bikes canada general


As I edge dangerously closer to doing a 24hr MTB race solo, I found myself doing the inaugural Golden24 (in Golden) (yeah) as a mixed pair with Felix. It was a plan laid back in winter 2015, when the very idea of the challenge of riding as a pair sounded fascinating. As it got closer, it started to sound less fascinating, more alarming. But we had been riding our bikes up a lot of hills, and were feeling pretty good.

It was only the first year for the race, so the field wasn’t huge. And there were a lot of categories to choose from, including a cruisy 8 hour option for the race, rather than the 24 hour. So we ended up with just one other mixed pair to race against. There were no female pairs, but five male pairs. So we quietly decided we’d try and beat those too.

The weather forecast wasn’t great, right off the bat. We were expecting rain. A lot of rain. But the race was run by the Transrockies crew, who do a great job of running a well organised and fun race, even if the weather isn’t cooperating.

Felix did a double lap up first, and I did the same. It was on my second set of double laps that the rain kicked in properly.

From then on, the course just got greasier and greasier. The hills were covered with people trudging beside their bikes. Alex came by with pizza, making us the envy of many surrounding teams.

But then it was 11pm or so, and I was due to head out for a triple night lap.

The rain got heavy. The course was quiet. You could go a few kilometres without seeing anyone. I churned away through the mud. It was all fine at first, I had waterproof mitts on, I eventually put on my waterproof jacket – but by then it was too late, I’d gotten soaked through. The descents were cold, and I struggled to push and keep myself warm. I sang a lot, riding through the muddy, misty forest.

The mud was in my drive train, making my gears unreliable. I stopped after the first two of my triple laps, hosed off my chain, switched my headlamp out to a fresh one, and kept going.

Course was muddy, legs were tired, I was tired – despite the chocolate coated coffee beans I’d been munching on. I was feeling guilty about the damage we were doing to the trails. They looked terrible! The fun swoopy descent was now nothing but cold muddy porridge. I slowed down, and made futile attempts to minimise the damage I was doing.

The final climb up into camp was terrible now. It lasted so much longer than it felt like it should have done, and threw some of the worst of the mud at us. But then, finally, I was done my three night laps. I sent Felix out – he had been lying in his tent hoping I’d call it quits. Apparently I’m more stubborn than that – and didn’t want to let him down.

I went and washed my bike off, tried to eat, then curled up in my tent. Still cold. I hopped up, retrieved a blanket from our waiting-room tent, and tried again. Gradually the shivering subsided and I slept a little.

Then, morning. My last lap was the hardest. The course was nothing but mud, and my legs had nothing more to give. I tried to go fast, and felt like I was doing ok, but in fact I only had one speed, which was not terribly fast.

I sent Felix out for one last lap, then that’s that, we were done. 18 laps, we’d beaten the closest men’s pair (16 laps) and came in at fifth overall, beaten only by some men’s 5-person teams and a 4-person team. Victory!

Victory apparently came with some sweet flannel shirts. Followed by a huge lunch, and falling fast asleep for the entire drive back to Canmore (including the parts where my family stopped to check out the Spiral Tunnels, the Natural Bridge, and Emerald Lake). Maybe I could do a solo 24hr, but I’d really rather not do one in the mud.

bikes canada general

Singletrack6 – Day 5 & 6

Day Five – Moonraker Trails, Golden. 58km, 1460m.
Waking up cranky and hungry – never a good sign! Catching the bus downtown, getting ready…. maybe raiding the breakfast buffet for some extra food, because I was feeling ravenous… then downtown to the start line.

We had a neutral start with the police car leading us out of town again, but this time in the other direction. And once we hit the single track it was pretty obvious I wasn’t feeling it. Didn’t feel like racing, just wanted to relax and enjoy the trails. Because they were fun!

I tried to convince my legs that they should keep spinning. And jockeyed for position as we climbed up CBT.

Things got a little flowy for a while, with me riding in my own little bubble. I’d zone out and slow down, then remember I was supposed to be racing and try and hurry up.

Hurrying up was easier once we settled into the final big climb, up to the edge of the canyon. It was warm out as we climbed, but there’s something gloriously simple about a task so straight-forward as just riding up a hill, and I settled into a happy climbing rhythm. But then the climbing ended! And the canyon-side descending began!

The descent wasn’t feeling great right from the start. Then there were a few steep switchbacks in a row. I hesitated at the start of the second one, then instead of riding it, or making the decision to jump off and run down it, I overbalanced and bounced down, bike landing on top of me. Ow. I cleared the landing zone, and a team riding past yelled out to check I was ok. I thought I probably was, at least for now, so jumped back on my bike and kept going.

My thigh had taken a decent hit from something, and was feeling pretty sore, but otherwise I seemed ok. But was now feeling even more cautious about descending. But the trails were fun, and mostly shady, and I managed to settle into something resembling an ok pace.

After the timed descent (down Gold Rush I think?) where I was overtaken a lot (not a great descending day for me today) our final bit of singletrack was Take It Easy. Which we did. I don’t know if the others were thinking the same thing, but I knew we had a few kilometres of paved road back into town, and sticking with a little group would mean we could form some kind of paceline, and cover the distance way faster than I’d be able to do on my own. This was a great plan, and worked brilliantly (hurrah, something going according to plan!)

Despite not having a great day, there was still the nice cold Kicking Horse River to soak in. And another recovery caesar. And somehow I’d made it into 6th place overall in open women! (Out of about 45 or so in total, the below results were just a printout of results in progress). So hurrah.

Following yesterdays epic, I didn’t even bother trying to get back up to the hotel. Instead I napped out by the rec centre (fully stocked with nice comfortable mats), before wandering back into town for dinner (mmm, Whitetooth Bistro), and back with plenty of time to catch the presentations for the day, and my bus back up the hill. And that all worked out perfectly as well!

Day Six – Macpherson Trails, Revelstoke. 47km, 1340m.
I caught a ride to Revelstoke, ready for the final day of riding. Sort of. I was feeling about as energetic as an overcooked bowl of spaghetti, and we were going to be starting LATE today. And it was going to be unpleasantly warm. And my thigh was coming up with all sorts of wonderful bruises and soreness after yesterdays crash. So, as you can see, I had a good set of excuses ready to roll right off the bat.

A tasty cupcake lifted my spirits a little. Excess cupcakes are one of the additional bonuses to multi-day racing.

But as we lined up in downtown Revelstoke, I was not feeling stoked. I was feeling overheated, and already looking forward to finishing the next 47km. Worried about the heat, I’d changed my usual plan, carrying a pack instead of my usual 2 bottles on the bike. I don’t know if this was a good plan.

We set off, and there was an awful lot of racing through the powerline clearcut. I started to melt. We’d head into the shady trees for a while, then out again into the blazing sun. My gears started to play up. My rear wheel came off again. My seat bag worked itself open and I had to stop and pick up tools that had fallen out. I slammed into a piece of wood and my front tyre burped. My water was no longer cool, but unpleasantly warm, and not at all refreshing. My legs had no energy, and I wasn’t enjoying the trails that I knew should have been fun.

But I kept going. And going. It was a bit of a slog. Sorry Macpherson trails, I know you can be fun, it’s not you, it’s me.

Eventually, after riding my bike through a scorching hot desert for a thousand years, it was finally time for Flowdown! And the timed descent! And Flowdown meant we were nearly back into town, so just one more long slog in the sun to go. And that last long slog seemed to last forever though. Although I did manage to catch another rider, and hang onto his rear wheel for a little while at least.

I collapsed over the finish line. There were sprinklers. There was a finishers medal. Some food. Grass. Family. Icecream.

My super slow day had knocked me back into 8th in open women. Oh well. Much better than I’d expected going into the race. Although it was a little anticlimactic. But my first MTB stage race was complete! I really need to do another one now…