Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stage 4: Etherington to Anchor D ranch

more points, more and more points..
An inauspicious beginning to the 4th stage. I felt well recovered despite sleeping on damp ground and tossing with bike dreams all night. We rode incredible single track to CP #1 at 15k, then another climbing slogfest to CP#2. Dennis's back gave out on the steep climbs, so I grabbed his bike, and pushed. And pushed and pushed, until he was able to ride again. No shame in it, this was the purpose of the the team of two. I knew I was going to have some hard days ahead where I would likely be whining and teary, so for now, I was content to be the one pushing, without the pain. While he lagged behind, frustrated and cranky, I took a few seconds and marveled at the soaring golden eagles and the huge landscape in which we plodded along. The peaks gave way to the endless valleys, filled with cow shit, mud from hoards of cows, and mud rivers. Cattle country they warned us last night. Stomping along in it, sliding down hill in it, losing my favourite Oakleys in it and up to my shins in the sticky brown stuff for hours now, I wondered whether  at a certain point, cowshit acts as chain lube. 15k of it, it took us over 2 hours to hike a bit, ride a bit before we hit the dry trail again, in 4th place again, exhausted and disappointed, but ready to settle down at Anchor D ranch. Having been mired in shit all day, we were more than disappointed to roll into camp and find the tents all perched neatly on piles of wet cow shit, Cattle country indeed. The long day finished with marble sized hailstones, pelting us as we stripped for the showers, then denting the shower truck as we giggled inside.We were finally warm, somewhat clean, our bellies growling for dinner (justifiably with Alberta beef on the menu!) and we were ready another shot at the podium after a good nights sleep.
is there a bike under that mud / cowshit?
Altogether now..singing..

TR2010 Stage 3: Sparwood to Etherington

line up behind Gustavo's head please
Sunny spells and scattered showers. The forecast sounded like the millions of Irish weather predictions that I grew up with. The start line was blustery, but it was still nice and sunny, though cool at 56 degrees as we lined up in the corral again. Music blaring, AC/DC "Highway to hell" being apt, we rode off into the base of the mountains, headed to the wilderness on Stage 3. The TR3 group would be leaving us after this stage, so I knew that the organizers would have designed a wonderful day for us. Not wrong. We had fueled up well and were ready for the dirt: 2k parade around the town at high speed, then off into the hills: 25k of fast, rolling hills on double-track, with a consistent climb to the 40k checkpoint Into the woods, and across the first river of the race. In my short adventure racing career, I was always leery of the river crossings, usually designed to get you wet and miserable, and keep you cold for the rest of the race. I anxiously struggled to find a footing on the slick rocks beneath the roaring water, schlepping my bike at waist height on the first crossing. Since the second and third crossings came soon after, I began to relax in the rivers, enjoyed the cool-down, and I realized we were quickly crossing a watershed, the rivers getting smaller and less vigorous as we continued to climb.
Up into tightly would alders we rode, with the thin branches whipping us as we squeaked by on the barely visible trail. The riding came to an end as the trail kicked upwards, and the alders grew tighter together. While the trail eventually measured 2k, it took almost an hour to beat our way to the top, with some sections of the trail scrabbly rock, and approaching 20% grade at points. Stand up, reach your arms to above head height but not quite overhead, and now lean forward. Imagine pushing a 20+lb bike at this angle, and now imagine it for the next hour, grunting and slipping, stopping to let another grunter by, a stronger one, or one with better traction on their slippery mountain bike shoes. The trail finally let up and turned into this incredible vista of rocky ridges which while treacherous, were rideable and incredible fun. The hike-a-bike-sections continued intermittently, though now above the treeline, were mostly on scree slopes and up rockfaces. What a break! We continued onward and upward, looking back only at the ant-like figures beneath us, finally reaching the top of the CONTINENTAL DIVIDE.. Phew.

our funny Israeli friend gives us some perspective
At the top, the wind was howling over the bare rock, we seemed to be close to the top of the world, and bizarrely, I was reminded of the rocky contours of Connemara, in the west of Ireland. I thought of our friend Andrew, and how he would have loved this landscape too, growing up with similar contours, similar colours, albeit several thousand meters higher than at home.! 2200m high, it was almost dizzying to be pounding over these crests with just a couple of inches of rubber beneath me. We clambered into our rain jackets for wind protection, slammed into a bigger gear, and started the descent. While the climbs were crazy, these descents were epic. Sheet rock, slabs of broken granite, slate, shale, rivers of rock led us down the mountain side. It was just like Aviemore (Singlespeed World Championships 2008 Scotland) I shouted at Dennis, except longer, more, higher, and harder!There was no "trail" as such, we simply followed the mud patches of previous riders, picking the sweetest and safest trail down as we bounced and slid and let it rip. On 29er hard-tails, this was the only section I felt that I would have likes a full suspension bike, as about an hour of this had my sacrum aching, and my hands tingling from the pounding. All things considered, the GF Superfly held up well, and I was glad of the light agile machine, constantly amazed how it withstood the beating it was getting. Legs were alternating with cramps, right hamstring, left Quad, right Quad, left Hamstring, Calf, Calf, Hamstring, Hamstring. Like some weird muscle dance, after 5 hours in the saddle, I was getting too tired to get off the saddle to shock absorb, and was getting thrown about with rocks and cramps tossing me about. I knew we were positioned well though, since the Brazilians weren't too far in front, and I hadn't seen Brian and Cricket since the top of the CD. We pegged the last 15k, tag teaming the final single-track sections, across the last 3 rivers for 5:28:00,  66.8k, another third place on the podium for the days efforts, and back to 3rd overall in our group. Happy. I sat on the dirt ground in front of the massage tent while I  inhaled a burger, too tired to even get a massage. Eat, snooze in the sun, eat again, then awards.I did a mental inventory of the day's intake: 
Breakfast: pancakes x 3, scrambled eggs x 2-3, OJ, coffee, french toast x 1, yoghurt x 1, banana x 1.
On the bike: Hammer gel x 5 (in flask) honeystinger packets x 3, Endurolytes x 10, Ultimo carb drink x 2 20oz bottles, Heed 3 x 20oz bottles, 
Post-race: Burger + whatever was on it, Chips, Protein honey stinger bar, Recovery drink with protein 20oz,
Dinner: 2 servings of pasta + some kind of meat, tons of bread, veggies, beans, chickpeas salads, 3 1/2 CC cookies, 1 glass of wine. Phew. One sure thing about this kind of racing, you might be afraid of crashing, but you can't be afraid of eating. Ready to rock stage 4.