/or get out on some group rides with people better than myself.
Currently my P2A goal is top 200. I'm just not feeling it like I was last year.