Last race of the season - definitely not for the faint hearted. The Cheakamus Challenge is a 45 mile race starting in Squamish, BC (Canada) and ending in Whistler, BC. Yes, driving the car along Highway 99 is long enough, taking around 40 minutes, and yes, it climbs all the way. Now picture doing this on the singletrack and doubletrack either side of the road and you take a little longer, climbing around 5000ft.
Driving up to the race the day before, it was pretty depressing - rain, turning to full on squally storm. It did not bode well for race day. I really wasn't looking forward to another BC mud fest, and certainly didn't want to finish the season this way. However, that night things began to clear up and by the morning we even had some patches of blue sky - the Cheakamus would live up to it's reputation of clear weather! Big relief!
This race has always been a hard one for me. So late in the season (technically it's the start of 'cross season) I'm always tired, mentally and physically. Having started back in February it's just a long time to keep going. I've raced this race with flu one year and Giardia another - I don't recommend either. This year, I was determined that I'd at least be mostly healthy going into it. It was touch and go for a while as last month I got another bout of Giardia (same infection? New infection? I don't know....) A good dose of drugs and some time off the bike sorted me out mostly, but I was really worried about having lost fitness over that time being down. This would be a real test of my only way to make this up in a 'crash' training programme - pretty much go hard for a week, take a week off then race. Not my usual 'tapering' regime.
I only had a few goals for this race -
1. consistent pacing
2. beating my time from last time
3. making the top 5
I think with the experiences of the last year I was in a good position to meet these goals, and I'm pleased to say I did. I kept a steady pace from the start, not going out too strong and fading later (thanks Cascade Cream Puff), and had strength left to tackle all of the climbs through to the end. No pushing due to shear exhaustion! As they'd added a trail from last time I wasn't sure if I'd beat my time, but somehow I managed to pull 10 minutes off, finishing in 4 hours 31 minutes. This was enough to put me 4th women across the line. I was happy :) I would have been happier if I hadn't found out later that that also put me in dead last. Only 4 pros finished the race in the end so not only was my last race of the season a complete success it was also a complete failure! Ah well, you can't have everything right? That's why I'll be back next year!