Thursday, August 14, 2008

Trans Rockies

DAY 1 Panorama – K2 ranch 52km, 2478m elevation
Day 1 is usually relatively easy. A late start and a short day so everyone can get sorted and have a warm and fuzzy feeling about the week to come. Apparently the TR crew didn’t get “the memo” as the race started STRAIGHT up to the top of Panorama ski hill off the gun. Ouch. I was suffering within 10mins and had to scale back. We tried to keep Katerina Nash and her partner Steve Wallace (Clif Bar) in sight to limit the damage but I can’t say I was moving very quickly. I recovered a bit near the top half of the climb and we caught them just as we jumped into the singletrack. They were pulled over putting more clothes on as it was pretty damn chilly at altitude. Some serious off camber traverses, hike-a-bikes, fresh cut trail and goat tracks took us even higher. We rode together for most of it, which was pretty fun as I never see Katerina off the line at World Cups. Norm and I dropped them near the top of the hike a bike and tried to keep some distance. I was a little worried when it started to SNOW as we had gone with the lightweight approach to the “easy day” and didn’t have a lot of extra clothes or food. But the hike-a-bike kept us warm and then the sun came out when we first started to descend. Norm flatted on the fast descent but even with the quick fix team Clif Bar caught us. We rode together for a bit trying to figure out a good time to stop as Norm’s tire was not holding air. No good time really so we had to stop and top it up losing contact with the small train. But we somehow managed to TTT back up to them and drop them just before the finish to get a small gap of just over a minute. Easy first day my ass….. But we got some sweet purple leaders jerseys for winning the Open Mixed category, a good start to the week.

DAY 2 K2 Ranch – Nipika
This day was insane. It was going to be a hard stage to begin with but we went and made the race even harder and longer. The source of the chaos was the hike-a-bike straight up an avalanche field. It was so steep everyone was just following the leader and putting one foot in front of the other. Everytime we looked up the hill all you could see was racers carrying their bikes so you put your head back down and kept moving forward. It got colder. The altitude started making it hard to breath for us sea level weenies and Norm was cramping badly. Everyone was hating it. We had a 5min gap on team Clif Bar but that wouldn’t last long if Norm seized up. Suddenly there was chaos and voices in the bush next to us and boulders rolling down the steep hill at us, as everyone was turning around and scrambling asking when the last time we saw an orange ribbon. Apparently we had all missed the turn off. Some people went to the very top of the ridge to look around, some people came back down and a group of us decided it was too dangerous to dislodge giant boulders on the heads of 100+ racers below us so we bush whacked back down the mountain until we hit the trapper trail. We eventually found the trail and kept riding. We kept expecting the leaders to catch up with us but they never did…apparently they had scaled back down the avalanche field and by the time they found the turn off, 100+ teams from the back of the pack had found it too and the singletrack was jam packed. Team Clif bar was in this boat so they came in an hour behind us. The TR organizers decided to acknowledge the stage results but not count it towards the general classification. It was probably the only fair thing to do since we had all been affected differently but a hard pill to swallow after putting in a hard 6+hr day on the bike with a solid gap on 2nd place before the chaos. Plus there were a few murmurings that the bush whackers were cheaters so going up for the stage win that day did not have the glory it was supposed to. If I had known it was going to end like that I would have stayed in bed. We still had the purple jerseys but my quads hurt like hell and it was only going to get worse.

DAY 3 Nipika – Nipika TTT
Last year we had a forced Nipika – Nipika stage because of the raging forest fires. Everyone loved it so much they decided to keep it again this year. It was a chance to avoid the hassle of packing up and the luxury of sleeping in! They also decided to try a team time trial format which was pretty cool. ~50km of the best singletrack Nipika had to offer. They split the racers into thirds and had 3 start times, 9am, 11am and we started at 1:00pm with 1min intervals between teams. With stage 2 results nullified we were still only just over a minute ahead of team Clif bar and one spot ahead of them on GC (18th overall) so they started right behind us. We were riding pretty well or so we thought until 25mins into the ~3hour TTT we saw Katerina and Steve RIGHT behind us! Uh oh. We better get our butts in gear. We pulled the Wicks maneuver and as soon as thy got close we charged ahead. We were running scared the rest of the race and put ~15mins into them. Apparently they had started a wee bit too fast and had a rough go after we dropped them. What was supposed to have been a pretty mellow day ended up beating the crap out of us. But we had another win and had a bigger buffer for the purple jersey.

DAY 4 Nipika – Whiteswan Lake
Hump day. Today Rollin won the support crew race! It is a competitive scene, with the support crew and Rollin is probably one of the most experienced. He packs up and moves the Rv to an easily exit-able location, cheers us on the start line and then hightails it out ahead of the RV train that moves too slowly for his liking. He likes to arrive first and get a sweet spot for camp and brag about his race to us when we arrive. Ah Rollin! For us it was a long day too. Lots of road and lots of climbing. We were in a great groove riding along well 15km from the finish on a fast road with super strong teams when Norm flatted. Damn! So much for our free ride into the finish Norm tried to refill his tube with a CO2 cartridge but it wouldn’t hold. So he went for the full fix but when he tried to get the valve out it was seized. Sticky Stans is good for some things, not so good for others…Uh oh. Ring a bell Stefan? We tried a sealant cartridge to see if it would seal but he just managed to get it ALL over him. I couldn’t help but laugh! He smashed the valve with a rock for a bit and got it off. Shoo. We got a tube out and did the change and although a whole whack of teams passed us, we were on our way. But the tube wasn’t holding air. So we had to stop again. Tried another tube but it had a hole in it. Our third and last tube was an ancient old school green latex tube that had been kicking around for about 10 years. It held! But just as he fixed it, the single speeder open mixed team passed us. We got back on our bikes and charged so hard. We caught and passed them on the downhill (they were spinning their one gear out so fast it wasn’t that difficult). Norm nursed it to the finish but it was a bit sketchy. Another first and more purple jerseys for the collection.

DAY 5 Whiteswan Lake - Elkford
It was a clear blue sky at 8am when we started today. Of course the sun hadn’t gotten over the mountains surrounding our campsite. Whiteswan Lake is one of our favourite stops on the TR tour. It is absolutely gorgeous here. The stars at night are incredible. But we were too tired to enjoy them for very long….sleep was more important. Today the group stayed together for a bit longer as there was about 15km of fireroad off the start. Nice little warm up as each day our pre race “warm up” was getting shorter and shorter. 5min spin in the sunny part of the field was about as good as it gets on day 5. We had a great ride today. Really steady climbing and stayed with fast teams at pretty key times. Norm had a bit of an energy dip with 20km to go. He shoved a whole bunch of wagon wheels in his mouth at the last aid station and took a few chocolate bars for the road. I tried to encourage him – only 20km to go! But realistically it was 15kms straight up that was granny gear climbing or hike a bike ending in a really long rocky rocky descent that ends in the dreaded “rock garden”. But his sugar rush helped him get through it and we rolled in first again. We have a 40min buffer on the Open Mixed lead but you never know what will happen so we have 2 days left to survive.
Day 6 Elkford to Crowsnest Pass
I am not going to lie to you, today was bit of a bitch. 100km of riding with 3000m of climbing. Ouch. The worst part was the first 5km of teh race climbing up and out of Elkford. Normally this would be fine. Hide in the group and get pulled up. But at the top of the climb was tight singletrack so the pace was furious as everyone tried to get their first. I managed to stick with the top men until about the last km when I popped off the back. I was bogged down by a few guys who forgot how to ride a bike, but not as many as those behind us. Unfortuantely we popped out onto the fireroad in no mans land. The fastest mens teams ahead and our normal group behind. We should have eased up until they caught us but no, we decided to chase down Garrigan and the leaders of the Master category. SOOOOOO close. We got within 5ft but missed the boat. It was too long of a day to kill ourselves so we settled in with Team WORC. Until I flatted. I was pissed off! We had worked so hard to get ahead of all those teams in the singletrack and they all blew past us while we fixed my flat on teh side of the road (including Team Clif bar). The only cool thing was I saw a marmot trying to cross the road between all these teams. Funny! He had no clue what was going on. We caught up to Katerina and Steve and rode with them for a big chunk of the day which was pretty fun. It was obvious they were getting stronger. That was until Steve crashed hard on a rocky descent and broke his thumb. Ouch. Norm was there when it happened so he made sure they were Ok but they decided to keep riding. Hard core. We felt a bit cheezy winning the stage against a broken thumb but Micaal and Dallas were riding strong so we had to keep racing.
Day 7 Crowsnest Pass to Fernie
Last day. I am usually a "cracker" on the last day of these multi day stage races. Norm gets stronger mentally and physically as the race goes on whereas I seem to start strong and deteriorate. I think its mostly mental. Its not that I crack completely and lose the race on the last day, but moments of weakness show through that could potentially unravel all of our hard work. So I told myself all morning: "dont shit the bed, don't shit the bed". The stage "only" had 2500m of climbing. After yesterdays stage it sounded easy. But it started straight up the local ski hill and Team Clif Bar was on us immediately so we knew it wasn't going to be an easy day. We got a bit of a gap and found a solid group of mens teams to work with. But everytime we looked back on a big climb we could see the yellow Luna helmet coming for us. Both Norm and I had mixed feelings. Part of us (the tired part) didn't really care too much if we lost the final stage as long as we kept our overall but this stubborn, hyper competetive voice kept reminding us of our winning streak. If we won today we would have won every stage of our last 3 stage races (TR 2007, BCBR 2008 and TR2008). That was a pretty strong voice so we pushed on and kept the winning streak alive. 21 stage wins in a row. Not too shabby.
Notes:
-Marty is having a great time! Lots of time in the creeks and rivers, road trippin’ with Rollin, the occasional leftover steak thrown his way (special occasion) and lots of buddies to hang out with
-we have been riding the Hei Hei Supreme’s all week. The 29ers hardtails are on standby but our bodies are beat to shit so the full suspension has been pretty sweet. We actually don’t even lock out the suspension on the climbs all the time…..too bumpy!
-Kona Team mate Kris Sneddon (Mr. Five) took the stage down today ironically the 5th stage……
-The race is taking a good toll on our equipment so far we have thrashed: 3 tires, 3 tubes, 1 FR DR, 1 chain, grips, cassette, shock lock out, brake pads…..that is all I can think of right now but I am sure there is more things that we have killed now.

5 comments:

lauren said...

wow! great job.

i've been watching the results every day. my husband, morgan, is there racing too.

you guys are rockin' it!

Michelle J said...

MESSAGE FROM MIKE TO NORM: Don't break MY garmin...
;)

Dave Gill said...

Great result in the TR Wendy. It was a pleasure to be able to get to ride/race with you on some amazing trails.

You're second to none on those technical uphills....!

Dave - Team-WORC

Kristenn said...

Awesome job W & N!!! 21 stage wins - I'd say that's a pretty amazing streak of greatness! YAY! Looking forward to seeing you guys. :) k.

gewilli said...

You guys rocking the Hei Hei 29ers yet?