The very first stage of the first day was quite a wake up call for me. I fully expected the Trans BC to be hard. Megan had sent emails detailing the 4-5,000 feet of climbing and upwards of 6,000 feet of descending we would be doing each day. But for some reason, I figured the trails would be intermediate to advanced as far as how technically demanding they might be. How could she expect us to be on our A-game for 6-8 hours each day, 6 days in a row?
The first few turns on course were steep, off camber switchbacks in a freshly cut hiking trail. I came in hot and tipped right over. Luckily, the loam wasn’t too different from riding a fat bike in snow and I was able to sort of figure it out. I still managed to have 2 more crashes in that first stage, including an over-thebars that sent me way off trail (thanks for being so soft, loam!).
At the bottom of that first stage, I learned that Sonya Looney, one of the females that I was betting on to podium, had flatted at the top and had made the decision to run most of that stage. I learned quickly that I needed to toughen up if I was going to survive this week-long race.
Penticton wins the prize for my favorite trails of the Trans BC. Exposed, sharp, rocky cliff bands with blind drops and ledges are my sauce. I was having a blast. We had been forewarned that at least 25% of us would have a flat on day 2. I had planned to put on a second Vittoria Morsa with a DH casing to match the one I had on my front wheel. Out of laziness, I decided to increase the air pressure instead of swapping to a fresher, burlier tire. I was relishing in my wisdom as I dropped into stage 6 of 7 towards the end of the long day. After just a couple of fun, over-aggressive drops and pumps, I felt sudden sluggishness from the back end. I stopped to check and although not an epic blow-out (multiple racers had ripped off knobs and created large holes in their sidewalls in Penticton), my tire had gone entirely flat. I quickly pulled off the trail and tried to isolate where the tire had punctured or torn. No luck. Maybe it was too flat to tell where the repair was needed or maybe it had already sealed and I just needed to fill it back up. So I added a CO2 cartridge … or tried to. No air would go in and the CO2 was quickly spent. So I tried another. And then I was out of options and I elected to start running the trail. Sonya, who was sympathetic as she sped by, quickly passed me. Long story short, the flat was in the bead of the tire, and un-repairable. I was able to throw a tube in after running a kilometer or 2 to the kindest trail marshal in the world (thanks Tara!), and rode the rest of the stage without issue.
In crystal clear hindsight, I should have put that heavier tire on. I was pretty sour to have lost about 18 minutes to my competitors and finished in last place on day 2. Lesson learned. Laziness never pays off.
Rossland, BC is a beautiful area. We started the day on the Seven Summits trail system and finished on an old school DH trail at Red Mountain Resort. I felt in my element again, but minus a competitive agenda. I knew there was no way to make a comeback from my 18ish minute flat tire time loss. So I elected to ride in a “lady train." Some other fun-loving ladyshredders and I elected to join forces and to drop into stages in rapid succession. This led to giggles and a little bit of friendly banter on course. Naturally, it also led to less painful transitions. This equals more fun.
By the end of the day, I was struggling to hold on to the bars; forearm fatigue/arm pump was setting in and it would not let up for the rest of the race. Luckily, we had luxurious trailside condo at Red Mountain Resort, complete with hot tub to recover in. Trans BC was treating us right. But you can never do too many pull ups to prepare for an event like this.
I loved this day of racing. It was a mixture of “well built” trail and scary, what-the-heck-am-I-doing-here trail. Stage 4, “Flume” was easily the most technically demanding trail of the day and my personal favorite. The name of the trail, “Flume,” is particularly ironic to me because the Flumes trails up here in Breckenridge are super buff, beginner friendly paths.
At the top of this particular stage, I was reminded of a valuable lesson; sometimes you ought not to look before you leap. The start of the stage was a mess of nervous women when I arrived. The overwhelming theme was, “I’m just gonna run this section, cyclocross-style.” The competitive side of my brain felt it prudent to be the chic that cleaned it. The rational side of my brain was telling me how starting the trail on foot instead of wheels down, was starting it off on the wrong foot. All signs pointed to “ride it!” Luckily I got to watch Meggie Bichard, Mical Dyck and Karey Watanabe (in her highly fashionable running shorts) all polish the section clean, inspire confidence in me. The rest of the stage went well despite a light rain. All in all, it was a really good day and I finished in 5th place.
Racing blind may be a strength of mine. Some of my greatest moments of technical skill have occurred on trails that were unknown to me. I think there is something to be said for not pre-riding and working myself into a tizzy about a particular feature or section of trail.
It was our first day in Nelson and I knew I would do great things. Despite driving in a steady downpour from Rossland, I managed to remain optimistic. After all, this was my 5th day riding wet trail conditions and I was doing great. And my legs felt less fatigued than they had the previous day.
As we stepped off our yellow school bus, I got some insider information from one of the course marshals that all of the wooden features on stage 1, “Powerslave,” were rollable and appeared faster than the go-arounds. I felt confident and inspired to do great things. The top of the stage was truncated on account of the soaking rain, which only acted to further inflate my hubris. Eventually, I had to come down from the imaginary podium I had built for myself.
I hit the first wet, wooden feature and it was a steep one. Up and over I went, maybe a little slow, but I managed to clear it without having to pedal, brake or turn (which are pretty important steps when you are navigating greasy, wet rainbow arches). Upon exiting the feature, I hit the brakes on some slimy roots/rocks, and I sent myself flying. Hard. Head first into a tree. But the searing pain was coming from my leg (which turned out to just be a deep bruise). Suddenly I was a 4 year old, cold wet and hurt, just learning my way through the world. I had no idea how to ride a bike, let alone a mountain bike. On high speed, super techy, scarier than the boogie-man trails, I was completely lost and full of self-doubt.
At the bottom of the stage, tears welled up in my eyes. I felt fatigued. Defeated. I contemplated quitting as we transferred to the next stage. I couldn’t pedal without great pain stabbing me in my right thigh. What was I doing here? This went on for the remainder of the day.
We awoke to more rain. And we were still in Nelson, so I planned to have a real rough final day. I was pleasantly surprised to experience less pain in the bruised banana of a thigh that was attached to my right hip. So maybe I would make it through. The first stage was not my finest work; and I did a lot of walking next to my bike and a good bit of soul searching.
On stage 2, I rode another lady train, this time, I was the chosen caboose. Somehow I was able to stay on the bike and things started to feel fun again. Halfway through "Swamp Donkey," the hail started. At the bottom of the stage there was a campfire and tents with bacon sizzling and whiskey begging to be tipped back in the rain. High fives and spirits soared when, just as suddenly as this bought of rain came, the sun came out and steam started to rise from all of our saturated bodies.
Stage 3 was fun. I rode my bike as best as I could. I rode fast, even though my arms were pumped, hands were numb and legs were bruised and battered. And my spirits soared. Riding bikes is the bees knees. Even when it breaks my character one day, another day it can turn everything around.
So many thanks to Megan, Ted and all of the Trans BC crew. Thank you to Tara, MK, Beth, Kathleen and the countless volunteers who were out there shivering and smiling everyday. And thanks to everyone who came to race. See you next year!