Testing The Legs on the Fluffy Bunny

A few weeks ago was The Fluffy Bunny XCM mountain bike race, hosted by Onyerleft racing in Bragg Creek AB. It was the third round of the Alberta Cross Country Marathon series and the provincial championship for the discipline. Kokanee Redbike was there and it was the second race of the year and a true test of form for my 2016 season. Though, I suppose before I elaborate on our day of racing the XCM in West Bragg, I should back up a bit.

Back in the spring of this year Kokanee Redbike team manager Mike Sarneki approached me with the proposition of racing the New Denver Galena Ghost Ride in September: a 100km point to point mountain bike race with 3200m of climbing from Kaslo to New Denver. As I am apparently easily persuaded into committing to arduous feats, I naively agreed and signed up for the event.
It wasn’t until after registering for the behemoth event that the reality sank in of how demanding the Ghost ride will be. The fact is, I have never raced that far or climbed that high in a one day event. It was at that point when the science books came out along with the Richard Simmons work out tapes and a six month training plan was put in place to prepare.

Training for the Ghost ride for me was a very difficult thing. It was not difficult because the training itself was hard but because it meant missing out on team and club events in trade for solitary heart rate and wattage monitored -monotony. However, driven by a natural self-preservation of surviving the Ghost ride in September, I diligently persisted, and tapped out the hours on the pedals as much as I could in the time that I had before September.

With the decision to do the 100km race, also came with it a change in my racing disciplines. It became clear that to improve my endurance for the ghost ride, I would have to focus on racing in fewer events and longer ones. Focusing on XCM’s, my first race of the season was the River Valley Royal Rumble (extended edition) hosted by Hardcore Bikes back in May. I felt good in that race and I was able to achieve my goal of executing a consistent pace with each lap, while keeping enough in the tank for my last lap to be my strongest lap. At that time I hadn’t been training with my new structure for very long yet signs of improved endurance were beginning to show early on. The true test for me though would be the Fluffy Bunny XCM Provincial Championship, just a few weeks ago. With The fluffy Bunny about ten weeks after the RVRR, I was very curious to see how things in my race performance had changed.


On the Saturday before the Fluffy Bunny, Mike and I headed down to Calgary in hopes of pre riding the course after the race that day had wrapped up. To our dismay, Mother Nature had other plans and washed away our hopes of a pre-ride with the damp of a rain filled afternoon. As the rain persisted on into the evening we began to fray over the conditions we’d be facing. Luckily though, a brighter day rose out from the darkest night as the deluge gave way in the morning to the warm sun. Our race day was coming together nicely.
Early race day we got to our pre-race rituals. We made extra time for breakfast given the race discipline of the day. I took the initiative of manning the frying pan but was quickly demoted from team chef to team bottle filler upper due to some dusty instead of runny eggs.  It took a bit of time to get over the emotional trauma of my demotion but once I did, we were on our way to the Fluffy Bunny.


Arriving at the event we setup Kokanee City (aka K-Town) in record time and got suited up with just enough time to stage for the start. Even though we had arrived slightly tardy to setup for the race, I still managed to find the time for a pre-race (awkward) stretch session and a full on deva fit over the team pump before staging. Sitting on the start line waiting to hit the trail, conditions looked good despite the rain the night before. The weather was nice for the start, sunny and cool but warming. We were in store for a beautiful day of suffering; the bunny was not looking quite so fluffy anymore.

One minute warning, thirty second warning, oh wait! I scrambled to open the menu on my Garmin and shut off the heart rate alarm just in the nick of time: menu, menu, home screen… And we’re off.

With my new methodology and this being a longer race, I really focused on ignoring the pace of the group and doing my own thing instead of my usual tactic of blowing up while trying to maintain contact. In turn, I found a comfortable cadence and kept a tidy line to the right of the trail. I maintained my composure as a large portion of the field passed me by. We only had a few hundred meters or so of flat double track and trail until we were set into the first climb of the day up to Rangers Summit. It was there that I observed something that I hadn’t experience before.

Rangers summit is a testament to K-Country mountain biking. With 310 meters in elevation and over 4km in distance it very much set the tone that this would be a climbers race. Thanks to my new training structure, on this climb was where I had a new experience. As the climb persisted on and my fellow competitors and I slogged our way up the winding steep grade, I continued to maintain my comfortable pace. While churning away in climbing gear, I began to notice that I was beginning to catch up to a few of the racers that had overtaken me at the start. Even more incredibly, when we reached the top of The Summit I not only caught up to them I began to pass them back!

After reaching the summit of Ranger’s Summit, we were dropped down into Snakes and Ladders, a flowy trail of berm riddled switch backs. This winding decent was such a blast and a nice reprieve from the climb before. It was a great section to really carry speed; that is until the trail rolled into the Ladders portion which was true to the name. Racers now had to serpentine up from the bottom of the snake pit with the Ranger’s Summit climb already in the legs. We were only to settle in again and really see how our legs could power through. After the first climb up to Ranger’s Summit most racers felt that they had enough, and this was only the first lap! I could hear the comments and moans of whoa emerging from the valley below as racers at the back of the group stepped onto the first rung of the latter. For me, I still managed to maintain and didn’t fade as I embarked on the second big climb of the day. I settled back into my happy place and once again chewed away at the mountain in front of me. This was what was new for me, compared to my previous seasons this change in endurance was drastic.

Steve at the Fluffy Bunny finish

I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing. Before trying this new training structure, this amount of climbing would have caused me to fade to a slow crawl but I was persevering. The Fluffy Bunny was where I came to test my new engine before the Ghost Ride in September and the improvements in that were shocking. All that time in the saddle, practicing diligence and patience, not knowing what it would come of it until this moment. With this revelation my confidence went up and I thought, maybe I can survive the day! In life though what goes up must most certainly come down and nature has its way of maintaining balance.

Feeling good, I failed to maintain the smoothness that had got me this far in the race. After Snakes and Ladders we stepped onto the Ridgeback trail and while feeling overly confident, I stepped on the gas. Up on Ridgeback the terrain changed and not in a way that benefited anyone like me racing on an XC hardtail. Roots jutting out from the soil and gardens laden with jagged stones; this was the wrong place to loose composure and amp things up. I bashed through the rugged downhill side and as I did, I felt my fork begin to feel more and more ridged. Hammering on through the garden of rocks and roots I knew something had gone wrong. Moving onward into Bobcat I was certain that I had completely cooked my suspension fork and all short travel damping was no more.

Strange Brew was the last decent before heading into the start finish to lap through: 3.6km and 240 meter decent of rough hand tingling roots and muddy (on this day) uneven terrain. In previous seasons where my ability to climb had been lacking, the descending was where I learned to make back time. Here however with a near ridged fork on a hardtail I had to hold back in the downhill shaving off speed in order to hang on the bike. I lost significant time during this section and even worse the fight to hang on wore me down and thus caused my endurance to fade much sooner once in lap two.

Lapping through to start my second lap, I was still confident and feeling good with my climbing despite my struggle on the last downhill toward the start/finish area. My pit stop was a fast, quickly switching to a fresh bottle and off again up to Ranger’s Summit. Second time through on this long climb my form still held strong. Climbing up out of Snakes & Ladders I started to feel the stepper grades taking their toll even with 30 plus km’s in the legs. The second lap, for the most part was very much business as usual for me and not too much unlike the first. I even found myself enjoying the uphills more than the descents, due to my fried suspension. With a lesson learned on my first pass through, I was able to smooth things out riding through Ridgeback the second time. I ran into trouble again when it came time to tackle strange brew on lap two. This was where things went almost disastrous for me. Hammering through with almost no squish the first time was bad enough, taking it on a second time was pure agony. My hands and arms ached and weakened so badly that I had no choice but to stop. I attempted to adjust my faulty fork into performing with some level of decency by letting almost all the air out of the shock chamber in hopes of gaining some motion. In the time I spent on my mechanical issue, the racers who hadn’t caught up to me during my abusive and sluggish decent manage to catch me here. The fatal nail in the time coffin for me was letting the pain and fatigue cloud my judgement. I had I been watching the clock and odometer more closely I would have realized there wasn’t enough time in the race to allow for a third lap as we in the team had originally strategized to do. If I had the sense to do that I would have realized that even fixing my suspension would not have made any gains with only one downhill section remaining.

Supervised training

I recently listened to Mark Allen the great Triathlete say, “the only bad race is one you don’t learn anything from”. Originally I left The Fluffy Bunny with a sense of disappointment as I found myself fixating on the issues with my suspension, poor judgment and misguided time tactics at the end of the second lap. Now that I’m looking back at this race as a whole I have a great feeling of satisfaction. For me this event above all else was a trial run before the 100km Galena Ghost Ride. Bearing witness to a drastic improvement in my personal fitness, I also made some mistakes to learn from and take into New Denver. With the Fluffy Bunny done and dusted I’ve already made adjustments to my equipment as well as my strategy and mental approach. I feel making these errors and experiencing these challenges have better prepared me for what may come this Sunday in the 100km New Denver Galena Ghost ride.




Calgary Retreat 2: Revenge of the Bike Nerds

Despite the unfortunate cancelling of the Summer Solstice and Giver 8er races at COP in Calgary this past weekend, Mark, Brad (our newest team member), and I were still keen for a change of scenery and to get some out of town riding in. So, we packed up Brad’s Forester with our bikes and our favourite Xterra champ Mike Vine, and we headed for Bragg Creek early Saturday morning with visions of sweet mountain trails in our heads.

Ready to hit the road. There's even a fourth bike crammed inside.

Ready to hit the road. There’s even a fourth bike crammed inside.

It was a beautiful morning, and as we headed out of the Southern stretches of Calgary to meet up with Josh in Priddis for brunch, we took in the lovely foothills scenery and shared more than a few laughs over the abundance of hideous Primal jerseys and clip-on aero bars we saw being used by the sportif weekend riders out on the highway.

Exhibit A: Hideous cycling jerseys. Does anyone know why people choose to wear this stuff?

Exhibit A: Hideous cycling jerseys. Does anyone know why people choose to wear this stuff?

It took a while for Mark to choke down his diner coffee at brunch (“it’s just brown and water”), but finally we were on our way to West Bragg to ride. Unfortunately, we were just a little behind in our timing, and as we pulled in to the trail parking lot, dark clouds rolled in and the rain started to fall quite heavily. Josh figured it would be a quick storm, and we unanimously decided to patiently wait it out before we hit the trails. After about 30 minutes of steady rain (and a bit of sleet at one point) it started to taper off, and we got our things together and headed out. While it was indeed quite wet as we climbed, the numerous warnings from weekend warriors that things were slick were largely unfounded, and we all agreed there was actually quite a lot of traction (unlike in E-town where wet trails are as slick as ice). The riding in West Bragg was super fun; however, it only took about an hour to be suitably mud and grit covered to call it a day, and we headed in to Calgary to clean our bikes and ourselves. After a quick follow up ride around Glenmore Reservoir to get in a bit more ride time, we ordered in from Tom’s House of Pizza and drank fancy beers. Mark was thoughtful enough to eat all the leftover pizza so we wouldn’t have to eat it the next day. With hopes of better luck with the weather and a longer ride the next day, we hit the hay early.

Mark and Brad patiently waiting out the rain

Mark and Brad patiently waiting out the rain

First real mud bath of the season

The first real mud bath of the season

Not sponsor correct libations - Don't tell Mike!

Non-sponsor-correct libations – Don’t tell Mike!

Sunday morning we hit Nellie’s for breakfast and headed straight out to Station Flats to get in some big climbs and descents. Aboard their light carbon 29ers, Mark and Mike quickly dropped the rest of us on the long climbs; I had expected this though, and was content to slowly sit, spin, and grind up and up all the way up to the top of Moosepackers. The very top was still snow-covered in spots resulting in a bit of arduous hike-a-bike, but knowing the ride down was upon us gave me the light at the end of the tunnel I needed to push through the knee deep (well, my knees deep) snow. We briefly discussed our options at the top – I was keen to descend Pneuma, since I personally find the top section of Special K not to be what you call a “fun” descent, but rather a sphincter-clenching and brake-grabbing curse fest that’s also quite choppy, while Mike wanted to practice Special K for the Bow 80. Mike won out, and down we went. The top was extra sketchy with still unmelted patches of snow, but we all made it back to the parking lot relatively unscathed and also invigourated by a great day spent out on our bikes.

Can you say bro-mance?!

Can you say bro-mance?!

After a brief stop back in Calgary to eat, rest, and to catch the highlights from the Men’s World Cup XC race and geekily discuss electronic XTR, we packed up and headed back to Edmonton. All in all, it was a great weekend of team bonding and trail riding that only added to everyone’s anticipation for the races this weekend in Canmore. Josh, Mark, Brad, and I will all be duking it out in the XC on Saturday. On Sunday, I’ll be doing the Organ Grinder 5 hour race solo, and Mark and Josh are teaming up to fight it out in the competitive Men’s Pair category. However, we all know the true competition of who can consume the most Spolumbo sausages starts after the racing is done. Mark will be hard to beat, but I’m going for a PB this year.

The Coulee Cruiser Race Report aka Spa Weekend in Calgary

I don’t want to think that I was at all prescient about what happened during the weekend of the Coulee Cruiser race in Lethbridge, but wow, talk about a spring snowstorm!  If you had read my previous blog about how the arrival of spring snowstorms reminds me that the first ABA cross country mountain bike race was upon us, you could say that I jinxed the race because it was cancelled due to rain and snow, making the trails un-rideable.

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On the Friday of the race weekend, Shantel, Brad and I loaded up the Subaru with our mountain bikes and race gear to head down to Lethbridge and enjoy the first road trip of the year.  With our travel mugs filled with coffee and heading down south on the QE2, I received an ominous phone call from Josh from the ABA.  Now, we are friends, but for him to call me at 11:00am, it didn’t feel like a social call, and it wasn’t.  He told me that he was standing in the coulees at Lethbridge College and the trails were so muddy and slick that he was barely able to stand still to take a picture.   I told him to cancel the race immediately even though the race was Sunday and there was a slim chance of the trails drying out.  But similar to Edmonton trails, the Lethbridge trails are composed of clay, and when it gets wet, the clay turns soft, slick and soupy.  Josh had another meeting planned with the race organizers to discuss the race conditions, but he promised they would make a decision within the hour.

Photo 1
Now, we had to make a decision with the impending cancellation:  Do we just cancel our accommodations in Lethbridge and Calgary and stay home or do we just spend the weekend in Calgary and have a fun team building weekend?  Well, by the time we received the official cancellation notice, we were near Red Deer so the three of us decided to travel on and spend the weekend in Calgary for some quality bonding time.  Brad is originally from Calgary so we had a place to stay for the weekend, which assuaged the disappointment of the cancelled race.  When we arrived at Brad’s parent’s house, it was snowing moderately hard and we were tired from the drive.  As cyclists, we decided that the best way to get our motivation up is to get out there and ride in the snow and 3 degree temperature.  Of course, we didn’t have fenders or booties, so within 5 minutes of the ride, we were completely soaked top to bottom. Shantel forgot her glasses so her eyeballs were being pelted by snowflakes while my toes and fingers started to freeze.  Brad gave us a lovely tour of the Calgary suburban neighborhoods while barely avoiding getting hit by cars that were surprised to see cyclists out during a snowstorm.

Photo 3
When we arrived back to the house, we decided that the only remedy for our dour moods was for us to hit the Calgary nightlife and get completely inebriated with sweet, sweet beer.  After a hot shower, we headed out to The National on 17th.  I knew it was going to be an epic night when we walked in and immediately saw Colm Meaney from Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Commitments fame.  I mean, he was a big deal and a big man, literally, as I texted all my Trekkie friends and they went completely nerd crazy.  Can you imagine if I ran into Patrick Stewart?

Photo 5
Shantel and I were quite pleased that The National’s beer prices were based on volume and not on the type of beer.  So, we ordered the Ommegang Saison and the Dieu du Ciel Rosee Hibiscus in pints, and that was the beginning of the end.  The rest of the night was quite foggy as I must have been in a fugue state, but I did manage to get to the Brad’s parent’s place in the correct bed thus avoid a “Three’s Company” mix up.  All that winter training really paid off.
I woke up the next morning at 10:00am to the smell of the most glorious scent in the world, sausages.  Brad’s dad, George, made us breakfast as he knew full well of our morning impairment.  With our bellies filled with sausages and waffles, we had to decide whether or not were going for another urban bike ride, but after a quick deliberation, we headed to some hippie yoga studio for an hour and a half of Yin yoga.  This was the mellowest yoga class I had ever been to, ever.  We put ourselves in a total of 10 poses for the entire hour and a half, and one woman just slept for the entire class (one would have to assume that she had a yearly pass).  It was basically nap time for adults, a sweaty one at that as it was one of those “hot yoga” places where they needed to have special tags just so you don’t get your awful UGGs mixed up at the door.  I do love yoga, but I think I will stick to the power yoga next time and just take my naps at home.  It’s cheaper and less embarrassing.

Photo 4
After another night of beer drinking at the awful Craft pub, we load up the car and headed home. During the drive, we were reminiscing about our relaxing weekend of November urban cycling in May, being Star Trek struck, being feed waffles and sausages, bike shop perusing and going to the laziest yoga class ever and we decided that it was a great start to our race season.  Bring on the Royal River Valley Rumble III, baby!!!

Spring Snowstorm you say? Oh, The Coulee Cruiser Must be Coming Up

Spring snowstorm should be an oxymoron, but alas, it is not. Last year at this time, I was in California on a vacation enjoying the infamous Los Angeles sun and the resplendent glamour of Beverly Hills. After the Morrissey concert, I befriended some LA locals who invited me on a tour of the nightlife the tourists rarely get to see. So, I went to some surreptitious hipster clubs in Echo Park where my newfound friends were surprisingly more interesting in my life in Edmonton, more specifically the weather as they never ventured more north than San Francisco. Between sips of Pabst Blue Ribbon, I told them that it was snowing back home, and with incredulous looks, they asked if that was a freak storm like the ones in some trite Hollywood movie with a biblical end of the world theme. I sternly told them that it is quite normal for Alberta to get snowstorms during the March/April time periods; we call them spring snowstorms.

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Mark’s Beer of Choice

For me, and perhaps other ABA mountain bike racers, the spring snowstorms manifests in me this linger feeling that the first mountain bike race is nigh and that I better stop my winter diet of tacos and beer. For those unacquainted with my dietary habits, this really is no joke. So without any further adieu, Bert and Mac’s Racing via the Alberta Bicycle Association announced that registration for the Coulee Cruiser had opened, just as 20cm of snow hit our lovely city. Cruel irony? Maybe in the Alanis Morrisette sort of way, but I suppose it’s like a Pavlovian response for us to get our training in order as the first mountain bike race is quickly approaching.

My fellow chiropractor/mountain bike junkie Kevin Nemeth is the local legend / race ambassador for the Coulee Cruiser located at the Lethbridge College campus. If you haven’t been down to Lethbridge before, they have this valley system called a coulee. The word coulee comes from the Canadian French coulée, from the French word couler meaning “to flow”. Now, how more appropriate can you get for a mountain bike race. Before you snub your pretentious cycling noses about racing in a gravel valley course in southern Alberta, just remember how often we Edmonton mountain bikers have to defend our love for our river valley trails despite the fact we don’t have such monolithic elevation like Canmore or Jasper. I always get surprised at how much climbing there seems to be at the Coulee Cruiser or maybe it’s just my beer-engorged belly amplifying the elevation. Nonetheless, it’s a challenging course for any level of racing, and the warm desolation of the area is a welcome respite from the cold, icy winter we just experienced, or experiencing, depending on your point of view.

IMG 1258

Mark’s Winter Beer Gut

The most interesting aspect of this race is, of course, the fact that it is the first race of the season, and so we can all gauge who did or did not put in a good winter training camp. There are always the surprise racers who come out of the gate fast and hot, while some of us are just hoping and praying that we haven’t lost too much of our speed, power and cognition due to the inevitable scourges of aging. It is also a reunion of sorts, as you will reconnect with people you haven’t seen over the winter months, so there the awkward “what’s your name again?” and “you look fast”, while the whole time, you hope that they had put in less effort to training then you did, so you don’t end up in last place. Oh, local ABA racing is such a social hodgepodge of emotion.

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Edmonton’s Multi Use Paths – Spring Edition

The last time I raced the Coulee Cruiser, Kevin and I were in a back and forth battle for the coveted 5th place, which for us older chiropractors, it was a really big deal. I think we were looking at it like it was the Alberta Chiropractic Mountain Bike Championships (ACMBC) for 2012. On the last climb, I surprised Kevin when I put in a last ditch attack. As I passed him, he yelled out “You’re an animal”, which in retrospect, I think he yelled “You’re an asshole”. The chiropractic brotherhood is alive and well. So, if you have been training like Kabush and Pendrel over the winter and want to show off your hard work, there is no better place to do it than the first race of the year. Or, if you have joined a beer club over the winter instead of joining a spin class (Seriously, I really did join a beer club), the Coulee Cruiser is the perfect race to enter, as it’s the first race of the year, so it’s a “Mulligan”. Kevin will give a free adjustment to every registered racer. Well, maybe not, perhaps just a firm chiropractic handshake, but come down to experience the University, the coulee (The Flow) and mountain biking on dirt instead of snow.

Meet the Team

Mark Jung

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Mark has been a cycling enthusiast since he rode his neighbor’s Big Wheel down an alley and splashed a puddle of water on his sister’s Sunday School dress.  In 2004, he started attending regular trail rides with the redbike staff where he enjoyed the unpretentious atmosphere they created by making the rides convivial, friendly and inclusive regardless of skill or fitness.  Presently, he is the redbike club president organizing weekly club rides, races and functions throughout the year.  He has been racing mountain and cyclocross bikes for several years, and he founds that it is the single best way to improve cycling skills and fitness and to meet new people who have a similar love of cycling.  From local weekly races to large Grand Fondo races to anything in between, Mark loves to surround himself with other cycling enthusiasts and to help encourage other people to start cycling and racing or more often.  As he enters this race season as a Master B racer, Mark is excited to race people in his age category and to see how many younger racers he can beat to the finish line.

Shantel Koenig


A little late to the party, Shantel decided to try racing bikes at 29 so she could see new trails and improve her skills, and ended up honing her skills racing girls half her age. After four years of learning and progression, Shantel was upgraded to Elite and has since had the opportunity to race against and be humbled by racing icons Catherine Pendrel, Emily Batty, Georgia Gould, Katerina Nash, as well as countless others. Though primarily an Alberta-based racer, she has enjoyed travelling to compete in mountain bike and cyclocross events throughout Canada and the US. Shantel is super pumped to have fun racing this season with the Kokanee-Redbike crew.

Sheldon Smart


Representin’ for all those middles-aged, mid-packers out there still striving for glory in the racing world! Got my start in Adventure Racing back in the early 2000s, and realized, the bike stages were what I was always looking forward to – so, dropped the AR scene for a UCI race license and a true MTB XC race bike. After a few solid years of paying my dues in the back half of the field, I’m starting to find my legs and looking forward to tearing it up in MTB, and really bringin’ it for my fav, cross season!

Josh Hines


I’m just trying to live life to the fullest. For me that means challenging myself and cycling’s been the key. Helped me (gave me a reason to) drop 30lb and live a fitter life. My first serious year racing was 2010 and I has moderate success with MTB but really seemed to make progress with cross. I love blasting off the front and then try to hold on. Definitely like marathon and stage racing; seems to take me 2hrs to get comfortable on a MTB. Kind of dropped off the racing radar for a couple years but I’m back to give it everything I’ve got. I know I haven’t come close to my potential and I better hurry up cause I’m not getting any younger.

Mike Sarnecki


Mike was ‘bitten by the cycling bug’ in the early 21st century and entered his first mountain bike race aboard his trusty triple triangle GT Pantera in the Citizen class at an AB cup in Camrose.  Finishing dead last and thoroughly shattered, Mike was hooked on the sport and he hasn’t looked back since.  Inspired by watching Roddi Lega descend past World Class racers down the laundry shoot in the Canmore World Cup, Mike worked his way up through the classes and currently races Elite Mountain Bike & Cyclocross.  Driven by what is the lifestyle of a cyclist, Mike’s love of cycling is steadfast and he hopes he can share his  passion with others on the road, the trails, or over a good cup of coffee.

Highwood Pass Ride

Lots of cars lined up at Highwood Junction

Lots of cars lined up at Highwood Junction

Every year Highwood Pass closes to cars for the winter. This turns a normally busy motorway into a cycling wonderland. It’s 60km from gate to gate with 950m vert reaching 2300m elevation. Sometimes, there are snow-banks at the top of the pass covering the road with only a skinny track through, and other years (like this one) the park goes ahead and snow-plows the pass so that we cyclists can have a few weekends before the gates open.

Highwood ride


So at about 11am I was turning the cranks on the 34km trip to the summit. Funny thing is that it wasn’t long before I ran into a guy that I went to University with and ended up riding the remainder of the way to the pass summit with some nice conversation. I like riding by myself but after a while it’s nice to have someone to talk to.

First summit of the pass.  Lots of cyclists up here.

First summit of the pass. Lots of cyclists up here.

There was quite a bit of snow on the sides of the road at the summit but nothing on the road itself. There was literally a traffic jam of bikes right at the top. People riding everything from $10k colnago’s to a hipster on something from 1973. After parting ways with my new riding buddy and putting a jacket on, I was pointing it downhill toward Kananaskis.

Mother nature's bike stand

Mother nature’s bike stand

The ride down to the other gates was fast with my 52-11 combo being spun out most of the way. After hopping over the gate it was another 8km to the Fortress junction gas station where I ate a 480 calorie ice-cream sandwich and f-ing loved it.

Nice view just north of the gates.

Nice view just north of the gates.

After making mouth-love to my ice-cream sandwich and re-filling water bottles I was off for my second summit of the pass. Going from Kananaskis to the summit is shorter (~20km) but very steep compared to the other direction. At this point I was pretty tired with my legs feeling the 900m vertical from the first summit and the weather looked like it might come in. Snow at the top of the Highwood pass was not something that I was interested in.

On the way back over

On the way back over

After the 20km grind back to the top, it was a quick stop for some pics and then back to the car as fast as my toasted legs could take me.

Second summit

Second summit

Some nice views

Some nice views

Finally back at the car after just under 5 hrs ride time and my Garmin was telling me 3000 calories (based on HR). So I headed to the near-by gas station for some M&M’s and Ketchup chips.

I would recommend this ride to anyone. You can go as fast as your fitness level allows and enjoy Canada’s highest paved mountain pass (sans cars).


Spring 2013 Training/Life Update


So we’re a little over 4 months into the 2013 season.  Being part of the Kokanee Redbike team was quite a motivator for me.  I remember looking at some pics of our New Years trip to Radium and thinking that I might have indulged a little too much in the fall.  Stepping on the scale after getting back to Calgary confirmed this fact.  I generally start hitting the trainer 3 or 4 times a week for an hour in January or February.  This year I also had to start cutting weight.


Netflix was definitely my friend


Please note that I blew the end-caps off.

So after a number of weeks (actually months) of counting calories and hitting the trainer multiple times a week I was down about 20 lbs.  My muffin-top was nearly un-noticeable.


The pose is really just me goofing around. I think there’s still red wine stains on my jersey from the Banff Grand Fondo.

From there the weather in Calgary started to improve and I was able to get out on the basement a few times and hit the road.  The trainer is alright but it’s not a replacement for real miles.  I do find that you have to be careful with riding 5 or 7 days in a row because it’s easy to keep the intensity high (and grind the crap out of your junk).


As long as your geared up, this is heaven compared to the basement on the trainer.

In March Mike and I hit up Penticton for a week to get some k’s in and it was pretty sweet. It was early in the season but with working half days, the 3-4 hr rides were about right.  After getting back from the training camp I really wanted to keep the k’s rolling but 2 weeks of crap Calgary weather had something to say about that.  So I was back in the basement riding the trainer.  I don’t know about you but, after hitting the open road, going back to the trainer is pretty difficult.


Sweet weather in Penticton

Just about the time the weather started getting better I picked up my new mountain bike from the guys at Redbike.  I decided to go with a long-travel 29er and focus on more long-format races as well as Super D’s and hopefully an Enduro.


Rocky Mountain Instinct 970

Now the weather in Alberta is pretty ideal for road and mountain biking.  I was able to get some solid trail riding on the single speed in last weekend in Edmonton and today I knocked off 137 km’s riding to Longview to get some jerky.


This is my single speed but the weather is from a month ago.

All in all I’d say that I’m in a good place as far as conditioning is concerned for this early in the season and the challenge is going to be continuing the progression.  With the team involvement I think I can do it. Besides, I finally found someone more obnoxious and inappropriate than me (you can guess who).  Oh, and I just shaved my legs again so I look way faster and need to live up to that.


So smooth, so pale.

Winter Rhetoric

I’ve heard all the polarized rhetoric about this past winter in terms of “the worst never ending winter ever” to “this was a total normal Edmonton winter, you are just being soft”.  To be totally honest, I didn’t feel like the weather put a damper on my cycling due to my purchase of my Mukluk 2 as it allowed me to ride on the single track in all its snowy glory.


As with most cyclists, I was preparing for another bout of indoor trainer cycling while watching vapid summer action movies just so I don’t get bored and fall off my bike and hit my head on the edge of my coffee table.  Do people wear their helmets while riding their indoor trainer?  At Redbike, they were the first bike shop experimenting with Surly’s version of the Fatbikes as they are quite the mad scientists over there in their brick laden building.  The general reaction about the fatbike’s ability on snow had been quite reverent so I was eager to test out the fast spreading rumors.  Now, I have been winter commuting with regular mountain bikes for years and have been doing a very commendable job of getting around during the worst of winter conditions so I felt that I was a pundit of winter capable bikes.


Mark w/ his Fatbike crew

I purchased the Salsa Mukluk 2 without seeing it let alone riding it, so I must have had a preconceived notion of how much I was going to love the bike.  Well, a self fulfilling prophesy was never been so predictable. With a studded tire out front, that bike floated like a butterfly and bit down into ice and snow like a fanged viper.

Basically, my riding schedule didn’t change at all from the summer due the Mukluk’s ability to ride on snow and ice.   I rode Monday/Wednesday nights and Saturday/Sunday during the day plus some extra rides if the weather lightened up every once in a while.  There developed a group of us winter riders, and we were quite dedicated on riding this winter, even when it got down to minus 25 degrees.  Quite mad, I know, but the fun factor was still at a high level riding bikes outside on snowy single track trails so why not get layered up and freeze your toes and face for a couple of hours.


Fatbikes all lined up pretty-like

Putting the winter training hours was so much easier than last year as it’s still so much more fun to bike outdoors than indoors.  Not to create a dramatic denouement, but the resultant ending to this winter was me giving away my trainer to my friend Kevin “F bomb” Elias.


Shanny in the sunset