Tuesday, July 21, 2015

BCBR Recap Episode 7 - Day 5, North Vancouver *Crash!*


The gnarly North Shore is the stage looming on most racers' minds. Famous for its signature technical steeps, ladders and roots, it sure isn't one to take lightly, even though it featured one of the shortest distances of the week.

In preparation, I did a short loop the week prior with a qualified tour guide who showed me all the quick lines -- some were hiding very well. The Bridal Path climb was therefore my favorite section because I was able to avoid traffic, even while in traffic, by snagging all the secret up-and-overs. Flow is the key to riding the North Shore and once you lose it, it's really hard to get going again so I was stoked to be flowing like crazy. Partly thanks to preriding but also partly thanks to the condensed lesson in mountain bike skills that is the BCBR. Also it's possible I was too tired by day five to get off my bike so just letting it roll actually felt like the easier option. 



The day's most poignant climb was Old Buck, a trail as steep as it was long. It was a toughy and I was starting to feel like maybe I didn't bring enough gears as I kept grinding out the up. To my surprise, looking up from the wheel in front of me, I saw a racer coming the other way.  Then another. Then a bunch in the leaders' jerseys. What the heck? 

Our group started murmuring and this huge pack of riders riding down told us we were fine, they'd gone the wrong way. But it doesn't matter, you still panic that you're going the wrong way too. We reassured ourselves all the way up Old Buck while remarking, when we see those riders again, they are going to be mad ...

Apparently, rumor goes the entire front of the race had become victim to some course sabotage on the streets leading to the trails. A couple of our pink trail-marker flags were pulled down from a turn and that sent them off on a tangent. They had to haul ass back the first aid-station to make sure they checked in. I couldn't even imagine how bummed I'd be, but everyone I talked to was so good natured about it. BCBR is full of the best people.  

With heightened awareness of pink ribbons, I kept on trucking, processing nerves as I went but also really happy with how smooth I was riding. Thunderbolt was home and you could tell. It was a joy ripping corners, dropping steeps, and shredding through the tech.

Eyes forward!
That said, this is also the day I had my one significant bail of the week. In preriding, I knew there was a section that was a little too steep and loose for me to tackle. I planned to grab the hiking route because smooth is fast and I knew that running it would be the smoothest for me in that section. Except on race day, I was better than I guessed, and was happily following a flowy wheel through all the awesome rocks and roots and yup, down that same section. Just as I started my drop, my tired brain caught up and said "oh hey wait, we were going to walk this!" .... And I hit the brakes. 

Probably, I had it. Probably, it was actually already completed if I'd just kept my head up. But I "tripped" and the back end of the bike came up over my head in slow motion. Seriously I had some remarkable hang time. Enough to tell the guy behind me in a full sentence, "I'm going to need some room." Than *splat*. Full face plant.

Collarbonecollarbonecollarbonecollarbone ...?? Check. Hands??? Check. Nothing but a few scrapes on my elbow and knee and I had to pull the chainrings out of my hip but they'd only made a dent. Didn't even rip my Eliel bib shorts. The guy I crashed in front of was a doctor so that's twice in two years I have wrecked in front of medical professionals. But this time I knew I'd be continuing. Phew. Close call. 

I was proud of myself that the incident didn't get into my head and I got right back to riding with the same confidence as before. In fact more, because by then, Christine Shandro had caught up from getting off course and was keeping all the riders around us in check single handedly. With her on my wheel, I had the chance to focus 100% on regaining flow, until she'd got around the last rider between her and me. I led her until she was ready to dust me and then she was gone, fueled by that earlier frustration no doubt, but also offering an awesome clinic as I watched her. The North Shore is her backyard so I was only too happy to hop on her wheel.


I rode and rode, and some of the climbs were the toughest of the week, combining some line choice, tech and pitch that had you out of the saddle redlining around every switchback. At the end of the last single track climb, we met some awesome locals with the best signs of the day: "beer ahead", "ride it like you stole it" and my personal favorite: "only five switchbacks left". 

We saw this gang and their awesome signs later on the trail. Here they are at the start line. 
I knew where we were: the bottom of the final fire road climb that would take us to Expreso, the day's feature trail, and one I'd had the pleasure of seeing before last year, although this year, we'd get to ride it dry. Someone passed me what I swear was the most delicious orange wedge that ever did wedge, and I settled in and pushed lactic threshold all the way to the top, passing riders and eventually getting a great amount of space between me and others around me so that I could ride how I ride without worrying about holding up some of the guys who LIVE for this kind of stuff.  Wade Simmons and friends from the Rocky Mountain "Living Room" up top gave me a super soaker dousing for the road and I was off! Barreling down Expresso was a highlight of the week for me. I rode the entire thing where last year I was too timid to even attempt some of the sections. With a new bike and new confidence I felt like I did some of my best descending of the week so far. Plus, a rider I passed told me I had the best kits out there (I was wearing my Team Ninja kit so of course he did!) 

Even though I thought I was super fast, there's always someone faster so when I got passed by local (and fellow Rocky Mountain ambassador) Melanie towards the end of the stage I was a little bummed but I turned it into energy and got by her again, trying to stay on the gas to widen the gap back as much as I could. I did a pretty good job, dropping her on some of the trails through the residential areas, but her home court advantage was actually enough to have bridged to my start wave from the one behind. That means she had two minutes on me that I didn't realize were there til I checked the results. So although I crossed the line ahead, I was 6th on the day behind her 5th, and holding my 5th place in the GC, still enjoying the buffer I'd built up on Day 1.



I was thrilled to have survived the North Shore and was surprised how much it had been weighing on me. With the weight lifted, and my awesome team of mom, dad, and Gerhard, we loaded up and headed to Squamish in the air-conditioned comfort of our RV (which is the envy of most RV-ers we'd discovered ...always someone asking about "our rig"). 

The end was in sight but there was still so much racing to do. My brain was having a hard time getting it actually, and when we arrived in Squamish, a blistering heat wave was waiting and added to my addlement. No doubt about it, I was tired. With Squamish being the last chance to make any big GC moves, I wanted to have a good race. Gerhard helped me get refocused and we put some extra effort into recovery that night so I could be as fresh as possible. 


We joined Ryan Leech for restorative yoga, and then why not? I signed up for some recreational IV support, sucking up a bag of vitamins and minerals through a tube in my arm. More stretching, rolling, deep breathing, eating (the food on our trip was excellent!! Thanks Mom!) and then it was bed time. Squamish -- the tallest and second longest stage of the bunch -- was waiting to say "gooooood morning!" 



More photos from Day Five: 

Rise and shine! 

The start waves begin filling in

Game face

I was in the second wave, so I had the pleasure of trying to catch these speed-demons every day



Last-minute instructions from Dave


The support crew checked out Lynn Canyon while I was out racing

G and Mom, photo by Dad! 

Some of what they saw on their hike

Me, crossing the line on Day 5

#ninjaspotting! 

Checking out the day's results with Mom