By Billy Rainford
Good Monday Morning, everyone. I’m going off on a non-moto tangent here and telling my story about a bicycle race I did on Sunday, so just know that going in.
After a summer of travel and moto, I did something different this past weekend. My old triathlon buddy, Shawn Reeder, and I entered an 8-hour, 2-person gravel race relay just north of the town of Stratford in a little place called Milverton. Milverton is one of the many small towns the Goderich to Guelph (G2G) rail trail dissects along its route.
It was a 21K loop that took you from the rec centre in the middle of town, out onto the gravel roads that take you through the high corn fields before dropping us onto the G2G trail for the final 7K back to the start/finish.
We signed up for this event a couple months ago, so I knew it was coming. Unfortunately, although I’d been cycling a lot, I was riding frequently but not for the long distances I was soon to find out I was missing. Not only was I undertrained for the long day, but I made a very rookie mistake that ended up being the reason I “let my teammate down.”
Shawn thought we were going to draw straws or something to see who went first, but I simply said that he was going first because this whole thing was his idea in the first place. He didn’t put up a huge fight and headed to the start line for our 9-5 day.
I’m glad I didn’t go first because there were some elite cyclists there who were soloing the day and I’m glad I didn’t get caught up trying to stay on their wheels or my day would have gone even worse! These guys were flying…all day!
What I hadn’t really considered was that because we were a 2-person team we weren’t going to enjoy any of the social aspects of the event like the 4-person teams were. What I mean is that I was either sitting under our Scott EZ-Up by myself or I was out on the course by myself while the other multi-person teams were all yukking it up and waiting much longer between their turns.
On my first loop, I forced myself to ride well within myself. I thought I was pretty “race ready,” but knew I hadn’t been able to get the long distance rides I would need to keep feeling strong on later loops, so I was “smart” about it.
I had borrowed a Scott Speedster CX gravel bike I sold to a friend, Steve Emery, a few years ago, so I was familiar with the bike and actually very comfortable after I slid the seat forward a tiny bit before my second loop. I have no complaints about that part of my equipment.
Every time Shawn came across the finish line, I knew the girl who was on another 2-person team with her boyfriend had gone out about 3 minutes before me. Her partner was an extremely fast rider and would gap Shawn each time, leaving me thinking I had to put my head down and try to catch her. She was also very strong and I think this may have led to my demise a wee bit.
She had another 2-person team consisting of a couple of Cycle Waterloo guys. One of them would head out with her each lap and they would work together taking turns leading the little draft group. I could see them about 1K ahead of me and did everything I could to get into that group too.
On the second lap, I caught them on the G2G trail and told them how I’d killed myself trying to get into their little group. She smiled but the old guy gave me a look that basically told me where to go and how to get there. What a dick!
I didn’t care and sat on their wheels, ready to take my turn at the front, when we made the final turn and went back into the start/finish area. I had made up the gap and now it was again Shawn’s turn to try and stay with this elite dude who was her partner. It was a tall order, even for Shawn.
Once again, she headed out well ahead of me, so I put my head down and pushed my way to their back wheel on the last straightaway. I was proud that I was able to catch them but there was something telling me that maybe I’d been pushing it a little hard to try and get up to them.
I headed to the swimming pool on my rest time and thought that it was exactly what I needed to feel refreshed for my next lap. I ate a sandwich and hydrated like crazy.
Unfortunately, as I sat there waiting, the grey skies worsened and I knew we were in for the storm we’d been promised all day.
As Shawn came in from his 4th lap, he mentioned it was starting to get a little tricky out there. The girl had headed out much sooner than the previous lap, so I knew I was likely not going to see them again for the rest of the day, but I gave it my best anyway.
As I headed out, the first thing I noticed was that there was a slight uphill I hadn’t noticed before. Uh oh, that can’t be a good sign! I also noticed there was a pretty strong headwind on some of the long straights. And then the rain came…
It was a humid day, so I was already sweating, of course, but it wasn’t a huge problem. With no hair on my head, sweat tends to run down and into my eyes every once in a while, but it’s not usually something that is a huge concern.
Well, I next realized that I don’t ride in the rain…ever. Once the rain started to fall pretty hard, the next problem was that it would go into the top of my helmet and then pull all the sweat down into my eyes. This was going to be a serious problem.
Of course, I started by simply wiping it with my cycling gloves but they were soaking wet and their use for this was basically nothing. We’ve all had some sweat in our eyes but this was next level. At times, I rode for 15 second intervals with both my eyes closed because the pain was just too much when I tried to open either of them. This wasn’t going to work.
I stopped once, then again, then again, then a 4th time to remove my helmet and glasses to try and stop the flow of sweat into my eyes. Each time, I would then have to get up on the pedals to get back up to speed and I could tell I was losing my legs. Not only that, I was so angry at this stupid problem I was having with the sweat that my racing attitude had taken a turn for the worse. I was over it at this point. You all know that feeling, I’m sure.
Next, one of the race vehicles happened along and asked if I was OK. I said yes, but that I couldn’t see anything because of the sweat. He said he had a box full of small white rags in his trunk and offered me one. I took him up on the offer, wiped my face and eyes, stuffed it in one of my jersey’s back pockets and headed off.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a moto guy and was looking forward to grinding along in the rain and muck for the rest of the day, I really was! I love that kind of crap, but not being able to open my eyes was a problem I hadn’t anticipated. Apparently, that’s why people wear those silly little hats under their helmets or use a bandana/hanky. What a newb mistake I’d made and I’m pretty embarrassed about it now that I’m telling the story.
A rolled into the transition about 9 minutes slower than the previous laps had been. I told Shawn I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go out again. He didn’t seem to mind and off he went to push another solid lap.
While he was out there, I hit the pool again to see if it would refresh me enough to get back out there. Then I hit the shower. Then I put street clothes on. Uh oh, that’s not good.
I went back to our pit and waited for him to come back around in about 40 minutes to break the bad news to him…or would I. Maybe I could go back out. I knew I’d be slower but we’d still hold 2nd place.
The longer I sat there protected from the rain, the more I thought about not being able to see. I just wasn’t going back out there if I couldn’t open my damn eyes. Like I said, what a F!#@ing newb! All I needed was one of those silly hats or some damn thing! Other follicly-challenged riders were out there doing it.
Shawn came in after another great lap. We chatted for a while and I told him my situation. He didn’t care at all and went out for his 6th lap. Of course, about 10 minutes later the rain stopped and the sun came out, but it was too late, my day was done.
When he came in the next time, we were past the time that would get us in before the 5pm cutoff time, so I wasn’t going out again, even if I wanted to. Truthfully, I was glad he didn’t come back in with enough time for me to go out. I’ll admit that I was over it at that point. You can push all you want but sometimes your legs and brain just tell you your day is over, and mine were speaking pretty loud and clear.
We also knew that we already had an extra lap on the team that was in 3rd so it wouldn’t have made any difference anyway. That actually made me feel a little better, but not much.
I had made myself useful while Shawn was out on his last lap and reloaded the #DMXVan. I made the effort to bring a nice chaise lounge chair that every other team commented on about how great an idea that was and how they were going to do that at their next race. Small win!
We got called up for our podium photo and accepted out silver medals and maple syrup award.
Looking back, it was a great event and I wish I’d been a little smarter about my training and about my rainy day prep. Not once did the sweat problem enter my mind heading into this thing, but it will be something I fixate on in any and all future events, I can tell you that. Yes, I’m thinking about all you reading this screaming, “Feminine hygiene products in your goggles” in your heads.
I’d like to give Shawn a huge thank you for being such a great teammate. It would not have been anywhere near as much fun without an old buddy who I know is super chill…and super fit! Thanks, Shawn.
On our drive home, we talked about hitting the event again next summer. Like I said, it would take some longer training rides for me to feel more comfortable on our 5th and maybe 6th laps each, so that’s what I’ll do for 2023. You can’t change the past, but you can plan for the future! (Did I just coin that?)
I also used the GoPro and shot video of the day that I’ll put together. I didn’t take the camera out on the course with me but, well, you can check it out if/when I decided to produce it.
Budds Creek Results
Podcast Interview with Tanner Ward
Red Bull Outliers
This coming weekend I’m heading out to Calgary, AB to check out the 2022 RedBull Outliers event. The event is part of the FIM Hard Enduro World Championships this year so it’s going to be fun to watch all the top riders compete at this 2-day event. Click the Outliers link above to check it out.
Tyler Medaglia, Jared Stock, Philippe Chaine, Owen McKill, Shelby Turner, Kristen Broderick, Marei-Claude Boudreau, team managers Lee Fryberger, Renee Turner, Mario Jakowski, and Gold fund Blair Sharpless.
Have a great week, everyone.