Sunday, 26 August 2007

Alberta Road Provincials

An alarm clock going off at 5am on a dark Sunday morning had me feeling a little crazy right from the start, after the early starts at TransRockies my body was looking for a little more sleep at home.

Devin, Mckee and Shawn all showed up for the joyride up north of Red Deer, and depsite a little panic attack, it turns out I didn't forget my contact lenses. Clouds looked onimous on the way up, and Dallas had emailed me night before saying the course was hilly and the weather didn't look good. Thermometer was showing 8.5C the whole way up.

Although my TransRockies endurance was looking forward to a 147km race, the weather inspired the comissaires to shorten us down to same length as the Cat 3 and 4 race at 113km.

I was in the front few riders at the roll out, sort of by fluke, but decided I liked it better up there than back in the pack. We weren't privy to much drafting at TransRockies, and I didn't feel the need to suck wheel right away. It felt good to warm up and get moving, and somewhere between waking up and driving here, I decided I wasn't "racing" the race, I was going to ride it. I kind of pulled a "Dallas", although a much lower horsepower version - just rode in a way that made me feel good rather than a results maximizing way. I found myself at the font a bunch, not riding hero pulls or anything, just riding the same pace I'd do if I were riding on a cold day on my own to stay warm. Little less road grit sprayed up in my face that way, and an enjoyable, uncluttered view around. Lot's of "attacks" were happening, some were 30 seconds that served no strategic use other than wasting one's energy, and some had some plausibility of getting away. I wasn't "chasing" them down by any means, but I would ride up to them to take a few minutes draft on occasion. Trev Williams had some sweet deep dish carbon wheels, and a workhorse TransRockies attitude to go with them, so we shared quite. Abit of time up front and a few little chats together too.

Pace wasn't too bad (seriously, if I was on the front that should say enough). I'd pedal or tuck the downhills outside the main line or peloton if I wasn't near the front, I find it funny that people brake even if they're second or third in line just to stay in the draft rather than heading up front for a while. In an organized pace line that definitely has it's place... but not everyone should be that shy of the wind...

The hills were relatively fast for me, I kind of thought ahead of time that my short power for rollers would be sub par, and that was definitely accurate. Most were flat or short enough that it didn't matter, and of course I could have been trying to conserve better too.

Eventually a break went that looked like it had a few workable characters. As we descended a hill, I was on front, but I didn't try to chase, I just did the usual pedal dow the hill, then try to hold a little momentum on the flat. I shoulder checked and I surprised myself that I was about half way between the pack and the group. I didn't really remember name for name who was up there, and I wasn't convinced I needed to bridge, so I rode a tempo that wouldn't fry me if I was hung in the middle for a while. I got fairly close to the front group, but they climbed a hill fast, and I wasn't climbing fast. I have to admit I wasn't even thinking tactics much, it was completely quiet and lightly sprinkling - I was enjoying the moment alone. TransRockies seemed to have helped modify my mind set a bit this year in terms of just enjoying the moment rather than fixating ahead, or on the end result.

As it turns out, that was the big error on my part (other than riding with zero tactics or energy preservation smarts up to that point). Relative to where my effort was on the powermeter, I knew I could have burned a match or two to catch up, but the racing instinct seemed to have slept in while the body left the house this morning.

So after a few more minutes, it was back to the group, not very eventful, and certainly not organized in terms of chasing down the attack. There were a lot of seriously impressive 30 second accelerations, if you consider uncoordinated 30 second attacks impressive (ok, pardon the bad attitude, but my read was that all they were displaying was a) lack of knowledge of their own sustainable mid race ITT pace, and b) lack of overall tactical thought... however I fully admit my tactics were also garbage on the day, but at least I wasn't confused on my abilities, and the tactics was a decision, I just haven't figured out if it was a conscious decision yet or not).

I will note that around this time I saw Heemskerk tap a young ERTC rider on the hip and scold him for riding erratic. Tim's riding pedigree and peloton etiquette, in my opinion, authorizes him to police in this fashion. More later...

There was a "big hill" approaching, and Tim was pulling on the front. I thought I'd help out, not very often I get to ride "with" the true big boys. No discredit to Tim, but I think he was tired today, and I think his Euro tuned road tactics knew the break would stick, and despite his cyclocross prowess, I don't think he's a fan of cruddy weather.

The "big hill" on the way back hurt me, I started near the front and ended off the back. As I was near the back, seeing the top not too far away, I was at a high level of effort, but not "busting at the seams". It seemed logical that I'd turn it up a notch and stay in, but my internal regulator wasn't having any of it. I suspect that might be some post TR "Erik you should rest more" circuit, but who knows (my week did consist mostly of rest, and only a few minutes of any sort of "opener" intensity).

I was off the back with 2 other guys, one fell away and a Pedalhead guy and I chased back on. He seemed a bit concerned, it didn't really bother me too much as my flat and downhill riding was fine (is that another way of saying I'm fat? Or my power to weight sucks?). Last I saw, Devin had blasted up next to Tim on the climb, then the hoardes passed me and I lost sight of information, but apparently Jamie Sparling and Phil Abbott used the climb as a springboard to bridge up to the leaders.

We caught back on, he grabbed the back, and I thought it'd be fun to go right back up front. Not cheeky, and certainly not of superior legs, but I just wasn't in the caboose mood.

Not much happened until the next turnaround point, then a more rapid paceline formed. Maybe the thought was to shake out our group, that's my best guess. I didn't see any way the lead was within reach as the flashing RCMP lights seemed pretty distant.

Then... symbolic end of the race for me. The earlier mentioned ERTC rider was drafting Bob Veroba, half wheel, and went down. I think 6 went down in total, on straight, gently uphill so not to fast road, no crosswind, no excuse. It doesn't pay to ride behind young, hyperactive guys who can't calmly ride a paceline. I've had the experience of mountain bike racing as well with said rider, and I can't say that experience was any more positive. If you're a junior, and you've got the legs and lungs of a horse, coach needs to pass along how to ride in a group. There's no reason to be skittish, if you can turn on the jets on the count of three and react to any break forming. Superior horsepower should allow one to ride with superior poise in a group, as you're not always on edge. Uggh!

Anyway, a few broken bike parts and a few riders that didn't make it past that point. I was second back and rode right over him, and had to make a very concerted effort not to step on his face as my left foot unclipped and looked to plant itself.

My wheel wouldn't rotate, but it was just that it jarred it in the dropout so I just had to losen the skewer and reseat it.

After that it was more of a march to the finish than anything else. Rode a bunch of it with Shawn, the coasted across the line with Tim. Anticlimactic. I would have rather hammered it out and finished 15th by trying rather than an "external" event that essentially stopped the event early. I think I was 17th, which really doesn't mean anything, other than that I got back on my bike after the crash and didn't break anything. Devin made it in the group that was able to get back on the bikes more promptly, I think he was 11th.

Dallas placed well enough to move up to Cat 2, Jon earned at least a few road points by finishing 4th. Mckee experienced a little comedy on his finish, and finished well enough to upgrade to Cat 3, but a little less than his legs might have allowed.

Non-Alberta rider Jamie Sparling won the day, with Steenbergen in second, so Anthony is the provincial champ for the year. He's certainly worked hard enough for it, great job on his part.

I had dinner at Shawn's and talked biking for 2 hours. At home I read a montain bike mag, and wished with every turn of the page I could ride each trail they spoke of.

All bike, all the time is the dream.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

more TransRockies, what else?!

flicking through the Cyclingnews photos for TransRockies is a great way to get a feel for what the experience of the race is like... if you spent a lot of time enjoying the scenery instead of putting the hurt on. Ahhh... the memories!

Monday, 20 August 2007

Post TransRockies

What can I add that hasn't been covered in my blog drivel already... this was one of the funnest time's I had on two wheels in a week. In terms of "room mates"... Cindy, Tori, Jon, Craig and Mckee I've learned to love and appreciate on a new level. Each one of them rounded out the experience beautifully. I can't think of a group that I'd be more willing to bend over backwards for if the opportunity arose.

I can't express enough appreciation for Cindy and Tori being around to keep us all entertained with their mere presence. After Tori had committed her unwavering mind to the task, to think it all grew from an email whilst the snow was still falling to Cindy saying "my girlfriend wants to do TransRockies, do you mind if I pass your email address along to her so she could ask you a few questions?"... the main one of course being "Cindy will you take a chance on someone you don't know and who's new to the sport to tie ourselves at the hip and take on the challenge of a monumental stage race?" I'm sure glad you did, and with nothing but the best of attitude from the both of you for 7 days straight. Long live the giggleators.

The results are just numbers, but one thing that can be observed by the numbers is that Jon, Craig, Mckee and I rode together quite a bit out there. There's always a lot of other dynamics tugging at us, but the feeling of 4 goats (or near-goats in Jon's case) making our merry way together was something I'll wax nostalgic about for a long time to come.

In case it hasn't been expressed clearly enough before, Jon is one talented bike rider. Remember who finished 2nd to Tim Heemskerk last year at the Bow 80? That takes quite an engine, along with the complete package of technical skills. I'm behind him 100% to see where those "little" legs can carry him. Stappler and Jon were a great team to watch from nearby - Craig opened up his heart to deliver a terrific return to mountain biking performance, as well as an "open slate" as a team mate where there was no barrier at all to communication, they both wore their hearts on their sleeves. It's amazing how much difference that can make in a 7 day event.

We did our best to keep up with the experiences of the rest of the goats on a daily basis, but "laziness" sometimes meant we'd have to hear it through the grapevine while we were firmly planted in our folding chairs. I found it hard to spend much energy in the afternoons... 2,000 calories, clean bike, massage, nap, 2,000 calories then bed was what the afternoon's called for. Having said that, the shared masseuse helped relay stories, which was an important part of the day. Amber did a great job and enjoyed the experience tremendously. Linda and Trish stopped by for massage and storytime each day, and we'd see Pat, Ed, Tim, Mike, Gerry and Lloyd cross each day. Reading faces was sometimes enough... Ed is a man of few words in general, and even fewer words after the daily task of "hanging out" with Pat for 5+ hours of hardcore riding.

The race overall was a great experience. I liked the course a tad better than last year, doing Invermere to Nipika rather than Nipika to Invermere was the "right" way to do it, Bear Creek downhill is much better than hike-a-bike uphill. The weather, although dusty, was preferable to rain in my books (exception qualified below) as it's more fun and less bike maintenance. On the flip side, it had it's problems, not the least of which was Mckee's breathing. Ever see Gattica? A few parallels there. I believe we drew the best out of each other, and enjoyed doing so. And for the record, I use the word "enjoy" in only the strictest, 7 day mountain biking stage race sufferator and giverator dialed up to mother f__'n 11 sense of the word of course! I find it interesting looking back at how consistent our day to day results were, considering all the variables a long race can throw at you.

I have to disagree with some of the other riders on one point, and I'm probably in the minority on this. Too much gravel road? Well, maybe a bit much, but I don't loathe it as much as some of the others seem to. I love the racing tactics of the gravel road just as I love road riding and racing. Yes, it is a mountain bike race, but it's a little bit like the Tuesday hammers. Drop or be dropped, lay down the pain or pick up the pain.

It's sad to be back just being a desk jockey rather than a mountain bike jockey today!

Sunday, 19 August 2007

TransRockies day 7

We started with a warm morning and a pleasant sleep in, although I couldn't sleep in too much as Cindy and Tori started giggling early. Perfect day for a bike race, and the superfans were present. It was a hard, fast start. Mckee got a good inside line, and I was back about 20 spots and had to work hard to make my way back up. We rode powerlines and gravel road, it was basically a 48k time trial stage, but with a couple kilometers of singletrack at the end.

It seemed like the right thing to do was to burn as many calories as humanly possible, no sense in saving them. Mike and I teamed up on the hills, and I tried to drive the paceline as hard as possible, pulling hard and not really letting anyone else pull except when I had to scarf down gels. It was fun. At one point I tuned out for a minute on a fast downhill section and went straight off the trail into the bush at 40kph, then over the handlebars like Jan Ulrich's crash from a few years back.

We looped down under the bridge and started climbing the telephone track. The short, steep sections were taking a toll on everyone's legs after the high speed hammer. We were in a group with Mike Piker and Tim, who were being chased by their arch rivals. We did what we could to help them out, and formed a deadgoat paceline. I dropped back after a hilly part to eat some more gel and refuel for the effort, it was hard work to that point.

We made it to the singletrack and gave it gas, passing a few teams. It was a blast. We had Wendy and Norm in our sights once again, we always seem to get to the same point, but man do we ever take different paths to get there.

Mom, dad, and everyone was at the finish. Zenone my Italian buddy who rode my Turner bought me a couple bottles of champage, and poished the bike to a shine. We stayed around chatted for a couple of hours, then made it up to the ski hill to lounge around the pool until dinner. Felt nice just to relax 100% and not have to recover or prepare for the next day. We watched guys in the mountain bike park as we lounged - all bike, all the time.

Dinner was the usual gong show. We showed up early and impersonated volunteers, chowed down on the food, went through the awards rigamarole, got our t-shirts and watched the highlight video. Turns out a lot of people had enough energy to dance up a storm.

We ended up dropping Mike off after midnight in what you'd call "fairly rough shape", and made it back to our condo.

Friday, 17 August 2007

TransRockies day 6

Today was the hardest day by most measures - longest distance at 116k, most vertical at 2300m, and warmest, and worst for Mckee because it was both dusty and smoky from fires, tough for an asthma sufferor.

The first climb of 5k had me thinking about health. Mike has strong legs as we all know from our hammer rides. But it's hard when oxygen isn't delivered. It sounded like someone was strangling him on the first climb, so he latched onto my jersey. We tried to hold pace with the top 20, but faded a bit. The thought did cross my mind that I was spending a lot of energy on the first 20 minutes of what I thought would be a 6 hour stage, but I figured I'd cross that bridge when I got to it. If Mckee can suffer, I can suffer too.

Made great time on the singletrack and gravel road descent where Mckee can big ring it without taxing the lungs quite as much. It made me so happy to see him hammering away like that, that's the kind of riding he came to do.

On the back 40k of gravel road, we ended up in a group of 7, including my Team Tamarack Idaho buddies, Nikki Cassels, and the Norwegian team that's winning either the 80+ or 100+. John from Team Tamarack and I split all the pulling until we hit the climb. It was dusty, thankless work, and most of the time we couldn't really pull hard so we just talked (Mckee is other strongest of group, but can't breathe, Team Tamarack guy number two also has asthma, the Norwegians are so far ahead of the next place in their category they didn't seem to care, and Nikki is smart enough to hang in then ride the climb hard).

Mike set a good pace on the climb, but when we got to steep hike a bike, the sheer aerobic demand of it was more than what the lungs were delivering. I felt good so took both bikes, then just cause I was feeling good, decided I might was well make it worth the glory points and revved up the climb. In all honesty, it's just cause I get bitter that the 6 people who drafted for the last 90 minutes think they now have legs to outclimb us, so I decided I was going to march right past all of them if it's the last thing I did. Not that they're really trying to be wheelsucks... but I just get these things in my head.

After that episode, I grabbed a Evervit Cheer pack to prop up the energy and tried to follow Mckee on the downhill to checkstop 2, but he schooled me once again. I've heard comments on his propensity to crash, but I'll go out of my way here to put on record that Mike is a screamer on the downhills.

Jon, Craig, Mike, myself, and the Norwegians rode a lot of the gravel descent together, Jon had caught up from an earlier episode of a couple of flats. I saw him earlier as I went by, and thought I heard him yell tube, but Mike came up right behind me as I was slowing down and said he was ok. Either way, in retrospect I really wished I would have stopped. I didn't understand as Jon has a CO2+Tube+tool thing strapped to his seatpost. Anyway, hope ihe doesn't think I'm an ass. But back to the gravel road, we were making fantastic pace, then hit a little bit of doubletrack before the pavement.

Once on pavement, I unceremoniously scarfed down 2 gels, and helped Jon do some pulling. We wound under a bridge, then started climbing, and to our surprise, saw the team that was 1 second ahead of us in the GC ahead. Needless to say, we formed a paceline and started charging. We swallowed them up shortly, and saw that one guy was bonking. We tried to keep the paceline speed high, then ducked into checkstop 3. I ate two more gels and another Cheer Pack, and chugged a bottle of water with all the dignity of a hungry dog. We started the last, longest climb, and 2 minutes in Mike's cleat needed tightening.

One of the 10th place team was ahead, and one was behind, but with the curve of the road I couldn't figure out if it was the strong one ahead dropping his partner, or the strong one behind shuttling food up from the checkpoint. We caught up to him with some good pacing, and a strategic question revealed that he was the stronger one. Perfect. We paced the climb sensibly, and Mike cracked a Red Bull. About 2/3 of the way up, we were climbing strong, and decided together that it'd be wise for me to ride ahead and Mike would catch up on the descent. I felt fresh with all the gels and Red Bull in the system and upped the speed by about 50%, and within 10 minutes of the top, heard noise behind me. I shoulder checked nd saw our arch rivals climbing in a 2 man paceline at a wicked pace... what the heck!

I stopped and waited for Mike. We decided to stick to the same gameplan, but they crested ahead of us. Mike was digging in deep, and on the first section of the descent, we caught them right away, as one is a super fast descender... and the other is really slow. We blew by the slow one, then it didn't matter how fast the other one was. Mike schooled me on the descent again, but we had agreed that I'd do my best to chase back on once we got onto the gravel road. He was hammering away, and I caught up on a gentle downslope. I was familiar with the heartache at the end of this stage as it loops away from town one more time, so I told Mike to eat whatever he had left, fast.

We rolled into the sweet singletrack right behind Wendy Sims and Norm, who are great to follow. Needless to say, Wendy rides singletrack with panache.

I waited for Mike in the gravel pit, he was only 10m behind, but with the big headwind, false hope of finishing once we saw town, and the Giverator being maxed out for the last 5.5 hours. We drafted across the flats and gave'r on the hills. Mike rode the coal descent... mostly. He took a little crash, and the fact that he was covered in sweat from head to toe, left him looking like a coal miner. We hammered into town for all we were worth, then Mike did the suffer lap around the parking lot to get his blood oxygen up to normal levels.

We'll have lots of good pictures to post, Mike was so covered in dust that he epitomizes the giverator at 10.

Jon and Craig finished like 5 minutes ahead of us, in 12th I think. We may have been 15th, not sure.

The girls made it in 9 hours and 50 minutes, 10 minutes inside cutoff (I also heard the organizers were going to ignore cutoff today, if anyone made it this far it's not like they're going to make an issue of it now, that'd just be cruel). We had burgers, mac and cheese, and massage times booked for their arrival, then got their bikes up on stands for some work. They seemed happy as usual.

Haven't seen many of the other goats, but saw Jerry riding by and he looked shattered, didn't even want to talk.

I'm sad that tomorrow is last day!

Thursday, 16 August 2007

TransRockies day 5

We climbed up gravel road in a large peloton out of Whiteswan, with Nutbrown doing the hero pull on the front that cracked the peloton. I think he pulled for the entire 7k to the first checkpoint if I'm not mistaken. Checkpoint one was at a goofy location, doesn't work too well when there's 35 teams in a group going through at 40kph. We started climbing quad track, and I felt comfortable climbing in about 8th place, legs felt good. Mike and I did the carrot pacing method up the doubletrack, which worked well to reel in 3 teams. We caught a few teams on the way down, and had a 6 team peloton through to checkstop 2, with Mckee, Ryan Draper and I being the only ones to work. Most teams blew through the checkstop, so we tried to chase back on.

As the course peeled off through the singletrack, I sped it up and had some fun. Mike climbed hard and was pushing our pace, when a stick went up between my tire and my chainstay bridge. It made a funny rubber thumping sound, and I was reflecting on how it was so nice not to have any flats yet, but 10 seconds later it blew. We did a 5 minute fix and put in a tube, losing 6 spots. We worked hard to checkstop 3, and reeled in 2 teams.

Checkstop 3 was at the base of the last big climb, and Mckee popped a Red Bull, I had two swigs. That was all it took to remove me from all pain. My tire felt a little soft, so we decided to split up, I rode ahead to the top to give it some air before the descent, so I'd wait for Mckee at the top. I had a blast, was able to ride the rideable climbs, and had energy to burn for the hike a bike parts, was able to attack them hard.

Got the tire sorted out at the top, then Mckee schooled me on the downhill. Seems like after my little Fernie spill I've become a much poorer downhiller. I rode the entire descent with the three debris torrents, but I've got a much slower pace than I may have a year ago.

I caught Mike on the gravel road, and we TT'd it home, putting in a strong finishing pace. Dad was at the 1km mark cheering us on. We cranked it up a notch, and Mike was suffering. In his own words, he knew once we hit pavement it was just over a kilometer to finish. His body was screaming, and his quote was "shut up bitch, keep given'r". Mom was at the finish. Great to see them out, especially when we're working hard at the end.

Both Mike and Craig had strong days, they really recovered from the hurt yesterday put on.

Jon and Craig came in a few minutes ahead of us, I think I heard that they were 11th and we were 13th, but I'm too lazy to walk over and check. Spent energy to just hold on rather than making forward progress.

Jon had a rockstar day by the sounds of it. I haven't heard the full download, but I hear he climbed the first climb with the leaders, then between checkstop 2 and 3 agreed to split up with Craig, and bridged up from 12th to the lead group, then slowed down and pulled the Rocky team with Matt Hadley back back up to third. By all accounts he burned a hell of a lot of calories out there, there's a lot of the top guys who've mentioned his performance tonight.

Ed looks like a man who's given just about all there is to give, he's been a man of few words the last few days. I know what it feels like to hurt as much as he is, and I'm rooting for him tomorrow (the longest, hardest day).

Talked briefly with Gerry, he was sitting in a lwanchair, full dusty spandex, fast finishing time, with beer in hand. He said Lloyd is climbing very well.

Trish said her legs felt flat on the climbs, but they sprinted into the finish line looking good.

Tomorrow is the longest day and has 3 climbs instead of two, plus they're some of the biggest. I think it'll be a soul tester.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Mike Mckee

Mike Mckee's giverator is as strong as the coffee he likes to drink. I think that just about says it all.

TransRockies day 4

We started out of Nipika again, I felt great after a nap and a good night's sleep yesterday. Blasting off through the trail system at full bore was fun, there was a steep climb about three km in where I pulled out of the excitement and waited a couple of seconds for Mckee. That's the first time I actually led the two of out, usually it's been Mike who's set the pace off the front. We did some doubletrack before heading up the first big climb, then grinded out the climb in about 15th place. On the descent, Andreas's partner bit it bad and had to be airlifted out. Jon was first on the scene and got people to slow down, and waived them through. We all notified the checkpoint which was just 3-4k away on the downhill.

We hit the dusty road and encountered the main problem of the day - pure powder dust road and Mike's asthma aren't a mixture that worked well. We solo'd the gravel road all the way through to the second big climb. We'd written down our best estimate for the elevation of the second climb from the route book so we could guage our efforts, but as it turns out our estimate was about 100m off (too low of course) which was a source of comedy with Mckee.

Mike skipped checkstop 3, but I elected to fill a bottle and chase back on, which turned out to be a very good choice as the last 40k of downhill was way more work than we thought with a headwind coming up the valley. We TT'd onto a group that had no particular interest in working together. I'd take a pull, then they'd surge through and blow Mike off. I'd hold up, Mckee would say let's get back on, and we'd ride back up. After two repeats of that, each time the guy would say "oh, you're back" (my reply was I'd do this all day if you want to play games)... anyway we caught two 50+ guys from Canmore and rode with them instead, but they too weren't into the 4 is better than 2 idea. The one Canmore guy would pull hard enough to blow his partner off, and wasn't very responsive when we let him know his buddy was off the back. They were annoying to ride with, so after 10k, when he was busy dropping his partner on a hill, Mckee and I jetted off and finished off the day on our own. Mckee was 100% buried at about the 4.5 hour mark, and filled up the pain bank on the last half hour. We'd ride together on the hills with him grabbing my jersey pocket to ease the pain.

Mckee came out of the medic tent feeling better than when he went in, they gave him oxygen for a while to help overcome the asthma suffering on the last climbs of the stage. He talked to Craig before and after treatment, and Craig summed it up as "he sounds way better, I can understand what he's saying. After the race he was hunched over his bike, dripping sweat, and when I asked him how it went it was pretty hard to understand the mumbles that went along with the hand gestures. Mckee's got a suffer-o-meter that kicks in when the giverator is maxed out, and he can sure dig deep. We held on for a respectable finish in 11th I hear, but to be honest I have no idea as I didn't go up to the results posting myself.

Jon and Craig worked with Pat Doyle and Ed on the home stretch, and by all accounts (for the 4th day in a row), Ed has been digging deep and giving his all, and then some. I've seen him now at two stage finishes in a row cause they're coming in fast, and I'm fairly certain I haven't heard him speak yet... though I hear through the grapevine that others have. I don't know what anyone else thinks, but to me Ed is doing the deadgoats proud, he's the epitome of a hardcore mountain biker that on a moment's notice would ride TR with Pat, with all that entails in terms of effort. And on top of that I've heard Pat (not Doyle) captured an image that sums this up well, to be published at a later date.

Sounds like Trish and Dave finished same time with their rivals, Trish seems perky and energetic every night so I'm inferring she's having a great time. Linda and Brendan bounced back and the duo had a much better day than yesterday.

I didn't get a chance to talk to Tim B, but he was at the finish area in sort order and looked tired, so I assume they pounded it out on the gravel today and would have been happy with the result.

We went for a swim in Whiteswan Lake to lower our core temperatures and cooked dinner at our RV, so I don't have info on Gerry and Lloyd today.

I'm feeling strong, happy, and thoroughly enjoying the event so far. Looks like tomorrow will be the hardest day yet, as it's fairly long again at 93k, with what looks like two 700m climbs thrown in, which at least one involves some hike a bike. Mike is a strong hiker, and any gnarly descents let us make time on the Euros, so we're hoping for another good day.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

TransRockies day 3

After a cool night's sleep and a cool morning start, we blasted off at FULL cross country race intensity on the Nipika cross country ski trail system trails. After 5k of that, it's gravel road paceline, where we hang on for about a half an hour. After the pop, it's our own 2 man group for a while, but eventually about 10 other teams catch up. I don't like pulling for that many people, it's just free rides at the back, but once the grade turned up, Mckee and I got back down to our two man group as we climbed away from the hoardes.

The descent was overgrown, fast and gnarly, I think it wreaked havoc on a lot of teams. We had a blast and made good time. Exiting the descent, we caught up to Jon and Craig again. It was perfect timing, as we had a huge gravel road section, so the 4 of us worked together for it's entirety, including the final climb. It's a huge morale booster to have a 4 person team of friends working together. And by together, I mean Jon pulling with unreal strength and endurance, and the rest of us hanging on in varying degrees of suffer.

We climbed past checkpoint 3 as hard as we could, Mckee put the giverator into overdrive and we reeled in 5 teams and didn't get passed by any. Jon and Craig made it over the top a little ahead, but by the gravel road we were all together again. We pushed the 4 man paceline hard, and entered the singletrack with energy. It's a super fun trail, and Mike and I passed the Swiss team in front of us in no time flat, they were walking some ass-behind-the-saddle downhill that might be considered intermediate, that had a log across the trail at the bottom. My skidding tires alerted them to move over, and I suspect they were at least mildly startled that the log wasn't even much of a speed bump for our 4 man lineup. We got within 20 seconds of the team in front of us with 3k to go, so I asked Mike if he had juice to crank it up and race for one more spot, or if we were better off cruising in where we were. The end result was that we did both, a brief burst of energy to give it a try, then settled in for a finish where we were.

Jon and Craig made it in about 5 minutes later, then just a couple of minutes behind them were Tim and Mike, who had an awesome day.

Ed and Pat came motoring in a few minutes later, then we headed over to the pond, bike wash and massage table. By 2pm I had cleaned up, done bike work, had a massage, eaten 1,500 calories, and settled in for a nap. Burgers were the meal of choice today: Jon packed away 3 for an afternoon snack, while Mike, Craig and I did 2 each, plus a little Spolumbos sausage. I demolished a box of macaroni and cheese with a quarter bottle of A1 steak sauce in about 10 minutes too.

The giggleators came in 7 hours I think, with enough funny stories and poems they had composed to amuse us for the night. If anyone claims that riding a bike for 7 hours at a time can't be fun, they obviously need to consult with Tori and Cindy.

Feeling stronger every day, I wish I could bottle up the feeling forever! There's nothing I like more than endurance cycling and the satisfaction surviving race days brings.

Tomorrow is longer again, but I estimate it'll be about the same time, or maybe a half hour longer. I think it'll be like a road hammer ride that's 5 hours long. We'll do our best to keep in groups, looking at the course, I want to save a lot of gas for the last 45k which is basically all gentle downslope gravel road - my favourite type of time trial...

Monday, 13 August 2007

TransRockies day 2

Craig won the gold star last night for figuring out the race start was 8am rather than the 9:30 am that's printed in the front page of the book.

We make it down to race start on time for a cool morning start. We proceed through Invermere in a melee of a peloton that was indicative of a recreational mountain bike race in all the wrong ways.

Dre was kind enough to lead the pack out for the first 35 minutes, stretching peloton out from a 2 lane bunch out to a 100 people single file down to a group of 50 then 25 then 15 then 10. Guys were red lined and popping off the back at 1 minute intervals. Mckee's giverator monitor was reading 97% of max for a while, so we elected to spin a few minutes to recover. 3 minutes of that and we were good to go, Dre eventually dropped back and rode with us for a while, as well as Nikki Cassels who had caught up. That 4 some lasted for 15 minutes or so, then we passed check stop 1.

The singletrack was sweet, fun to ride and we passed a few technically inept riders. The grueling rain soaked hike a bike from last year was waay easier coming down, the route book said less than 50% rideable, but we found it was 95%, Jon took it up to 97% with some badass descending on a 30m scree slope with three drop off ledges thrown in just for fun.

Jon, Craig, Mike and I worked together for the gravel road, including Trev Williams for a while. The gravel section was a good eating spot to fight off pending bonks.

The last 15k were single track and XC trails. Lots of rolling hills that took the last bit of gas out of the legs. Eventually we saw Pat (not Doyle) at the side of the trail saying only 1km to go. Last year it was Mical who was the guardian angel who'd see us into the end, PND is built a little different, but it's great to see him, we know we're near then! Mike cranked it up a few notches, and we worked together to hold it to the end.

Jon and Craig finished 9th I think, and Mckee and I held in for 12th.

Pat and Ed came in as the 4 of us were waiting for burgers. Pat bunnyhopped Mike's arm as he was stretching, and for the five minutes we chatted, I don't recall Ed saying anything. He did mumble something uninteligible. Pat acknowleged that Ed's digging deep, real deep.

Gerry and Lloyd came in in fine position, as did Tim and Mike. I hadn't seen either around tonight as the camping is spread out, but Gerry was missing half the bike short on his right cheek, not sure what that was about. Sounds like Tim and Mike had a great day. I don't have detailed reports of the day, but did talk to Trish and Linda as they dropped by for massages... sounds like they're making the men earn their keep!

Cindy and Tori have their giggle-e-ators in fine form. From a team meeting this morning to pick which matching pair of socks to sport for the day, to crossing the line with no new bloodshed, it seems like all is bliss on the deadgoat girls team.
The shower truck wasn't ready when we arrived, so we swam in the pond. Jon's known for being a tad on the forgetful side, and he didn't have his shorts... so skinny dipping it was.

If anyone wants case studies in morale, friendship, and how big challenges can be more than suffering alone, the deadgoat guys and girls all seem to be having a blast out here. Teams are digging in for each other, and inter-team help has been abundant too. Weather has been great so far. I can't speak for the others, but I'm having a blast.

So we've done a 30k day and a 60k day, next two days are 90k and 113k. We're nibbling for about 6-7 hours each day post race, plus massage and sitting around telling tall tales, and watching cycling videos, including the CSC teambuilding video. Jens Voight has some totally priceless lines in it... "Tomorrow is a hard day Jens". German accent reply "I just try more."

Don't really mean to leave on a negative note, but meal service hasn't been impressive this year. TransRockies knows the number of meal tickets in advance, and shouldn't have a hard time meeting those obligations. Many of us bought meal passes as backup, but are feeding ourselves first, which actually lowers the burden n the organizers, and they're still falling short. All other aspects of inconvenience and hardship can be overlooked with good food.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

TransRockies Day 1

Checked into our condo and settled in for the night... unfortunately I didn't get the best sleep, I was having nightmares that I was working on the CCS project at work, and the clock was ticking down toward start time, and I was facing the need to do a high speed drive out from Calgary just to make start! Uggh.

We did lots of hello's and good luck's at the start, felt great getting all fired up for the ride. We positioned ourselves well at the front of the queue.

As always, pace started off hot. Did the lap around the village, right up to 178hr off the start. Mike and I climbed together up the first 6k of gravel road, pacing reasonably. I think we were riding in about 15th for most of the hill, Mike was hurting a tad and I helped pace. Jon and Craig caught us about a half hour in from their last place start. We got onto the hike a bike, and I earned my next bit of good karma. Trev Williams was climbing ahead, and they brought running shoes to change into in true tri-guy style. But they dropped a shimano mountain bike shoe on trail, which I picked up and gave to him once I caught up on hike a bike section.

The hike a bike was hard, 40 mins of basically as steep a trail as is hikeable, plus dragging along a bike. Mike was stronger here now and was my carrot for the climb.

We crested the top as Mckee's water bottle cage pulled out of the frame, which is a good minor mechanical, not too serious.

We bombed down the hill, until Jon and Craig caught up again and blew by us... the downhill was steep with tight switchbacks, I hope the girls survive. Mckee bailed in front of the camera man, so I hope we make the highlight video.

The last 10k of trial was fantastic. I was a little worried of cramping and running out of water, but managed to spin it out. I led the last half hour for a group of 6, then made a wrong turn. They waited and let us get back on, but two guys took off. We rolled into the finish in what is reported to be 9th, Craig and Jon were 7th. Tim and Roddi won by 3 minutes or so.

I sat around with mom and dad and the Fahey's for a while, watched lots of deadgoat teams finishing strong. It's nice to have family and supporters out!

Sounds like Tim B. had a derailleur problem, Pat and Ed look like they finished strong, and Gerry and Lloyd kicked butt looking like they hardly broke a sweat. Gerry claimed to have felt "a little fatigued over the top of the hill". I think his giverator is in fine form!

Jon and I walked over to the finish area looking for burgers, and as it happened Tori and Cindy were just crossing the line. We've been poking a little fun at Cindy for being the official safety coordinator, but turns out that's a good quality to have when riding with Tori. She's got some scraped knees, a broken shifter cable, and a ear needing stitches... something to do with a tree and a log. They were both in good spirits, and Cindy was walking around with her usual poise and composure.

Rest of the night was eating, eating, and more eating. And a massage. And lots of storytelling from the day. The gang is having a blast, and looking forward to tomorrow.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Pre-TransRockies day

If well wishing can help us out this year, we're gonna be off to a good start. I made it to Panorama on Friday with David and Giselle (and Duke) as my generous carpool buddies... and relaxed at the place Mckee had rented.

We were the first pair to complete registration, which was a really nice way to start the day and offload a little stress. After that it was coffee, then lunch at the golf course. By then our grand caravan had arrived, so I picked up my bike and Mckee and I prerode up to the hike a bike portion of stage 1. It's gonna be a fast, XC style stage - a pure lungburner climb up the Taynton bowl ski out, then hike a bike over the ridge and down to Invermere.

On the way down we saw Tim and Roddi trying to find the start of the trail, and pointed them in the right direction. I'm pretty sure they owe us big for the favour, maybe a tow for 40k on a gravel road somewhere along the way!?

Pete has done up the trailer nicely, we've got lots of space, and his daughter brought us booger and rotten egg jelly beans. Pete seemed impressed that she brought a tank top that said "Boobs" across the chest to cover her string bikini. Looks like we'll be well taken care of in terms of the utility of the RV. Everyone in the group seems happy and excited...

After dinner we headed back down on the gondola, and a 45ish looking Italian guy from the Dolomites rode the came on with us. He was asking about the day's route, then I asked him how he felt about the race. Turns out last he heard of his bike was in Toronto, but he had the rest of his gear. Next question was what kind of pedals he rode... Crank Brothers Eggbeaters. No prob I said. Got a Turner Flux ready to go. I think his stress dropped significantly as he rode it away.
Packed up from the RV and made our way to the condo in Mckee's Q7. Time for some rest.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

The Toll of the Crit

Ahhh, it's true... Cyrus is wearing the tell tale signs of a crit mishap as I'd first heard at Bow's party last night. I'm glad I don't have to think about getting a cast molded to the shape of handlebars for TransRockies next week!

Hope your 24 y/o metabolism patches your arm back together in no time!

And as for the "no offense to the hill climb pairing"... none taken! I was being honest with you before race... not sandbagging. You're basically tops in the province, and a dedicated year round athlete. I'm a good athlete for a guy who's primarily a desk jockey. Even if my 4:07 time doesn't seem too worthy of pride in contrast to what the Cat 1/2 field can dish out, from my perspective I'm pretty happy with it considering the busy weekend, not really planning to race, and just my overall physical abilities.

Ideally in a paired (or supposedly trio) race you'll end up with three guys who are within 5% of you and you all push till you blow up. You were too fast to be an ideal carrot for me, and I was waay to slow to be of any use to you.

Finishing off the long weekend

After the crit, Mckee and I spun around town for an hour on the road bikes at an easy pace. It felt good to just chill out for a while, after which we had a soda-pop at Bakke's like 2 kids might. Once Tori came home, we loaded up the gear so I could drop Mckee off at home.

The plan after that called for a city mountain bike ride with Jon and Craig. Craig's finally got the new Racer-X running, and I just did a tubeless job on my tires that I want to stress test. We zip around Edworthy for a while on Jon's favourite trails, all of which are technically demanding and overgrown, then make our way over to Bowness. We stop by the store, which is having their 50th anniversary party tonight, and chat with people heading in for a while, before heading home to grab a bite to eat, clean up, and head back down to Bow Cycle for the party. Jon and I ride down, and get in once April Wine has already taken the stage. The store layout works super well for a concert, and the free Pilsner (see "Pillies" below) definitely helped set the stage for a good time. I ended up bidding on a cruiser bike in a silent auction, which I believe I won, but will have to wait for confirmation today.

Bow Cycle "57" Named after Bow Cycle's inaugural year of business, the "57" is a limited edition bicycle with only 160 models produced. With its classic styling and unique features, including a "gas tank" (designed to hold two "Pillies" and a sandwich) and "I LOVE BOWNESS" hot-patched tires, the "57" is a fitting salute to Bowness, and is sure to be the "pride and joy" of any bike collection.

I think it's cool because it has wood rims. I'll need to get out the furniture polish on a regular basis.

Tour de Bowness - Criterium

After the hill climb, I had some steak, pasta, and a solid 12 hour sleep. Felt pretty good on Sunday morning, and was excited to race after watching the earlier races in the day. Mom and dad (the "fans") came down, as well as Tori and her parents.

Felt good during warmup, legs weren't sore, heartrate was responding nicely to efforts, and the day's temperature was good for racing. Watched the Cat 3 and Women's races, then got my chance for a few warmup laps on the course in. I tried a bunch of different lines through the corners, practiced going by the corner right in front of the store at 40kph against the barriers, and also did a few corners through the worst lines I could find, knowing that I wouldn't always be at liberty to pick the ones I liked best. All seemed do-able.

Finally, it's start time at 1pm. First neutral lap was around 50kph, which made my 40kph warmup corner feel inadequate. After the neutral lap, the straightaway speeds were near 60kph every lap. I was in the last 4 riders, but not feeling overly taxed quite yet. I decided Bob Veroba and Jesse Collins were good guys to stay near, and was generally following them around. I tried to work up a spot or two each lap, and was having fun doing so. It's neat being non-competitive in Cat 2 in a race like this... instead of thinking about any end result, I was enjoying the dynamics of the race at every second. It's fun being in a peloton that fast, and I was feeling solid, ie. I wasn't going to blow up in the next 20 minutes at that pace. Having said that, that pace was completely inadequate for that race!

About 20-25 minutes in, I'm approaching the right hand corner in front of the store, and happen to be once again in the perfect spot to watch a high speed crash. CP Walsh and Cyrus Kangarloo put skin to pavement and go for a nice little slide, I was only inches behind. The thought of braking crossed my mind, but I had no idea who was behind me and how close. So I just tightened up my corner a tad and managed to make it by unscathed, although my heartrate jumped a good 5 beats a minute. I hammered out of the corner with a few quick pedal strokes, then had an epiphany.

Recalling Mckee's BBQ on Friday, where Geoff Clark was sporting his recently broken collar bone, impressive bruising, torn rotator cuff, swollen blue fingers, and whatever else he wrecked... I realized that the upside of me continuing to race was a) more fun, and b) a bottom end of the pack result. The downside could be getting tangled up in one of these crashes and missing TransRockies.

I shoulder checked, coasted over to the side, and abandoned the race. I figure I used up two lucky stars in the last little while between being a close observer of this crash and coming out of the Colorado crit unscathed. As I reported to the officials that I was out, Cyrus was getting his leg wiped clean, and was holding his wrist in pain. Rumor has it he's now wearing a cast, which probably isn't the worst news for a cyclist, but Cyrus is also a XC skier, so that can't be good news for his training regimen.

I think had I not pulled out, I only would have made it another 5 laps or so anyway. The Symmetrics guys were putting on the heat, and broke up the peloton in short order, with Zach Bell eventually lapping the entire field. Rather amazing.

About 3 years ago, I volunteered to be a guinnea pig for a study at the U of C for cycling performance. The group I was in also included Bob Veroba and Zach Bell. Among other things, we did a series of 20km time trials. The girl who sent out our performance data thought she was hiding the confidential data of the other riders, but let's just say she isn't quite as adept with spreadsheets as the average investment banker. Zach's data confirmed that he made the right career choice by sticking with cycling, and that I made the right choice by sticking with the day job. I am (I was?) about 65% of the cyclist he is, mathematically speaking anyway.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Tour de Bowness - Hill Climb

After 140k tempo ride, a short run, then BBQ and houseparty till 12:30, I was feeling a little tired this morning. Mckee was keen on the Tour de Bowness hill climb, so we carpooled over.

The COP hill is 4 minutes of lung searing pain, plus or minus. I was tired signing in, and while every normal racer was warming up sensibly, I had to have a nap in the back of my car.

They group 3 riders at a time into 1 minute intervals for the climb, but my "group" only had one other rider - Cyrus Kangarloo. Yes, we're both Cat 2, but let's be honest, we're not in the same league at all. I stayed within a few meters of him to turn 2, then had to race "my" race. If I wanted to explode half way in, I probably could make it two minutes with him. People cheer from the side, some even say "go Erik". I appreciate it, but I don't have the slightest idea who they were, total whiteout set in at about the two minute mark. It was all I could do just to see the turns in the road.

When all was said and done, I couldn't even see Cyrus finish. He came in at 3:31 which was good enough for 5th. I was 4:07 which was 4th last in Cat 2, but actually I don't feel bad about it. I'm actually happy with that result I'd say. I suspect there's a chance I could break 4 minutes with a proper race taper... or even 2 fewer glasses of wine and 2 fewer beers last night. It took about 10 minutes of spinning to get the lactate overload feeling out of my system, I've got the seared lung cough going now still 2.5 hours later. Really wish my SRM was back from getting batteries so I could have recorded it, there's no way I can do a 4 minute interval that hard without it being a race.

Mckee's time was a hair slower, but we're talking seconds. Looks like we're shaping up to be very equal partners, which is nice.

Mical won the women's overall. Super happy for her, she's had a great season so far, and knows how to turn up the suffering on these short bursts.

Criterium is tomorrow, where Bakke can have his ass handed to him by the Symmetrics guys whose quads are twice the size of mine. Maybe I can be a take solace in the fact that the $300 first prize looks like a tough way to make a living ; )

Super Saturday

I weighed off a bunch of ride options for Saturday, and opted for the most convenient. Matt Joss was doing a longer ride from home, so he dropped by my place at 7:45 to pick me up. Rode down 37th ave south of 22x on some beautiful roads, making our way to Millarville with a group of about 10 riders. I actually felt pretty cruddy to start, I'm sure that had something to do with the 3 couple "CCS team" dinner at Sugo, and my indulgence in the wine.

Past Millarville, it got down to just Matt and I riding together, and it was a well paced tempo ride that I think both of us felt really positive about in terms of pacing and quality training. We stopped in Bragg and waited for a few other guys, and paid for our little bits of joy at Cinnamon Spoon... bagels and coffee. The tithe of the cycling religion.

The coffee kicked in and we set solid tempo home, in the midst of our joy we ended up dropping everyone else. Oh well, felt good.

The kicker for the day was that Matt talked me into "running off the bike" as any tri guy might be inclined to do. I did run a little in Colorado (ie once for an hour) but it certainly didn't have a 140k tempo ride as a warmup.

I suvived, it actually felt good and made some sense for TR training. After a little nap it was over to Mckee's to gorge on BBQ, then to Josh's housewarming for a few drinks. Stretched that out a bit late and got dropped off at home after midnight.

Friday afternoon ride

It should have happened much more frequently during the season, but I'll take what I can get. Mckee and I did a nice ride Friday afternoon, on the shorter end of the spectrum, but pretty good intensity. We worked together well, and seem to be riding at a similar strength level. Smiles all around!