Andy Redman

Mountain Biking

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Tails from the Trails

Liberty! Bicycles Grape & Wine Off-Road Squeezer

The 2002 Squeezer Experience
September 29, 2002 St. Catherines

by Andy Redman (Rider #705)

Andy Redman I'm 65. I have never competed in a mountain bike event, though I did some 25-mile time trials on the road in my late teens (best time 62 minutes). After marriage and raising three children I didn't do anything for twenty-five years except work and do things around the house.

Twenty years ago, I was a traditional couch potato so decided to do something about my condition. I got into running, lost some weight and built up my stamina and endurance. I am not a gifted runner but persevered and ran in races from 5K up to the marathon. Twenty years later, my back is degenerated and my respiratory system is compromised. I still jog a bit but overall, it's an exercise in diminishing returns. And who really cares? The IOC doesn't call and neither do old running mates, because they have fallen apart as well.

picture courtesy of Liberty! Bicycles and NoahFallis.comEight weeks ago, I decided to resume bicycle riding, despite the irritation to my back. I quickly built up to rides up and down the escarpment and around the hometown area of the "Fenwick Flash" on my Devinci Caribou ... lookout Lance! Then the Squeezer "ride" was published. So I immediately signed-up and then, I looked up the details on the Liberty Bicycles web site. Oh dear ... "could take up to 2.5 hours to complete and the course also includes the dreaded Hydro Hill" but no matter, its only a "ride", right? So, I picked up the pace, and the pain, and got my ride length up to three hours, once, and tried the Hydro Hill on my 10-year old Scott competition mountain bike ... surprise, surprise I conquered the beast. By now I have a major respiratory infection but no matter, keep riding is my motto.

I picked up my ride package with a gaggle of others on Saturday morning. Kurt serves me and engraves my number on the back of my hand like a concentration camp inmate. He looks like he may go into labour any moment because of all the things he must attend to in order for the Squeezer to be a success but in reality he is such a cool cat. Sunday morning, I picked up my computer chip so now I know what it may be like to have a similar implant if my heart can't do its job properly ...boy the wonders of modern technology.

picture courtesy of Liberty! Bicycles and NoahFallis.comI join my "wave", the 700-800 group and then we are off. The adrenaline kicks in and we are clicking and mashing gears along Ontario St and St Paul West. Zoom, the group descends the hill down to the Merritt Trail and quickly I'm sucking in trail dust ...great roughage, eh? I manage to hold my own and learn quickly, this is a race, not just a ride plus trail racing etiquette. We cross the little foot bridge across the twelve mile creek (what a traffic jam) and turn onto the single track leading up to the Hydro offices. Trees, bushes, ruts, rocks, blind turns, roots, sudden ups, and downs, riders wiping out and others trying to fix burst tires are a blur that must be handled with cat-like reflexes. I thank God I read a few ideas for mountain bike riding a few years ago. This is so different to the 12-mile Creek Trail Half Marathon. There's much more time to think through such challenges when you are running, even in a crowd of 11,000 marathoners.

Now the Hydro Hill. Can I do it with my chest infection? Yep! I stayed in the saddle and was passed by many but also passed others. At the top I was a bit dizzy but decide to just keep on going. Next, we are traversing Lake Gibson on the narrow little pontoons. Will they carry the weight of several riders at the same time? What if you fall off? - Mom, I forgot to bring my water wings! Get over it, and move forward as quick as you can. Soon we are on paved Decew Road and just as quickly tossed back into the bush again. I am feeling really good and full of confidence. Next we are herded into Short Hills Provincial Park. Thought the Hydro Hill was tough? Huh! You haven't seen anything yet. Don't even think about it. People are pushing, pushing - "passing on your right", "passing on your left". I don't seem to be losing momentum, and quickly realize I am also shouting the same alerts myself. Now there's more walking breaks as people are falling off on short little cliff-like hills.

picture courtesy of Liberty! Bicycles and NoahFallis.comNow, as I emerge from the park onto Pelham Road, I can feel the dreaded "bonk" kicking in. Drink more fluid (yuck, the stuff they gave out with the registration package tastes awful). Met up with a running partner from some 10-12 years ago, Debbie. We ride together and talk for a while on the road and through the vineyard, then she gets another wind and pulls away. I dig deep and think - relax, focus, and believe in yourself. My pace feels like its picking up again. We emerge once more from under the Glendale Avenue overpass. Major confusion, marshals are not giving directions and one little red arrow. I got lucky and hit the right direction ... oh for the hometown advantage! Then came the mud. Wow! Relax and just get into it. Struggled over the 406 overpass - the legs are shot. Turned left and roared down under the Burgoyne Bridge, hollering at some unfortunate transient to not stagger into my path. Kept the momentum going to help drive up into the Salina Street hill. Nothing left in the tank but the encouragement of the crowd drove me over the finish line in less than two- hours. What an experience.

Will I do it again? Life is one day at a time. I will probably give back a bit of what this rich experience gave me. Volunteering can be fun also. But thanks for a great experience and outstanding organization.

-- Andy Redman (Rider #705)

Comments?

For more info about the Liberty! Bicycles Grape & Wine Off-Road Squeezer, you can visit the following sites: