Friday, November 10, 2006

Test of Metal (and will)!


Squamish B.C. Canada is a beautiful, little town roughly 30 miles from Whistler. It is also a multisport athletes dream town and home of the infamous "Test of Metal" Mountain Bike Race. The race is epic, maybe not to the scale of La Ruta in Costa Rica, Trans Alps or even the Trans Rockies for that matter, but for the competitive age grouper in the Northwest this is THE race. Registration to the race opens up each New Year's Day at 12 midnight and normally sells out within the first 8 hours. The race is limited to 800 riders and unlike many races the start is a mass start. No pro, expert, sports, etc by age groups. Nope, 800 mountain bikers swarming through the streets of Squamish before hammering the 67 KM mtn bike course.

It was suggested to me on multiple occassions to preride the course. Unfortunately, my race schedule leading up to the race was not condusive to such a treat (note to self, preride the course for next year!). Fellow adventure racer and all around around multi-sport star, Jen Seggers and her fiance Tye (they are now married - congratulations!) were nice enough to let me crash at their place for the weekend. Jen also drove me up nine mile hill and showed me a few of the other key areas of the race course.

The energy on race day was amazing. Arriving several hours early was key as there was no staging structure. You basically showed up as early as possible and placed your bike upside down in a starting chute. First come, first serve basis. Approximately 15 minutes before race start they lifted the rope and 800 people went to search for where they staged their bike. It was very comical to see riders have no idea where they had placed their bikes 60 minutes early. The start was a bit nerve racking. You were ass to elbow with every rider around you and knowing that some of these people didn't have any road riding experience and all road etiquette (crossing wheels, riding blind, etc.) would be out the window.

The gun sounded and we where off. The sound of 1600 mountain bike tires was eerie, but beautiful. A buzz that sent chills up my back. Seggs suggested I hammer the first road section of the race to make sure I was in the top 1/4 of the pack leading into the first single track. This would help alleviate too much bottle necking and slowing down my progress. I felt strong on the road and kept to the plan and entered the first section somewhere near the top 100. This felt great and I was able to relax a bit in this section. I felt extremely good during the next several sections and was confident heading up to 9-mile hill. I had been racing for 6 weekends straight leading into this race including a 36 hour adventure race the weekend before in Idaho. The intense race and training schedule also attributed to tendonitis in my right hand. The tendonitis made it extremely difficult to shift and brake. Amy Hayes (my biking friend Tom's wife) was kind enough to have a fresh water bottle for me and the start of 9-mile hill. The hill turned out to be fun, as I passed several riders leading up to the top. Unfortunately, this is were the race started to turn sour. Ring Creek Rip and the Plunge were next on the course. Normally fast decsents are favorable to my riding style. However, with my recent wrist injury, these two sections turned problematic and disasterous for me. I fell several times (not hard, but enough to throw off my rhythm) and ended up running much of the plunge. This is definitely one of the sections you need to pre-ride. I limped through these two sections and much damage had been done. The rest of the course of undulating, technical section that under normal circumstances would not be difficult to ride. However, I was hammered and sore and the freight train of riders where passing me by as I was have difficulty staying on my bike. I was able to recover and actually gain a bit of second wind going into the final three miles. I cross the finish line and essentially collapsed! My finish time was 3:49 and some change. Good enough for 194 overall and 36 of 142 in age group. My goal was to beat 4 hours, which I did, but I pretty confident I can knock off 15-20 minutes in 2007!

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