Sunday, August 30, 2009

TransRockies Race Report: Day 5

Thursday, August 13
Whiteswan to Elkford
Distance: 90km
Climbinb: 2254m
Time: 6:11
Temperature: 40-48 degrees

For those of you who ride in the Southeast, this stage is like the Firewater 50 ... on STEROIDS! Once again, the skies were dark and moisture was in the air. Sleep for me did not go so well last night, as the dynamic duo was busy sawing logs. I think the decibels increased during the week as the camping conditions slowly deteriorated. This was not the vacation Mom and Bike Dougster had anticipated. So about midnight, I drug my bedroll out of the tent and slept under the stars ... thank goodness it did not rain during the night.

Zeke did not start today. So I joined the Tinhorn Creek team. They were gracious enough to allow me to pound out the muddy miles with them today. The start was OMG fast as it was 15km of flat to the first check. I was able to hold on with the lead group to the check, constantly dodging pig wallow-size mudholes.

After the check began a 12km climb. This was the one where Lisa and I got separated from each other last year and about had a panic attack. I was feeling good and was at the top before I knew it. From here it was a cold, washed-out gravel road 12km descent. I ended up dropping Mark and Keith and passing the Vanderkitten/Velo Bella team. Luckily, I managed to hop onto the wheels of a South American team who pulled me to the second checkpoint. This 6km section of road was so soft it was like riding on a marshmallow.

After eating some cookies and drinking a coke (comfort food at this stage of the game was a lot better than properly fueling with bananas and HammerGel), I continued on alone. Once I hit the trapper's trail, I got into a happy groove! Just as I was crossing the bridge, I heard a grinding of gears, followed by a series of cuss words from the guy just ahead of me. As I approached him, I saw that his rear derailleur had been ripped off by a stick. I felt bad for him, but good for me ... that the stick lodged in his bike and not mine.

I rode carefully on the rest of this trail as it was littered with sticks. It began raining pretty heavily (hour 3). I stopped and put a shower cap on my helmet and drudged on through the slop of an active logging road.

Cold and miserable, I stopped at checkpoint 3. Hot coffee! Hot damn! I did not care that it was black (I love creamer), I had two small cups, along with a couple more cookies. From there at kilometer 68 began the Firewater section. After 150m on the bike, I was off, hiking up a 200m steep ass rocky section. I put "Crash" on my back and slowly, step by step, began climbing. As the rain was pouring down, I heard a sloshing noise. Within 15 seconds, I knew where it was coming from ... my seat tube. As soon as I was able to find a flat area, I put my bike down and turned her upside down. To my amazement, a river of water poured out! I wondered how many pounds that must have weighed and how long had I been dragging that around!

Next up was the infamous rock garden, a 1.5-2km section of nothing but large baby-head boulders, just waiting to slash your tires or your skin. At this point, I was just so wanting to be done that I did not think about the consequences of crashing; I was relishing a hot shower. My tires, Specialized Captains, were hooking up well in the wet, so I went for it. Thankfully, and perhaps skillfully, I rode almost all of it, save for just one 200m section. It was here that I almost endo'd so I hopped off and ran it.

Last year, the remaining 12km after the Rock Garden was all downhill to a gravel road into Elkford. Thinking it was the same course, I knew I was almost home. But then suddenly, a right-hand turn appeared. WTF! This quad trail was going UP! Tired, cold, and muddy, I dropped down into granny and with my head down, began to slowly pedal in agony.

This "new" section was 3km of rolling doubletrack had me pedaling through 1-4" of mud THE ENTIRE WAY. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I passed under the finish banner in Elkford. The residents here were so nice; they had hot chocolate, hot coffee, and blankets for each finisher. Zeke was there, blanket in hand. And yes, it was still raining. That final effort through the slop had warmed my core a bit, so I said no to the blanket, but yes to the hot chocolate.

Then I was off to the showers, while Zeke took my bike. Warm water never felt so good!

Even with riding most of the day by myself, I was able to place 4th in my category. But with Zeke not starting, this put us in to the unclassified category. We were no longer able to compete for O/A or stage wins. Yeah, this hurt my pride a bit. Even though, we were not "official" anymore, I was still competing. And if nothing more, these were excellent training rides, testing not only my physical abilities, but my mental tenacity as well.

Seeing my parents, huddled in their rain jackets, trying to stay warm and dry in these terrible conditions, made me feel so bad. They were troopers, still placing my comfort and well-being above their own. Even though I am 40 years old, to them, I was still their little girl!

Once again, the cooks had prepared a most delicious meal. I think they had it harder than I, as their daily regime begain at 3am and did not end until 9pm. Dinner was steak, potatoes, and spinach salad. I could not believe how much I put down the hatch!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

TransRockies Race Report: Day 4

Wednesday, August 12
Nipika to Whiteswan
Distance: 111km
Climbing: 1980m
Official Time: 12:00
My time: 6:01
Temperature: 48 degrees

This morning I awoke with cobwebs in my head and some noticeable fatigue in my legs. Nothing that 2 cups of Kickin' Horse Kick Ass coffee could not fix! I wish I could buy this coffee here as it is stout but smooth.

At 8am, the cloud cover was low and thick and rain was imminent. Zeke and I were in the second starting block, so we had to make our way through some of the slower folk to catch back up to the leaders in our group.

This year a climb at the beginning was omitted. Instead, we hit some lumpy, bumpy singletrack and doubletrack to the daily dose of logging roads. These meadows we went through had dips in them just the right size to swallow my 26-inch wheels. A couple times I came to a dead halt when both wheels fell into these holes at exactly the same time. Frustrating, but I could not help but laugh out loud.

Zeke and I were motoring along pretty good and had caught up to the leaders. We were riding in a pack with the top 3 teams in our division. Hammering down a fireroad at about 30kph, we saw an arrow to turn left. So we did. After about 1km, we stopped seeing tire tracks. Due to the muddy roads we were riding, this was pretty obvious. Uh oh! We turned back and when we came to that particular intersection, we discovered TWO lefts; one was a hard (almost double-back) left and the one we took was a more gradual left. The ONLY time I was thankful that we were riding muddy roads.

So then we slowly had to play catch up to the teams that passed us. And we eventually made it back up front. At the first checkpoint, all the top 5 teams were here. It was quite comical to watch our competitors frantically race around refilling bottles and grabbing food. Team Cox made it out first, with Zeke and I close on their wheels.

From here, it was a bit of more logging roads followed by doubletrack to the first bit of today's singletrack at 37km. Going into this trail required some skill as it was tight, off-camber, and loose ... but amazingly dry. Zeke took a fall on one descent; from there he slowed significantly. A couple hike-a-bikes did his knee in, for the day.

I rode most of this singletrack, about 4km in length, alone. When I popped out onto some tight doubletrack, I waited on Zeke. While waiting, I watched as all our competition passed me. I really did not like that feeling. I asked about Zeke; they said he was hurting, but pressing on. After about 15 minutes, Zeke appeared. I could tell he was upset. After some discussion, we decided that I would race on alone and Zeke would continue on to checkpoint 2 and call it a day.

With legs feeling pretty good and zippity after 2 1/2 hours of warming up, I decided I would try to catch those who passed me. I enjoyed the doubletrack descent to another 3km section of singletrack. When I pulled into checkpoint 2, I told them about Zeke. She asked who I was going to ride with and my reply was, "Whoever can keep up." She said that I needed to stick with a team. So I initially hooked up with Wes and Roger.

We slowly started the 10km climb up to LodgePole Pass. And then the morning clouds gave way to pounding rain and much colder temperatures. Brrr! But this forced me to up my pace to stoke the engine and keep me warm. When the climb pitched up to 15%, my legs died. I managed to suffer through, only to have to slog my way through 1km of muddy, slick, steep hike-a-bike. Even the moto guy had a hard time with his bike. As he passed, he asked me how I liked his rendition of a roto-tiller.

I caught up to the Tinhorn Creek guys at the pass. Thank God, for I knew that the next 53km descent along muddy dirt roads was going to be a testament of will power and perseverance. Two more guys joined us. It was still raining ... and bitter cold. But to lose contact with the wheel in front of you meant for a long ass, miserable solo ride into Whiteswan. So I hung on for dear life ... on this long ass, slightly less miserable group ride to the finish. And yes, I did my fair share of pulling as well.

I rolled across the finish line just a few minutes after the leaders in my class did. However, since I rode in alone, we were assessed the maximum time penalty of 12 hours. Oh, well, I still had an excellent ride.

Now came the time to worry about Zeke. Did he truly stop at the second check or was too bull-headed to stop? How was his knee? Would he be able to ride any more stages? Man, this sucks. Here we were, both physically and mentally prepared to do battle for 7 days, and 1km on the first day took us out of the picture. How quickly something so good can go so bad.

Cold and muddy, I hurriedly grabbed my shower bag and headed for the truck. Crazy Larry was there, spraying us down with warm water, getting most of the mud off of us before we entered the shower truck.

At dinnertime, Zeke still had not arrived. After dining on feta and spinach stuffed chicken breasts, rice, and vegies, I grabbed a plate for Zeke. Upon finding the race director, I asked for Zeke's whereabouts. I was told that he was about 20 minutes out. Apparently, he was on the last SAG wagon and they had to take a racer who had broken his wrist to the hospital. Poor Zeke! He spent an unbelievable amount of time out there waiting/standing around ... on a bad knee.

Zeke finally arrived at 7:30pm. He was pooped and frustrated for "letting me down." I told him over and over that it was not his fault. This was racing and sometimes the outcomes were not good. And I was frustrated for the bad luck that Zeke had experienced. I could lay down and cry ... or I could stand up and fight. I may not be racing for an official first place, but I was still racing!

Monday, August 24, 2009

TransRockies Race Report: Day 3

Tuesday August 11
Stage 3: Nipika Time Trial
Distance: 43km
Climbing: 1129m
Time: 4:05
Temperature: 50 degrees

I got a good night's sleep (no snoring companions) as Zeke and I arranged to bunk in one of the cabins on the property. With an 11:14am start, we got to approach the day without any haste. However, we woke up to a light rain which began to intensify as the day grew.

This is one of my favorite stages, mostly singletrack, on Nipika's property. Last year was dry and fast; this year, not so lucky. I was anxious to get started and we both were wanting to know how the knee would hold up.

Although the quads were sore off the bike, I felt fresh. With teams heading out every minute, I was ready to go after "the rabbit." The Bike Doctors, currently in 4th, left 8 minutes before us. "That's doable," I thought to myself.

I led into the singletrack and for the first 10 minutes, I could not find a rhythm, especially on the slick, wet roots. The course was a figure 8 configuration and this year the first loop was run the opposite way as compared to last year.

Soon enough, I had found the flow and was enjoying it. And Zeke was right on my wheel! Could a miracle have happened last night?

The trail was really muddy, mainly along the gorge. Not so good since the trail was only a couple feet from the edge at times. A couple times I unclipped one foot and on one scary section, I got off and walked ... one slip of the wheel would have landed me 150 feet below into the Kootenay River.

Last year the descent along the National Park boundary was fast and fun! This year it was a muddy slog up, with alot of hike-a-biking (or slip-slide-a-biking). The rain was off and on during the race. The glasses were off pretty quick as the mud built up on them. Then came the task of fast-blinking ... kind of like turning your windshield wipers on high during a blinding rain shower.

Even considering how muddy it was, the first half of the course flew by. Once we entered the second half, I could tell that Zeke's knee really became painful as he slowed quite a bit. A couple times I had to wait on him.

We passed through the "Happy Trails" section. This is a fast, fun-flowing, and slightly technical section along the gorge. The entrance was decorated with "Crazy Larry's" balloons. And he was there, in raingear, cheering us all on.

We managed to finish in 4th place on the day, just 5 minutes behind Team Cox. Not bad at all. We did not catch the Bike Doctors. I was happily surprised at how well Zeke had done on this technical stage. He is always strong on the fireroads, and today he rode the singletrack like it was a fireroad. He was grimacing at the end, but with his performance today, he kept us in the running.

Afterwards, we handed off our bikes to Bike Dougster and made a beeline for the showers. Still feeling great, I was looking forward to Stage 5. And praying that the sun would shine for tomorrow's stage was going to be a long one.

Tonight's menu was sliced pork loin, mashed potatoes, gravy, bread, pasta salad, green salad, and broccoli/cauliflower. Yummy!

Friday, August 21, 2009

TransRockies Race Report: Day 2

Monday August 10, 2009
Stage 2: K2 Ranch to Nipika
Distance: 75km
Climbing: 2835m
Official Time: 7:40:27
My Ride Time: 6:40
Temperature: 50-75 degrees

Today's start was at 8am, so it was an early wake-up at 5:30am for me. Zeke had slept in the van and I with my parents in the tent. With my IPod earbuds in, I had tried to drone out the crescendo of snoring. I am just not sure how good a sleep I had gotten listening to Black-Eyed Peas, Pink, and the Flobots; I had forgotten to download my Enya and Loreena McKennitt CD's.

I awoke with a positive attitude but with sore quads. Zeke also seemed determined to have a good day. After washing down eggs and pancakes with Kicking Horse coffee, we prepared to do battle. I hopped on Indy and pedaled around the campsite making sure all was working well. Crap! The front end did not feel right. After checking out my fork a bit more closely, I realized that there was a tremendous amount of stiction and it really wasn't wanting to compress through the first half of its travel.

So I hurriedly dragged Crash ('06 Specialized Epic) out of the van, slapped the number plate on and checked the pressures and suspension. Oh, well, surely 3 more pounds of bike wouldn't make that much of a difference, would it?

"Highway to Hell" came over the loudspeakers and we were off! The first 15km was fast. After descending off K2 property, we were on pavement for 10km. Zeke and I marked the leaders and stayed right on their wheel. Once we hit the gravel climb up the Fairmont Ski Resort, we settled in to a good tempo. The 3rd place team was right there also. After 5km we hopped on to the XC ski trail system; very tight doubletrack with a lot of ups and downs.
I was enjoying the pace and soon we had put some time on the leaders. Zeke and I had hooked up with the Tinhorn Creek Crush Club team of Keith and Mark. They were great guys and very respectable racers. I chit-chatted with them on this section.
On the final descent down the ski trail, Team Cox had closed the gap. We rode together on the next section of rolling doubletrack. Now it was Zeke's turn to talk to Hans and Giesla. He discovered that they were 63 and 61, respectively, and that back in the day, Hans was a world cup XC ski racer. Uh oh!

Once we began the steep rideable climb up to Checkpoint 1 (40km), Zeke began to slow, allowing Team Cox to pull ahead. At about 37 km, I grabbed Zeke's bottle and raced ahead to the checkpoint. I was feeling really good at this point, and whenever I asked my legs for a bit more power, they responded delightfully.

Checkpoint 1 was about 10m off the road up a steep rise. I hopped off the bike, ran up the hill, refilled our bottles, grabbed bananas, peeled them, ate 2, and ran back down the hill, and deposited our fuel at my bike. Then I ran back up the hill and grabbed more food, including cookies and bananas. The film crew was capturing this all on video. Zeke arrived soon after; I put his bottle on his bike and began stuffing cookies into his mouth. All the while, the camera is right on Zeke's face.

I tried to motivate Zeke to go, go, go because I had bridged the gap back up to Team Cox. However, at this point I think his knee was hurting him and so he took a breather. Meanwhile, Team Cox was pulling away. Doh!

Finally we were on our way, but Zeke's pace had slowed tremendously. I tried to encourage him, but he was not in the mood. So I settled on his wheel and let him set the pace. We made our way up to the steep, steep quad trail that eventually became a hike-a-bike up the debris torrent.

The Swiss team caught up to us here and seemed to put a little fire into Zeke's legs as he was not about to let them pass us. The hike-a-bike lasted about 300m and the trail off to the right into the woods was easily spotted (unlike last year, when so many of us hiked an extra 300-700m).

This 5-7km of singletrack was so much more rideable this year ... and fun! I cleaned most of the super steep seven switchback descent. Only when I was so far back on the bike that my butt became the rear brake did I get off and hike/slide down to an area where I could remount.

At one point where the trail became easier, I waited on Zeke for a bit. He was not having such a great day as those descents really messed with his knee. He told me to go on and just wait before the next checkpoint.

I rode alone until I caught the leading women's team, Team Nipika. I followed their wheel to Checkpoint 2. Zeke came rolling along shortly thereafter. After refueling, then came another grueling climb up to the Bear Creek singletrack.

I was determined to stay with Zeke on this climb, but he would have none of it. He shoo'd me away like a stray dog. I know his intentions were good; he wanted me to have fun and he definitely was not. So I relented and motored on alone.

This 11km section of singletrack I would say had to be the funnest of the whole week. Last year, it was pretty miserably muddy ... and slow. But today, it was so dry, it almost did not look like the same trail. After a short technical climb, I rode some flowy trail through a beautiful meadow. I got to witness the 2nd place TR3 woman do a face plant. I stopped to help, but she was o.k.; more embarassed than anything.

I waited for Zeke again on a flat section of trail and watched the 2nd, 4th and 5th place team go by. I shouted words of encouragement, but deep down I whispered, "You had better ride like the wind, for I am the cheetah and YOU are the gazelles!"

After a few more minutes Zeke came along and I could tell from the expression on his face that he was a hurtin' pup. I asked him to eat and drink which he did. He told me that anytime off the bike or mashing the pedals only aggravated his knee; it did not bother him so much while he pedaled at a higher cadence/easy pace.

He told me to go ahead and that he would see me at the finish. At this point, I knew I would wait for him at the third checkpoint, but I did not say this to him. Right now my focus was on catching the leaders in this last bit of singletrack.

I attacked the mountain, put my skills to the ultimate test, and had an unbelievable ride. Last year I probably only cleaned 60%; this year was an easy 95%. I slowly picked off the Swiss, blowing by them on a descent that they were walking. Next came Team Cox, also walking a descent. The Bike Doctors let me pass them on a techy, rooty section. Then I came upon Team Derailleur Noir, from Vancouver. I rode in their wake for a couple km; poor David, age 63, must have crashed 6 times. But he would just pop right back up and remount quickly. I cannot believe that he did not hurt himself. They eventually let me on by.

I rolled out of the singletrack in good spirits and asked the course marshall if I could refuel and wait on my partner without getting a time penalty. He said that was fine. In that singletrack, I had gained 3 minutes on Team Derailleur Noir, 5 minutes on Team Cox, 7 minutes on the Bike Doctors, 10 minutes on the Swiss, and 15 minutes on Team Nipika.

The crew at this checkpoint were from Brazil and they knew how to PARTY! Dressed in crazy attire, with tunes blaring from their pick-up, they cheered everyone on. I enjoyed hanging out with them, drinking Coke and eating watermelon, peaches, and bananas.

After 50 minutes Zeke rolled on in. I was still in good spirits, but the legs were a bit cold and stiff. After a couple more minutes, we began the 13 km rolling descent into Nipika and my legs quickly came back to me. Zeke seemed to do pretty well here, although anytime the road pitched up, I could tell he was hurting.

We rolled across the finish line together in 5th place, now 57 minutes behind 1st and 33 minutes behind 4th. My body was still feeling great. I still was hopeful that we could challenge for 4th or podium on an individual stage. After all, we still had 5 days of racing and shit could still happen ... hopefully just not to us. We already had our fare share!

Just praying that Zeke's knee would hold up and perhaps would miraculously improve.

Dinner tonight was lasagna, green salad, couscous salad, pasta salad, and bread. Mmm Mmm good!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

TransRockies Race Report: Day 1

Sunday August 9, 2009
Stage 1: Panorama to K2 Ranch
Distance: 48K
Climbing: 2267m
Time: 3:58:30
Temperature: 60 degrees

Today's start was at 11am and both Zeke and I had high expectations for Team Specialized/Kudzu Mafia. We both had a good leg opener the day before in the Kootenay N.P. along a trail called Dog Lake.

I awoke at 6:30am. I could have slept longer but for my parents who were snoring in unison. Zeke was also doing at good job at making some noise; not exactly snoring, but more of a puffing of the lips.

At the start, we put ourselves in a position to be at the front. The parade lap around Panorama is at a furious pace and we wanted to be up with the leaders heading up the ski hill doubletrack. I was happily surprised to get a call-up, being last year's Open Women's winner; Lisa's name was also announced.

AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" was to be the start song for each day's stage. When the clock hit 11:00, we were off. Fast! No sooner had we hit the 12km climb to the top of the ski hill when my legs seemed to lock up. Not quite ready for this pace, I backed 0ff a bit to let my legs come back to me. Zeke was just ahead. After about 2km, I found my legs and set a comfortably fast tempo. I positioned myself just behind Zeke.

Shortly after the 10km mark, the Norwegian team of Giesla and Hans passed us ever so slowly. Zeke seemed to be slowing a bit, but no worries. After all, we had a long week ahead of us. With about 1km to go to the first check point/aid station, I grabbed Zeke's bottle and raced ahead.

I arrived and the Norwegian team (Team Cox) was there. I quickly refilled Zeke's bottle and grabbed several bananas. Zeke rolled in and we left with Team Cox.

From here there was an 8km technical section of singletrack that ran along the spine of the mountain. Lots of short hike-a-bikes interspersed with some sweet riding, both up and down, and along some seriously off-camber scree fields. Zeke took a little digger on one of the techy descents. We yo-yo'd with Team Cox all the way to the 2km avalanche chute descent.

This 30-40% descent was a quad-killer and knee buster. If you tried to ride it, you risked puncturing or falling for a L-O-N-G way! I could run it just about as fast as riding it. Unfortunately for Zeke, this section undid a 12 year old arthroscopic procedure on his left knee. Towards the end, it became pretty excruciating for him as I suppose his damaged meniscus was flapping back and forth in his joint.

Finally, we remounted our bikes and after a bit more singletrack, we hit check #2. Refilling on water and bananas, we tried our best to make up some time on Team Cox, who gained a lot of ground on us during the chute descent.

Zeke flew down this 10km rocky doubletrack descent. I was right on his wheel, all smiles. Once we hit Brewer Creek road (gravel), it began to roll for the next 5km. Zeke began to slow a bit, so I took the lead and tried to get him to fall in my draft. Yeah, I know I am not much to break the wind, but every little bit helps.

We rode through the edge of a hailstorm and got to experience marble-size hail pinging off our helmets and bikes. Luckily, this did not last too long.

Soon we were on to K2 property and dodging cow pies. At the top of the last climb, I could see "tent city" below us. I was eager to finish and enjoyed the descent in to the finish. I think Zeke was hurting a bit as I had to slow up for him towards the end.

We rode across the finish line together. Second place on the day, 15 minutes back from Team Cox. Indy, my Specialized Era, rocked today's stage; she was so light I flew up the hike-a-bikes.

It was nice to be able to hand off our bikes to Doug, my stepfather. From here on out he will be known as "the Bike Dougster." Mom had our post-race meal awaiting our arrival.

I felt great after today's stage. It was kind of like a long XC race for me. I was a bit disheartened about Zeke's injury, but at this point was staying positive.

The meals were 5 star. Today's dinner was sliced roast beef, mashed potatoes, broccoli, green salad, pasta salad, bread, fruits, etc. So much I cannot remember it all. The roast beef was melt in your mouth!

Tomorrow's stage was going to be heinous. We all made it to bed shortly after the awards presentation and photos/video of the day.

Despite his knee, Zeke and I were ready to challenge the Norwegians tomorrow.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

That's Racing

As I sit in my hotel in Calgary reflecting upon perhaps the hardest race of my life, I am exhausted, frustrated, and determined.

Exhausted after racing 540 km, with approximately 425 km being wet, muddy, and bitterly cold.

Frustrated that our lead on Day 1 came to an abrupt end after Zeke took a digger on a wicked steep singletrack descent. That fall, followed by a 1.5 km hike-a-bike down an avalanche chute, finished his left knee off.

Determined that after 40 hours of racing in some of the most miserable conditions, my fitness will be at an all-time high for the Shenandoah 100.

I want to thank my parents, Mom and the "Bike-Dougster" for enduring some of the worst camping conditions. They took down and put up our campsite, in the rain, wind, and 40 degree temps each and every day. Doug spent 1-2 hours each day, washing and preparing our bikes for another grueling stage. Mom had hot coffee and sandwiches waiting for us at the end of each stage. And while Zeke and I slept in the van, they slept on the cold, wet ground.

After our competition put another 50 minutes on us on Day 2, the race for me turned more into a training ride. The bright side of this was that I was able to take more on the trail pictures.

When I get back home and after hugging my husband and daughter, cleaning all my wet and musty gear, taking 2 bikes to Bruce to be overhauled, I will post stage reports and pictures.

Until then ...