Laps Completed: 18 X ~18km
Total distance: ~324km
Total Elevation gained: +/- 28,000 vertical feet
Calories burned: +/- 18,000
On Thursday I headed up to the Nordic Centre for a pre-lap. My legs felt pretty good and I felt fairly confident with the terrain although I was not used to the amount of speed you can get on some of the descents. This would definitely be something to watch out for during the race. As I was heading down the beginning of FYI, two riders were coming up the opposite direction. I headed left and so did they. I headed right to avoid collision and had to jump a log which would have been ok save for the fact that I hadn't got my line set up properly. Crash. At least I got it on my GoPro! After the lap I spent some time admiring the flyover.
Friday was all about getting the logistics ready. Parking passes, registration, chip timing devices, nutrition, hydration, Pit Row tent and supplies, bikes, etc.
It's amazing how much goes into riding a bike around in circles! Setup went well and we got back to town early to sleep. I had just put the kids to bed when I heard commotion upstairs. I headed up to see what was going on and that's when I heard that a windstorm had ripped through the race site destroying at least thirty percent of the tents including ours. We had borrowed a nice Giro Cycling tent from friends of friends and it was completely destroyed. It was upside down thirty feet away from where we had placed it and it had flown through the air carrying both full-size cinder blocks that were roped to the legs! Thank God no-one was injured.
Lots of the race infrastructure was also disrupted and the race organizers called for a delayed start to allow riders and volunteers to get things back into order in the morning. My wife headed out early to Canadian tire to pick up a light-duty 10x10 tent.
My Pit Manager was my wonderful wife, Vanessa. She has a pretty good idea of what it takes to keep me fed and on my bike- and she is a great support. Chapeau to her for bearing the entire race with me and for keeping so much on top of things. Some of her responsibilities included keeping stats on other competitors, helping with strategy, preparing food, working the the mechanics, and being the resident psychologist and motivational mentor! I also had my kids in the pit for the start and the finish of the race. It was great to see them each lap and they were pumped to hand up food and gels, etc. Love them. They actually had their own race alongside the event called the 24 minutes of adrenaline. They both had a great time!
The race began with a 600meter LeMans start at 1:00pm Saturday. The purpose of a running start is to spread out the field of 600 or so enough that there is less carnage off the start. We had to run a loop up a small hill and then through the start/finish area where we transitioned to our bikes. I chose to run in runners as opposed to my cycling shoes and, although the run went well (I don't run typically so I didn't want to go hard), it took me over a minute to get my new shoes on properly... and that lost valuable positioning.
The first part of the lap is a set of steep climbs up to the top of the course and I spent it patiently in a huge line of riders, some that were having obvious difficulty with both the terrain and with the elevation gain. With Lots of riders standing with their bikes and stopping suddenly it was hard to get a pace going. Soon enough things began to string out and I was able to pass a ton of the slower riders and begin to get some clean lines.
The course was both difficult and very rewarding. Beginning and ending with the longest climbs, the middle of the course had great variety from massive rooty sections to rocky descents. There was comparably more double track than single track due to the size of the event and the number of riders- there needs to be ample room to pass. Other trail features included wooden single-track bridges, massive burms around corners in several sections, large whoops, and long rolling downhills cut precariously into the side of the mountain. Here's a couple of shots from the race photographers who somehow sorted through 40000 photos and presented them a mere day after the event!
Overall I was quite happy with my race and felt pretty decent considering the extreme effort I was dishing out. I suffered a substantial crash about 3 hours into the race on a sketchy downhill section ending in a gravel-covered corner where I slid out and scraped my leg. I had been attempting to match the speed of one Sean Taylor on the descent and was out of my league. Speaking of which- the locals can REALLY ride downhill here.. its unreal. I was totally outclassed. I wouldn't doubt I was loosing 4-5 mins to some riders per lap merely due to my relatively meager descending skills. It's fantastic to see professional riders doing what they do best! (there were a number of pros out- most competing on teams as opposed to going solo as the amount of expenditure required for a 24 hour race would disable them from their normal capacity for up to 2 months after such an event). During my prelap I perceived about a 75 percent effort and completed the course in 1:02. At top speed I think I could potentially have pushed 54 mins or so for a lap or two but for comparison there were a few of the guys who achieved several laps under 50 minutes. My aim was to keep lap times under 1:20 for the duration, shooting for 1:15 times. My first laps were around 1:05 and I was a little worried that I was going too strong to maintain over the long haul. 24 hour solo racing is ALL about proper pace- go to hard and you are finished.
Nutrition seemed positive and I really enjoyed some of the real food such as cinnamon buns, chicken noodle soup, boiled eggs, and coffee in the middle of the night as opposed to the strict regiment of liquid nutrition that I've tried to stick too in the past. Real food just tasted good darnit!! And sometimes when you are at the limit you just need a pick-me-up. Oh- I forgot to mention Ibuprofen:).
Spent a lot of time riding with some great folks such as Shaun Taylor and Stephanie Wilkinson. Shaun was on his 23rd 24-hour event- has won the Worlds in the singlespeed category as well as being a former winner of the 24 hours of Canmore. Shaun rides for Orbea and Lynksey and, unlike me, gets his bikes for free. I could gain some ground on the climbs but he would shake me like dirt off a rug on the downhills! Sean had had a case of food poisoning a week prior to the race and unfortunately had to give up the gauntlet during the night. Stephanie completed an amazing 14 laps to take third place in Womens solo despite being type-1 diabetic! We were riding together at one point at night when she said that her blood-sugar censor had just gone offline. She said she would just keep on going... I asked her repeatedly if she was absolutely sure she`d be ok... very scary. Glad she finished OK.
The night riding was actually pretty really fun although I found myself fighting off my inner demons. Compared to the previous night races I've done, there were way more riders on course and that made it seem a lot less lonely. At almost all times there was a light visible somewhere in the trees or up the mountain indicating that I was not alone.
I really started hallucinating close to the morning and saw everything from big yellow dogs to Pokemon creatures to sleeping lumberjacks in plaid pants in the forest around me!
As for the other competitors, Paddy H. just kept doing his thing in front but I brought the gap down from 40 minutes to under 20 by the end of the race. In the middle of the night I began to feel as If my pacing would fail and that I would be resigned to 5th or 6th place but as the hours wore on I began to feel new energy as the 3 riders between Patrick and I eventually succumbed to the pain and fatigue. By 9:00 am I was actually sitting in 2nd place but didn`t know it yet. Vanessa had calculated lap times for everyone as much as she could but we found out an hour later that Gary Buxton, who we thought was out front, had actually bonked and was getting help in his pit. Also off Vanessa`s radar until 8am was Dave Franks, whose consistent pacing was inching him closer and closer to me. At one point he was on the same lap a mere 20 minutes behind. All I wanted to do was rest but Vanessa made me get back on and lucky I did or I would have been off the podium in no time. i ended up holding him back 40 minutes off my pace.
The race was not without mechanical issues for me. My front fork had seized by 11:00pm and I no longer had suspension. It was making some crazy noises. I cleaned the stanchions and tri-flo'd the seals to try to get them to loosen up. Although there was a little reprieve for part of the next lap, things were back to bad before long. Thanks to my Uncle Leighton Poidevin (also racing- on a team) for donating his beautiful Santa Cruz Tallboy to me as a backup! After switching the timing chip and adjusting the tire pressure I was off. This was my first time riding a 2x10 drive train and this took some getting used to, although I eventually figured out how to use it to my advantage. A few hours later I completely lost shifting control on the rear shifter. After attempting to fix the issue on the trail, I got it working enough to keep it in a single gear for the remaining `Georgetown`climb back up to finish the lap. Glad that worked. Nothing worse than miss-shifting on a hard uphill. As I got to the pit, we tried to have the bike looked at by the race mechanic (presented by Fox Racing) but he was so tied up with repairs that we would not have gotten in. Fortunately for us there are lots of good people in this event and the mechanic across pit lane (sorry I forgot his name... ) was kind enough to come to our assistance. It turned out that the shifter cable was frayed and tangled in the housing. After cable change, saddle replacement (Leighton`s saddle was hurting my butt) I was off again. It was actually nice to have 10 minutes to sit under a blanket and try to sleep.
To complete the final 2 laps I just had to maintain pace and be consistent- I had no more gas left to increase pace. Although I was making up a little time on Paddy he would pretty much have had to have a mechanical for me to catch him. The rear shifting on the bike was getting suspect again and I had to choose very carefully which gears I used to prevent any possibility of breaking my chain on the climbs... and that was my biggest worry, Especially as I didn`t have any parts for a 10speed chain along on the bike (my bike is 9sp).
Final result? 2nd place! Very satisfied. Especially since I'm a guy who works full time at a computer and has 2 young kids! The kids were there for the start and finish of the race and were very helpful in passing me food to eat as I came through the pit! They actually had a race of their own- the 24 minutes of adrenaline. Both of them did great but most importantly had fun.
I had 2 other family members in the race- Leighton Poidevin (My Uncle) who was racing on a team of five extremely studly locals, and his talented daughter Sara who was racing on a 5-woman team sponsored by Fast and Female. Leighton has won the Canmore event solo twice as well as placing 4th and 8th at Worlds both in Canmore and Australia. Both their teams were able to edge the competition to win their respective categories. However, due to an age-category mis-understanding, Leighton's team was disqualified from the event. As all members of the team have been strong supporters of the event in the past this will no-doubt cause major issues in their relationship with the event in the future. No more comment. Sara is 16 years old and is getting noticed on a national level for her cycling talent! Sara's Team was amazing too considering the youngest rider was 13 YEARS OLD!! Great to see them on the podium!
All in All it was a great time- and I'm finally starting to come back to life after tons of food and sleep.