August 13, 2010

TR3 (3 days of hell!)

The Globe and Mail described TransRockies racers a cross between rockstars and mental patients! After doing this race, I see why.

Pre-Race Day
Upon arriving in Fernie we headed straight to the package pick-up. First person we see is Matt from United Cycle (a racer who also races on the Alberta mountain bike circuit with me and who is an expert bike tech). He is an ambassador for the week meaning he rides the course and helps people fix major mechanical problems. He gets me checked in and I stand in each line gathering all that I need. I then run into Lisa (my teammate from Terrascape) and we discuss start times as day 1 is a time trial start format vs. a typical mass start. I wonder why I am starting in the morning and not afternoon like I had thought and go back to the registration table. I am on the list twice! I opt for the afternoon start and Jeff and I then head to get settled into camp. Jeff is along as my amazing support crew and expert bike tech. The rest of the day is relaxing, attending the pre-race meeting, and visiting my friend Danielle who lives in Fernie.

Day 1 – Fernie Time Trial (31km – 3:52min)
Thought of the Day: This is really hard!

We wake up to a ridiculous amount of rain. Great! Love those muddy, wet, slippery MTB courses. The morning is spent anxiously waiting my 2:15 start time. Jeff points out that I am being unusually quiet; I am nervous and don’t have much to say. Passing the time, waiting for an afternoon start is hard. We scout out the start area and see everyone coming back covered head to toe in mud! It is so muddy people arrive back with not a single spot on their body not covered in mud. My anxiety grows as wet courses make for tough mountain biking and slower times.

When it is finally my turn to go, I get to the start area and the sky has cleared and it is not raining. However, I know the course will still be very wet and slick – and chewed up as 500+ riders have riden it ahead of us. I wait in the start zone.
The beeps go and I am off. The first section is not bad as we head from downtown Fernie to the trails. We start climbing, and climbing, and climbing! My legs feel so dead – I knew this was coming as I chose to race a ½ Ironman last weekend – suck it up Richelle and just do it. For over 6km we climb straight uphill over technical roots sections and 180 degree switchbacks. I know the top riders are riding this, but not me. I let my mental state deteriorate as I am frustrated with how much climbing there is. When I finally reach the quick technical down which I love I am not even happy. I can’t seem to turn my mood around. I pass a few of the girls who had passed me on the up and I try to focus on how much I love these downhill sections. Ok, maybe the climb was worth it. I focus on being positive.

A few more ups and down, a quick fire road section and I am at the final checkpoint with 11km to go. I am feeling good. I was told the last section is fast and has a lot of down. Well, that guy lied! I can see how it would be fast when it was dry, but with it being totally muddy/wet and being one of the last riders to ride the course that day it was a tough slog the last 11km. I started to get very frustrated and hit a big mental low as I dragged me and my bike that last few kilometers. It was an amazing bunch of single-track but, I was not having fun. This was really hard and I was pushing my bike way more than I am used to. I love mountain biking – I am supposed to be having fun but, I am not. I had a few more hissy fits, a big crash that sent me flying off my bike, and a few more slippery falls. I also slammed into the front of my steer tube at one point - yes boys, it hurts when girls crash into their bikes there too! I yelled and cursed as the last few kilometers seemed to take an eternity. Finally I see the end of the trail. As I hit the pavement into the finish area I was relived to be done and as I crossed the finish line there were no smiles. Jeff snapped a quick picture and came over and asked how it was. “It was hard!” as I burst into tears. I tried to put myself back together as I washed my bike off and talked with a few racers who raced earlier that day. I was choking back tears as best I could.

I then rode to Danielle’s for a shower (there was no way Jeff was letting this muddy girl into the truck). On the way over I quickly took stock of what I just did. You know what?! That was hard, and I freakin’ did it! Stop the pitty party princess I thought to myself. I felt better and realized I needed to celebrate the accomplishment. OK, pitty party over. I showered, ate and we then had to go to the route meeting for the next day. With some very cool animation we were able to get a great idea of how tomorrow would look. I also got to see friends who I had not seen all day and hear about their days. Jeff Nielson gave me a quick pep talk and food consumption advice for the next day and we were off to bed. Jeff quickly tuned my bike for the next day - lucky me, my very own mechanic. Day 1 done.

Day 2 – Fernie to Sparwood (72km – 5:59 min)
Thought of the Day: If there is any down, you will climb back up.
I didn’t want to eat breakfast but, Jeff forced me too. I was anxious again and the weather was not looking promising. I sat back down after my failed attempt to leave with eating only 2 bites of oatmeal and took 3 more bites and claimed I was done. I felt like I was 5 years old again! I gathered my gear and got on my bike and rode to the start line in downtown Fernie. Danielle met me in town and Jeff followed shortly too. Pictures and hugs and into the start shoot where I found Lyndsay. We joked around and chatted with other racers as we waited for the start. The gun went and because we were in our designated start shoot (near the back) it took well over a minute for us to even reach the start arch. A quick lap around downtown Fernie (to help spread us all out) and onto the a fire road. Lyndsay and I found Bev, and the 3 of us biked and chatted until they eventually pulled away and I climbed on my own. Not to worry though as I found a pack of boys my pace right away and we chatted and climbed together.
It was long climb and there was nothing else to do but chat up other riders and just keep pedaling. Up and up and up. At around 16km I had to laugh at the boys behind me pondering how much longer till “beer time”. I laughed at them and found they were from Calgary. I hung with them until the next checkpoint. My back started to ache from all of the climbing. I got off and stretched as best I could. It sometimes alleviated the pain for a minute or so and other times did not. I was not frustrated though and was having a great day. We popped into some single-track, the first of the day so I was ecstatic. I worked to pass a few people until we hit the wall. The wall is a huge rock that you have to haul you and your bike up – in bike shoes. A fellow from Spain who I was near had gotten there just before me and was already on top of the rock. He told me to hand him my bike which I did and then he grabbed my elbow and yanked me up too! Well, that was easy – he he! Talk about right place at the right time! A bit more single-track t the top was great except when I had to stop, slipped off my pedal and put a cog tooth or two into my shin. Ouch! Blood! I was oddly excited as I was not really hurt but I knew it wouldn't be a true TransRockies experience without a little blood! A few more minutes of climbing at I final saw the Porky Blue sign which was the downhill section!

As I screamed down the downhill portion I knew I had a grin ear to ear. This was an amazing downhill! I loved it! I caught the girls from Brazil and had a laugh with them as the 3 of us ripped down the descent. It was almost 6km of wicked downhill. I was loving it! As we hit the fire road again I felt like a kid who wanted to go back for a second ride. Again! Again! But 49km of fire road still awaited me before the finish arch.

I suffered immensely over the next 50km. My back ached bad! I have not been on my road bike a tone this year nor ridden fire roads as mountain bike training. I held on stopping often to stretch. It was fairly uneventful and nothing to do but push as best I could. have to I saw the finish from across the river and did everything I could to just hold on and cross that line. As I rounded the corner to the finish I saw Jeff (head down looking at pictures on the camera). I shouted for his attention and he looked up as I flew by. Ha! I give him more than credit for waiting for me each day never knowing how long it would take me. When he found me he asked how today was and the response was “hard but fun! And a wicked down!” – all said with a smile!

We found Lyndsay and we all got loaded into our truck as opposed to having to wait for a shuttle like the rest of the racers. We were lucky as we arrived back at camp early and it was mostly the top racers only back already. We hit the showers early and had time to get organized for the next day all before dinner. Got to see my favorite buddy Ken who had stitches on his knee! Again, yeah Ken! True TransRockies exeprince with stitches. Memory exscapes me how he cut up his knee but I am sure it was an epic fall - right Ken!? :)After the route review and slideshow for the day Luke tried to adjust me seat for more comfort and ease my back pain for the next day. Jeff had done a great job cleaning and tuning my bike as it arrived both days now COVERED in mud. Here it is after Jeff got his hands on it. She is beautiful and ready to go for the next day!

I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Day 3 – Elkford to Etherington Creek (62km – 6:41min)
Thought of the Day: More up! Really!

As I got on my bike I immediately had the OUCH factor - you know when your butt hurts to sit on a bike seat after multiple days of riding. I rode to the start hoping it would go away when the adrenaline started. I found Lyndsay and we stretched and got a few pictures before our final day of TR3.
We started the day with a parade loop around the community centre and back onto fire road. There was a big crash up ahead and a few top riders went down. I avoided the crash and quickly found Matt and Stu (TransRockies ambassadors and racing friends) and rode with them for a bit until they had to stop to help fix a mechanical issue another rider was having.
My back ached a lot and I had to stop a lot to stretch my hip flexors to take the pressure off my back. It was not working. It ached! The first checkpoint I flew through and was excited to get to #2 that had pretzels (that I thought were the best tasting things ever!) So, 40km down and 3 hours in at checkpoint #2 and a fairly uneventful morning despite this crazy sore back. We turned off the fire road right at checkpoint #2 and onto single-track. Yeah! I finally started to pass people instead of forever being passed and my back was feeling better. But just 2km later I hit the hike-a-bike section. I knew this was coming but, I am not sure I was prepared for it exactly. For the next 2 hours and only 8km distance wise, we pushed our bikes straight uphill for over 1000m in elevation gain! Yes, that means straight up and pushing, not riding your bike. At times it was so steep we had to carry our bikes up the hills. Oh, and did I mention the alder bushes that completely covered the trail and attempted to grab your derailleur and tear it off your bike?! They were unsuccessful at getting my bike but, I did see a few riders they did get.

I met a new friend, Kevin who was from Banff and we chatted as I used him to keep me distracted through the push up. I would think we were near the top and we would turn and then, more up. Again we would push and then turn a corner to…more up! This was crazy! We were headed over the Continental Divide and I just couldn’t believe how high we were. It was beautiful but, I was too tired to really appreciate where I was at the time. We hit the last pitch to the top and had to throw our bikes over our shoulders and scramble to the top. I saw a park ranger standing beside a sign and I knew this was for real – we were finally at the top! Many riders stopped to take pictures and put on jackets. With the rain clouds looming I opted to just get on my bike and hit the down! My arms hurt and I rode hard down. I started passing a lot of riders and was so happy to be on the down. One girl commented that I always pass her on the down but, I reminded her since that was the case she always beat me on the up! The down was fun and technical at parts which I loved. So much fun! It then went to a fast down with short ups and bunch of river crossings – Augh! Wet feet! Trying to carry bike and wade across knee deep water was sketchy. Other riders were falling and getting completely soaked in the freezing water. Yuck! When I finally realized we had just 8km to go we were back on fire road. I pushed as hard as I could to stay ahead of the girls who I knew were now close behind me. The Calgary boys from yesterday caught me with 3km to go and I tried to stay with them but did so unsuccessfully. However, before I knew it I saw a volunteer ahead at a corner and I asked how much further. “30 seconds” she said. I pushed past camp set up to cross the finish line with a big smile! I did it! I survived TR3!!!!!
As I crossed the finish line it almost felt anti-climactic as although I had just completed 3 epic days, over 300 racers still had 4 more days to go. I did have a big smile that the announcer commented on and all I could say was “I survived!”. My excitement was quickly gone though as I found out Lyndsay had broken her collarbone on the descent. I tried to see her but they would not let me into the medical tent. They assured me her husband was on his way and she would be fine. So we packed up and headed home. As we drove home I went back and forth in my head of “yes, I will do this again – what a fun and amazing experience” to “no, I am never doing this again – that was way too hard!” and then back again. I am still back and forth and I am sure I will be until registration comes around.

For now, I am on recovery (or attempting to be) as this will take about as long as Ironman recovery to get over. My legs are still like dead weights and I can’t walk up the stairs without taking a break at the top gasping for air. Worth the experience? Yep - wouldn't trade it for anything in the world!


Anonymous said...

What an adventure, Richelle! You earned every second of glory and thanks for sharing your ups and downs, inside and out with us.

Recover well, and rock on!

Maureen said...

OMG. Thank you for writing such a great report. What an experience! I am in awe.