Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Test of Mental (Oops, that should be Metal)

ToM (Test of Metal) seems to have become a yearly pilgrimage for me. For most, it's more of a personal challenge than a race, and I seem to have become fixated on bettering my time each year. The premier Canadian epic race, tests not only a racer's physical endurance during the 67 km and 4000ft of climbing and skills during the technical descending, but also their mental ability to cope with the particular challenges on that specific day. This year it was rain. To be specific, lots of rain. To be more specific, lots of rain that turns the trail into a goopy, sloppy, mudfest, more suitable for the sport of mud wrestling than mountain biking.

We awoke on the Saturday morning to rain and heavy clouds. Even if the rain stopped we knew the trails were going to be a mess. The rain didn't stop. At the start, Robyn and I were not impressed by the prospects of the day's race.


Robyn contemplating not leaving the car

Mel less than impressed

Nothing however could deter Terry
For me, starting with the pros made a huge difference to early placing. I was ahead of the starting chaos of 800 racers all trying to get a good position and didn't get held up by overly enthusiastic races who bonked after the first 20minutes after entering the first singletrack climb. By the end of the first lap into the feed zone I was right on target with my timing. My 1:30 would have me on target for my desired 3:30 finish time. Although I was drenched through and covered in mud, the rain hadn't bothered me too much and Chris was there with an almost perfect bottle hand-off. I was a little confused as to why he was trying to hand me 2 at once though.

Feed Zone
It's always a thrill going through the feed zone (AKA the power house party). The fire road climb is literally lined with supporters cheering and encouraging and the buzz is almost as good as a Gu for an instant energy burst. The energy boost is short lived though because soon enough you are on your own facing an hours climb on the infamous "Bonk Hill". Usually I take the hill climb as an opportunity to pass others. I should have known something was amiss when this didn't happen. I didn't exactly lose ground on the climb, but I didn't gain any spots either. By the top of the climb I was pretty spent, and during the descent down "Big Ring Rip" I started feeling the effects of the cold on my rain soaked body. By the end of the 20 minute fast descent I couldn't feel my hands and braking was hard. I was beginning to get a bit crampy in my legs and didn't feel particularly co-ordinated. This was not a good way to enter 'The Plunge" - the most technical portion of the race, that can be hard to clean in dry weather. Add in copious quantities of mud and you can have some tricky situations. I wasn't especially pleased with my performance, but at least I stayed on the bike (mostly.) Unlike a lot of other racers who chose to simply dismount and run. I shouted a lot to get them out of my way, but even so, I got held up here trying to pass.

Heading back into the feed zone I was 7 minutes off my target and knew I wasn't capable of making it back up on the next section through Crumpit Woods (AKA Crampit Woods.) I consoled myself with 'every one's going to be pulling worse times' and headed into Crumpit. I was still cold, and beginning to get a headache. I just wanted it to be over. But it just went on and on, seemingly never ending. I just wanted it to be over. Nothing left inside me, I added another 11 minutes to my time deficit and to rub salt into the wound got passed by another gal that I just couldn't stick with. If I'd had anything left I would have allowed her to lead into the finish and take her close to the line. Not even close!

I finished up in 3:48 - 18 mins off the time I wanted, and 9 minutes back on last year's time. I was covered in thick mud, had a raging headache and wandered around in a thick haze waiting for Chris to arrive to be able to change out of my wet clothes. The only consolation was that I did finish and it was good enough to get me an 8th place - right around mid pack. Not bad, but not good either.

The next day I felt like I'd been rolled down the mountain rather than I had ridden down. Pretty much everything hurt. I hadn't enjoyed the race and didn't feel pleased with my performance. So what am I going to do about it? Yep, you guessed it, go through it all again next year, in my sick quest to beat my personal best once again.

To be continued......

1 comment:

Fabien said...

That's the way it is, do it over and over again until you are either satisfied or drop altogether the idea of it :)