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Friday, September 19, 2014

I Cranked The Shield!

So it all started after a ride at Novi Tree Farm in May, following our group ride in preparation for the 24 hr Albion Hills Relay, we were at the Lakeview Bar and Grill.  Of course we were refuelling after a hard ride at an awesome trail that never seems to hold water, no matter how much it rains. Over a beer, Scott Lamont makes me aware of the 3-day stage race, called Crank the Shield.  I couldn't commit on the spot, but he said if I were in, he would go for sure.  A few weeks later, I had the approval at home and we both signed up, as Team Sweat Logix, in the 80-99 year team (total years of our ages) category.

How do you train for 225 km with over 12000 ft of elevation that spans 3 days, on a mountain bike?  Still not sure.  Scott and my schedules didn't align all that well - we ended up only riding a few times together, but we both managed to get 4-5 rides in a week, with long rides topping out between 3 and 4 hrs.  A key staple for the training was Mt Malden (old garbage dump that is a park).  It has an elevation of 100 ft.  We would ride this continuously, often over 20 up and downs in a row, doing what we thought would prepare us for the terrain we would experience up in the Haliburton Forest.  Did it? I guess?!  One of the hardest events I have ever done, our finish time for the 3 day event 19 hrs 48 minutes.

Hats off to the organizers of the event - Sean and Adam from Chico/SuperFly Racing. Not sure the final tally of riders - between 200 and 300, for sure.  Must have been like herding cats, but was like clockwork as far as organization - if only next time they could control the weather.

We arrive at the race start around 9:30 am, drop off our luggage which will be delivered to Camp White Pines our home for two nights, should we complete the first 70 km Stage 1 leg.  Last minute prep work to my bike and we are off at 11:00 am.  Scott is a much stronger technical rider than I am.  My strength is my engine - we were a good combo for the race.  Race start was pretty tame; feeling pretty good, but that changes quickly when we get onto some of the Haliburton Forest trails: Normac and Red.  Have to blame it on all the rain preceding the race - much of it was un-ridable for me (up or down). Suffice to say, I did a lot of hiking!  We had anticipated being on the bike for 6 hrs each day. I knew it was going to be a grind, but the first bit scared the crap out of me.  The most demoralizing comment of the weekend, Scott utters: "Hey Darc, we have been out here for 2 hrs 15 minutes and we are only 17 km in."  I didn't even do the math, pust put my head down and kept cranking.  Most memorable part of the ride was when we were riding the Hyrdo-Cut - pretty gnarly path that bikes and ATV's ride... After lots of ups and downs we hit the Beaver Pond that we had been warned about.  My guess? 60 meters long, maybe a foot and a half deep.  Scott and I approach at the same time - he loses momentum and tracking, bails and walks his bike through, the water up to his knees.  Me, I have got this!  I ride smoothly through - feet are underwater most of the

Thanks to Ted from Apex Photography for capturing all my grace and glory!!!
time, while pedalling - water up to the hubs.  A slight bobble, 6 feet from the end and... Crap, I am going down!  I fall to my left, nail my left knee on a rock and the majority of my body is under water, not cool.  Correct that.  Actually it was - quite cold!  The best part of it? Ted from Apex Photography was there to capture it all - from my controlled riding to my graceful fall and then picking my soaked body up out of the drink - all on camera.  So glad it was.

As we move from there - a little cold with some down hill speed - we continue on for another 30 km of trails.  Then we hit some real Canadian Shield.  Great stuff to ride when dry, problem is that rock doesn't absorb water well.  For the last 20 km we are faced with snowmobile/ATV trails that are completely saturated from the week's earlier rain.  Ride 50 meters, hit mud bog that is 1 to 2 feet deep.  Repeat this 15 to 20 times - frick!  Finally we get to Camp White Pines - just a few more km's of single track and the first day is in the bank - 6 hrs 44 minutes.  Wash the bike, drop it off at the Norco Race Team trailer to get some new brakes, get settled into cabin, have a shower and get to the mess hall for dinner.  Its now 7 pm and, wow, I am tired.  While enjoying a well deserved beer and dessert, Adam takes us through what we can expect tomorrow - pretty daunting actually.  We have 80 km, similar trails, but wait... the rain is going to start at 10:00 a.m. and end at 6:00 pm.  That lines up perfectly for race start and end for us.  Nighty, night!

Finally - wet and tired.
Scott did a great job, gutting it out.
Why are forecasts always right, when they are bad? 5 minutes before we have to get on the bikes to get to the race start, about a mile up the road the rain starts. And it's about 6 degrees - delightful!  I will not bore you with the details - lots of up and down, and mud, of course with the rain - stuff that, like yesterday, I couldn't ride.  We finished up this time at 6:59.  This means we could wash our bikes, shower and be in time for dinner tonight.  Dinner - varied menu, good solid eats to top our reserves back up, a beer and dessert during the course update for tomorrow.  Temperature was already down to 5 degrees. Did I tell you there was no heat anywhere?  This a summer camp - something I was not prepared for.  Scott looks at me at 8ish and says: 'You know Darc, all I want to do is get in my sleeping bag and go to bed.'  This was fine with me.  Free beer, and we are in bed at 8:30!  Meg,  one of our cabinmates left to stay in a heated cottage 30 minutes away (who could blame her!).  This freed up a sleeping bag for me - the two I had for Saturday night's sleep was bang on.  Slept like a baby until the alarm went off at 6:00 am.  The two hardest parts of day 3 - getting out of the sleeping bag in the 2 degree C cabin and putting on my wet, cold tights - had to be done though.

Once we dropped our bags off, we were off for a 14 km neutral ride to Sir Sam's Ski Resort.  That ride
was quite pleasant - got there early enough to have a hot coffee and relax by the fire.  The official start of Day 3 was at Sir Sam's. Absolute best riding of the weekend for me.  I'm a hill guy. We climbed to the top, snaked down the trails that were near perfect, snaked our way back up to the top, then down again. We finished by going up halfway again and then out of the resort.  Loved this section.  The order of the day was climbing -
Strava said we climbed 4600 ft total.

After Sir Sam's we hit some road - mostly gravel with a ton of climbing to the Hydro-Cut.  We were doing the same track but in reverse, which meant up!  Got to the Beaver Damn and decided to walk it this time - once bitten... It was tough riding on day 3.  We got to Ben's Trail and The Pass - craziness!  Some sections, it was all I had in me to push or carry my bike up - I'd never seen anything like this.  Nasty.
After this, we hit the last aid station. These were great. The volunteers - awesome. Chips, snacks, and beverages - of course I was all good with Infinit.  So the word was - you have 17 km to go.  Over 200 km down and 17 km to go sounded great and horrible at the same time.  8 km of this was some hard single track on Normac - which was the last shot to the gut.  By the time I got there - things that are normally ridable, had me walking - I had made it this far without any major damage.  I wanted ot keep it that way.  In total I fell hard to my left 2 times, fell to my right 2 times, and fell back on the rocks once (thanks Camelbak for saving me).  Oh yeah,  and did two endo's.  One of my endo's was because I didn't remember to unlock the front shock - rookie mistake!  So I chose to walk some of the final descents as I wanted to go home in one piece.

We thought that day three was going to be a little easier - maybe be in around 5 hrs... not so much.

Finished at 6:04.  Wow. Epic.  In total, we covered 220 km, and climbed 12000 ft in mud and rain for 19 hours, 48 minutes.  Both Scott and I had huge smiles on our faces!  Crazy when you go this deep, the cold, the rain, the physicality - it all makes you appreciate all the good around us.  Can't tell you how great my bed felt after the 6 hr drive home. The shower in the morning was the best ever.

Had a blast - thanks to Scott for being a great riding partner.  Thanks Sean and Adam for putting on a seamless race,  and thanks to Ted for capturing my soaking.

If you are ready to go deep, get cold, dirty and explore your limits, perhaps Crank the Shield 2016 is for you!

- Darcy Haggith, President, Infinit Nutrition Canada