There is no easy way to do a 24 solo, but there are ways of making it not so cushy. But nothing takes away the fact that you still have to ride for 24 hours wether your organised or not. And this year Canmore pulled off the surprises again with the weather, the course and riders from far flung places. This to add the difficulty of overseas endurance racing on a tight budget.
In the week leading up to the big days Canmore remained bathed in beautiful summer weather in the under of the sheer faces that enclose the wide Bow Valley. It was quite evident that everyone but me wished for this to continue. Last year the rain had brought the race my way and a repeat was on my wish list. Forecasting here is as hard as it gets with thousands of mountains and valleys disturbing the pattens, reflected in the vast array of predictions for the race weekend.
The hard days arrived after the usual last minute rushes. The temperature was way past 30 before noon, and shade was hard to come by. Andrea, my support crew, and I did our best to stay cool while setting things in place for the long times ahead.
Andrea was new to this but has been around and involved in 24 hour and mountain bike races for a while. Pre-race she had the whole site set up and very organised, well on top of the challenge that is being a support crew.
After much mucking around we were called to the start line and ready for one of the worst parts of a 24 hour race, a run to your bikes. Bike shoes were never meant to be walked far in, let alone run in. But run we did, over fist sized rocks up and down some not so small hills before really starting.
I had tried to counter my 73 rank by edging my way up towards the start line after we were called up, no one did notice or really mind. My fellow under 25 riders had much lower numbers and losing touch early on is not a good way to start even with 24 hours to make it up.
I managed to get towards the front in the run. But that was the end of the good charm. I grabbed my first bike only to discover that the front tire was almost running on empty. By the time I realised this was going to be a real problem it was unfeasible to turn back and grab my second bike. I began tearing my spear tube from my frame and looked for a good spot to do a quick change.
The first real climb, I stopped and ripped into the repair work as the riders streamed past. The stress was enormous as I lost time hand over fist, dousing my plans to make an early break to get a good run on the long single track sections. So I made a real hash of getting a tube in, flinging tubeless sealant across every surrounding surface. The tire bead would not stay and still the riders flew past and my patience went with them.
At last I tried the CO2 I had to get me on my way. But not on your life, it didn’t work, from bad to worse. The only thing left to do was to take advantage of the rules and leave the course and tear back into the pits and return to the course on my second bike.
By this time obviously I was vast minutes behind everyone and didn’t have long till the team riders would be on my case too. I turned the hurt on full and started to reel in the other solos. By the time the dingle track was served I was well into the business of passing.
I always endeavour to pass with courtesy and care, when dealing with solo riders this is needed in spades. So I picked my way through the crowds still loosing buckets of time to the leaders for the next two laps, but not getting off side with the throngs of few racers.
From here on I was out to salvage what I could with plenty of time on the clock. But like everyone else I was trying to deal with was the relentless sun. A lot of the course was indeed in a forest but there were sections, particularly climbs that were exposed and horrendous.
Cramp was setting up camp at the top of the long steep climbs, adding to the pain of the acid that was already in the background. I pedalled though the worst parts while grinding the enamel off my teeth. It seemed to continue despite the copious amounts of electrolytes I was chugging every hour.
Eating is always a bit of a mission on these races, as well as being of the utmost importance. This occasion I was struggling with the solid stuff and ran most of the race on fluid or gels. I could not handle the bars and pizza till very late in the race. More on the consequences of this later.
Meanwhile I was steadily climbing up the leader board and was eyeing up the age group lead. This was helped no end by the sight of clouds enveloping there way up the valley. Up until now I had only my imagination to keep me cool.
I had tried to pretend that I was not being roasted alive as I willed my way up the mountain, but was in fact far under water and the currents were moving the trees, not the wind. But the storms making a b-line for the Nordic Centre brought some reality to this synchro.
It was a little bit of dejavu as last year a thunderstorms had turned the race into a mud fest and I loved it. But the clouds this time had little to give. A light shower and a massive drop in temperature from 36 to 18 was all we got, but still everyone was grateful.
So I could stop biding my time and get on with the racing. Soon I took the lead under 25 and crept up the overall leader board again. Still no hope of catching the overall leaders, my nightmare start had put pains to that.
The night came on slow and late. The sky was still light at near midnight. I slipped into my night groove and got some consistent laps in. But the brutal course was giving me grief. And I was starting to feel that I need solid food. I asked Andrea if I could have some but not ‘those bars’.
As a change from last year the course now had a lot more technical single track. Being high summer it was very dry and so the course tore up with the hundreds of solo and team riders doing their best to get through it as fast as they could. This took a tremendous toll on all the upper bodies torturing them self’s out there.
I had been spending most of my time on my shorter travel bike as it was familiar, but now I was leaning towards the longer travel, new, brand new in fact, Niner Rip. Which ate the rough sections with ease, giving me more time to relax and save myself for the steep pitches strewn about the lap.
As the hours became a little more reasonable I did not. A feeling of severe motion sickness was coming on and I spent the good part of one of the fast downhills dry wrenching, I didn’t slow down but it was far from pleasant.
I got down some pizza and warm water and pressed on. The situation failed to pass and things were not looking up for my bike either. Some air had departed from my front tire for what reason I am not sure but it was left with less than 10psi. I was about the furthest point from the pits and with no way of inflating it, so gingerly nursed it along. A technical descent proved my undoing though, as the tire popped off and sent me into the dirt.
After the post-crash check I started to walk my bike to the next check point. Thanks to a kind fellow racer I acquired a pump which I then handed to a guy manning the check point and asked him if he could change my tube. Seeing my state he obliged.
This however was not the end of my woes. I thanked everyone there by throwing up all over the place. I took my leave and tried to make the secondary pit area.
After a grovel I turned up at the second pit area in a bad way. I sat down and things got worse. I could feel my body giving me notice and walking out the door, shivering despite feeling warm, nausea and with an inability to eat or drink anything. Words dropped out of my mouth and the medics were called.
After a brief examination they took me to their base in the nearby building and told me I was unlikely and not recommend rejoining the action. In my state I could not argue or process the ramifications.
A full hour later I had pleased them by being able to eat half a piece of toast and only felt like rejecting it multiple times. Then I feel asleep, my race was shot.
I woke some time later with the race still carrying on with out me. I convinced the medic I would be fine and managed to get out the door. After it shut behind me I immediately had to hold on to something as another wave of nausea overcame me.
I made it to my pit and met Andrea. I tried to clean myself up a bit, had a shower and changed clothes. All the while trying to eat anything that I thought might stay down, chips mainly.
Because of race rules I had not officially finished until I completed a lap after 11am and before 1pm. So if I wanted to set my second place in concrete I would have to finish the lap I started many hours ago.
Much debate was had, but in the end I decided to put it in stone and finish the lap.
It proved to be quite an undertaking. Dry wrenching and feeling sick the whole time as Andrea helped me walk my way around the seemingly endless course. But finally I glided down the final hill and walked across the line.
Straight out hard race, that started and finished as I shouldn’t have. But time to look forward to it being a little easier in Australia next year.
Big Thanks to:
Andrea (fantastic support)
Everyone who followed the race
Waiariki Academy of Sport
Powered by Velvet
Ay Up Lights
Forte Body Reconditioning
Bike Vegas Rotorua
Andrew and the guys at Bicycle Café (Canmore)
Kara Gainsford, Hamish Smith, Gregg Brown and The Pig and Whistle for running my fundraiser.
iRule Sports wear
Mountain bikers and people of Rotorua (particularly those who came to my fundraiser)
The many Wineries that donated for my fundraiser
Mum and Dad