Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Heck of the North

On the same day that the original (often imitated never duplicated) 'Hell of the North' race was happening over in Gaul on April 7th, the Toronto cult classic version took place north of the city, headquartered at the Cedar Beach Park at Musselman's Lake.  

Run by RealDealRacing, there are two races:

Hell of the North, 126K of epic-ness (off-road trenches, trails, farmers fields, dirt roads and pavement).
Heck of the North, 79K of mostly paved, some dirt, roads.

With no cyclocross bike in my current arsenal, I signed up for the Heck to have a nice hit-out on the bike early in the season.

Breakfast was a banana, a piece of lemon poppyseed loaf, a piece of cinnamon coffee cake and a coffee.  Packed on the bike were two bottles of Infinit with 300 calories each, and a 400 calorie flask of First Endurance gels.  Estimated race time was 2.25-2.5 hours, so 1000 calories would be more than enough.

I was pretty shelled from the week of training so didn't bother with a warm-up, hoping that the neutral roll-out would be calm, and that with the first 10K being downhill the odds of an early break were minimal.  At 8:15 (ahead of the planned 8:45 start) it poured rain, but it cleared up before the race start.  

Temperature was 7 degrees, I wore knee-length bibs, compression socks, a long-sleeve base layer, cycling jersey, arm warmers and a cap and thin running gloves.  Was shivering and cold at the start, but fine for most of the ride.  Slid the arm warmers down around 50K.

The roll-out was fine, lots of concentration required as people were antsy and trying to get to the front.  The first 22K was pretty tame, average power for the first four 5K segments was 139w, 238w, 177w, and 209w.  At 22K, the first real action of the race started, as the first 10-15 riders in the pack made it through a stop sign before the rest of the peloton had to wait for traffic, so after clearing the intersection I had to drop the hammer to pull back the leading group.  For a 5 minute piece I averaged 374w, highest 5 minute output of the race, and we towed back the leaders.

From 25K-47K the race rolled along with not a lot of urgency, with power at 227w, 165w, 178w and 183w for the 5K segments.

At 47K, there's a downhill asphalt segment with a hard left at the bottom that rolls straight into 4.3K of climbing on a dirt road (identified as the 'Dirt Delight' segment on Strava).  Not knowing the course well, I was caught near the back of the peloton as we made the turn, and when Sean Boileau of the RealDealGears pb Fieldgate team made his move, I had to ride through the group to chase.  For the 4.3K segment, I averaged 338w but lost 24 seconds to Sean.  Back on the asphalt, I was in a chase group with Mike Amaral and Ken Ng.  Ken is a teammate of Sean's, so he wasn't going to help the chase, and after about ten minutes of chasing we hadn't put a dent in Sean's lead, so we sat up and joined up with the next group of chasers, making a group of nine, including Angus Botterell of the Morning Glory Cycling Club.

There were some battered legs in our group, so we weren't able to get a consistent paceline going, resulting in Sean maintaining his 1:10 gap over our group.  As a triathlete, I train to put out a decent percentage of my FTP out over long periods of time, but I don't have any sprint abilities.  Heading into the homestretch I figured my best chance to podium was to hit the last ten minutes of the race hard and see if I could ride away from the group.  Not knowing the course well, I mis-timed my 'attack', and ended up going when we crossed Bloomington for the last time, which was only about 6 minutes from the finish.  Mike Amaral shot up the hill, and Ken Ng and Kevin Tearle (I think?) went after him.  I lost time on the hill, gained a bit on the descent, but couldn't close for the sprint.

In the end Sean won comfortably with a very impressive solo ride through the last 30+KM, Mike won the sprint from Ken for second and third, Kevin was fourth and I came in fifth.  Average power for the last hour of the race was 280w (zeroes included).  Full ride data:
Less fun than the race was cleaning the bike after.
Post-race I did a 7K run around Musselman Lake and watched the Hell of the North finishers come in - everyone, from winner (and three-time defending Paris-to-Ancaster champion) Mike Garrigan down, looked absolutely spent at the finish, kudos to all for such an epically hard ride so early in the season.

Thanks to RealDealRacing for putting on such a great event!

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