Posted by Joseph Litke
Results are in and it’s all over but the excuses. The course was one of the toughest cross-country racecourses I’ve ever ridden . It had some ridiculously steep and sustained climbing, and some tricky, behind-the-seat, lock-your-breaks, close-your-eyes and hope-for-the-best, single-track-down-hill. Combine that with the hot, hot, heat that should have come in July, and it was just about too much for this under-trained, over-fed granny-grinder.
My strategy was simple; get there early, warm up well, ride conservative on the start, cautious on the down, and like a lycra-clad mountain goat on the climbs. My warm-up went out the window (no warm-up, excuse #1) when my teammate, Jan Plavec, missed a curb-hop during his warm-up and got a double flat. By the time Jan, Darren McGregor (another Fiera teammate), and I got Jan back on his bike, we were only seconds from staging, and all of our spare tubes were used up.
Jan let the adrenaline, from being late for staging, carry him through the start and he took off like a shot with the leaders. I could feel my calves beginning to cramp right from the starting line (crampy calves, excuse # 2), a certain indication that I had not hydrated very well (poor hydration, excuse # 3) in preparation for the race. Crampy calves and all, I still found myself mid-pack through the first quarter lap, without much effort—though there had been no serious climbing yet. At the bottom of the first climb—this was a doozey, absolutely relentless in steepness and length, and positioned in direct scorching sunlight (scorching sunlight, excuse # 4)–Darren pulled along side, and complemented me on my strategy to save some energy to this point, in preparation for this climb (stolen strategy, excuse #5). He then powered up past me and on up the hill. Shortly after, I caught sight of Jan up the trail, and tried to catch him. I got to within 5o or 60 meters at one point, but made the mistake of hollering to him some encouragement. After that, he was gone from sight (too supportive of teammates, excuse # 6).
On the second of three laps, I cracked like a walnut. It was ugly. The heat was pounding in my head (hot head, excuse #7). I didn’t feel like I could put any force on my pedals without cramping, salt was pouring into my eyes in rivers of sweat (salty sweat, excuse #8) at such a high concentration that I was literally blind (I was blind dudes! excuse # 9) and had to stop and wash my eyes out with Gatorade because I was not carrying water (one bottle cage, excuse # 10). After climbing the big awful climb a second time, I descended again, half blind (partly because of the salt, and partly because my eyelids kept sticking shut from the Gatorade (sticky eyelids, excuse # 11). At this point I began looking for a marshal station so that I could declare that I was quitting and push my bike back to the car—I could say I flatted with no spare tube, letting the blame fall squarely on Jan’s curb-hopping skills. It wasn’t far to the next marshal station, but I wasn’t riding fast at this point, and as two riders passed me I started doing some math (distracted by complicated math problem, excuse # 12) – how many riders were in front of me anyway? How many went out ahead off the start? How many did Darren and I real-in on that first climb? I concluded that I might still be in the top ten! I needed to be top 8 to earn some rare Alberta Cup points. I rode past the marshal and up into the single track toward the start/finish to begin my third lap–no quitting today.
The third lap was better than the second. I stopped at the feed station and dumped a water bottle (of water) on my head and face, washed my glasses, and tucked a fresh bottle in my cage (stopped to bathe, excuse #13). The leading novice passed me while I bathed—that kind’a stung. When I arrived at the awful climb, I could see that I had managed to build a sizable gap………..well, two sizable gaps actually, one behind me, and one in front. I was all alone. I pushed up some of the steep stuff on this lap—it stings to admit it, but its true. I slipped into a kind of trance at this point and just peddled along imagining that I was a giant bird with a bike strapped to my ass–if I flapped my wings hard enough, I imagined, I could float effortlessly up the hill and get this torture test over with (hallucinating, excuse # 14).
The marshal looked bored as I passed him the third time, he had his lawn chair under his arm, and he was looking at his watch. Fiera Race Team supporter, Andrea McGreggor was up in the single-track, and took some shots of me trying to smile as I putted by. As I approached the finish line I heard the guy with the microphone say something like “Ok here comes # 301, that’s, ahh, that’s, um, that, that looks like ….that looks like it hurts”. It kinda did.
When the results were posted, I was surprised to learn that I had placed 9th, just out of earning some Alberta Cup points. Jan came in 8th about 5 minutes ahead of me, and Daren came in 5th, about a minute ahead of that. Congratulations to everyone who started this race, and a big thanks those who organized, volunteered, or just came out to see me suffer.
All the photography credit goes to Andrea McGregor, who has a supreme talent for cheering you on emphatically while swatting mosquitos, taking fantastic photos, and looking good, all at the same time–thanks Andrea.