It feels great when a plan comes together!
Long-time Pedalhead customers and all-round good people, the Graham's, would not stop talking my ear off about how great the relatively new Transrockies hosted Golden MTB race was. "It's a great course, great atmosphere, and you have to do it!" Being one that easily succumbs to peer pressure when it comes to cycling events, it didn't take much swaying, and I found myself clicking 'register' early this season on the 8 hour Solo event in Golden.
As I started setting up goals for the season, I decided to put Golden at the top of the list for events I wanted to have a great race at. So I structured a plan around coming into some form for Golden, including back-to-back endurance race weekends in Edmonton and Canmore in late-May/early-June, and set about a plan to have a race I could be happy with in Golden.
I pulled into Golden a touch too late for a pre-ride, so it was an uneventful evening, spent setting up the pits and enjoying a beer with friends before retiring to my tent for the night, which queued up some flashbacks to many a night spent in a tent pre-bike race in Africa.
On Saturday morning, I hit the start-line with a game plan in mind. Without the chance to pre-ride, I'd done my homework on the course as best as I could, asking as many people as I could what it was like. The lemans mass start meant a brief run, hopping on the bikes, and jumping into the singletrack after a very brief prologue around the block. Singletrack climbing early on meant one thing for a mass-start event with so many racers of so many ability levels - there would be bottlenecks!
I knew I wanted to be within the top 20 of all racers into the singletrack, regardless of if they were on a team or riding solo, to avoid getting caught behind any chaos in the first lap. Doable enough - the tricky part is not burning too many matches and backing off the pace early enough to have some jam for the other 7 hours and 45 minutes of racing.
A runner, I am not, but I did my darndest to hold a decent place in the run. Onto the bikes it was, and I made a few passes on the short 'prologue' before hitting the singletrack. I think I was somewhere in the Top 20, but it was hard to tell. What did matter, is that I was not held up in the singletrack at all on that first lap, which was the goal. Better yet, I felt like I did a good job backing off slightly, bringing my pace down to the level I felt I would be able to hold for 8 hours.
The course was incredibly fun, with flowing ribbons of singletrack, a few technical rocky sections and a whole lot of fun. Somehow, each lap had around 450 meters of elevation, but it felt like less. Well built trails definitely hide the vertical well!
As the race went on, I found myself feeling great. Almost suspiciously great. Legs and lungs were firing on all cylinders, and the laps seemed to fly by, possibly at least partly due to the novelty of having never ridden any of the trails before. And the course was FUN!
After a race in Canmore where I couldn't decide if I was bonking, or just not well, I took extra care to manage my food intake this time around. Skratch electrolyte mix, a couple bottles of protein drink, a few cookies, some Skratch labs energy bars, some homemade rice bars, and Skratch energy chews all made appearances in the pits as I stuffed them rushedly into my pockets in between laps.
I was racing self-supported with no pit crew, so I had no idea where I was placed in the overall standings as the race went on. With so many racers in so many different categories, ranging from 24 hour team racers, 24 hour solo racers, 8 hour team racers, and my category, 8 hour solo racers, it was almost impossible to figure out who was who, and how many were ahead or behind me. I doubled down on focusing on my pace, not too concerned about my positioning. I felt like I was nailing the pace, so it wouldn't matter where I was sitting in the standings - I wasn't about to slow down, but I knew I also couldn't speed up without risking a major explosion before the end of the race.
My lap times stayed consistent, ranging from 1:02 to 1:10 throughout, and as a testament to pacing well, the last lap really was hell, but without a major drop in speed. As I crossed the finish line after 7 hours, 52 minutes and 11 seconds, I had a sneaking suspicion I may have snagged a podium spot.
A quick chat with Pedalhead friends confirmed it - I had finished 2nd!
It really does feel great when a plan comes together, and it felt great to see some of the work at ATHX paying off in some form of endurance. A huge shoutout goes to my trainer, Cam, at ATHX who has kept me pushing to keep up off-bike gains that have paid off exponentially on the bike. It makes a difference, and most importantly, my back isn't killing me a few days after the race as I type this! ;)
It's been a long time since I've ridden such a big day on the mountain bike, and it's surprising how (relatively) decent it felt to ride 102.9 km with 2,956 meters of vertical climbing. Good times in Golden, BC!
This coming weekend is Rundle's Revenge in Canmore. 75 km of awesome Nordic Centre trails. It's always a good week when the weekends are bookended with trips to the mountains.
As always, thanks for reading!