Friday, April 24, 2009

Better Late than Never – Tim’s XC8 2008 Report

Last fall I rode in my first ever Mountain bike Endurance event. XC8 - 8 hours of mountain biking over an 11 kilometer course of some of the nicest singletrack I’ve ever ridden. Well, at least in this province, anyway.

It was actually the third mountain bike race I’ve ever been in. The last one was about four years ago – the year I got the 1FG - I rode the Bruce’s Silverwood Classic in Saskatoon. Before that, probably another four years, I did a race at Blackstrap Provincial Park on the Super-V. To tell you the truth it’d probably been two years (or more) since I’ve done ANY trail riding at all. In fact, until mid-August, the 1FG had been hanging in the garage for over a year in a un-rideable state of disrepair!?

So why on earth would I sign up for such an event…!? I don’t know…. Something about ultra-endurance cycling events have always fascinated me. Somehow I imagined that a whole different type of endurance would be required – beyond just the physical – a special sort of determination or stubbornness. I may not be fast, but I am a stubborn bastard, so I thought I might be more suited to this sort of event. Stubborn, but not deluded! I had no delusions about winning or actually even doing “well”. But I figured I could ride for eight hours and finish.

I particularly like the idea of the 8/24 races – where you are simply trying to do as many laps around a course in the given amount of time - as all the participants finish at about the same time. With a randonee or a marathon mountain bike race of sixty or eighty or however many kilometers there will be people finishing HOURS ahead of some other riders… so either the leaders could potentially get bored waiting around for everyone to finish… or the later riders miss the wind-up/Awards and prized ceremonies, etc…

So I’ve wanted to participate in one for some time. I’d really like to do a 24-hour event at some point. Every year there’s been an 8 hour event in Saskatchewan I’ve though about doing it, but it just never seemed to work out – didn’t have the time or money or whatever, or more recently had kids! This year I just decided it would be the one thing I do (and then maybe some ‘cross races…). It would be my one weekend of vacation – away from it all…

I just about had to abandon my plans about a week before when a nasty infection I’d had earlier in the year brought my “training” (if you could call I that..) to an abrupt halt. Luckily I caught it a bit earlier than last time and was able to “nip it in the bud”, so to speak, and not require a second round of emergency surgery! Everything was more or less cleared up just in time for the race.

I seem to recall it was threatening to rain all weekend. There might have even been weather warnings on Environment Canada’s weather website. In the end it was almost perfect weather for the event not too hot, not to cold.

I pre-rode the course Friday evening in the fading light. There wasn’t a whole lot of flat. It seemed to either be going up or down at all times. The park is beautiful and has some really great trails. I think the course was about 11km…

On the day I rode for the full eight hours (well, stopping each lap to have a bit of a break – load up some more liquids, eat a PB&J sandwich, etc…). I completed five lapsand I wasn’t dead f@#king last…


As the last finishing singlespeeder, however, the smart-arse organizers had a special prize to award me – a rear derailleur and shifter. Thanks a lot…

I was pretty damn tired afterwards. Not so tired that I couldn’t’ drive the rental car most of the way home. I also wasn’t quite a sore as I thought I might be the next day. One thing I noticed about riding a mountain bike for a long period of time versus a long road ride is that I wasn’t nearly so sore at the end of eight hours on the mountain bike as I sometimes am at the end of a four hour ride out on road. This is probably because the whole body is constantly moving and shifting to keep rolling over the ever changing terrain – whereas out ont eh road things get stiff and sore from being held in the same position for hours on end while only the legs spin. Of course I also took a bit of a break every hour and a half when I finished a lap – something I never do out on the road…

Here’s a few pics of the event. I carried my camera along with me during the pre-ride and the first three or four laps and stopped every once in a while to take a pic (catch my breath…). Amanda also had her camera. When I went to download them iphoto told me there was 127 pictures to download. “WOW!” thought I, “There’s sure to be a few good pics there!?” As it turned out about one hundred of those pics were of our new dog, Ollie, twenty were of the surrounding countryside, and about seven were of the start/finish area…

Well, anyway, here’s a couple of pics from the big adventure.

(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)

This, along with the next few, I took on my pre-ride the Friday evening. It’s a beautiful area to ride.

Lots of nicely groomed trails.

This stump reminded me of paintings by Ernest Lindner

Despite the area surrounding being quite flat there were some incredible climbs and descents.

A rock… hmmmm … Looked cooler on the day…

The network of little valleys just goes on and on…

The “Le Mans Start”. I'm at the back somewhere, walking. My plan was to let everyone go ahead of me so I could ride alone and not worry about passing and being passed. I was "pacing myself" so I could ride all day...

It worked out for most of the first lap I pretty much rode alone. Moments after I passed through the start finish area after my first lap the race leader powered through, having just completed his second lap!! After that there was a steady flow of people passing me... Though 11km is a long course and people got pretty spread out. So most of the day I rode alone.

On the first lap I caught up with someone that had snapped their chain - likely shifting under load. I don't think she even knew what a chain tool was, let alone how to use one so I stopped and fixed her chain for her.

Me, grabbing my bike and not looking forward to that first big climb.

One of many nasty climbs. I wonder if the race leaders actually rode up these… or did they RUN!

The camp site and the start finish area in the distance. Off to the left is the start of the big nasty climb.

Finishing my first lap… about five seconds before the race leader came through, finishing his second!

A person I knew climbing up behind me slowly enough that I was able to get my camera out – Susan Clarke!

Ugh… that climb… Of the pictures Amanda took of me half of them were just like this looking at my ass climbing that first big hill.

Yeah, that chick’s riding a cyclocross bike. I could only have been more impressed if it had been a SINGLE-SPEED cyclocross bike. Just goes to show – you don’t need suspension if you have the SKILLZ!!!

That’s the race leader he lapped me every time I was in the Start/Finish area…. Except the last time, he caught me just after the big climb. In the end he did nearly twice as many laps as me (NINE!!)

Tori “the Bee” Fahey– buzzing past me in the Start/Finish area. Also the author of the observatori blog.

The Duck

Since she took so damn many pictures of the dog I thought I better include one or two…

So, this is Ollie. He is dumber than he looks.

It was definitely a whole lot of fun. Would I do it again? For Sure! Well… some day… probably not this year – I’m on a bit of a budget. That’s really the only reason I wouldn’t go – Car rental, gas, food, race license, entry fee… it all adds up.


Anuket said...

The girl on the road bike has more balls than all the guys there put together. I want to shake her hand!

Prairie Voyageur said...

"Just goes to show – you don’t need suspension if you have the SKILLZ!!!"

And strong wrists. I don't think my wrists could handle 8 hours of off-road without suspension.