BC Bike Race – Day 5: Sechelt to Langdale

2 07 2010

Girl Power: You can’t help but notice that amongst the massive, ripped, pit-bull like warriors are some pretty fresh-faced, lithe, bike chix. This should not surprise anyone, but it is worth noting, that despite their smaller frames and muscles, they are just as strong, just as fast, and just as courageous as any of the men. And frankly, if you got in their way, they would not hesitate to eat you for breakfast. You go, Girls!

Duelling Doctors: Is it a co-incidence or is there a reason that I have now met about 15 other doctors on this trail? Type A, check. Over-acheiver, check. Reward Seeking Personality, check. Get distracted by shiny things, check. No, it’s no co-0incidence. This race was made for us.

The play-by play – The day started relatively well, breakfast was a bit late, so felt a little bloated to start. I had good legs up the first climb as usual, but started to weaken as the insulin surge of breakfast hit me early into the first single track.

I did not panic, took my time, ate and drank diligently and did the water-down-the pants-thing at the first aid station. The cold water lowered my core body temperature quickly and my energy returned. I headed back into the woods with conviction, but got stuck in traffic with some less experienced riders and could not get any momentum. Every time I had the juice to get ahead,  I had to brake to avoid a collision at the next climb or obstacle. The I had to use precious resources to wind it up again. With all the stops and starts, my legs eventually turned to mush and by the second aid station, I was circling the drain, again.

Auto-rescuscitation: By the time I reached the second aid station, things were looking pretty grim. As I got off my bike, I could barely see straight. My knees were weak and my gait was wobbly. I reached out to grab the handle on the back of the Aid Station truck like an air sick passenger reaches for the bathroom door. Then, I lost control of my bladder. I’m a bit embarrassed about it, but physiology can often trump even the best manners, so I let it go, much to the horror of the aid-crew who were watching me like hawks, but in a good way. Again, I did not panic, because I had read about this in a cycling magazine recently and I knew what I needed to do. So, I calmly took one bottle after another and slowly poured them over my head, down my neck, down my pants and I was quite amazed by how quickly I felt better.

Rain Forest Romp

Then I slowly drank and ate my way back into fighting shape in what seemed like a half hour but was probably only 29 minutes… and set off for the last 400 m climb through the forest, before the sweet descent to the Ferry terminal in Langdale. This all went relatively well, although I did have to walk a significant amount, but I had the nerve and the guts to ride most of the slippery bridges and ladders that surely would have been my nemesis had I not taken the time to refocus and refuel.

Finding the Groove Again: The final descent was a spectacular series of buffed berms and bends and I felt that I rode it competently. As the trail snaked down the hillside, and the Red Bull shot seared through my circuits I found the groove again. Like driving a car, I sent the front wheel wide, visualized the apex, and squared my shoulders to the exit and down the next straightaway. Someday, I will do this automatically and effortlessly, but right now it’s still a series of mechanical tasks that need to be strung together consciously. I avoided any major heroics as I was not feeling like falling 10 feet into a creek. Moreover, I was getting bounced around quite a bit towards the bottom as my two year old shocks were starting to fail. Never the less, I arrived safely at the bottom in 5:35.


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BC Bike Race – Day 4: Earls Cove to Sechelt

30 06 2010

Technical Challenges on Day 4

Trauma on the Trail: Touch wood. I have not had any major crashes. OK, my body is covered with scrapes and bruises of every size and colour of the rainbow. I have crushed both pinky fingers on passing tree trunks; I have had a handful of endos (short, for end over handle bars). And, I had a couple of good high-speed tumbles… but so far, all my injuries are “dermatological”. Crashes in cycling fall into four categories: dermatological vascular, orthopedic or neurosurgical. As I walk around our campsite every night, I see more and more people who had serious crashes, so I consider myself lucky. To be fair though, I’m also careful. I don’t go charging down the trail. I leave that to the thrill-seekers: I have kids and a mortgage. It never ceases to amaze me how fast some of these guys (and gals) go… it’s frightening, really. Having said that, these are not the guys who crash. It’s the tentative ones. In mountain-biking commitment is everything.  I’m not quite there yet, but I certainly had a lot of practice on Day 4. Off camber obstacles have often been the bane of my day. Today, I learned to power up and float, using my body positioning and leaning the bike into the turn to optimize traction… most importantly, I learned to keep my hands off the brakes, take on speed as necessary and look down the trail, sometimes looking around the corner, for a flatter, grippier section, where braking would not send me into a skid.

The Tyranny of Tenting: During the past 4 days we have been living in tents. In the evening, base camp becomes a veritable tent city with portable bathrooms and showers, etc. At night, we retitre to our small nylon homes which we share with a tent-mate. This is not necessarily bad. You get to meet an interesting person from another part of the world with whom you have a great deal in common, mostly biking, but often other interests and traits as well. It’s actually one of the best parts of this whole adventure. So far I have had two roomies, Frank from Sydney, Australia and Dirk, a South African psychiatrist who now lives in Dawson Creek, BC. The downside is that now that you have someone to talk to, you do, often late into the night. This cuts down on precious sleep time. You also sleep on the floor, which does not lend itslf well to recovery. It’s damp and depending on body chemistry and the digestive patterns of your roomie, it can also be a bit smelly.

The Play by Play – I pushed up into the ranks of the elites today on a long hilly stage. That worked for quite a while, but energy is not endless and enthusiasm has its perils. My mantra all day was, maintain position, maintain position. That worked for a while too, but all those burly descenders were soon upon me and the descents were tricky if not ominous, so I had to concede positions to my chagrin. At the second aid station my back was hurting… when I went to visit the bushes I saw my urine was dark yellow… I remebered what we were told in orientation, “every good mountaineer pees clear… so I drank about 2 l and poured another 2 L over my head and down my pants, even though we’re not supposed to do that. I figured it was better to pour that water on my head than to need it intravenously later. It sure helped. It gave me the energy to push up that nasty little climb and as I crested the next hill the cool breeze felt fantastic as it billowed through my soaking jersey. And then I felt my energy coming back. As the food and water from the last aid station started to enter by blood-stream, I felt my energy and confidence return.

The kindness of strangers:Minutes later, just after the aforementioned cool breeze, as I careened down the double track, the guy ahead of me hit the breaks and a cloud of dust obscured the apex of the turn. Suddenly a rock the size of a baby’s head appeared directly in front of me. With a flick of the wrist and a spring of the legs, I took to the air and over I went… however, this baby had a rather pointy head so as my back tire slammed into it, it caused my tire to ‘burp’. This, I am told is what happens when you hit a tubeless tire with great impact, breaking the seal of the tire with the rim, and letting out the aforementioned low pitched ‘burp’ sound. Luckily, I came to a safe stop and lost not too much time as another rider who could see I was a newbie, (I didn’t know how to put the tube into a tubeless tire, I didn’t even have a tube because I was assured I could not get a flat, and my Co2 inflator did not work) This fellow, from Endless Biking kindly stopped to lend a hand..and got me on my way. Thank God for the Good Samaritan..

Finding Flow on the Sunshine Coast

In Flow: We’re  going down. While it is certainly not my strength my descending skills have been improving all week. In the past, having always ridden a hard tail my tendency has been to find the path between big rocks and around the edges of deep grooves. That works sometimes. But sometimes the best line is the one over the rocks and into the groove. That’s where weight distribution and good shocks make the work into a game.  That is of course easier said than done. When you are scared, you lean forward, your back tire loses grip and the whole thing goes to hell in a hand-basket pretty quickly. It’s hard to believe that those rocky, dusty, steep and twisty bits are actually rideable. But they are… and it feels so amazing when you finally get it right.

This is what Mihalyi i (CHICK-zent-mi-high) calls flow. In his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990) he described the flow state as one in which an athlete performs seemingly without effort, but with total concentration, feeling totally in control without thinking about it. Self-consciousness recedes into the background as total focus is upon present activity, such that someone might call you to dinner and you would not hear a thing.

To paraphrase Czikszentmihaly’s work, you get into flow when you find the sweet spot between challenge and reward. That means that the activity has to be difficult enough to engage all of one’s senses, yet easy enough that one can succeed and experience the reward of mastery.

I finished the rest of that day, thanks to the Good Samaritan, competently and in flow and arrived safely at base camp in Sechelt in 5:32.