My experiences of TR2009, written partly at the time, and partly afterwards (hence the strange mixed tenses) – with some pictures too. Hopefully, will give you a feel for the event.
Saturday 8th August – Day Zero
Registration done – bikes all set up. Just need to pack the bags and we’re set. I just want to get on and do it now. Very difficult to know what to take for each day. Met some locals last night…..our conclusion was very nice people, but they can’t hold their drink! First rain this afternoon – very heavy and will make a day very unpleasant if it carried on all day. [oh if only I’d known what was to come!] Looks like a very back-weighted course – last 3 days are BIG!
Sunday August 9th – Day 1 Panorama to K2 Ranch
Well, that’s 45km done, just 505 to go! The organizers have a sense of humour..they played ‘Highway to Hell’ as we started.and they do the same every morning..can’t wait!? Great atmosphere at the start – the course designer’s bear impersonation had to be seen to be believed. It seemed like everyone in Panorama came out to see us off..I’d confess to feeling myself welling up….but that wouldn’t be manly!
Then the fun really started..the climb up to the top of the 3rd highest ski mountain in N America was a hell of a way to start…2 hours of baking sun and climbing, just to cover 10k!! As we left the feed station at the top, I had a moment of doubt about my sanity, and whether I could carry on for another 530k…big drop offs either side reminded me that I don’t like heights too. Another 1.5 hours of hard riding/pushing/carrying, which saw Mark throwing himself off the trail and hugging a tree, and having a “f****** useless piece of s**t” moment when his chain came off, brought us to the top of a 700m scree slope descent…Mark rode most of it while I fell off most of it! Another 20k of of fast downhill, with a nasty uphill right at the end brought us to K2 ranch 4:48 minutes after leaving Panorama….showers, food, gallons of water and to bed at 9:30. We start racing again at 8:00 tomorrow..and it’s supposed to be the hardest day of all – the briefing scared me, and luckily Mark felt the same. We agreed to just ride nice and slow and keep within ourselves and just get through it.
No mobile coverage until Wednesday…
Monday August 10th Day 2 – K2 to Nipika
An unbelievable day – slept the sleep of the dead and felt awful when Mark woke me, sweating with a splitting headache. Then came 73km of the toughest riding I could imagine. 9 hours in the saddle – but I feel OK – much better than I did yesterday. Inspite of 10km of pushing/carrying it was an amazing route. The singletrack was unrideable for large sections but it was still good fun. It’d be impossible to explain to anyone who hasn’t been there what it was like – even another biker.
Hoping tomorrow is easier – a 42km time trial. We’re not going to race it…stick to our eating/drinking routine, which worked really well today.
Tuesday August 11th Day 3 – Nipika to Nipika
“Classic BC singletrack” they said…huh. If that is the best BC has to offer, they can keep it! Today was time-trial day – turned into 5.5 hours of mostly unrideable trail in relentless rain, just to end up right back where we started! It felt like a waste of time…and we were just doing miles for the sake of it. Our day wasn’t helped by Mark getting a puncture and then breaking his rear mech and hanger. My pedals and cleats were hopeless in the mud, clogging up all the time. To add insult to injury, we queued for ages for the bike wash – some people felt the need to wash every spot of mud of everything (even the back of their event number!). The only “updside” to the day was cycling along a trail 3-4ft from a 200ft drop into a river – I wouldn’t normally have walked it, let alone cycled it…but it was between me and the end of the stage, so I didn’t care!
Wednesday August 12th Day 4 – Nipika to Whiteswan Lake
A huge day – 108km, 8.5 hours. Basically one big climb followed by one big downhill. But with all the rain, the “downhill” needed to be pedalled all the way, and it was hard – into a strong, cold wind. It was such a relief to be told there was only a mile to go. I had a bad moment about 3 hours in (we called it Fogling, after Ben Fogle, who seemed to cry at every opportunity on his journey to the South Pole that was on TV just before we left), it was raining (surprise), I was cold and wet, and one of the Transrockies ambassadors told that we had 19km to go to the checkpoint, and only 1:15 to do it in, which was clearly impossible. Luckily, he was wrong…it was only 5km! Today was a bad day for Gary (one half of GaryAndAndy.com, as we called them…he caught his front wheel in a rut at speed, fell and broke his shoulder.
At this point, I stopped writing my journal, so what follows is cobbled together from an email after we finished (my phone had drowned the day before), and the memories I recorded later….
Thursday August 13th Day 5 – Whiteswan Lake to Elkford
Friday August 14th Day 6 – Elkford to Crowsnest Pass
A bad day. A very bad day. I recorded it as “101km of hell. Mark’s gears broke after 5km and he ended up riding the rest with only 3 gears. As well as a 20km climb in the middle, 3 cruel hills 80km in left us crossing the line 10.5 hrs after we started, completely shattered”. (To add insult to injury, we got a time penalty for exceeding the cut off!!)
Mark was already “not there” when his gears broke (he’d had a Fogle moment a little earlier). Had it happened to me, I’d have given up. I didn’t know what to think when Mark said at 65km that he couldn’t carry on – I didn’t want to drop out, but didn’t know if I should (or even could) carry on alone. Luckily, Mark came through the bad spell, and after I bullied him into putting the bike in a lower fixed gear, we carried on. I’ve never felt such relief as I did when we got to the finish that day – we were so late, we just went straight in for food without showering or changing!
(As an aside, I started to get a real pain in my left wrist on this day…it got worse and worse, and at one stage, I could hardly hold the bar with my left hand. I was instantly cured when I took my watch off…the buckle was digging into my wrist!)
Saturday August 15th Day 7 – Crowsnest Pass to Fernie
Sitting on the start line on the last day should have been a celebration, but my head wasn’t there…I had an early Fogle – I was cold, wet and tired and couldn’t see myself making the last 75km. I really didn’t want to hear “Highway to Hell” again. Mark stuck by me, and encouraged me on, and something just clicked after a short steep climb 15km in. I was then really into it, and we both worked really hard…it was difficult not to get a “race head” on, but we had to remember this was still a long day. The last two big climbs were fantastic – we flew up, passing loads of people! The final singletrack into Fernie was technically challenging, but I didn’t care and just rode it all, and suddenly we popped out onto a road in Fernie. No-one in front, no-one behind, we rode the last few kms with stupid grins on our faces, knowing we were going to finish. A great feeling crossing the line…tears, relief and huge sense of achievement. Oh, and the sun came out 🙂
My memories: mud; rain; the noise of knobbly tyres on wet, muddy fireroad (as someone said, like cycling on a marshmallow for 5 days); mud; Marks’ mechanicals (how many punctures?!! I had none!); the people…we met some great people from all over the world, ‘cos you end up cycling with the same smallish group; my team mate….couldn’t have asked for better (well, maybe one less mechanically challenged!); mud; rain; energy bars and gels…it was along time before I could face them again; cycling through pools so deep if you stopped you had to throw yourself towards the edge to avoid drowning; fogling; mud; rain……did I say mud?! I’m sure it’ll be drier next time!