Oldschool-style Passion post. (CRAZY long)- Mtbr.com
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    Ska
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    We the people ... Oldschool-style Passion post. (CRAZY long)

    Well, it's been a while since I've posted anything true to what the Passion message board was originally designed (not that I was ever any good at it) but I figured I'd do it again for a change - I have, after all, had a good enough riding experience very recently to merit one of my long winded tales. I used to enjoy putting my riding experiences and thoughts to words and passing them on to those who visit the site, but, long and busy hours, and a vastly different home-life have restricted my time to type such entries, let alone post much of anything on the board. All I can hope is that I'm not too rusty at this and that the words I choose to form my sentences take you along for the ride. I hope you feel being there or, at the very least, I help you through your workday.

    Here goes.

    Last year's ride season ended quietly, in fact, it barely even took off really. It's easy for those of you who live in my neck of the world to remember last season with its rain-soaked days along with what seemed a year-long chill in the air. No, it didn't stop many from riding completely but it did wear on us. Races were cancelled on a regular basis. Trails were often closed due to damage caused by runoff or, if they were open, were too soggy to pass anyway. Last season officially became one to forget when our group's yearly migration further north for the 24hr race was cancelled (due to bankruptcy of Adrenaline and other complications). It truly felt as though the summer had come and gone and I'd reverted back to my old high school days of sitting on the sofa playing videogames, eating pizza and the biggest worry in life for many was not to spill the bong water.... Ok, ok it wasn't quite that bad. I did log a lot of road miles but it just wasn't the same for me. My mountain bike season had come and gone and I felt I had missed out - huge.

    I stewed over the winter about it in the back of my mind while keeping busy with home renovations. My thoughts did, on occasion, slip from somewhere in my head to the tip of my tongue and I'd vent to my wife or a riding buddy. It's amazing how important riding a bike is to me when I think about it. Around the time my frustrations began to peak and my withdrawals from the bike were unbearable, my father had a heart attack (It's ok, he's fine now after successful surgery). Genetics are strong on that side of the family. I was tested for a multitude of blood related conditions and the findings (as I began to suspect) were not looking good. Not all the news from my doctor's mouth was negative however. The one thing he strongly encouraged was to "keep riding that bike!". Some of my numbers were so good in fact that by the end of the final checkup I was at the lowest end of the risk assessment chart for heart disease. The good numbers actually countered the effects of the poor results. All this, he says, "...is directly related to what you do for fun...". So tell me - isn't that the greatest thing you've ever heard?? My instructions at this point were simple. "Change your diet and nothing else." I've always been pretty good with my diet but the situation I was in (there's a lot more to the story than just my dad's H.A.) put the fear in me and now I was on a mission. The books on the subject came out and what I was no longer "allowed" to eat went straight into the bin. What this also did was cement the idea that this year, without any excuses, I would ride more miles than I have ever ridden in one season and spend more time in the saddle than before as well. No rain, no sleet, lack of riding buddies no... whatever, would keep me from riding. This is the year that I would make up for the last...and so it begins.

    It was about a 2 months ago now that I told myself my season would officially begin on April 17th. On that day, a popular race known around here as the Paris to Ancaster is held and I knew I would attend. It's known for being unpredictable in that the weather could change from snow, to sleet, to rain, to sunshine, to all of the above in one outing. I didn't care. I was now on my mission. In a technical sense the race is nothing to cringe at as it consists of a mix of singletrack (nothing really harry), rail-trail, gravel road, paved road and farm lanes to link the two towns together. What makes it difficult however is, as mentioned, the weather, the mud, its time (with respect to its proximity to the "start" of riding season) and its total distance of 60km (roughly 40 miles). Add to that the number of riders registered (around 1000 for the 60k enduro portion) all in a bunch start and it becomes interesting to say the least. I had never experienced it for myself but had heard novels about it from others - some good, some bad. This, I thought, would be my first test.

    I chose it to open my season. I mention it to a few friends and some decline right away. Some wait a while but in the end I find myself signed up alone. I have no issues with this actually. So far I'm passing my test. I hadn't gotten out much prior in preparation (only a handful of km on my mtb down the road before the race to make sure everything was working right) but I did manage to make it out for a few road rides before my official opening day. I felt good but at this time of year I'm more like a donkey than a race horse.

    By April 17th my new diet (change of lifestyle actually) had me down 29 %#&king pounds I didn't know I had and my 5'10" carcase is down to 158lbs. WTF?? I lost more than my bike's weight! I was completely blown away when it started happening. I was worried at first because I've never looked heavy like that. I didn't know where this weight was going. It didn't show but the scale didn't lie. I had my doc do a few tests to be sure. He was quite pleased with how seriously I was taking this and informed me that my numbers are already headed in the right direction. This weight thing is only going to help I thought. Now I was pumped.

    The 17th roled around and it was 5:45am. I question my sanity as the alarm goes off. For a split second I second guess myself. Up late the night before, tons of overtime during the week - give it up, go to sleep. I fight all temptations, sit up and wipe the sleep from my eyes. It's still completely dark out. I sit there a moment trying to figure things out. I don't see the hand coming up from under the blankets to touch my back. "Good luck... Have fun..." my wife says in a groggy voice. I get up slowly and whipser for her to go back to sleep. There's no response, she's already gone. I head down and grab a freshly brewed cup of dark-roast before jumping in the pre packed car. It's a 2hr drive to the event and I hit the road by 6 a.m. The whole trip up I struggle with sleep and slowly wake up with the sun. I get pumped thinking about what's coming. I'm excited. My season starts today and I feel I'm wasting no time. I'm already up and thiking bikes before the sun even arrived for its shift. Gotta love it.

    I arrive and I'm overwhelmed by the number of people already here. There's a ton. I park next to a guy who looks to be here alone as well. I ask a few questions and it turns out he's done this event 7 times. Perfect! A veteran. He's more than happy to instruct the "green guy" (me) as to what to do and where to do it. In the end, I'm registered, my bike is piled onto one of 4 or 5 cube vans along with what must be 200 bikes. We all jump onto a bus for a 25 minute drive to the start area. At the start, I wheel around and look for anyone I know and out of 1500 riders, I find no one. This is the first time I'm entered in an event of this size - alone. It felt kinda weird but again, I was pumped, and this is my new deal. In the start line I find my place and begin talking to some of the guys around me. It's such a refreshing feeling in the bike community that for the vast majority of times you can just start talking to anyone and it's like an old lost pal. The jokes fly and the laughs are on but underneath it all the nerves are mounting. The start is near and we can all feel it.

    The line is nearly 1000 strong (500 others on top of that are doing a shorter event) and the first couple hundred riders are off (pros. and O.C. registered). They make the hard left out of the start area and we all watch them in envy head up the paved climb. We're up next and my heartrate increases on it's own. Everyone around me wishes everyone luck and from this point on we're all business. "Click", "click", "tap", "thump", "click" The sound of the hundreds of riders around me all getting one foot clicked in ready for the start. You know what it's like.

    We get the go ahead and the dash is on. 800 or so riders all at once. We sprint off the line like it's a 100 meter dash all fighting for the best position. It's important to remember that there are 600 100 meter dashes though ;-) The slight climb right off the bat slows some and allows me to climb ahead of at least 40 or 50 riders. The veteran described the start to me in great detail and warned me about the right hander at the top onto a gravel road. He also warned me about how this year is the driest he's ever seen it. "It should get nice a dusty!" He laughs.

    I approach the crest of the climb. The pack is taking up the full width of the road and it's long as hell stretching out behind and in front. Thankfully though, mostly behind. I look over my shoulder to make sure I'm clear. I cut left to minimize the need to reduced speed for the sharp right hand turn. On the turn I make up a few more positions and now there are literally hundreds of rider headed straight down a dusty gravel road on a slight downhill. The speed is up there and the dust is overwhelming. My eyes fill with it and I can already taste it. My black Sidi's are turning white and my glasses are getting hard to see through. All around me you can hear the "ting" "ping" from bits of gravel being thrown up and hitting downtubes, seat posts, handle bars, rims and God knows what else. I even get the occasional stones off the face but I don't let the stones and dust deter me from making up a few more positions on the way down. Where I see opportunity, I take it. Before long we're onto the first of the rail trail sections and I start to make up more ground. It's either two bikes wide or double tracked so there is ample room for passing. Jockeying for positions at this point is never ending. Everyone is passing or being passed and it's running like a well-oiled machine. No hot heads. I'm averaging 31km/h (about 20mph) here and hold that for a good 10 minutes.

    Slowly I make it up to another group of riders I'd been chasing a short while and in that group is a familiar grey jersey. It's one of the guys who was standing next to me in the start area. I look over as I pass and say "Hey, right on! You made it through all that eh?". He laughs and acknowledges and I keep on at my own steady pace. I'm passing riders and occasionally hop on someone's wheel for a bit before they power off and away from me or vice-versa. I think to myself that I'm already having fun and I'd be totally content if the entire race was like this. Just a smooth steady pace all the way to Ancaster! I look over my shoulder to see if I need to let anyone by and I soon see someone on my wheel. I pull to the right and they don't pass. They follow me to the right. I look again and it turns out it's the grey jersey. I laugh and ask how long he'd been there and it turns out he hopped on as I went by the first group he was in. It's then that I jokingly say "Well, if we're going to work together here, I might as well know your name!". His name is Mark and I can tell he's a super nice guy. We make the intro short and we're back to business. This time, he's in front for a while. It isn't long before we're rotating shifts and making up ground. For at least the first 20minutes Mark and I are together working until a gravel road section saw me start to move on. I held up momentarily but I began to lose my rhythm. I had no choice at that time but to leave him.

    I hammered on alone grabbing wheels of passers by and passing more riders myself until, on one climb, I caught a group surprisingly quickly. It was a group of about five riders and as I passed I saw one of them pull out. I continued on thinking perhaps he'd fall off but he didn't. "Grabbing a wheel?" I say between breaths. A quick answer back suggests he's concerned I'm bothered by this. "I promise I'll work for you as soon as I get my legs back?", he replies. I am certainly not the type of guy to get mad about that sort of thing and I'm just glad to have some company whether he worked or not. I respond back "Oh, man, don't worry about anything. Do what you gotta do. Don't worry.". I felt kinda bad. I must have come off sounding harsh because of my breathing. Regardless, he stayed with me up three consecutive climbs holding my wheel through the high-speed flats as well. I was, in all honesty, starting to hurt when finally, from the dude behind, I hear, "Just move over when you're ready for a break.". He barely finished his sentence and I was over to the side waiting for him to pass.

    He comes through, straight as an arrow, pats me on the shoulder and thanks me for the help. He definitely appreciated it because the speed we were now going on the flat was proof positive that his legs were back. He could most definitely have left me there high and dry but he checked his shoulder often to be sure I was still there with him. I was suffering a little but I was recovering well enough. Now I was totally appreciative. He holds the front a while and now we're making up ground quickly again. Every so often we pass riders off on the shoulders of the road or side of the trails stricken by punctures or other mechanicals and now, as with Mark we're functioning as a unit. Again intros are made and this guy's name is Carlo. Yet another GREAT guy. True to his word and I immediately respected him for that.

    We kick off of the gravel road onto our first singletrack together and I lead us in. We make it through quickly and unscathed until we hit a paved section of all things. We crest a hill and we're flying at about 50km/hr down the other side when his chain pops off out of nowhere. He waves me on to not bother with him and to continue on. Through his cursing I tell him I'd hold up for a bit to see if he catches up. I did but, at the top of the next climb, I look back and he's nowhere to be seen. It looks as though I've lost yet another friend.

    Coming to grips with this realization I press on - alone. Again I latch onto a few passing riders and pick up a few temporary followers. I reach the top of another small hill off a narrow fire road and see a police cruiser at the bottom who has stopped traffic. We need to cross a small two-lane highway to reach the next section of trail which snakes along parallel to the highway on the opposite side. The pace here is high and the riders are stretched out in single file for almost as far as you can see. There are no groups. The speed is too great and it's increasing. The singletrack is quickly approaching anyway. We cross the highway and the car traffic mirrors the bike traffic. It's stretched out too. I can just imagine what they're thinking. A rider about 40ft in front of me sets the tempo. There is no reason to panic because we're on the verge of singletrack again and way up ahead you can see some congestion. We're all going to be together soon anyway.

    The tempo coming across the road is high and we edge the side of the road before a short 6 or 7 foot incline launches you up to the singletrack on the top edge of the embankment. My King hub buzzes madly as I coast momentarily bracing for the hill I'm about to hit at speed. Just then, the dude in front of me totally misreads the line and his rear wheel is up. He hits the dirt hard and his bike completely blocks my line. My turn to the right is now going to be twice as sharp but the problem is, it's directly after the jump. My plans change quickly and I stretch out slightly ready to absorb as much of the embankment as possible. It's far too late for brakes. This is exactly like it used to be in my days of BMX racing. "Keep the rubber in contact with the dirt as much as possible if you want to make it through!". My old coach used to say. Pretty tough to convince young guys to keep from show-boating on the jumps. In this case the old technique (obviously still used) saves me. I soak up most of the hill and my launch is more distance than height. At the same instant I flick my left leg straight down ready to put all my weight on it. My bike is angled nicely into the turn and I'm centered. I wait for the landing and pray the knobbies on the side of my tires will bite enough to keep me upright. Luckily, they do. I feel them both slide slightly but I stay put and trust it. I am without doubt on the very limit. Brakes at this point would send me to the ground in a heap. Before long (as obviously this all took place in less than a few seconds) I'm back in full "comfortable" control. I look back quickly to see a big puff of dust where I landed and slid slightly and just beyond that I see the rider behind me run clean into the bike laying across the good line. Now there's traffic there. People were scrambling to get through. Jeez that was close.

    Straight ahead I run into the first of the congested areas. We're all off the bikes cyclocross style crossing small, deep ditches and running up and down embankments. Down the first, up the second, on the bike, off again, through mud, back on the bike. It went on for a bit and I was thoroughly enjoying this new experience. It was then that I first noticed the billowing black smoke. The smoke wasn't your typical black smoke from wood fire or anything. It was the thick, dark black sh!t you get when hydrocarbons are burning. By now the traffic was way backed up and I had suspicions as to what the source was. As we come up on it my suspicions were right. Someone had been watching the race unfold and not watching the road ahead of them. The inevitable happened at that point. A huge rear-ender saw a van half on top of a yellow pickup truck in the woods and both were on fire. I yell over and ask if everyone is out and no one answers. One rider behind me does however and says "Forget it...I'm sure they are." I completely ignore him because the last thing you want to do in this type of situation is assume anything. I pull off and call over to a teary-eyed woman and ask if anyone is still in the vehicles. I don't leave until she tells me no. It's then that I hear the sirens approaching and I feel content. I would have never been able to live with myself had I found out someone was trapped with no one to help - because we assumed everyone was out.

    Riders are still flying by and I lost a bit of time but I'm not in the least bothered by it. I hop back on my ride and find a gap to jump in. My rhythm returns smoothly once again when I suddenly hear my name. I look back and it's Mark (the grey jersey) again. I'm very excited to see him and glad he caught back up again. Before long the race is help up a minute to allow for emergency vehicles to go by. One of the riders forced to wait is getting a little hot - more concerned with his time than the safety of others. A few other riders tell him to shut the hell up. In the end, he does. In life there are far more important things than a position on a race list. Mark and I chat and work together again through singletrack and dirt road. He admits his legs are going after a time and he'd catch me later. After what I saw him do, I had no doubt he would.

    Alone yet again I pick up the pace a little. On the next climb I'm out of the saddle and lifting the tempo even more. I pull hard on my bars feverishly pumping up the hill. I can feel the acid building up in my legs and it hurts a little but I press on. I pass many here and I can feel my steel ride flexing slightly under the strain. It's a beautiful thing indeed. By the time I reach the top I'm actually going faster than I had been on the flat section at the bottom and I'm relieved to see that it's back to gravel again for a while. I can now try and recover. I find that comfortable rhythm as in my longer road rides at home and check to make sure my heart rate is good. This is my pace. On the climb I notice I had picked up a rider that I can only call "yellow jersey". I never did get his name. Little did I know he would turn out to be a major reason to remember this race.

    I punch on down the undulating road not saying a thing to yellow jersey. He just quietly follows and says nothing in return. I test him once or twice but he doesn't budge. He's strong. What's he up to? Eventually he pulls around on his own and waves me to his wheel. He says "let's take our time and catch this next group. What do you say?" I nod and agree. Our pace remains unchanged for a time and we pass another group. By now we start catching the slower riders doing the shorter 30km race so they're mixed in with those of our enduro as well. We're weaving in and out of traffic and yellow jersey does his best to recruit new help. With each group we pass he waves people on and before long we do have a couple more guys. Yellow jersey is in charge and quite good at it.

    Before long our group is 9 riders strong and we're having some trouble getting organized. Two riders in particular that we picked up are not sure on how the rotation works and are at the front dodging potholes. This obviously causes the group to loosen up and/or weave. By now I'm at the back with yellow jersey resting up but yellow jersey is getting frustrated. To be honest, I was just getting nervous. One second you'd be a foot from the guy next to you and the next you'd be bumping shoulders. It was nerve-racking to say the least, especially since we were now on a paved section at speed. Yellow jersey looks over at me like he wants to fix this. Personally, with no offense to the two guys in front, I'd have been happy to leave them at the back or behind all together.

    For now, yellow jersey is trapped against the outside edge of the road so he cuts in, between the two lines of riders, making his way to the front. He's going down the middle. Straight off, I don't like the looks of this. The group is far too unstable. We had picked up a cyclocross rider earlier on and he's directly in front of me. He's a tall (well over 6ft) skinny guy riding the biggest Ridley CX frame I'd ever seen and judging by the number of times I saw him shake his head he's just as annoyed or nervous as I am with the two in front. He double takes when he sees yellow jersey crawling up the middle. He's thinking the same thing as me. It's not a good idea. Yellow jersey's intention, I believe, is to tell the two at the front to go back because as he reaches the first of the two, he points to his back wheel. At that same instant I notice another pothole coming and and its coming fast. We're now on a downward slope and nipping 50kph. Right then I see CX guy break left and I just start to follow him. He knows what's coming too. As I yell "Hold your line!!" to the guys in front, the pothole dodger nails yellow jersey's front wheel. Yellow jersey is going down sideways and over the bars in this mess and I'm on the brakes hard just behind and slightly left.

    My left foot comes out and I'm riding my front wheel, one-footed waiting for the worst. Yellow jersey is screaming as he goes down hard and there is a terrible scraping sound I'm unfamiliar with. Some of it is his bike but there is more to it. It seems to go on forever but I can't look to see what it is. I'm completely preoccupied with my own situation at present. I'm far more fortunate than my partner and my back wheel slams down to the ground. The rider who was just behind yellow jersey rides clean over top of him and his ride and you hear both his tires puncture as he does so. Our once small group is now scattered across the full width of the road and, within literally feet, we've dropped our speed to less than walking pace. It's total chaos. We're all in the big-ring-small-cog combination and people are facing in all directions. Everyone is clicking down through the gears so that we can stay upright with exception to yellow jersey and the dude who ran him over. This is one of the worst crashes I've seen in a long time.

    I pull back around as I'm only about 20 ft in front of him asking if he's ok. I'm ready to stop my race right here to help this guy. It was that bad. He's laying flat on his back across the road, a little in shock, telling me he's fine and to move on. I look left back up the road in the direction we were headed and the entire group is taking off aside from myself and CX guy. I look right again and now yellow jersey is half sitting up waving his arm at me and CX guy to go. Buddy in the background with him is pulling at his bike trying to get them apart but they're stuck together. Yellow jersey yells "don't let them catch you!!" pointing up the road behind where a large group of riders was fast approaching. With that, CX guy and I take off. I look back one more time before I'm too far and ask, "Are you sure you're ok?". Again he waves us on to go. I felt terrible. I felt as though I was leaving a dying buddy behind in a foreign land.

    CX guy and I are both shaken up by the experience and discuss the event. It turns out that the unfamiliar sound that I was hearing was yellow jersey's helmet on the pavement. Since I'm fairly new to the whole road thing (only really started into it last year) I'd never heard that sound before and don't wish to hear it again thank you very much. So now it's CX guy and myself catching our recently defunct group and before long the riders within it were clinging. I'm normally very quiet when around people I don't know but it's quickly becoming too close for comfort again. I yell out to the guy in front to hold his line. Ok, maybe with a few added choice words in there to get my point across. I was, after all, still stinging from the event and a little bummed they just rode off. CX guy is next to me and yells out, "let's not let that happen again boys!" but there is little change. I decide to try and snap this elastic. My plan was to get to the front and stay on the pedals hard while paying close attention to my heart rate. I know what I can hold and for how long. If they stayed with me, fine, if not, then I'm gone.

    I find a false flat to launch from and almost immediately the group is in single file. I even surprise CX guy and he's out of the saddle picking up the pace. I hoped he would stay with me but for now I just wanted away from the danger. 5 minutes into the hard pace the entire group is broken apart except for me and CX guy. Perfect. I couldn't have planned it better if I tried. Between breaths I ask if he'd like a turn. He's in better shape than me and takes over and I find myself with yet another great partner. We're now in and out of singletrack sections and farm lanes before I see a group come up with, yet again, Mark. "How do you do that??" I ask as I laugh. He laughs as well and it's then that I notice who's on his wheel. Carlo! The guy I lost after his chain fell off is smiling from ear to ear. It's unbelievable really. All the cool guys I met over the course of the day so far were all together in a tight group of four. How freaking cool. By now we're fully mixed with the riders of both the 60 and 30k races and there is no telling who is who. All I know is that I have a tight group and could so see riding with these fine folks on a regular basis outside the P to A. The unfortunate thing is that we're only together for the length of time it takes us to finish the 60k.

    Our situation remains largely unchanged now to the end. We're being passed by some riders of the 30k race with lots of legs left and passing many from the 60k race who are coming apart. I am, in all honesty, starting to feel the effects of this enduro when we hit the last 5k marker. Carlo warns me about the climb to the finish and tells me to save a little something for that so I do. The last 5k are taken with steady cadence and on occasion he lets me know when the rest sections are (some twisty downhill sections) before we're climbing again. Before long we're on the last climb. I keep a steady flow and just continue on at my own tempo. The crowd at the top is cheering their respective friends or family on and, perhaps, just all the riders in general. It's getting loud and my first outing is nearing its end.

    Creeping along, I look behind. Something I see catches my attention. I double take. I'm floored by the sight. CX guy is next to me as I say quite loudly "Nooo WAY!!" %#$king yellow jersey was 20 feet behind us and closing fast. I hear CX guy say "WTF?" under his breath and I'm asking a smiling (on the verge of laughing actually) yellow jersey if he's alright. He says his left hand isn't working, his hip is sore and his arm is pretty bad but he didn't want to stop. I laugh in disbelief. How the hell did he catch us after that? I pull off the clean line. I want him to have it. He deserves it. I struggle up the center of the climb through all the washout and CX does the same. Yellow jersey thanks us both and passes with loads of strength. CX guy is laughing. He so can't believe it either. After that horrible crash we were both convinced his day was over. I know for a fact that mine would have been. It was terrible.

    At the summit we all cross somewhat together. The crowd is cheering the riders still finishing and you can hear the scanners beeping away as they pick up the signals from our timing chips. Mark somehow gained a little time on us as he's already up there with his helmet off and comes over to shake our hands. He's all smiles, says thanks, good race and he's gone. Carlo just behind taps me on the shoulder and puts a fist out for a knuckle-bump. It's congrats all around and he's off as well. Great guy. Now, CX and I (the only two of the four involved in the pileup) are looking around for yellow jersey. As we scan we ask each other "Can you believe that guy?". I have a feeling, judging by his performance at the end, he would have dropped us clean at the 10k mark for sure. Very strong indeed. With CX's height advantage he ins't long finding yellow jersey and we march over. By now he's with some buddies looking over his wounds. He sees us coming and lift his good arm to wave. He's smiling. CX and I congratulate him on his finish and tell his friends the whole story. We're so incredibly impressed he finished. Up close, his hand is swollen and his elbow straight up to his forearm looks like fresh ground beef. Everyone encourages him to go to medical right away. His jersey is torn at the shoulder too but he says nothing hurts there.

    I chat a few minutes longer before saying adios to my final two Paris to Ancaster riding buddies and, as I was this morning, both on the road up here and many times along the course, I'm alone again. I get to the car and lay in a small patch of grass in front of it eating a banana. Leaning on a tree I feel something in my Camelbak. I forgot my camera was in there so I decide to take the one and only shot of the day (below). I love the shot because it captures everything nicely - my ride, and because I'm relatively spent, my leg just hangs limp on the bottom edge. I didn't even look through the viewfinder. I just hit the button and maybe that's why I like it too.

    Checking the site today I find that my official race time was 2:22:16 (this obviously doesn't reflect the stops), finishing 240th out of 944 entrants in the full 60k enduro. Not bad for the first MTB ride of the year. The time means nothing to me though. What's important to me is that I was blown away by this event. I can't remember the last time I was this excited about something and continued to glow about it for days afterward. Had my time been any different my finish wouldn't have been as perfect as it was either. What better way to cross the line than with the 5 dudes that helped you get there. Unbelievable finish. Truly unbelievable finish.

    So, in closing, my season is off to an amazing start and I've passed the first test. My next race is on May 1st and I'm already booked. I assure you that I will stick to my game plan and attend with or without friends, rain or shine. Will the rest of my season live up to the P to A experience?? Stay tuned to the Passion board to find out. Maybe, just maybe, I'll type another one of these crazy things before too long. If anyone reads them ;-/

    Ska!
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    Here's my crummy, slow-going blog The Slow Spoke if you're interested.

  2. #2
    mtbr member
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    MTBR doesn't like short messages - 10!

  3. #3
    I like Squishy Bikes
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    HeII Yeah

    Good Job!
    A dirty book is rarely dusty

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    Great read! thanks

  5. #5
    Sharp rocks hurt...
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    Good job!

    Nice wright up, makes me want to go ride. 10 out of 10!

  6. #6
    wg
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    Incredible. You keep on typing up these crazy things. We'll keep reading 'em.

    Good observation:
    "It's such a refreshing feeling in the bike community that for the vast majority of times you can just start talking to anyone and it's like an old lost pal."

    Thanks!
    Don't harsh my mello

  7. #7
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    nice narrative; good picture composition. A.

  8. #8
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    Good job! Whoa...

    MTBR has a handful of great writers, but you have just bumped the bar up a few notches. Another 10 from me.

    Tom
    The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas.

  9. #9
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    excellent writeup! long is great with writing like yours.
    keep 'em coming.


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    That was an awesome read. I found myself smiling at more than one point and even said the occasional "holy cow" out loud.

    This is the reason I frequent the passion board. With spring just starting you'd think we would be seeing plenty of write-ups and ride reports. Unfortunately there has been a shortage lately and this one came just in time.

    Thanks for the amazing story, please keep em' coming!

    -Danimal

  11. #11
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    Great read.

    The whole time I was reading I had visions of pedals and cranks spinning. So happy I took 30 minutes (in between working) to read that!
    Take the long cut, we'll get there eventually.

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    Magnificent!

    It has been such a long time since we have had something so good on MTBR.
    Thanks

  13. #13
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    It has been a long time since you posted a "passion" story...thanks for bringing us back to those days. Great finish and great write up!

    Scott
    SORBA-Woodstock Diggin' dirt since 1999.

  14. #14
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    thanks for that... great story - great ride!

  15. #15
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    Beautiful! That'll definitely a top-ten for 2005.
    When the going gets weird its bedtime.

  16. #16
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    Passion at it's best. Freakin' awesome post Ska! Congrats on the finish - and congrats to your "riding buddies" on their finish.
    Randy

  17. #17
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    Thank You.
    Dan C.
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    Mountain Biking.....Cheaper than a mistress.

  18. #18
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    Now THIS is why I come here..

    to read great stuff like that. Nice work!!
    If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough. -- Mario Andretti

  19. #19
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    Great story. just awesome. i look forward to more. thanks and truly inspiring.

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    Sweet read!

    Thanks. I don't usually read crazy long ones, but that was great.

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    Awesome !! Thanks for sharing, man !!

    NY

  22. #22
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    now that's passion!!

    Great reading! That makes me want to go out and ride even more. My first race is a little more than a month away and now I am even more stoked. Keep ridin' and writin' and we'll keep ridin' and readin'.
    Isisrider

  23. #23
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    Thanks for the great afternoon passion hit. Oldschool fo sho.

    Coupla questions: How'd you miss the guy that went down in front of you coming off the pavement up the embankment? Did you jump clear over him? That must've been cool to watch for any spectators.

    I've only raced one mtb race and no road races. Is the drafting and teaming up with other riders pretty common for mtb races, or did this longer more open race just lend itself to more roadie type tactics. Very cool how your four race comrades kept coming together. Hopefully one or all of them will read your post and introduce themselves here.
    I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth...
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  24. #24
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    Yeah, that was kind of old school.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ska!
    All I can hope is that I'm not too rusty at this and that the words I choose to form my sentences take you along for the ride. I hope you feel being there or, at the very least, I help you through your workday.
    Ska!
    Yeah, you did what you hoped.

    Thanks for the read. Very enjoyable.
    Don't you ever, don't you ever, stop being dandy showing me you're handsome.

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    thanks!

    An eloquent look inside your head man. It's amazing how much is seared into memory when racing.

    Nicely done, and thanks again for sharing.

    Angelo

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by KRob
    Thanks for the great afternoon passion hit. Oldschool fo sho.

    Coupla questions: How'd you miss the guy that went down in front of you coming off the pavement up the embankment? Did you jump clear over him? That must've been cool to watch for any spectators.

    I've only raced one mtb race and no road races. Is the drafting and teaming up with other riders pretty common for mtb races, or did this longer more open race just lend itself to more roadie type tactics. Very cool how your four race comrades kept coming together. Hopefully one or all of them will read your post and introduce themselves here.
    Oh, God no! I definitely didn't launch over him. On the contrary actually. I kept my bike from coming off the ground as much as possible so that I could make the sharper right hand turn to avoid his bike that was in front of me. He was off the side of the trail and nowhere near where I was headed.

    As for the "roadie" tactics, you hit the nail on the head. The wide open space and longer road-type sections were perfect for that type of approach to the race. In this case, it works great.

    Ska!
    Here's my crummy, slow-going blog The Slow Spoke if you're interested.

  27. #27
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    Thanks everyone for the very kind words. It was such a great day I just had to share it.

    Cheers,
    Ska!
    Here's my crummy, slow-going blog The Slow Spoke if you're interested.

  28. #28
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    That's one of those stories that gets your heart rate up just reading it! Congrats on the great race and thanks for the well-written tale.

    Kathy :^)
    Look where you want to go. This is as true in life as it is in mtbiking.

  29. #29
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    Excellent!

    Ska, that was excellent! I felt like I was right there, floating along, watching the whole thing. Most excellent post. Superb even!!
    Old Phart

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    so awesome! thank you!

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    Most excellent reporting.
    Where is this epic race held?

  32. #32
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    Ahhh...yes. I was right there in that event with you. Great post !! Loved it.



    R.

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    Your story has inspired me...... I'm in for the Paris to Ancaster next spring.
    it tied the room together man!

  34. #34
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    great story Ska!

  35. #35
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    Thanks for the monday motivation! Great read!

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    Great write-up! Perfect description of the course....I smiled through the whole write up with many of the exact same visions (although my last 10 km was leg cramp [email protected]) You beat me by about 8 minutes. Good race. I had a little conversation with "yellow jersey" when he went by me at about the 5km mark. When he said he thought he had broken his wrist or hand, I thought "Wow! am I ever a wimp complaining to myself about my legs and here is a guy flying past me on only one wing!" Congrats

  37. #37
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    Best Passion hit of 2005 so far.
    excellent write up! great story and ride! you need to post more often.
    Thanks.
    Richmond, VA
    Ra-MORE mtb club

  38. #38
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    That was, without a doubt, the best write up that I have read in very, very long time. Congratulations on an excellent, first race of the season. Continued good luck on your campaign. RL

  39. #39
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    Thanks for a great read Ska. You got me all amped up for my first race of the season.

    Thanks again for a great passion piece.

  40. #40
    Ska
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    Quote Originally Posted by Airbusboy
    Great write-up! Perfect description of the course....I smiled through the whole write up with many of the exact same visions (although my last 10 km was leg cramp [email protected]) You beat me by about 8 minutes. Good race. I had a little conversation with "yellow jersey" when he went by me at about the 5km mark. When he said he thought he had broken his wrist or hand, I thought "Wow! am I ever a wimp complaining to myself about my legs and here is a guy flying past me on only one wing!" Congrats

    I so know where you're coming from. I couldn't believe how quick he was coming up on us on that final climb. More than that, I couldn't believe he kept going at all after that fall! Tough guy for sure.

    The last 10k seemed to go on forever didn't it? 8 minutes down? Sounds like you had a great race too! What was the state of the burning cars when you went by? They must have been pretty charred.

    Looks like Spec. Img. got a shot of me somewhere out on the course. At least now I've got more than one ;-)

    Thanks again for reading everyone!

    Ska!
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    Here's my crummy, slow-going blog The Slow Spoke if you're interested.

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    You are welcome anytime to post as a featured guest on my site www.bigringcircus.blogspot.com
    Aside from good-nautred mockery and abuse, its just a place to celebrate THE RIDE, and your story really comes from the gut. Thanks
    Quote Originally Posted by Ska!
    Well, it's been a while since I've posted anything true to what the Passion message board was originally designed (not that I was ever any good at it) but I figured I'd do it again for a change - I have, after all, had a good enough riding experience very recently to merit one of my long winded tales. I used to enjoy putting my riding experiences and thoughts to words and passing them on to those who visit the site, but, long and busy hours, and a vastly different home-life have restricted my time to type such entries, let alone post much of anything on the board. All I can hope is that I'm not too rusty at this and that the words I choose to form my sentences take you along for the ride. I hope you feel being there or, at the very least, I help you through your workday.

    Here goes.

    Last year's ride season ended quietly, in fact, it barely even took off really. It's easy for those of you who live in my neck of the world to remember last season with its rain-soaked days along with what seemed a year-long chill in the air. No, it didn't stop many from riding completely but it did wear on us. Races were cancelled on a regular basis. Trails were often closed due to damage caused by runoff or, if they were open, were too soggy to pass anyway. Last season officially became one to forget when our group's yearly migration further north for the 24hr race was cancelled (due to bankruptcy of Adrenaline and other complications). It truly felt as though the summer had come and gone and I'd reverted back to my old high school days of sitting on the sofa playing videogames, eating pizza and the biggest worry in life for many was not to spill the bong water.... Ok, ok it wasn't quite that bad. I did log a lot of road miles but it just wasn't the same for me. My mountain bike season had come and gone and I felt I had missed out - huge.

    I stewed over the winter about it in the back of my mind while keeping busy with home renovations. My thoughts did, on occasion, slip from somewhere in my head to the tip of my tongue and I'd vent to my wife or a riding buddy. It's amazing how important riding a bike is to me when I think about it. Around the time my frustrations began to peak and my withdrawals from the bike were unbearable, my father had a heart attack (It's ok, he's fine now after successful surgery). Genetics are strong on that side of the family. I was tested for a multitude of blood related conditions and the findings (as I began to suspect) were not looking good. Not all the news from my doctor's mouth was negative however. The one thing he strongly encouraged was to "keep riding that bike!". Some of my numbers were so good in fact that by the end of the final checkup I was at the lowest end of the risk assessment chart for heart disease. The good numbers actually countered the effects of the poor results. All this, he says, "...is directly related to what you do for fun...". So tell me - isn't that the greatest thing you've ever heard?? My instructions at this point were simple. "Change your diet and nothing else." I've always been pretty good with my diet but the situation I was in (there's a lot more to the story than just my dad's H.A.) put the fear in me and now I was on a mission. The books on the subject came out and what I was no longer "allowed" to eat went straight into the bin. What this also did was cement the idea that this year, without any excuses, I would ride more miles than I have ever ridden in one season and spend more time in the saddle than before as well. No rain, no sleet, lack of riding buddies no... whatever, would keep me from riding. This is the year that I would make up for the last...and so it begins.

    It was about a 2 months ago now that I told myself my season would officially begin on April 17th. On that day, a popular race known around here as the Paris to Ancaster is held and I knew I would attend. It's known for being unpredictable in that the weather could change from snow, to sleet, to rain, to sunshine, to all of the above in one outing. I didn't care. I was now on my mission. In a technical sense the race is nothing to cringe at as it consists of a mix of singletrack (nothing really harry), rail-trail, gravel road, paved road and farm lanes to link the two towns together. What makes it difficult however is, as mentioned, the weather, the mud, its time (with respect to its proximity to the "start" of riding season) and its total distance of 60km (roughly 40 miles). Add to that the number of riders registered (around 1000 for the 60k enduro portion) all in a bunch start and it becomes interesting to say the least. I had never experienced it for myself but had heard novels about it from others - some good, some bad. This, I thought, would be my first test.

    I chose it to open my season. I mention it to a few friends and some decline right away. Some wait a while but in the end I find myself signed up alone. I have no issues with this actually. So far I'm passing my test. I hadn't gotten out much prior in preparation (only a handful of km on my mtb down the road before the race to make sure everything was working right) but I did manage to make it out for a few road rides before my official opening day. I felt good but at this time of year I'm more like a donkey than a race horse.

    By April 17th my new diet (change of lifestyle actually) had me down 29 %#&king pounds I didn't know I had and my 5'10" carcase is down to 158lbs. WTF?? I lost more than my bike's weight! I was completely blown away when it started happening. I was worried at first because I've never looked heavy like that. I didn't know where this weight was going. It didn't show but the scale didn't lie. I had my doc do a few tests to be sure. He was quite pleased with how seriously I was taking this and informed me that my numbers are already headed in the right direction. This weight thing is only going to help I thought. Now I was pumped.

    The 17th roled around and it was 5:45am. I question my sanity as the alarm goes off. For a split second I second guess myself. Up late the night before, tons of overtime during the week - give it up, go to sleep. I fight all temptations, sit up and wipe the sleep from my eyes. It's still completely dark out. I sit there a moment trying to figure things out. I don't see the hand coming up from under the blankets to touch my back. "Good luck... Have fun..." my wife says in a groggy voice. I get up slowly and whipser for her to go back to sleep. There's no response, she's already gone. I head down and grab a freshly brewed cup of dark-roast before jumping in the pre packed car. It's a 2hr drive to the event and I hit the road by 6 a.m. The whole trip up I struggle with sleep and slowly wake up with the sun. I get pumped thinking about what's coming. I'm excited. My season starts today and I feel I'm wasting no time. I'm already up and thiking bikes before the sun even arrived for its shift. Gotta love it.

    I arrive and I'm overwhelmed by the number of people already here. There's a ton. I park next to a guy who looks to be here alone as well. I ask a few questions and it turns out he's done this event 7 times. Perfect! A veteran. He's more than happy to instruct the "green guy" (me) as to what to do and where to do it. In the end, I'm registered, my bike is piled onto one of 4 or 5 cube vans along with what must be 200 bikes. We all jump onto a bus for a 25 minute drive to the start area. At the start, I wheel around and look for anyone I know and out of 1500 riders, I find no one. This is the first time I'm entered in an event of this size - alone. It felt kinda weird but again, I was pumped, and this is my new deal. In the start line I find my place and begin talking to some of the guys around me. It's such a refreshing feeling in the bike community that for the vast majority of times you can just start talking to anyone and it's like an old lost pal. The jokes fly and the laughs are on but underneath it all the nerves are mounting. The start is near and we can all feel it.

    The line is nearly 1000 strong (500 others on top of that are doing a shorter event) and the first couple hundred riders are off (pros. and O.C. registered). They make the hard left out of the start area and we all watch them in envy head up the paved climb. We're up next and my heartrate increases on it's own. Everyone around me wishes everyone luck and from this point on we're all business. "Click", "click", "tap", "thump", "click" The sound of the hundreds of riders around me all getting one foot clicked in ready for the start. You know what it's like.

    We get the go ahead and the dash is on. 800 or so riders all at once. We sprint off the line like it's a 100 meter dash all fighting for the best position. It's important to remember that there are 600 100 meter dashes though ;-) The slight climb right off the bat slows some and allows me to climb ahead of at least 40 or 50 riders. The veteran described the start to me in great detail and warned me about the right hander at the top onto a gravel road. He also warned me about how this year is the driest he's ever seen it. "It should get nice a dusty!" He laughs.

    I approach the crest of the climb. The pack is taking up the full width of the road and it's long as hell stretching out behind and in front. Thankfully though, mostly behind. I look over my shoulder to make sure I'm clear. I cut left to minimize the need to reduced speed for the sharp right hand turn. On the turn I make up a few more positions and now there are literally hundreds of rider headed straight down a dusty gravel road on a slight downhill. The speed is up there and the dust is overwhelming. My eyes fill with it and I can already taste it. My black Sidi's are turning white and my glasses are getting hard to see through. All around me you can hear the "ting" "ping" from bits of gravel being thrown up and hitting downtubes, seat posts, handle bars, rims and God knows what else. I even get the occasional stones off the face but I don't let the stones and dust deter me from making up a few more positions on the way down. Where I see opportunity, I take it. Before long we're onto the first of the rail trail sections and I start to make up more ground. It's either two bikes wide or double tracked so there is ample room for passing. Jockeying for positions at this point is never ending. Everyone is passing or being passed and it's running like a well-oiled machine. No hot heads. I'm averaging 31km/h (about 20mph) here and hold that for a good 10 minutes.

    Slowly I make it up to another group of riders I'd been chasing a short while and in that group is a familiar grey jersey. It's one of the guys who was standing next to me in the start area. I look over as I pass and say "Hey, right on! You made it through all that eh?". He laughs and acknowledges and I keep on at my own steady pace. I'm passing riders and occasionally hop on someone's wheel for a bit before they power off and away from me or vice-versa. I think to myself that I'm already having fun and I'd be totally content if the entire race was like this. Just a smooth steady pace all the way to Ancaster! I look over my shoulder to see if I need to let anyone by and I soon see someone on my wheel. I pull to the right and they don't pass. They follow me to the right. I look again and it turns out it's the grey jersey. I laugh and ask how long he'd been there and it turns out he hopped on as I went by the first group he was in. It's then that I jokingly say "Well, if we're going to work together here, I might as well know your name!". His name is Mark and I can tell he's a super nice guy. We make the intro short and we're back to business. This time, he's in front for a while. It isn't long before we're rotating shifts and making up ground. For at least the first 20minutes Mark and I are together working until a gravel road section saw me start to move on. I held up momentarily but I began to lose my rhythm. I had no choice at that time but to leave him.

    I hammered on alone grabbing wheels of passers by and passing more riders myself until, on one climb, I caught a group surprisingly quickly. It was a group of about five riders and as I passed I saw one of them pull out. I continued on thinking perhaps he'd fall off but he didn't. "Grabbing a wheel?" I say between breaths. A quick answer back suggests he's concerned I'm bothered by this. "I promise I'll work for you as soon as I get my legs back?", he replies. I am certainly not the type of guy to get mad about that sort of thing and I'm just glad to have some company whether he worked or not. I respond back "Oh, man, don't worry about anything. Do what you gotta do. Don't worry.". I felt kinda bad. I must have come off sounding harsh because of my breathing. Regardless, he stayed with me up three consecutive climbs holding my wheel through the high-speed flats as well. I was, in all honesty, starting to hurt when finally, from the dude behind, I hear, "Just move over when you're ready for a break.". He barely finished his sentence and I was over to the side waiting for him to pass.

    He comes through, straight as an arrow, pats me on the shoulder and thanks me for the help. He definitely appreciated it because the speed we were now going on the flat was proof positive that his legs were back. He could most definitely have left me there high and dry but he checked his shoulder often to be sure I was still there with him. I was suffering a little but I was recovering well enough. Now I was totally appreciative. He holds the front a while and now we're making up ground quickly again. Every so often we pass riders off on the shoulders of the road or side of the trails stricken by punctures or other mechanicals and now, as with Mark we're functioning as a unit. Again intros are made and this guy's name is Carlo. Yet another GREAT guy. True to his word and I immediately respected him for that.

    We kick off of the gravel road onto our first singletrack together and I lead us in. We make it through quickly and unscathed until we hit a paved section of all things. We crest a hill and we're flying at about 50km/hr down the other side when his chain pops off out of nowhere. He waves me on to not bother with him and to continue on. Through his cursing I tell him I'd hold up for a bit to see if he catches up. I did but, at the top of the next climb, I look back and he's nowhere to be seen. It looks as though I've lost yet another friend.

    Coming to grips with this realization I press on - alone. Again I latch onto a few passing riders and pick up a few temporary followers. I reach the top of another small hill off a narrow fire road and see a police cruiser at the bottom who has stopped traffic. We need to cross a small two-lane highway to reach the next section of trail which snakes along parallel to the highway on the opposite side. The pace here is high and the riders are stretched out in single file for almost as far as you can see. There are no groups. The speed is too great and it's increasing. The singletrack is quickly approaching anyway. We cross the highway and the car traffic mirrors the bike traffic. It's stretched out too. I can just imagine what they're thinking. A rider about 40ft in front of me sets the tempo. There is no reason to panic because we're on the verge of singletrack again and way up ahead you can see some congestion. We're all going to be together soon anyway.

    The tempo coming across the road is high and we edge the side of the road before a short 6 or 7 foot incline launches you up to the singletrack on the top edge of the embankment. My King hub buzzes madly as I coast momentarily bracing for the hill I'm about to hit at speed. Just then, the dude in front of me totally misreads the line and his rear wheel is up. He hits the dirt hard and his bike completely blocks my line. My turn to the right is now going to be twice as sharp but the problem is, it's directly after the jump. My plans change quickly and I stretch out slightly ready to absorb as much of the embankment as possible. It's far too late for brakes. This is exactly like it used to be in my days of BMX racing. "Keep the rubber in contact with the dirt as much as possible if you want to make it through!". My old coach used to say. Pretty tough to convince young guys to keep from show-boating on the jumps. In this case the old technique (obviously still used) saves me. I soak up most of the hill and my launch is more distance than height. At the same instant I flick my left leg straight down ready to put all my weight on it. My bike is angled nicely into the turn and I'm centered. I wait for the landing and pray the knobbies on the side of my tires will bite enough to keep me upright. Luckily, they do. I feel them both slide slightly but I stay put and trust it. I am without doubt on the very limit. Brakes at this point would send me to the ground in a heap. Before long (as obviously this all took place in less than a few seconds) I'm back in full "comfortable" control. I look back quickly to see a big puff of dust where I landed and slid slightly and just beyond that I see the rider behind me run clean into the bike laying across the good line. Now there's traffic there. People were scrambling to get through. Jeez that was close.

    Straight ahead I run into the first of the congested areas. We're all off the bikes cyclocross style crossing small, deep ditches and running up and down embankments. Down the first, up the second, on the bike, off again, through mud, back on the bike. It went on for a bit and I was thoroughly enjoying this new experience. It was then that I first noticed the billowing black smoke. The smoke wasn't your typical black smoke from wood fire or anything. It was the thick, dark black sh!t you get when hydrocarbons are burning. By now the traffic was way backed up and I had suspicions as to what the source was. As we come up on it my suspicions were right. Someone had been watching the race unfold and not watching the road ahead of them. The inevitable happened at that point. A huge rear-ender saw a van half on top of a yellow pickup truck in the woods and both were on fire. I yell over and ask if everyone is out and no one answers. One rider behind me does however and says "Forget it...I'm sure they are." I completely ignore him because the last thing you want to do in this type of situation is assume anything. I pull off and call over to a teary-eyed woman and ask if anyone is still in the vehicles. I don't leave until she tells me no. It's then that I hear the sirens approaching and I feel content. I would have never been able to live with myself had I found out someone was trapped with no one to help - because we assumed everyone was out.

    Riders are still flying by and I lost a bit of time but I'm not in the least bothered by it. I hop back on my ride and find a gap to jump in. My rhythm returns smoothly once again when I suddenly hear my name. I look back and it's Mark (the grey jersey) again. I'm very excited to see him and glad he caught back up again. Before long the race is help up a minute to allow for emergency vehicles to go by. One of the riders forced to wait is getting a little hot - more concerned with his time than the safety of others. A few other riders tell him to shut the hell up. In the end, he does. In life there are far more important things than a position on a race list. Mark and I chat and work together again through singletrack and dirt road. He admits his legs are going after a time and he'd catch me later. After what I saw him do, I had no doubt he would.

    Alone yet again I pick up the pace a little. On the next climb I'm out of the saddle and lifting the tempo even more. I pull hard on my bars feverishly pumping up the hill. I can feel the acid building up in my legs and it hurts a little but I press on. I pass many here and I can feel my steel ride flexing slightly under the strain. It's a beautiful thing indeed. By the time I reach the top I'm actually going faster than I had been on the flat section at the bottom and I'm relieved to see that it's back to gravel again for a while. I can now try and recover. I find that comfortable rhythm as in my longer road rides at home and check to make sure my heart rate is good. This is my pace. On the climb I notice I had picked up a rider that I can only call "yellow jersey". I never did get his name. Little did I know he would turn out to be a major reason to remember this race.

    I punch on down the undulating road not saying a thing to yellow jersey. He just quietly follows and says nothing in return. I test him once or twice but he doesn't budge. He's strong. What's he up to? Eventually he pulls around on his own and waves me to his wheel. He says "let's take our time and catch this next group. What do you say?" I nod and agree. Our pace remains unchanged for a time and we pass another group. By now we start catching the slower riders doing the shorter 30km race so they're mixed in with those of our enduro as well. We're weaving in and out of traffic and yellow jersey does his best to recruit new help. With each group we pass he waves people on and before long we do have a couple more guys. Yellow jersey is in charge and quite good at it.

    Before long our group is 9 riders strong and we're having some trouble getting organized. Two riders in particular that we picked up are not sure on how the rotation works and are at the front dodging potholes. This obviously causes the group to loosen up and/or weave. By now I'm at the back with yellow jersey resting up but yellow jersey is getting frustrated. To be honest, I was just getting nervous. One second you'd be a foot from the guy next to you and the next you'd be bumping shoulders. It was nerve-racking to say the least, especially since we were now on a paved section at speed. Yellow jersey looks over at me like he wants to fix this. Personally, with no offense to the two guys in front, I'd have been happy to leave them at the back or behind all together.

    For now, yellow jersey is trapped against the outside edge of the road so he cuts in, between the two lines of riders, making his way to the front. He's going down the middle. Straight off, I don't like the looks of this. The group is far too unstable. We had picked up a cyclocross rider earlier on and he's directly in front of me. He's a tall (well over 6ft) skinny guy riding the biggest Ridley CX frame I'd ever seen and judging by the number of times I saw him shake his head he's just as annoyed or nervous as I am with the two in front. He double takes when he sees yellow jersey crawling up the middle. He's thinking the same thing as me. It's not a good idea. Yellow jersey's intention, I believe, is to tell the two at the front to go back because as he reaches the first of the two, he points to his back wheel. At that same instant I notice another pothole coming and and its coming fast. We're now on a downward slope and nipping 50kph. Right then I see CX guy break left and I just start to follow him. He knows what's coming too. As I yell "Hold your line!!" to the guys in front, the pothole dodger nails yellow jersey's front wheel. Yellow jersey is going down sideways and over the bars in this mess and I'm on the brakes hard just behind and slightly left.

    My left foot comes out and I'm riding my front wheel, one-footed waiting for the worst. Yellow jersey is screaming as he goes down hard and there is a terrible scraping sound I'm unfamiliar with. Some of it is his bike but there is more to it. It seems to go on forever but I can't look to see what it is. I'm completely preoccupied with my own situation at present. I'm far more fortunate than my partner and my back wheel slams down to the ground. The rider who was just behind yellow jersey rides clean over top of him and his ride and you hear both his tires puncture as he does so. Our once small group is now scattered across the full width of the road and, within literally feet, we've dropped our speed to less than walking pace. It's total chaos. We're all in the big-ring-small-cog combination and people are facing in all directions. Everyone is clicking down through the gears so that we can stay upright with exception to yellow jersey and the dude who ran him over. This is one of the worst crashes I've seen in a long time.

    I pull back around as I'm only about 20 ft in front of him asking if he's ok. I'm ready to stop my race right here to help this guy. It was that bad. He's laying flat on his back across the road, a little in shock, telling me he's fine and to move on. I look left back up the road in the direction we were headed and the entire group is taking off aside from myself and CX guy. I look right again and now yellow jersey is half sitting up waving his arm at me and CX guy to go. Buddy in the background with him is pulling at his bike trying to get them apart but they're stuck together. Yellow jersey yells "don't let them catch you!!" pointing up the road behind where a large group of riders was fast approaching. With that, CX guy and I take off. I look back one more time before I'm too far and ask, "Are you sure you're ok?". Again he waves us on to go. I felt terrible. I felt as though I was leaving a dying buddy behind in a foreign land.

    CX guy and I are both shaken up by the experience and discuss the event. It turns out that the unfamiliar sound that I was hearing was yellow jersey's helmet on the pavement. Since I'm fairly new to the whole road thing (only really started into it last year) I'd never heard that sound before and don't wish to hear it again thank you very much. So now it's CX guy and myself catching our recently defunct group and before long the riders within it were clinging. I'm normally very quiet when around people I don't know but it's quickly becoming too close for comfort again. I yell out to the guy in front to hold his line. Ok, maybe with a few added choice words in there to get my point across. I was, after all, still stinging from the event and a little bummed they just rode off. CX guy is next to me and yells out, "let's not let that happen again boys!" but there is little change. I decide to try and snap this elastic. My plan was to get to the front and stay on the pedals hard while paying close attention to my heart rate. I know what I can hold and for how long. If they stayed with me, fine, if not, then I'm gone.

    I find a false flat to launch from and almost immediately the group is in single file. I even surprise CX guy and he's out of the saddle picking up the pace. I hoped he would stay with me but for now I just wanted away from the danger. 5 minutes into the hard pace the entire group is broken apart except for me and CX guy. Perfect. I couldn't have planned it better if I tried. Between breaths I ask if he'd like a turn. He's in better shape than me and takes over and I find myself with yet another great partner. We're now in and out of singletrack sections and farm lanes before I see a group come up with, yet again, Mark. "How do you do that??" I ask as I laugh. He laughs as well and it's then that I notice who's on his wheel. Carlo! The guy I lost after his chain fell off is smiling from ear to ear. It's unbelievable really. All the cool guys I met over the course of the day so far were all together in a tight group of four. How freaking cool. By now we're fully mixed with the riders of both the 60 and 30k races and there is no telling who is who. All I know is that I have a tight group and could so see riding with these fine folks on a regular basis outside the P to A. The unfortunate thing is that we're only together for the length of time it takes us to finish the 60k.

    Our situation remains largely unchanged now to the end. We're being passed by some riders of the 30k race with lots of legs left and passing many from the 60k race who are coming apart. I am, in all honesty, starting to feel the effects of this enduro when we hit the last 5k marker. Carlo warns me about the climb to the finish and tells me to save a little something for that so I do. The last 5k are taken with steady cadence and on occasion he lets me know when the rest sections are (some twisty downhill sections) before we're climbing again. Before long we're on the last climb. I keep a steady flow and just continue on at my own tempo. The crowd at the top is cheering their respective friends or family on and, perhaps, just all the riders in general. It's getting loud and my first outing is nearing its end.

    Creeping along, I look behind. Something I see catches my attention. I double take. I'm floored by the sight. CX guy is next to me as I say quite loudly "Nooo WAY!!" %#$king yellow jersey was 20 feet behind us and closing fast. I hear CX guy say "WTF?" under his breath and I'm asking a smiling (on the verge of laughing actually) yellow jersey if he's alright. He says his left hand isn't working, his hip is sore and his arm is pretty bad but he didn't want to stop. I laugh in disbelief. How the hell did he catch us after that? I pull off the clean line. I want him to have it. He deserves it. I struggle up the center of the climb through all the washout and CX does the same. Yellow jersey thanks us both and passes with loads of strength. CX guy is laughing. He so can't believe it either. After that horrible crash we were both convinced his day was over. I know for a fact that mine would have been. It was terrible.

    At the summit we all cross somewhat together. The crowd is cheering the riders still finishing and you can hear the scanners beeping away as they pick up the signals from our timing chips. Mark somehow gained a little time on us as he's already up there with his helmet off and comes over to shake our hands. He's all smiles, says thanks, good race and he's gone. Carlo just behind taps me on the shoulder and puts a fist out for a knuckle-bump. It's congrats all around and he's off as well. Great guy. Now, CX and I (the only two of the four involved in the pileup) are looking around for yellow jersey. As we scan we ask each other "Can you believe that guy?". I have a feeling, judging by his performance at the end, he would have dropped us clean at the 10k mark for sure. Very strong indeed. With CX's height advantage he ins't long finding yellow jersey and we march over. By now he's with some buddies looking over his wounds. He sees us coming and lift his good arm to wave. He's smiling. CX and I congratulate him on his finish and tell his friends the whole story. We're so incredibly impressed he finished. Up close, his hand is swollen and his elbow straight up to his forearm looks like fresh ground beef. Everyone encourages him to go to medical right away. His jersey is torn at the shoulder too but he says nothing hurts there.

    I chat a few minutes longer before saying adios to my final two Paris to Ancaster riding buddies and, as I was this morning, both on the road up here and many times along the course, I'm alone again. I get to the car and lay in a small patch of grass in front of it eating a banana. Leaning on a tree I feel something in my Camelbak. I forgot my camera was in there so I decide to take the one and only shot of the day (below). I love the shot because it captures everything nicely - my ride, and because I'm relatively spent, my leg just hangs limp on the bottom edge. I didn't even look through the viewfinder. I just hit the button and maybe that's why I like it too.

    Checking the site today I find that my official race time was 2:22:16 (this obviously doesn't reflect the stops), finishing 240th out of 944 entrants in the full 60k enduro. Not bad for the first MTB ride of the year. The time means nothing to me though. What's important to me is that I was blown away by this event. I can't remember the last time I was this excited about something and continued to glow about it for days afterward. Had my time been any different my finish wouldn't have been as perfect as it was either. What better way to cross the line than with the 5 dudes that helped you get there. Unbelievable finish. Truly unbelievable finish.

    So, in closing, my season is off to an amazing start and I've passed the first test. My next race is on May 1st and I'm already booked. I assure you that I will stick to my game plan and attend with or without friends, rain or shine. Will the rest of my season live up to the P to A experience?? Stay tuned to the Passion board to find out. Maybe, just maybe, I'll type another one of these crazy things before too long. If anyone reads them ;-/

    Ska!

  42. #42
    grasso e lento
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    Thanks Ska

    That was awesome... More old school stuff... Now if we could only get the old format back....


    -Dude
    If you wish to be out front, then act as if you are behind

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    Now that truly is passion...Thanks

  44. #44
    Ska
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    Funny how life, in some respects, can change very little. I stumbled across this old race report and inspired myself to do it again in April. I haven't done this particular race for a couple of years now; kids will do that to you............ I'd forgotten some of the finer details of that day but reading this old post has brought it all back. It was fun remembering. Makes me think that I should take more time to save some of these old stories somewhere as I've typed many that have been lost forever in the archives of the www. Maybe from now on I guess.

    God that was a great day. I'm signing up.
    Here's my crummy, slow-going blog The Slow Spoke if you're interested.

  45. #45
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    A great read! This could have been a 2009 race report. The spirit of MTB hasn't changed.
    I've been inspired to sign up for a 100km race in Feb that I've been umm-ing and ahh-ing about.
    Thanks!
    The twenty-nine inch wheel.

  46. #46
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    Still a great read Ska! I did the 2007 mudfest P to A, it was a defining moment for me too! I ended up snapping my rear derailleur and single speeding the last 4km, but I had a great time, even though I had entered alone too!
    This season was lots less than I expected, recovering from a broken ankle in Sept. of 2008, I didn't race at all, things still weren't working right so there wasn't much point in doing races. The ankle is fine now, so I've committed to doing some real training this winter and losing some pounds!! See you in Apirl!!

  47. #47
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    thanks for bringing this post back, great read....

  48. #48
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    That's a pretty flippin' classic post. Very inspiring in the beginnings of a long winter.....

  49. #49
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    that could be book that was a great story keep then coming
    Quote Originally Posted by craftworks750
    Riding a mtb is like a reset button, 10 mins in and there is nothing else in the world that matters.
    my bikes
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    Ben

  50. #50
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    I love it..was a good read for sure.

  51. #51
    Ska
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    Quote Originally Posted by langford
    Still a great read Ska! I did the 2007 mudfest P to A, it was a defining moment for me too! I ended up snapping my rear derailleur and single speeding the last 4km, but I had a great time, even though I had entered alone too!
    This season was lots less than I expected, recovering from a broken ankle in Sept. of 2008, I didn't race at all, things still weren't working right so there wasn't much point in doing races. The ankle is fine now, so I've committed to doing some real training this winter and losing some pounds!! See you in Apirl!!

    Awesome! Yeah, 2007 was different to 2005 in a big way. I was there as well. It's the last year I attended. I missed the 08 and 09 events - I was just too busy to get to it.

    Too bad about your ankle! Hope it all works out for you this year. Missing out on rides due to injury is the worst...... Good luck with the training and weight loss, bro. Hopefully you get out there and make up for lost time! :-)

    Cheers!

    Thanks for the kind words again folks. I'm getting psyched for this season.
    Here's my crummy, slow-going blog The Slow Spoke if you're interested.

  52. #52
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    Definitely like the good old days

    Geez, that brought back great memories of MTBR before the digital camera when you had to actually be able to write and discribe your passion.

    Thank you very much. It was worth the time to read and now I'm out of breath.

    Well Done!

  53. #53
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    Holy Crap Batman!

    I just realized this was posted in 2005. Wow, it aged well. I must have read it back than too.

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    Lol...

    I started reading away and thought 'WTF is he doing in Paris ON?' ...then I saw the post date.

    Where are you now? Jim - Bowen Island - off Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal

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    Man I'm glad you bumped this thread. Great read. I feel inspired for my next season now.

  56. #56
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    Awesome read!

  57. #57
    Ska
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimC.
    I started reading away and thought 'WTF is he doing in Paris ON?' ...then I saw the post date.

    Where are you now? Jim - Bowen Island - off Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal
    LOL...........Sorry about the confusion Jim and Rev I was just looking back at random old posts/threads and stumbled across one of my old ones. I knew what it was about but had forgotten what I'd actually typed. It was interesting to go back and read as I'd forgotten some of the stuff I'd experienced that day (some I hadn't and will never forget) and reading it really made me remember how good I felt at the end. I found it interesting as well how much some things are still exactly as they were then (love a good day out on the bike and when I want to go, nothing stops me, even if it means going alone) and how some other things have changed immensely (2 kids!!).

    In the end, I figured I'd do the race again this year. I'll be in search of that same feeling again I suppose and trying (as always) to beat my best time. I've had a few big rides and events planned already for next season but this one wasn't originally in the mix..............It is now! :-)
    Here's my crummy, slow-going blog The Slow Spoke if you're interested.

  58. #58
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    Wow, I really enjoyed reading that. Is winter over yet?

  59. #59
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    Great post. Only in the end did I see the original date of 2005. Timeless good vibes at races like these, or on mtbr group rides I've done in my area.

    Well written!
    Less f*cks to give every passing day, use them well. - geraldooka

  60. #60
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    Best post ever. I have never been so inspired to race XC. Wiffy aint going to like me buying another bike.

  61. #61
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    Epic

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    Aweessssommmeeeee read! Thanks for taking the time.

    Kenny
    John 3:16

  63. #63
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    Great post/story/inspirational take on your race. I was on the edge of my seat, you should do the play by play for bike races. I didn't realize the post was from 2005 until I was reading some of the replies.

    How about a write of you latest adventure?
    Skills coaching loved by passionate riders of all levels and trusted by the pros.
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  64. #64
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    pimpin

  65. #65
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    9 years later, but still, a great read! Thanks for sharing!

  66. #66
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    Nice to see quality writing pop up again

    Like the man said, its nine years old and still a good read.

    I've be meaning to write one of my rambling rants, that may even include bikes, like I used to a decade ago just to show the "kids" how much fun you can have with words if you don't let a camera get in the way.

  67. #67
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    Wow...quite the story. Well done, thanks!

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