Tuesday, August 31, 2010

TR2010: stage 2: Fernie to Sparwood

more pointy mountains

Sitting down indian-style in the tent, with a bottle of Tinhorn Creek Pinot Gris (yesterdays podium wine) served at perfect tent-temperature (61-62 degrees), in Styrofoam cups, to recap on todays stage 2. It was a hustle in the early dawn in Fernie, to get the duffel bags packed and loaded into the truck, bike checked and ready, breakfast pounded down and bottles filled. Phew, I was already sweating and panting. 
start line.. we are mid-pack I think
Stage 2 from Fernie to Sparwood was a 71k stage with the first 30k straight uphill. Pointy start, very steep descent, then some bumps to finish. I was beginning to see a theme here. The first 10k was furious, a veritable time-trial on hard-packed dirt roads, we blew past the first check point, stopping only to strip arm warmers after a couple of hours and a few pints of lost sweat. The second check point was at 40k, after the crazy descent. Dennis and I planned to meet at the top, check in at the peak then I was to follow his line down. Nice plan Bat man. 
downhill finally, no white knuckles..sit back, relax!
When we finally slogged it to the top, Dennis was having back pain, nausea and dizziness, I think the altitude was kicking in, as well as a blinding pace in the granny gear for almost 2.5 hours. None-the-less, several minutes of stretching later, we entered the crazy single-track near the top of the continental divide, dropped over the edge of a cliff on a trail as wide as my forearm, and began the plunge down. We dropped over 1100m in 5km. Do the math. All I remember is scree at a bizarre angle to my usual horizon, trees at a strange angle to the earth, and a tiny trail winding down towards the bowels of the earth. And it sounded like this.."woohoooooohheeeehhheeeeeeeewwwheee ooo o  o   hoooohhhhheeeeee" for about 30 minutes more. The tag line of the Transrockies is as follows.."some days may feel like they last forever, but really, you're just having the ride of your life". When I signed up, I though it was corny. Now mid-way through day 2, I knew these TR people weren't joking. A skull marked the last dangerous corner of the descent, or so we had been warned the night before, no sign of it as we blew past the hairy off-camber 170degree  switchback with dropoff, and down to the final section of descending trail. 
The rest of the ride was a bit of a blur, lots of rolling roads, mostly hard-packed dirt, lots of stopping to wait for Dennis who was suffering like a dog. He had ridden his heart out on the technical sections, and really enjoyed the screaming  descent, but the seated climbs were killing his back. He was also on his second saddle of the race, the first having died in the middle of yesterdays race, now this piece of Specialized + Bontrager crap was angled at 20 degrees pointing north into his nether regions, and was wedged there. We stopped and started, taking the time to enjoy the spectacular mountain vistas, and keep an eye out for roving grizzlies. I began to appreciate the benefits of team riding, I rode about 200 yards ahead, creating a mental tether for Dennis to view, but not getting to close for fear of hearing any grumbling. The tandem passed us, yes, a crazy couple from St. Louis were racing this on a tandem!! We tried to hop on their dust trail and bomb the last few miles, but Sandy and Ted had us pipped. 5:25 in the saddle, we lost 3rd place today by a mere 5 minutes. We rolled into Sparwood to a huge welcome from the mining town, and promptly lay flat while guzzling as much Coke as we could. Burbling bellies, jellied legs and exhilarated spirits, we hopped on the shuttle to transfer us to Elkford, tonight's campsite. Our tents, while yesterday had seemed cramped and damp, today seemed like a sweet haven. Bike wash, bike repair (new pads, totally burnt out the rear pads today), bike worry( should I replace the front ones too? Do I have another set for later in the week?), laundry (fast becoming a synonym for getting some mud off the shorts and jersey) in a squishable 1 gallon bucket, hang on the wire fence surrounding campground (on a baseball field in some remote mining village). We enjoyed the last of the wine, this time no cups available, just the earplugs container. We were entering the wilderness the next day, so I had better get used to roughing it a bit. Wine was fine, no ear-wax either, bonus!
We wished our buddies Andrew, Danny and Marty were here as they would totally die for the killer scenery and the epic riding.. Ah well, plans for 2011 building already. Pound down the dinner, awards, second dinner, preview of the next day, and crash. Again I was sensing a pattern. Bring it on, I am just getting warmed up!

Friday, August 27, 2010

TR 2010: stage 1: Fernie to Fernie TTT

So rain it did, all night. We woke to the rain, had breakfast while looking out at the swelling Elk river and the rain, and then like champions, went back to bed. It was 50 degrees and we were freezing. I had left Sag Harbor in a sweat, with long (travel) pants and my compression socks worn under duress in the 90's, and arrived on my HOLIDAYS to the rain, the cold air and truly Irish weather. Under the duvet, Dennis and I made our plans, ride hard, finish safe. Priority number one, no injuries, number two, have fun. Funny that having fun on your holidays plays second fiddle to being able to earn an income on your return. We shook ourselves out of bed and rode in the rain to the start line in Fernie.
race course: pointy and hard

hyperventilation: not joking
The set-up was just as in regular UCI time trials: the media circus, the tent, the starting corral, the UCI official counting down from 5 to 1 with funny finger signals (just in case you couldn't figure it out yourself, the two of us bumping knuckles with 2 to go, and then "beep" and we were off..thirty seconds after Brian and Cricket, also on hard tails, also east coasters.. We were on a mission. Play safe, have fun. And beat Brian and Cricket. Haha, as always my competitive side always rears it's ugly head at these moments. I had had butterflies all morning, despite being here "for fun", or "to go the distance" or "just for adventure" as I had told everyone including myself. But only Dennis and I know the truth. In every competition that I have ever participated in, my urge is to win. Or at least beat the person nearest to me. And that was Cricket. She is a lovely lass from North Carolina, and was riding a Gary Fisher Superfly XC 2010, wearing a nice orange kit, but all I saw was CHALLENGE. Her team mate Brian, in a Clif Bar kit, was very discernible on the powerlines trail, so we pounded it out and passed them early, swapping panting congrats for what would not be the last time in the week as we jockeyed for position. I was certain that in the rain, the  "roots" trail would be a walk, but with enough caffeine and adrenaline, many things are possible. I cleaned it, and while walking many sections on trails appropriately named"hyperventilation", "hyper-extension" and "broken dérailleur", I was amazed at how much we rode. Amazed and pantingly flabbergasted. This was a tough ride, rocks, roots, hike-a-bike sections and all this on the uphills. I battled the same territory a bit on the downhill section, before my cramping hands and white knuckles bade me relax and let the bike do it's thing. I finally began to breathe, as opposed to breath-holding which is what I had done to this point, hung my arse back off the saddle, and let the damn bike roll. Saddle whomping me in the belly at points, I kept a firm grip, soft knees and let the terrain decide the 8" line, hung on graciously, and had the ride of my life. We pounded the flat (mud roads) and hammered the back section of the course, rolling terrain with 100% singletrack, keeping us focussed and fast. The last 2k was through the park, into town and heads down we charged to the banner.
not us, my camera is dead..
Stage one down, 3rd in our category, Ryder sunglasses and a nice certificate. We were chuffed. We sat through the ceremony and slideshow, the GoogleMaps video of the next stage, and sank a well earned beer.
tent city: anywhere: TR2010
We retired early to the campsite in town, and enjoyed the warm and fuzzy feeling from tucking down into a dry sleeping bag, in a dry tent. "Enjoy it while it lasts" a little voice in my head told me. I didn't know whether it was talking about the podium spot, the thrill of the ride or the weather. Little did I know it was talking about all three..

Saturday, August 21, 2010

TR2010 recap..Travel to Canada for recon..course preview

Fernie to Fernie: Day one: Team time trial: check out the sharp pointy profile!     
Travelling with bikes is always difficult, and this trip was no exception. While we breezed through LaGuardia, Toronto and Calgary airports, and we were excited to see that our bikes made it on the same planes (doesn't always go this way..), we were left stranded in Calgary by the Transrockies shuttle bus, at 10pm, having been up and travelling through 2 countries, 3 airports and for 21 hours at this point. Cranky wasn't the word for me. We had to take a cab from Calgary to Fernie, a mere 370km, and a cool $500. Since the mix up was largely the fault of the organizers, I consoled myself with the thoughts that we would get some reimbursement, and a cab from Manhattan to Montauk would cost way way more..Our driver hustled over the mountains to deposit us in one piece at our hotel in Fernie. ZZZZ.
Day one in Fernie, sleep late, snarf breakfast, check in at race HQ, register, collect goody bag and begin worrying. How the hell are we to get all our gear in ONE duffel bag? All of our bike repair stuff, multiple kits, camp clothing and the miscellaneous stuff like large bottles of Hammer gel. "Crazy Larry" (who we would meet later) was in charge of baggage, which would be transferred from one camp site to the next, and the limit was one duffel bag per cyclist. Unless you had an RV. This was not going to be the last time I thought of the RV option over the coming week. 
view from the top of hyperventilation
Day one in Fernie, already rushing, already wishing we had an RV, already regretting the stuff we left on the bed at home, already worrying.. Whenever I am in a new situation, a strange town, there is one thing that invariably helps.. go for a ride and then find the local bar. We built our bikes, dressed in the new Spokespeople kit, and headed out to the course. We had been led to expect specific course markings, namely 18" of black and orange plastic tape, dangling from bushes and trees, so we were quickly oriented, on the Powerline trail. Not unlike our very own Montauk Powerline trail, except at 6000 feet higher. In minutes, my lungs were seared and my head was pounding. I guess all the hill repeats at 130' above sea level didn't really add up to altitude training. This was going to be a hard week. While the first day of the race was relatively short at 31k with a mere 1300m of climbing, it would be a nice easy start to the week. Or so I thought. We left Powerlines onto "Roots" trail, and as the name suggests, Fernie's oldest trails has plenty of them. All set at about 45degrees to the line of travel, a web of roots set to toss you off your bike at a moments lack of concentration. And these were the uphill ones. The trail kept climbing, taking a turn onto the aptly named "Hyperventilation", and then after about 2k of switchbacks so steep and sharp I had to dismount and wheelie the bike around corners, we continued to climb.. eeek. I was certain that the we had lost the course, and told Dennis so. We continued panting upwards for another bit, peering hopefully through the trees for a bit of skyline to tell us we had reached the top and we could return back to base camp for the pending brew. Finally, I had had enough, and flipped the bike around, definite that we were on the wrong course and the race would never be routed into such a technically difficult trail. And that's when I spotted the trail mark, dangling right in front of my face. Damn. This IS the course. Wow, this is some of the most sweet single-track, but also some of the most technically difficult stuff I have ever ridden on. And we were relatively fresh, and not even racing. I was a wee bit daunted, but kept my mouth shut, only to whoop it up on the fun, twisty, rocky rooty dusty descent. At least it is dry, and mostly ride-able I said to D-lo, sipping a cold local one, and previewing the course from the comfort of the Mexican burrito stand/ skate shop / bike hang out. 
Fernie is a cool town, reminds me of what Moab was 10 or more years ago: bikes and brews in summer, snow-bums and brews in winter. We hung for a while, planned the next mornings kit and agenda, got a late dinner and hit the sack, our last cushy, comfy bed for a week..Seeing roots and rocks in my head as I closed my eyes, I hummed like a mantra, at least it is dry and mostly ride-able, at least it is dry and mostly ride-able..
By the river, our hotel room opened out to the landscape where the fishermen were shuffling about quietly in the grey twilight. Despite being full to the gills, the building was quiet.. and then I heard it. The gentle spray of light rain, building to the sustained crescendo of a true, Rocky Mountain summer downfall. All night it rained, on these lovely dry, dusty, rocky rooty trails. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

leaving for canada TR2010 in 36 hours!

New Spokespeople kit: want one?? : ) email me..
One large dose of antibiotics and one week later, Dennis is back to full form. We did our final training weekend with 5 days straight in the saddle, all the better to toughen up the nether regions for the Rockies. He is riding like a demon. I am riding like a woman possessed. I have finally tweaked my mountainbike until I am 95% happy with the set-up. No more crushed helmets, no more skinned knuckles: I cut a whole three inches off the bar width, to bring it in line with the singlespeed set up.. no wonder I was bouncing off the trees in the twisty stuff! I finally have the handling of this beast down, and since Sunday, feel better traction in the corners, run 5psi lower pressure without burning out in the bends, and can hit the downhills without the fork bouncing back into my jaw..
Ready for the RIDE..
Packing a few last things, I am amazed at how much stuff we need for a supported race. Bear bells and biffy bags, whodathunkit? Dennis has vowed to be the first to try the biffybag, a porta-potty for hikers and cyclists: mandatory gear since we will be riding in wilderness areas. I just made him promise not to use it IN the tent..

No cell phone reception, no computers, no iphones, no FB.. already sounds like a real holiday..
Here is what my (bike) doctor ordered..
Rx: Eat, ride, ride, ride, eat, drink, sleep, REPEAT x 7

See you in a week!