Impressions. That's what I'm left with in the wake of the BC Bike Race. I'm not sure if it's from trying to take out a tree with my noggin or the sameness of much of the route...but some of the days have already blended together, while others stand clear. So here comes a sampling of my impressions, straight from this stream of (un)conciousness.
Getting there was half the fun. plane/plane/bus/ferry/bus/taxi and 14 hours later we were crammed into a tiny, 129$/night 4th story room slightly larger than a postage stamp. Did I mention there was no elevator? It didn't seem to matter, I was fired up to be away from the everyday and set about building my bike up with gusto.
The next day we got our registration taken care of - which sounded uber complicated on the website but went quite smooth in reality. At the end there was a pep rally, the first of many where the race organizers would gush with enthusiasm about how great this race was going to be for us all for years to come. My eyes glazed over...these pep rallies never failed rile me a bit. Yet, I seemed to be alone in this sentiment. I was constantly reminded of a B movie called "The Wave." If you've seen it you know what I'm saying. Let the race speak for itself!
Earlier we took a short spin on a paved bike path. Not much of an opener, but the week would provide plenty of opportunity for that. As my spring schedule has been a bit enthusiastic and ultra filled, I showed up with a bizarre combo of feeling a bit smoked, but undertrained. I warned Lynda ahead of time to bring 7 jerseys.
The start was a mellow affair in an alley. Ahead was roughly 5 hours of gravel road terrain. I think we hit a short section of trail at one point. There was one decent climb, many views of clear cut logging areas. The forest is incredibly thick/dense on Vancouver island, it was a treat to be riding in such different environments. We just plugged along, not too terribly hard, but I was feeling sorta smoked at the end and was happy to jump on the back of the Spike boys for the 35k of pancake flat, straight as an arrow ass numbing rail trail finish. It was the perfect opening day for rusty legs, and we were surprised to be the first mixed team to the line.
For the rest of the race we would hold on to these yellow jerseys, building our GC pad each day. Until day 7, that is.
Day 2 I felt great. It was a long, flat, roadie beginning and we rode in a group of sometimes 50 riders for roughly 50 km. Then at the first aid station the terrain made a sudden change to the rougher side of things, and I went on the attack for about 6-7 minutes. Lynda and I were out of sight from the rest of the mixed teams. From this point forward, knowing we could make big gains on the longest stage of the race, I pushed hard on all the flats and we pretty much drilled climbs. It felt great, maybe I wasn't smoked afterall ;) Lynda was riding at a new level too, she is lighter and has grown her threshold power a few watts. Holy moly can that girl ride! We hit the finish line and watched the clock...tick tock...22 minutes was the gap to the next mixed team.
GC leaders get staged at the front. Several of the stages sported neutral starts behind a moto or police car.
Day 3 was a nutbuster. Lots and lots more gravel road, then a "Fantastic climb" in marketing speak that in reality was a bitch of hike/ride combo up washed out double track. The descent was incredible though. Steep, fast, inside an alder tunnel in spots, full of bear shit. I thought for sure we'd be coming face to face with a big bruin on this section.
No pics, but the race lead medical guy was always warning us about bears and cougars. "You must discuss with your partner what to do if you encounter a cougar. Ram a pump in it's eye, you gotta take it down!" I'm sure it was a had to be there moment, but his warnings were one of the highlights of the race.
So no bears today. We did get to ride Bucket of Blood, and I left some along with my fancy GPS. This was the first real singletrack of the race and it was a wakeup call for both of us. We were seeking advice from locals on how ride this stuff shortly after the finish. Julian Hine, NORBA guy from the 90's, was in the race and satisfied our curiosity. His tips helped a lot.
Port Alberni mascot.
Breaking in new singletrack for the locals.
On paper, day 4 looked like a race promoters nightmare. Get everyone on a bus by 5:15am for a 6:30 ferry ride, catch a second ferry, then race. This was probably my favorite day on the bike. We both were quite sparkly this day, riding with smiles - it was the 4th of July after all. We rode with Ryan and Hillary for a bit, but on the first descent really drilled it and the ensuing power line rollers and then it was just us. It's hard to put into words how in synch we were this day. I'd grab a banana right as Lynda was...on this one steep roller we both jacked our front derailurs at the same spot. Freaking hilarious, we're both fixing front Ds at the same time and laughing. We also worked with the other SS team a bit - waited for them on a road section. They were wanting to make some time on the 80+ GC bid as the course got steeper, and they seemed to have the legs to get it done. Sorry Tim & Rich. We backed it down rather than picking it up at the end. Still lots of racing left to do, gotta save those matches, right? We finished in Seshelt, grabbed some ice cream and headed to the beach. Can this day get any better? Then it was off to dinner, after which we were treated to a tribal dance performance that eventually had most of the racers dancing on the floor too. This was a doozy of a day, hard to conceive how much the BCBR staff stuffed into one day, but they pulled it off. Fantasy island day.
Day 5 was an incredible day of singletrack riding. 2 major climbs, the last of which was semi tech singletrack. This stage likely created the most smiles at the finish. Folks were jubilant at the end - those that were still in once piece.
It turns out this day was the line of demarcation for me. On that last singletrack climb I had a seemingly benign slow speed uphill fall. The front wheel whipped a 180 and the left barend tagged my right rib cage on my way down, breaking rib #7 clean through. From here there was still a bit of climbing which I could barely do cause I couldn't breathe now, and then a shitload of techy descending. What was bringing smiles to everyone else was giving me a bad case of tourettes as every root, rock and bump was nuthing but pain, I couldn't lift the bars or even get out of the saddle and was pretty much on the ragged edge of control on flat pavement, this techy stuff was suddenly tough to manage. But manage we did and the stage eventually ended. After arriving at the finish, we got to wait 3 hours for the ferry then bus to the next camp. This really took a toll. I was compensating for the broken rib and by the time we hit the ferry my right shoulder and back was knotted and tense...I couldn't release it. Fun times, especially looking forward to the next day, the queen stage with the most climbing, tons of techy stuff.
Day 6 is bittersweet in my head. The views heading up the river gorge were outta this world. The water was high, unrunnable falls everywhere, the roar filling the canyon. I was in trouble though. The night before the race doc taped my ribs but I don't think it did much. I couldn't breath more than about half a lungful without the rib clicking. Clicking is bad. So I was reduced to rapid shallow breathing. It wasn't that effective, and I couldn't hold the pace of the paceline up the dirt road. Somehow I felt this was betraying my partner and it's hard to relate the depths of my dispair at that moment. As always though, we were right in synch; as I was wrestling my demons she started telling me that was good to get off the train cause they were too bursty or sketchy, this pace was perfect.
There were more surprises in store. Shortly after losing the train the hike a bikes started. Mean hike a bikes, at least to a guy that can't even lift his front wheel off the ground. Maybe I had no business starting this stage, I dunno. But to be honest, not starting wasn't even an option in my mind. On one hike a bike I was clearly struggling and folks were marching past us while I fumbled. Lynda wasted no time and grabbed my bike and hers, marching up some rocky pitch. This vision is indelibly etched in my memory, tiny 102 lb Lynda hauling 50 lbs of bike on her shoulders - and moving at a good clip too.
And so it went. It couldn't have been too bad cause the day seemed to go by in a flash. We started to get time gaps to the lead mixed team of Ryan and Hillary. At first it was 3 min. Really? I would have thought they were 30 min up the trail by then. Then 1 min. You kidding me? Then 20 sec. Sure enough, they were in sight. All I can say is they must have been tired on day 6. We eventually moved into first and kept it trucking up the nutty 32 switchback climb above Whistler to arrive at the insanely steep billy bob (or whatever) descent. My back was seizing again and things were not flowing...but the trail did finally end in much appreciated pavement taking us to the finish.
I'm an emotional racer as things go. I've been known to get choked up on podiums, and once even for a 4th place finish, LOL. From so many angles, this was one of the hardest rides of my life. It wasn't the trail - that would have been awesome under normal circumstances. There is nothing that pushes me like a team effort. Back in high school I could run a full second faster in the 100m split in a 400m relay as opposed to a 100 m sprint. Team efforts make me tick. The thought of letting a teammate down is beyond unbearable...so I pushed with all I had that day, and together, we won that stage. I have no doubt that Lynda carried me every bit along the way, and to think about it still gets me a bit choked up.
But alas, I screwed the pooch on day 7. With a 75 min GC pad, all we had to do was finish. My memory of what happened doesn't jive with Lynda's, and since she was concious for all of it her version is prolly closer to the truth. In any case, like VN said, I fell off a bridge, hit a tree that knocked me out, then landed (a long ways down) in a heap. When I came to, I tried to keep going, but it was hopeless. I was a bit disoreinted, left foot was jacked and swelling, and Lynda was pushing my bike again on flat ground. Our race was over.
The magic ingredient to a good event is good people. This becomes increasingly clear to me as time goes on...here's but a sampling of some of the faces and friends at BCBR.
Tim and Rich (ya know, Dicky pink wheel guy) rode brillianly all week. Dicky really stepped it up late in the week, Tim set a hard pace to match but it was impressive to see them building mojo. And the entertainment factor..well yea that was there in full force!
Karl and Jen rode a great race in the open mixed. They seemed to have great synergy and always had a smile.
Ryan and Hillary. Hillary races with 100% heart and only gets stronger in these long ones. Ryan was the first on the scene of my accident and settled us down a bit, taking control until the medics took me away. He gave no thought to his own race despite being in a position to win. I have mucho respect for this power couple.
Matt and Leslie were tabbed as the team to beat but there luck was about as good as ours.
Cornfish's leg after day 4.
Cornfish is tall and rides a 29er. His mojo was on the upswing BIG TIME all week. Super positive guy. You want to ride with him, trust me.
Don't know these gents name but ran into them everywhere. They were having a blast. This is the big smile produced by stage 5 singletrack.
More post stage 5 smiles. Mark and David from Breckenridge rode an awesome race. We rode with them quite a bit. Parnters in suffering, one day they pulled us, one day we pulled them...
Yep, it's the people that make an event great.
OK, this was about the hardest blog to write ever. Lots of mood swings in it cause it took about 5 tries to get it done. In the middle of the writing of this biatch, I learned that my injuries are far worse than expected. In short, my heel bone is shattered and it is one of those things that doesn't seem much at first, but is quite possibly the end of the season for me. No hard riding for 4-6 months was the last thing I heard today...other phrases included "life changing injury" and "we gotta take care of this one Dave" as if the collarbone was childs play. I'm really struggling with the reality of another long rehab right now...seems like I'm just getting going after the last one.
Sooner or later this shell shocked state will give way to bold action, but not quite yet.