Epica Training – Off the Rails

by CycleChick on January 26, 2012

The discussion came up recently about the particular moment when a ride goes from being epic to being shitty. My friend Hal surmised that it is time related, and that most epic rides are shitty as they occur but become epic as time goes by, especially if the experience is rehashed by its participants over cocktails or espresso.

So here we are – only three weeks away from Actif Epica, which means I have three weeks to prepare for an undoubtably epic and potentially shitty 130 km race across the bald-ass Manitoba prairie on frozen rivers and old ox cart trails. It also means I only have another three weeks to endure people telling me how crazy I am for doing it.

One does not do something like this safely or successfully without dedicated training and preparation. In my last post I showed you how I am planning to dress. That post happened across the desk of one of my favourite bloggers (and secret girl-crush) Heidi Swift, who wrote a post about my winter commuting campaign and associated badger-wear in her kickass blog Grit and Glimmer. This kinda blew my mind becuase Heidi Swift is The Shit. She is a writer, races cyclocross, does cycle touring, and takes some pretty amazing pictures along the way. She’s also Editor-at-Large for a little bike magazine you might have heard of called Peloton. I’m pretty sure she has the best job in the whole world. I’d love to flatter myself by thinking we have a lot in common – racing, riding, writing – oh, and swearing a lot.

Unlike most normal circumstances, there is way more to proper training than what you wear, so I thought I should share some of the other aspects of my Actif Epica training program.

I have been doing a lot of strength training for the demanding parts of the course where I will need to portage (French for schlep) my bike across unrideable terrain. I am enjoying this training immensely, although apparently when I told my trainer I was registered for a long winter bike race, he misunderstood and thought I said I was trying out for Cirque de Soleil.I have also been doing a lot of indoor training and am pleased to report I finally learned to ride rollers with NO HANDS.This is a skill I thought I’d never be able to do and is of no particular use, but it’s always the first thing I get asked when someone finds out I ride rollers. I’m not sure how I can casually show off this trick at the race without it looking a little premeditated, but one thing is for sure, if I can ride rollers with no hands I can do anything.

In addition to commuting to-and-from work by bike, I have been doing longer rides outside. For the most part it is a peaceful and zen-like experience to ride alone for hours along a frozen river in the quiet solitude of winter.Until you happen to break through the ice and scream your head off like a crazy person.There are also times when it feels like I’m riding on the moon and I really start to question myself. And my choice of where to live.At times like this I remind myself that my annual trip to Tucson is only six weeks, three days, and fourteen hours away.

And finally, as part of my mental training I went to see The Banff Mountain Film Festival, which showcases short films about people doing way crazier shit than this. Like the Australian guy who followed the route of Ghengis Khan across Mongolia for three years with nothing but two horses, some camping gear, and a dog.

It was a beautiful and touching movie, but I suspect he left out the bits about ingrown toenails, lice, and pooping on prickly tundra bushes on purpose. Still, it was hard not to love that crazy hippy.

Or there’s Sketchy Andy, the highline walker/base jumper who’s complete disregard for his own safety puts him in a category that defies description.Although if I had to, the closest description I could use is free-spirited adrenaline junkie crazy-ass motherfucker. It’s too bad he probably won’t live very long, because the world could use more people like him.

I love guys like Andy because, as one of his friends put it, when you’re with him he makes you feel like you’re crazy for NOT jumping off a cliff.


I can only assume those extra pieces of drywall are ready for the inevitable hands-free fall off the rollers and thru the wall. Regardless, I’m impressed that you can ride no hands on rollers. Graham, are you reading this? Are you going to be beaten by a girl? (I say having already conceded defeat to the fairer gender on most things).

by Scott W on January 26, 2012 at 3:07 pm. Reply #

It takes a big man…. : ) Thanks Scott.

by CycleChick on January 26, 2012 at 7:00 pm. Reply #

I was not aware that I was in a no hands roller competition with Andrea. Did you know about this Andrea?

by Graham on January 26, 2012 at 4:29 pm. Reply #

Really? Don’t you remember? I think you put up your bike…

by CycleChick on January 26, 2012 at 6:58 pm. Reply #

Really… dry wall for repair??? I was inspired becuase I thought you cut the drywall down to give your head room to clear the ceiling for indoor rides. That’s extra bad-ass.

by Scott on January 26, 2012 at 5:43 pm. Reply #

Haha! Yes. I did. In fact I cut it out with my bare hands.

by CycleChick on January 26, 2012 at 6:59 pm. Reply #

Please enlighten me…..although I am most of the way there…. if I knew what rollers were and why it is SO impressive to be able to ride no hands on rollers…. I would be truly an enlightened being.
LOVE the post!

by Meg on January 26, 2012 at 6:52 pm. Reply #

Thanks Meg! Here, this link will help lead you down the path to the red toque. : )

by CycleChick on January 26, 2012 at 6:57 pm. Reply #

Now you can play video games whilst on the rollers!

Just watch out, it is easy to forget what you are doing.

by Greg on January 26, 2012 at 8:27 pm. Reply #

I crash when I reach for my water bottle on the rollers. And every crash is different. Damn rollers.

by John Heim on January 26, 2012 at 9:29 pm. Reply #

Nice. But do you roll on Shabbos?

by Chris on January 27, 2012 at 2:40 am. Reply #

I don’t work, I don’t drive a car, I don’t fucking ride in a car, I don’t handle money, I don’t turn on the oven, and I sure as shit don’t fucking roll.

by CycleChick on January 27, 2012 at 3:09 am. Reply #


by The Brad on January 27, 2012 at 5:15 pm. Reply #

Oh BOy!!!

by JP on January 27, 2012 at 4:26 pm. Reply #

So people are training for this Actif Epica thing? I’d better get on that. And one more thing; Do you have to use so darn many cuss words?

by The Brad on January 27, 2012 at 5:15 pm. Reply #

Are you riding on a fat bike? Or just a normal mountain bike?

by Sierra on January 28, 2012 at 4:54 am. Reply #

Just you garden variety mountain bike. No suspension, so studs, nothing. Hopefully the conditions stay as they are – if so it should be just fine!

by CycleChick on January 28, 2012 at 12:05 pm. Reply #

Makes sense, it looks from the pics like it’s not a lot of snow. Have fun!

by Sierra on January 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm. Reply #

Those break through the ice moments really get your heart going eh. lol. You shake for about an hour aftewards. Good times. :)

by ED W. on January 30, 2012 at 9:30 pm. Reply #

Leave your comment


Required. Not published.

If you have one.

Get Adobe Flash player