Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cyclocross....and beer!

Cross and beer go hand in hand...or at least in Europe it does.

For me, beer just helps to numb the pain (more about that later...).

Today was my initiation into the 2010 cross season. Being my 2nd cross race in two years (my only race last year was the Madison), combined with a lack of intensity in the last ummmmmm, while, I didn't exactly have high hope or expectations.  I was hoping merely to survive, and yeah, I survived, but DAMN, that shit hurt today. On top of all that, I was using my commuter bike (minus rack and fenders, but plus cross tires) since my cross bike hasn't arrived yet (an Opus Spark).

Here's a quick rundown of how the race went down for me:

-no warm up, except about 5 mins of riding around before the start
-waiting for the start, remembered that my tire pressure was too high from riding over, so I let some (maybe too much) air out of the front and  then was worried it was too soft
-tried to gun it off the start, which was a mistake, 'cause by the 2nd or 3rd lap (I can't remember was all a blur), I thought a) I was gonna puke, and b) I wanted to quit. I decided at that point to bring the pace down a bit and try and recover. This meant being passed and gaps growing ahead of me, but I couldn't care less at this point. I just kept pedalling
-my rear tire pressure was WAY too high, which resulted in a lot of rear sliding, including an awesome full 180 slide while staying up!
-by the 2nd last lap, my legs decided to show up, and when the bell rang for the last lap, I had it in me to increase the pace and I managed to make up quite a few last lap ended up being my fastest

So yeah, today hurt. Cross always hurts...I just don't have the engine for these short intense efforts. But it's still fun, and gives me something to look forward to each weekend.

What the?!?!?! How the...?!?!?!?!? Yup. Grass BETWEEN the rim and tire bead. I have no friggin' idea how this happened, but it just looks cool.

As I mentioned above, drinking beer not only numbs the pain incurred from racing cross, but it also helps replace those precious carbs. Anyway, turns out that there are actually people out there who check this blog for beer reviews, so I'm gonna lay one on ya. Mill Street's Lemon Tea Beer was something I discovered a few months ago, and I can't get enough of this beer. It makes a great summer's a light and refreshing wheat beer with a hint of lemon, and is also infused with orange pekoe and earl grey tea. But who's kidding, this is a damn fine beer any time of year.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Trailer loop

This past Sunday, I got out for a family bike ride. We loaded up the car and drove up to Gatineau Park for a loop of the parkway. There were a couple of firsts, so to speak...Sonia's first loop of the park in about 2 years, and my first loop this year with the trailer. Let me just say that if I had known what a workout a loop with the trailer was gonna be, then I would have been doing it all year long. It was HARD! I now know what part of my training will be next year...only downside is that Lil' D will be heavier!

Lil' D slept for a good chunk of the ride, but when she woke up, she was babbling something like "Daddy, go faster! Cross starts in a week and you need to get in shape!"

Sonia and her "I'm having fun!" face. (Click on the pic for a larger view and you'll see what I mean.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The rest....

...of my Quebec vacation. Or rather, the rest of my vacation that involved biking.  The second half of our trip consisted of 4 nights in Baie Saint Paul, one of the earliest establishments in the Province of Quebec. One thing I was reminded of in Quebec is that it's a province steeped in history dating back to the 1500's. It's easy to forget this when considering that Canada is only 143 years old.
The drive to Baie Saint Paul from Ste Anne de Beaupre was short but eventful...the constant up and down of highway 138 tested the engine on our fully loaded up Hyundai Elantra...I was downshifting A LOT on the climbs. However, the drive down into Baie St. Paul was a stunning plummet into a valley.

So on to the biking. One day we did a little tour of an island called Ile aux Coudres (hazelnut island). On the drive to the ferry, we decended a hill that started out at 10%, and then bottomed out at 18%! This was one of many times on our trip where it felt as though the road we were on was going to plummet into the St. Lawrence. After a  quick ferry ride to the island, we put together our bike trailer, loaded up Lil’ D and started riding into a vicious headwind. The roads were relatively flat…and the loop was only 23km. Overall it was a very leisurely ride, which unfortunately was lacking any real points of interest, or any lookouts for that matter. The view across the St. Lawrence to the North Shore however was quite impressive, despite being a hazy and humid day. An interesting thing to note...475 years ago, Jacques Cartier landed on Ile aux there's some history!
This hill starts at 18% then "mellows out" at 10% before reaching the top. (Sorry about the poor picture was hazy and the shore was pretty far away.)

 Cruising around Ile aux Coudres.

 Leaving the island, we were parked on this 10% grade while waiting for the ferry. Hills were a recurring theme in the Charlevoix area, and I was blown away by the sheer size of be honest, they're not just hills in this area, but mountains. This a beautiful part of the country, no doubt.

On our last day in Baie St. Paul, I got out for a short ride, that involved a 5km climb out of the town. The average grade of the climb was 10%, and it took me 17 minutes to crest. After it flattened out, I continued on, and when I had reached 25 minutes since the start of the climb, I had already ascended 400 metres! Coming back down the climb, the last 2km provided some amazing views into the valley that comprises Baie St. Paul.

The signs don't lie.

The road just before it plummeted down.

I stopped at a lookout to snap some pics...this is the bay that obviously gives Baie St. Paul its name.

This sign was in Ste. Anne de Beaupre. Unfortunately, this had nothing to do with cycling, or a cyclorama for that matter (whatever a cyclorama might be!). Turns out the building next to this sign houses a 360 degree mural depicting scenes from Jerusalem. Needless to say, I was quite disappointed.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Raid Velo Mag

Since it's been over a week since I did this race here's a quick easy to read write up (for those like myself with short attention spans):
-largest mass start I’ve ever been in…there were about 500 lined up for the start. It was pretty cool lining up in the heart of old Quebec City in front of the Chateau Frontenac

The start in Old Quebec.

-SKETCHY neutralized start out of Quebec City. Constant accordian effect of the pack…slowing and speeding, narrowing and getting wider…with oncoming traffic at times!! The neutralized start did make for a good warm up, though. The other bonus was having a police escort out of Quebec City.

-once off road, we rode, and rode, and rode on an ATV trail under power lines. At times it was fun…lots of climbing, gnarly rocky downhills and some cool slick rock sections. It was fast riding, but it felt like A LOT of ATV trails, and I was certainly glad when they were done.

-a brutally long climb that started at around the 40km mark. Many riders (myself included) were death marching up this thing.

-this was followed by a long stretch of gravel roads which provided some much needed relief and recovery

 -with about 14km to go, we started climbing MSA. This was another TOUGH climb that had me walking for a bit. The course merged with the same road used for the hill climb the day before, and right away I was thinking "great! I'm gonna ride to the top of Mt. Ste. Anne twice within 24 hours!" The climbing didn’t last “too” long though. And we didn't go to the top of MSA, but then...

-the course turned to the right...downhill!!! The last 10km was downhill singletrack….basically a 10km Super D after 67km of racing. This section would have been tons of fun…if it wasn’t at the end of the race! It definitely was tough just to shift gears at times 'cause I had no strength left in my hands after some of the rocky downhill sections.

Crossing the finish, completely spent.
There was a strong contingent of Ottawa riders, all of whom placed really well. Imad, Neil, and Rob all placed in the top 20 overall, while Dave was 34th and I finished 45th. I was surprised and happy with my result, since I found this to be an incredibly hard event, and my fitness this year has not been close to what it was last year.

Would I do this event again? I think so. I would know what to expect terrain wise, and would train specifically for this (lots of climbing!). One thing though, I wouldn't want to do this race in wet conditions. I mean, no one wants to race when it's wet, but this course would be almost demoralizing in wet conditions.

 My "prizes" (aka freebies with the race kit). I guess someone thinks that mountain bikers are smelly and hairy. However, that Hydro 5 is GREAT for shaving legs!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


....from vacation. I haven't actually been away for 3 weeks; the lack of posting has been due in part to laziness and due in part to being away. But I'm back with got tons of new material to fill up your free time with.

So once again, I had to find ways to combine biking and/or racing with family time. So this was the plan: race in Velo raid, a 3 day stage race at Mont Sainte-Anne. In years past, the Velo Raid has been a one day race from Quebec City to Mt. Ste-Anne, and is usually in July. But with the World championships here this year, they decided to change the date and the format. The format involved a hill climb of MSA Friday night (August 27th), a 78km “Raid” from QC to MSA Saturday, and then a 60km stage on the trails of MSA on Sunday. The cool thing about this event, though, is that you had the option of doing all 3 days, or picking and choosing which stages to do…an “a la carte” option they called it. So in the interest of staying in "the good books", I did the hill climb Friday, the Raid on Saturday, skipped the third day and the following week was family vacation time in Quebec.

The first part of our vacation consisted of 5 nights staying just outside of MSA in a quiet little chalet with a great view of the St. Lawrence. We managed some “touristy” stuff during the day on Friday, and then it was off to the base of MSA for the hill climb start at 6:00. Ran into Neil, Anna and Imad who were down for the Raid, but Imad was also doing the hill climb.

 A familiar face at the start, Imad (who happened to win our category...nice one!!)

 There were about 200 riders in total lined up for the start.

In comparison, the not quite-as-popular foot race had 6 racers.

At the start line, there was a little confusion (or maybe I was confused because I didn't quite catch the french instructions). In any case, there was a 2 minute staggered start, allowing those who were doing all 3 stages to start first. The start was fast and brutal, mainly because I didn't put in a good warm up and then there was a lot of waiting around at the start, negating any effect my crappy warm up *may* have had. The race was basically straight up a gravel fire road, about 6km in length. It was pretty steep at the start, then was a little less steep, and varied between "this sucks" to "Right on! I can recover a bit" on the steepness scale. The variation in pitch made the race "just hard enough”, but thankfully wasn't brutally tough. I wasn't feeling completely spent afterward, meaning I probably could have ridden harder, but I was happy enough with my effort, AND I wanted to save something for the next day. According to the results, my time was 35 minutes, which put me in third place in my category. However, if I was racing all 3 days, my time would have put me in 15th place. Overall, a nice, short event, and who could complain about a $12 entry fee?

Rounding the last corner before the finish.

 This pair won the tandem category before the race even started!