Apologies folks! A few people had contacted me to ask why I have posted my weekly blog. Well, it’s nice to know that people look forward to reading my weekly blog, but I had to step away for a few days to recover and recharge. The Saratoga Springs 24 took a bit out of me and required a little rest and relaxation.
After the Canada Day long weekend spent at Stan Wadlow and then with family back in Grimsby, it was time to prepare for the Saratoga Springs, NY 24 hour race. But before our travel day, I had to essentially squeeze in five days of work into three.
While the holiday Monday was a fantastic day spent riding in the Niagara area, all good things must come to an end. Albeit, a nice drive back into the city, I had to return to the office on Tuesday for some crucial meetings. That meant, I had to head back out and get my son from his grandparents on Tuesday evening. As much as we love our kids to have 2 months off from school to recharge their batteries for the upcoming school year, it usually means we are often scattered and driving them everywhere. A small price to pay for them to enjoy their summer, but I think most parents agree that the school year provides a lot of structure and not as much chauffeuring. So, Tuesday evening I toddled off to Grimsby to collect my little guy after a fun-filled weekend at Great Wolf Lodge. As I suspected, the boy was exhausted and water-logged and was looking forward to climbing into bed for a good rest. Thankfully, Tuesday was a rest day, which meant I could come home and head off to bed myself.
With my kids set to start their summer holiday, I was busily preparing for my second race of the season. My effort at the Hairshirt the weekend before went pretty well, but that was a small race, with respect to ultra-cycling. The Saratoga 24 hour is the next level, which requires each participant to log as many miles/km’s in a 24 hour period. Leading up the race, I needed to be well rested and ready.
A couple of announcements:
- Intro to RAAM is set for September 21. You can hold your spot by filling out the form on the ‘Social’ page. The cost is $20, but it should be a fun night.
- Wine Survivor back for our second round. You can sign up now to reserve your spot and we will inform you of when payment is due. See our ‘Social’ page fore more information.
- My next big event, Lap of Lake Ontario, is scheduled for the last week of July. Stay tuned for updates, but would appreciate your support for this ride. You can contribute to our RAAM effort or you can pledge money for every KM I complete during the lap of lake ride. Remember folks, any contribution/donation helps!
With some easy training on Wednesday (@ mindset CYCLING) and Thursday, Friday was deemed travel day, which started out very early. Pete had the task of wrangling us up a vehicle for the trip, but encountered a last minute audible thrown at him by the car rental agency. Kind of reminded me of the infamous Seinfeld “car reservation” episode. In the end, Pete had the last laugh and a cheaper deal. Shortly after 10am the team and I were on the road heading out Kingston way to cross over to the US at Gananoque. I always marvel at the sites and scenery heading to the US through Ganonoque, but also noted that there is a walkway across the bridge to the US. I was told that bikes could not cross at this bridge, but apparently its possible – mental not too self, you can use this passage as part of your Lap of Lake, which is scheduled to take place during the last week of July. After 6 hours of driving along some picturesque back roads, we finally arrived in Saratoga Springs, NY. A quaint little town that seem to attract a lot of tourists. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much time to site see, but from what I did see, I certainly wouldn’t mind a trip back. With the team arriving late afternoon, we were on a tight schedule to grab a solid dinner and then prepare the bikes for the early morning inspection.
Saturday morning 6:00am, the team was up and buzzing about… eating, fine tuning the bikes and finalizing any last little items as we get ready for a long day of riding. The team consists of four cyclists (Clare, Julie, Pete and myself) and two support crew (Janet, Vaune and Derek). I will say it again, cycling is the easiest part of the gig and having Derek and Janet take care of all our needs made it that much better. While Clare, Julie and Pete were pushing hard in the 12 hour race, I had to pace myself for a full 24 hours of riding. Both equally long days, but with slightly different riding styles. Under the 12 hour, you can put in a little more up front to help to front-end the miles and then bring it down a notch to pace yourself into the finishing line. However, watching the three of them head out on the 60km circuit, they didn’t seem to be backing off the pace during the last few hours. Congrats to the three of them for a solid effort. Pete grabbed top spot (second win at this event), while Julie grabbed top spot in the women’s division and broke the record with Clare coming in behind after having to deal with a flat. Never a fun thing to deal with, but Clare took it in stride and finished the race strong.
After a shoddy nights rest (hotels are not for me), I managed to pull myself together and get to the start line. I always have problems sleeping the night before a race, no matter how tired I am, but it always seems to work out. The goal of a 24 hour race is to log as many miles as you can in that time period. Most participants do not come with a support crew, which I find to be a wrong decision given that you can’t make solid decisions on your own after depriving yourself of sleep. You need people to manage you and I was very lucky to have a solid team there supporting me. In the end, not something I need to worry about and I rode the race knowing that I had full support of the crew.
After receiving some final updates from our race instructor and some last minute instructions from my crew, I set off with entire group. The first lap of the circuit is really to get used to the terrain and get used to the route as you will not be getting very much rest and will be riding a good portion of it in the dark. After the first 60km, groups start to form and work together to help keep a solid pace, but you don’t really know who is doing what distance. Hence, it’s important to ride your race and get into your groove. Trying to match and exceed your true pace with a 12 hour racer can come back to haunt you later in the 24 hour race.
During my first lap, I encountered a small issue when my HR went up to 199 without putting any real stress on me. This has happened before so I take down a bar and a gel, knowing that I did not eat all that well during breakfast. Don’t overreact! Keep your pace and let it come down naturally. One thing I am getting better at is not overreacting to situations. It’s hard not to jump to conclusions or make a flippant decision in any area of your life, but when you’re on the road you need to remain calm. In 10 minutes, my HR is back to normal and I am cruising in for a pit stop. I don’t get off the bike, just eat and replenish my water bottles then back on the road. On the second lap, I team up with a fellow 24 hour participant and we ride together for a few more laps.
As I pull in for my last lap under the sun, Derek cleans up the bike and Janet does a quick status check on me, along with replenishing my bike with bottles and food. Janet is a seasoned pro and has worked with Peter on many occasions, including his big races (RAAM), so if Pete trusts – I trust her! I am sure a few people who are reading this blog have enlisted the help of cycling coaches, so I am sure what I about to say comes as no shock. You have to trust your coach and those he surrounds himself with. When I met Pete back a few months, I knew who I would be working with and he had the resume to back it up. 3 months in, I don’t question what he says and I absolutely extend the same respect to Janet. Thank you Janet and Derek for owning the support tent and making sure I was ready to head back out on the course. As I head back out on the course, to start my last lap under the sun, I decided it would be better if I add some hardship to the event. While persuading a car to turn right ahead of me, I accidently hit my aero bars and go over them only to land hard on my shoulder. I am basically 20m from support tent and so my team runs over and checks in on me. I’m up quickly looking around and of course it’s all about my ego. Can’t believe I just went down like that and my bars and seat are turned in opposite directions. Derek fixes up the bike and I get back on it… any crash, small or large, takes a bit of the wind out of your sails. It’s pretty much a fucking mind job and I am doing my best to get it out of my head, but I feel my shoulder already beginning to throb. At that moment, I know it’s going to be a long night, because this is about the 10th time I have damaged one of my shoulders. Old injuries due to hockey, rugby and whatever other sports I have played have taken their toll on me. Now, I never thought of quitting the race and I certainly never intended to use this injury as an excuse. Any ride I do these days is with RAAM in mind. You’re tired? Who cares, wait until you experience RAAM! You’re hurting? Don’t give a shit, wait until you feel what RAAM throws at you! You’re down and hurt? Who cares, can you turn the peddles?! It’s all preparation for RAAM 2018. Better be ready to deal with it and move on. I continue on and keep any pain/discomfort to myself.
After Pete finished off his 12 hour race in fine style, he was going to take over the support tent as I continued on for the additional 12 hours. Now, being support crew without riding for 12 hours is a tough enough job, but after a 12 hour ride for a first place finish is slightly different. I applaud Pete for taking on this role, but I know he’s keeping a watchful eye on his student. I come into the pits and from that first second he’s performing the necessary status check. Any/all questions are thrown at me because he wants to know who/what he’s dealing with over the next 12 hours. I can go at that point, but Pete makes the decision for me to take a 15 minute nap. No coach at my side, I’m heading out back on the road, but Pete is thinking big picture. We let my riding buddy head out alone knowing that he will take over 3rd place and leave me behind to run solo. It’s a decision that had to be made and something I likely would not have made on my own at the midpoint of the race. I have done 12 hours before without a break, so why now? No matter – you hand over the decision making process to your team and you just follow the instructions. A quick nap and Pete reminds me of the big picture (i.e. RAAM) and this is just a training ride. I head out, based on Pete’s instructions and just set a solid pace. I come back in the race as somewhat changed, as I see a bunch of riders that I have not come across before. Pete runs me through a quick check and I head out on the road within a few minutes. This is the point where I start to notice a change and while some of my main competitors are starting to slow, my pace is staying pretty strong. I head out on the circuit with the intention of riding a solid lap and keep a watchful eye on my fellow riders. The next couple of laps are on my own and I am keeping a watchful eye on the wilderness as shadows are catching my eye, along with some creatures trying to make their way across the road (possums, raccoons, animals with red eyes that disappear, etc…). One would think you want to fall asleep out there on your own, but you’re actually wide awake with your eyes darting from one side to the other to ensure nothing sneaks out of the woods. Call me a scaredy-cat, but that’s not how I am going out… man taken down by possum and then slowly nibbled to death.
As I press on riding solo, I roll in to the support tent at 4:00am awaiting instructions from Pete. I sit down looking for some solid food and coffee. I need some caffeine to get me through the rest of the night. Not only do I get a coffee, but the best hamburger I have ever tasted in my life. I plough both of them back and Pete has the bike ready to go for me – I jump on and start pedaling down the road. The leader, who has already lapped me, is just heading out as well. I have no plans to keep up with Danny, but he wasn’t really pushing on the pedals and he decided to make a quick stop up the road for something. At that moment, I thought it would be best to put down the hammer and get my lap back. Of course, he could probably catch me and put me down a lap, but fuck it – let’s see what happens with 4 hours left to go.
As I cruise in to the support crew, still ahead of Danny to ensure I am on the same lap, I am being asked what I want to eat. The crew (Pete and Vaune) inform me that I am 8 minutes down on second place and want me in/out of the pit as quickly as possible. I ask for something meaty, but that’s not easy to find this go around. Instead, I take on a peanut butter sandwich, chips and whatever else I can find. Pete has already identified that the 2nd place participant is ready to ride with me to finish it off. All I can eat, down the hatch and back on the bike.
On the way out, I ask my riding buddy his target and he wants to get 380m, but knows that 370m is more realistic at this time. To get to the 370, we basically have to hit the checkpoint, which is not unrealistic. We start to set a strong pace and work together to get to the checkpoint, but on the way out we see Danny coming down the main road into the support area. He definitely sees us and smiles… Not for one moment did I think he would halt and not come back out on the course, but you never know the strategy of other riders. In any case, we are clicking along the front part of the course with the expectation we will pull into the checkpoint at 7:30am. This leaves a ½ hour for us to grab some extra miles (Gravy!).
Folks, it’s at this point that I realize I am an ultra-cyclist. I could have stopped at the checkpoint and been happy with the miles I put in. My riding partner would have met his partial goal and been happy. Fuck that! You have another ½ hour available to ride. Get on the bike and turn the cranks. That’s the difference…and if not for the 8am clock, I would have kept turning them for as long as my support team wanted me to. That’s RAAM. When the rest of the riders want to stop, you keep going. 5 km/hr is faster than 0 km/hr, 10 km/hr is faster than 5 km/hr and 20km/hr is faster than 10km/hr… and so on! Stay on the bike and keep riding.
As much as it was a lesson, it was also a confidence builder. Each of my rides and races is a stepping stone to the next and ultimately RAAM. 382 miles / 615 km’s in 24 hours is a good ride, but I wanted 644kms. Not to be had, but an arbitrary goal considering the big picture.
After finishing the race, one would think a good nap was in order, but I just wanted food. To be honest, since the race, each meal has been x2. I am starting to slow down now, but should probably stay close to the bike and drop the calorie intake.
Sunday was a great drive home and I was happy to see my kids for a bit. I know they worry when I am away, but they get why I do it. My son was happy to see my final mileage and a second place finish, because he’s all about the podium / hardware. Unfortunately, no podium and no hardware, which is typical of most endurance races. No need for that… I know what I do!
Here’s a quick note on my riding during last week:
Monday, July 3 – finish up the long weekend with a nice 125km ride in Niagara.
Tuesday, July 4 – rest day.
Wednesday, July 5 – at mindset CYCLING for some quick cadence work, then shut it down.
Thursday, July 6 – 30 minutes spin, HR at 135
Friday, July 7 – Travel day
Saturday, July 8 – Saratoga NY 24 hour Race. 615 km completed in 24 hours. 25.7km/hour.
Sunday, July 9 – Rest / Travel day. Heading home!