Friday, August 20, 2010

Trans Rockies

Some time in February, 2 or 3 months after Tycho was born, I decided that I needed a race goal to get back in shape. For me, this means signing up for a race that scares the crap out of me so I have to get my butt off the couch and train even when its dark and farty outside. I didn't want to set my goals TOO high for MTB season since I had no idea how my body would respond post-baby. But I definetely wanted my fitness back for cross season. The best way I know how to get in shape for cross is to cram buttloads of hours into August, follow it with speed work and running, then fine tune everything as I race into shape. With that recipe, the perfect race goal was Trans Rockies - 7 days of racing through the Rockies in August. Lucky for us they honoured our free entry from our 2008 win, Rollin said he was in for support, my parents said they were in for baby duty and suddenly we had more than enough reason to squeeze in a few more rides each week. I thought the training would be the hardest part but I was wrong....

Day 0
We drove for 2 days to get to Fernie, registered, met my parents (who had flown in from Ottawa a few days before) and set up our camp in the high school lot. Everyone was a bit cranky and tired. Tycho had a cold, I was getting his cold and my dad had a different cold. Germ Awares like myself and Norm knew we were doomed. Stage racing is gard enough healthy. We went for a spin to flush out the cobwebs and got back just in time for an absolute downpour to flood our campsite. As we were trying to sort out cooking and sleeping arrangements in our van/borrowed pop up trailer (thanks Wally!) I wondered what the hell possessed me to do the Trans Rockies with a baby? Was I an absolute IDIOT? I didn't share these thoughts with the crew...

Day 1 Fernie to Fernie TTT - 31km
We thought we were pretty lucky to get an early start time for the team time trial. We were wrong. It rained all night and we had a mudfest course to deal with. To top it off we were the rabbits for our competition. I had some chain suck issues almost immediately and I probably could have climbed faster on my CCM Scamp when I was a portly 10 year old nicknamed Seacow. Mical and Jeff started 30sec back and caught us within 1-2km and Gretchen and Cannon started a minute back and caught us within 2-3km. You do the math on a ~500km race. Ouch. That stings. But I sorted it all out by the downhill when I realized I had to drop the competetive side of my brain if I was going to get through the week and have some fun. Sweet Fernie singletrack was a good place to start. When we finished we were so covered in mud that people in the street looked at us in horror. 3rd place finish but two pretty shattered egos.

Day 2 Fernie to Sparwood/Elkford - 71km
The circuitry in my brain is hard to rewire as I had a fast start and followed the right wheels to get in with the lead group for the opening fire road. But I was pinning it and it was only the first 5km of a loooong 71km stage. oops. Time to slip back to a more manageable group for my training. A steady climb before we hit the long steep fun descent. But Norm yelled out that his brakes weren't working. I could smell something burning and then some hot mangled piece of metal popped off his bike in the shape of a swan. It was his rear brake rotor. Uh oh. Poor Norm had to run/coast most of the 7km descent. 3rd place finish but 4+hours of bike repairs and definitely 2 bruised egos as the other 2 Open Mixed Teams seemed out of reach already. But we had a great camp site by the river and it was sunny (mostly).

Day 3 Elkford to Etherington Creek - 65km
More rain overnight and a recently graded fireroad meant that this opening ride with the group was a mess. Slick mud, high speeds and a big group of mountain bikers is never a good thing. But we managed to stay out of trouble and felt reasonably good and so we were rewarded with a giant hike a bike that opened up to unbelievable views. A fun descent and we saw the Tokyo Joe's team and even managed to make up a few minutes on them. 2nd place finish, higher spirits and another great campsite.

Day 4 Etherington Creek to Anchor D Ranch - 60km
We thought there might be a more mellow start today with the TR3 crew heading home but chatter around camp was that there was only 2km of road before the opening singletrack so Norm warned me I had to "BE AGGRESSIVE". I started fast and went into the singletrack top 10. Sweet! Mical and Jeff were towing the train but I still had them in my sights. Norm is a great starter so I always assume he is on my heels. But I hit the road and no Norm. I had to let the lead group go. Bye-bye. Sniff. I let the chase group go. No Norm. No Norm. I circled around and around and around until he finally showed up and let out a huge groan. "NOOOOOOO I thought you were BEHIND me!" apparently my white Frontrunners kit isn't as distinctive as the orange Kona and he was soft pedalling waiting for me to catch him. We chased through the mud and cow poop all day but Mical and Jeff were long gone. 2nd place but riding stronger.

Day 5 Anchor D Ranch to Little Elbow -54km
More rain (and hail) on the ranchland meant more liquid cow poop. Norm and I are mudders so we just put our heads down and ploughed through. We had originally thought "only 54km, should be an easy day" but again we were wrong. I got delerious at one point and made up a story about how I was vacationing in Hawaii and getting the mud treatment at the spa that day. This was after I had stopped drinking my water because there was so much cow feces on my bottle that I would take dehydration over bacterial infection of my bowels. 2nd place and riding strong but cold rain soon followed and rumour was there was fresh snow on the peaks.

Day 6 Little Elbow to Rafter 6 Ranch - 72kmThe TR website described day 6 as: the “Queen Stage” will be one of the funnest days you will have on a mountain bike. However it ended up as the hardest, most hellish day I have ever had on a bike. We knew this was going to be a super tough day even before the elements turned on us. Longest stage with the most climbing is never easy but listening to the rain all night we knew it would be a whole new level of survival - there would be people cracking today for sure. Lucky for us we seem to excel in crappy conditions but sometimes I wish I was a sunny warm day race specialist as opposed to a shit weather specialist. Dressing for the day was hard enough - I ended up with thermal knees, 2 x undershirts, arms, jersey, winter gloves, rain jacket with an emergency tuque and extra vest packed but everything was soaked within minutes. We were cold and wet but it was all manageable until we hit the exposed area at the top of the mountain which had 50km/hr winds and sub 5C temps. Descending would have been fun on a nice warm day but my hands weren't functioning and I was having a hard time focussing so we had to stop in the trees to put everything we had on. I gave up on eating with my club hands at about 35kms and barely drank. Checkpoint 2 had a warming tent but i knew if I went in I would never come out so we kept moving and ended up winning the stage for Open Mixed and 6th overall but it had taken its toll on our bikes. Norm spent about 4 hours working on my bike - new brake pads, rebuilt pedals, new cables, new bushings for my rear shock, new casette, and the fork was seized but he couldnt do much about that. He thought about changing the chain but figured it would be fine as it was only 6 days old...... He gave up on his own bike and decided to just race his back up bike for day 7.

Day 7 Rafter 6 Ranch to Canmore - 46km
Well we should have changed the chain as I busted it 3 X and had to baby it in to the finish so what could have been a solid finish for us ended up as just a fun ride through Canmore to end off a tough week of racing. And as always the best way to end a tough ride is with a plate of poutine.

Thanks to Rollin, Lizzie and Geo - our awesome support crew - we couldn't have done it without you guys and thanks to and Tycho for being such a trooper! Oh the stories we will tell....