Sunday, August 2, 2009

IncompetentManagement Recap

Now that a day has passed and I've caught up on a bunch of sleep, I can reflect upon last week's InterMontane (IM - shouldn't that stand for Incompetent Management?) I can think clearly again and think I have some useful suggestions for next year's race -

1. Don't worry about marking the course, just give the leaders flagging tape to mark the course as they go. That way they can't get lost.

2. Don't post any start times. That way there won't be any expectations to set off at a certain time.

3. Make sure the neutral start through town goes via all of the Tim Horton's coffe shops so the police escort doesn't get lost on route and there's time for the pack to re-group.

4. Don't allow the use of cycle computers or GPS systems. That way the racers won't know they are doing an extra 10, 20 or 20 Km each day.

5. Give the racers a bus pass, so they can get a ride back when they go off course and eventually find their way back to a highway.

6. Make the race director drive sweep moto as well as lead moto. That way he doesn't have time for anything else during the day.

7. To reduce the possibility of helping a stranded or injured racer, make sure the sweep moto doesn't go through until all of the racers have crossed the finish line.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Stage 5 - Finished!

The last stage was a time trial (TT) through the park that we rode through on the 1st day we arrived in Kamloops. Finally something familiar! Unfortunately the published start time of 9:00 was pushed back to 10:00 the evening before the race. Needless to say, we didn't actually get started until 10:40 (ish). The delay, coupled with starting racers from fastest to slowest meant the I was looking at doing my TT in the middle (and hottest) part of the day. Oh well, I guess I was at least somewhat acclimatised to the triple digit temperatures (that's around 40C in new money) by then!

The TT course was a blast as the majority of it was on fast tight swoopy singltrack. A little of it went into some trees, but most of it was through exposed sage brush. The portions of side cut trails with loose edges were not for the faint hearted!

Even with my brains boiling and draining my bladder with about 10Km left to go, I had a great race. I managed to pass around 8 riders in front of me (we set off at 1 minute intervals) and only got passed by 2. The funny thing is that in a TT where you are essentially 'on your own' I actually felt that I had more company than in any of the previous stages of the race! The much shorter course (30Km) and twisting around one small area meant that I could see other racers for the most of the race - quite the motivator.

I have absolutely no idea how I placed in the end as the results weren't posted when I left, but it doesn't really matter. My race ended on a good note - there was good singletrack trail, I raced hard, stayed on trail, didn't get hurt, and finished strong. I am so happy to have finished.

Media coverage of this race has been somewhat lacking. I am sorry there has been so little to follow on the official Intermontane site. The race organisers were so out of their depths putting on this race, I guess posting updates and results were the least of their worries! A couple of places have covered a little bit of the race, but they have been careful not to put too negative a spin on the whole event. Mountain biking and racing in particular, doesn't need bad publicity. Here are a couple if race reports though -

Pedal Mag article on stage 3 and 4 - look closely at the 2nd pic down - I'm at the very back in the tunnel! I think we all only just missed the cameraman as we we racing through a dark tunnel and being blinded as we came out and at the last minute saw the cameraman crouching on the ground in the middle of the road!

Velonews article on stage 3 chaos

My biggest concern throughout this race has been safety. I'm stupid enough to put myself through this kind of event and know the inherent risks of stage racing in the middle of nowhere. I do not think the race organisation had enough experience of putting on a race, let alone a stage race and were completely out of their depths. They were severely understaffed and hadn't taken basic safety precautions. There are always riders that get lost and injured during a race like this, but the shear numbers of lost riders were beyond a joke, and I think it was only a testament to the racers themselves that no one got more seriously lost or hurt. If I hadn't had to finish this race for personal reasons I would probably have quit after day 2 or 3.

I could not have finished this race without the support of Anna. Just knowing someone was waiting for me at the finish line and checking that I got back safely each day was my safety net that allowed me to keep racing. Anna was way way more than that for me though, offering me unrelenting support every single day both physically and mentally. Anna, thank for your courage and humour throughout the week, but most all, thank you for your concern about the color and volume of my pee each day :-)

Waiting for my turn to start the TT

Done! Bring on the chocolate milk!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stage 4 - Solo Sucks!

Today was to be the longest and hardest day of all. With my time so off after stage 2 and making no ground on stage 3 with it being neutralised I decided to conserve energy and just enjoy the day's ride. Really enjoyable singletrack put a big smile on my face, and the 7am start time made for a really pleasant riding temperature.

With numbers dwindling due to racers quiting and the length of the stage (88Km) racers got pretty strung out through the day. I back and forthed with a couple of racers, but soon found myself alone and pretty much riding by myself. No big deal, the course seemed pretty well marked and I was paying attention, or so I thought....... After flying down some double track I'm suddenly aware that there are no course flags anymore. Looking at the ground, there are no bike tracks. Argggh, I've gone off course! Damn, I really thought I'd been careful. I climb back up to where I made my error, and I really don't know how I missed the turn, but it happened - duh!

This put me a chunk of time back and I began to realise just how alone I really was out there. I had no idea if I was at the back of the pack, or just in a pocket of emptiness. I was hoping to catch back up to someone or have someone catch me, but it just didn't happen. I eventually passed through a feed zone and was told there were racers still to come through, but still I ended up heading into some technical descending feeling very alone. I now truly understand the reason most of these stage racers require you to have a partner. I was spooked to say the least. I couldn't trust the race organisation to be there if I needed them, so I rode gingerly down stuff that I would usually fly down, fearing that if I had an accident it would be a long time until someone found me. Once you start riding like this it just gets worse and worse and soon you are walking sections that you should be riding. A team mate would have been my safety net and stopped me psyching myself out. I had to talk myself down the trail - not so easy when you are already mentally and physically shattered.

After 8 hours, I did make it back, almost 2 hours back on the lead - yikes - DFL in my category! I'd been lost, been bitten by flies, stung by a bee and almost ran into a cow, but on the whole physically unscathed. I wasn't the last racer home though - it was still a few more hours before all came in, and some didn't make it back under their own steam (more stories about that later.......)

Only one more day and a 30Km TT to go now - can't wait for it all to be over.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stage 3 - Cluster F#@k to the Finish Line

Today was a good day for me personally. I have no idea how I turned myself around, but I had a great night's sleep, ate a good breakfast and woke up ready to race hard at 8:00AM. The race organisation on the other hand hadn't fared so well. Some local psycho had decided the day before that he didn't want the race to go down *his* trail, so had pulled all the course markers. The organisers decided to re-route the course to avoid the conflict and substantially shorten the course from 85Km to 50Km. I was kind of pleased with this, but just couldn't figure out how they came up with 50Km from what I saw on the map detour.

With the course re-marking came a delay in start time, first to 8:30, then to 8:45, and then to 10:30. We didn't start until 10:40. Once again the start was neutral, as we were escorted through town by the local police. A neutral start means that everyone stays together until the lead moto pulls off. Only trouble was that the pack was going too fast and ended up splitting up. I was fortunate enough to be in the lead pack, but anyone not so lucky ended up fending for themselves through the streets of Kamloops.

This was just a taste of things to come. The course was so badly marked that even the lead moto (the race organiser who knew the route) took a wrong turn. He led the lead guys so far off course that by the time he realised it and turned around they came back on course closer to mid-pack. This error led to the race being neutralised and not count to the overall times. Probably a fair decision to call the race a wash, but the only trouble was that not everyone knew about this decision. Some folks were racing, others were taking it easy, the marshals didn't know what was going on. I could go on about the errors of the day, but I do have to go to bed, so that will have to wait for another time.

Bottom line for me - I felt good, raced hard, took some wrong turns, and eventually found my way back to the finish, but it didn't count for nought! On the bright side of things, the trails were way better today. Still triple digit temperatures, but much more tree cover and hence shade. The trails were rooty and twisty and a lot of fun, so completely different to day 1 and 2. Oh yes, and the overall distance? Closer to 70Km than the 50Km they told us. Some folks got closer to 90Km of riding in......

I'm super psyched about my adventure race tomorrow - a proposed 90Km of fun route finding. My garmin will be charged and I'm packing the cell phone.....

Garmin Stats of the day

Start Line

Happy to Finish

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stage 2 - Stick a Fork in Me, I'm Done Already!

Today I planned to take it a little easier so I wouldn't overheat so much in the blazing sun. Funny thing was that an 'easy' pace would have been fast in comparison to the speed I was able to achieve today. Terry came upon me on one of the endless fireroad climbs and found me swerving around and had to fight off the vultures swarming around me. My brains were boiling and my stomach in knots, but I could at least turn the pedals on the bike. I now realise why these races are usually done as a team. There are times when you need someone else to keep you going. Today I needed Terry - we were team BikeBooBoos once again.

 Finding Shade Before the Start

Made it Through the Day!


Feeling Better for Some Recovery Chocolate Milk

Garmin Stats of the Stage

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 1 - The Roasting Begins

It was a taste of things to come when the police escort during the neutral roll-out at the start of the race missed a turn. We did eventually get back on track, but only after some interesting back streets! Route finding during the race was challenging at times too, with assorted colours of flagging tape and marshals not always being where they needed to be. I got lucky and only had to back track a couple of times, others had a half hour 'detour' off course. Maybe the arrows chalked on the ground for the outward route were a little confusing on the return journey as we back tracked down the same road and we were therefore going in the opposite direction of the arrows -duh!

Route finding aside, I've got to say that this was one of the most unpleasant stages of a race I've endured so far. The majority of the day was spent on double track/fire road. Some of the singletrack was pleasant, but the majority was sandy and sketchy. Pretty exposed to the sun all day, it made for brutal conditions in 100F + heat.

I thought I raced pretty well up to about the 75Km mark, where I thought the end should have been. Unfortunately the stage was 5Km longer than it was posted. It took all my physical and mental strength to keep it together until the end. I sucked big time and pretty much collapsed at the end. Anna was there to pick me up though and she got her first taste of real race support - looking after someone who has the the ability to look after themselves. Anna - THANK YOU!
My finish time of 5 hours 36 mins, was a big chunk off the lead gal (Sue Butler) and got me a 9th place out of the solo women, 40th overall. I'm happy just to have finished today.

Over exertion in heat really takes a toll on the body - it took me about an hour and a half to start eating and drinking again after the race. I knew I needed to, Anna was was insistent I did, but my stomach had other plans! I've re-gained control of my stomach now and even managed a bowl of ice cream just now, so things aren't so bad now.

Garmin Stats of the race.

Same again tomorrow?

 Keeping Shaded on the Start Line

Missing Chris.......

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Almost There!

I feel like I've been preping for this race for weeks now. So much planning and packing to make sure everything goes smoothly during the race. It'll be bliss tomorrow to have nothing but racing my bike to think about! Today was all about paperwork for race registration and checking out some of the local trails. We may or may not have been riding on the race course!

Signing away any and all liability

Checking out the Trails

Saturday, July 25, 2009

No Need to Pack the Down Jacket......

The temperature in Kamloops look good for the week ahead - around about 70F. Pleasant really, only trouble is that is the OVERNIGHT temperatures! We'll be lucky if we stay out of the triple digits next week. Yikes! As I don't need to pack the down jacket there may well be room for Anna in the car.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Never Say Never.......

So it's been a year since my last post, and it looks like the pain has faded enough for me to do this all over again! This year's week of pain will again take place in beautiful BC, Canada, but this time Kamloops will be the centre of abuse. The Intermontane Challenge is a new 5 day stage race that will cover many hundreds of Kilometers of sweet Kamloops singletrack.

A couple of things drew me to this event. The first was the cloverleaf design - starting and finishing in the same place each day will mean no moving camp each day - bliss! The second, was it's one of the first stage races to offer a solo category. The third was the awesome prize purse being offered equally to the men and women. Judging from the strong competition on the start list, I won't even get close to tasting this, but I do want to support a race that values women racing the same as the men. Kudos to the race organisers for this.

Chris realised the only way to avoid supporting me during this race was to leave the country. He'll be in Australia, so I'll be relying on my good friend Anna to keep me on track during the race. I'm not too sure who is going to suffer more, me, or her! I'm also not sure how I'll pack enough chocolate for the both of us, but I'll try my best.