Some may be wondering where I disappeared to this past week. I had opportunity to seek out internet and update my blog, but honestly, I was a bit too exhausted and thought I would wait until I could reflect on the complete week of the B.C. bike race. For the past week, I camped in small towns in B.C. along the route of the B.C. Bike Race, racing my little legs off for days on end. Seven days to be exact! Although not a novice to these long mtb stage races, in never ceases to amaze me how a punishing seven days can be so fun. Especially when you are done and looking back at it. This was a team event for Monavie Cannondale. We had 3 teams of two and I raced in the mixed category with the team manager, Matt Ohran. He dragged me around for seven days, making me go faster. We rode well together as we spent each day racing for second place. Why second place, you ask? Well, Wendy Simms and her husband Norm were off the front most days and although we pretended to chase them down, it really became a race for second between Katie Compton and her husband Mark. The food was good, the weather great (although a bit too hot in the beginning of the week) and the scenery fantastic. Can words really capture this experience? Not really. I'll give a short recap for each day, but pictures can't really even do it justice.
Day 0: Friday, June 27th, Getting there.
Jason Sager and I teamed up for the long drive up to the small town of Shawnigan Lake north of Victoria. Smooth sailing for most of the drive (& ferry ride out of Anacortes) until we realized it was the Friday before a 4-day weekend in Canada. Yikes. Talk about a traffic jam out of Victoria. Long day in the car, but beautiful scenery past Olympia. Registration went quickly, finding food was challenging and out hotel accommodations, well, not so great. It's always good to start a race like this sleep deprived.
Day 1: Saturday, June 28th, Shawnigan Lake to Cowichan Lake, 89K, 55.6 miles.
Getting in the start blocks early is key for the first day with 400 people all wanting to seed themselves towards the front. We did a great job and the start was anything but neutral this day. It was a race to basically seed yourself for the rest of the week. The short loop around the school's campus ended up being a bit of a debacle. A freshly mowed farmers field left many with broken derailleurs an hangers early on. And forced many to stop and dig out tons of grass/straw that had built up in the rear cog and made it impossible to shift and dangerous to pedal. But we were all in the same boat and some fared better than others, but this was all part of racing. A mixture of service trail and singletrack, the race was on. There was some fresh cut trail that was, well, hardly rideable and then a nice steep scramble up a hill with your bike on your back. Yep, good 'ol hike a bike. But there was some good riding and after you were good and tired, you only had about 20K of flat gravel trail to hammer home. Did I mention it was over 7000 feet of climbing according to my Garmin? I was feeling pretty o.k. and we were off to a good start, getting second in the mixed category. A podium finish and call up for the next day.
Day 2: Sunday, June 29, Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni, 125K, 78.1 miles.
This was the longest day, and due to snow and other issues, the route was a day of road racing on mountain bikes. A nice easy neutral start and a fairly easy pace and flat route (only approx. 4800 feet of climbing) made it tolerable except for the dust. The first aid station and check in was a bit of a debacle when over 200+ racers came in at the same time. I lost Matt and stayed with the front pack and he had to chase back on with a group and spent a fair amount of energy chasing back on. But we survived and got from point A to point B. We had 2K of singletrack at the end to hopefully make us forget about the 123K of gravel roads. It didn't work.
Always easy to spot our base camp with Matt's van.Tent Village.Still on the second step. Katie and Mark decide to join us up there.Day 3: Monday, June 30, Port Alberni to Cumberland: 80K, 50 miles.
This day had some great riding and views, not to mention 2 major river crossing, one leaving your chamois wet. With over 5000 feet of climbing and mostly fireroad and singletrack, it was a nice change from the previous day of road riding, but unfortunately we didn't get to stay in tent city this night. We had to head over to Sechelt after we finished up because we didn't have ferry reservations for the next morning. We were in good company, however, because when we arrived to the ferry terminal, many teams we recognized were there. It avoided the 4:15 a.m. wake up call the next morning, but we missed the camaraderie of our fellow racers and the great dinner. Ferry food just didn't really cut it.
Day 4: Tuesday, July 1, Earls Cove Ferry Terminal to Sechelt, 60K, 37.5 miles.
Our race started in Earls Cove when all the racers arrived off the ferry. It was an amazing logistical accomplishment on the races part and quite a spectacle to have everyone take off from the ferry terminal and on time, none the less. This was a relatively 'short' day in mileage, but it was the day with the most singletrack so far. And really good singletrack. Lot of fun, zippy trails , and some serious climbing (over 6000 feet). To be honest, it is all kind of a blur, but I know it was fun. Too bad Matt forgot his camera on this day.
Day 5: Wednesday, July 2, Sechelt to Langdale, 65K, 40.6 miles.
Holy fun! Great riding and lots of fun challenges along the way. I have noticed that the terrain and dirt and ferns seem quite similar to what we ride in Oregon, but the bridges and the fun factor of these trails really does not compare. The bridges were my personal challenge, but I started riding stuff I normally would hesitate and maybe walk. The race was on, however, because there was a 12:30 cut off time to make the first ferry over to Moon Bay and get on a bus to take us to Squamish. With a start time of 8 a.m., you would think it was no problem, but it was a push and Matt and I just made that first ferry. It was a pretty small group that did, but everyone had big smiles on their face after eating up great singletrack (and over 6000 feet of climbing) the whole day. This was probably the best day of riding the whole week.
Day 6: Thursday, July 3, Squamish, 65 K, 40.6 miles.
Starting and finishing in the recreation capital of B.C. was not a bad thing. Granted, I would have liked to see less fire road, including the infamous 9 mile Climb (it's supposedly only 5 ) , also known as Bonk Hill, but the singletrack really made up for it. Challenging and fun. A few walking sections for me, but I rode more than I was probably capable of. The Powerhouse Plunge definitely put you into exhaustion mode, especially with over 6500 feet of climbing this day. Lot's of concentration, fun descents and just plain fun riding. We rode sections of the Test of Metal and the Gear Jammer all in one day. Only a day to go. And we are just starting to have fun.
Day 7: Friday, July 4, Whistler, 47K, 33.1 miles.
With such a short mileage, it should be a short day of riding, right??? Wrong. We had an early wake up call and then were bused (we drove) up to Whistler in the morning. It was the final day and we were warned about the initial climb. It hurt. It was steep and long. And there was more throughout the day (over 6500 feet of climbing). This short little day took us as long as the day prior. I had a really hard day. I rode fine in the beginning, but the middle section with the trail called "River Runs Through It" kicked my butt. It is a 'technical funhouse' with ramps and bridges galore .Well, it may have been fun if I hadn't been so wasted and I just started riding like a small child, missing entries to bridges, not having momentum to get over things, crashing more than I care to remember. Kelli and Sarah caught us and it was almost laughable how bad I was riding. Both were encouraging and kind. (thanks gals!) It was tough and it was tough to recover. I was getting so frustrated with myself, but once we finally got through that, I remembered how to ride again and with the added inspiration of another mixed couple catching up to us, the pressure was on. I knew we had already lost a ton of time this day and I really didn't want to finish this race in 3rd. I pushed and pushed to the end and Matt was patient and encouraging. I was a bit bonky, mad I rode so poorly through that and finally, pretty tired and wasted. It was a long last day, but I managed to finish with a smile and we did finish the week in 2nd place for the mixed category. Whew! What a great week! And even just a day after it is over, I can say I would do it again!
The party was up at the Roundhouse in Whistler. Just a short Gondola ride up the mountain! Too bad for the clouds, but the views were still o.k.
The final podium when Norm almost took down the back drop. Oops!
For even more great coverage, check out www.monaviecannondale.com. Jason has posted some great stories and pictures as well. Enjoy! Thanks for reading about my adventure!