Joined: 20 Jun 2008
|Posted: Wed Aug 20, 2008 10:44 pm Post subject: TransRockies 2008 Journal
|I have retold the story as I remember it and have not used much artistic license to embellish or otherwise fluff it up. To the best of my recollection, the events below happened to real people, in real time and are now part of me - I hope they become part of you.
Day 1 Race Report
I think we are going to lose cell coverage for the next couple of days so here is my race, rather my ride and walk, report.
While the race guide suggested a rather short and uneventful day in the Purcell Mountain range, it was anything but. First thing - don't check our time on the website - we were about 10 percentile. That is the bottom 10.
We had 52km to do - about 10% of the total for the week - pretty short right? A walk in the park! Not so...
Ok, the day starts well. We climb about 1200 metres in the first 10 km and we are feeling strong. Passing people strong.
Chatting it up strong.
2500 metres of climbing, 1300 to go. Then Snow (jingle bells in freakin' AUGUST!) A bit of rain. I tested the structural integrity of my helmet. My blood is clotting well. Streams. ROCKS. TREE ROOTS. Everywhere!!! The Trans-Walkies! Mountain hiking, not biking. Hike-a-bike. Oh - did I mention getting lost behind 30 racers who took us in the wrong direction? Made me think of travelling with Brendon - or Mike - or - you get the picture...
Once we found the trail, we started making some good time. Then I flatted on a downhill at 45km/hr, but no wipeout. The sound of air leaving a tire. Ssssss...
Just to discover that the bike is equipped with TUBELESS tires, for which I was unprepared. My team mate Tom, who is recovering from a cold and a bad downhill spill last year, was 4-5km ahead of me, not wanting to look back and thinking I was close behind. When he discovered I was no longer following him, the officials would not let him go back citing the danger of riders coming the other way.
So there I was, bears and deer, deer and bears, stranded. Not really wanting to be here anymore. And yes I paid for this. I want a refund.
Take the wheel off - can't figure out how to fix the blasted thing. Other riders pass me offering help, suggestions, encouragement. I ride the flatted tire for a couple of km. I take it off again, put a tube in, inflate and it works! Tubes work in tubeless!!! Amazing!
Tom is at the surprise control point. I pass him. I am pissed. He's looking at me like I lost my mind. Why am I blowing through the control station? Once he catches me, we cool down (I cool down), we make it to the finish. And get ready to start Day 2. 3800 metres of climbing, twice the distance.
And yes, I paid for this.
Hope you enjoyed the report.
Day 2 Race Report
After a very tough and mentally challenging Day 1, I wasn't really looking forward to Day 2. Truth be known, after the single most physically demanding day of my very short life to date (ok, 44 years in October isn't that short, but who's counting???), I was having a little anxiety attack going into Day 2. Food not sitting well, did not sleep well, etc.
So Day 2 starts and I am loving it. PAVEMENT! We get 10 km of pavement to ride on. Tom and I are rippin' it. Until...
Until my back wheel/tire starts to shimmy up and down at high speed. Remember the flat tire I rode for a couple of kms yesterday. Seems like it didn't really like that too much. I ask Tom if its flatting. He says no. I am a little paranoid after yesterday's ride. I ask him again. He politely says no. A couple of minutes later, I ask him again. This time he aint so polite. He says he knows what a flat looks like AND YOUR TIRE IS NOT FLAT!!! Some words left out for family reading...
We settle down again and we start the first of 3 ascents that will take us to 2200 metres in altitude and a total of 3800 metres of climbing (I know I wrote that yesterday but it sounds impressive, non???). A small correction for yesterday's post - total distance today was 74 km, not 100. We have two 100+ days coming up.
We are rippin' the climbs. Gravel roads, loose rocks but generally good stuff. Stuff for the most part that you might find on some road near the Hockley Valley (thanks Alex!). Except 8kms instead worth instead of 1km (should have done more repeats!).
Our third climb is 6 km, mostly on foot. Yep. Another hike a bike. We do at least 30 minutes with our bikes on our back. New thing for me. Not unlike cyclocross, only steeper, rockier, and not very fast. Too bad the race leaders missed the turn halfway up the climb, summitted, went around the ridge looking for markers and then came back down. They took almost 200 riders with them and lost between 1 and 3 hours. Fortunately, we arrived on the scene as they were coming down. So while we were delayed (THANKS - I needed to rest!), it wasn't all that bad.
I could go on, but I won't. Suffice it to say that while our day was much longer (8.5 hours), it was better. The cuts I got yesterday make it hard to see the fresh ones of today. Except for the nice chain ring impression on the inside of my right calf. And a new decent bruise on my left palm. And...oh, who's counting? (actually, I got some good pictures of it all).
Day 3 is a time trial - each team starts at 30 second intervals. Total distance - 44km. Climbing 1500 metres. Should be a walk in the park, right?
Details at 11.
Day 3 Race Report
A short report today.
We raced time trial format today (every team leaves the starting gate at 30 second intervals) so we were able to see how we rank against the clock and a better judge of your own ability - you are rarely slowed up by other riders for long periods. There was also significantly less hiking today - a great riding day). I was pacing Tom on the hills and he was waiting for me on the trails. We probably/hopefully finished the scariest part of the race - a trail 200 metres above a river - not much between you and the bottom. Safe. Phew! New tire working well.
Our time was about mid-pack for our age group - I was pretty happy with that - considering I have now officially spent more time on my mountain bike in this race (19+) than on all previous mtn bike training rides. First year on a mountain bike. First race - Paris to Ancaster April 2008 - time - 2 hrs 20 minutes? Next race - Trans Rockies August 2008 - time - 40+ hrs?
Tomorrow - big day (100+ km) but we hear a lot of road - should be another 8 hours or so.
Signing off for now. I'll try to be a bit more creative tomorrow.
Day 4 Race Report
2567 metres of climbing.
2539 metres of descending.
Total time on the bike - about 7.5 hours.
We had a great day.
Fantastic views of Mt King George (according to the guide book), the Palliser River (agree - did see that), a couple of rabbits and one small bird. Don't ask why I remember that, but I do.
The scenery was the most spectacular to date.
We crossed three streams/rivers with water so cold it numbed our feet (not to mention some other parts of the anatomy that got wet). The strength and coldness of the water will grow by a factor of two every time I retell this story, so don't bother reminding me - just roll your eyes.
The riding today was probably the least challenging technically but tough on the cardio. I was in biking heaven.
The most challenging part for me has been the pacing. I am used to racing for 2-3 hours. Here, you are doing that 2-3 times, 7 days straight. If you go out too strong too early in the day or the week, you risk blowing up before the end - or worse, getting tired and making bad decisions. As one of the competitors said, it is a war of attrition.
While my partner and I have had some communication issues, we have been totally in tune with food and fluid intake in the morning, during the race, right after the race and for dinner. I have never consumed so many calories in a day. Here is the list. Banana, water, coffee, oatmeal, pancakes, ham/bacon. Breakfast - done. On the road - three bike bottles of Eload (carbs and electrolytes), 3 Clif bars, nectarine and banana pieces, wagon wheels and goldfish crackers, refill 3 bottles with water and electrolyte drink, hammer gel, almonds with salt. Race - done. Post race - more carbs, chocolate milk, hard boiled egg, trail mix, bowl of yogurt and blueberries. Ok - let's do dinner. Tonight - potato salad, pasta salad, chicken burger, chicken sausage, pieces of chocolate for dessert. More water. And a few Motrin during the day just for good measure.
Weather has been great. Not too hot for riding, warms up for the end of the day, full moon rising over the Rockies. Right now.
Amazing - you guys should see it. Just skip the bike racing part of it.
10:46 - time for bed. Good night.
Day 5 Race Report
Day 5. Check.
Only 88.5 km total distance.
2147 metres of climbing. A little less descending.
Probably the most demanding mountain biking on a technical level. Very rocky uphill sections. Small streams to cross with lots of rocks. A downhill section that was called the Rock Garden. No gardening going on there - at least not for me! More like fertilizing - sorry, but that sort of sums it up quite eloquently. A lot of riders really enjoyed it - not me! By the way, the rocks were on average 8 inches x 4 inches x 3 inches. Some bigger. Some smaller (footnote - ALL rocks - a 12 foot wide trail, 750 metres long. All rocks. How do they find these places?!?!? And I paid for this?)
How do I know the average size of rock? I was quite intimate with a few of them. Elbow, meet rock. Rock, meet elbow. You get the picture. I got the bruises and scrapes.
While I made three or four of the technical downhills today (don't look down - ride - back brake on most of the time - pray - look for a good line - repeat several times - ride for awhile with no rocks - repeat again), I walked about 3/4 of the Garden - better safe than broken ribs (last year's rider) or torn ACL (two years ago).
Day 6 tomorrow. Two days to go. From Elkford to Crowsnest Pass tomorrow. 102.4km. 2998 metres of climbing.
Day 6 Race Report
Brutal day. But we are one day away from the end.
8.5 hours in the saddle and on the feet. Almost 3000 metres of climbing. A few hundred metres of climbing that required the good old hike-a-bike - throw the bike over the back and climb up a 30-45 degree wall of rocks and dirt. We had about 3 serious hikes like this in the late afternoon. If I had known, I might have installed a Stairmaster in the Toronto Athletic Club sauna and trained in there.
Temperature was in the low to mid thirties with much of the trail exposed to the noon to early afternoon sun. We were wilting. We probably consumed over 5 litres of fluid each during the ride, plus more when we returned.
We crossed the Continental Divide. The views were spectacular - the only benefit to the clear blue sky.
The hardest and longest day of the TransRockies ended in Alberta near the foot of Crowsnest Mountain in a little town called Blairmore, about 15 minutes east of Pincher Creek. We were welcomed by people from the town like champions.
Tomorrow we ride to Fernie BC and it sounds like its going to be a longer day than many of us expected. Original start time was 9:30 but that has been moved back to 8:30. Wow - 30 extra minutes of tossing and turning in the camper van!
Last day will be 79 km total distance with 2100 metres of climbing - not quite the parade day that many of us were expecting but still 20-30% less than the two hardest days so far.
For the first 6 days, we have been on or carrying our bikes for 34 hours. That places us 42 out of the remaining 68 teams in our age group with the top team at 22 hours - yup - 40% less than us. To be honest, I expected a higher placing but thought our overall time would be in the 35-40 hour range. With tomorrow's stage, we'll probably be right around 40-42 hours (cross the fingers - it aint over until the wheels are over the line). The other guys are just way faster than I expected.
While I did expect a higher finish, this race has been far harder physically and mentally on me than I thought it would be. If it had been described to me beforehand in detail, I am not sure I would have signed up for it. But, with one day to go, I don't regret it.
One more chapter to be written tomorrow.
Day 7 Race Report
We are done!
Total time: 40 hours, 17 minutes and 38 seconds.
As I predicted yesterday, today's ride was no walk in the park. In fact our day and week almost ended about 45 minutes into Day 7. We started the day with a 30 minute climb followed by 15 minutes of relatively easy single track. Then a technical downhill. I lost control and cartwheeled with the bike landing hard on my right hip from about 5 feet in the air(perhaps I was getting a little too cozy with the Olympic spirit doing my own version of a floor and air routine). Ouch! Can't say it felt very good but having come this far, it didn't make sense to hang up the bike at that point. Get back on the bike. Start downhill number 2. Second fall. Right leg gets caught under the bike which I am putting weight on. I twist it out and enjoy a nice bruise on the right ankle as well as a couple more cuts (day after the race reveals a right ankle sprain and by the end of the day my lower right leg is doing a decent imitation of Elephant Man). Back up on the bike and decide to take any further steep downhills walking or very cautiously. Its going to be a long day.
The rest of the ride, with the exception of two more downhills, was not too technical. The temperature shot up into the 30s so it meant fuel and liquid intake would be key.
One final problem - my partner broke the bolt that held his seat with 4km to go. Could have been very dangerous but Tom's technical skills are strong and he manages to do the final kms with no seat (and the seatpost removed!). We cross the line and end the final chapter at around 6.5 hours.
I am battered, bruised, cut and tired. Happy its over. Bike is put away. See my brother and his family in Calgary tomorrow and mine on Monday. Looking forward to some time off the bike. And in the office!
Thanks for reading.
When I dedicated my training and TransRockies ride back in May to the Grand River and Sunnybrook Cancer Centres, I was thinking to myself "how can I make that commitment when I have no idea how hard the challenge will be or even if I will be able to finish?" I didn't know how true the first part of that question would be nor how close would I come to not finishing.
What kept driving me forward was the thought of cancer patients driving forward with their challenge and knowing mine was insignificant compared to theirs. I have also been inspired by competitors with challenges that never complained or showed signs of giving up. The guy from South Africa who carried on despite two broken ribs on Day 1. The guy from Montreal who broke his collarbone on Day 5 and finished. The vet from South Africa who sliced his knee open on Day 1 or 2, cleans it, duct tapes it and drives on for two hours to a medic. I think with a broken bike. Gets it stitched, a little infection for a few more days. And finishes. Amputee above the elbow. Amputee below the knee. I suspect that just scratches the surface. These are the real heroes of this race and I am in awe of them. I am inspired by them.
Two more post-race stories.
First - we finally spent a bit of time talking to two of our fellow riders from Holland. He lost his racing partner a few months ago in a car accident. He gathers his strength and finds a fellow countryman (woman to be technical) to do the race with him - clearly honouring the spirit of his former partner. They finish. They seem like a great couple.
Second - and this one completes the circle for me - the South African vet that I mentioned earlier? His name is Leon. His partner Eugene finished chemo 15 months. While he was undergoing chemo, he asks his friend Leon if he will ride the TransRockies with him. Leon says "Sure - what is the TransRockies?" Although clearly in great physical shape, Leon had never done any mountain biking before. Started in May 2008. They finish together.
Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
Thanks for reading.
Thanks for your support!