On Saturday, October 16, Substance Projects held the second race of their Marathon XC Mountain Bike race series…the Kingston Trophy; aptly held in Kingston, Ontario. And yes, I attended. Actually, don’t tell Dan (of Substance Projects….Dan of Substance?) but I actually went to Kingston to visit family, cousins that I don’t see near often enough. However, my cousins live barely a kilometre down the street from the race venue…so it kind of worked out.
Notwithstanding that a spring/summer of treeplanting in BC and the ensuing very painful lower back ’injury’ that has kept me from properly riding, and completely away from any form of training. My back condition keeps me from putting down power, or any kind of sustained effort, so the race would be a bit of a test of what I might be able to do, or not do. And the 20 extra covid-pounds I am carrying are not a great help (am I making enough excuses yet??)…the whiskey diet is not likely conducive to training, however I have lost a couple of days this week.
Besides the test of my lack of condition, the race would give me the chance to get back into the much missed race community, to see some familiar faces that have become a little less familiar over the last two years, and to support Dan. So Friday I headed up to Kingston to my cousin’s home.
Around 11pm on Friday night it started to rain…and it rained on and off all night. And then at 8am Saturday, a serious thunder-boomer moved through…very close lightning…pouring rain. I was certain the event would be cancelled, and if not I had convinced myself that I would not participate. A quick text out to Dan and his crew (Chris) got me a response that the race start would be delayed to eliminate the lightning danger and that the course would be modified to reduce the mud and ensure there was no trail damage…and that the event would go on.
By 11am the lightning had moved on…but it was very wet out. Still convinced that I would not participate I headed out to the venue anyways just to see if I could volunteer to help Dan in some way. (The venue was only about a km down the road from my cousin’s house). By this time the rain had stopped, but it was still overcast and the ground was saturated. Dan had changed the course from 3 laps of a 15km loop, to 9 laps of a 5km loop…one heck of a significant change…and people who had been out on the course said that it was actually pretty good for the conditions.
The new, shorter loop course actually had me re-considering participating. The shorter loop would give me easier opportunity to call it quits if my back was not up to the task. And a little extra encouragement from Chris had me getting my bike ready, and gear on to participate…and there I was lined up at the start line.
The shorter loop turned out to be hellishly fun! A ride through a barn, into a long run down the driveway, into some very slick, wet singletrack. Then into some fast flowy berms, into some packed sand, grippy pump track, (a chance to catch some air even…). Leading into a couple of wet, sketchy berms…and into some wet, slippery pump track. (Lots of pump track!!). A bit of a dangerous wet, downhill right hand curve into the forest led into some very fun, twisty forest singletrack…then up a lungbuster of a climb back to the start finish. I don’t know how Dan did it, but his last minute course revamp turned out to be rather great!!
Yup….that’s a goat….the course went through a goat field…
Anyways, for me it was not meant to be. The first lap went great for me (notwithstanding the almost embarrasing pop-out of the pedals right off the start…)…and not considering the almost complete red-line for the entire loop (given my total lack of race conditioning). However, mid second lap my back was having none of it…the nuancing the bike through the slick muddy sections, and the cold, wet conditions had the back muscles tightening up to the point where it went into almost full lockdown on the final climb. (And a fair point to Dan, for pointing out that maybe a rigid single speed was not the best bike of choice for a sore back…however that is how I roll…or don’t roll, in this case). So rather than risk damaging body parts, I decided to damage my ego instead and called it quits at the end of lap two. (It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens…). I pulled over off the edge of the track…laid down on the grass and stretched to loosen the back enough to allow me to walk to get a bit cleaned up, change of clothes, and skedaddle. Back to my cousin’s house to drown my sorrows. Actually my cousin is a chef, and she was making chilli so I was eager to dig in. Other than mountain biking, three of my favourite things are eating family and not using commas. Also, my cousin and her man were coming up on their 30th anniversary so she thought it was funny when I said that Lois and I had been happy for 40 years, and then we met.
Anyways, getting back on topic…I got my back loosened up enough to wobble ’home’. I hadn’t realized it while riding, but after only just two laps my bike was caked in mud, as was I. However….kudos to Dan and his team for pulling off a great event in such aggregious conditions. I wish I could know how much fun the full course would have been!
So…as I mentioned, this was the second race in Dan’s XC Marathon MTB series. The third race of the series is the Sausage Suit ITT, held at Mansfield Outdoor Centre. Mansfield Outdoor Centre…now open to the public…have become my favourite trails to ride. Fast, challenging, fun trails…paired up with Dufferin Forest trails…rideable when most trails are too wet/muddy to be on. However, these trails are a topic for another separate blog post. If you want to get in on the action of Dan’s next race on these awesome trails, you better get in on registering. http://www.substanceprojects.com Do it!!
As for me…it is back to the drawing board. Back to recovering properly from this back ’injury’/condition…while trying to get back into proper ride/race shape. Quite a row to hoe.
Whats next? Stay posted,