Saturday, July 12, 2014

BC Bike Race - Take 2

It's hard to believe it's been 6 years since I first raced the BC Bike Race - a grand 7 day showcase of some of the finest singletrack coastal British Columbia has to offer.  Back in 2008, the event was quite a bit different from today's edition.  The days were longer back then(day 2 was 70+ miles!) which meant everyone had to team up (for safety/liability).  Ian Mackie and I flew the old Benaroya blue to a top-10 finish.

Ian and I after finishing the 2nd annual BC Bike Race (2008).
Come 2014 and the BCBR is a polished consolidation of as much quality singletrack as possible.  Winning times are now 2-3 hours instead of 3-5 hours each day.  That being said, the new style is by no means easier.  Typical trails are technical and physically demanding.

2014 BC Bike Race route overview.
Three teammates, Toby Swanson, Garett Heitman, Benji Perin, and myself took to the BCBR starting line as 4 solo racers.  Originally, Garett was teamed up with Gian Dalle, but unfortunately, Gian separated his shoulder two weeks before the race and was unable to compete.  Huge bummer for him to not be able to race the big event he had trained all year for.  My lovely and supportive girlfriend, Whitney, generously offered to tag along, drive the CLIF van and support us all week - no easy task taking care of 4 perpetually-exhausted and disorganized men for 7 days straight.

CLIF sprinter loaded for 5 people and 7 days of racing.

Day 1 - North Vancouver

Riding the famous Vancouver North Shore has been a dream of mine since my early teenage years.  Believe it or not, even after living in Bellingham since 2006 I had never made it up to ride the fabled 'Shore.  We were all treated to a day-before pre-ride of most of the course and put-up in a sweet pad only a mile from the start/finish.  Thank you, Scott!



The race started out about as expected - lots of super strong Euros hammering the front on the initial pavement climb.  The first trail, "Circuit 8", spread the field out and made me wish I was strong enough to stay ahead of some of the less-skilled riders.  As the week went on, battling for singletrack hole-shots would become a repetitive task.

Toby on the 'Shore.  Photo credit: BC Bike Race.
Yours truly.  Photo credit: BC Bike Race.
The first half of the race was spent on Mt Seymour, with my personal highlight being "Severed D" and "High School Loop".  Lots of oldschool technical wet roots and rocks mixed with fun rhythmic berms, pumps, and doubles.  Next we ventured over to Mt Fromme and climbed fire road for a couple thousand feet to "Expresso", the first enduro (timed downhill) stage.  Expresso was a blast and I passed a handful of dudes who had gone by me on the climb up.

On our way to Vancouver Island - ominous clouds lingering on the horizon.

Day 2 - Cumberland

After sleeping in Cumberland, we awoke and raced in the same Vancouver Island destination.  I remembered the trails well from 2008 and knew they wouldn't disappoint.  After a longer climb than expected, we entered some amazing singletrack with a slickrock surface surrounded by a thick carpet of moss.  I thought we had mossy dank forest in Bellingham, but I must say this Cumberland trail was something else.



Coming through the infield area halfway through the figure-8 route.

Day 3 - Powell River

The first day on the Sunshine Coast didn't disappoint.  Ribbons of trail meandering through a lush sea of green.  The day lacked any long climbs which allowed me to stay with the leaders for longer than usual before being punted off the back on the "Aloha" climb.  Who could forget the name of this trail as it climbed through a live Hawaiian Luau under a bridge before looping back around and crossing over itself.  It was quite the spectacle complete with ukelele players and hula dancers.



MePowell River trails.  Photo credit: BC Bike Race.

Luau on Aloha.  Photo credit: BC Bike Race.

Evening in pleasant Powell River.
Day 4 - Earls Cove to Sechelt

With temperatures in the 80s and the longest stage at 60 km, day 4 was definitely the most challenging.  It was also the first of two point-to-point days, starting at the Earls Cove ferry landing and finishing in the seaside town of Sechelt.  The race featured numerous short steep climbs, many of which were beneath power-lines exposed to the scorching sun.  After climbing gradually to the day's highpoint, the route entered the enduro descent down towards Sechelt.  "VFR" was the name of the trail and it was a blast.  Besides missing a turn, this may have been my favorite enduro stage.



Even more memorable than the race itself was flying on a seaplane to the start of the stage.  The pilot flew us over beautiful rugged Sunshine Coast backcountry and even dove sharply over a waterfall.  Quite the experience to say the least!

Transport to the start of the race.

The stunning Sunshine Coast.

Sechelt shoreline with Whitney.

Day 5 - Sechelt to Langdale

A much needed shorter day (41 km) and our last on the Sunshine Coast.  This one was definitely packed-full of quality trails.  I still vividly remembered some of the fast flowy trails such as "Hwy 102" from way back in '08.  I gave the enduro segment, "Sidewinder", a hard effort and was rewarded with the top time of the day.  The "Sprokids" trails after Sidewinder were an added bonus with bermy, jumpy flow.  The blissful descending went on and on before finally coming to a sad end at the Langdale ferry terminal.



Garett speeding into the start of Sidewinder.

Earned myself a nifty race plate.

Day 6 - Squamish

This was the day that most people talked about all week.  With 5-6k feet of climbing and home to famous races like the Test of Metal, Squamish was sure to challenge everybody.  I've raced in Squamish many times, but was excited to ride a bunch of unfamiliar trails.  "Rupert", a new 2014 trail, was particularly awesome with steep rock rolls and well-designed technical challenges.  "Half Nelson" was another good one with machine built berms and jumps.  There were some high speed doubles that really got my heart thumping and earned loud cheers from spectators.



Squamish.  Photo credit: BC Bike Race.
I had ridden the day's enduro, "Pseudotsuga", a few years ago but didn't remember it well.  Another machine-built trail, it was fast but loose.  I was yet to crash all week, but my luck finally came to an end near the end of the trail.  I'm not sure what happened exactly,  but I went down HARD.  I quickly got back on my bike and tried to limp along as quickly as possible to the finish of the enduro - fortunately only another minute or so down the trail.  Now on a dirt road climb, I was able to slow down and assess my condition.  Both knees, left shoulder and arm (opposite my previous shoulder separations), left finger, and right palm were all aching with pain.  I could also tell my face was bloody, but I wasn't sure how bad it was.  As if on cue, Catherine Pendrel's husband, Keith, was alongside me offering to help.  We had gotten to know each other over the week of living out of side-by-side sprinter vans at each day's basecamp.  He was super helpful and sprayed off my bloody wounds and assured me that my face didn't look too messed up.  Glad to know I shouldn't head for a hospital, I picked up the pace and did my best to not get passed by too many people before the finish.

Day 7 - Whistler

The final day and a gloriously short hot lap around the Whistler valley.  We started by blitzing to the top of the lower bike park then blasting down the mountain in lycra (a rare sight for the world famous Whistler bike park).  Next, we ventured over to the Lost Lake trails and wandered around the rocky undulating cross country trails.  I was in a lot of pain from my wreck the day before and had to really fight hard to hold onto my 12th place overall.



video


I was nearly in tears crossing the line, glad to be done fighting the pain and overcome with the closing of such an incredible week of riding.  In my un-travelled opinion, there is no better place to mountain bike than BC.

Go Team!!  Whitney, you should have been in this one.

In the end, Team CLIF killed it (from left to right above):
Logan - 12th overall, 3rd enduro
Toby - 9th overall, 8th enduro
Garett - 10th overall, 19th enduro
Benji - 33rd overall
Whitney (photographer) - number one organizer/shepard/supporter!


Brought home some fresh woodwork.

I'd like to give a huge shout out to CLIF Bar for getting us to the race and keeping us fueled throught and Transition Bikes for putting us on bikes that shred trails with unprecedented reliability (our Bandits had ZERO mechanicals or flats over the week- not many teams can say that).  Big thank you also to Platypus Hydration, Ravenna Capital Management, Cherry Valley Logging, KORE, and Second Ascent.

Thank you BC Bike Race!  Photo credit: BC Bike Race.
Further photo credit for photos used on this blog:  Dave Silver, Margus Riga, Todd Weselake and Erik Peterson.
And of course I can't thank the hundreds of volunteers who put their time and energy into giving us the opportunity to tour BC for 7 days, fully supported.  The traveling circus that is the BC Bike Race is an awe inspiring show of organization, planning, and teamwork.

My big event of the year completed, it's time to kick back with a cold one and plan some summer mountain adventures.  Cheers!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Thank you, Mark Twain.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chuckanut Enduro

Last weekend reminded me of why I fell in love with mountain biking.  The WMBC's annual Shoot the Trails event combined with the inaugural Chuckanut Enduro made for one of the most fun weekends I can remember.  Big thanks to Val Thompson for organizing Shoot the Trails, which raised $17,000 towards the trails we ride.  Our mountain bike community is unbelievable.  There is certainly no place I would rather live right now than Bellingham.

Full-house at the WMBC Shoot the Trails event.
Sunday's enduro race was an eye-opening experience for me.  I had previously only raced one enduro-style event, the Methow Enduro, which was a lot of fun but not vastly different from a standard cross-country affair.  The Chuckanut Enduro was an entirely different beast.  Being on my backyard trails, I knew the course would include a lot of technical, rooty, slimy challenges.  Staying upright and on the trail would be a challenge.  Chuckanut was seeing tons of traffic the week before the event with everyone and their mother out practicing.  New lines were popping up and everything was getting covered in a layer of slimy damp loam.  My number one goal was to have fun, ride within my abilities, and not crash and re-injure my shoulder (or anything else).

24 miles and 5k+ ft of gain.  Not a walk in the park!
Rising early Sunday morning was painful after a late Saturday night.  Getting ready to ride at Larrabee State Park, I was asking lots of questions and trying not to look like a total idiot.  I finally casually began climbing up Fragrance Lake Rd to the start of the first stage, Two Dollar.  Knowing this was the least technical stage with the most pedaling, I hoped to take advantage of being on my Raleigh hardtail and build up an advantage before going into the more technical stages.  After powering down Two Dollar, I was so gassed I could barely see straight.  This was going to be a tough day on the bike!  It turns out I only put 5 seconds on Lars Sternberg... so much for building a big lead on "the pedally stage"!

After climbing casually in a group up to Lower Chuckanut Ridge, we were all amazed by how it seemed to be raining on us, despite absolutely no chance of precipitation.  Strangely, the dense fog coming off the Sound must have been blowing across the high crest of Chuckanut, where moisture was caught in the trees and dropped down on us in thick drops.  It was quite the isolated weather phenomena and reminded me of the Atacama Desert of Chile, where marine fog supports life.

The second stage began with a wide open fast descent down Madrona Crest, but quickly tightened into a maze of roots and flow-killing corners on Hush Hush.  This puzzle of a trail is so tangled with sniper roots, slimy rocks, and strange corners that the general consensus from riders afterwards was that nobody had a clean run free of crashes or mishaps.

After a long transfer down through Arroyo Park, out the Interurban back to Larrabee, then nearly 2k feet back to the top of Chuckanut, we faced the third stage, Upper Chuckanut Ridge to Galen's Step.  This trail featured some new loamy rutted singletrack followed by the classic Upper Ridge which was chock full of root gardens and mossy rock faces.  The final stretch down Galen's Step is steep and deep as it drops away from the ridgeline.  I had a clean run and hit some lines far faster than I ever had.  This was my smoothest run of the day.  Unfortunately, Lars suffered some bad luck when his cassette picked up a twig and hindered his pedaling.

Badass unicyclist riding Upper Ridge!
Climbing for the final time brought us to the fourth and final stage, Double Black Diamond.  Being steep and fast with heavy compressions and braking bumps, I knew this trail would be my personal crux.  Feeling that my first three runs had gone well, I was nervous-scared even-when dropping into DBD.  I botched a couple sections shortly after the start but took a few deep breaths, regained my composure, and rode the next 2/3 better than I ever had.  After crossing the line, Lars finished more than 30 seconds later, which told me that I had done well.  He is on another level down that trail, so believe it or not I was pumped to lose only 23 seconds to him.

While drinking beer and celebrating such a memorable day on the bike, stories of the day flew around.  It was rad catching up with friends new and old in the beer garden.  After 5k feet of climbing and 4 challenging stages, a mutual feeling of tiredness, satisfaction, and camaraderie was in the air.  As the results were suspensefuly announced, I knew I was leading the race after two stages.  Lars came over and told me I had won the whole thing by 8 seconds and I couldn't believe him.  I was absolutely blown away!  The racing was unbelievably close.  Darrin finished 3rd to fill the top-3 podium spots with Bellingham riders.  Lots of friends in the full results here.  Pink Bike article here.


I caught the enduro bug last weekend.  The racing was technically, mentally, and physically challenging.  That, combined with the social, laid back transfers between stages and big total time on the bike made for a winning combination.  With our trails and our passionate community, Bellingham seems to be the perfect place for hosting these races (and hopefully XC races in the future!).  Eric Brown and the WMBC are an incredible group who, among many other things, have worked with the WA State Parks to hold the race and take on an exciting growth plan for mountain bike trails in Larrabee.  Our town is already making a name for itself as a mountain bike hot spot.  If the current trajectory holds, Bellingham will be an international riding destination in a few years.  

Signing out with mountain biking perpetually on my mind...  Time to hit the trails!

Friday, July 26, 2013

A vacation without bike racing

Yup, you heard right.  Whitney and I went on vacation and did NO bike racing.  The original plan was to race the High Cascades 100 mile mtb race and spend a week in Bend, Oregon.  After reinjuring my shoulder a month ago, I've been taking a break from riding and racing.  Fortunately, I am always distracted by other outdoor activities as is, so getting injured doesn't mean sitting on the bench.  I've been running and hiking a bunch and really enjoying the variety.  Vacation in Bend was a blast.

We did watch Rusty and Patrick race the HC100 in brutal 95 degree heat from a comfortable swimming hole at Lava Lake on the backside of Mt Bachelor.




I also climbed the South Sister volcano.  At 10,358 feet, it is the third tallest peak in Oregon.  I ran as much of it as I could and made a solid speed challenge of it. The views were out of this world.  Checkout my previous post for more photos.





South Sister Run/Climb

IMG_1489Cascade Lakes HWY approach IMG_1486IMG_1478IMG_1464
IMG_1461IMG_1459MVI_1455

South Sister Run/Climb, a set on Flickr.

Sunny Bend, Oregon. A vacation free of bike racing. Amazing!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Shifting Gears

It's been a good long run, but I had to finish at some point.  Yes, that's right, I finished college and got myself one of these:

BS in Applied Mathematics
Whitney and I went on an awesome road trip down to Palm Springs, CA after finals week.  We stayed with her family down there and did some amazing hikes and relaxed a lot.  I also got out on three rides, two of which were really scenic in the San Bernardino and San Gorgonio Mountains.  Stage 2 of this year's Tour of California will finish in Palm Springs, but otherwise I wouldn't call the place much of a cycling destination.  The winter hiking options are unbelievable though!

Joshua Tree National Park
After working as an intern at Heath Tecna since June, I was officially hired on as an Associate Mechanical Engineer after graduating.  I feel privileged to have a good job right out of school and am super excited to get to stay in Bellingham.  Heath has been and still is very accommodating with and excited about my racing.

On a less positive note, I ran into a tree and hurt my shoulder about a month ago and I am still recovering.  I missed a couple weeks of riding and some early season races, but I'd say I am about 90% healed up and can mountain bike with almost no pain now.

This weekend will be my first race of the year at the Beacon and Legs, the second round of the Fat Tire Revolution Series.  The race is at Beacon Hill in Spokane and brings back nostalgic memories of my very first mountain bike race way back in 2004 at age 16!  I look forward to returning to the course after nearly a decade away.


Jiri and I sprinting for the win in the Junior Beginner Category at the '04 WIM Beacon Bomber.
It might be good for me to mention that I am racing on a new mountain bike squad this year called Team NW Sho-Air / Raleigh presented by SET Coaching.  The team is lead by solo 24 hour racer Ian Mullins, with Gian Dalle, Kevin Bradford-Parish, and myself rounding out the quadfecta.  You can check out our supporting companies on the right side of my blog.  See you at the races or on the trails!

Exciting new team kits!