Friday, July 31, 2009

Intermontane Challenge, Kamloops, B.C., July 27-31, 2009

No sooner was I home from Nationals that I packed up to leave again for another stage race. Our team is "epic racing around the world", so off to Canada I went. Kamloops, B.C. reminded me a lot of Bend, OR. But as you know, there was somewhat of a heatwave going on. We saw 100+ temps all 5 days. It was BRUTAL. Here is a quick recap:

Monday, Stage 1: 46 miles, 7400 feet of climbing
(or so it was supposed to be...)
It was a hot day. The 9 a.m. start in the increasing heat took its toll, but I kept it together and did not get lost. Apparently that was key today, because I heard from the competition, that they all did not fare so well. I took the initial stage and had some time put in on 2nd and 3rd.

Tuesday, Stage 2: 39 miles, 7000 feet of climbing (again, perhaps not the most accurate)
Another hot exposed day. My goal was just to ride with Amanda and/or Sarah, or whomever was going to push the pace. I was not going to push the pace. It was hot and that can be dangerous. Amanda and I rode a lot of the day together and at one point, I looked back and she was not there. I took a nice digger going mock speed through some sage brush. I think I clipped a pedal or something. I flew off my bike so fast, head first into a rock. Stood up, looked around, no one in sight, I didn't see blood, just stars, so I got back on and finished. Didn't gain a lot of time on this day, but was still sitting in the lead.

Wednesday, Stage 3: Uh, who knows???
All first year races have their challenges. This day was a great example. Unfortunately, there was a huge delay in the start due to some issues with some local threatening to sabotage the markings in 'his trail'. Hmmm? Well, a decision was made to shorten the stage, avoid the area that was under question and just race. Well, the race was neutralized at some point in the game, most were lost, arrows were backwards, people were pissed. It was a worst case scenario. But heck, the riding was fun and no one got hurt. Or wait, Jeremiah did take a digger that crushed a few vertebrea and he is out for a while and lost his lead and chance at $10,000. A rough day for the team, especially when the times didn't count. I had a good day, but I'll give credit to where it belongs. Jen, the gal from NZL living in England had a great day. She would have had the stage for sure.

Thursday: Stage 4: 55 miles, 6900 feet of climbing (although some say it was way more?)
What a great day! Great trails, the course markings were good and I felt good. We started at 7 a.m. and it was cooler, making it a lot easier to push the pedals. Some super fun singletrack, gnarly descents, and just great riding. The BAD part of the day, however, was when another teammate was down. I passed Ben Sonntag on the ground with Chris Sheppard attending to him. He did not look good. It scared me, but I was told to continue on. He ended up with a concussion and he too had to abandon the race while in 2nd place. 2 down, what else could happen to our team? I was a bit paranoid. I rode safe to a nice victory, making up more time on 2nd and 3rd.

Friday, Stage 5, Time Trial: 20 miles. Not sure how much climbing, but enough.
Our start was delayed. We started just before 11 and it was hot. Lucky for me, I could roll the stage. At this point, I was just in completion mode. Stay safe, no mechanicals and just ride for fun. It was good I didn't have to 'race', because honestly, I didn't feel so great in the heat. I have heat rash all over my arms. It is nasty. So I rolled a nice easy pace and had fun. I let my competitors by, fully pulling over. They still had a race on their hands, and like I say in stage racing, "anything can happen." But lucky for me, nothing dramatic happened and I get to go home with a big fat check. Literally. $10,000 CDN. I guess I will have a budget for cx afterall.

Pre-riding TT course on Sunday in the heat, overlooking Kamloops.

Chris Moor, our uber mechanic!!!

We ate well... (Matt was trying to have a Tim Butler BCBR plate)

Our wounded soldiers...

My socks described the entire race: TOO HOT!!!
(Thanks Cass. I finally had the perfect occassion to wear these.)

Lyne Bessette gave a go at mountain bike stage racing.

Chris Sheppard & I after the final stage! We are both $10,000 richer.
The BIG payout! Yahoo!!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mountain Bike Nationals, Granby, CO, July 18-19, 2009

It is the race you prepare for all season. A race you hope to peak for and have your best performance of the year. And I did everything right (with help of Coach K, of course). I had great fitness. I went into this race feeling strong. I was climbing amazingly well. But there was only one problem. See this:

Yes, it looks like the same air/sky we have in Portland, but although not visible in the picture, it is much thinner. Nationals for 2009 and 2010 are at upwards of 8000 feet in Granby, CO. For a sea-level dweller, I knew it was going to be a rough one. I almost didn't want to go, but heck, it's nationals. You have to go, don't you? I went, I suffered, I persevered and I came out with a 12th place finish in the XC. I had a good start, but I have learned, do not push too hard or you will suffer more. I kept it reasonable, within my limits and just raced my race. It was a good course, suited me pretty well. Like I said, if it was at 2000 ft., I would have killed it!!! Tim had a rough go too, but we had fun. And isn't that what it is all about???

Short track is always hard. Like Dave McElwaine (pictures above & below are his. shouted to me on the course, "Butler, it is supposed to hurt". It did. A lot. I rode steady, finally climbing into 10th, only to drop my chain at the bottom of the climb (rookie move) and had to dismount to put it back on, then was passed back by Zeph and Alison and the next lap I got pulled and had to settle for 12th. It was one of those mixed feelings of relief when getting pulled. I hate not finishing, but I was glad to not have to climb that hill again. Georgia lapped riders on course, so at least I technically didn't get lapped. :)
Tim raced strong, but got passed and just missed the podium for a 7th place finish. He looked good!
We packed up quickly after the race to head back home. I realized that I took hardly any pictures the whole weekend. Perhaps the lack of oxygen affected my brain in more ways than I realized, so I pulled over at the pass and we did a few self timer photos, just to prove we were there.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A weekend in da 'Hood.

Being home for weekends is delightful (and somehow quite rare), especially when spent at the cabin with friends. This past weekend was quite a treat, with a Friday night visit from friends passing through enroute to Sunriver. Lots of laughs and Tim had his hands full with Hannah and Theo, his new best friends. They are 5. Funny how they love Tim. Does that mean he acts like he is 5? Andrea & Paul Weymiller were heading to a weeks vacation and with 3 kids, splitting up the drive and hanging with us was a great option.
Morning fun on the deck. Mary, Theo & Hannah.

Andrea & Paul Weymiller & Tim & I.

When one group of friends leave, another arrives. Erin Ford came up early to join us for our mtb adventure. I was anxious to ride some of our favorite trails all in one day. Perhaps a bit too anxious. The first 2.5 hours were pretty awesome. But then the tree & snow adventure started. Note: upper Boulder Lakes and Gunsight Ridge are not clear. Neither is Gumjuwac. Oh well, now we know. It took another 2.5 hours to find our way back to the car. Oops.

Timmy when we still were riding. Prior to crabby pants.

Still smiling down at the bottom of Boulder Lakes.

One of my favorite spots. Erin on the log.

Taking a break from hiking our bikes.

When we returned to the cabin, more friends had arrived. Erin O'Connell, Kendra and Melissa. Tim was a bit outnumbered, but he certainly didn't seem to mind. He played grill man and we all pitched in, making a fabulous meal. O'Malley brought up some amazing fish Treb had caught and it was quite a feast. Like most weekends at the cabin, we ate well. Saturday concluded with the girls watching a moving and Tim watching his bike race dvd's. Will he ever get sick of them???
Sunday morning, the whole crew headed out to trails we knew were clear. We even got Coach K and Melissa out on mountain bikes on Sunday!

Fun stuff. I even convinced Tim to let me stay until Monday at the cabin with Kendra and Melissa, so an extra movie night. Only to return Monday for the fun of Short Track racing out at PIR. I really love summer!!!

Not sure why I look so serious??? Maybe I was trying to navigate, keeping the red cones to my right.

Monday, July 6, 2009

BC Bike Race: A week of racing fun, June 28-July 4, 2009

Home safe and sound, I can finally post some pictures and recap some of the highlights of the week. BC Bike Race was fun last year, but this year it was even better. More singletrack for sure! The race itself is a logistical miracle. Ferries back and forth, bikes in trailers and off trailers, tents, gear, etc. Being supported makes the race so much easier, but what a week! Definitely a great vacation for Tim and a good week of 'work' for me. Here is my story:

Day 0: July 27, Pre-race madness. North Vancouver. The team all arrived safely. The van and trailer driving from SLC, Tim and I from Portland, and others flying in. A miracle in itself. We spent Saturday taking a quick ride and then off to registration in downtown Vancouver. I think finding parking near the hotel was our greatest challenge. It is a bustling metropolis!
Tim & I high above Vancouver, B.C.

Day 1: June 28, North Shore, North Vancouver. For all of you who ride, you probably know that the "north shore" is synonymous with hucking and free ride. Well, they sent about 400+ riders on XC bikes on some of the 'green' trails. This is where parents take their 10 year olds to learn to ride. Now I know why Canadians rip on the dh. Man, that was frightening, but fun. I rode way more than I had expected, but the cost of failure on some sections did force me to walk. But I was not alone. It was a rush and a lot of fun. Bryan and I finished out of the top 3, but only by 37 seconds. I knew that not breaking anything was going to be more important than that amount of time.

My race partner, Bryan Alders

Day 2: June 29, Nanaimo to Parksville. We woke up in N. Vancouver and took a ferry to Nanaimo, home of friends Wendy Simms and Norm Thibault. Norm actually helped design the course, so I knew it would be good. Unfortunately my bike came off the semi with a low tire, that didn't want to hold air. After our neutral loop through Nanaimo, about a mile into the race, Bryan & I were forced off the bike to put a tube in. A not so fast flat change forced us to the back of the pack on the singletrack. It was painful. We were walking very rideable trail b/c the masses were not moving. Bryan would dismount and sprint like a rocket through the brush, forcing me to try to follow. It was a slow start. We finally got clear trail and tried to start cutting our losses. We had a great day of riding, but the time lost was massive. We were still in 4th overall, losing 38 minutes to 2nd that day, but only losing 15 to 3rd. We could still climb back to the podium. We remained positive and focused, because we had so much fun riding that day! And anything can happen!

Horseshoe Bay Ferry terminal. Team love.

The ocean wasn't cold enough. Post race ritual at Monavie-Cannondale's camp.

Beautiful campsite. But loud. I didn't sleep.

Day 3: June 30, Cumberland. After waking up on the beach, we all transported ourselves to Cumberland for a fantastic day of riding. Although it all kind of blends together, Bryan and I had a good day, finishing 3rd in the stage, making up a few minutes on 3rd and just off of 2nd. Of course, Ryan and Georgia were untouchable.

Day 4: July 1, Sechelt. This was the ultimate travel day. With a 4:30 a.m. wake up call, we were all transported (sans support) to the ferry, where we took 2 ferry's and 2 busses before arriving to the start line. When we arrived to Earl's Cove, my bike was nowhere to be found. Yes, I got concerned. I don't know what it is about MY bike and semi transportation, but it came off with yet another flight. The mechanic support attempted to fix it, but unfortunately blew up my rim and a tube and new tire would have to do. It was a little wobbly, but nothing I couldn't live with. After 6.5 hours since waking up, we were starting our race. The gun went off at 11 and Bryan and I had a great day of riding, finishing the stage in 2nd. Finally we were where we wanted to be. We had climbed into the GC top 3. Patience had paid off and we were riding strong and having fun.
Happy Canada Day, eh?

Day 5: July 2, Sechelt-Gibsons. As the days run together, the most memorable part of this day (which I had remembered from last year) was the final descent into the ferry terminal. Such fun riding and a good day in the saddle. We were treated to more great riding in the area and Bryan and I again had a 2nd place stage finish. Now only if I could go down hill faster, we could make up some real time. After we arrived in the ferry terminal, we showered up for the ferry over to the mainland again and got a bus to Squamish. But burgers were on the menu for the ferry ride. Lunch. What a concept. And then to the river for a soak of the legs. Glacial run off is not very warm.

Day 6: July 3, Squamish. This was a hard stage last year, with a long road climb that I remembered hating. But I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was no longer part of our course. We battled it out with Mical and Jeff, putting time into them on the uphills, having them catch us on the downhills. A lot of fun, technical descents. I think I surprised Bryan, because I really love this kind of riding. We held them off for a second place stage finish again. Fun riding and a lot of smiles, followed by another trip to the river and a really hot afternoon in a beautiful setting. After dinner and awards, we headed up to Whistler for a night of sleeping in a bed. What a treat!

Squamish was beautiful.

Day 7: July 4, Whistler. Was the end already here??? I couldn't believe it was the final day. We woke up and sought out some coffee and breakfast, then rode over to Creekside for the final days start. I knew it wasn't going to be easy. Last year ay 7 was my hardest day. Rumor was it had been shortened, but they didn't take off the initial climb up the ski slope. A little hike a bike won't kill you, will it??? Lose rocky descents that were way too fast for my liking. Too much brake put us behind Mical and Jeff for the day, but we knew we couldn't make up the difference on such a short stage, so we rode, smiled and finished strong, taking 3rd in the stage and 3rd overall.

At least this bridge had sides. There were many that didn't.

Tim won the last stage!

Our 3rd place overall podium.

Although bad luck made it impossible to race for 2nd, we never gave up. Georgia and Ryan schooled us all, putting 10-15 minutes on us each day. It was a great week of riding with great people. I had the pleasure of riding with former world champion, Alison Sydor, having her patiently follow me down a descent, giving encouraging advice through some really technical riding before she could safely pass. I had the pleasure of following Catherine Pendrel's wheel one day for about a while as they made up time from a wrong turn. That doesn't happen in a XC race. Bryan was a great partner, patient and encouraging, dragging me around for 7 days even though he could have gone faster alone. The encouragement and camaraderie of a race like this is what makes this sport so great and makes me keep coming back for more.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

B.C. BIKE RACE, June 28-July 4 : Quick update.

Tim & I are currently at the B.C. Bike race. We have been having a blast and riding epic singletrack. I am partnered up with Bryan Alders and Tim is riding with Matt Ohran. Currently we are both in 3rd. Bryan and I had a really rough day 2 with my bike coming off the trailer with a low tire that turned into a flat just as the race started, putting us in the very back of the race. Not a good place to be when you want to go fast. We lost a lot of time, but we are crawling back each day. I don't think there will be enough days to get 2nd, but we hope to hold on to 3rd. Results are found on both velonews and cyclingnews. I'll post more pictures and reports when I get home!!! Cheers!