July 18, 2008

BCBR, Day 4 (60k), Day 5 (65k)

I went to bed at the end of day three feeling a thousand times better that I thought I would after all I'd been through in a few hundred km of riding. Todd had been sharing a tent with Kim and amazingly we never even spent a single night in the same tent together! As the sun was setting I was going over my body with 'The Stick' and waiting for the temperature to drop enough to be comfortable inside an actual tent.

I crawled in around 10pm knowing that the earliest day of the entire race awaited us in the morning. A 4:30am wake up call would have us on our first bus for 5:15am, our first ferry for 6am, then a second bus ride, a second ferry ride and eventually an 11am starting time!

I fell asleep easily and did not toss and turn at all. I guess I should also mention that since my stage two bike crash I was forced to sleep on my left side and in a bit of a fetal position to allow sleep to find me.

At 2am I was ripped from my slumber with the most intense pain I had felt in a very, very long time. While in la la land I had decided to straighten out my body and twist around in my sleeping bag, and as I was unconsciously trying to right myself I tweaked my lower right abdominal muscle. I lay paralyzed in my sleeping bag with tears streaming down my face. I was afraid to move at all for it felt like my abdominal muscle had completely ruptured. The pain was much like taking a lighter to one of the most sensitive areas of your entire body.

In the days following my crash I could not quite figure out why my hip hurt whenever I coughed or sneezed. Now I realized that it wasn't my hip that had been receiving the pain signals, it was my abdominal muscle just inside my hip bone. It was subtle enough that I could not distinguish it at all, and until that exact moment I was positive that I would get through BCBR.

After a few minutes I was able to align my body in the fetal position again and get back to sleep for about another hour before our wake up call. When I awoke I found that I could not engage my mid section whatsoever and I was forced to utilize my hands to move my core and effectively roll out of my tent. I limped past some people I had seen shortly before going to bed the previous night, when I felt fine, and they looked at me like I was striving to overplay an injury I had suffered and that I was dying for attention. I was dying to make it to the bathroom, and the hill that stood in my way very nearly cost me a pair of dry clothes!

I struggled to get onto the bus and Todd ended up grabbing my bag for me and asking me what had happened.

"Oh you know, the classic screw yourself up while sleeping injury! Happens all the time, nothing to worry about!"

By the time we boarded our first ferry my cough was becoming semi-regular. I could not hide the fact that I had to entirely compress the right side of my body while I coughed, for it felt as though I'd be leaving my intestines on the floor of the boat otherwise. A few times a cough caught me off guard and I'd end up grabbing my right leg into my chest as hard as I could while simultaneously falling against a wall.

After a second bus ride we arrived at our second ferry terminal. I could no longer walk without a complete limp and after struggling to depart the bus under my own power I simply looked at Todd and waved my hand across my neck. I was done. It was over.

I have suffered through a lot of pain and injuries to make finish lines over the last few years, but this pain was by far the worst I had ever experienced. It was not that it was more intense than anything I had felt before. It was that for the very first time, I had an injury with the very real potential to sideline me for a very long time if I chose to fight through it. At that moment, the risk and reward seemed severely imbalanced. I was not willing to throw away the rest of my season for this one finish line. I had never experienced those thoughts before in my life.

Todd and I made our way down to the main ferry loading area and I approached Justin's girlfriend Carey Sather to ask if I could accompany her in her 'support vehicle' for the day. I'll never forget what happened next. Justin, appearing to be half asleep in the driver seat, jumped into action. I mean he very literally jumped out of the car.

"WHAT! You can't quit, your rubber man, you bounce back from everything!!"

And with that he was off and running gathering medical staff to asses my injury more thoroughly. After three separate people checked me out I was told the following.

"It does not appear to be a life threatening injury, but we can not be 100% sure. I believe you can race if you choose to, however...who's your partner?"

I called Todd over.

"Ok, if he (me) experiences any of the following out there today..."

He turned back towards me and asked if I was going to race?

"I think so, if I'm clear I might as well give it a go."

"Ok, if he experiences any of the following, severe pain beyond what you feel now, a spike in temperature, lack of sweating, acting stupid and lethargic (beyond my normal state), etc, etc, then you both have a life and death situation on your hands. You (Todd) have to bike faster than you ever have in your life to the closest aid station and radio for a helicopter. You (me), try not to move and not to breath too heavy."

My response, "Alrighty then, shall we Todd?"

We confirmed numerous times that what had just been discussed was somewhere in the region of a 1%-5% possibility, boarded the ferry, and got ready to line up for our 11am start.

Todd was an amazing teammate during every single stage of this race, and once he realized that my mind was made up he continuously checked in on me while we were suffering away out there.

Amazingly once upon the bike the pain pretty much disappeared. My leg seemed to be compressed just enough in a biking position to mask the severity of the injury itself.

We had another decent day, pairing up with Aaron and his teammate again a few times, however once again when we hit the singletrack I was all over the trail and could find absolutely zero flow. We hit the line a shade under 4hr, which would leave us in 21st place. Justin and Jeff were finally recovering from their early race issues and had notched a top ten finish, over 25 minutes ahead of us.

Oh and I should also mention Kristenn Magnusson and Lisa Ludwig, also of team Helly Hansen, were riding incredibly strong throughout the entire race and after four days were solidly sitting in 3rd amongst team of two female!

Again I crossed the finish line disappointed in myself and how I was racing. In hindsight I don't remember really smiling at the line on any day, which is kinda sad! I wasn't upset with how I was fighting through things, but my singletrack riding was throwing time away on us and that was burning me up inside!

Jackie had joined a few friends and surprised us out on course, which was a nice boost, along with seeing my dog Roxy for the first time in four days!

Jackie was able to deliver the med sized bike to me and I dropped it off with James of Obsession Bikes, who were taking care of all the mechanical issues people faced over the 550km course! From there we were off for a mini get away. She was staying at a friends place which just happened to be located right on the beach. I wish I had taken more pics, but Jackie did snap one of me coming out of the ocean and into the wood fire heated hot tub on the beach!! It was a little slice of heaven and great mental break from everything I had been dealing with over the first four stages. I even forgot about my injuries for a few hours...until we went to sleep for the night.

Again, I was awaken numerous times by the pain in my abdomen and the alarm sounded all too early. I was saying bye to Jackie and Roxy, and back to racing before I knew what had happened!

Stage 5, 65km:

The stage started with about 7km of road and then we went into some seriously challenging undulating terrain. I happened to see Justin pulling off to the side of the pelaton and yelling at Jeff before we even hit the trails and was hoping it was nothing serious.

Here's what I remember about this stage, wishing I were anywhere else in the entire world. I would have chosen Antarctica naked and alone over another damn day of hammering it out on my bike! I was a completely shattered and drained individual and it was all I had left in my very existence to simply try to hold Todd's wheel.

Again on a singletrack section we faltered, even on my now size med bike frame. Someone called to pass and as we gave way J&J came flying by. We tried to follow but they seemed to vanish into thin air! They managed to power out a 6th place overall finish on the day and we would later learn that Justin had a bike issue that forced them to start the actual trail riding at the very back of the pack. I respected these guys before BCBR, but after their stage five performance they jumped up an entire chapter in my books. They're the real deal on their bikes and it was a pleasure to watch them rally from a tough first few days to some truly inspiring riding as the race progressed.

Todd and I had sustained ourselves right around our current overall standing in the pack. We were somewhere in the 20th spot amongst teams, when a blind dip threw Todd from his saddle. He yelled but I did not hear in time and before I knew it I was off my own bike and screaming in pain. I don't remember the fall itself being terribly bad, but what I vividly remember is that I fell toward the right, and my leg struggled to release from my pedal as I was going down. It did not make it out and the entire force of the crash was absorbed through my lower right abdominal muscle. There was a camera crew right in front of us and they captured every second of it, including the tears, again, streaming from my face and Todd carrying me to a downed tree to try and recuperate.

The camera crew notified us that the aid station was less than a few km away. I was sick of having my pain filmed for posterity and promptly grabbed my bike and started to ride. Todd kept asking me how I was feeling and I kept telling him that I'd let him know in 2km. We reached the aid station in a few minutes, the problem this time however was that there was still over 20km to the finish line. We took some time to eat and assess our, well my situation. After a few minutes I was growing very cold and when I asked Todd if he were chilled at all he made the call for me,

"Gary, I'm not going to tell you to stop racing because I know you can finish this thing...but at what cost? I just don't think it's worth it and I don't think you should continue."

I knew Todd was right, but I also knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could fight it out to finish the damn race. His words echoed in my head though, "at what cost". Doug Doyle had said the same thing to me the day prior.

"Todd if you go right now I think you can catch up to Aaron and those guys."

"Are you sure?"

The medical staff had already overheard us and were standing right there.

"We'll ensure he gets back to the finish area."

And with that my BCBR experience came crashing down around me. I watched Todd bike away and then got rid of the rest of the tears I'd been storing inside.

Less than an hour later I was back at the finish area. I limped into the shower and headed straight for the ferry back to North VAn. I saw the lead two teams come in and then got the hell outta there. I didn't want to see anyone involved with the race at all. I put my head down, tried to sneak out of there and once back on North Van hopped onto a bus and went home for two days. It was one of the worst feelings of my entire racing 'career'. I had a ton of emotions to deal with, and a handful...body full of injuries to deal with.

I headed to the hospital to get properly checked out, and then promptly slept for ten hours. Todd managed to pair up with Jay Latiff our of Nanaimo and continued to race strong. I would head up to Whistler for the final stage and after party.

GR (one small section to go)


Jason said...

Damn man! That sucks BUT it's true, what would have been the results had your pressed on? Would it have been worth it. I've been in that sitch enough. This is supposed to be fun. Right? Yes, it's painful, but there IS a limit. Way to tough out as much as you did. Congrats for that. Heal up.

garobbins said...

Thanks dude!