BC Bike Race-Day 6: Squamish

3 07 2010

In the Groove on Half Nelson

Laughter in Tent City: I woke up this morning to the sound of laughter with a European accent. I’m not sure it’s something about Belgians or Belgian cyclists or maybe it’s the same ethos that makes them the worlds greatest brew-masters. In any case, the mood was contagious and I found myself looking for the lighter side of things and not dwelling on the negative.

Home court advantage: How nice it was cycling in my own backyard, knowing, not just submitting to the lanndscape. It allows you to give’r on some sections because you know it’s going to be easier up ahead.

Big deep belly breaths: It started after second aid station in Sechelt. I remembered to breathe, right down into my diaphragm. It’s not an accident that it helps you relax. A deep belly breath expands your lungs, pushing out your belly, stretching your diaphragm and stimulating the 10th cranial nerve,  which is the key to the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS is essential to keep engaged in long physical efforts. It stimulates the smooth muscle in the stomach to relax, allowing the gut to empty, which allows your body to access the food, water and electrolytes that you have been diligently taking in, which fuels your cooling system, which allows you to perform what you are actually capable of. That’s the key: breathe and think nice thoughts.

Beware the Bonk: You know the PNS is not engaged when you can hear the sloshing in your stomach long after you last took in any liquid. So, in the absence of  a relaxed stomach, things rapidly deteriorate into a vicious negative spiral known as the Bonk. Similarly, any factor that impedes the chain of performance, such as not sleeping well, not eating enough, not hydrating, getting too hot, or over exerting yourself because of excess enthusiasm hastens the bonk. There are so many moving parts, so many ways to screw up. This is what makes having a good day, especially later in the race, such a triumph. It’s also very unlike me, so it’s especially sweet. Now you’ll have to excuse me. I have to relax.

The play by play
I made a real conscious effort to apportion my enthusiasm on the uphill section leading into the trails and to relax on the scary downhill bits. I started pretty far back on the line, but that was just as well. After the nasty single track climb and flowly downhill bit under the powerline, I caught a ride behind a guy on the road out. This probably frustrated him to no end, since I drafted him on all the flat sections, but it really helped me. Drafting makes sense any time you are going at least 12km/h. It decreases the effort to maintain speed by 35%. That’s not chump change, just ask any roadie.

The Comforts of Home

I’m also starting to optimize my position on the bike. I noticed that when I pull back slightly on the bars using core vs arm muscles, and slightly extend my back, it put weight on the seat and optimizes power transfer to the back wheel. If I then concentrate on making big full circles with my pedals, I can save energy for the short bursts needed to get up and over rocks or nasty steep bits.

Using my new technique I made it comfortably up to the new, hyper groomed, $60000 trail known as to Half Nelson, while lots of other riders had to get off their bikes and walk. I love watching them get off their bikes, pretending they have to fix something or take a pee, when really, we all know what’s going on.

I rode Half Nelson competently if a little cautiously and Tsuga, Tsuga the same. I made down all the big drops and over the bridge ok. I did dismount at the real steep loosey goosey part, but so did everyone else. Then I manhandled the last choppy rooty section and dumped down onto the road no worse for wear and still maintaining position. I took my time and ate well that aid #1, but did not dilly-dally and I climbed comfortably and descended competently down the plunge, my erstwhile nemesis, but now an old pal. I took pains again at aid #2 to fill the tank because I knew the killer Crumpet Woods lay ahead and I was not going to be a victim. Sure enough, I held my own through the woods and down the other side and I fairly hammered it home to a big hug and a 4:35 finish. Not too bad for Day 6.

The Comforts of Home: Tonight I did take a hot shower, have an hour long massage, eat real food, sleep in a real bed, wake up rested. Who could ask for anything more? See you tomorrow in Whistler.

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One response

3 07 2010
Mark J

What an achievement and good on you for laughing like a Belgian – at the end. Good technical description of how following the breath can make a big difference.

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