Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The Reeport

"It was a dark and stormy night".. well no actually it was a beautiful night compared to my hometown of Calgary Alberta where Santas balls were probably frozen to his leg, after the last 3 weeks of -20. In Sebring, we were experiencing a nice and clear evening sky with an all too evident Gulf breeze, blowing across the Florida panhandle from the W/NW. The palm trees swaying to and fro as the sun set around 7pm, Valentines Day, 2014. Tentative forecast was highs of 25 and lows of 7 to 8 for tomorrows 'race day', with official race start for 6:30am... and so off to bed I went.
...But no sleep would be found; as I tossed and turned relentlessly, my heart rate pounding and not able to relax my body. Emotional queries running through my tired mind of the journey that led me here, and the past two years since my last 'event'. My two roomies were out enjoying the night with some other race volunteers, leaving me to rest, as I tossed and turned. Them arriving back to the room around 2am, myself still awake, we chatted a bit.
With my pre race alarm clock set for 5:10am I rolled over once again to check the time, "4:40am... might as well get up", I thought to myself. I was just starting to feel tired, but have a 24 hour race to go do, tentatively.
After a quick plate of scrambled eggs and a coffee, my two support Bro's Trev and Brad round me up from the restaurant and we head over to the Start Chute with my Enduro ready Bianchi Infinito; I estimate there were probably 60-70 riders in total, in various categories.  I know of 7-8 world class Ultra Marathon riders here from around the world, but whatever, I'm not here to beat them or contest anything as pretentious as a pre determined win, it's mid February for gods sake, I'm from Canada,  and I've ridden outside maybe 12 times since November. 
I wish Speed Theory Mike Healy good luck, he looks solid and prepared as always. And like a good Irish lad we both enjoyed a cold beer the night prior, catching up a bit.
The race Start goes off with a blast, and already the pace is hot, 45-47 km/hr. You need to understand that within the Mass start are several other racing categories,  the Century race, the 12 hour, and two 24 hour events, Drafting allowed, and Non Drafting 'RAAM Qualifier', then each divided into the Bike Category, Standard, recumbent,  etc.
After 15 kilometers I'm in an early break with 5 other riders... and we're slaying it; like Berserker retards I think to myself. Problem is; only myself and one other  rider are in the full 24 hour, and we Really Dont Need to be going this fast! But I need to stay on so I dont lose Claudio and vice versa so we each battle on.
This scenario was a total bi-polar opposite of the two years previous event I was in where a huge peloton stuck together for nearly the entire Century race, allowing conservation of energy etc... not this time.
Nearing the end of the Century event there were 4 of us, being driven by Marko Baloh (Current Guinness World Record Holder for most Miles ridden in 24 hours on a Track) and Ultra standard 12 hour racer Kurt Searvogel from Arkansas who just wanted to ride Berserker was all I could guess? Basically pulling through from 45-46km/hr and ramping us all up near 50???
Boom!!! I get blown off about 5 km from the finish of the Century race and Claudio has to attack and bridge under enormous effort to regain Kurt and Markos wheel.

"Well ok, here I am now", I tell myself, nearly bonked, alone, in 2nd position, 20+ hours racing to go. Claudio is with two guys who will either destroy him, or tow him along for their 12 hour race? Either way I need to collect my shit and get my head screwed back on and remain steady.. riding into the West wind... I make it to the Sebring Track/ Century Finish. I enjoy a feed from my guys and then roll out onto the 17km 'Short Loop'. Within two laps I catch Claudio. .. and we are once again competing for 1st, I didn't really get the sense that anyone was catching up to us anytime soon either. I ask him again to confirm he's in the 24 event, in broken English he says "Yeah, I am in 1st".
Ok then, he thinks I'm in the 12 hour maybe? huh...

Back to Claudio, the man is a fully fledged Solo RAAM Finisher, times 4, and probably the most prominent Endurance cyclist in South America, definitely Brazil, fully sponsored by Specialized. Built like a brick shithouse as well, he more resembles a Mayan Incredible Hulk, rather than the svelt Euro Pro physique of the likes of Marko Baloh... but oh man was this guy powerful.
After so many laps on the short loop I've recovered enough that Claudio and I are rolling well, but I can tell he's fading a little on the one climb. Exactly at the 8.5 hour mark, we pass 300km completed, his Garmin matching my Cateye Odometer.. dang not only are we on Course Record pace, we're in World Record neighborhood! But 16 hours to go?

Into the next lap I place a well timed attack on Claudio on the one and only 'hill' of the entire event, and it works!! Bam, I make a break and stick it hard, I know I have two more laps alone on the short loop and then will be onto the Sebring Raceway, where my cornering ability will shine through. Knowing I probably can't drop Claudio anywhere else, this is my only chance...

At the 12 hour mark, Marko Baloh has dropped knuckle dragger Kurt for the 12 HOUR Win, and the rest of us 24 hour saps are directed onto the raceway.  I'm clearly ahead of Claudio by 5 minutes or more now, and knowing I have solid cornering ability on the race track I slowly increase my lead, meter by meter, second by second.. as the sun starts to set, and I've now been awake for 34 hours.
Somewhere around the 17 hour Racing mark, I lap Claudio on the race track and he's now a full lap (13minutes or so) behind me, but more so suffering that psychological blow, I know, I can feel it. But once again we are together as men battling our own demons in this common outlet known as Ultra. We count the hours down, we fend off other attacks and riders who are 4-5 laps down on us.. trying to drop us, lap us, make up time somewhere. .. as we go round and round, drilling it continuously.

It gets very cold, near freezing.. my support team has been the foundation of success and although I contemplate a DNF for my own safety, after falling asleep on my bike; I turn it into anger and adrenaline and continue driving, driving, driving, driving...
My event finishes at 6:30am February 16, I've won the 24 Hour,  drafting legal event, barely, a simple flat tire or puncture and Claudio could have easily rode away from me. Instead, crossing the finish line together with my new friend from Brazil,  my new brother,  a fellow Ultra champion, we are both exhausted and elated.
I/we, didnt break any records and that wasnt really a goal. But if the stars aligned there is potential there that's for sure, but man we battled some high winds and some cold temps that basically hampered all attempts at the course record. I think I figured out I would have had to average the last 6 hours at 36km/hr to make up for the Bonk recovery hours...

Overall I think I managed 465 miles (755 kilometres)? Or somewhere about 4.5 Ironman loops in a row, on a flat flat course, with no coasting.
Then.. I miss my Medal award presentation as I was in the bathroom, releasing the other demons... but heading back to my room and shower with a New medal for the collection, I've now been awake for 50 hours, a new PB :) ... and somehow, managed a victory in between.
I'd like to thank my support team Trevor and Brad, and my Coach Preston Smith at Winsport, and of course all my homies and friends who cheered from afar, thank you!
... I need a massage.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Rocky Mountain 1200

" He who makes a beast of himself, gets rid of the pain of being a man "
.... Dr. Johnson

And so it has been written, and committed. I shall attend the 5th Inaugural running of the Rocky Mountain 1200, a 1200 kilometer non-stop Ultra Randonee bicycle race event, running July 22nd through 26th.

Having once formally performed the role 'Director of Randonneuring' for two complete bike seasons I was given a great introduction to a part of cycling that precedes even the Tour de France. Two local Rando 'Gods', Bill Donner, and Larry Lemmesurier respectively, each had brief inconsolable laughs when I told them I was interested in joining up for their unique style Endurance challenges. At the time Bill had recently been awarded 'Most logged Miles' in North America for officially completing Rando events at over 26,000 miles in total. And Larry, no chump himself, would do such crazy things like seeing how far he could drive in one weekend to train himself for Endurance cycling. On one weekend, truthful story, Larry drove from Ft. McMurray to New Mexico and back, non-stop, and was back at work Monday morning.
How could I compare ?... simply I just never did... back then.

And so those experiences and the friendships made with those strange fellows, ignited something in me. My nubile passion for long distance bike touring was only the beginning. At a young age growing up in Northern BC how would I have known Ultra racing was actually a sport ? ... of course I was barely five years old when the first running of the Race Across America was christened, and I was simply into more fun childhood things like Atari and Lego, rather than outrunning fatigue in the middle of the night on a dark and isolated Canadian highway.

Since those early days of my first 200km Brevet on a mountain bike with slick tires in 1996, I've developed my knowledge, fitness and attitude towards competing in these most 'rotund' of cycling races. Texas Time Trials, Race Across the West, 24 HOURS Solo... Devils Gap ride with Stappy.. etc etc.

The RM 1200 features an exciting route of which I have yet to travel 100%, so there will be the allure of the unknown destination. Yet I've logged nearly 75% of the current course in times of rain, snow and darkness. But also under the relentless gleaming sunshine, exposing the roadside waterfalls as something heavenly and sacred... the water crashing nearby as a cool mist creates droplets on your sun baked arms while you roll past quietly. All the while hundreds of motorists whizz on by in their sedentary mode of travel.

To introduce the route actually gives me goosebumps. Starting In Kamloops, and riding North East on the HWY 5 towards Clearwater, then Blue River and on to Valemount, then Jasper. From Jasper then heading south into the Icefields Parkway, Columbia Icefield then Lake Louise. Then West along the Trans Canada to Golden, over Rogers Pass, to Revelstoke and Sicamous. Then South to Armstrong, back North again to Salmon Arm, and then to the Finish in Kamloops... totaling some twelve hundred kilometers of beauty BC cycling.

The current course record stands at a little over 50 hours, albeit in somewhat controversy as there are voices who say this record was obtained 'unofficially' with Non-permitted race support. The former Records are near 55 to 60 hours respectively, averaging 24 kilometers per hour, not including breaks.

You see, that's what makes Randonneuring so cool, its not like a typical Ultra Race where riders are required to have night time vehicle 'follow support', a hand off of fresh bottles and food, spare clothes and soothing words of encouragement and inspiration, Rando is Un-Supported.
Yes, there are Time Stations and 'Time Checks' that double as 'aid stations', and random race officials out and about on the course to ensure some rules are followed. But really, since there's no prizes other than a cold beer at the end, why would you cheat ?

It's about finishing.

And judging by the fact that Pre Registration sold out at 125 riders throughout December alone, from nearly 20 different countries, with a growing waiting list... Yes believe it or not, Rando is popular ! and people want to do this event badly.

... Now since I'm not a 'technically' qualified Ultra Randonnuer, who has completed a Series of Brevets such as the 200, 300, 400, and 600km events.. ( before I can officially race a 1200 ) I will be committing my weekends this coming Spring and Summer to pursuing my formal Brevet Cards, instead of racing ABA exclusively.
This means joining a Randonnuering bike club, and for this I've chosen the Alberta Randonneurs
( hopefully they let me join )

Since the RM 1200 only happens once every four years, I'd better get training !

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Ahhh, winter.

Lower Kananaskis Lake

Took the afternoon off today and burned out to Elk Pass, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. This was my second of two XC ski missions in the past week. And with some recent fresh snowfall, followed by some grooming, the Fox Trail is super fast. Gotta love the FOX !

Seen as how I took a camera along, I thought I'd snap a few pictures of the scenic snowy goodness. It's really one of the only good things about winter.

That was a good ski, not bad for a Tuesday afternoon :)

Monday, 31 October 2011

Ahh Lyon

I think I finally accepted it, I'm being delusional when winter starts approaching and I say, "time to put the bikes away ". And get out the ski's, snowshoes, climbing gear, avalanche equipment, the wood work project, play guitar, or that project in the basement to fix the shelf...
whatever. Lets ride ! I'm doing a 24 hour in February.

Seemed like a good night to reminisce on some summertime photos, and think about goals for 2012. when France popped up. I found this set of my last night in Lyon, past July.

" I remember walking down by the rivers, ( the Rhone and the Saone ) an awesome summer breeze blowing across the water. A late night rain shower was building up; but there was currently no real threat of rain'. It seemed like a great time to capture some scenery with the Canon. "

Sundown from Lyon.

Lots of Gothic era blended in Renaissance.

The skyline is littered with religious symbols, multi century architecture, symbols of peace and power, dedication and imagination.

... Was walking through the shopping district.
thinking about Kailee.

Lots of shopping in Lyon.

The VELO Bike share system in Lyon was the worlds first advanced community bike share program. There are thousands of members... and even more bikes I swear. The little red n white bike Depo's are everywhere, and every type of person uses them. Except me, as the sidewalk registration system only accepted France issued credit cards ?


Walking back to the Hotel.

A colorful cityscape, even on a cloudy evening sundown.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

MTB Action.

Seen as how this is supposed to be a cycling based Blog, I thought I'd post some evidence of todays visually complimented single track overload ride, the Lake Minnewanka Trail, Banff National Park. I hooked up early morning with long time friend from back in the Mackenzie days, the now infamous DJ Scotty, and an outstanding day was had by both, must say.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it to the 'Occupy Calgary' sit in/ protest today with all the rest of the 99% ers who are opposing Wall Street or something like that.

I remember when being a 1% er was supposed to be the hip thing ? but now everybody (well not everybody) wants to be a 99% er ? Well what is it guys, make up your frickin minds already.

Myself, I strictly prefer to be a 1%er. For those of you who aren't aware of the term 1%er and its actual origins, its kind of a not too desired label, yet there are many of us.

Digging Scotty's quote today, I shall recall;

Scott, " you know I've been DJ'ing for years now and there's lots of cool cats who dig the club scene and most of them are great people and stuff, but you know, doing things like this (mountain biking)... they just don't get it. "

Dallas, " ya well they're the unfortunate majority if you can believe it, we're the actual minority buddy, the 1% ers. "

Scott, " ya, the people who only live once ".

Dallas, " fuck ya, cheers to that bro ".

the Devils Gap off in the distance

Riding towards our planned destination of the Devils Gap today, I have to admit, I felt a breath of spine freezing cold inside a warm beam of sun, and was somehow drawn back to that day nearly 2 years ago. I experienced this brief feeling of angst and uncertainty, an uncomfortable feeling of something in the shadows, something in my gut, or lurking behind us, or awaiting ahead, something that could or could not have been. I think it was the feeling of concern, for my friends safety at the time, and somehow I relived that exceptional moment where I was afraid that he could be hurt, or worse, and I would be responsible.

Since then though, that cold ride in November 2009, or possibly before that I'm sure, I think he's somehow transcended into his own light, and most likely looks back on that day as a stepping stone into a realm of what I like to call, "real living", living with outdoor challenge, a life outside of the 99% ers boundaries, a life that very few approach.
And today we brushed alongside it.

The Terra

World class singletrack attack action.

Self explanatory.

The tunnel vision was in command.

fat Mule deer

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Glenbow Park

Don't know if you've been out to Albertas newest Provincial Park, but the Glenbow Park is pretty darn cool ! There are little kiosks at every other corner that explain and share some in depth stories about the remaining old buildings, and the original pioneers of the area. Most of the dates go back to the early century, around the completion and working era of the railway.

There are several gravel pathways that go up and down and all around in addition to the paved paths, but 'No Bikes Allowed' is clearly stated on many gravel paths, so expect to jog or walk if you want to explore those avenues.