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Racing Into Shape - Finding Fitness the Hard Way

2016 Mountain Maiden XC & Giver6er XC Marathon Race Reports

This year has been an interesting change-up. Mixing it up from my usual training routine, combined with the shrinking AB MTB calendar has me in new territory when it comes to my own fitness (and more importantly, how to find that fitness)

Going into the season, the goal events were always the 24 Hours of Light in the Yukon and the 24 Hours of Adrenalin in Canmore, both as 2 person teams. Adding to the mix was the possibility (now confirmed) of getting into the 2017 Cape Epic, which meant it was going to be an endurance-focused kind of year.

After the 2015 season, where I relied on residual fitness from the Cape Epic, I was teetering close to burnout. I was not enjoying the structured workouts that I had planned and riding the bike was not nearly as fun as I usually find it. Knowing that, I planned for 2016 to start less structured than usual, placing the focus on volume and just getting out and riding.

Still hoping to remain competitive at both 24 Hour events in late June and July, this meant incorporating intensity through whatever Alberta events fit the bill. Which is how I found myself at the start line of the Royal River Valley Rumble the weekend prior, and the Mountain Maiden and Giver6er double-header weekend, all while not feeling entirely fast.

Mountain Maiden XC

Nowhere this year has my lack of pointy-end-of-the-stick fitness been more apparent than during Saturday's Alberta Cup XC race. I started strong, before quickly realizing that I only had about 5 minutes worth of matches to burn, and I burned up every single one of them in the first 5 minutes. I couldn't have gone further backwards if I tried!

After getting dropped hard, I spent most of the race in no-mans land - no riders in view ahead or behind me. It really was just a training ride, a training ride with one long 75 minute interval.

Managed to keep the bike vomit free though!

After getting fed by some typical Canmore climbs, I immediately went down to the closest bike shop and bought a 32 tooth chainring for the 6 hour race the next day. I could turn over the 34t on my Revolver for the short race, but I had a feeling 6 hours would be a different story. Then it was off to hang out with ex-Pedalhead mechanic Brad, who graciously offered up his place to crash for the night.

Giver6er Marathon MTB Race

Keeping in line with the racing into shape theme, I didn't have much of a goal for overall placing in this race, but instead just wanted to beat Coleman and Pat & Huy's team.

This race, previously the Organ Grinder, had a mostly new course, which was definitely welcome. Not that there was anything wrong with the old Organ Grinder course, but sometimes a little change is nice. The major climbing was done with in the beginning, and there was plenty of fun, flowy descents.

Temperatures were hot, so proper hydration and fueling were key. I've always been a fan of Skratch Labs, and the fine folks at JHM Fuels suggested I try the Rescue Hydration Mix, which definitely came in handy about halfway through, as I started to realize I was starting to flirt with dehydration. This coincided with a pretty significant lull in my lap times.

Thanfully, it was during lap 5 that I got a little boost - Patrick was within view behind me on the first major climb of that lap. That helped me find some motivation to keep the gas pedal down. We finished the last half of the lap together, coming into the transition with just enough time for a 6th. Pat tagged off with Huy to set him off, while I took a minute to grab some fresh food and bottles.

And just like that, I was off, hoping to catch back onto Huy's wheel. On the switchbacks up the gravel road, I could see Huy out of the saddle in what seemed to be close to a full-out sprint. I don't think he wanted me to catch him!

I kept my pace steady, and eventually caught him about 3 or 4 km into the lap. He held my wheel for a little while, before falling off the pace. The rest of the lap was the most painful yet. With nothing to save energy for, needing to make the cut-off, and trying not to let Huy and Pat's team beat me, I kept the pace as high as I could muster.

I rolled across the line with a few minutes to spare, good for 8th place. Even more exciting was Huy finishing his team's final lap with less than a minute to spare!

As always, a big thanks goes out to the race organizers and volunteers for their efforts in a wicked race weekend!

Coming Next

It's always painful trying to race into shape, and the weekend in Canmore was no exception. Here's hoping I made the right call in the training plan for this year. Next up, we're off to the Yukon for the 24 Hours of Light, so stay tuned!