P2A is like childbirth......you forget the pain.Then, you think you should do it all over again; as it truly was a beautiful thing. However, I really
didn't recall all those hills from the year previous. Albeit, last year was my first attempt at this race, so, I may have been in a slightly altered state. Nonetheless, in my mind, it was now doable on a single speed-like deciding to go with natural childbirth, the second time around. Okay, for you gentlemen, I'll cease using this metaphor.
I first woke in the morning around 6 am to thunder and lightning, not by choice, but, by shear volume. I had been dreading the weather report for the past few days and it proved not to disappoint, which is rather an oddity by all accounts. I fell back asleep to the lull of the rain and awoke a short time afterward by the pleasantry of my alarm. I sprung to the window, to check on the weather status and still, it continued to rain. Yet, it was set in my mind; I was doing this race. Sure, I had done many running events in these conditions and it always seemed refreshing, but, today, I was thinking it would be otherwise, especially in combination with the cold and wind.
Wave 4 was a bit of a blessing. By the time I was ready to wheel the line, the rain had ceased and it only seemed cold when I was moving. The gun went off and I was ready to go. And move I did. To be honest, I had only had one other ride on my single speed as it was newly acquired. The test ride was along the rail trail, so it was flat. As I started to pedal, I looked at the slight incline and wondered how it might go. I know, its like running a marathon in a new pair of shoes that you just hauled out of the box. Not! Well, that seemed easy enough and I was vehemently committed to seeing this through. The initial climb, as small as it was, was a saving grace as I never allowed myself to visualize defeat. Dreaming was achieving. I knew I was going to finish this thing and that was the only plan. Okay, just 69 km to go.
I spoke to some fellow riders and there were quite a few new riders. I was quick to point out, that once we got off the rail trail, there was a quick right and it was a steep uphill. The lack of momentum in the turn, makes it difficult to ascend the hill, so, I had already made the plan to walk this one and if need be, the final Martin Road climb. I began to relish the hills. Yeah, those ones that I had totally deleted from the memory banks. I even began to think they had changed the course from last year.
There was definitely more mud to contend with this year and the wind started to become atrocious as the trail opened up to roads. The section of bush behind the first private property we cross, was a mud pit and I knew that I had to keep the momentum going. I met up with a cyclist from the Pickering area that did this race with his son each year. Today, he was told by his son to embrace the wind and that he did. Until his front wheel hit a rock in the mud and over the handlebars he went. Foremost, he was okay and once that was clear, I inquired about his bike and all appeared good, except for his pride he confessed. Once we hit the road, I offered to pull and we continued to share each others company for a good portion of the route. Good thing, as I happily let him pull on the rail trail as pushing into the wind had reduced us to a pace of around 12 km per hour. At one point, I was almost blown off the trail by the wind. There was an embankment at that point and it may have been interesting had I not recovered.
Just past the half way point, I was getting ready to pull out of the water stop and heard the announcement that the sweepers were only 15 minutes away. How is that possible? I checked my Garmin and although I had started off with an average pace of 23-25, I was now in the position of being just above 16. I must admit, the wind was tough, but, this is not where I had visualized myself at this point. I departed the station with an appetite for vengeance in making up for lost time. All seemed to be going to plan, until we got back into the headwind. It was a hard push at every point now, yet, I forged on. I still felt good and I seemed to have lots of juice in the tank. Soon thereafter, I hit the section of trail that had been sabotaged last year. Mature trees had been cut to block the trail and created a backlog. The community and race organizers had ensured that the course was clear from any obstructions. With the proceeds going to St. Joseph's Hospital, I'm still perplexed as to why someone would have done this.
I hit the last rest area and decided to keep going as there was only about 20km to go. There were still 2 sections of mud chutes to get through and I was ready for them. No grocery bags to cover my shoes this year as I was going to attempt to push through them. Oh, the beauty of a single speed. There will be no expensive repairs to my derailleur. Mud is such a bike killer. I came across the first chute and it was okay. They even had someone there hosing down your bikes to prevent from such disasters. Such a nice touch. The last chute didn't go as well. I had picked my line and all was good until two other cyclists had moved right and occupied the same line I had set out upon. I had to slow and then stop to prevent a collision. I didn't get clipped out in time and down I went. At least I was now looking the part. What would Cornel say? He is always telling me, it needs to be instinctual. I was like a wild animal being fed at the zoo. The instincts were not defined. As I went down, the pedal hit my calf and I winced in pain. I got up and was worried from what I was experiencing in that muscle. I was so close now. Surely, this would not be it. I had to saddle up and keep moving and once I did, the calf started to feel much better.
I maneuvered my way over to the final ascent at Martin's Road and I have to say, I was happy with my performance through this section. Now the climb, that was a different story. Just like last year, I hit the beginning of the apex and had to get off and push my bike until it leveled out. There I was able to get back in the saddle and finish the ride to the finish line. I was beaming. I had done it.
Once we had checked in our bikes at the wash station, we changed and made our way into the gymnasium for some lunch. That is when I noticed, I had placed 2nd in the single speed category for women. I'm told that I should neglect to mention that there was only the two of us, but, I think it matters in this regard as it means there was only two of us that were willing to try it with one gear. I'm already looking forward to next years race and I'm hoping to shave at least a half hour or more off my time. The weather is unpredictable for this race and that's what makes it so appealing. Well, at least, once you're done.
Happy Trails My Friends