24 Hours of Adrenalin, Canmore AB.
There was a full weeks worth of rain leading up to this years 24 Hours of Adrenalin and a weekends forecast calling for a "Rainfall Warning" (up to 100mm). The Canmore Nordic centre venue, "can handle excess rain"; that's what we kept telling ourselves, but it wouldn't make for a comfortable 24 hours of racing.
When Edmonton gets rain, the mud is grease, and at times, makes for almost unridable conditions. On the lower slopes of Rundle Mountain, with its excellent drainage, a little rain is more than manageable and in most instances it cuts down the dust and adds tack to the climbs.
The amount of rain that had fallen prior to this years event, however, made for horrible conditions.
Post Yukon, pre HOA:
My weeks between the Yukon race and the 24HOA were rather crummy. I was lucky enough to get the family virus, and was thrust into a "forced taper" - snot, cough, fever, and a whole lot of blah. I guess I couldn't have timed it any better, considering the effort I put out in the Yukon required some rest.
When I was finally willing to try a spin, post Yukon, I had to get my bike back in order. Spinning my front wheel on the truing stand I found out what 2100km's hanging off the back of a car can do to a carbon wheel. My exhaust pipe had melted my rim! The portion of rim surrounding a nipple (just the epoxy that holds carbon together?), had turned to a semi-liquid state and buckled like your knees after getting kicked in the parts.
A replacement rim was weeks away and other options were few, considering the hub was unique to Rockshox RS fork. There were too many variables with building a new wheel, so the quickest and stress free solution was a new wheel.
A long story short, a new wheel was ordered/shipped to Pedalhead Bicycle Works, and it arrived a day or two prior to us leaving.
As a side note, thanks to it's UST rim profile of the replacement wheel, it instantly held air when I set it up tubeless! Anyone who has tried to set a wheel up to be tubeless, knows this is sometimes an amazing feat.
Setting up camp and race day morning:
We rolled into Canmore on Friday night, through some monster storms. The buzz around the Nordic Centre was electric. And that wasn't so safe considering the amount of standing water and rain that was about the area. We had booked a tent space, right along the race course that is perfectly suited for solo and 2 person teams who want to compete. The rub was, that our asigned tent space was underwater. A quick search and conversation with the grounds manager, and we were put in a space high and dry a little back from the race route.
Evan and I are pretty dialled when it comes to pit set up, especially being fresh off our Yukon race less than a month earlier. The heavy lifting was done Friday night, with the tent being set up, our table and chairs placed, and a sleeping tent raised. We aren't so keen on setting up our pit with tools/stands and mechanic gear so we keep it with us to set up in the morning.
Needing our second dinner, we lowered the tent to its minimum to keep it safe from a freak mountain winds and set off for Canmore for some grub and soon thereafter sleep.
I'm not going to lie, I am pre-race anxious. Having raced the HOA a few times in the past, I know the competition can be fierce and it wreaks havoc on my ability to eat. I couldn't manage to eat much off my plates full of breakfast so I was forced to start grazing for the rest of the pre-race hours so to not go calorie negative.
Arriving at the race, we made short work of the rest of our pit work, and resigned ourselves to our collapsible chairs for some time off our legs. I calmed down once I was up on site, and was able to munch enough to make up for my miserable breakfast.
It's all engines go:
Evan got the nod to start us off. The HOA is a La Mans start, where each racer has to run a few hundred metres to their bikes and then take off down the trail. Evan isn't the runner in this duo, but he can establish himself on the trails and make up spaces through his confidence. He came in from his first lap sharing with me that the course was all ridable and not slick even though muddy - with cold legs, I was off - anxiety gone.
The loop starts with a climb out of the Nordic Centre on wide ski trails and continues up a little bit via double track, and single tracked switchbacks on a trail called "EKG". This isn't great with cold legs, but manageable. The course was in ok shape considering it had rained, was raining, and would rain more. The mud on the route was mostly made of sand, I suspect, because when I'd go in to a section where I'd grab a bit too much brake, my wheel would skid and make a sound similar to skidding on dry dirt. Needless to say, the course was ripe with traction.... at least for that lap.
Vulcanized mud making:
The course didn't stay that nice for long. The rain kept falling and the mud started to rise. Instead of pockets of mud, there were entire trails with mud from start to finish. It was odd though, because as the mud multiplied, it never got slick or greasy (in most sections, there were a couple slick trails) it just got more dense. The earth became something similar to creamy peanut butter, or maybe even.... crunchy.... I guess.
The rain was falling on and off for my first few laps, and my kit was covered in mud. I had only a rear fender and it wasn't far enough back over the wheel, so my back was covered in spackle. So too were my legs, chest and oft face, because that same Rockshox fork wasn't compatible with a fender that I could find. I was reduced to wearing a good portion of the trail during every lap.
I felt so sluggish from my 2nd lap on. (In retrospect, I know it was the build up of mud on the trails because seeing my lap times, I was consistent) We weren't where we wanted to be in the standings after the first few laps, and the mud was taking its toll on my lap times.
We rode most the race in 3rd place. The 1st place team going into Saturday evening, was blasting out some fast laps. If those times were to continue, we'd have to write off the top step. 2nd place was racing a consistent race, showing little variations in lap times even as the conditions worsened. Evan and I, however, were almost going backwards.
I was feeling off. Not tired or bonking, and I couldn't put my finger on what was going on. After my first few laps, I met Evan in the transition area and had to share with him, that I wasn't well, and I needed to try to shift my thoughts to just "riding my bike" instead of racing. Maybe I was grinding along with a bad head and turing the race pressure off, might set things right and I could rally over night and into the next morning.
I did a couple more laps and was beginning to circle the drain even more. I needed something to light the fire, and I hoped it would be the two lap rest I was going to get around midnight.
Evan said he was feeling up to leading off the two lap sets. He started his first lap and I set off to power down. I ate a can of soup and some Skratch bars, and then crawled into the sleeping tent for a rest. I'd hoped to shut my eyes for a bit and wake feeling miraculously better.
Doing some math, I had a chance at an hour and a half rest. If what I was feeling was just fatigue from the taxing mud, the food and down time would help me rebound.
I heard Evan come in from his first lap, fifth in total, and I wasn't excited to hear him talking about feeling poorly too. I crawled out of the tent to chat with him and his parents (our pit crew) and we were both so boggled as to why we where feeling so poorly. We agreed to sack out for three hours, with the hope of catching two full sleep cycles, and to give ourselves a chance to recover from the slogging in the mud.
I've never had to bow out like this, and I know it wasn't an easy decision for Evan either, but there was no way either of us were going to get out on our bikes at that moment.
Pit crew worth their weight in jujubes:
It was a little before 1am and Evan and I were resting our way off the podium, and Tammy and Zara, Evans parents, knew that our struggles was just due to the weather and trail conditions. They were smart enough to let us rest, but they weren't going to let us call it quits.
It was going to be my lap after the break, forgoing Evans second of his double. I did sleep and when Zed came to wake me at 4AM I stood with fewer cobwebs then I did before. I went and grabbed a cup of coffee, washed my bike and started the process of dressing. The rain and mud called for new kit every lap, and I had to snake a battery and cable through my jersey and vest and attach it to the light Velcroed to my helmet. I was sent off with a well wish from the pit, and was hopeful a rest would turn Evan around as well.
Darkest after sunrise?:
This last lap wasn't terrible even though I felt like I was going slowly, and was finding the whole thing to be too laborious. The mud had multiplied since the last time I was out and by the 1/2 way point of this lap, I was feeling drained again.
A plus to this lap was that I was lucky to have been on the course when the sky was light enough to see across the valley when riding through the meadow. I was thankful for the light too because I exhausted my battery by running my 2500 lumens at full blast on the first 3/4 of the loop and had to ride the remainder without a light.
Usually the sunrise lap sparks something in my brain and gives me some strength to continue, but the lap put me right back to where I was before I had the sleep. I hobbled my way back to the finish area only to see Evans bike still on the stand in the pit - Switch, off!
I crossed the line and there was Evan, dressed in sweats, toque, and a frown. His time from 1-4am was a mix of sleep and trips on the vomit commit. His day was done and I couldn't imagine going right back out. (Really what was the point in me taking a solo run for the last 5 or 6 hours, just to say I did it?)
Pit boss meeting:
I hastily washed my bike, changed my clothes, and grabbed some food. I went and found Evan and Tammy in the lodge having a coffee. Evan and I were crushed. "How come", "What's going on"..... a search for a reason, but none to be found. That is until Tammy made it clear to us that it's the weather and the course conditions that was taking us down. She had a point, but why was it so hard for us to grasp?!
We sat and chatted a few more minutes, I headed off for a coffee, and we all met back in the tent a few minutes later where we broke it to Zara that we were packing it in.
Aware of our surroundings:
Sitting in our tent, looking out over the race course, we could see the racers go by. Our tent was littered with muddy kits, and empty bidons. As we sat there chatting and looking at the live results, we saw ourselves in 4th place. We had gone to this race with the hopes of victory, and we were far from it....... or were we?!
I could see that the tent of a 2-man team directly in front of our tent was void of people. They were the leaders for the first twelve hours, until the second place Fort Mac team, took over around midnight with their consistent lap times.
I looked again at the results and saw that the third place team wasn't turning in new laps either and this is when it all came to me. "How sick are you" I said to Evan, and he saw my look wasn't of pity.
Evan was quick to put it all together. As it stood, second, third, and fourth were all sitting at 10 laps completed. We were in fourth because we did our 10 laps the slowest. An 11th lap would move us two places, but it'd have to be either uncontested or faster then the other teams. Evan put on his big boy undies and started to get dressed.
I headed to the transition tent where the huge ledgers of team laps is kept, and I looked to see when the second and third place teams last finished/started a lap. Second place stopped racing at 11pm the night before and third at 3:10am. If we could sign in and get another lap in before them, boom shakalaka!
I headed back to the tent to relay my timing tent findings and for the first time since the first few laps, Evan and I were happy(ish). Evan set off and I got my gear together. I was excited to see the sun peek through the clouds and see the racers coming in with less mud on their kits. I made my way to the timing tent to sign on. I peeked again and saw that the third place team had signed in just three minutes after Evan - Switch on.
Evan was on course for and hour or so when I was stretching my back trying to spy the number plates of the racers who came in to transition before him. The place was a buzz again, akin to that of 23 hours earlier when the race started.
Munching on bag of Skratch chews, and drinking some protein, I excitedly waited. Friends past by, pleasantries were passed, and my heart raced as I continued to check on the number plates coming in and out of transition. I noshed some more, and still no 2-man number plates. Evan rolled in, bright and boasting of a tightened course and that he would have put in his fastest lap, if not for constant mud derived chainsuck.
I rolled out in fear of being chased down.
That's a wrap:
My last lap was painful. Not even close to what would have been my fastest lap. The course had gotten faster, apart from the first long climb up "EKG" that was piled even deeper with peanut butter mud, but my technique and form were gone. I made to the middle of the lap before I remembered that I was possibly being hunted.
Evan finishing his lap had put us in virtual 2nd place, and I needed to keep the gap to retain that position. The issue was, that my body wasn't letting me go any faster. I could up the tempo but only for a short bit, then fatigue would take over and my legs would turn soft. The hard part about not moving very fast is that it's hard to ride through certain sections because you can't make it up and over some obstacles.
Grinding up "Long Road to Ruin", a tough switchback-filled climb well suited to it's name, I saw a couple racers behind me. I climbed as well as I could, knowing I would have to try to ride away from any chacers through the last 2-3km's of the course that was more wide open.
I was riding scared. I couldn't hold off a couple of passing racers, not knowing if they were the competition until they were next to me when I could see their number plate. Less than a K away from the finish, as I rounded the paved path through the biathlon stadium, I looked back and saw a lurking racer who was gaining on me. I had to muster some strength to stay in front. I didn't know who it was and could only think about it being the chasing team. I ducked under the ski bridge and came into pit row and the follower was ever closer, I dug a little deeper.
Passing some friends through solo row, I figured my gap would last but I still kept on it and came through the finish for the last time ahead of that "could-be" chaser. I didn't look to see who it was, just made my way to the timers and called it quits. I took a quick peak at the sign-in sheet and saw that the team who sent someone out right behind Evan on his last lap, never sent someone out to chase me down so my fear was for naught.
Our rally moved us from fourth to second. Those boys from Fort Mac, sure deserved the top step. They were super consistent, and didn't seem to be bothered by the mud or darkness
From fourth to 2nd sporting our Base T-shirts.
That's a wrap:
It was a great season of endurance mountain bike racing for team River Valley Health p/b Pedalhead. Some good lead-up/training races by both Evan and I, and then when it counted, we pulled out two podiums in as many 24 hour events.
We are currently moving into fall race training. Cyclocross is a love of both Evan and I but it won't be a full effort season for us as we will be focusing mainly on the Cape Epic next March.
Look for some fun events this winter revolving around our CE training. More info to come!
As always, thank you for following along and heres to a good fall of cross.