This past weekend I got a second chance to complete the Squamish Test of Metal. This 67km epic mountain bike race has been running for at least 15 years and the 1000 spots sell out in about 20 minutes every year.
After learning that the Kusam Klimb had been cancelled early last week, I decided to make use of my TOM entry that I registered for back on January 1st. Not trained and not mentally prepared for the Test, but thinking it would be the best way to keep me off of my feet and out of trouble while my foot continued to heal, on Thursday I made the call to head to Squamish for the race.
Talk about switching gears mentally! Run run run...BIKE! And so, I lubed up my chain, checked my tire pressure and loaded up my bike on Friday to sail over to Squamish.
I got a bonus visit in with my buddies Allie and Darcy in Squamish and Darc was also racing for the first time in the Test. We had a fun visit and it was SO awesome to see my bud complete his first Test and his first EVER race of any kind! Darcy rocked it and I know he will be back for more...
Race morning we woke up to a steady spring rain and by 9am the deck was a pool of splashing raindrops. Nice. No shortage of mud on the trails today.
We made a quick visit to the local bikeshop for some extra fuel (always looking for the margarita flavor of Cliffe Shot Blocks which sell out everywhere and have 3 times the salt) and last minute items. Some local knowledge gave us a great idea to pick up a super light weight mud fender for the bottom tube to keep the mud-in-the-mouth-beaver-fever-issue to a minimum. Ended up being the best secret weapon ever! Thanks local guy!
The rain stopped just as we were getting warmed up and that is always a nice mental bonus:) I learned alot last year in my first Test and this year I was WAY more relaxed and less freaked out about the whole racing with 900+ other people thing.
In the mass start I moved up a bit to the back of the 3:45 to get in with racers who were of a similar climbing ability and avoid having to pass a hundred people on the uphills. I also learned to squeeze into the side of the chute rather than leave my bike right in the middle of the chaos and have to climb over and under metal and people to get to my bike.
My goal was to use the race to cross-train and get a good long workout in while giving my foot some time to rest. Same as last year, I planned to keep my heart rate in check, keep the intensity moderate and avoid any cramping, bonking or crashes. It worked out and I felt great the whole time.
Up Up Up for the first 15 minutes the climb was great and I was in a better position heading into the single track. Still the same rush hour traffic type of scene in the trails as last year but everyone was super mellow and calm about being tire to tire and waited patiently in their spots in the line. I was WAY more relaxed about being in a big pack/race line this year and I was able to just play and enjoy the ride this time.
Many unlucky racers lined the first bumpy section of trail and I saw at least 20 dudes fixing their flats and mechanicals in the first 20 minutes. Why oh why do you big boys run such light weight tires/tubes?
Cliffe and Rob's corners were a highlight on the first leg and I couldn't help but let out a few whoohooos on the way down. Best idea for a trail: series of swooping turns and banked corners that go for a mile under the power lines. Thanks to Cliffe and Rob who ever you are!
Out of the single track and onto the road for a haul up past the university, through the feed zone then to the base of 9 mile hill.
Passed and got passed by a few racers on this section, loaded up on eload to keep hydrated and avoid cramping. Went in to my 'bento box' / 'bike purse' for my anti-cramp Cliffe Blocks only to find that both packs (4 servings) had escaped and bounced right out of a little opening in the box!! Noooooo! All I had left was 1 gel and 1 homemade 'sarahbar' (eat more flavor:).
Luckily my friend Allie was waiting in the feedzone and she had another 'sarahbar' for me as well as a swap for my empty water bottle. That would be enough to get me up 9 mile hill and back to the feedzone in about 1.25 hours.
9 mile hill...just a long, boring, gravel road climb. Would have loved to have my tunes for that hill this year. Instead I chatted with other racers while climbing past them, pushed my pedals around and around and endured the painful sounds of an iPod listening-but can't hear myself singing-racer who was nearby on the hill and belting out Tom Jones. Lot's of motivation to keep the pace up and keep picking off the boys one by one...
As I cruised along I was thinking it was good to be a girl or at least have a good leg strength : to body weight ratio for these big climbs...
I also remember thinking: 'where are all the other girls at?". I had only seen 1 woman and I was 2.5hours into the race. Crazy.
At the top of the road we got into an old quad track for some MORE climbing but this time it was a bit more interesting/technical so the time flew by. Before I knew it I was at the top after climbing for just under 1 hour. Exact same time as last year to this point on the course 2:45!
I am a climber not a descender and my fun was over when the hill changed directions. Time to hold on for the ride as I rattled and banged my way down the Ring Creek Rip. Not my favorite part of the race but at least I could hang on and rip it -I just let my bike go and it found its way to the bottom of that mess. It is an old logging road, rutted out like a river bed and filled with mini-boulders of all shapes and sizes. I took note of the first aid crew strategically placed on this section of trail and tried to put them out of my mind.
More sad racers with broken bike bits bordered this trail and I was thankful for being a girl again at this point...light body weight also has an advantage when placed on tires and tubes and bike bits...
Shaken from the vibrations that all 4 inches of my huge front suspension passed onto my body I pedaled my way to the infamous Powerhouse Plunge trail. My nemesis. This trail is a gnarly mess of sharp rocks at random angles, tight switchbacks and mini-drops that require speed, agility, balls and finesse to stay on top of the chaos and get any flow. I, sadly do not have any of these things going downhill.
And so, the dejavu began as I hopped on and off my bike to allow more skilled riders to pass. Sometimes I just ran the trail with my bike until riders came up behind me. It was faster to run than to get on and off every few seconds actually. I have heard of some riders that just get off and run their bikes down the entire trail to the end. If I don't get back to Squamish to ride that trail in a non-race environment then I might just try that strategy next race:)
I was inspired by the girls and kids (the 12 year old passed me on this section again) who rocked this trail and passed me by...
That trail is tough on the ego for sure- it is really only about 15 minutes of trail but it is the most demoralizing for me! Time to pull up my socks and get back to work on the final 30 minutes of the race. I popped out in the feedzone at the same time as last year 3:30 and grabbed one more energy bar for the final leg along with some salty pretzels and guzzled another bottle of eload.
Back into the single track I was suprised to find myself in another rush hour line up on the final leg of the race and I was stuck behind hard working but quickly burning out racers. These racers were slooooowing down and dragging me down with them when I wanted to rip it up! I was feeling amazing and had a tonne of energy left as I had been taking it easy during the race. Many had passed me on the downhill and now I had to figure out how to get by them in the Farside/Crumpet woods. A couple of uphill sections tossed the tired racers off their bikes and I was able to sneak by and pop out on the road a bit further ahead.
I had way too much energy left and stood up on the pedals to make a full on sprint to the finish - completely obnoxious but having a great time I passed a few more racers including a few girls before coming into the finish chute...only to get the same finish time as last year! Within a minute...how is that even possible over 67kms and one year?
4hours and 5 minutes and 4th place in my category was a bonus - If only I hadn't just had my birthday I would have snagged 1st place in my age category!
I reached my goal of feeling good, taking it easy and finishing in one cramp-free piece. I didn't feel my foot at all and I felt like I could have completed the race again at the finish. The same finish time as last year? Not bad, considering I didn't train for this race! My longest ride was about 2hours with my buddies about 4-6 weeks ago so I will take it!
Good times. If you want to step up your riding I definitely recommend that you try and enter this race for 2012. Very well organized, amazing volunteers and community support that you will not see anywhere else! The locals cheer you on and make you feel like you can do anything! Thank you Squamish!
I finally took off the arch support tape job that my physio put on me last Monday and I am cautiously optomistic that I will be able to ramp up my running mileage again this weekend...until that happens, stay tuned for more deets on my races for July...