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The Great Canadian Sagle

Ian's Mountain Biking Adventures

How The West Was Won, P2A

p2a

 

This year marked the 24th run of Paris to Ancaster, a staple event of the season for any cyclist. This is the unofficial start of the summer racing circuit. The weather on the other hand, had a different plan and reminded us that spring time was still here rearing its ugly head. The winds of Dover were blowing across the sky like tornados in the Midwest. 40km per hour wind burst made it feel like you were biking head strong into a wall. The rain was rolling in to start the day and cooling the air right down. Fortunately, we did have a little luck on our side and it subsided just before the start of the race.

 

This year the race featured a bunch of strong riders divided over 5 waves. There was an elite wave followed by waves 1 through 4, with the most competitive riders starting at the front right down to the family fun wave at the very end (which had the biggest number of riders). The top two waves were out there to run, gun and stir up the dust, hoping to finish the race in less than two and a half hours. The family fun wave is trying to survive and make it to the end before the 5 hour cut off time. This year was jam-packed full of talent with racers coming from all walks of life and around the world. We had world cup riders from England and the US, some Canadian Olympians and a plethora of professionals vying for the top tile. Unbeknownst to us all, we were going to have a repeat champion with a very bright future in Canadian cycling – under 18 year-old Gunner Holmgren took the title again in a blistering time of 2 hour and 8 minutes. My hat goes off to this speedy youngster.

paul and ian

 

There was also a strong contingent of wolf pack riders this year, and by strong contingent I meant Jeremiah, Pauly Paul and myself made the journey west and tossed our hats into the ring. The three of us thought we had signed up early for the race, but apparently not…we were relegated to the family fun wave. We knew this meant a lot of hard work to move to the top and make any noise. Paul and I had some strategy in place and planned to work together early to see what we could do.

 

As the muskets fired and the countdown made it to one, our final wave took off. Paul, like a bat out of hell, got out front early and dragged me with him. We were quickly in front of everyone in our wave and right where we needed to be pace-wise. We weren’t more than 5 km into the race when we started gaining on the next wave. With a torrent pace we were eating through a large group of the competition flowing through the rail trail and into the single track.  Paul and I were racing really well; we had a great average speed and even better team work. We worked together right into the wine vineyard; I was feeling great but Paul was yelling at me to go ahead without him. I kept pushing the pace and started putting some room between us. Down the dirt roads and through the traffic I slowly parted ways with Paul and kept picking off fellow riders.

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The head winds were strong and really testing my focus and power. Earlier in the season I had some conversations with another teammate, Josh, and he told me to focus on consistent power and to really set my pace. This was my focus of the day and it was really paying off. I was pushing past groups of riders like the police chasing down speeders on cops. Tossing myself over the farmer’s fields and down the mud shoots, I was feeling quite strong. The race was going as I anticipated, but I really wasn’t sure how I was doing overall. I continued through the mud shoots and up the final climb. My feet and fingers were a little cold from the wind and damp weather, but overall I was feeling great. I dismounted my bike and ran back to the finish line to wait for Paul. After roughly 5 minutes I could see Pauly powering up the final hill and into the finish line. I was thrilled with how well we did. We were feeling strong, but the inclement weather was making standing around really tough and coupled  with a monster feeling of hunger, we decided it was best we go wait for Jer in the gym.

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The gym itself is fantastic, set up in the community center where you can also get some eats. We scarfed down our pulled pork sandwiches and Dad’s oatmeal cookies and went through the results. Paul didn’t take long to flip through them and told me I finished 98th overall out of 1205 riders. He said “Do you know what this means?”  I really had no idea, so he explained that because I was a top 100 hundred finisher, I could start in the elite/VIP wave next year! This is the pro wave; it is in front of the first wave with all the true professionally team cyclist and Olympians. I was flabbergasted! I couldn’t believe what he was telling me. I was filled with excitement, it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had riding my bike.

 

My hard work was truly paying off and the results were really becoming apparent. I had numerous people coming up to me, noting what a feat this was and what an awesome achievement on my part. I wasn’t fully grasping the magnitude of things, but after a little more research I found that the past 5 years there was only one other person ever who started in wave 4 and one person who started in wave 3 to ever qualify for the elite wave. There were actually only ever a handful of people from wave 2 to ever qualify. I was blown away, the result was even better than I ever imagined.

Things are right on cue for my race in August heading into Leadville. I am looking forward to racing P2A again next year, but don’t want to get a head of myself! There is still a lot of this season left. Next up for me is O-Cup 2. Kingston, Ontario – Here I come! The Great Canadian Sagle.

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O – Cup 1, The good, The Bad, The Ugly

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This weekend marked the beginning of the Ontario Cup mountain bike season and we couldn’t have asked for nicer weather with an even better course. There were some subtle changes made, much to the dismay and delight of the riders. The community was out in full force and everyone was eager to ride. There were 461 riders divided between the categories and 160 more than the provincial race last year. Everyone was beaming from ear to ear with smiles and handshakes, ready to show their gains from a long winter of fitness or fittin’ess donut in their mouths.

This year there was a major focus on improving the grass roots program and having more youth involvement in the sport, which is a great idea to grow this magnificent sport and keep things moving in the proper direction. This also meant that there would be changes in the other categories which was, in my opinion, another fantastic idea. This added a 9am race for the youth and also pushed more groups together at the start, giving things more of a world cup feeling. We combined 3-4 age categories in different segments throughout the day making for mass starts and more race excitement. It also made sure there was more flow throughout the elite category, so nobody was held behind and everyone could pursue their best races. This year we would be starting the 30-39, 40-44, 45-49 in separate categories and would all be lumped together and ready to battle to our wits end.  

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It was a very fast and interesting start loop until we hit the first climb and things started to peter out.  There were no crashes and a lot of tactics taking place so you could get out in front and hold a lead. This mass group also meant focusing less on numbers and position and focusing on the ride at hand. The pace was immense and the skill involved was even more masterful. You had to be crafty with your race decisions. People were showing their eagerness a little too much though; you could sense the legs and nerves as the wheels were falling off going up the first hill. I had a long winter of training and knew that pacing myself would be the key to my success throughout the day. I climbed with ambition and pushed passed a solid group of riders. I focused on my sustained power and keeping my heart rate low. Flowing through the single track and over the rock garden I completed my first lap and was feeling great.

Ian Emilie

(My number one supporter!)

I rounded through the feed zone and heard Thysson yelling at me with great force, telling me I was in 2nd place. I was so focused that heard “seventh” place. I kept pushing harder pursuing the riders ahead with my goal in mind for the day; to finish in the top five. Around the grassy gnome and into the bush I climbed the first hill again with authority. I was feeling really good rolling over the single track and making great time into the rock garden and around the feed zone. This time going through there were even more people cheering me on and telling at me I was in second. I could feel the subtle disbelief echoing throughout the crowd, “The great Canadian Sagle is in second…how can this be?” I kept pushing though, holding the same pace I had throughout the first two laps. I could see out of the corner of my an eager racer looking to stay with me and hoping to pass.

Cauchi(John C, Beating me at the line… I shake my fist)

John C was working hard. He is a former elite rider and I knew I had my work cut out for me to fend him off going into the final lap. John was loaded with experience and knew where to make gains.

Ian Jay

Having never being in this position, I was inexperienced and just worked my hardest to pull away. I was making up good ground but John’s smooth handles were reeling me back in on the single track. I was doing my best not to make any mistakes and ride as smoothly as possible, but this would prove futile. I over steered on a small right hand hair pin turn almost falling over and putting a foot down, enough to slow me down and John made up a fair bit of distance. We flew over the last hill and into the tight descent in the single track, through the rock garden and headed for home. We looped around the last pine tree and the sprint finish was on. Both of us were exhausted from pushing so hard throughout the day, as we approached the line John’s experience nipped me. He beat me by half of a wheel. I was so frustrated and happy at the same bittersweet time. I had never finished higher than top ten in a master expert race, let alone finished on the podium with my second place being less than a thousandth of a second away from first. Nevertheless, the thrill of the chase is what I strive for and finishing on the podium was a great feeling. This was my best race ever and it felt fantastic.

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Apart from the good outcomes, I also had some bad and ugly from the weekend. The bad is I lost a pair of Oakley sunglasses because sometimes we’re not so mentally sharp after exhausting ourselves. After my pre-ride the day before, I left them on the roof of the car and drove away from those beauties. The ugly part of the weekend, and thank god I have a forgiving loving wife, was that I mangled my wedding ring in the pre ride, squishing it between my handle bar and a tree.

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Things could have been worse though, it could have been my finger and rings can always be repaired.

Ian and Paul

On the whole, the weekend was a great success. I had the loving support of my family there, represented the team with honor, and got to see old friends. Best of all, I came out with a near victory.

Ian Edger

Next up Paris to Ancaster! Look out for The Great Canadian Sagle

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H2I, Homage to the Ice, I mean rain…

 

H2I (Homage to the ice)

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Well, the season is back on and we are back to racing again. Jer is fresh off of the birth of his first child and ready to make the best out of a new season. I picked Jer up on the lovely morning and with a balmy 2 degrees Celsius outside, we headed down highway 11 to another awesome race destination. It was the official start of the season and we were going to pay homage to the ice, or more accurately upon arrival, homage to the mud…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

Things began just like they always do, I packed up race kit and bike, stopped by our favourite coffee shop and picked up Jeremiah’s double-double and my absolute favourite dark roast (black like my soul, as I tell everyone) then picked Jer who has been a good friend and partner in cycling crime. We loaded up the remainder of the gear and headed south. We were quickly through the pitted streets of North Bay and headed south on the highway to our race destination. Just like old times, we were reminiscing about the upcoming season and races of past. We were telling stories of good, bad happy and sad. We were talking about our race partners who have come and gone over the years, but when all is said and done, we’re still standing.

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We continued down the road with not a lot of traffic and it looked the weather was going to be on our side, but Jer (always slightly pessimistic) was telling me not to get my hopes up. They were calling for some wicked showers that day and there was a great chance that we were going to be soaked doing the thing we love. My outlook (always slightly optimistic) had me saying “There is no way it’s going to rain today!” Too bad I didn’t knock on wood.

 

We were roughly 45 minutes away from our destination and it was time for this guy to eat crow. The sky was slowly but surely opening up, and the prospect of staying dry vanished. As we go closer to Dufferin Forest the rain was getting worse, and I knew that we were in for a good old-fashioned mud day. I was thanking my soggy stars that I decided to pack my long gear and my vest; I was as prepared as well as I could be.

 

Jer and I finally arrived, met up with the other Wolf Pack boys and signed in. I was feeling a little bit of angst in my system, nerves as a result of this being the first time I competed in one of the substance race series marathons before. I wasn’t really sure to expect. Time was passing quickly, whereas the worsening weather was lingering over us. As we all lined up I had a slight chill and a little shiver thanks to the 6 degrees temp and the relentless rain. It seemed like we were waiting an eternity for the buzzer to sound. The countdown was only 10 seconds but felt like 10 minutes. Eventually the whistle went and the traffic began, we started on a double-corner with a mass start.

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Immediately I realized that I should have started in a better location as I was becoming funneled back behind some slower riders. This was a blessing and a curse; it wasn’t my ideal position but it helped me with early pacing. My start also meant that I would have to do a lot more work if I wanted to be competitive and finish in the top ten. I was ready and game though and I was doing my best to grab a tire and leap frog through the traffic. After being pushed back a bit in the first 5 km, things started to thin out and opportunities started to present themselves. I was able to pick up some speed and felt right back in my element. My confidence grew as things flowed in the single track.

 

I was cruising around the course and feeling good, a little too good in fact. I had a bone head lapse in judgement when I approached one of the many log overs. I went to clear a small piece of great Durham real state when my foot got caught in an exposed root. Like superman getting called into a crime, I was full-out planking over the front bar finishing with a completed end-over tumble while dodging my brand new bike who suddenly seemed hell-bent on kicking my ass. I pulled myself together but not without having some internal man-baby dialogue.

 

Talk about a wake-up call! I thought I was ready to start this season, but it turned out I needed a good tumble to really light a fire under me. I picked myself up and got back in the game. The fall (and the delicious adrenaline boost) actually heightened my focus and made we want to be a better racer on the day. I was flying around the course to the lap around, bouncing through the newly cut trail like a kangaroo on bugs bunny. Having donated my first water bottle to the trail when I fell, I was relieved to see fellow wolf packer Annie Oakley waiting with a replacement. Unfortunately this 48km journey was determined to dry me out like the Sahara; only about 1 km later I donated the second one to the trail system. This meant I had 36km to the finish line with no hydration. Thank god there was plenty of it falling from the sky.

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I was zipping through the single track like never before and was in a position to do well. I was catching riders in front of me and working to make gains in my position. As I came to the lap around I caught two fellow combatants who normally play nemesis with me and swiftly passed them…unfortunately my confidence got me up close and personal with the wet grass, instantly eating it in front of the peanut gallery. This was my second good spill of the day and, thankfully, the last.

 

As my two fellows racers re-past me I knew I was going to have to dig deep to make a run and finish in the top half of the pack. I started to dig deep and the rain started to fall harder. I made it through the lap around and started counting down the signs with the amount of distance left to the finish. I was feeling strong that day though, and my ability to persevere was going to be a driving factor. I kept pushing and forcing ahead, cruising around the mud-slick corners over the log overs again and through the pines in the single track. I approached the “wall” with roughly 5km to go and still felt like I had more than enough legs left in me. I was gaining on the fatiguing riders in front of me and making up excellent time. With roughly 3km’s to go the skies began to clear and the trails started to absorb a lot of that torrential down poor we had received. I was ripping it, despite the falls, I was happy with my start to the season.

 

I continued around the last corner and over the finish line. Although I didn’t finish on the podium, I finished 6th overall in my category and 10th overall on the day. This was a strong finish for me as there were some great riders in the field. There were also many riders I had never beaten before so I was quite thrilled with the result. After the race finished I headed back to the car and started peeling layers of mud from my teeth and gums and waited to cheer Jer on to the finish line. We were both ecstatic about how the day went and finished. This proved to be a fantastic start to a great season. We loaded up our equipment and said our goodbyes and headed home to the Bay of the North. This race left both of us with a good sense of where we were at endurance-wise this season and a where we needed to be. Next up is O-Cup One, followed by P2A. The season is just getting started on the road to Leadville and the best is yet to come!

 

(The Great Canadian Sagle)

 

Spring time and new beginnings!

flowers spring

Spring is in the air and at last the bike season has arrived. With the blustery blues of winter behind us and the snow melting like a raging river, it’s finally time to get the two wheelers out of the shed, put some air in the tires and lube up those chains. Uplifted by the aroma of new flowers in the air and the song birds singing, it’s time to get outdoors again and put away those winter trainers.

 

Spring.JPGThe first race of the season is coming fast and everyone is ready with anticipation to show what they have learned throughout the winter in the gym in preparation for their best seasons ever. We’ve all got a major case of wanderlust for all the great events ahead. The urge to dissect and strategize for each stage of the season has taken over. Now that we’ve all been out with our first training rides, we are ready…well, as ready as we possibly can be for the first race of the season.

I put a huge amount of effort into the off-season and achieved a lot of rapid changes. Having placed a larger focus on my off-season training and with more desire and passion to be the best person I can be, I am definitely the healthiest version of myself, ever. I am confident that commitment to bettering myself will make me a better advocate of the sport this season.

Speaking of changes, I have radically switched-up my game plan, from nutrition to training, and the results are making it all worthwhile. I am coming in at a far more comfortable race weight with a lot more leg strength and mental confidence. Preparation is paramount this season; it is going to be a grind along the road to Leadville, culminating with the ultra-marathon to cap off the year. The focus was to build a strong base so I can push forward and be successful while staying injury free for the complete season. As (I hope) you’ve read, I’ve been plagues with injury and fatigue in previous years, but I’m optimistic that I’ve done what I need to in order to stave off those issues.

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Aside from my person revolution this year, we switched race teams and have been enjoying a lot more training sessions with the boys from Sudbury. They invited a couple of the North Bay boys aboard and have been more than welcoming. This move also reunites me with an old teammate, Jeremiah, who is coming back from becoming a new dad and is more than eager to get back on the trails and keep the rubber side down.

This year is going to put to test and strengthen a number of different things; from physical to mental hurdles, friendships and family bonds. As another year begins and so does support, love and dedication of my family to succeed and be the best person I can be. So as spring unfurls, it reveals new beginnings and new opportunities for everyone. Now there is only one thing left to do, be the best racer I can be and give it my all. Here we go!

As the team would say, wolf pack (aww woooo)

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The Road Leadville

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The 2016 season is now a thing of the past and we are looking towards the future. Training has kicked up a notch in anticipation of new experiences and challenges in the coming year. With a more rigorous training schedule in mind, I started to look at where I want to be and how to get there. It was hard to know which path to choose; there was talk of switching race series to focus on ultra-distance, or to continue the Ontario Cup Series in addition to the 8 hour races, and Paul’s crazy ideas to go to Willmington, New York in hopes of qualifying for Leadville. All of this gave me many things to think about rolling into the off-season. I had many in-depth conversations with my wife about how we should approach this up coming year. After some tough introspection and many bed time conversations, my wife ultimately helped me to make the decision. She challenged me to do something radical with my life, she told me that, if I wanted to succeed, I would need to think more critically about healthier choices and being dedicated. She also suggested that I go back to the gym and focus more on weight training and over all physical fitness because, in previous years, it yielded my best results. It was time to get serious.

My plan started to take shape. I was going to quit drinking all together, start eating healthier, work out more and ultimately buckle down. My wife was right, I needed to challenge myself and make the radical choice of accepting Paul’s challenge to go to Leadville. It would be no easy feat and I knew that I had limited options in figuring out how to get myself there. Option one was to apply to the Leadville lottery then say a prayer to the bike gods and hope to win the lottery. The other option was to get in great shape and go to New York to put on a race of a life time and qualify. I told Paul that I was all in and would do whatever it took. In the end, I decided to do both – I’d go the lottery/prayer route in conjunction with getting in optimal shape for New York so that I would be ready if my Leadville dream became a reality.

As of October I started crushing the gym sessions. I knew it was time to start lifting weights, running and biking; this meant kicking up work out load from 3-4 times a week to 7-10. All of this also meant more family support and sacrifice. I had full support and love from my wife to do this, and her encouragement made the choice that much easier. My children also wanted me to go and do my best, and I wanted to make the amazing people who care about me proud. With them in mind, I got to it. I quickly started showing some positive results, within the first 8 weeks of changing my lifestyle I was losing weight and getting stronger. By January 1st I was down 25lbs and lifting more weight than I ever had in my life. My fitness was growing and my mind was getting stronger. I began to pour my heart and soul into it; living and breathing biking so that I would be prepared for New York.

Making it to Leadville was constantly on my mind, so I was especially excited for our upcoming family vacation, a  much needed pause. We were heading to Mexico for some sunshine and family R & R. We left on January 12th, and although I was trying not to stress about it, the draw for Leadville would take place during our time in Mexico on the 15th. I was trying not to get my hopes up but failing miserably at not putting much thought into it. My nerves were taking over and I started telling myself that it wasn’t going to happen. There was no way I’d win the lottery and my only hope would be to qualify in New York, which posed a whole new set of hurdles.

At our resort in Mexico there wasn’t much in the way of gym equipment, and at $75 USD per day to rent a bicycle, my options were limited. So, I did what anyone in my shoes would do and ran my little heart out every day. I would get up in the morning and check my email for messages from home, then run 10km to the nearest town and enjoy the breath taking scenery and warm weather. To my astonishment, everything changed for me on the morning of January 15th. Just like every other morning in Mexico, I got up and checked my email, but that day I got the shock of my life. I had an email from the organizers of the Leadville 100 mtb and I was petrified to open it. I was pretty sure I knew what this meant, but still had my doubts. As it turned out, luck was on my side, I had won the lottery! I was ecstatic. I was electric. I was overcome. Feeling like a million dollars, I turned up my music and went for a run with a little more hop in my step that day.

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It felt like things were coming together for the biggest race of my life. I was going to compete in a race that had hosted the likes of Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, and Todd Wells. People who are legends of the sport, people who have dedicated their whole lives to being the best. I was really glad that I started my training regimen in early in October, competition would be the toughest I’ve ever seen. This race would be full of people with many more years of experience, but I had almost a full calendar year to become even stronger and faster so that I could do my best to compete.

I quickly finished my 10km run that day and headed back to the resort. I couldn’t even make it to the room, I had to track down my wife and daughter to tell them the great news. As soon as I saw Emilie she new something was up, she could tell by my ear-to-ear smile that I had something good to tell her. She asked what was up and I told her – I had qualified for Leadville. Her immediate reaction was “shut up! Are you serious????” and if you know me, you would understand why she thought I was pulling her leg, but as much as I enjoy tricking her, this wasn’t one of those times. All I could do was tell her “Yes!!! We have some planning to do!” After finally convincing her that I wasn’t joking, I called up Pauly Paul to tell him. Paul had already qualified in New York the year before. Paul’s immediate reaction was “Well, S#!% just got real!” and it did. The very next day I was right back to training even harder than before. My determination was renewed.

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(Crazy bike I rode in Mexico)

The build-up to Leadville has been quite the adventure so far, and I’m only at the beginning. I can’t believe my name was pulled out of that hat. There are very few names chosen and it made me feel like all of my hard work, and the support of my friends and family wasn’t for nothing. I wanted to do big things, to make them and myself proud. Now some of the pressure was off in terms of New York, I wanted to focus on my coral position at the start of the race. I was even more motivated to push hard at the gym, go that extra kilometer and lift that extra pound. My dedication level was the highest it has ever been. I felt, more than ever, that I had the courage to succeed. I knew what I had to do and NY would be a stepping stone to get there, now that I had my golden ticket. After New York, the next stop my crazy personal fitness adventure is Leadville. Here I come! Be ready for The Great Canadian Sagle.

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Please help and support me to get there, take a minute and visit my kick starter page and help me live this dream.

https://fundrazr.com/21CS30

The Stache Dash…

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With Movember in the books we are looking forward to a long winter training season. That being said, we went out of November with a bang, donating to and running in a charity event near and dear to my heart. My wife and I recently ran the annual 5km stache dash for men’s health. We both hold this event in high regard and the cause is close to our hearts as a family member was diagnosed with testicular cancer a couple of years ago and had the battle of his life. Since this trying time, my beautiful wife and I have made this an annual event, and do our very best to spread the word about men’s health and well-being.

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This year for the run the weather was amazing and the venue had changed slightly from past years. There were roughly 65 plus competitors taking part, everyone from the very serious to the casual runner to the average joe just fighting for a good cause. I always love to take any opportunity to be competitive and work on my overall personal fitness and health. My wife had been working to gear up for this run, focusing on her own well-being and fighting for a great cause. As the morning approached we made our final arrangements, where to meet up and how we were going to tackle the course. I wanted to be a little more competitive than I had in years past and do as well as possible. Recently I have increased my gym training and exercise while trying to alter my diet in an effort to become fitter for the upcoming season. I was looking forward to seeing whether the steps I had taken were going to pay off.

 

As we approached the start the 10km runners were getting ready to take off and were quickly out of the gates. There was a good grouping in both categories; men, women and children of all ages. As Emilie and I finished our last stretches we lined up and got ready. The local radio announcer was there set to do the count down from 10. The seconds went by very quickly and we took off. I led the group out at fairly good pace and hit the ground running (pun intended) down the multi-use trails where the race was being held. I soon got ahead of the pack and was feeling strong. I was going at a great pace for myself and was making short work of the kilometers ahead. I wondered if I could keep it up because there was a lot of ice and hard packed snow that day. As I made it to the half way point, I realized that I had built up a lead on my fellow competitors, which gave me the punch I needed to take it down the home stretch.

 

As I met up with my fellow competitors on the way back, I made sure to share the love with everyone and promote good health and well-being. I did my best to send out positive and encouraging vibes, high fives, and thanked everyone for their time and efforts. It really does take a whole community to fight against issues like this. I soon passed my beautiful wife, giving her the biggest high five of all and telling her how much I love her for doing this. I was crunching the snow with my wet feet and before I knew it, I had made it all the way to the finish line, crossing in first place. I had won the 5km and was feeling great! This wasn’t the end for me though; the local radio host began chirping me for leaving my wife behind. Unbeknownst to him, I made an earlier promise to her that we would finish together, so off I went again. I high tailed it back down the path faster than my racing pace to find her, wanting to motivate her to finish strong with me. I didn’t have to go far to find her, and she was carrying a great pace. She had a large smile when she saw me, knowing that it meant I had done well.

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(Radio Announcer)

 

She always makes me so proud at these events; putting her best foot forward while being a great mom and worker. I knew how much it meant to her to give back to an important charity and complete this race. We stayed together and ran to the finish. Hand in hand we crossed the line together and celebrated with a big hug, another awesome event in the books. I can’t thank  Emilie enough for her love, encouragement and support. Achieving my personal goals means sacrifice on her part, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Biking is something I do on my own, and as rewarding as it is, there was something even more special about competing with my number one.

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Rock’n Roll Fall 8 Hour, Bat Fastards Addition!

fall-epic-8With the Fall 8 Hour and the triumphant return of Jeremiah, the 2016 season of hard racing and O-cups had finally come to a close. My legs were feeling as warn as my mind was. With seasonal exhaustion settling in and injuries finally starting to feel like things of the past, all we wanted to do for the final race of the season was to go out there and have a hammer-jam fun time. There was much discussion throughout the season about doing the last race as a team, rather than solo. This was probably the best decision and one of the most fun ideas we had all summer. We intended to take a break from the culture of speed and just set out to have fun and hang out with the cycling community.

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The second best decision came from mark of the Wolf Pack, who suggested that we do the race as a three man fat bike team; Jeremiah, Mark and myself. It was destiny, the Bat Fastards were born. Pauly Paul lent me his wicked awesome rocky mountain blizzard, Jer dusted the moss off his Norco tank and Mark took his pristine fatty out of the case hanging above the fire place mantle.

We all headed back down to Hard Wood that day for a little fun, though undecided as to who would take the first lap and get us started for the day. The decision was quickly made by my morning tardiness and Jere and I almost showing up late for the start. This left Mark to fend for himself and put down the time to beat for the day. Jeremiah and I zipped down the highway as quickly as possible and arrived just in the nick of time to get the race plates on and see Mark take off. Jere and I headed over to the Wolf Pack tent in the solo area and set up shop with the boys. I quickly got all of my gear together and bike lubed-up as I was second in line to take off and race through the course.

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Mark swiftly came around in roughly 32 minutes, setting the standard of the day. I took the timing chip from him and was off, guns a blazing and as fast as that heavy, cumbersome bike would take me. I was picking up the pace hastily and trying to hold momentum. I was absolutely beaming from ear to ear and more ready than ever, zipping through trails and cheering on my fellow companions (ok, there was some razzing too). One of the markers of an 8-hour race is the fantastically mixed bag of people. They range from the everyday-joe in flip flops and jean shorts, to serious competitors with their eye on the prize.

I quickly ripped around and was heading to the transition area, doing my best to set the hot lap of the day. Tail whipping through the BMX park, I wasn’t too far from the hand-off where I would give our baton to Jeremiah. Jer was eagerly awaiting his turn to get out there as he’d missed some time this season after the birth of his first child earlier in the summer. Jer took off like a bat out of hell, a little more ambitious than his body was willing to give him. Going for the gusto on his heavy commuting fat bike, he was cranking out the laps with glee and a slight twinkle in his eye thanks to being back with the boys and the cycling community. I have to admit, Jer is my navigator-in-chief when we do these road trips, and there was a little lacking throughout the summer without him there. Jer always has a good story or epic memory of the past that he shares with me and makes me lose my breath laughing. Ok, enough of the feels.

As I was sitting in the solo pit with the other Wolf Pack guys I started razzing Mark, telling him that he had a scratch on his perfect little penny. The razzing had an express purpose; I told Paul I was going to get him going. Mark was pretty much down on all fours looking for this scratch, it took him a couple minutes to realize it, in fact, wasn’t a scratch but a glare from the sun from a another car parked closely. Pauly and I had tears rolling down our faces, you’d think we told him his Cadillac had been keyed. No sooner did we finish our laugh and there was Jer, so Mark rushed to get on his bike and head to the transition area to meet him. We all took turns throughout the day, challenging each other to the fastest time. Despite being one man short of a four man team and doing it on fat bikes, we faired pretty darn well against the field, finishing in thirteenth place.  

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The course, as always at Hard Wood, was in fantastic shape and well designed for this type of racing. Two thirds of our team put in a strong season and the other third, Jer (not by choice…well, I guess it was his choice) was not far behind as he is a strong rider despite coming out of retirement. The old saying is true… it is just like riding a bike! We all finished together as a team and celebrated. We cheered on the rest of the boys and watched them sail to their own personal victories. After the race we all headed down to the Canadian classic Webbers Restaurant to reminisce about the season’s peaks and valleys, injuries and laughs. We each had something to contribute in terms of what we could have done differently and how to make things better. We are always challenging ourselves, living up to our competitive nature, and looking forward to crushing it next year.

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Mark kept reiterating “don’t by upgrades, ride upgrades!” for next year. There was so much validity in what he had to say and I really took it to heart. After we finished dinner we all parted ways to head back home, each of us already preparing mentally for next season. Jer and I tossed on some Notorious B.I.G. and discussed in a little more depth our off-season plans. I told Jer that I was going to hit the gym and keep cycling throughout the winter because Paul wants me to go to New York with him in the spring for a race, and I’ve never ventured that far.  I know that going to NY means there will be some sacrifices this winter, namely in the bread and booze departments, because going there has to be all or nothing. Now it’s time to focus, continue kicking ass as a team, and look towards the next phase of this never-ending adventure.

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O-Cup 7, Sir Sams Bike and Ski

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Up next on my magical mystery tour was Ontario Cup 7 in lovely Haliburton Ontario. For the first time this season, I was venturing solo to one of my favorite courses which, amongst other great things, overlooks three different lakes. I made plans with Pauly-Paul of the Sudbury wolf pack and we were going to parking lot camp-it-out together. The drive down was simply stunning; it was that perfect time when vistas start changing, the foliage of the trees beginning to express their fall colors and tranquillity. I couldn’t have asked for a more peaceful vibe going into this last O-Cup.

 

I arrived fairly early in the afternoon on the Saturday so that I could get out for a solid pre-ride and, more or less, be playing a game of catch-up with Paul going around the course. The weather was slightly dreary and windy, there was a bit of rain and the course was damp from the previous days. I was feeling a bit keyed-up about the conditions thanks to (arguably) the world’s toughest mountain bike race a few weeks before. I thought, “well F*ck, Here we go again.” I was setting myself up for the worst.

 

I went around the first lap with Paul at a walking pace, going through the features and lines which would prove to be a bonus for the follow day. We went over the rock gardens through the single track, over the bridges and looped around. I quickly found that the walking pace was faster than I had anticipated, so the new the race the next day was going to be at a blistering pace. I soon completed my first warm up lap and met Paul was finished for the day. Unbeknownst to me, Paul had already ridden 5 laps before I arrived, as he is a champ.

 

I continued around the course and quickly met up with a couple of the Rock n’ Road guys who I’ve befriended over the last couple of years (The Giant and his young looking old friend Seth). I always enjoy going around courses with them because we all have very different riding styles and it is great to see how they attack certain features and obstacles. We went through the course hitting the small drops and back over the rock gardens. Watching them was building my confidence for the next day. I knew I wouldn’t have too many issues with the hills and single track, but more so with the features of the course. We all took turns doing different things and going at various speeds.

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As we went through the last section we were all struggling to find enough traction to make it through the rock turns and up the mini stair case that led us to the top of the second hill.  We must have been there for a good 15 minutes until Pavel showed up (Another Paul…or as Sean would call him, Paul where’s-your-house-keys). Paul had this dialed-in and quickly showed us his technique, making it look as though it was just another piece of flat land. Soon after we all mastered it, we finished our laps and called it a day. After we packed up the bikes we headed down to the local watering hole to wash up and get ready for the classic parking lot bon fire.

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The water was quite cool and the river was peaceful as is everything when you’re spending time in Haliburton. Paul and I had a quick dip, observed the fly fishers in the area and headed back to the camp. By this time the wind had picked up immensely and seemed most certainly that a thunder storm was brewing. We went back to get some warm garb on and headed over for a couple of Stack House’s finest with the Energy boys from Niagara, which was good times. The guys told stories and we reminisced about the season past. Ruppel, always entertaining, came to the fire shortly after and kept us all laughing. The night was quickly fading and we had a big day coming up. As they TP’d the last 2×8’ board on the fire with the flames hovering around 12 feet in the air Paul and I decided to head back to the trailer and call it quits.

 

It didn’t take long before the wind picked right up, howling like the wolf pack, we could hear things blowing around and slamming on the ground. This was a bit worrisome but turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The howling wind was a good thing, it was so strong and with no storm actually coming, it dried up the course quite nicely.  

 

Paul and I woke up in amazement of the change in conditions the next morning. There was a slight north wind which made it a little colder than seasonal weather. We gathered our senses had a couple of cups of coffee and headed to the start line to watch the early races and cheer on crazy Californian Charlie.

 

The morning went by quickly and we were up for our afternoon race. I staged and said hello to all of my comrades for the last time of the season. We went through the call up and handed out kudos for a season’s worth of hard work. No sooner were we having a good laugh when it was time to start. Everyone was in top notch shape and we were flying around the track. I was feeling strong and ready to have a good race.

 

I was quickly paced out and pushed towards the back half of the field. I was really wishing I hadn’t sold my hard tail bike a couple of weeks prior as the start hills were quick and fast and the guys at the top set a scorching pace to keep up with. I was quite happy though, racing my own race as I still felt like I was coming back into my zone from my previous injury in the summer. I was flying around the course and nailing all of the features flawlessly. I was feeling quite good. I zipped right through my first lap, hanging out with the guys and keeping them all in eye’s view.

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My second lap I was slowing up slightly, climbing the hills and really making the legs burn. I got to the top and continued around the second half when I saw Giant. He was going quite quickly around and I was doing my best to keep up. We approached one of the drops from the day before and I elected to go around which seem to be a good choice as giant miss-judged the drop and did a face plant right in front of me. Looking quite dazed I stopped and made sure he was alright. One thing people don’t understand about cycling is that as much as we are competitive, we are all in it together, like a community, and safety trumps winning 95% of the time.

 

After Ondrej shook of the cobwebs he was quickly blowing past me and doing his best to catch the ride leaders. I was doing my best not to explode. I was still flying around the course though, having what seemed to be my race of the season. I attacked and made it through all the features and climbed all of the hills…but this still wasn’t my day. Everyone else had a full season of training and practice, and they were riding to prove it. I came around on my final lap and finished quite exhilarated even though I was in last place.  I had a strong race and was finally feeling healthy and back to where I wanted to be. I was quite happy to end my season on a high note; it was strong motivation for the upcoming season. The next season is going to be rock solid and better than ever. Training to be stronger, smarter, faster.

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I must say before I end this post. I couldn’t have done this without the loving support of my wife, Emilie, and my three wonderful kids, Lyla, Chloe and Ethan. I have much support from Baffin Canada (Drew Gallant), Darkhorse Expresso Bars, Cheap Skates Quality Sporting Goods North Bay and Norco

 

I also owe special credit to my Editor in Chief Julia A. Without her time support and great English everyone would think I was in grade 2.

 

If left anyone else out I can’t say enough about how awesome this sport is and how appreciative I am of everyone who goes out and trains and does there best. Win or lose, we’re flying past the couch potatoes, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

O-Cup 6.. O-cup for the soul

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Ontario Cup 6; at last I was back at it again, racing my first O-cup since suffering a mild suffer injury. I couldn’t have been happier to go to my first circuit race in far too long. Not only was it the first race in a long while but in my home town of Elliot Lake, Ontario where I spent the first 5 years of my life. Things seemed to be coming together quite nicely for this awesome weekend.

 

Unfortunately, the honeymoon period was short and things went terribly wrong. The days leading up to the race hadn’t been the most forgiving; the weather forecast was looking quite dreary unpleasant. The predictions came to fruition when we showed up to gale force rain and wind. Visibility was pretty much non-existent as I went to park the camper and settle in for the night on the tiny little highway campground of Serpent River in lovely Sprauge, Ontario.

 

Once I had checked in and went to my pull through site, my wife says to me “ you get the camper set up and I will wait in the truck with the kids!” Hmmm I was definitely in for a challenge, so I ran to the camper to grab some shorts and a rain coat. I quickly jumped out changing like superman in a phone booth. But the difference between superman and myself, besides his immortality, stunning good looks and super powers…wait, I am nothing like superman. Regardless, I sprung from my camper into ankle-deep water and proceeded to un-hitch and level the camper. I was flying around, laying jacks and getting everything set up. Note to self when rain is flying and the water is deep – wait to plug in camper…especially if you’re wearing crocs.  

 

After all the “fun” had passed over head, we were getting nicely settled in. I had a great nap and woke up the next morning rested and ready to take on new adventures. Emilie and the kids decided to hang around the camp ground and go to the park and fish while I met up with Paul-I-Paul to do my pre-ride. Grinning from ear to ear with the sun coming and going I headed to the course. This is roughly when my good weekend started turning a little sideways on me.

 

I showed up to the venue which looked like a graveyard with people scattered sparsely mourning their bicycles like lost loved ones, pieces hanging everywhere and a lot of bloody and scraped knees.  I spotted Paul in the parking lot. I had this stunned look on my face and quaintly asked him “Is the course tough or something?” eyes wide open and zero hesitation he replies to me “you thought bucky (buckwallow) was bad last year, wait till you ride this. Just old fashion mountain biking around the techiest rock in the north!” This was not exactly what I was hoping to hear.  Nevertheless, I suited up and he toured me around the course. This course was by far the toughest course I have raced in all 5 years of my mountain biking journey. There were punishing climbs and descents and non-stop rock overs and roots. You had to be on your mental and physical game the whole time. There were no breaks or chances to lose focus. I really wished I had more than two practice laps before the race.

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Paul and I forged ahead and kept riding. Paul had been there several times, so this was a cake walk. He was more than dialed-in and had all the lines figured out. Myself, on the other hand, considered it a struggle at best, with a couple of minor falls during the pre-ride and some sore knees from it. I was feeling a little shaky when I arrived at my truck. As I was trying to figure a plan of an attack for the next day, I felt like I had left my confidence at the gate of the pre-ride. I went back to my campsite and was thinking through all the scenarios and knew I was in for a tough slog the next day.

 

I woke up on Sunday and put on my best game face, geared-up and headed out on my bike. When we took off we were quite grouped up, which is rare because usually the big dogs explode and take off from the start line, leaving all of us in the dust. We started into the first single track section and around the lake. At this point, the field quickly started to have some separation. I was doing my best to hang out and was about 5 spots from last place. I kept working hard to navigate the obstacles, but there was some struggle and bunching of riders which made this difficult. As I was nearing the finish for the first lap, we rounded the fire lookout and headed down the rocky downhill. At this point I started to lose positions, giving up my 5 spots and moving into last. I had a strong eye on the guys in front of me though, as they were riding in a group of three. I felt I could still catch them and hang out not to far behind.

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I blasted into my second lap, guys still in site. This is pretty much where my day came to an end. I was picking up speed and trying to burn through the first single track when I took a bad line. By bad line I mean quite a spill in the roots, slight pogo stick on the front end and smashing my already sore knee on the stem of my bike. I quickly tried to dust it off and get back on the guys who had made up quite a bit of time on me from my fall. As I kept peddling to catch up my knee was throbbing as if you were to hit your thumb with a hammer. I continued to limp along with my never ending stubbornness. I really should have called it quits at that point, but of course I didn’t and really paid for it later on.

I kept trying my hardest to put down power and close the gap. This game plan really wasn’t working though, as my rickety old knees were about at the end of the line. I looped around the top of the lookout and headed towards the rocky downhill. Unfortunately (again) I read a really bad line and started over the bars. Thank goodness for spectators who are willing to catch a 200lb man and help break everyone’s falls.

After this I was totalled – my injuries were mounting and my confidence was out the window. I had lost so much time trying to recuperate and finish, but there was just no way. I reluctantly finished my second lap and tossed in the towel for my first DNF in a while. It wasn’t my finest moment, but it was a motivational moment which made me realise that I need to get stronger, faster and smarter. I am always looking to be mentally tougher to help me to continue doing the things I love. I quickly packed up my camper and took off for North Bay, reflecting on what could have been and what I could have done differently. As always, until next time.

(This was the best part of the whole weekend)

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