July 26-27th: Question, what’s the best thing to get the adrenalin of an endurance racer going before a big event? Let’s make it easy with a multiple choice selection, fingers on the buzzers, is it…
A) a potent mix of carbs and caffeine
B) cranking the I-pod to max with your latest blend of take on the world tunes
C) spotting fresh bear prints as you take your final ‘nature stop’ before lining up for the start
Having tried A and B, I can now safely reveal that the answer is C. Nothing gets the heart beating faster than new bear prints in the mud I can tell you!
Putting that to the back of my mind and trying to concentrate on the epic 24 hours ahead it was time to do battle with myself and the Rockies. The weather was perfect, mid 20’s, blue sky and little wind. If anything it was a touch on the warm side but being a rider that is solar powered I was certainly not complaining.
The first lap dropped down into Canmore to give the residents a sneak peak at what was happening at the Nordic Centre. It was a very cool idea and the crowds cheering on the course were huge. It also gave a chance to spread the riders out instead of heading straight in to singletrack for the first time. This meant you could actually ride full bore without waiting in the technical sections at the start of the lap proper.
I managed to get a good start and got my legs going at a pace I was comfortable with, the first lap passed and I felt relieved that it had gone well, no crashes, and I’d found my place in the race.
The forecast looked positive but being in the mountains it can change quickly and after about 4 hours it certainly did change. Huge black clouds rolled in and the wind picked up. It was looking nasty, especially being dressed in full summer kit (without even an under vest for a little extra protection). I was about 20 minutes from the pit when the storm hit home. Thunder and lighting abused the riders and course, not to mention the pit area which was ripped apart within seconds. It was impossible to tell how long it would last. So, on my next pit stop I put on a long sleeve base layer and jersey, leg warmers, long finger gloves, rain cape and waterproof over shoes. I still felt under dressed for the conditions but at least I had some wet weather gear on now.
Within 20 minutes the storm had passed and blue sky had returned, the course was completely different now with little traction and treacherous technical sections. It’s pretty funny really, at the start there were only a couple of puddles that hadn’t dried up. Riders were making sure they strategically dodged these to avoid getting wet and muddy. If only we could have seen what we were in for!
Although it doesn’t get dark until about 10.00pm the nights are long. Sunrise isn’t until 6.00am, and that’s only if the sun actually decides to come out to play!
After the first storm, as the light dwindled, I was informed on my next pit that it was clear now until around 9.00am the following morning. Although the course was made even harder due to the conditions, it was somewhat comforting that it had passed, or so we thought. How wrong can you be? Within half an hour I had an un-nerving sense of déjàvu. It was back with a vengeance and looking to drain solo riders’ reserves as quickly as possible with no respite.
The night lasted forever. Remember the last time you were caught out on your bike in a storm? Suddenly that half hour in the rain back home to a warm shower just can’t come fast enough, but still it seems to feel like hours. Now imagine being about 11 hours in on the race with the prospect of riding for another 13 hours, through the night, thunder and lighting, rain, wind, grit, mud. How do you feel? Now times it by 100. You’re getting somewhere close to how it was in reality now.
When the morning finally arrived it was like heaven was opening up above Canmore. Towards the end of the night you could see the moon and stars brightly shining. It was a clear sky above, at last! The morning was beautiful.
Now with only 6 hours to go I was on the home stretch. The course was still incredibly muddy and dangerous and there was no chance of it drying out before midday. I was still feeling good and holding my own, although in reality by this time it’s all about a battle with yourself more than anything else.
My penultimate lap was the worst of the entire race. Mid way around I felt terrible. There was nothing I could do but coast around until the nauseas feeling was under control.
I wanted to get another lap in before the time cut at 1.00pm but feeling like I was I said to my pit that it’s anyone’s guess how long it will take if I have another full lap feeling like I was. One to go. Come on man this is the Worlds. I gave myself a mental dressing down as I left the pit. One to go.
Incredibly, on that final lap, I actually felt strong. Pushing the big ring on sections I hadn’t done so on for laps. The technical parts were still really hard to ride but I was surprised by my final lap time, and so were my pit by their comments as I arrived back at the finish some half hour earlier than planned and in 2nd place in the 25-29 age category.
A lifetime of emotions in just one day. The 24 Hours of Adrenalin Solo World Championships in Canmore had everything. Without doubt you got a whole lot of race action for your money and a whole lot of memories to keep for the rest of your life.
Respect to the main man Stuart Dorland and above all respect to my pit crew, the real hero’s at the Adrenalin!
Cotty’s Final Wild Animal Report:
– Bear sightings = 0. Sadly no sightings (just fresh bear prints found during pre race nature stop)
– Suicide Squirrel’s: Too many! Pesky things are taking over this town!
– Mice: Loads during the night and they nearly got squished by a fast moving Cannondale!
– Elk: x 2. Spotted at dawn 18 hours in to the race (and no I wasn’t hallucinating….at that point)