Monday, September 21, 2009
Bow 80 insanity
This is a long one but worth the read... the pic is actually from last year at Keystone in much nicer conditions than this year`s race.
So, for some reason I decided to race the bow 80, an epic loop in Kananskis country, near Calgary.
The day started out wrong, with a 4:50 wake up, an hour drive out there in the rain and darkness, and the car thermometer reading 6deg C. I drove out with co-worker Kate Scallion, and we had her sister, Magi's bike in the car too, as Magi had just flown in from NS visiting her mom. When Kate and I pulled into the parking lot at 6:40am, it was raining very hard and still dark. We sort of looked at each other and said, "we could just turn around and go home".
Anyway, we kept getting ready, and I headed out in the rain and blackness into the woods for an early morning bathroom stop. It took me a long time to get all layered up, followed by a 5min ride up to sign in. At registration just as I was leaving Brian Bain (who drove Magi out) rushed in and said Magi couldn't find us. Kate was already looking for her, and I pedaled off looking too. I went down to the car and couldn't find her, and while I was there I quickly strapped my booties on, and then sprinted back to the start at race pace.
I got to the start and the `potential delay` had not happened, and I missed the start by 5min. Anyway, it wasn`t the end of the world and I took off and caught the first stragglers in about 2km. The next 20min was spent with explosive efforts passing tons of people, then slow behind them in singletrack. Then I stopped to take off my headband and a winter jacket (it had stopped raining, was semi day-light now and I was hot). A bunch of people passed me back, but then I re-passed them in a few min. After about 1:20 of riding I had passed about 150 of the 230 racers, and it was much easier going. I had some awesome passes, as in sliding through grass on the inside of corners with one foot out...
Eventually I settled into a slow and steady race pace, just passing a few people here and there. At feed zone 1 I was doing quite well, I ate a bunch of food, and changed from my orange rubber fisherman`s gloves to a winter Louis garneau pair (people were making fun of my orange ones, but they were warm until water ran down the cuff`s)!
Just after FZ1 I knew there was a super steep 1hr granny ring climb, so I stopped in a small creek and pedaled a bunch to clean the mud off my chain (a dude passed me there and got chainsuck while I was cleaning mine, it was kind of funny). So I rode this climb forever, and because I was way back in the field my goal was to ride it clean, which I did. This was quite a feat, as it is super long, very technical, in a race, and wet. Oh, did I mention that from 1900 to 2205m it was snowing! Yep, we had sideways sleeting snow, and 2cm on the ground. It was pretty neat riding, up in the alpine with 5m visibility and snow everywhere except on the trail where it had melted.
Eventually I got to the top of Cox Hill (with only walking the last 10m) said hi to the volunteers (who had inflatable palm trees coated in snow, and gummy bears) zipped up my layers, and blasted down the descent. Now the descent is super fun, pretty fast, rocky, and technical, I had a blast. However, after 5min my metal brake leavers got my wet snow coated hands very cold, and soon they were numb. Another 5min and I got to another volunteer station where I got them to get my coat out of my camel back, put it on me, and zip it up, as my fingers couldn`t do it.
Another 10min of descending and I reached the bottom and blew by a sign that said `last chance to drop our`. I rode by it to fast to really process the info, as I had been contemplating dropping out as I was only at 40km and my body was getting cold. The only reason I did not stop was I was afraid I would have to wait 3hrs or so, and just freeze, besides, I was dreaming of sitting in my car with the heater cranked, (I figured I could get someone else to turn the key as my fingers couldn`t). So I rode, and rode, and rode as hard as I could just to try and warm up. At the lower elevation it was now raining and there was about 4cm of standing water on the trail. By FZ2 I was cold.
I decided to keep going, as I couldn`t really stop. I figure if I stopped and wasn`t in a vehicle I had about 5min before hypothermia set in. So to try and get warm I would swing my arms in circles and run up hills pushing my bike with my forearms. About at this point I got to trail that had all the trees coated in snow, and bent over from the weight of it. So I had to push my way through them and get all the slushy snow dumped on me. Eventually my core temperature was still dropping, and in desperation I stopped and saw that my zipper would pull up another 5cm (with my teeth). After 5 tries I got my head band out of my pocket, and had to push my wrists together to undo the buckle on my helmet. I tried to pick a gel out of my pocket but was unable to at this point. I could have stuck my jackknife into my hand and not felt it, I was numb clear up my forearm. Somehow I hung on and was able to brake a bit when really necessary.
Oh yeah, I couldn`t blink right, I don`t know if my eyelids were frozen, or if there was just so much snow and water in them. My Oakleys were super dirty but I kept them on just to keep the big chunks of snow and mud out.
With 15km to go I stopped at a checkpoint and begged for gloves or mitts of any sort. A volunteer, Graham, gave me his bike gloves (which he had to put on my hands) and he got a gel out of my pocket. I weaved off, and the only reason I kept racing was because I couldn`t stop without freezing.
For the last 15k it had stopped raining, and with the head band and dry gloves I came around a bit and was able to finish.
From the finish I dropped my bike, and Mrs Bain took me to the first aid trailer, where I stripped down (my clothes looked like I rolled in a mud lagoon) and sat in a blanket and a sleeping bag for an hr with a bunch of other near hypothermia cases. Brian Bain looked especially bad, and would convulsively shake every 10min or so. The first-aiders were excellent, and even gave us hot chocolate.
After I recovered and a volunteer found my car and drove it up, I got some dry clothes on and went out into the bright sunny day. It turns out Kate and made a very smart decision and stopped at FZ1 when she was too cold to peel a banana, Magi never found her bike and went to work instead (very smart!!!), and 50 or so people finished. I ended up 5th overall and 3rd in my category, and won a big belt buckle. I also won a big Dakine hydration pack, which I gave to the volunteer who lent me his gloves. I am very thankful for his gloves, that I got my booties even if I missed my start, and for all the incredible volunteers that were on the side of the trail covered in snow.
So, the moral of the story is, don`t do a race that you have to wake up before 5am for, and don`t race in the mountains if it is below 10deg with any precipitation.
I am now alive and warm, with the furnace going in my house in Canmore...just me and the mice.
Posted by Matt Hadley at 8:27 PM