Sunday, June 4, 2017

2017 Northumberland Humbler Half Marathon

June 3rd was the date of this years Northumberland Humbler and after missing last year it would be another visit.

Meat Loading

Before leaving I had tossed my second pair of clipless shoes in the SUV. Something made me do it and turns out it was a good thing. After getting signed in and while getting geared up discovered one of my hard sole shoes soles was delaminating. While it was just the toe area, not taking any chances grabbed the extra's I tossed in and was ready.

With the wailing of Dan's siren it was race time. I got off to a better start this time and was faster so was a wee bit further up than normal. Without even realizing it the first 6 k went by quick and I realized like many went out fast for that first 6k. At that point to avoid blowing up later deliberately dropped to an slightly easier gear and spun more. I mean the course will be enough of a challenge so why make it harder?

Kept the focus on being smooth and not worrying about chasing anyone down. That is till the aid station at the half way point. That is where the racing starts.

Picked up the pace and began to catch people who had ridden hard for the first half.  Kept trying to be smooth and being smart. Soon it was the 5k to go mark and caught what I didn't know at the time was the 3rd place Clydesdale. For the next 2km we alternated passing each other a few times till just before the final road crossing where after getting by. Opened the gap on the downhill then it was the last road crossing and a stretch of logging road. Time trialed the logging road.




Just before going into the last bit of singletrack glanced back and saw no one in sight. Had opened a huge gap. Then it was the 1k mark and kept up the pace as didn't know if someone was close.



And coming out of the woods it was the finish and done. It wasn't till later that I found out I had earned 3rd. And had opened a massive 3 minute gap on the 4th place Clydesdale.

Northumberland Humbler Cldesdale Results

That produced 2 Lapdogs on the podium. And for those keeping score at home there is two Lapdogs in 1st and 2nd in the series overall in the Clydesdale Category. Overall happy as tactically had used my head and waited to the second half to become the hunter and make up ground.

I should mention thanks to my wife Joely who helped plan my being able to race while she is at CISM World's in Florida. Greatest coach in the world and the love of my life.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2017 Long Sock Classic

The Ganaraska Forest and I have a love hate relationship. You could say it is a abusive one as I have never had an easy issue free race there. Leg cramps to the year of the bog DNF. After taking a year away from racing in the Ganny it was a return to racing there with the 2017 Long Sock Classic Half Marathon.




With the passing of my mother in law at Christmas I no longer get to drive to Scarborough and sleep the night before a race closer to the Ganny. So this would be the first race morning long drive to a race in the Ganny. Of course couldn't make it easy so spent till late evening Friday running around moving furniture. 



 After arriving a little later than planned and getting ready with a little bugging Barry about fixing his lack of singlespeed problem with a Philips screwdriver. A bit after could see the start of the cattle call like gathering at the start line. I now days stay clear of that for as long as possible as standing around waiting doing nothing gives to much time to over think.  Spun around the grass a bit more then got in line near the back as I again had no expectations. Well maybe shouldn't say one expectation, that being the venue being the Ganny. And so was expecting there to be potential for a fight.



Dan blew the start whistle and off we where to the first bit of double track and I do admit I started well and seemed to move up easily. But remember this is the Ganny and easy can be an illusion. Then it was onto 10th Line Or Oak Ridges Trail which when raced the other way is The Dirt Road From Hell. Nearing the end things where going pretty good and after some more double track into the the singletrack.


This is to me where the real racing starts because it is where skills and technique can make up time. And just as I was getting going the Ganny striked. A corner where it went from cornering well to a 2 wheel drift to smash. Left knee taking the brunt and I think denting the root I hit with it. After a quick assessment to make sure nothing serious back on the bike. And try to get everything going again. Little did I know that this was actually going to a wee bit harder. Through the singletrack and slowly catching back up to the 2 a head. It would be on the next bit of double track I am guessing about 15k in when the next challenge arrived.

 Can't see the bone bruise

After bouncing down the double track and shifting a few times suddenly had grinding as I pedalled. Stop and checked to discover the chain derailed from the lower pulley. Fixed and while later it did it again. Fixed it and it disappered on the singletrack.

Hard to see but twisted lower cage.

Little did I know at the time that in the crash it some who had bent the lower cage of the rear derailleur. Didn't know this till after closer inspection in the Bike Brothel and mounting another one to find out it was bent. Nope, can never be easy in the Ganny. At least the good news is that in the singletrack it never acted up. So it was only at certain points on the doubletrack that the twisted derailleur acted up. And every time had to stop and dick around with this got a rider got past and then had to chase down and re-pass again.  Despite this was able to move up a few places before the aid station.


After the aid station it was more singletrack with a side of doubletrack derailleur pain. As I said nothing is ever easy racing in the Ganny. And finally it was the 10k marker where I continued focusing on trying to be smooth through the singletrack.  Caught a couple of guys at the 5k mark and kept the flow. Then finally it was just after the 1k mark I caught 2 more riders who if it was another 5k would have opened a gap. But we stayed close the rest of the way. Knowing they where close as we hit the grass before the final 180 degree left hander I wasn't going to take it easy. Not after smashing and fighting a lousy jockey wheel to move up the field. Sprinted to the line and was done.




Long Sock Clydesdale Results


Grabbed a beer and chair under the Lapdog tent and relaxed after another fight with the Ganny. After a bit it was the awards where Dan called the Clydesdale category and found out that despite the derailleur caused loss of time got third.  Despite the drive train issue slowing me down.  Oh, did I mention I did this on a antiquated Luddite wheel size?









Sunday, May 14, 2017

O-Cup #2 Kingston

May 7th was the second stop of the O-Cup XC series which could have been easily mistaken for the Ontario Bog Trotters Cup races sponsored by Mephisto's Mud Studs.

O Cup #2

The day's leading up to the race we faced 150mm plus of rain with the  ground and water systems already saturated. During that period I worked with others to best prepare the track over long hours prior. I  am not a short course man. Add in that it has been 20 years since I last did a race of this type. It was a BC Cup in Vancouver BC at Kerr Park with half the course mud and water while it pissed rain with sections BB and hub deep. Hmm..seems like a theme for me when you add in MTB races with "Cup" in the title.


I should say that I have been course crew for races off and on since 1986. And despite the conditions another race wasn't cancelled because the course crew wasn't able to prepare the track.  We where able to pull it off. Team Colin mentioned this in his blog.

Team Colin





Taking in the conditions as well as not being a short course guy I was viewing this as the Kenyans would call it a Training Race.  As well as a equipment test as had a week prior just put a more modern fork on the Mistress Mk2 and it now had a lower stem height.  So Sat night I also noted that this race would be a test of mental toughness, that the conditions would from the start would test one's  mental strength ability to endure as well as brake pads and drive trains.

2017 O Cup #2 Kingston Album

Though to be fair being a BC kid I have the advantage that being used to wet and muddy has. Let' face reality growing up in Vancouver you either deal with the rain or never do anything outside.


Once the whistle blew it was the beginning of a two lap slog. That unfortunately by the 11:45 race had begun to dry and the mud was heading into the peanut butter variety. Yay. Since not worried about placing...who am I kidding I don't worry about it anymore. Though I had a hunch of what would soon happen as everyone sprinted through the barn into Sangers Sandbox. ANd just after the pump section it was like driving the 401 and hitting the outskirts of the GTA...sudden traffic slowing and going no where fast. Really you may as wel have been using an Abacus to time the race.

It became two laps of ride what you can and when you can't hoof it. On the first lap you could see for some the battle of equipment was being lost as they DNF'd with drive train issues. Yet some where in this I past and left in behind fellow Clydesdale Team Colin. I do admit that there was some satisfaction as last fall at the Marathon he beat me. This time I beat him in hard conditions.

As the 2 laps progressed you could see some where cracking or about to crack. And this is where one of my pet peeves of racing showed up, that being public crackings.  Maybe it is just me but if your going to crack or going into that race dark place. To me that is a personal battle, I won't drag you into mine like this one...

2014 Bad Day at Paul's Dirty Enduro

I get it racing is tough and it is a chance we take that we will have a bad day. But please, don't make it public. I know what your trying to do. Your feeling lousy and trying to drag me down into your experience. Because by doing that it will make things better in your mind. No thank you, I am having a bad day as well and am engaged in my own fight. Especially this day. All this does is provide more incentive to leave you behind.

And did just that to one racer. I didn't know that somewhere during the race it was decided that it would be 2 laps instead of 3. A fact I didn't find out till the end of the 2nd lap when we where quietly  told that was it.  Our labour was over. Bravo Zulu.

Had a small surprise as my wife showed up briefly to see if it was all good. Would have been better if she had given me a big hug and kiss.....but apparently she can tolerate sweaty and salty not muddy.

















Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Trenton Loop Search

Had a chance on April 29th  before the week of deluge to go down to Trenton area to explore around back of Batawa. Last time I visited was about 4 years ago to do the Lower Trent Trail which as I found it to be a mind numbing ride.

Lower Trent Trail

This trip I wanted to explore some of the other track behind Batawa Ski Hill before it became overgrown and cooking hot. After a few side routes that where dead ends. Managed to find a route that got me to Batawa Road.


Trenton Exploration

But before I went to ride that I checked out another nearby spot that I spotted on a map to see if it offered anything and it didn't.


Seeking Trail




So it was back to the original plan of wandering around to see hat else as there. Again I do admit to doing it out of boredom as well as simply trying to create more options for riding. Plus it does get tiresome hearing the whinging that there isn't much to ride in Eastern Ontario. When I know by being creative in one' search you can find options. And not all will be singletrack as seems to be this mystical "gold" standard now days.

Yet if you look at the Scottish mountain bikers they ride singletrack, double track, and 4x4 track. Case in point,

Not just singletrack

And even the singletrack doesn't need to be golf course level manicured. Many I know would have fits if they tried to ride this.

Barely maintained singletrack


And with this in mind it was off to wander.




Based on the tracks there has been some riders here already. Good to see in truth.

Water Water Water


Though some sections had to be careful as the water levels this year are really high. Especially in the lower areas.

 Hmm...nope


Found a few dead ends. I mean sure it is a unplowed farm field. But as a rule unless I know a way round I try to never go marching through the middle. Even better if it is a long haul to the road not to.

Batawa Rd


After another dead end found the right track and finally came out at Batawa Road. And after thinking about it decided to make it a loop. So headed east on Batawa Rd towards the Trent River. And hooked up with the Lower Trent Trail. Then it was back to Batawa to go ride up to the top of the ski hill.

Mistress Mk1A2


I had brought Mistress Mk1A2 as I wanted to hit the sort of DH track off the top I had found on a previous visit back in 2008 or 2009.

2009?


And I wanted to try the Mistress Mk1A2 on a track I had ridden before. As it is the replacement for the stolen predecessor. Especially as the track I was going to do was rougher than Kingston area but not like Camp Fortune. Was able to get 4 runs with 3 of them timed and recorded via GPS. Even wet so far as that night creating a Strava segment for other times was able to be there.

When it was all said and done found a little 19km loop near Batawa ski hill with potential to add more if I can find more. And some fun on a DH like track to conclude a good little road trip.



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Back Bottle


In May did the Monstercross Ride To ErnestownWanting some more water stuck round bottles in the Wingnut pack mesh pockets.While it did give me more water I ran into a problem using the round bottles.



Dropped at least one bottle when it got rough. Also it began to bug me trying to cram the round bottle back into the pocket while riding. Almost dropped bottles twice doing that. There had to be a better way.  Sure one can say just find a tap. That sounds easy when your not in the middle of some quad track surrounded by swamp and questionable water sources.

I remembered seeing something that could solve the problem.

Backbottle


Non traditional bottles that have non round bottoms and a dull point. That are supposed to work with rear jersey pockets with less fumbling. And blind flailing to insert in the pocket. Hmm...sounds good in theory.



And seemed to work well with the Wingnut pack pockets on a couple of dry runs. But would have to wait to truly test it during a long ride.




That came on August 7th with a 5 hour ride. Made even more challenging as it was the hottest day of the summer. Think temps where about 37 degrees and no clue what the Humidex said that day. But perfect conditions to test the Backbottle in real world conditions.


Rouge to Seaton to Rouge





On that ride I went through a 2 liter hydration bladder, one large water bottle and the 2 Back Bottles. Even hauling all that was still cooked at the end. Which makes having the two Backbottles in the Wingnuts 2 side pockets a good idea.

So after all that it comes down two one simple question....Would I use them again?



OH HELL YEAH.

In fact have used the back bottles a few times when I didn't bother to use the hydration bladder. And will be doing so in 2017.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Monster Gearing

Procrastination + laziness + neglect x willful ignorance x ego = current gearing situation.

I readily admit that for nearly 2 years have run the same dirt bag engineered straight bloc rear cassette.  With a chainring size geared towards the Tour De Caffeine. But I finally admit it has finally reached the stupidity level of gearing choices.

Hmmm gearing is wanting





While I should change the chain rings the simplest and most cost effective method is a more mountain bike oriented gearing cassette.



 With a quick google search that gave limited results on the discussion of Gravel/Monstercross gearing. Though this gave me the best input,

Gravel Bike Set Up

First change to be made for gearing in 2017 is the cassestte, out with straight block road and in with a non straight block mtb.  I only had a brief parking lot test of the cassette so have no real world info if this will be enough. But initial drive train recation is promising. But will not get my hopes up till I get in  a longer ride.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Spring Monstercross Mud



Wee bit muddy

So today was the first long ride of 2017 and it was to be a group one.  Of course with no long rides let's decide to go 59km. You know just to be stupor.

Muddy

It was a nice spring spring day for a group ride though.  And no expectations of it being easy but it would be the first long ride after going from a Analog Asshole to a Digital Sphincter.

Hmmm....need a deflector shield

In the end there was mud, suffering, and lots of muddy gravel. Yet despite no expectations did find out I got 6th in the Garbage Alley. Though had lots to think about gearing and future tire choices.

Mosntercross Garbage Alley

Me Hungry


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Embrace The Suck: Muddite Edition

Saturday afternoon wanting to ride some where with woods and dirt decided to take the Monstercross Wench out to ride a bit of unmaintained road. Hoping maybe to high to find some rideable tuff.

And that is where the suck began.....sucking me in. With the illusion of it being soft yet rideable. It was slightly slow with bits of ice and some traps.




Early on got to play the game of ice covered hole and when does the ice fail. And see how deep the ice covered hole actally is.

Brought to a halt


The first 20 minutes turned out okay and despite the ice was not to bad. Which gave the illusion that it was going to be good.


It is an illusion

Right, and then comes the catch....

How bad could it get?

And then it began to suck at a double time rate.  And the pace ground to a slog with having to get around flooding.

Cold


Then almost 3.5-4k of hiking with a bike in mud that looks rideable yet had no traction. Even hoofing it was an exercise.


Muddite Heaven

To say it was slow would be an understatement. 6.4km in over an hour? Painful.

You have gotta be joking

To say it was ugh is all I can say to keep it non NSFW. No words to say it.



At least the ride back to the Van was easy. Though a wee bit chilly.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Lower Highland Creek Trails

15 years ago when I came to Scarborough there was nothing in the Highland Creek system for much trails. Well...there was abandoned sections near Centennial. I say abandoned as no work done as after sections had been taken out by whatever past storm. So with no one building trail that left the Don Valley and Rouge systems for anything trail related.

 Relics of the past

But like anything that changes .....


Early Winter


In the last couple of years that has seen some change that has slowly appeared. At some point a couple of Trail Sprites started visiting the Highland Creek system and have added trail. Apparently there is now 10k of singletrack trail in the system. With more in the future I have heard. The majority of the singletrack with the fun stuff is south of the Lawrence Ave E bridge. There is singletrack on the east and west side of Highland Creek.



Bridge with calves


Certainly it doesn't have the same feel nor volume as the Don Valley for trails. But the system is still in it's early years. And there is only  couple of trail workers working to create. I help when I can when am in town. But with the passing of my Mother in Law that will become even more infrequently.

While I do love the Don in the past few years it has gotten crowded in some areas. A by product of being central in Toronto but I have believed that more was needed. That more trail was needed in Highland Creek and Etobicoke Creek. Simply to spread some of the riding around. Because aside from the future conflict discussion the reality is not everyone can get access to the Don easily. Nor does those who ride have time every week to get there.



                                         Video by my buddy Charlie


I have spent more time in the last couple of years riding these trails. But what shows is more important benefit is the kids. I found out my Cousin Kemba takes her so riding in Highland Creek all the time. And he always wants to ride the dirt trails and loves to spend hours on them.  That is the best part of it all.

One day in the future one could connect this with the Rouge and Seaton Trail to create a 3 King or Valley Epic Day.

Rouge to Seaton to Rouge

Maps are from trail forks.

Lower Highland Creek West

Lower Highland Creek East

The nearest GO station is at Guildwood.

Guildwood Go Station

Beer , food, and Caffeine can be found at the mall at Morningside and Kingston Rd.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Bowl Exploration

With Monday March 6th being a some what warm day, well if you can call minus 3 warm. Decided on the way back from Toronto to check out a trail area I spotted in the Back Roads Map Book near Port Hope.


The Bowl ATV Trails Area Satellite Image



In theory there is potentially some track that would be good but based on the area my expectations where not high. I expected more of a spin and explore with nothing really stimulating. But it is worth the effort as one never knows what they might discover. Plus I have been over the last couple of years trying to find more riding areas in Eastern Ontario outside the already known.

Dead End Beginning


The entrance that I started at is at the dead end of Mail Rd and have no idea if this is a de-activated unmaintained county road that part of the area use. However as I explored came upon an interesting sign will cover later that gave me this idea.

Double Track


Initially the beginning was quad track which really is like riding double track. To an old RGMC type like me that is part of mountain biking.  Because especially in Ontario mountain Biking is more than just singletrack because if you don't include double track and some unmaintained road. You get less. There was some stuff down in a small ravine but it was wet and muddy so didn't go look.

Gravel Through Da Trees



On this exploration ride of double track connected back to the unmaintained road. Which led to the discovery of what I hinted at earlier...


Gravel Road

Gravel road with a storm drain???

Secret Gravel Shifter?



A storm drain in the middle of a unmaintained gravel road area? Is it a way to slowly shift sand and gravel to the local shore line to create a sand and gravel beach??

Wrong Bike For This


There is probably more to explore here but between the chilly temps and lack of time. Only go a brief time to spin around on the wrong bike for this.  There is possibly more rideable around as the BRMB  shows double track on running along the waterfront  on the other side of the old Wesleyville Generating station. So there is the potential to create a loop of some kind.

To get to this location you get off the 401 at Wesleyville, off ramp # 456. Head south on Wesleyville Road to Mail Rd. Turn right on Mail Rd and drive till you get to the dead end. Trail area starts here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Action Not Words


Today's late afternoon ride was a little different as spotted something that didn't seem right and raised a  red flag.


 Looking after your mates

 On this day and that being a clear, sunny, and very warm February day was a good day to ride. Expecting nothing but a spin on the bike and a stop by the creek to clear my head. It was off for a wander to check the conditions of the ice thickness on the trails.

About 5 minutes in riding along Bath parallel to the CN Rail main line to Toronto spotted a older gentleman sitting near the tracks. But when I looked a second time noticed he was sitting on the actual rail.  Took me about 60m before I remembered that is the section where a couple of years ago someone was killed there by a VIA rail train, they still won't say if it was accidental or not.






Quickly stopped and dropped my bike in the snow. Not wanting to run back and startle the old guy. Hopped the ditch and jogged up the berm to the line. I wanted to see if there was more going on before I just ran up to him thinking the worst case. All it looked like was he sat on the rail during a walk to have a moment. And turns out it was correct as he stood up and dusted himself off. And walked back to the street. And kept walking towards home some where down the street.


So in the end it was nothing but an old guy sitting on the rail looking out over Collins Bay. Maybe not the smartest place to sit. But it was better to have checked to see if someone was having a bad day. So back on the bike to check out the trails and the creek.

As I rode was thinking of the last few years and what I have been through in terms of mental health. And thinking of the suicides last year that rocked my wife's workplace. I could speculate all sorts of scenarios. Yet it was one thing that stands out....

Instead of talking about mental health, I interrupted my ride to check on some one else which is more important than just talk.






Thursday, January 26, 2017

Where Ever I May Roam


A rare year with minimal snow and a day with temps that allowed for shorts. Yes shorts in January in Ontario.

A ride that had no real route planned. Leaving the timing stuff behind. Just a general direction to roam.






Route map.
Where Ever May I Roam


2017 marks 14 years of wandering the Rouge and numerous trips up to the highest point in Scarborough....The summit of Ben Trash.



After descending Ben Trash wandered my way east to take the connector to Seaton.


Turned out to be a mixed bag, some bog conditions, some ice, and some giant puddle skirting.



Ended up at the Seaton view point and took it in for a bit. Had some Rum from the new flask to warm things up a wee bit. And a salute to those that are missed.


No feeling like dealing with the puddles and ice that would make up half the ride back took the road back part of the way.




In the end a good unexpected 3 hours of riding in January.



In shorts.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tough Call and Head Injuries

 In the last 12 months there has been an increased discussion online among cyclists about concussios. Specifically around some articles that leaned towards the fear side of the discussion. Here I will not be sharing articles but a incident on January 7th. 

On January 7th at the Kingston Snophy Fat Bike race we had some crashes that involved some injuries.  One was a broken collar bone and one concussion.

CCA Concussion Management


Part way through the day we had just extracted a rider with a broken collar bone who was warming up and getting checked out by the race medic. During this a rider walked up stating that he rang his bell good. Which initially wasn't alarming. What raised the red flag was when he said..."I don't remember what lap I am on" and he was on lap one. Recalling past incidents to others in regards to concussions without hesitation I got him headed to the medical tent 10 feet away. And got the medics attention to take over. His race was over.

CCA Head Injury/Concussion Protocol


As a course worker it is not fun pulling a racer of the course. I raced endurance sport for years specifically triathlon where finish no matter what is the mind set. But I know it was the right call to have made for his long term mental health. Of course later when one is relaxing with a beer you analyze the event and think what could have been done. Even better when you have others who have knowledge on this to sto act as a sounding board. Fortunately I have a sounding board to talk it out with and figure out if something was missed.

My wife Joely is that person with who we have discussed numerous times head injuries related to her job. Joely's job is the RMCC Women's VolleyBall Head Coach and Head coach of the CISM team. So later that night with beer in hand shared with her the incident and what was done. And it was the same as what she would have done for any of her athlete's she coaches.

As a coach I feel that while we are seeing lots of discussion about concussions and long term effects. We also need to talk about incidents and what was done so that others may learn more about it.