These mountain bike racers are animals.
What a ride! This Saturday I completed the infamous Test of Metal 67km mountain bike race in Squamish. This race has become extremely popular since it opened 15? years ago to the point where it sold out all 800 spots in under 23 minutes on January 1st this year! I was one of the 'lucky' racers to get a spot and after my first experience I am already looking forward to next year!
In summary the race course is made for climbers:). Many hills, lots of fun non-intimidating single track, and only a v. short technical section make this a 'fitness' race for sure. My kind of race!
Race start: 800 peeps anxiously waiting to be let into the 'start chute' where we could 'reserve' our spot based on our anticipated finish time. Suprisingly civil but claustrophobic non-the-less. Once in the chute I left to get my helmet and put my camera away- bad idea! I spent a few minutes tying to figure out how to get back IN to get to my bike! Sardine-like start was a little intimidating to say the least! But I just put out my elbows and claimed my spot and next thing I knew we were out on the highway and spreading out a bit.
First 18 minutes was road riding...up up up through the hilly neighbourhood of Garibaldi Highlands...past hundreds of residents out on the street, in lawnchairs, blasting tunes and spraying us down with sprinklers:))
The pack riding thing was insane! I am not a roadie so I have never experienced anything like this. Powerful but potentially dangerous at the same time! Up we went and my little 'fillie' of a bike just made it seem easy-moved my way up through the pack on the climb. LOVE my bike on the uphills!
Into the trail and it slowed down quite a bit but at least things kept moving along. I had a cable flicking my spokes so I decided to stop and fix it- 20 riders blew right by me! I learned quickly NOT to stop if possible! Crazy!
It was an easy mix of double and single track all the way out to Alice Lake Park and then back to Cliffes corners which is a super fun flowy trail of nonstop corners linked together...no problems, easy non-technical riding. Being paced by other riders as you follow the line of racers...I learned to go harder on the road sections to move up spots before the single track...
Cliffes corners were a riot and then it was back out towards the Quest uni- via a trail I had never been on in MOMARs - 'Mashiter' SUPER fun and a little more technical with some tight corners and steeper descents...all do-able for me and I was stoked to ride this new section cleanly- with the pressure of racers in front, behind, beside AND a tonne of screaming cheering clapping, bell ringing, horn blowing fans lining the descent! Totally nutz for a new bike racer like me!
Dirt roads connected us to the power house plunge and before I knew it I was at the bottom of '9 mile hill'. About 1:45 into the race I settled in for this long infamous climb. It wasn't bad at all! My little bike just whipped up the road and I made some serious forward movement in the pack.
The entire race I kept my heart rate under control, and worked at a moderate intensity pace- no straining. My goal was to pace, keep relaxed, no cramping or injuries and finish feeling good. 9 mile hill was no different than any Sunday ride with my Rat friends! I felt great the whole way up:) And I was treated to a slice of watermelon and a cold shower from the volunteers half way up the climb!
The hill actually continued on AFTER 9 mile hill although no one told me this! Up we went via more technical double track/quad trail...then after an hour of climbing from the bottom of the Mamquam Main I arrived at the true summit! I had filled my water bottle 2 times already and had consumed about 3 litres by 3 hours into the race! That is a tonne for me...but it was a hot day and I was NOT going to cramp.
DOWN hill whooping all the way! Had a great top half- on a new trail for me: Ring Creek Rip. It was more of a quad track than bike trail and I flew down having a blast and staying relaxed.
Then I hit the Plunge and it all went to crap - lol.
I struggle to ride the Powerhouse Plunge everytime I encounter it in a race- I have probably been on it 4 times now and I think I am just as tragic now as I was the first time-maybe even worse on my little XC Anthem! Every single one of those riders that I passed on the hill blew by me as I had to pull over and let them go by in the tens and twenties. Not my bag at all. Not sure what it is about that trail that gets me- but I crumble under the pressure of faster riders on my wheel and bail out to let them go by. I vow to ride that trail cleanly one day - I might have to move to Squamish for the summer to ride it everyday! HA!
After the Plunge it was through another couple of 'undulating' trails called Far Side and S& M Connector that got your quads screaming and your brain swelling:) A 12 YEAR OLD BOY PASSED ME at this point! UNREAL! About 30-45 minutes later I was sprinting to the finish line!
4:06ish and I HUGE smile on my face as I reached my race goal! What a relief! No injuries, cramps, or broken bike bits! I PASSED THE TEST OF METAL!
Huge thank you to the thousands of fans, hundreds of volunteers and fantastic race organizers- I highly recommend this race! I had a fabulous weekend visiting old friends from my fire base in Salmon Arm who now live in Squamish- it was a bonus to see one of them volunteering at the finish line after that long race!
Sunday morning my buddy Darcy and I got up early and ran from his house to the Chief...then up to the top for a spooky summit in the clouds...back down and a great 2hour ROCK (run:walk:trek). Then it was a great big breakfast with friends at Chef Big D's on the maindrag before heading back to the Island on the boat. What a fantastic weekend! I think Squamish could become my home away from home!
Here are the deets if you want pics and results: