Sunday, August 16, 2015

BCBR Recap Episode 9: Stage 7, WHISTLER

This is the final report of my BC Bike Race adventure -- catch up with the story so far at the links below! 

Bike Mag Coverage!
My Race Reports: 

Sometimes it takes me forever to complete a book I’m reading because I like it too much. I’m dying to finish it, but in no hurry to be done with the story. I have been finding it is the same with the BC Bike Race. Thinking about--then writing--each stage’s report is like reliving it, and once I finish this one, it will all be over, for real. It’s funny, because you would think crossing the finish line in Whistler, along with 600 of your new friends, and the warm embrace of the race’s staff, volunteers and the friends and family you brought with you would be signal enough. But I think the race is just too big, too special, to fully realize in that moment. I tried—here is a video of me taken by the paparazzi parental unit that begins to show me literally trying to catch my breath and feel all the feels while clinging to Gerhard—but I couldn’t grasp it. I was emotional, but also overwhelmed.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the finish, and I’ll tell you all about the final day in Whistler.

Our crew opted to head out from Squamish early because my parents really loved Whistler last year, and my dad was all about hitting up Satchi Sushi as we had the year before (and as he raved about for the following 363 days). This year, I was liking my chances that we would actually attend the final banquet, so the eve of Stage 7 was our only sushi chance! We arrived (if you recall from my previous post) with some very tired riders, but who had also worked up a great appetite. It was awesome to be joined by family friends Dennis and Diana, too. With a night of protein and carbs, I was relieved to knock off my Bike Mag coverage and get to bed on the early side. My bike slept the night back in Squamish, so I made a plan to ride Gerhard’s borrowed Altitude to the start line where I could collect my rig, and leave the demo for G to pick up when they got to the start.

The bike trucks were unloading when I rolled up, and my bike was on one of the trucks last to be de-biked so I was happy I’d had a chance to spin a little on the way there—my warm up was getting shorter by the minute. On warm ups: I had really high hopes for them all week, especially since strong starts seemed to be a theme to my success, but honestly, by Day 7, ANY pedal stroke beyond those which were required to get me to the finish line seemed like risky, match-burning business. My legs were feeling a little like sand bags, literally held together by tape.

Getting ready to line up on Day 7
I spun around a little to make sure my rig was race ready, but my “warm up” was cursory at best. I should have investigated the start a little further …

For the final stage, we lined up in the Olympic Plaza, which brought back great memories from my Vancouver 2010 experience. A hundred meters on the grass, and then we were on the road, barreling slightly up towards Blackcomb. As we approached the ski hill from the pavement on a slight left, a unanimous “are you kidding me?” rose from our start wave. Straight. Up.

And so, we were thusly introduced to the “don’t think of it as a victory lap” final stage of the BC Bike Race. After that pitchy first double track, the pain continued along the access road, and then into the woods for the hardest, longest, most technical, body-English singletrack climb of the entire week. Combined with the emotional dynamics of a wheel-to-wheel train of racers, it was a stressful ascent. Thanks to some errors by both riders around me, and me, I ended up at the front of a group which was actually the most pleasing place for me to be. I was able to ride how I ride, without worrying about running into a wheel in front of me, and focusing 100% on being smooth. The guy behind me however had a bit of a slinky thing going. He would stumble, and accelerate, stumble, then accelerate, causing the riders behind him to get vocally aggressive. It was the one time during the week that I heard racers lose their cool. I opted to pull over and let them all go around me so I could enjoy the final day. But that was a mistake. Once you stop in Whistler, it is nearly impossible to get the flow back because every pedal stroke there is another “thing” – wheel lift, bridge, skinny, roots, drop, etc. By the time we topped out I was exhausted mentally and physically, and I wasn’t sure at all how I was doing. A couple exciting moments flying down steep rock faces and we were flying over a gravel double track to circumnavigate the lake. I made good time in the open, and the rest of the course was definitely trending down. Locals and visitors were out in droves cheering us on through the LAST singletracks of the week.

Two years in the making. Feels like I got away with something. 
I could hear their energy coming from just a few switchbacks away and had my first thought of, “oh my gosh, I’m about to finish the BC Bike Race” but had to quickly banish the idea in case I blew it in the last few hundred meters. Desperately trying to maintain focus and composure, I rolled through that cheering section I’d heard only to find that they were our friends from the massage/chiro/rehab tents. AND they were dressed up like Wonder Woman, French Fries, High Fives and even a UNICORN in a TUTU. 

A photo posted by DrColinWilson (@drcolinwilson) on
For whatever reason, THIS is what put me over the edge. A dude dressed up like French Fries. I lost it, and tears started welling up and my chest hurt even more than it normally does on course and I had to tell myself out loud to stop it and finish this thing already. But in a nutshell, those race staff who are so excited for us to finish they hiked into the woods dressed up in costume, screaming their faces off at us is a perfect illustration of how awesome this event is--you felt like that all week. Maybe they weren't actually wearing Super Women costumes, but the volunteers and staff were nonetheless super, and often, even heroic. Certainly, Nathan and Colin (physiotherapist and chiropractor respectively) were my heroes. Huge thanks to them -- Not sure I could have made it without their expert fixes. 

I raced through the last village trails, raced down the pavement, raced past Tippie in his famous fro wig waving the checkered flag and high-fived the BC Bike Race gate for the last time as I crossed the finish. The amazing volunteers were just as stoked as the racers as they awarded us our belt buckles.

Stage 7 Results 

Final Cumulative Results

I did it.

I came back stronger and better than ever after heartbreak the year before to finish the day in 6th and the week in 5th place. I put in the training, I picked the perfect bike, I raced smart, and it all led to this moment.

We did it.

I may have signed up for the solo category, but I was never alone. Gerhard supported long hours doing “crazy” training, never said boo as I spent all of my money (and lots of his too) on power meters, equipment, plane tickets, and physical therapy. My parents were all in, twice, arriving in style with a meal plan the Tour De France would be envious of. They were amazing supporters, comic relief, and mom even became a DJ, making sure I had a race-ready soundtrack to enjoy with the breakfast she served every morning (all the while me complaining that I don’t want to eat ANY MORE things).

And there they were at the finish line, and they had all the feelings I was too tired and overwhelmed to feel.  But I could see them in my mom’s happy tears, my dad’s proud smile, and my husband’s big bear hug. As I look back now, just over a month later, it has really sunk in. I was so fantastically lucky to have the amazing support of my family not just for the week, but for the entire two year process, including the first attempt last year. I am so incredibly grateful for them, and almost wish I was signed up for 2016 so we could do it all again! Dad was so excited by the race, he wants to sign up. If he does, you can bet I’ll be first in line to drive the RV!

I also want to thank Christine and Papa Gerhard for hosting me in the week leading to the race, and for hosting the whole crazy circus as the race rolled through Cumberland. Thank you for keeping the party going over in Powell River and for all your support, always. It means a lot to me that you share your excitement, and that you've even been inspired to get back to daily riding!! 

Thanks to my amazing nieces Ella and Clara for sending such inspirational video messages! I LOVE to see your pretty faces. Thank you to your expert camerawoman, Kim as well. Love you sis, and appreciate all the pep talks. Thanks also to the head of the Mombourquette-Lake clan Bryan for star appearances in FaceTimes and inspirational videos as well. You guys rule. 

Congrats to my coached athlete and Team Ninja teammate Bjorn
for his amazing top-ten finish!! Thank you for being an inspiring,
dedicated athlete. Your hard work showed. I'm so proud! 
Thanks to Grandpa and Aunt Mindy who followed along and sent their cheers through Mom and Dad!

Thanks to Coach Richard for all of the training leading up to this thing (twice) and thanks to all of my Team Ninja teammates for being the best crew to hang with in all of the races leading up to this one.

And finally, thank you to everyone who left notes and encouragement on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

Keep reading!! There are a few more people to thank as well!

Rocky Mountain Bicycles: My Thunderbolt 770 MSL was the perfect rig, but more importantly, it was awesome to feel a part of the Rocky Mountain family, especially as news of my new role with the brand came together on about Day 2. Every day, this crew made you feel like the Rocky Mountain lounge was the place to be. Thank you also for helping Gerhard do the biggest MTB ride of his life on Day 6 with a demo Altitude!! Meant a lot to us!
GU Energy: I could NOT have done it without the support of GU, and especially Yuri who is always just an email away with the magic elixirs. He even made sure I had a fresh tub of GU Recovery Brew in Chocolate, when it seemed like there was none to be found, anywhere. Yuri, I had that every day and thought of you gratefully every time! GU Brew (lemon tea!!) in my bottles every day, and GUs were taped to my top tube each morning in the perfect assortment, including my favs #SaltedCaramel and #MapleBacon, keeping me properly fuelled and flying. Thank you so much GU!!

Eliel Cycling: "You know you have the best kits out here, right?" - random racer on Day 5. I totally knew. Spending seven days straight in the best bibs and jerseys ever is its own kind of heaven. Thank you so much to Eliel for making the most amazing gear, but double thanks for making it specially for me--my custom, commemorative BCBR Kits are badass as hell, and super special reminders of an amazing week. Thank you so much for being part of an incredible season.

RIDE Cyclery: Between last minute equipment "needs" (yes! I need RaceFace NEXT carbon bars and cranks!), and getting my bike race-tuned and neatly packed, RIDE was there. I'm so grateful for the friends I've made at this shop who were all high-fives as I rolled my bike out in its new case right before departure. I didn't have a single mechanical issue with the bike all week which I know is part luck, but I like to think it's also partly our mechanics' magic. Thanks to Jimi and Blaize for the final customizations and tuning! And to Blaize who does a mean bike pack. Could not have done it without RIDE.

ZOIC Clothing: Thank you for being amazing supporters, and for making BC-worthy baggies that I practically lived in. Though I kept it "XC" on the race course, if I was pre-riding or recovering around base camp, my Naveahs are what I reached for. Plus, all the pockets mean I can usually get away with riding pack-free which is always a bonus if you're on the trails and it's in the 90s!

And with that, it's all done. So much awesome stuff has happened since the race, and in some ways, it happened because of the race. This special week, and its two-year lead up will always mean the world to me. If you're thinking about doing it, do it

I love this photo of mom enjoying the scenery on the Peak to Peak. They headed up for some tourist time! 

This one is really cool. That's my mom! 

.... and that's my dad! Obviously, Peak to Peak was mom's idea. ;)

Mom and Me

Dad and Me 

Bjorn and his amazing support crew, Amber! 

Fires in the area immediately following the race create smoky, hazy conditions that nearly block the afternoon sun. 

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