I’ve been trying to get to the Wildwood Conservation Area to ride my mountain bike for a few years, but it just never happened. This year, I decided to sign up the week before the race, figuring I’d get a chance to finally ride these trails that I keep hearing so much about. There’s a continuous mountain bike trail around the reservoir that runs about 25 kilometres, but I didn’t know what to expect.
Each year, the Wild Ride charity mountain bike race is held at Wildwood to raise money for the Lung Association. Some of my cycling friends ride this event each year and this year the WCC was well represented with Bob A. and his entire family (Sandra, Will, Allie), Bill and Dawn F., Ken R., Rene H. and Tina E. and others I know from the Ontario cycling community: Blaine B. (Rock and Road), Mike Riot (Bicycle Works), Barry C. (Lap Dogs), Tim M. (R&R) and Duane W. (Two Wheel Express).
There were two distance options in this event: one lap (25 km) or two laps (50 km). I decided that I wasn’t in good enough shape for 50km of trails so I opted for one lap, but to add challenge, I thought I’d enter the fat bike category. The 50 km riders started promptly at 11:00 am, and my 25 km start was 10 minutes later. The race started with a fast sprint across a grass field towards the first trail.
I should say here that I’m not a racer. I’ve entered a lot of events and had some success in mountain bike relays, but I’m not a “racer”. I’m not really slow either – I usually end up in the middle of the pack in most races. As we were cruising along the first trails, I felt pretty good, but was working very hard on my heavy fat bike to keep up with the riders around me. I knew at least two fat bikers were ahead of me, and I saw one other not far behind me. But I also new I wouldn’t be able to maintain the pace I was at for the entire race. After about 8 km, I was still feeling pretty good when I hit the first road section. The back side of the loop (we were riding clock-wise), seemed to have a lot more rooty sections and my fat bike with no suspension was starting to take it’s toll on my lower back. I had to slow down because my back would tighten up every time I tried to put power into my pedals. Soon, I was getting passed by the next wave of riders who were in the team event (two riders, total time). Blaine passed me first, offering encouragement, followed by Barry, who shouted… “Is that a Shikaze?”. A short time after he passed, Riot passed me as well. He seemed to be smiling, and I thought that perhaps he was happy that he was finally passing a Shikaze (not realizing he was passing the slowest Shikaze). By the last few kms of the loop, my back was getting really tight. The other fat bike guy passed me as we crossed the road with a couple of kms left and I didn’t have the power to keep up. I haven’t seen the final results but I think I finished fourth in my category.
Ken finished 3rd in the single speed cat, and Tina also finished third in her cat. Blaine and Riot finished second in the team category and Barry and his partner finished second in the mixed team category. But the biggest winner was Sandra A., who raised a record amount of donations (over $3000) for the Lung Association! She came home with a nice Norco mountain bike.
This day was memorable for a lot of reasons. First, it was my first time riding the fine trails at Wildwood Conservation Area. The trails were dry and fast and are wide enough for passing opportunities (or in my case, opportunities to get passed). I need to get back there with my suspension mountain bike soon! Second, it was a lovely day with great people. All the above folks, plus the great folks at Totally Spoke’D (bike shop in Stratford). Thanks to the organizers, volunteers, riders, plus Wildwood Conservation Area in St. Mary’s, and all the riders, for a great day.
I leave you with a few pics of the day (check out my hot pink race kit from Ride the Earth Cycles / Inception Cyclery in St. Catherines… thanks Brandon!). Oh and be sure to check out Riot’s blog (it’s not up yet, but it’ll be worth it!)