Thursday, July 10, 2008

Some final videos for you

On Day Four, racers were transferred from Cumberland to Earl's Cove. This involved two ferry crossings starting at five in the morning. We had crossed the night before to prevent hassle and sleep in, so we were there to see the racers being reunited with their bikes at the terminal.

Earl's Cove was a bit crowded that morning...

And finally, some actual riding. On Day Seven I had nothing in particular to do so I followed Mel, Christie and Eric on the course, popping up to surprise them at various points.

The majority of this clip is from A River Runs Through It, one of the most pleasant cross country trails in Whistler.

More videos to keep you entertained

Again, low on quality but definitely a look at how the race works.

Inflating the Bear's Den tent at the finish line. This tent provided shade for supporters and racers in a location where they could watch others crossing the finish line each day.

Terry cramps up. After Day One, Terry had some issues with leg cramps. I've never seen quadriceps like this before. We were trying to get some electrolytes (salt tablets) and water into him but Mel had a fit of the giggles at Terry's expense.

At Port Alberni, the racers were sent off with a two-cannon salute, courtesy of the local frontiersmen reenactment group. Cough Cough.

BC Bike Race in video

I didn't have time to edit this stuff while we were at the race, and I haven't really had time now so it's rough, but here's a little insight into the race experience.

Mel and Terry discuss race strategy on the way up.

Pre-riding at Shawnigan Lake. We were amazed that they let us use the school as a registration and starting point.

The day of the race - Mel knows that Chamois Butter is essential for a comfy day in the saddle.

Day one - the start.

More to post as they come off the production line.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Post Sleep Race Re-cap - The Good the Bad and the Ugly

The Ugly
That’s me! Bruised, scratched, bitten and baggy! I only remember one real fall, and that was on day 1 – a wipe out on a rock slab descent that resulted in one scabby knee I had to carry with me the rest of the week. The rest of the bruises and scratches I don’t really remember where I got them, but I look like a victim of domestic violence, only most of the damage is on my legs. I have so many mosquito bites on my ass it looks like small pox could be making a come back! At least the itching has taken my mind off my saddle sores. And as for the bags under my eyes, I don’t’ think I could fly right now without having to check them into the baggage hold.

The Bad
The worst part of this race for me was pulling out only 15Km from the end on day 2. Seeing a good friend and riding buddy succumb to the effects of heat and dehydration was devastating for both of us. This was the right decision to make, but oh so hard. So close we could smell the end, but any further and we could have been taking a helicopter out of there instead of a truck. Sometimes it takes as much (if not more) strength to quit as it does to continue on blindly ignoring reality. I will always respect Terry for this smart decision. I was so sorry have lost my team mates though.

The 2nd day was also the worst ever mountain bike race day I’ve ever had as far as terrain is concerned. 125Km of dirt road does not the ‘ultimate singletrack’ experience make! Only marginally better was day 1 and 3 with more singletrack, but plenty of it was unrideable because of it being either freshly cut or log-jammed with racers as it was too soon after the start for racers to thin out. I think the race should be re-named ‘The Ultimate Wait for Singletrack’, because we didn’t really get good singletrack until day 5. This is regrettable because I don’t think I’d go back to Victoria to ride given what we rode. I’m sure there are better trails there, but maybe they are trying to keep the good stuff to themselves?!

The Good
New team mates! I couldn’t have finished the race without being picked up by another person lacking a partner, or a team willing to become a team of 3. Eric and Christie took me on as an addition to their team and for that I will be forever grateful. As a team of 3 we still had to abide by the ‘not being more than 2 minutes apart’ rule so we had to learn how to ride together as a team. I think we managed this pretty successfully and I think I only swore at Eric a couple of times for ribbing me about being in my granny gear on a couple of climbs! He was only pissed off because he couldn’t climb so slowly through the throng of hike-a-bikers on some of the climbs. He had to resort to fancy trials skills, doing track stands and hopping around, not ‘real’ biking ;-) Christie was a real champion and however many racers overtook her on the climbs she pulled back that many and more on the descents. Now that’s real mountain bike racing!
I knew the racing through Squamish and Whistler would be good, I can now include most of the sunshine coast too. Some unbelievably good singletrack that I’ll be playing through in my dreams for a long time.

A stage race like BCBR isn’t just about getting on your bike and racing. It’s everything around the racing too. It’s being ready for the next day, having bike and body in good enough shape to do it again, and again and again. I can truly say that I could not have done this race without the support of Chris – the real unsung hero of the week, taking on every task to keep us going through the week. Champion bike mechanic (I never had one mechanical issue – the burped air from my front tire on day one was solely due to my bad lines on the trail), cook, and bottle washer, he was there doing it all. THANK YOU CHRIS. I don’t think Terry realized how hard this job was until he spent some time with Chris on the ‘other side’. Chris deserves his sleep of a ‘King’ today.

Stay posted for more pictures to be published and a video when my ‘King’ awakes later today.

Day 8 – Sleep, Glorious Sleep

Ah sleep, there’s nothing better than a good lie in after being chronically deprived of sleep for a week! I’m back in the land of the living again and can just about manage a blog posting of my own again! Nothing much to do besides pack/unpack and SLEEP whilst Chris drove us home. The only blip in this day was being ‘randomly selected’ by computer at the US border crossing for a more thorough passport inspection. We were initially really worried about being selected because we thought the car was going to be inspected too and with all the crap we had in the back of the car it would not have been a pretty site. I’d managed to wash most of my biking clothes before leaving, but there was still a few pairs of shorts that could have done battle with a customs official. Turns out we just had to wait in a very long line of similarly confused folks who had to have their passports checked for various reasons. I really wanted to sleep some more, but given that I had a sore throat and looked like shit, decided that it would not be prudent given the warning on Bird Flu posted around the office. I really didn’t want to spend time in quarantine on top of everything else!
On top of the sleep on the way home, I think I slept for a solid 12 hours last night.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Whistler has the best riding

Day seven took racers on a tour of some of the nicest cross country trails in Whistler - Riverside, River Runs Through It, Cut Yer Bars and Lost Lake. I think that for some riders it was a bit of a shock, because the Whistler trails are technical and twisty with rocks and drops. However, for people who enjoy real cross country mountain biking, this is about as good as it gets in a race.

Mel, Christie and Eric raced today. The ten o'clock start was great for Mel who was already up in Whistler, but Eric and Christie had to catch the race bus from Squamish so it was a regular wake-up time for them. Because we are staying in Whistler tonight as well, I was able to concentrate on following the race rather than packing up and moving to the next location. Also, because of the circular nature of the ride and the easy road access, I could drive between locations and surprise the team on the trail. It also meant that I could take some action photos for the first time rather than just start and finish line photos.

Mel has promised to post something soon summing up her experiences, so I'll leave her to describe the racing.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Familiar trails make for great riding

After Christie's derailleur issues yesterday, she decided to sit out the day and save herself for the wonderful Whistler trails tomorrow. As a result, only Mel and Eric started this morning.

Food is getting harder to stomach as the days go on. Mel didn't go across for the catered evening meal last night, so I brought some food back. I wasn't sure what she's want to eat so I brought her a lot of everything. Eric said that it would be impossible for anyone to eat that much food. Mel proved him wrong. Mel also skipped the catered breakfast, choosing to have some of her regular cereal instead. Even that didn't go down too well.

It was only a short ride from the hotel to the start line, but I still didn't make it in time to see them off this morning as I'd only just finished fixing Christie's bike. I had intended to do it the night before, but the bikes were not unloaded from the semi trailers until after we'd left and gone to bed. However, I was there soon after the start and Terry, Christie and I rode up to watch the racers at a couple of points on the trail. Having the start and finish for the day in the same town makes it much easier for the support crew, so I actually got a ride in. After cheering our heroes on at three locations, we headed back to the finish and just snuck in before the reduced Team Bike Boo Boos. Eric dragged Mel around the course today. After rushing to catch the cut-off yesterday, Mel had very little energy left for the long climb up nine mile hill today. In the Test of Metal race, Mel climbs that section in around fifty minutes. Today the same section took her over an hour.

After that climb however there is a fast doubletrack descent followed by "The Plunge" - a short but extremely technical area with steep drops and some wooden bridges. Mel and Eric had no trouble riding through, but plenty of other riders were caught out by it. Many had never ridden anything even remotely like it before. It's definitely a trademark Squamish trail.

The racers stay in Squamish again tonight, and are bussed up to Whistler for a slightly later 10am start tomorrow morning. We reserved accommodation in Whistler this evening and were here before 5pm. Hopefully we'll get some good sleep tonight so that Mel can be well rested for the final day of fun tomorrow.

There are plenty of new photos on the Bike Boo Boos photo site, so take a look at how the week is progressing.

Day 5 = Great singletrack for some

I already mentioned derailleur hangers when I talked about Chris Eatough's issues on day one. Carrying a spare one is always a good idea. However, when a manufacturer makes two different hangers which are almost but not quite the same size, and when you trust the shop you buy it from to tell you it's the right one, it's a bit of a surprise when you are out on the trail and your shiny new derailleur hanger doesn't fit on the bike.

This was the situation that Christie found herself in on Day 5. After an hour of trying to make it work, and eventually converting the bike to a singlespeed, Christie decided she wasn't prepared to pedal the remaining distance with a bodged bike. She retired at Aid Station 1, and Eric and Mel rode hard to beat the Aid Station 2 cut-off time of 1pm. They made it with ten minutes to spare, and were rewarded with the smooth, flowing, bermed trails of the Rat Race course.

Christie meanwhile was transported to Aid Station 2 to wait for "extraction". After the Aid 2 cut-off time, riders are either redirected on a faster route to the finish or they are taken off the course in a truck. As Christie's bike was relatively unrideable at this point, she had a ride in the truck.

One reason for the early cut-off was that the finish line had to pack up and move from the Langdale ferry terminal and set up again at Squamish that evening. This included the two semi trailers full of bikes (45' long, two layers of bikes, filled from front to back), the start/finish tent, the medical tents and RV, the bike wash and mechanics, the announcer and timing people, and all the cyclists. Cyclists walked on to the ferry at Langdale and caught a bus from Horseshoe Bay up to Squamish.

Obviously because we had our car there was slightly less stress, except that Eric was out on the trail, Christie was at the finish line, and both of them needed to check in their bikes and get on to the ferry. Luckily, after pushing through Aid Station 2, Mel and Eric enjoyed the singletrack so much that they were done in just over six hours despite the hour of down time on the trail. This meant that they could both shower before we drove for the ferry line and Eric and Christie walked on over to the terminal for the 3:25 sailing.

Langdale to Horseshoe bay is a scenic crossing but we have no photos to show for it because we were all pretty wasted after the day. Terry was with me in the support car, and we actually thought we'd have some time today. We got ten minutes to look at the sea at Roberts' Creek and just sat down with a coffee when Christie texted with her news.

At that time, we imagined that Eric and Mel would have zoomed off towards the finish line, not realizing that they spent an hour trying to do the fix. If Eric and Mel were zooming, we figured that we'd have to zoom too. We both finished our coffee and dashed out to get to Langdale, just to have to hang around for several hours. Terry still hasn't had his tourist attraction time.

In Squamish that evening we found a new derailleur hanger for Christie in Tantalus bike shop. They were just about to close, but took pity on Eric and swapped his wrong hanger for the correct one at no charge. Thanks Tantalus!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Day 4 = better singletrack; Day 5 = great singletrack

Mel, Eric and Christie were excited to set off today even if it didn't show too much in their faces.

At this point in the race, body parts stop responding as fast as you'd like, and stomachs start rejecting food. However, once you get on the bike things start to move the way you expect.

After a short road section today, the riders will be heading off into some wonderful singletrack areas. Mel and I have ridden here before, as the Rat Race is held in this area on the same trail system. That is a three hour race. This is more of a six hour day. Terry and I may even have time to do a ride of our own before meeting the racers at the Langdale ferry, and if not then when we arrive at Squamish there should be time to spin our legs out.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Day Four - will the real ultimate singletrack please stand up?

So far, the BC Bike Race - billed as "The Ultimate Singletrack Experience" - has had little more than 15km of singletrack per day. For the uninitiated, singletrack trails are the narrow, twisty trails that mountain bikers live for. I asked Terry how he'd explain them to someone who'd never ridden, and his is a good description - tough hiking trails.

Some singletrack is smooth, buff and covered in pine needles with banked turns and swooping descents. Other singletrack is rocky, rooty or even elevated on wooden bridges. The appeal is in getting good flow and "cleaning" technical sections without putting a foot down.

There is also such a thing as bad singletrack. Newly created trails aren't bedded in well, which means that as you go over a drop, your front wheel can sink in rather than rolling onwards. That causes endos (descriptive enough term, I think). Day 1 and Day 3 both had new singletrack. Loose, newly cut in, still edged with snagging branches and probably not routed the best possible way.

Day 2 had 2km of singletrack in the total 130km - and that was right at the end when everybody was too blown to enjoy it.

Today, day 4, will need to have some very sweet sections of singletrack in order to up the proportions and allow the race to live up to its label. If it doesn't, there may well be mutiny.

Luckily, we know that days 5, 6, and 7 cover some of the best singletrack in the world. But the question that lots of competitors seem to be asking is why follow the other trails just to keep this as a point-to-point race?

Day three, the support perspective

Mel rode with Eric and Christie today, and Terry rode with me. I think that if he ever gives up his racing career, there is hope for him as a soigneur. Last night he took care of all the washing and drying. This morning, our day started with Terry preparing breakfast for the racers while I cleaned up Mel’s bike and changed out the saddle to give her slightly different pressure points so that her saddle sores get no worse.

We gave Eric and Christie a ride to the race venue as they had been staying in the same Motel as us. After dropping them and their race bags at the staging area, Terry and I made sure there were no last minute issues for our competitors before doing the obligatory start line photos.

Then, a quick hop back to the Motel to pack everything up and get on the road. We stopped at the pharmacy to stock up on butt cream (zinc oxide based diaper/nappy rash cream) and were soon heading for the finish area. Terry did show his naivety as an apprentice soigneur at one point by asking whether we’d be stopping at the tourist attractions along the way. I quickly filled him in on the extent of his responsibilities, explaining how personal interests are mere diversions and are not permitted in the rigorous life of the support team member.

We arrived at the finish line just in time to see the lead men roll in after three hours and forty five minutes in the saddle. After we found a spot for the car in the shade and scoped out the shower truck and restrooms for our returning riders, Terry was finally allowed to pursue his own interests. He went for a quick spin to work his leg muscles out while I found some shade to sit in.

From then on it was just a question of waiting until our racers showed up at six hours twenty four minutes. Although we had nearly two and a half hours of down time, we knew that Mel, Eric and Christie could come in at any point so we had to wait around. On other days it would have been possible to leave them to their own devices for a while after they got in, but on this day we had to quickly clean up and then drive to the ferry in order to be in line for the final crossing of the day.

Although we'd been warned that the ferry would be busy, I think we left earlier than necessary as we were the first in line. Ferry terminals aren't known for their shade, so we made do as best we could.

After a one-and-a-half hour crossing, we drove for maybe an hour to get to the second of our two ferries of the evening. This one was a shorter crossing which would probably have been spectacular during daylight, but as it was already 10:30 when we boarded, there really wasn't much to see. We reached our Motel in Earl’s Cove as just gone midnight, and I think I was finally in bed by 1AM. Terry my apprentice was asleep on the second ferry and although he helped drag things up the two flights of stairs to our room, I let him off early and he was already asleep before I finished up.

This ferry rush may seem crazy, but the alternative was to get up at four in the morning and drive Terry and Mel to the start line where they would get on a bus, be driven to the morning ferry, be fed on the ferry, drive to the second ferry, and finally arrive at Earl’s Cove at around 10:30 the next morning. All of that standing around is hard on the legs, and the long sit and wait in cycling clothes is uncomfortable. Instead, Mel got to sleep in until 7:20AM and we still arrived at the ferry terminal before the ferry did.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Day Three - still complaining about the lovely weather

Mel, Eric and Christie came in at 6:24 (or thereabouts) after another hot day in the saddle. Mel was really hoping for singletrack trails today after the long boring fire road yesterday, but although there were about 15km of trail, lots of it was newly cut. This meant it wasn't well bedded in, and it seemed to have been done relatively fast rather than paying real attention to the flow. As this race is billed as being mainly singletrack, they are running out of kilometers of fire road for the rest of the days.

More baked brains today. It takes a couple of hours of serious sitting in the shade and application of ice packs to bring your body temperature down after a day out in the heat like that. Unfortunately we are currently sitting in a really exposed ferry terminal waiting for the ferry to arrive. We've staked out the only shady spot in the whole parking lot, but I have to stand in the sun to "borrow" the internet connection I'm using. In the interests of keeping my skin melanoma-free, this is going to be a short post.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Day Two - like day one only longer, hotter and boring

It's not often that you would purposefully choose to spend 7 hours in 95 degree heat. Especially not when that's 95 in the shade and you are in the full sun. It gives another meaning to the term "Fire Road".

Day two was a relatively flat stage (that's flat in comparison to the other stages, not flat like a pancake). It was also a long stage, at 125km. During the course briefing the night before, the organizers even apologized for the length and boredom factor. The aim of course was to get from the end of one good stage to the beginning of another good stage, and as this is a point-to-point race, that sometimes means doing the boring bits. Also, this was their third choice for the route - choice one was a no-go because of land permission, and choice two got new snow just a week back. Hard to believe with the weather today.

Terry and Mel started off with the intention of having a more mellow day out to try and recover from yesterday. Unfortunately, Terry hadn't been able to recover from dehydration from the previous day which meant that he couldn't put in the effort that he wanted to. Ultimately, this meant that they stopped racing at 109km. This is why you won't see their results on the BCBR site. Terry's going to take the day off tomorrow and ride with me in the support car, while Mel joins forces with Eric and Christie as she isn't allowed to ride on her own.

Obviously Terry isn't too happy about taking the day off, but it's a smart decision to help him get back on track.

The Motel we are in this evening has air conditioning, which is now on full blast just trying to get the room down to a reasonable temperature. Mel is considering sleeping on the sofa in the living room area rather than in the bed as this is the coolest spot. I'm encouraging this move because I don't want to go anywhere near her saddle sores at this point.

You may not get an update tomorrow because we have to rush off after the stage finishes to catch two different ferries across to Powell River, where we will arrive close to midnight. If this sounds crazy, the alternative is to wake up at 4am ready to load up on the morning ferry with all the other racers, and then wait around until 11am for the start. Mel's looking forward to her lie-in!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Day one - 89km in 95 degree heat

A warm sunny start at 9 AM can only mean one thing - hot, exposed fire road climbs at noon.

Although they planned a 5 hour race today, Mel and Terry were out for 7 hours 43 minutes. 45 of those were spent waiting for water to be delivered to an aid station that ran out half way through the race. Sensibly, they waited at the aid station for more water to turn up. Others didn't, and I saw the state of them as they crossed the finish line.

Even with that 45 minute wait, Terry was feeling the heat after going off maybe too fast at the beginning. By the end of the day, he was cramping and dehydrated to the point where he had trouble keeping up with Mel. I think it was more of an issue for Terry than for Mel, as at least she was still smiling at the end of the race.

Later on in the afternoon, when we were getting ready to head out for the evening meal, Terry started cramping again really badly. Both my and Mel's reaction was to grab cameras rather than electrolyte tablets for him. If I get a chance to upload the video I will, but until then you'll have to make do with this rather gruesome picture.

As always, more images at the BikeBooBoos Picasa Web Album.

Mechanicals happen to everyone, even the pros.

This morning, Mel and Terry went off without any apparent issues, but some other riders didn’t have such an auspicious start. Chris Eatough and Jeff Schalk, last year’s winners on the Trek VW team, apparently tried to overtake on a narrow piece of the course that crossed a newly mown hay field. We tried pre-riding the loop that they were on at the time and gave up because we couldn’t see the direction of the course. Apparently neither could Eatough and Schalk. Both of them picked up enough loose grass to jam up their rear cassettes and then wrap around their rear derailleurs – promptly pulling the derailleurs up and backwards in to the rear wheel. Chris’s bike was unrideable at this point, but Jeff managed to coast back down to the start. Chris had to run, carrying his bike because the rear wheel couldn’t turn.

Once back at the start, three mechanics started out to fix the bikes. This involved removing the rear derailleurs and finding new derailleur hangers. The hanger is a piece of soft(er) aluminum which is designed to break in these situations. Chris’ did, but Jeff’s hadn’t, so his derailleur was broken in two. Still, both derailleurs needed replacing because they were stuffed so full of grass. I guess the advantage of racing on a pro team is that you don’t cry over the cost of the replacement parts, just over the time you are losing while they are being replaced. Luckily, Jeff was carrying a spare derailleur hanger which the mechanics used on Chris’ bike. Two replacement derailleurs and one snipped-out broken spoke later, and the guys were on their way. I think they may have missed the second starter loop but nobody was counting at that point.

Going in to the main portion of the trail in dead last place, the two Trek riders still managed to pull themselves back up through the field to finish in third place at Lake Cowichan this afternoon. I just hope the effort wasn’t too much for them to sustain over the next six days.

I haven't had time to paste any images into this blog posting yet, but you can find several scary images of broken bike parts at the BikeBooBoos Picasa Web Album.

Interesting thought: if I had helped Mel or Terry to fix their bikes during the race, they would face disqualification. Somehow I don't think that's going to happen to the third place riders.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Day Zero - Hurry Up and Wait

Chris here, posting because Mel's already in bed getting some rest.

Today was registration day. We got to the registration area early because we wanted to do a little pre-ride. We drove straight past the entrance first time round, because it looked much too pleasant to be a bike race venue. Shawnigan Lake School is an up-market private school in its own grounds. Driving through the stone gateposts you are presented with an idyllic vista - fountains, Tudor-style buildings, a clock tower, and a massive inflatable bear on the top of the registration tent. OK, so we realized that we were in the right place after all. Trust the mountain bikers to bring down the tone of the place!

Registration was pretty orderly in comparison to other races. They made us sign lots of pieces of paper and then they gave us a very large bag full of goodies as various as socks, handlebars and "Sharkies" - little gummie fish full of sugar to help us on our climbs.

With several hours between registration and the evening pre-race briefing, we went back to our lovely faux-wood paneled motel to do last minute packing. There are certain items that Mel and Terry have to carry - medical supplies, a lighter, rain jackets, etc. and so we both went through all of our tools to make sure we had what we needed and no more. In keeping with yesterday, most of our consideration was given to how much food they could fit in. Terry will be carrying nearly 4000 calories worth of goodies, and his goal is to consume all of them, plus whatever Mel can't manage. Mel finds it hard to eat when she's pushing hard on the bike. Terry has no such issues. He has a digestive tract of titanium (he got the lightweight upgrade from the regular steel model).

At this point, we just want to get started. Bed time now, and an early morning start so that my two racers can get even more food inside them and digested before they start.

You'll see photos in this post some time tomorrow after I've arrived at the finish area and had a chance to get set up. Until then, check out the pictures on the BikeBooBoos Picasa album where we'll be uploading additional images to the ones shown here.

Day Minus One (Packing it In)

Yesterday was a day of packing. In fact that is pretty much all we did.

After packing the car all we had left to do was pack ourselves full of food. It was a long journey and what better way to fill the time than to eat!

Officially known as ‘carb loading’ we took our task very seriously. Robyn’s parting gift of home baked cookies was calling us from the moment we took off. We didn’t even make it to the border with Canada before they climbed out of their container (right at the bottom of Terry's pack) and into our tummies . Our packed lunch was pretty much gone by noon and then we had to break into our trail mix. Terry was confused as to what should go into trail mix and thought that ‘Fiber One’ would be good. We quickly corrected this and balanced it out by adding a bag of chocolate drops.

Because Terry ate so much, we had to go and stock up on more food at the local store.

Hopefully this will have been our longest stage of the race – 7 hours to reach our destination of Shawnigan Lake on Victoria Island, BC. Terry took the challenge of eating very seriously and Chris made a valiant attempt to keep up, but Terry won the day when he managed 3rds at supper time. I have selected my partner very well.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Day Minus One - Off to Victoria, BC

This is it, finally we are taking off today! Feels like I've been packing for days now in preparation for this race. I've had so many lists of things to take and not forget to do, I think I should probably have had a list for my lists.

The real preparation for this race started back in January though, with base training. Long slow hours on the bike in the in the most joyful of Seattle weather. There were times when it rained so much I thought I would never dry out. I swear if it had gone on any longer I would have started going mouldy. It was good to build intensity after this base training. Shorter hours, but harder effort. Some racing pepped things up a bit. The weather improved marginally, and there were even some gloriously sunny training days.

For the past couple of weeks now I've been tapering - way shorter hours and less intensity. It's amazing how good you can feel when you do this. This past week I've had a bunch more energy and it's been hard stopping myself from doing other stuff (like yard work) with the extra time and energy I've had. A lot of time was spent making lists and packing though, so it's not been that hard staying away from chores. Oh yes, and the lawn tractor mysteriously died, so I couldn't take care of the mowing either :) The knee high grass will be interesting to deal with on our return!

As excited as I am to get going on this race, I'm also really nervous. The problem is, I can't change anything now. I just can't get stronger than I am now. It's not like exams that you can 'cram' for the night before in the hope of being that little bit better. I just can't put more time on the bike now in the hope of getting stronger. If I do, I can potentially make myself weaker. I guess this really is it. I am what I am.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Introducing Team

I’m not in this race alone. I’ll be racing it as part of a 2 person team with my good riding buddy Terry Turpening. The craziness must be infectious! We’ve been challenging each other in our riding together for years now, and I’m looking forward to taking on this new challenge together. We’ve always pushed each – who can get to the top of that steep climb first? Who can descend faster? Who can clean that gnarly technical section? It just seems right to be taking on this race together as a team. We’ll have to stay within 2 minutes of each other through every stage of the race or face a penalty. Now there will be the biggest challenge – push each other to be as fast as we can be, but not so much that we kill each other!

We are not in this race alone. Supporting this duo will be (check out the website for a wealth of information on fixing your mountain bike) and Pacific Bicycle Company (where I bought my first full suspension mountain bike, road bike, ‘cross bike and everything else I’ve ever needed for riding and racing.) To top it off, we have head mechanic, driver, soigneur (you name it, he gets to do it), my biggest supporter and fan club, Chris, AKA hubby.

We are a strong team with great support, I’m feeling confident and can’t wait to start.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Why Didn’t Someone Hit Me With a Two by Four?

It’s taken a while (2 years) but I’m back at it again. After my first ever 7 day stage race (TransRockies) I asked Chris to ‘hit me with a 2x4 if I suggest doing anything this silly again’. Well I resisted for a whole year, but at the beginning of this year I must have forgotten the pain and signed up for another one. I guess it’s a little like child birth – If anyone remembers just the pain, then it’s not likely you’ll do it again. However, that’s not the case, and the human population isn’t in danger of extinction and I’m a week away from giving birth (again).

So to be fair, I have selected a different stage race this year. It’s the BC Bike Race 

Who could resist with a logo like that anyway? A bear riding a bike? That’s the one for me! Actually, it’s the opportunity to ride some of the greatest singletrack around for a straight 7 days that pulled me in again to this craziness. Starting at Lake Shawnigan on Vancouver Island (British Columbia, Canada), it heads North to Cumberland, takes a ferry over to Powell River on the Sunshine Coast, down the coast to Langdale, takes another ferry to Horseshoe Bay and continues to Squamish and finishes in Whistler. All in all, about 530km (330miles), with a few hills on the way!

As the race is fast approaching, I’ll be blogging more regularly, and will do my best to report after each stage. Feel free to leave your comments – it’ll help us get through the week!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Test of Metal June 2008

The Test of Metal (ToM) seems to have become a yearly pilgrimage for me now. I just don’t seem to be able to stay away from it. This was my 5th one in as many years. A pre-ride of this course 5 years ago was my first taste of Squamish singletrack. I was addicted from the first hit. The race is 67kM long with 1,200 meters of climbing. It has a taste of most things that Squamish has to offer – sweet, fast, zippy singletrack; gnarly, rough ‘oh shit’ singletrack; natural obstacles and man-made ladder bridges; and of course, climbs! Short, long, steep, loose, you name it, it’s got it! Riding it is great fun, racing it is great focus.

The course itself is not however the thing that keeps me coming back for more. It’s the ‘vibe’ of the race. There’s so much community support and energy around this race that it’s infectious and you want to share it with others. It seems like the whole community is out there cheering you along. Nowhere more intense is this than on the steep, technical, gnarly stuff. Yes, they are there to see the crashes, but they are jolly supportive at the same time! There’s also nothing better than seeing the faces of friends complete the race for the first time – there’s a range of shocked expressions from the look of ‘I just survived a car wreck’, to ‘I was in that car wreck’, to joy of ‘I just survived that car wreck’, to elation of ‘that car wreck was way in my rear view mirror’. The best part is in knowing that they’ll be back for more one day.

This year we had near perfect conditions – dry and warm (but not deathly hot) made for a very fast course indeed. I not only wanted to beat my time from last year, but I wanted to get a time under three and a half hours. This would mean shaving off almost 20 minutes from last year and 10 minutes off my personal best. With the training I’ve put in and the course conditions this was possible!

A couple of interesting 360 pics here.

My race went well – good pacing from the start and only really getting tired going into the ‘plunge’. With my upper body really tired from the ‘big ring rip’ I made a silly mistake and endoed. My skinny 1.8 tire choice was maybe not the best for this gnarly stuff either! This woke me up a bit and I made it safely out of the woods. It wasn’t until the feedzone that I realized how crooked my handlebars were from the tumble and required a quick adjustment. Fortunately I had already passed Chris and I could just wrench the handlebars straight rather than getting out an allen wrench to make the adjustment. (The bruise on my face is now developing nicely into the look of domestic violence victim.)

Coming out of ‘The Plunge’ I also experienced some intense cramping in my inner thigh. I guess my muscle objected to being out of the saddle for so long during the technical descending. Fortunately it was short lived and I took a few salt tabs from Chris when I passed the feedzone again, just in case it was electrolyte related, and managed to work it out pretty quickly, which was a relief as I didn’t want to do the final ‘Crampit Woods’ with only one leg working! I’ve had bad times in this place before and it’s easy to blow your whole race here because you have nothing left to give. This is where I’ve lost a couple of places to gals passing me in previous races. I was determined this wasn’t going to happen this time.

I wasn’t feeling too bad, and was surprised to catch a gal who had been ahead of me the entire race. She was pushing a steep, loose section and I came by still on my bike. She didn’t look too happy and didn’t give me any room to pass either (which she should have done given she was off her bike.) I stayed ahead through ‘Crumpit Woods’, not knowing quite how much time I was ahead of her. I soon found out, because getting out onto the road section I put my head down to put as crank it so she wouldn’t see me when she came out, but just a few seconds later she was flying past me drafting behind a big guy who was moving way faster than me. I wasn’t going to have her beat me by tagging a guy to draft behind, so I dialed up the pain threshold and cranked it harder to stay on her wheel. The guy at this point blew up and just couldn’t pull anymore leaving us together to fight it out. As soon as he pulled off she got all squirrelly as she didn’t want me on her tail. Dodging across the road and slowing down put me in the ‘lead’ again. I backed off too, but she backed off more. A few other guys got in the mix at this point and I couldn’t tell exactly her position, and I couldn’t get any of them to pull either. My only choice was to just gun it from there and hope I could lose her as we got into the mellow trails leading to the finish. Flat easy trails, but going all out was interesting as I didn’t know the turns and some came as a bit of surprise to me and I ended up ‘off course’ a couple of times. One of the guys following me started to calling out the turns ahead of me so I wouldn’t go off again, kind of like rally car driving. This wasn’t what I wanted though and tried to convince him to lead me in, but he was quite happy to sit on my wheel. How the hell was I going to lose the gal at this rate?

Coming into the final stretch she was right behind me (obviously a lot smarter than me!) Gravel became grass and had just enough smarts to lock out my fork going into the final sprint for the line. At this point I must say that I had not planned on a sprint finish. I wasn’t trying to get a certain place, my goal from the start was a time based one. But with a direct competitor right there, I just couldn’t let it go. I was going to fight for whatever place we were fighting for! Sprinting after an epic race is a weird thing indeed. I didn’t think I had anything in me, but I got a surge of energy from somewhere and I held her off right up until the end. Now that’s where our stories will differ. From my perspective, I’m pretty sure I had my wheel across the finish line first, I’m sure from her perspective she saw her wheel cross the line first. Now that’s where I gave up and coasted. She on the other hand kept going a little further and got to the volunteers taking our plate tags before me. That was my mistake, whatever happen at the finish line was pretty much decided by our tag order. She took 7th, leaving me with 8th. But this wasn’t all, my hauling ass towards the end of this race (something I wouldn’t have done without a little competition) meant that I shaved a few extra seconds off my time and actually achieved my real goal of a sub 3:30 race – 3:29:46 to be exact. Thanks 7th place gal :)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

S. Seatac - Indie Series Opener

S. Seatac is typically a fast hard course. There's nothing particularly technical to deal with and no major ascents or descents, but you'd be mistaken to think of this as an 'easy' course. The twisty singletrack becomes technical at speed and staying focused is key. Every corner becomes an opportunity to loose time(too much braking), take a visit to the bushes (not enough braking) or gain time (just the right amount of braking). No major descents also means no time for recovery, so power is pretty constant throughout, making it one long hard effort.
Looking clean before the race
The course was drying out nicely throughout the morning of intermittent sunshine. The sport and beginner racers were bedding the trail down well, and the rain over the last few weeks had made for a tacky, not muddy trail. Pretty much perfect race conditions. And then came the afternoon Expert/Pro race! About 1 minute into the race, the skies opened up and we were faced with a rapidly changing course. Any pre-race choices of tires or tire pressures soon went out the window as the course turned into full on peanut butter. We all should have been prepared for this as it's what we've had for the last few months, but I don't think anyone quite wanted to believe it. Visibility was so bad I made the decision to throw my glassed off after the first lap. I could see again, but instantly regretted the decision, as the spray of mud was so bad at times my eyes became filled with goop and I wasn't sure if my contact lenses would revolt and disappear.

A good start to the race
I had a good start, leading the women's field for most of the first lap. I was relieved when Kristi came by me to take over the lead because leading was sucky and being able to follow another wheel was actually way easier. This caught Kristi out and soon a bobble put me back in the lead. I had to take what I was given and just went with it, trying to hang with some of the singlespeeders who were catching us up by this point. We were also beginning to pass through some of the expert guys, so passing as fast and smoothly as possible kept things entertaining. Fortunately we have a great bunch of expert guys who most often give you a little room to pass (if you ask nicely). I wasn't too sure what had happened to Kirsti, but assumed she'd be back soon to cause me trouble, so just kept picking off the guys ahead of me to keep my pace as high as possible.

A little muddier by the end
The conditions just got sloppier and sloppier as the rains continued for most of the race. Corners got slicker and I felt my back end slide out several times, but just about managed to keep upright throughout the race. Without another gal directly on my heals I just started thinking about being as smooth as possible so I didn't blow it by wiping out completely or getting a mechanical. There were plenty of shifting and chain suck issues going on as racers stopped to fix things on the side of the course, or completely abandoning the race. I lost my top few gears, but nothing that meant I had to stop - just couldn't go so fast on some of the straight-a-ways. This strategy seemed to work as I completed the 5 (4 mile) laps in one piece and was pleased to finish with a 2 minute margin on the 2nd placed gal. I was super surprised this wasn't Kristi, but a pro who'd come down from Canada. Guess I had the home field advantage on her! Kristi later confessed to not eating enough and bonking in the middle of the race. She's a trooper who doesn't quit though and still managed to pull off 3rd place. I think she'll be prepared with a bigger breakfast next time.

Other great news of the day - Chris came out of retirement and raced singlespeed on his 29er. A solid middle of the pack finish for him, made possible only by my superior bottle hand off -

Got it under 20lbs

Ok, a few more tweaks and the Scott is now a healthy 19.5 lbs (but don't tell the competition!)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Good Start to the 2008 Season

It's the beginning of a new race season and what better way to start it than with a new bike! Just this week I picked up a new Scott Scale carbon fiber hardtail. This is possibly going to be my lightest bike set-up yet. It's not quite under 20lbs yet, but a few more tweaks and it should just get there.

So, my first race of the season was a small local affair at Ft. Ebey on Whidbey Island. A super fun course, made up mostly of sweet singletrack. Considering the rain we've had recently it was surprisingly dry, and it made a pleasant change not to be slogging through the usual mud bogs of courses this time of year.

I was a little nervous going into this as it was my first race of the season and being still in base training I hadn't tested my legs with much high intensity stuff yet. I also didn't quite know how the new bike would perform either.

The bike and body did great together. The bike was light, nimble and fast, yet comfortable and compliant whilst not losing stiffness. I wouldn't exactly say 'effortless' climbing, but as close as you can get without an engine! Without my usual competition around me it was hard to judge my own performance, but I felt I raced well and had the luxury of being able to pace myself how I wanted to without immediate competition breathing down my neck. After 2 hours, some of the hills were decidedly 'effort-full' and although I had some left inside me at the end, I was glad it wasn't much longer. I did push myself to chase down some of the men and ended up taking first place in my field and wouldn't have fared too badly in the men's field either.

Approaching the finish line

I'm looking forward to more competition at the next race in 2 weeks time, but all together, a good start to the new season.