Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The tortoise and the hare

This weekend I spent most of my time riding to, riding home from, eating post-race burgers at, or racing in the Return of the Ripper. I felt like a visitor is a strange world at the Friday-night prologue, surrounded by tall skinny people skipping up and down the trails on featherweight bikes... pre-race chit-chat about tires, heart rates, and such was floating through the warm (at last!) summer air.  It was good to see some familiar faces from last weekend's NIMBY, the always-friendly (and fast) Kim from Steed Cycles, and a surprise visit from Paul who diverted his road ride to wish me luck. Having accidentally pre-ridden the course while I was trying to find the start line I knew I was in for a very short and very fierce ride. Sprinting for 15 minutes is not really my idea of a good time, and I'm certainly not good at it. I arrived at the tricky climbing section of the Richard Juryn trails out of breath and spent the whole thing slipping around and getting on and off my bike. I enjoy the challenge of these kind of climbs, but trying to race up them is a whole different thing... or is it? Maybe that's where I went wrong. Whatever, with the ritual punishment over I rode back in the evening sunshine, through North Van, over the bridge, and home.

Saturday's XC race promised to be more my style. The weather was great, the trails were tough, and it took about 3 hours (for me at least). I had a great ride/hike and enjoyed riding some familiar and some unfamiliar trails. How the elite racers get around the same course as me an hour faster is a complete mystery to me. I should have eaten some more food.... and probably put some special luminous energy powders in my water, but to be as fast as those folks takes something remarkable I think. Feeling a little humbled by the speed of the elite crowd I rode home and got stuck behind a huge group of folks enjoying the sun and riding over the Second Narrows Bridge. After a minute or so uphill, most of the gang stopped to push up to the top and let me past. It's nice to know where I fit into the cyclist spectrum... somewhere between elite XC racer and afternoon bridge-pootler.

Looks like I'm racing, right?                   Photo from Simon Chester

Last, was the "Super D" race on Sunday. Now that sounds pretty exciting doesn't it? It was. I couldn't face riding all the way from home and back again, plus riding up Mount Seymour... so I resigned myself to driving over to the Shore and "just" riding up the mountain. As luck would have it, some friendly racers picked my up on my climb up the hill so I only rode half way... which to be honest, was a relief. Standing around waiting for my start at the TNT trail, the realization crept in that any ideas I  had about doing well in this were misguided. Apparently there aren't too many people (only 13 in my category) who think the idea of barreling down really tough trails, then up some things, and down some more scary things.... probably clipped-in on the same featherweight bike you just rode a monster race on yesterday... is a good idea. I think it's a great idea (except the featherweight bike part), but unfortunately I'm not as fast as folk like Wade Simmons who I was racing against. Heck, I don't even have a Wikipedia entry about me. You know you've made it when you're in Wikipedia. The start went great... I got down all the steep and slippery stuff on TNT on my bike, fell in a refreshing pile of mud, sprinted up the first hill on Dales, down the next, had a nice smooth run down Severed... and then failed to ride Sticks and Stones in any kind of respectable fashion. S&S is a fun, pedal-y trail and I usually really enjoy it, but it just wasn't coming together. Whacking my pedals into every rock and struggling to clip-in I clattered my way to the end. The finish was a gravel-road sprint, which was hard for my non-racer head to get excited about, but that's what racing is all about right... doing something different to what you would normally. The times the fast guys put in on that course on their XC bikes were again, incredible. I wish I could have watched them on their way down.

The overall results in the King of the Shore category (for those who did all 3 races in the same bike) show me two things. Firstly, the tortoise doesn't win if the hare runs all the way to the finish. Secondly, I'm one of only 25 mountain bikers around here (there must be thousands) who thought spending a weekend getting humbled by these races was a good idea, rather than just going for normal, type-one-fun, ride. Sometimes I like being one of those people... whatever that means.