BC Bike Race – Day 1: Nanaimo

28 06 2010

Andrew Handford of Different Bikes

The buses rolled out of Inter-river park at 7 am, BC FERRIES bound to Nanaimo. Inside, were nearly 500 riders on their way to the first day of an epic 7 days of riding the best single track, BC has to offer. As one of the organizers said, “it’s a whole summer’s worth of mountain biking in one week”.

I would certainly have to agree with that. Actually, it seems like a whole summer’s worth of single track in one day. Because as I write this, I am sitting in my tent, at the end of day two in Cumberland, blogging about day one, because I was too tired yesterday to move one extra muscle to blog about anything.

The United Nations of Cycling: Here at the BC Bike Race, you don’t have to stand or sit beside someone for more than a few seconds before they introduce themselves. I figure that by the end of the week I may know more than a hundred new people from all over the world, by name. That’s pretty rich. Today I met Jesse from Hong Kong, Chris from Thailand, Marco from Mexico, Carlos from Argentina, Morgan from Calgary and Karen from Victoria. That’s just between North Vancouver and Nanaimo.

Think about it. How many times have you passed someone at work or in your neighbourhood and you don’t know their name or a thing about them. It’s pretty common. So, from a human interaction point of view, this really is more like summer camp for mountain-bikers, than a seven day stage-race.

The Power Move: Today we started by climbing into the hills above Nanaimo, where the skill du jour is the “power move”. That means that in order to lift your bike over an obstacle: a root, a fallen tree, a rock, a sudden steep rise in the trail… you need to power up, and over it and to do that you have to be in  your middle ring (not your granny gear) And, yeah, we did that about a thousand times before the first aid station. Luckily, having spent most of last year climbing hills in my middle ring, this was not beyond me, and I was having fun.

West Coast Special:  The next major activity of the day was the rooty, rocky, twisty, sudden drop-off into the abyss, single track. This is a west coast special. And, the guys and gals around here are very, very good at it. Me, not so much…and so at this point, I was not having so much fun. I can do it, just not fast and not for hours in a row. These elite cyclists, or elites as I call them are figure skaters in the Olympics. They make it look easy, except you and I know, it isn’t.

AID STATION ERROR: One of the reasons I wasn’t having much fun as the afternoon wore on, was probably because I did not eat enough at the first Aid Station. This is a typical newbie error. You think, “wow, here are all the people who just passed me; standing around. I think I will just pass them back.” DUMB, dumber, dumbest. They are not standing around they are refuelling. And, if you think that is a minor consideration, you will soon see their backs as they speed by you.

Besides being nervous and not sleeping well the night before, I didn’t eat much for breakfast, or during the first part of the race. Then I skipped the aforementioned refuelling, so eventually about 5 k before the second aid station, I bonked.

Carbs are the Remedy: Luckily, I had my secret weapon (rice pudding and chocolate milk shake). So after I downed that, my brain and then my muscles started to work again. And, lo and behold, we have got ourselves a race after all.  Carbohydrate is essential for mountain -biking fun because it increases brain serotonin levels. It is essential for maintaining concentration too because rapid rises in glucose stimulate dopamine release. Carbs are essential for performance because they keep your muscles from going into lactic acidosis, which means you don’t hurt as much as you are grinding up that hill before the big drop. When your on the BC BIKE RACE and your into your third, fourth or fifth hour. Carbs are not just a factor. They are the Remedy!

Love it or Hate it: The third element of mountain biking is the fire road. Flat or uphill, most real mountain-bikers hate it. Me, I’m a more of a roadie, so I love it. This is where I slowly move ahead, only to have the same guys I passed on the way up, barge past me again on the way down. Oh well. I guess it all comes out in the wash.

So, Day 1 ended in the middle of Nanaimo Stadium. My time was 5:28, nothing to write home about, but not the worst either. I waited for a cold shower, had a heavenly massage, washed my bike and my water bottles, waited to eat a pretty tasteless plate of pasta, then crashed in my tent at 9 pm.