Monday, July 28, 2008

MOMAR Cowichan Valley Race Report

I got on the bike, spun out of the TA and once I hit the Trans Canada Trail, I just started hammering. My plan in this race was just to push the bike as hard as I could as I was feeling great after BC Bike Race and knew that I could put some serious time into other competitors. This was was my first time taking on the MOMAR solo and while a category win would be nice, my true goal was to get the overall win. I was well prepared and set out my calorie intake so that I would be a little over the minimum but not much. If I needed more, I would simply have to suffer to the line. After less than five minutes on the bike, my preparation went out the window. I went for some fluid in my hydra-pac and then... nothing. Ziltch. Nada. My pack, previously filled with 1200 precious calories of Carbo-Pro, that I was relying heavily on to get me through this race, were gone. I tried a second time and again was given instant resistance to let me know that I was simply compressing the bladder. Sabotage?! Bad luck?! Regardless, it was going to be a day of suffering. This was the Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race in Cowichan Valley.

After being deserted by my good teammate Gary Robbins ;), I was taking on my first MOMAR as a solo racer which was exiting but also made me pretty nervous. Usually, Gary is the stressed out one and I think it just makes me more relaxed. Without Gary to get nervous for me though, I found myself with more pressure to perform and this was enhanced by the fact that I would be paddling a single sea kayak that would be not nearly as quick as a surfski let alone a double kayak. With Squamish winners Justin and Jeff of Team Helly Hansen Vancouver Island arriving at the race with a K2, I knew that I would have to make up the time on the bike and nav. Knowing how strong they both are on the bike, I figured that this race would really come down to the last navigation stage into the finish.

I made a very bad mistake right at the start of the race. I pulled out in my kayak and simply just found a spot and stayed there. My plan had originally been to line up with Justin and Jeff and get in their draft right at the gun. For those of you who don't know, drafting behind a faster kayak is key to moving faster on the water. Most double kayaks out there will be faster than a single. So, if you're in a single like I was, you want to surf the wave of the kayak in front of you.

Once the race started, I went hard off the line and tried to see who the fast boats were and where they were in relation to me. I immediately saw Justin and Jeff who were paddling a K2 and whom I knew would be fast (unless they capsized of course!). Another boat was a double surfski paddled by Lina Augatis and Marshall House. Unfortunately for me, I had no chance of hooking onto their draft once they got going which meant that I spent the first kilometer of the course paddling hard in no-man's land. In hindsight, both these teams were going so fast that I probably wouldn't have been able to hang on anyway. Lina and Marshall were just hauling in their boat and were easily the fastest boat and first team off the water. Nice work!

I ended up hooking on with Aimee Dunn and Ina Irvin who were paddling a sweat kelvar Necky double. Soon, we ended up with a big draft line with Doug Doyle, Jen Segger and Shawn X, and John Barron and Geoff Huenemann. We soon engulfed Roger MacLeod at the buoy turn around on Lake Shawnigan and headed back to the start line which was now the transition area to the bikes. Norm Thibault was hanging on to the pack as well but with a few kms to go, decided to push the pace and try to make up some time on the pack. I was going a little slower than I could have gone but was happy to save the energy in the draft and would have made no ground trying to outpace the group. Thanks again to Aimee and Ina! I still owe you both a beer!

We all hit the TA and I quickly unloaded my kayak gear, grabbed the first control punch, and got on the bike before the rest of the group could go.

On the kayak I used a small hydro-pac and left my race pack with my shoes in it at the bike. It was here that my pack must have been sitting on my bite valve that I lost all my fluids. (that or Justin and Jeff had some pre race plans that I was unaware of ;) ). Luckily for me, I took down as much fluids as I could in the boat and also made a pre-race decision to take a third bottle on the bike with me. Had we been in for a hot day, I would have been hooped. I was very lucky that the temp was cool which allowed me to get through the rest of the race with under 2 litres of fluid and about 1200 calories.

On the bike, I caught several teams right away and just had Norm and J&J to contend with. After the climb up to CP4, I found J&J coming out of an unmarked trail with disappointment written across their faces. I knew that something must have happened since they are both extremely strong riders and there was no way that I could have made up the 8 minutes they put in me on the kayak so soon in the bike section. They needed a bike pump as they had already incurred two flats and had used all of their CO2. I found out after I left them that they needed yet another tube and this put them back far enough that they knew they were out of contention and had to just go with it and try to finish.

From here, it was down the classic trail, into some more singletrack, a short climb and then down into the Can-am trail. I had some really good flow going although the trails were super dry and easy to wash out on if you weren't careful. I made a mistake coming into the next CP as I thought I may have overshot it, doubled back and then realized that I was ok and kept going. This cost me a few minutes and when I saw that the control was right on the side of the trail I was happy but confused. How was that a tricky one B? :)

From here I took the lower river trail which was more direct but tougher going than going up and around. The trail was pretty gnarly in sections but overall was quite rideable.

I hit up the river run just behind Norm and it was here that I was again reminded of how much I hate my Salomon XA Pros. These things were absolutely terrible in the wet. I keep using them in these races due to the quick laces but had I had my Montrails with me, I would have saved time just by being much faster and more confident on the rocks.

The water in the river section was so warm. I could have stopped then and there for a nice swim. This was a nice and exciting break from the bike. Thanks Sandquist!

We were then onto the last bike section with a good climb out of the river and onto some more singletrack. This is when Norm double backed on the trail I was on and I found out that the course ribben had been sabotaged just ahead and that he had just blown his "huge lead"... of 42 seconds. I should note here that Norm was joking at the silly map holder on my bike prior to the race and now was starting to fumble with his zip lock bagged map to figure things out. I looked at my map for an instant, saw where I was and needed to go, and led the way out.

Just then, my adjustable seatpost decided that it had enough and the engagement mechanism broke off the seatpost. This left me with a seat that, when sat on, would lower 4 inches. While I could easily fix this during a longer race without issue, we were almost done the bike section so I stayed standing to the quarry and O section. Norm showed me how it's done with his fast front crawl and then hit up the O section just in front of me. This of course, was fine with me as I wanted to distance myself as much as I could so that I could do my own thing.

Unfortunately, Norm took the line to the first control that I wanted to go and I took a much less advantageous route. I fumbled, went back out to the trail, and had to come back in to grab it. I saw Norm again looking for CP J and I was pretty confused at that point as well of where I was. After over four hours of racing hard, the mind tends to crumble.

I had a pretty bad start to the O section with a big fumble on CP A, and then I didn't hit CP J very clean (although once I figured out the large yellow open section, I came into it without a hitch). I also had problems coming into control CP P as I came into a parallel re-entrant that wasn't mapped and this forced me to again bail out to the trail and attack from another known location. This is what you have to do if things are not working out for you. If you're 'positive' you're in the right place but the control isn't there, you have to move in a direction toward something that will catch you. This could be a large clearing, hill, or a major trail. Once you confirm where you are on the map, you'll probably find that you were in fact NOT in the right spot before. Re-orienting yourself takes time but not nearly as much as wondering around in circles.

With several mistakes, I really wasn't sure how things would pan out for me at the finish. I didn't think about it, and just tried to stay as focused as much as possible on the last few controls. Getting the last control I could hear the music and Norona on the mic down below. I ran down the hill, came out into the open and that's when I heard those sweat words I wanted to hear.

"Here comes our first runner...".

I was ecstatic!!! A couple fist pumps and hard run around the fence put me at the line in 1st overall after 4 hours and 26 minutes of racing! I gave Jenine a big hug and was so happy to not only finish first, but just to be done!

It was so great to see fellow PIH runners' Shane Ruljancich and Garth Campbell take 2nd overall and good friend Roger MacLeod having his best finish yet with 3rd overall. Nice work also to John Downey who came out for his first ever MOMAR and finished as the 4th male solo and 8th overall!

Post race was filled with fish and clips with Doug Doyle and Garth at the local Shawnigan pub, a good lake bath, and then some great food at Merridale Cidery (this was a great venue for the after-party and definitely a must for next year!).

It was great to catch up with all of the fellow racers and just to chill in the open air and down some race rocks beer and Merridale cider and give a cheers to completing another MOMAR. It was a great way to top off a great day and the 25th MOMAR to date!

Thanks very much to all my sponsors who have helped me through the year so far:
Helly Hansen
Princeton Tec

I'm now taking some good forced downtime in Penticton and up in the high Arctic for work followed by a week of backpacking in Strathcona with Kim. Should be a great month and I'll be jacked up as ever to get things going again in late August.


Gorge Games Photos

I just got forwarded some great photos taken from the Gorge Games 24 hour Adventure Race.
Dave and Roger doing some kayak prep
Kimberly looking hot as usual
Peteris doing some last minute map checks
11 laps of torture!
Trying to keep the draft with the rudderless yak
Mari from Dart/Nuun looking strong on the trek
Lina enjoying her trekking time with the Yoga Slackers
Last CP and run to the end of the trekking stage
Almost there
Last steps to the bike
Transition to Bike
The top of the monster climb
Taking in the views from the top!
Mt. Hood from the summit of Mt. Defiance
Lina is all smiles at the finish
Kiteboarding competition

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gorge Games 24 Hour AR Race Report

I tried to get a race report out on the Sunday, the day after the race, but just couldn't do it. I sat on the ferry coming back from Port Angeles and could barely get a keystroke out on the laptop. I'm sure this has nothing to do with sleep deprivation nor being burnt out from moving for 24 hours straight. So, as the Gorge Games website has not seemed to post any results as of yet, I felt the urge to get the blog report out.

As I mentioned before, this race was very last minute and I was racing with a team that I had never raced with before; Team I headed down to the Coho ferry terminal and got the afternoon sailing into Port Angeles and from here, I had a a nice drive down the Puget Sound coast to Port Orchard to meet up with Matt Hayes. Matt had informed the team a couple of days prior to the race that he had got sick but thought that he would be able to put in a decent race still. Knowing that Matt was a strong rider on the bike and strong on his feet, I didn't think twice that he was going to have any issues in the race. However, when he met me at the door and after hearing that he could stomach nothing other than a small piece of a bagel the entire day, I became worried. Not being able to fuel the body before you push for 24 hours straight is a sure sign that things will not go well. Even still, Matt had focused his training on this race and really wanted to be a part of it. I certainly couldn't blame him as it sucks to pull the plug on any race that you have focused on. After talking with Roger and Kimberley, it was decided to wait till the next day and see how Matt felt.

We met up with Roger and Kimberley the next morning and headed down to Hood River which is located on the Columbia River which is a natural boarder between Washington and Oregon States. The area is a windsurfer paradise as the weather is always fair due to being right on the edge of the Okanagan desert ecosystem and having a gorge to funnel eastbound wind.
To add to this, the area is mountainous with several large volcanoes surrounding the area including Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St. Helens. We were in for a treat!
A slightly recovered Matt with Hood River and Mt Defiance in the background; taken on the Sunday after the race.
It seemed like the standard Northwest adventure racing teams were present with appearances from Mannys, Yoga Slackers, Dart-Nuun, and Colin and Connie of the infamous Colinoba urban beer race.

We found out early that the race was going to consist of four stages as follows:
Kayak Rogaine
Bike Rogaine
Trekking Rogaine
Bike Rogaine

This format was different than any other race I've done as it really was a stage race with no breaks. You had a set time in each stage and if late, would be heavily penalized. Thus, the race outcome was solely based on points at the end of the 24 hours.

Shortly before the start of the race, it became apparent that Matt could not race as he had started to vomit and was looking rough. Fortunately for us, another Mergeo team member (Dave) was present and was going to race solo. He knew the situation so in no time, we were a team of four once again and ready to go.

Unfortunately for everyone, including the race director who set up an awesome Rogaine kayak course, the high winds forced the kayak section to be completely altered last minute. When I mean altered, I mean going from paddling all over the Columbia river, up rivers and around small islands, to paddling to a sheltered Island, paddling back, and repeating as many 'laps' as possible in 3 1/2 hours with 200 points being awarded per lap. Read this as self induced torture. 11 laps later, we completed the kayak in or tied for 2nd place behind Dart-Nuun who managed to put in 12 laps.

The kayak start put-in

After the kayak, you had a chance to leisurely change, pick up the bike map, and prep for the next stage. We had two hours to climb up to the TA nestled by some lakes next to Mt. Defiance and grab some checkpoints along the way. After some short riding on the road, we were treated to some nice and smooth singletrack which became standard throughout the racecourse. The riding was non-technical, but nice and flowy with bermed dirt corners. At this point, we were doing well with Dart-Nuun in our sights. However, we soon realized that the 2 hours that we were given for this stage was simply not enough. As Dave was local to the area, he quickly realized that we had to B-Line it to the TA and limit our losses. So, we pushed hard to the TA and arrived at 11:45; 15 minutes past the posted 11:30 end of stage.

What happened next was disappointing indeed.

Apparently, even though the race rule book stated that we had 2 hours to complete the stage (from 9:30pm to 11:30pm), there had been an announcement that we wouldn't occur any penalties until after midnight (that we didn't hear of course). This meant that we missed two CPs that totalled 650 points that we would have been able to get. I was pretty pissed at the news. With the situation out of our hands, we simply packed for the trek, and took off right at midnight just as Dart-Nuun pulled in from cleaning up all the controls (they obviously had heard the news).

I should say hear that while I was disappointed, it didn't last very long. I was racing with a great group of individuals who usually race a little more low key and calm than I'm use to. Dave also just came off of a 9th place finish at Primal Quest Montana and was obviously still recovering. So, while we were going slower than I initially would have liked, I started to just take it down a notch and enjoy the experience. With Matt gone as well, I became the primary nav and while the first CP that we attempted eluded us (we weren't looking at the CP description which was essential), I was on fire the rest of the trek! This was the first race that I was just dialed in and never faded; maybe it was the later 5pm start but I just never felt tired the entire time. It had also been quite some time since I biked and bushwhacked in the dark so I was just stoked to be out there.

I tell you, if you've never trekked through the bush with a group of great people at 2am, you don't know what you're missing! It is quite the experience.

As we weren't pushing hard, we never ran the entire race. We solely hiked fast and occasionally did the infamous 'PQ shuffle'. Even so, we were continually able to keep up with the fast running Dart-Nuun and Yoga Slackers. We kept thinking 'there they go, won't see them again', yet 15 minutes later we would pass them or at least catch up. The difference was the nav. We walked everything out but made virtually no mistakes over the course where Dart was continually back-tracking after overshooting a CP.

The highlight on this stage for me was the early morning sunrise viewed from the top of an long open spur that looked north toward the gorge and Mt. Adams in the background. Should have brought the camera!

After 10 hours of trekking, we should have cleaned the course but ended up missing two controls. One control was simply a 'bingo control'; a control placed in a large area that you simply have to stumble upon to find. We wasted 45 minutes with Dart looking for this elusive control. After using several attack points, we simply gave up and moved on. The second missed CP was simply an oversight by our team. We were all going to a CP but were thirsty and hit up a natural spring on the way. After filling up, we simply moved on and didn't go to the control!

From the trek, we moved back onto the bikes and collected CPs in a similar area as the trek. It would have been nice to move to another area but logistically, it made sense to keep things in the same general area. Several CPs were actually the same as we had to get on the trek including one 1000 pointer at the top of Mt. Defiance. The climb up was on an extremely gnarly road that was loose, full of gravel and cobbles and consisted of very steep pitches. In short, unclimbable; or so I thought. Trekking up this hill the night previous, I thought that there was no way that anyone could climb this road. To me it was unclimbable.

When we got to the base of the climb I made a commitment to myself to see how much of the climb I could actually do. I cleaned up a section and waited for my teammates who had started to hike-a-bike like everyone else who attempted the CP. My commitment soon turned to a challenge and obsession; climb as hard as you possibly can and try to physically ride the entire climb.

I continued upward as the road became steeper, looser and gnarlier. I could not believe how well I was climbing. I was riding sections of road that I had deemed completely unrideable several hours earlier. I have never climbed so well in my life! Maybe it was the huge gains that I received after recovering from BC Bike Race.

There was one section of the climb that I again thought was just impossible. As I was coming up, a team was coming down from the CP and had decided to walk due to how steep and gnarly the road was. They couldn't believe that I was actually riding it. They cheered me on but I think they were still in disbelief in what I was doing.

I hate to go on about this but this was just an absolutely amazing moment for me on the bike. A revelation I guess. I think my motivation for the climb came from BC Bike Race and knowing that you can ride those crazy sections that I would always walk up in the past. This was a big door opening for me and I absolutely loved it.

While I didn't have a completely clean ride up to the top, I was elated and was treated to a completely open view of the gorge below and Mt. Hood towering in the distance.

After the climb, we rode down and started to pick off more controls on some nice single track. One section of trail had a lot of woody debris over it and just before I got to a track crossing, a medium sized piece of branch decided it would do the virtually impossible. The piece of wood wedged itself into the bottom bracket area of my frame and dug into the dirt in front of it. Now, I've got stuff in my spokes before but I have never experienced what happend next.

While speeding down the singletrack, the wood wedged in, my bike completely stopped, and I supermanned over the bars, bike following with my shoes still clicked in, smeared my face and helmet into the dirt, and tumbled on my back with my bike slamming into the ground.

'What the F#&*!'
It was one of those moments where all you can think is 'why the hell is this happening?' rather than the more typical 'oh shit, I screwed that up'.

I was having such a good time up until this point. With a bashed up knee and some face rash, my mood turned from a big smile to a more tired groginess where I was now ready for the race to be over.

We continued on, picked up as many controls as possible, rode into Hood River to pick off a few more CPs, and then hammered to the finish line with four minutes to spare!

In the end, we ended up with a 2nd place finish behind Dart-Nuun and had a great time doing it.
I also found out that our team would incur a penalty for being separated. What! I was being penalized for riding up Mt. Defiance and waiting for my teammates at the top. This pissed me off as what I did not go against the intent of the 'team' rule. You are supposed to stick together for safety and so that you're team doesn't cheat by sending one team member to a checkpoint while the others wait. There was simply no advantage to me being ahead nor would there be any safety issue (there were solo racers anyway so this doesn't even really apply). Regardless, the race director stuck to his guns but fortunately for us (or me) it didn't affect our overall ranking.

I had such a good time getting out for my first 24 hour AR this year; I finally got my fix! My teammates were fantastic and just great people, and the race organization was great as well.
My gear worked out extremely well for the race. My Helly Hansen Lifa's kept me nice and dry throughout the night trekking stage. My princeton tec lights worked so awesome! It was the first time that I was truly able to test out the Switchback 3 and man, what a nice light! Super bright and a never ending burntime. The Apex, as always, work flawlessly. It was the first time that I was able to fully utilize my Salomon Raid Devil 25 bag and I can now say that this is the best bag that I have ever used! The front pack is just so versatile and distributes weight so well. For nutrition, my CarboPro 1200 and powder kept delivering and I kept my energy levels up throughout the race with no stomach issues. I love you CarboPro! I used Thermolytes for my electrolyte input and they once again did not disappoint. And of course, my Kinesys sunscreen kept the sun at bay during the long hours on the bike come daylight.
To top off the weekend, Roger, Kimberley, Matt, and Ryan Van Gorder and Glen Rogers (both from Dart-Nuun) went for an easy mountain bike spin on the north shore of the gorge. Nice views and some nice riding as well.

Roger, Kimberly, Ryan and Glen
A nice meadow with Mt. Adams in the background

Mt. Hood
On the downside to all this, Matt passed on whatever he had to me and I spent yesterday with stomach pain and just trying to keep things down. I'm feeling quite a bit better today though and should be ready by the weekend to take on my first solo attempt at a MOMAR.

MOMAR Cowichan Valley here I come!


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cowichan Valley MOMAR

If you haven't yet signed up for the Cowichan Valley MOMAR.....
This is going to be a great race and if you don't sign up soon, you WILL miss the boat as it will likely sell out. This race was a favourite last year and I'm sure that 2008 will be no different.

I'm really looking forward to this event but in the meantime, I've got a 24 hour down in Hood River, OR calling for me. After this weekend though, it's all MOMAR!


MOMAR 301 Clinic

I've been quite busy lately all around which comes with its ups and downs. I was exited to find out last week that after a low initial sign-up, my MOMAR 301 course was filled to capacity for this past Saturday's clinic.

As it was the first clinic that I have done, and since a clinic like this had not yet been done, I had to prepare all of the course materials and setup several courses to test the participants. I had a good course outline sketched out but knowing me, I had to make it as polished and complete as possible so I still found myself finishing it off the night prior and printed off all the maps.

In the end, I was really happy with how everything turned out and thought that the clinic went very well with a good mix of sit-down training and actual orienteering courses. I've had some good feedback as well which was good to see that the participants also got a lot out of it.

I'm going to try and get another course together before the Cumberland event as well. I don't have any dates set yet but was maybe thinking of September 13th. If you're interested, maybe give Bryan a shout through the MOMAR site so that I can gauge interest.

Thanks for those who came out and good luck at the Cowichan Valley MOMAR which is coming up fast!


Gorge Games 24 hour AR

This weekend, I will finally get some of that adrenaline and sleep deprivation that I've been waiting for all year at the Gorge Games 24 hour adventure race!

Gorge Games 2008 - Adventure Racing
Date : 24 hour race, Friday, July 18th, starts at 5:00 pm
Location : Hood River Waterfront Park, Hood River

From the website, "The Gorge Games began in 1994 and has a history of being one of the most dynamic, exciting action and outdoor sports events in the Pacific Northwest . The Gorge Games attracts world class athletes to spectacular, world class sites in the scenic Columbia Gorge. No other place on earth offers wild rivers, pristine forest, craggy mountain peaks and the challenges of the Columbia Gorge itself -- along with unparalleled conditions for incredible action sports all in one location."

The Gorge Games is a collection of many different events including:

  • 10km trail run
  • sport and pro adventure races
  • community events
  • cycling
  • half marathon
  • kayaking
  • kiteboarding
  • outrigger canoeing
  • riverboarding
  • sailing
  • skateboarding
  • an urban adventure race
  • and windsurfing

The weekend looks like it will be steller and I can't wait for the awesome course that they have planned out along with all of the other activities to check out post race.

The other cool thing about this race is that it is going to be filmed and televised on Fox Sports!

Gary and I really wanted to put a team together for this race but due to many different factors, we just couldn't do it. So, I only found out last week that Seattle based Team MerGeo needed an extra member to complete the team of four co-ed. I'll be racing with Roger Michel (who puts on the 4th Dimension Adventure Races), and Matt Hayes and Kimberly Shavender whom I've both raced against. I think the team dynamics will be great and I think we will be able to put in a pretty strong performance.

I believe that they are going to be using SPOT tracking for this race so you should be able to monitor our progress online through the Gorge Games website.

Wish us luck!


Monday, July 07, 2008

BC Bike Race Report

Wow! Seven solid days on the mountain bike have come and gone! I don't think I'll go into a full report on each day but give you the main points that have stuck with me.

To date, I have only ever done one big mountain bike race in my life. I have done many small races but nothing nearly as big as what I was about to partake in. Test of Metal was my first big race and in the end, I was left with a broken bike and a DNF beside my name. So, to say that I was a bit nervous heading into such a large event would be an understatement. I shouldn't say I was nervous though; more like exiting to get things going!

The pre-race pickup and Day 1 start line was located at Shawnigan Lake school. The school grounds were simply amazing. It was a gorgeous campus that reminded me of some of those famous US colleges you see in the movies. I should say here too that the level of organization and professional look of BC Bike Race was bar none. It looked liked a high end race that had been built around decades of races. Yet, here was BC Bike Race, only in its second year and giving you that feel. It was quite incredible to see the whole thing in action with tons of knowledgable volunteers to help you out.

After picking up all our race shwag (including an awesome DaKine roller bag to transport all our gear, Crankbrothers multi-tool, Syncros handlebar, BC Bike Race jersey, Honey Stinger bars, T-shirt, etc, etc, yes we got a lot of great stuff!), Gary and I headed back to my place in Victoria for a good night rest.

Oh yeah, I should mention here that I could not believe the number of high end bikes at this race. Now, I expected there to be tons of nice bikes but this was almost ridiculous. The standard was Chris King, Thomson and XTR. I think the average bike was worth around $5000. Usually, if you see someone on a Specialized S-Works Epic or Scott Spark you might turn your head again. Here, it just became the standard and after awhile, nothing would really jump out at you. Yeah, just another $5000 bike. Whatever.

I should also mention the number of 29ers at the race. There were probably 10 of us riding Niner bikes including four other RIP9s. There were lots of custom frame 29ers as well with some really nice ti frame hardtails. All four single speeders in the race were riding 29ers as well. There must have been at least 30 of us all told.

Ok, now to the race.

DAY 1 - Shawnigan Lake to Lake Cowichan

Before we both knew it, Day 1 was upon us.

The gun went off and the race started with two laps around the Shawnigan Lake School Campus. This is where the craziness started.

The course was designed to cut through a farmers field to complete the loop back to the start line. The field had been fine the day previous but the farmer had decided to cut his hay crop the night prior so that it could dry out with the hot sun that was coming for the next few days. Unfortunately, this caused straw to clog up the drivetrain of every rider (minus the single speeders :) ) and forced everyone to stop at the edge of the field and clear out their drivetrain. Unfortunately, this spelled diaster for some teams. Just 1 km into the race, and two racers had derailleurs that snapped in half due to the straw accummulating in the drivetrain. For some, this would lead to being unranked by accepting outside help; a huge blow to the start of a seven day race!

If you survived the hay field without damage, now the race really started. I did survive the field but had limited high end gears as I couldn't get all the straw out of the small cogs. It got progressively better during the race but I never got all of them back. You spend so much time making your bike perfect before the race and then a bit of straw comes along and the rest of the race, your bike shifts like crap!

The race moved from double track into single track, into the MOMAR hike-a-bike section that I yet again cursed at, and then moved into the Burnt Bridge trails.

Gary seemed to be doing quite well despite almost pulling out on me a few days prior to the start due to his injuries sustained from his Test of Metal crash. I knew that he might not be 100% though and could see that he wasn't able to pick it up on the open sections like he usually could. After some nice singletrack through the Can-am trails, we started a long climb that was in the pounding heat. The weather had been pretty benign prior to the race and now temperatures were hitting 30 degrees. No one was prepared for the conditions (other than the Mexicans and Australians) and heat exhaustion and cramping ensued. I had planned on taking in around 5 bottles of fluid during the race and here I was, not halfway through the race, 5 1/2 bottles down, and I was out of fluid. Gary started to suffer from severe cramps and his climbing ability started to plummet. This was turning into a very hard stage indeed. If we could just make it to the top of the climb we could hit up the aid station and take recovery in the long downhill that awaited. Justin Mark and Jeff Reimer caught us on this section and it looked like Justin was having problems of his own. We all pushed on and finally made the aid station.

Having been very dehydrated, both Gary and I took down over 2L of fluids and headed into the long descent. We were very suprised to catch up with Justin and Jeff at this point who (Justin) was experiencing severe heat stroke and had even stopped sweating. This would be the story of the day for many teams and unfortunately, this 2nd key aid station at the top of the climb would run out of water and leave riders dry. Eventually, race management had to make the call to stop riders from continuing until more water arrived and then deduct their wait time from their total time.

Once we got to the bottle of the climb, there was a long 25km old railbed hammer section into the finish. I lead through this section, picking off as many teams as we could, and finished in a respectable time (although much furthur back than we had anticipated). Oh well. There was still six days of riding left!

In the end, I had consumed 10 1/2 bottles of fluid and still managed to down several litres of coke, cranberry juice and water at the finish. This would be recipe that I would continue to use for the rest of the event.

The end of each day would become routine after awhile with the following being the breakdown:
- Drink lots of fluids
- socialize with other finishers
- take the bike to the bike wash and clean it up
- claim a tent
- pick up my race bag
- take in some recovery protein powder, glutamine, a multi-vitamin, fish oil, a honey stinger protein bar, and more fluid
- shower and some shower laundry (cold)
- hang up washed race gear in sun
- avoid sun
- socialize and get in more food if possible
- elevate the legs
- massage (yes, this was definitely a treat to have after every stage!)
- another shower (as cold as it goes)
- elevate the legs
- meal
- post meal awards and next stage overview
- lube the bike and take care of any issues (like removing the last of the damn straw!)
- put out next days race gear
- socialize
- sleep
- race
- repeat x 6

I should say here again that the level of organization that went into this race was top notch! When you finished a stage, the tent city would be set up, a bike wash would be ready to go, a full bike service centre was ready to help you, and your gear was ready for pickup. If you had any quesitons, you simply needed to find someone with a bright red HH shirt (which were everywhere) and they would point you in the right direction. I cannot stress enough how awesome the volunteers were at this event! Top notch service! The environment was such that all you really needed to worry about was racing. Other than that, you had minimal things to take care of. Simply ride, relax and fuel, sleep, and repeat.

As painful as this race may have been, I'd take this daily routine any day over a day job!

DAY 2 - Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni

Gary getting ready for Day 2
Some last minute prep before the start of Day 2. Check out those matching MOMAR jerseys and North Shore Athletics bib shorts!

At the start line with Helly Hansen Vancouver Island - Jeff Reimer and Justin Mark
Day 2 started with a rolling 10km paved leadout by the HH vehicle. Once the road turned to dirt, the race was on. However, this stage would turn out to be primarily a road stage. At over 125km in length, only 2 km at the very end consisted of single track. There was another route planned from Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni but unfortunately, due to active logging, we had to take the flat and relatively uneventful route. There were a few hills early in the stage which separated the riders into several packs.

Gary and I made the top pack and cruised with everyone until around the 80km mark. This is when the pack would explode.

I was feeling really good but Gary was suffering from the previous days cramping and simply did not have the climbing legs. The pros simply hammered up the hill and left the rest of the pack strung out to fend for themselves. We edged up the climb, and were then alone for the next 45km which consisted of pulling hard up front, suffering in the scorching sun, and hoping that we could just catch that pack in front wherever they were.

During this section, I was amazed to see a solo rider in complete no man's land. In this race, you have to stay with your teammate and cannot be separated by more than 2 minutes. This guy's teammate was completely gone and had left him to suffer alone in the heat. As crazy as this was, there seemed to be several ego-centric people at the race that would simply hammer, drop their teammate, and then wait for them down the course. One team ended up getting a penalty for this every single day! This is a team race! One particular individual would drop his teammate, hammer to the line, and then wait as if to show that 'hey, this is where I should end up finishing!'. He was rightfully booed at the closing ceremonies of the event.

After long kms on the road, we finally hit up the singletrack which finished the stage. As we were completely covered is dirt, including our sunglasses, I made the right decision to take them off so that I could see the terrain better. Less than 30 seconds later is when it happened. The trail turned into a washed out cobble infested trail that was pretty knarley. I cleaned it fine but then heard a loud crash behind me.
Gary had taken a hard fall right onto his right side; the same side that he had crashed on in the Test of Metal. I could tell immediately that he was in a lot of pain and he could not get up under his own power. I quickly dropped my bike and helped him to his feet.
I thought then and there that his race was over.
Amazingly, he screamed in pain as he got back on his bike, and we continued as best as we could to the finish.

I was sure that Gary was done. However, after inspecting the damage, Gary hadn't hurt his quad at all (which worried me the most). Rather, he had landed hard on his hip and right elbow which were now quite bruised. He was sure that he would be able to continue so we then went right back into the routine.
Fluids and socializing first!

Tent city under the fading sun
Lubing up the bike for Day 3
Day 3 - Port Alberni to Cumberland
Gary woke up feeling ok and we were both ready to put in a solid day on the bikes.

The race start was quite the sight with a rolling start that led around the track and up the road. Kim shot a great video of this that would be great to post.
450 riders ready to hammer!

Waiting for the gun
We both decided to not go as hard off the start as we had on day 1; however, this turned out to be the wrong decision. Shortly after the race started, we were funneled into singletrack which was a big bottle neck. If you were at the front, great. We were not right at the front though.
One issue that I had at this race is that even though riders would be seeded in an 'A, B or C' group, teams that would finish farther back would rush to the front only to slow down the faster teams once you got into the single track. This happened time and time again. It was like this at the Test of Metal as well; everyone thinks they're sub three hour but when you look at the finish results, it's another story.
Once out of the singletrack, we went to work on the logging roads. Today was much more shaded that the previous days which was a nice relief from the hot sun. We were going along well when Gary noticed my back tire was nearly flat. Shit!
I got off, gave the rear tire a squeeze and found that the pressure was down from 32 psi to around 16! I was running a new tubeless setup and really didn't want to have to tube it up. I put in some air and we were off again hoping that it would hold. Stopping lost us some spots but not putting a tube in was the right decision as the the tire held up for the rest of the stage with no other issues.

During the stage, we had a freezing cold river crossing that felt great on the legs! I think everyone enjoyed this section.
Just on the other side of the river was the first aid station where we fuelled up and were off once again. I was feeling quite strong during the stage and managed to make up some good time on teams that had gapped us during the early part of the stage. Eventually, we hooked up with a group of riders including fellow adventure racer Aaron Vanderwaal and pushed to the last section of the stage; 15km of sweet Cumberland singletrack. I was stoked! Just before we got there we caught up with Justin and Jeff of Team HH Vancouver Island but weren't able to hold on. I was just eating up the singletrack on my new ride and just wanted to open it up.
Unfortunately, Gary was having significant issues with with bike and this really held both of us back. I have never seen him ride singletrack so slow before. Unfortunately, he got a new bike that is way too big for him and also seems to have a rear suspension problem with the shock never engaging and getting very little travel (Specialized Epic). We nonetheless made it through this section and finished off the stage in Cumberland. Other than the singletrack, Gary had his strongest day so far and was looking at pushing hard over the rest of the race.

Gary and I with Dave Howells at the finish line

Day 4 - Earls Cove to Sechelt
The Day 4 start was somewhat painful as it was very hard to get to sleep the night before (since it was very hot and humid) and we had to be packed and on a bus by 5:15am to make the ferry crossing to Powel River. This didn't sit with me well and left me in a bad mood the rest of the day. If I get a chance to do this race again, I would definitely do the travelling the night prior, stay at a B&B, and get a long and good sleep prior to the 11am start in Earls Cove.
This stage was a hard one for more than one reason. After getting off the bus to get on the ferry to Earls Cove, Gary called it quits. The fall on his right hip was bruised purple and he had some kind of lower abdominal issues that was giving him severe pain whenever he coughed.
Luckily, he had it looked at by a medic, decided to get on his bike, and since it didn't give him any problems while riding, he decided to give it another shot. I was concerned for his health and safety at this point but would back up his decision 100%. The race was on.
I took a fall early in the stage and banged up my knee a bit. Nothing big but enough to break me down even more than I was feeling. Oh yeah. I also had awoke with a sore throat that manifested into a very hoarse cough and a large accummulation of green phlem. Four days of sick riding awaited me. I'm not sure how I picked it up though. Maybe it was from one of the many buffet spoons that I shared with 600 other people every single day. Hmmm...
Gary was feeling quite good once he got going and I seemed to be the one who was suffering a little more. Gary even got some pulls in so I knew he was happy about that :)
This stage was really nice with lots of logging road interspersed with singletrack with broke up the flow well. Just as you were getting sick of road, you would be spit out into some singletrack. We pushed through and ended up in Sechelt in a respectable time considering our situation.

Day 5 - Sechelt to Langdale
This would be the best and worst stage of the race for me. Gary was in good spirits and we headed off the line for the start of day 5.

At this point, all of the stages started to blend together so I don't really remember how things occured here. What I do remember is coming down a trail with a deep depression full of sand and falling but not doing any harm. I got up, started walking up the facing slope and warned Gary of the sand at the bottom. Gary came down with speed, slipped in the sand, and landed hard on his right side. I knew immediately that he was in a lot of pain. A camera crew and helper were at the scene and helped me pick him up and take a rest on a log. He was visually shaken, in pain, and needed a small break. The camera crew told us that the 1st aid station was not far so Gary got up and started riding as best as he could. We had a good hike-a-bike section and then hit up the aid station just down the road.
The first plan here was to fuel up and then assess the situation. Gary was noticably still in shock, and did not look well at all. We put down our bikes and tried to come to a decision. It wasn't until Gary asked me if I was cold in the 25+ degree weather that I knew that he was in trouble.
"I don't want to make this decision for you but from me looking on from the outside here, I think you should pull out."
Gary knew it was the right decision. He was suffering from a broken pinky finger, a huge blister on his right hand, a bruised forearm, a purple deeply bruised hip, a deeply contused quad, and a painful abdominal issue; all on the right side of this body. Yes, that is what it takes to pull the plug from someone as strong as Gary Robbins. Most people wouldn't have even considered giving the race a go in the condition that he started in let alone continuing after his crash in Day 2.
Gary quickly pushed me on to catch up with and join Aaron Vanderwaal's team who had just passed by 5 minutes prior.
I hammered up the course and quickly caught up with their team who had been joined by Jay Latiff (who's partner had to drop in Day 4). It didn't take long for Jay to realize the situation (about 1 second), join up with me, and hammer the rest of the course. Little known to me, Jay is a super strong rider who was just raring to go after being held back from the first four days of racing. We were off and it was now up to me to do everything I could just to hang on.
Day 5 was definitely the day that I started to crack. With around 3800m of climbing in Day 4 and 5 combined, my body was just taking a beating. I was not used to the amount of climbing that was thrown at us and I just started to suffer on any grade. I held Jay back a bit but once we hit up the final 15km of downhill continuous singletrack, I was in my element.
Yes, I did say continuous singletrack. This stuff was absolutely incredible.
The last section of trails was easily the best singletrack experience that I have ever had.
There were tons and tons of bridges and log rides, and just fast flowing swoopy trails that were guaranteed to put a big smile on your face. Jay was absolutely loving it as after pushing hard on the trails he found me right on his wheel which just pushed him to go harder. We flew through the last section and hammered into the line. It was a great finish for both of us: both of us happy to have someone to complete the rest of the race with, and both of us at similar levels so that we could go hard.
After a quick ferry ride, we were now in Squamish and ready to take on Day 6.
Day 6 - Squamish
Day 6 was another great day although we both started to suffer at different points. I gave it everything on the climbs but was noticably slower than on climbs in the early stages of the race. This did slow down Jay a bit but we flowed well together on the singletrack.
Going up the long 9 mile climb, I started to suffer in another way. My right achilles started to flare up and climbing only made it worse. While the pain wasn't terrible, it didn't feel good at all and I had visions of pushing it hard and it just snapping off my heal. Not something that I would wish upon anyone. Fortunately, I made it up Lava flow ok and then the downhill section ensued. Everything was ok from here except the Powerhouse Plunge. I just ate this trail up! My bike was just designed for this stuff. I almost rode the entire trail clean and had to wait up for Jay who had some past bad encounters on the trail which hindered his speed. While I was slower on the climbs, I was glad to at least drop him in the singletrack.
Jay started to suffer a bit in crumpit woods and I ended up pushing the pace at the end to the finish. Our goal was to break 4 hours and when we rode into Brennon park, the clock was showing 3:59 and change. We both dropped the hammer and came flying across the line just in time. It was a good ending to a painful but great day!
Day 7 - Whistler
Unfortunately, Day 7 would be my least favourite stage of them all. I woke up with my achilles inflamed and sore. I couldn't even walk properly on it without fear of doing more damage than had already been done. My tendon was simply overworked and wanted to be done. One more stage to go.
At this point there was no way that I was going to let my achilles pull me out of the race.
The stage started with a huge steep climb that put me in the red-line and hurting zone right away. The stage basically went like this for us:
- climbing with 50% of my right leg and 100% of my left
- getting passed by teams that we should be ahead of
- getting stuck behind a slow team in the singletrack
- repeat
The entire stage was spent in the hurt locker and not from muscle fatigue but from tendonitis. It really sucked. All I cared about was finishing the race. So, even though we were riding some absolutely amazing singletrack trails (some of the best out there), I just could not enjoy a moment. Jay also started to bonk and was hurting as well. We both just wanted this race to be over. After hurting all day, Jay and I finally came to the line to finish off Day 7 and the end of BC Bike Race.
Jay Latiff and I at the finish of Day 7
Congrats to a strong finish by Justin and Jeff of Team HH Vancouver Island
Taking some time after the last stage. Seven days of racing with no flats and no major mechanicals. I love you bike gods!
Post race party up on Whistler Mountain with all three Helly Hansen Teams

I can say that post race, I've been feeling quite good although lately all I've wanted to do is sleep. My legs feel suprisingly well although my achillies is still causing me issues and I'm set to see my physiotherapist this week to have it checked out. It is getting progressively better but still will need some time to heal. There were many ups and downs over the race and while, in the end, I couldn't wait for it to be over, now I can't wait to come back stronger next year!

A big thanks to Kim Picard who was a great support crew for the whole race!
Thanks so much to Bryan Tasaka at Mind Over Mountain Adventure Racing and to Marc Campbell of Helly Hansen who both made this event possible for me.
Thanks to all the volunteers and to anyone else who helped me complete this amazing race!
See you next year!