Thursday, July 09, 2009

Stages 3-7

Sorry for the delayed update on the second half of BC Bike Race. Cellular coverage for the wireless modem was spotty on the Sunshine Coast. Moreover, my wrist was toast (major sprain) from an errant branch that about knocked me off the bike mid-way through Stage 2. I didn't think much of it when it happened, but it became a major issue later in the race. It's still swollen today, but at least I can type now. So, it's a little late, but here's a quick recap of the adversity we went through to take 13th place in the two-person open division of the BC Bike Race.

Stage 3 -- Cumberland: Stage 3 started like the rest with a super fast pace through the town out to some fire roads that quickly dumped into to some tight singletrack. A congo line of riders formed and when there were bobbles up front the domino effect further back caused some to have to get off and run. After things spread out a bit, we started drilling the pace and made up a ton of ground into the top 10 teams out there. We made it over the major climb of the day (7km and about 1800 feet of vertical) and were descending a really rocky super-steep technical section and missed a turn. We ended up at the bottom of the hill on a fireroad. At the moment when we were contemplating turning around and hiking back up the hill, a 4-wheeler with some course volunteers showed up and said if you follow the road you'll get back to the course faster. BIG mistake! The missed turn was apparently only 200 meters up the hill we had just come down. The road took us 5km back to the top of the descent. After re-riding the technical descent, the turn was much better marked with a stick and several pink ribbons. Maybe sabotage from the unruly locals? Back on course after losing an eternity of time in our uphill diversion, we tried to make up time. Problem was the morale was low, the winds strong, and I probably wasn't eating enough. I bonked hard about with 15km to go and had to slow the pace down significantly to recover and get some calories in me. The power came back with about 5km to go, but the damage was done. We lost 45 minutes on the teams we were competing with.

Stage 4 -- Earl's Cove to Seschelt: We made the transfer over to the sunshine coast immediately following Stage 3. At midnight following two ferry rides, we arrived in Earl's Cove and setup camp in the RV on a side road a stone's throw from the ferry terminal. My aforementioned wrist was swollen and super sore following the technical singletrack of Day 3. Throughout the evening, I repeatedly iced hoping to fix it for the next day. We awoke the next day to sunny skies and the hopes of a better day on course. My wrist had other ideas though. It was really, really sore and made riding even "smooth" fireroads searingly painful. I put a lot of energy into manipulating myself on the bike to minimize the discomfort (e.g. riding one handed whenever possible). We started reasonably well, but RD flatted at about the half way point and team after team streamed by as we fumbled the change a bit. Following the tire change, I lost my rhythm and my energy. I could barely hold the bar and seriously contemplated dropping out of the race at the end of the stage. After 70km of punishing singeltrack in 90 degree temps, we crossed the line and lost another big chunk of time. I downed a coke and 2 chocolate milks and after a conversation with RD decided, we would continue slogging away even if it was slow going due to my wrist.

Stage 5 -- Seschelt to Langale: I woke up to the wrist not hurting much and got it taped by the MASH unit. It felt good when I hopped on the bike and my spirits were raised by the prospect of a 12km downhill run into the ferry at Langdale at the end of the day. Once again, the start was fast but I had super legs. We started conservative and slowly ramped up the pace throughout the day. I was riding a bit stronger than RD today and that allowed me to accelerate ahead on the climbs and then recover and save my wrist on the downhills where RD would inevitably catch up. I knew we were having a good day when we caught and passed some of the fast teams out on course. We were absolutely railing all of the technical features and Nortshore style ladders across the high ridge passing several more teams. At the top of the final descent, I told RD to rip it up and I would meet him at the bottom. He took off and I did my best to go as fast as possible. I railed the descent to the best of my ability and even past two teams on the way down. RD was waiting for me in the final rocky stretch and we roared through the woods into the finish line taking back some time on our competitors. Needless to say, we were grinning from ear to ear because of the awesome descent we had just rode and because it was a solid result after two lackluster days.

Stage 6 -- Squamish!: I love riding in Squamish as much as any place in the world. Brimming with confidence from yesterday, we set out today to rip it up on trails we both know pretty well. RD got his customary moderate start while I accelerated with the lead group on the pavement through the local neighborhoods. Once in the dirt, we regrouped and proceeded to pick team after team off on the technical singletrack climbs and descents. We dropped into Re-cycle and just tore it up passing several riders like the were standing still. The route went to Pseudo-Psuga next. About half way down the trail, a bee flew behind my sunglasses and stung me on the cheek. OH SHIT! I'm allergic so I contemplated getting the Twinject out, but thought better of it and got back on the bike and kept riding. I caught RD and told him what happened, but said I don't think it is going to be a problem. He gave me a look and said "you better not die on me". I shrugged and said "He didn't get me square." Turns out all the anti-histamine I'm on for my seasonal allergies also keeps bee stings at bay. We bombed down the rest of the descent and then tragedy number 2 struck, I flatted. Stan's sealant sprayed from my tire as I tried to get the small tear in the sidewall to self-seal. No luck. We pulled the tube out and changed it. Between the sting and the flat all of the fast teams we worked so hard to pass came by us one after another. With the flat changed, we charged off trying to make up for lost time. Unfortunately, there just wasn't enough real estate left to make up a lot of time. We finished strong amongst the fast teams, but didn't make up as much time as we had hoped. At the end of the day, you could barely tell I got stung. That's a first!

Stage 7 -- Whistler: After Squamish we looked at the results and we had moved up to 14th overall and we're only 5 minutes down on 13th. The stage was short, only 30km, so we thought if we had a flawless day, we could possibly move up. The course featured a long climb straight out of the Creekside Village up to the mid-mountain gondola station. The long and steep climb quickly sorted the field out into the strong and the not so strong. We were doing exactly what we set out to do and were up with the fastest teams of the week. We summited the climb in prime position when, of course, disaster struck. RD's pedal broke and it would not hold his cleat. We had over 20km of racing to go with some serious technical descending and a lot of power climbs along the river back to Creekside. RD soldiered on pedaling on the spindle the rest of the course. He was able to keep the pace surprisingly high and only had to get off and run on the steepest/loosest climbs. Several teams passed us, but not too many. We left everything out on the last 3km road climb. I was cross eyed and RD was still drilling it with only one functioning pedal. After passing a couple of teams back, we dropped into the last section of singletrack for the week and I couldn't help but smile and laugh as I savored these last few minutes of the race. RD and I rolled into Creekside and across the line together. We both received the coveted "Finisher" BC Bike Race buckle. We soon learned that the team in 13th place had several flats on the stage and we beat on the stage by 10 minutes, so we moved up.

What a day, what a week, what a race. We persevered through technical problems, injuries, low morale, getting lost, bonks, bad legs and were still able to come out in 13th place. The top spots were occupied by Olympians and pros that actually get paid to ride for a living, so we are content with what we accomplished.

I've got some photos to upload later. So check back soon.

Oh, next year? Yup, but solo. I've got the BC Bike Race bug. I love the technical trails in BC and want to give it a go on my own to see what I can do outside the team dynamic. I can't wait!!!

Thanks for reading,

Blue Star

Monday, June 29, 2009

Day 2

First off, 14th place yesterday. We followed that up with a 15th place in Stage 2 from Nanaimo to Parkesville today and we are sitting in 15th in the 2-person open category. The day started with a 20ish minute neutral rollout through the streets of Nanaimo led by a moto escort. It was a bit sketchy as 400 mtb racers bobbed and weaved through city streets and occasionally got hung up at stoplights. We successfully made it out of town to the base of a solid road climb and it was on. The lead pro teams twisted the throttle from the gun and rider after rider was spit out the back. We dangled for awhile trying not to kill ourselves and made into the trails in a reasonable position.

Once on the trails, it was still a pretty hot pace with a big group of riders riding single file. RD and I got separated as he made a few cheeky passes in the 1track that I wasn't able to replicate. There were also a few choose your own adventure sections that involved multiple routes to get to the same place. RD and I took some different lines and at one point I wasn't sure if he was in front or behind me. I pulled over for a bit and let 15 or so riders go by but got restarted after I determined he had to be in front of me. I railed the 1track at a bit of sketchy pace to try to catch back up and was able to reconnect after a few minutes of making some less than desirable passes.

We regrouped and got to work on the next 50km of nearly all 1track. The rest of the race was spent with RD taking the lead and me riding near or at my limit trying to keep him in my sight. The trails required lots of power with steep ups followed by equally steep downs. The last 20 km or so I was starting to feel a bit worked over from muscling the bike around for 3:30 hours. I ate some food and held on to the finish on some local trails in Parkesville. We finished in just over 4 hours pretty spent from the days effort.

Once in base camp, the afternoon and evening has consisted of Eat/drink, clean bikes, shower, eat/drink some more, get massage, eat dinner, fix brakes on bike (turns out the spray bottles at the bike wash are lube not soap, DOH!) and put together a blog post.

Here some pics from the day...

Yeah, we sported the Arrowsmith kits in Nanaimo. We got a lot of: "Hey Robin, you're doing awesome! We don't know you, but you're doing awesome too."

Game face on in the start corral. NOT!

Rolling into the finish to the train whistle. All aboard the Arrowsmith/Mafia train.

RD the Pimp of Singletrack. We found this "fur" coat in our RV spot.

Tomorrow is a solid day of 1track and bit of fireroad. We are going strong, so hopefully we continue as the war of attrition begins in earnest.
Thanks for reading.
Blue Star

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Stage 1

Stage 1 is done. At 10am to pumping music and the cheers of the spectators, the BC Bike Race rocketed out of the start chute around a nearly immediate 180 degree turn (doh!) to head up Mt Seyemour. There was a much publicized choke point where the road ended and the trail began, so the teams with high expectations for the week drilled the pace and the field split immediately. I made the split and sat on the back of the lead group of about 25 riders up through the neighborhood towards the trails. RD missed it and had to chase across before the start of the "ultimate singletrack experience."

We regrouped on the trail and proceeded to pick our way through fumbling riders on some trail that wasn't even that technical. We hit some pithces that stung a bit on the way up to the top of the Severed Dick descent. Severed Dick is a famous North Shore trail that features some ridiculously technical drops, skinny ladders, rocks, roots, and high possibility of carnage. I let zen master descender RD take the lead and we proceeded to bomb down the mountain. My strategy for the day: if RD rides it and survives, then I should be able to ride it too. It worked to perfection and we soon found ourselves in the company of Alison Sydor, a former World champion, a handful of other pros, and several of BC's super fast locals. With the Severed descent cleaned (except for one huge rock/root drop section that I could not ride and had to run because there were too many bodies and bike strewn on the ground), it was on to Mt. Fromme for our next challenge of the day.

We pace lined some multiuse trail over to Fromme and the big climb of the day began. 5% grade or so for about 30ish minutes of middle ring climbing. RD and I did our best to maintain position on the climb up to the top of the Pipeline descent, but a couple teams came by that were kicking out some big watts on Day 1 of a seven day stage race. Once on Pipeline, like Severed Dick, it was full-on North Shore riding with rock drops, ladders, root/rock features, etc. that all had to be deftly navigated. Once again, I let RD take honors and followed his lines. We bombed down the mountain on some stuff that surely had the teams from places other than the NW walking and cursing.

We popped out at the bottom of the trails in a residential North Van neighborhood. Made some lefts and rights, dodged a few cars, then crossed the finish line together in 2 hours on the button. Not many teams were there yet, so it was a good day. Not sure how we finished exactly, because we didn't wait around for results, immediately packed up the RV and caught the next ferry over to Vancouver Island. Home cooking and a real bed at RD's house in Nanaimo are on the schedule for tonight.

Here's some pics and a start vid from Day 0 and Day 1...

A rainbow over Vancouver from our hotel room just after packet pickup and the racer meeting.

Getting the rigs ready by the RV at the ice rink in North Van. The RV will be our home for the week.

Arrowsmith/Mafia Racing lined up towards the front to avoid any back of the back mishaps at the start.

Blue skies means its a good day to shred the gnar on the North Shore.

Coach Thomas cleaning the rigs post stage to get us ready for Day 2.

Ferry #1 for the week.

The start of Day 1.

Check back tomorrow for an update on Stage 2 that takes us from the ferry landing in Nanaimo north on Vancouver Island to Parkesville. Lots of 1track are on the menu and RD will definitely be leading the charge on his home trails.

Thanks for reading,

Blue Star

Friday, June 26, 2009

Vancouver Sun Article on BCBR

Click here.

More reports to follow.

Blue Star

Monday, June 22, 2009

Blog Revived and BC Bike Race

I thought about killing this blog since it takes quite a bit of time to keep up to date. Time is even more tight this year now that I'm co-running Mafia Racing NW, still keeping a full pro race schedule, and working at my real j-o-b as a lawyer. Nevertheless, people have asked why no posts this year and some are clamoring for BC Bike Race updates next week, so Blue Star Racer Blog lives on.

For those that don't know, BC Bike Race starts this Sunday, June 28th and runs through Saturday, July 4th. Lots of km of gnarly BC 1track lie ahead for me an my partner RD. My fitness is really good right now, RD bombs DH with the most elite riders around, so between the two of us we should be able to use both of our strengths to post some strong results. Check in throughout the week for some updates.

Thanks for reading,

Blue Star

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Another Year in the Books

I am now 33. Bikes are still my fun, my exercise, my addiction, my transportation, and my first love.

Blue Star

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Being Lazy, Hitting the Gym, and a Little CX

Not too much happening lately. I have been avoiding the bike when the weather is bad or when my motivation is not there to chamois up. I've also been getting slammed at the real j-o-b, so the motivation to ride seems to wane when the work day is a rough one. I guess it is good that I'm technically in the off season. I've set November 1 as my get serious and train cut off date.

I'm back in the gym throwing weights around like a body builder, well at least on the legs. This year I was pleasantly surprised I'd didn't lose too much strength during my time away from the gym during the race season. Also, I haven't been super sore after the first few weeks of leg sled and squats like I have in years past. Maybe I'll be able to pack on some more power this year.

Got the itch race the CX bike last weekend. I felt good on race morning, so I was excited to throw down. The start, however, had other ideas. Due to a missed clip-in by one of my competitors and then an errant stick that landed in my spokes bringing me to a halt within 10 feet of the start line, I was relegated to gapped off the back of the entire pack of 65 racers within the first minute of the race. Not good for a course that consisted of about 50% 1track. I immediately went to work passing as many people as I could. I think I ended up counting 30+ by the end. I never made it to the front of the race, but was pleased with my efforts. Maybe next time out, I can get a good start for once.

Here's a short movie of the barriers...

And a photo of the runup.

Thanks for reading,
Blue Star