July 16, 2008

BC Bike Race, Days Zero - Two (215km)

Ok, enough messing around, time to get down to business here! I haven't purposely been avoiding this race report, I've just been amazingly busy since the end of the race and I honestly can't believe it's been almost two weeks since the race ended already!

On another note, I have indeed decided to give the Shawnigan MOMAR a miss next weekend. I LOVE the MOMAR races, and more for the total experience then just the race itself. I'm sure that I could show up next weekend and be competitive, but in all honesty, I still have absolutely zero desire to race anything right now. I'm taking that as a cue from my body that it's not really ready to race again just yet and although I will be thinking about the MOMAR all weekend long, I will also be catching up on some well needed R&R, which will include logging as many running miles as possible and drinking some nice cold beers...which is kinda like racing the MOMAR but without the heart attack! This of course means that Todd will finally get his well deserved shot at his first overall SOLO victory...gonna be exciting to see how it all unfolds out there, but I know big T will rock it out and drop everyone on the nav sections! Apparently he's recovered quite nicely from BCBR as he is competing in The Gorge Games 24hr Adventure Race in Hood River this weekend! I'm uber jealous as we were looking at this race months ago but could not put it all together. Team Mergeo out of Seattle shot us an e-mail and asked if one of us would join them, so I let them BORROW Todd...just for the weekend though!!

Anyways, BCBR:

I was fortunate enough to have my good friend Melissa Pace spot me a whale watching tour to make my way to Vancouver Island. Before the race even began I was having an epic time! We did spot a Winky, or a Blinky or something...it rhymed with Stinky and only crested a small portion of it's fin over and over again, so was quite boring to watch. They had spotted Orca's 28 out of the last 30 days...make that 31! We did get a solid off the bow of the boat performance by some porpoise that the crew assured us was the best they'd ever seen!

Todd picked my up at the ferry and we were off to Shawnigan Lake (site of next weekends MOMAR race...Bryan, can I still have a shirt...I live for those shirts!) for the check in process. Todd and I were instantly blown away by three things. The race organization, in just it's second year, looked and performed like it had been around for a decade! The race swag was incredible. A set of handle bars, a Dakine roller bag, Ryders sun glasses, Crank Bros multi tool, subscription to Pedal magazine and on and on! The Shawnigan School grounds. A private school that was straight out of your typical Hollywood movie, which is to say it was the nicest school grounds I had ever seen!

Todd and I decided to return to Victoria (35 min) to avoid at least one night in the tent together and instead decided cuddle in his bed! Well, not really, Kim was in his bed and I got the hide a bed in the living room.

Day 1: Slept great, got there early, got all set up, managed to get ourselves a solid starting position and then tried to calm down as the energy around the start was truly electric! You could cut the nervous excitement with a knife and when the gun went off everyone went balls to the wall! We had to do two laps around the school grounds and part of this included cutting through a farm field. The farmer had decided to plow his field sometime after 12pm the previous day, because what the race organization thought we were biking through and what we ended up riding through were two different stories! The field grass was now two feet high and awaiting any derailler it could latch onto. At the end of the field everyone was forced to stop and remove the grass from their bikes to prevent the gunk from snapping anything. Unfortunately not everyone was so lucky and numerous people, including some of the top racer's in the competition ended up with snapped deraillers and a lengthy wait to change them out and get going again.

Todd and I hammered through this section and were quite far up in the pack. We were riding decently well, although it became clear early that I did not have my top end gear and Todd started setting the pace.

The day was getting hotter by the second and seeing as how it was the first serious heat we had seen all year people started to crack, including myself. At about 25-30k, just over a few hours into our 90k day, I cramped up in a big way! I tried to slow it down and recover, but we were just approaching our biggest climb of the day, which would go for 8-10km! SHIT!!

I managed to find a steady, yet rediculously slow pace that I could sustain without cramping on the climb. Teams caught and passed us but eventually Todd and I found ourselves alone for quite some time. Justin and Jeff of Team Helly Hansen Vancouver Island caught and dropped us near the top. I was relieved to make the top aid station and immediately downed over 2 liters of fluids...this was followed by an intensely unsettled stomach,

"Todd! We have to go now, before I puke!"

Back on the bike with a few hundred meters of climbing to go and my cramping actually got worse. It came to the point that I could not even bend my legs to get them onto the pedals of the bike! The grade was just slight enough that I could actually kick my bike along like one of those kids rides that have no pedals on them!! Todd asked if I wanted to stop and elevate my legs or something?

"F#$K no, I just have to make the top of the climb man!"

We both knew that a 10-15k descent awaited us from the top and as we started to crest the top I was able to straighten my legs out behind me on the bike while leaning forward and into the descent. I could hear Todd laughing a somewhat uncomfortable laugh while he watched this all unfold.

Within a few minutes of zero leg usage the cramps subsided and I was able to click in again and properly guide myself down the forest service road. I remember seeing my odo hit 66km and hour...it felt awesome!!

We managed to catch and pass Justin and Jeff on the road down and could see that Justin was suffering even more than I was. Apparently he even stopped sweating, which is a VERY, VERY bad sign!

At the bottom of the road we cut back into the forest and were supposed to ride over three or four rollers on singletrack trails. I very literally fell off of my bike as I tried to propel it up and over these very small lumps of dirt!

"Todd, SHIT, wait up!"

From here it was 20-25km of completely flat double track to the finish line. My inner quad was what had cramped on me and for some reason it did not allow me to climb whatsoever, but I could hold a decent pace on flat terrain and Todd and I were able to ride at about 75% of what we could normally hold. We were caught by one team...a team of two female...damn strong women! Turns out one of them was US National single speed champion! That brings me back to something here, the field was laced with top notch competitors and way more competitive that it's first year, which goes without saying. I'm telling you right now that in a few more years this race will sell out the day after it ends for the following year and the field of racers will only get stronger each and every time!!

We crossed the finish line in 5h15m for 25th on the day. Nowhere near what we were hoping for, but glad we had survived the day and minimized our losses. Todd had actually consumed ten, yes TEN bottles of fluid on the day, and I ran dry on three bottles early and then suffered to the aid station. It was so hot that the aid station actually ran out of water for back of the pack racers as they had not budgeted so much water consumption. They held the riders there until they could get water to them and immediately went to work on revising their entire water strategy for the rest of the race. The forecast was for much of the same, not a cloud in the sky and over 30 degrees each day!

Day 2: When you go into that deep cramping zone it really hinders your recovery, and I knew it would be all I had in me to hold on for day two and hope that my body would get stronger as the race progressed. Day two would end up being 125km, 122 of which were forest service road! Due to numerous factors they had to unveil their third course option for this stage. Todd and I managed to sustain ourselves in the main peloton and the ride was actually quite enjoyable...from time to time at least!

The leaders made a few moves from time to time but everyone always responded. At one point I got caught sleeping and by the time I responded Todd was ten riders ahead of me. I happened to look over my shoulder to see where I was in the peloton and was literally shocked into complete fear as I was staring back at a few kilometers of barren gravel road...I was the last rider in the pack!! If I fell off the back we were screwed! I hoped up and started jumping on my pedals to catch back up to Todd. He was clearly out pacing me on the day but we continued to work well as a team.

At about 50k on the day I started to feel a blister forming in the palm of my right hand. I was not about to stop and check it out, and I had tape over the glove to keep my broken finger from shifting around anyways, but I knew it was gonna get bad. As the km's ticked away I could very clearly visualize what my hand was starting to look like, then I promptly felt it pop as the pain became even more intense. I've dealt with enough blisters over the years and have fought through my fair share of pain while racing. I knew that I had to ignore this as best I could for about twenty minutes. That's what I have found to be my personal 'pain window' for most things. Within twenty minutes, if ignored, the pain will lessen and eventually become quite bearable. If you take the time to pay attention to these things, and baby them, they can very easily get the best of you. A visual confirmation of what is causing your pain usually does nothing but make it hurt even more. So with all this in mind I told myself I had to do it. I kept shifting around trying to alleviate the pure burning sensation in the palm of my hand, but I knew only one thing would help. I clamped down on the handle bars with an even greater force than I normally would and sucked it up. Sure enough, almost right on time, twenty minutes later the pain started to subside, and my body simply added one more item to the 'to be fixed at a later date' list!

At 80km there was one decent climb. It was where we expected the race to really start, yet I could do nothing but stare at the pack of riders disappearing in front of me. I know Todd was disappointed as he could have held on for sure, but we've raced together through some pretty tough courses and situations and he did nothing but try to help me as much as he could. I suffered to the top of the climb as my legs were still hurting on the climbs from the previous days issues. Once we topped out I was able to up the pace a bit and Todd went to work on setting the pace.

My entire world became Todd's rear wheel. My whole universe consisted of 15 inches of dirt between two rolling pieces of rubber. If I took my eyes off off Todd's wheel for even a fraction of a second I fell right off the back. It was like his tire had a gravitational pull all it's own, but it was slight and you had to be wihtin 15 inches for it to grab a hold of you!! I didn't look up for almost an hour. I thought I would puke a few times, but figured that I could do so while riding if it came to that.

Todd's girlfriend Kim was the ultimate support team as she was able to follow us along The Vancouver Island stages. She has a dirt bike and would ride ahead, stop, yell gap times at us, and repeat! She told us that there was a good size pack less than a minute ahead of us, but unfortunately there was simply no way that one rider pulling another could close such a gap. Todd worked his ass off and I was thankful to have such a strong and caring teammate out there with me.

As we rolled along we did manage to pick off a few other teams who had been dropped by the pack, including one guy who was quite literally kilometers from his teammate! We later came across his teammate waiting at a trail junction...it's a team race and you are not allowed to be more than 2min away at any time. It seemed there were plenty of teams that were made up of two individuals, rather than one cohesive unit. If Todd were riding like this I'd still be out there on that damn exposed logging road!

We finally hit the 3k singletrack to the finish and I could not have been happier as I was truly dying in the heat and was amazed I had not yet puked. Todd lead it out and I followed closely behind. As we dropping into the forest the lighting went from overwhelming to shaded and dark. I reached for my sunglasses but could not find a section of trail that would allow me to remove them. Shortly after this, the fate of our entire race was sealed. We were coming into a 'rock garden' with speed. I could clearly distinguish that the trail was rough, but could see nothing in terms of picking a safe line though it all.

I remember being in mid air and clearly thinking, 'Man, this is gonna f#$king suck so bad!'

Then BOOM, I landed hard on the right side of my body and somehow rolled onto my left side. Normally bounce up from crashes, even if they're bad. I try to use the adrenaline to get me moving again before the pain sets in, but this one was different. I could not physically engage my own body enough to move from the position I had landed in. Two teams caught up behind us and stopped, asking if they could help. Todd had stopped just up ahead, and was clearly awaiting my 'pop up' to get riding again. All I could do was moan a few times.

Todd quickly made his way back to me and stared somewhat in disbelief at what had unfolded for us. I had landed on my quad...that same quad I had contused during The Test Of Metal and worked so hard to heal in time for BCBR. It was the first pain I really paid attention to, until Todd tried to help me up.


I told the two teams behind us to get going.

"Are you sure you're ok?"

"It's a race! Get going already!!"

I didn't know what to think. I had but one thought, that being that we were less than 3km to the finish and either way I was gonna have to get there under my own steam. I screamed some cuss words, climbed back on and started riding. Todd didn't move!

I looked back at him and told him to get his ass moving. As he pulled up along side of me he asked if I was alright?

"I'll let ya know in 3km"

We actually managed to catch and pass the teams who had just passed us, and rode into the finish line quite strong...man I love adrenaline!!

Once across the line it was a different story though. The entire right side of my body seemed to have seized up and I hobbled into the shade and started icing various wounds. I don't remember ever feeling so beat down before in my life. I had gone from suffering in the heat, and feeling like I would puke for hours, to smashing up the entire right side of my body and riding the adrenaline of it all to the finish line.

The adrenaline wore off, the pain started to set in, the dehydration overwhelmed me and all I could do was sit there and freakin cry! I don't know why I felt like I needed to do this, and it only lasted a few seconds...I SWEAR...but I was definitely a low point for me and something that made me feel like I really had to rally myself mentally to get my shit back together and start preparing for the following days ride.

We had finished in 4h50m, which brought us up to 19th overall. My quad was our biggest concern and after icing it for thirty minutes I was sure it would not slow me down. My arm was swollen, and my hip was absolutely killing me, but again, nothing seemed too bad to ride through and Todd and I went about our business as usual for the evening. Clean bike, tune bike, shower, grab tent, grab gear bag, set up sleep stuff, grab dinner, stretch, try to sleep.

We had ambitions of working our way back up into the top 15...only five more days to go!



Matt Hart said...

gary way to persevere and get it done! rest up my friend. i've been in this hole a few times for ultra distance racing. it's an unfortunate part of it... but you'll get excited to race/train in no time i'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Awww Gary- I was so looking forward to actually introducing myself at MOMAR... If you feel like coming over to cheer Todd on (maybe you'd be more likely to get a t-shirt out of Bryan that way?) then I'd hang out with you as I volunteered to volunteer (if they want crazy pregnant ladies out on the course!!!) But rest up- and feel no shame about crying- I cried most of the way through Shanigan MOMAR last year (cuz I'm a wimp) and I only did the short course (in just over 6 hours dammit) But I'm a girl so I'm allowed... I'm still super impressed with your amazing ability to keep pushing yourself so don't feel bad about taking some time to rest up- you'll come back bigger and better!
Erika :)

The Chaser said...

That wasn't crying G, it was just weakness leaving the body...

She isn't crying here either.

garobbins said...

Thanks guys, yeah gotta skip the MOMAR unfortunately, but maybe I'll see you in Cumberland Erika?
That video clip is quite funny!