Monday, June 18, 2012

Test of Metal Mudfest

Yesterday was one of those races that really force you to question your dedication to and love of the sport of mountain biking.  The conditions were absolutely heinous under a steady all-day downpour of rain.  Enormous puddles and creeks filled the roads and trails of Squamish, BC.

For those of you who don't know about Test of Metal, it is a 1000 person mass start point to point mountain bike race.  It is the "classic" of BC mountain bike racing.  67km of dirt roads and technical singletrack.  This year was my third year racing the Test and a big goal was to not flat after doing so the first two years.

Test of Metal always amazes me by how "big" it feels.  Starting with 1000 people behind you and then racing through neighborhoods and trails lined with spectators is not something you get to experience every day.  The whole town must come out to race or cheer people on.  There are people drinking beer, boomboxes blasting techno, and of course countless numbers of cowbells and cheering supporters.

The race starts out with a couple miles of pavement as you gradually climb up to the first section of dirt.  The first of several 100 dollar primes is at the entrance of this first trail, so the racing is intense.  I entered the trail in around 5th position after Cory Wallace took the prime.  Chris Sheppard and Neal Kindree started to gap the rest of us off and I tried to close it down but just didn't have it.  I think the effort kind of blew me up and I never fully recovered for the rest of the race.

With Sheppard and Kindree ahead, I rode in a chase group with Sean Babcock, Cory Wallace, Greg Day, Kevin Calhoun, and good friend Patrick Means.  As soon as we hit 9 mile climb the group shattered.  Cory took off, with Sean, myself, and the rest strung out behind.  I crested the top with nobody in sight ahead, but the Rocky Mountain Bikes duo of Kevin and Greg not far behind.

Down the ring creek rip I rode way more cautiously than in the past, as I knew this was flat tire alley with all the sharp loose rocks to negotiate at high speed.  Sure enough, I passed Sean as he was stopped fixing a flat in the exact place that I flatted last year.  Just before the plunge Greg and Kevin caught and passed me.  I stayed with them down the upper plunge until Kevin dropped his chain and had to stop.  Greg, a Squamish local, pulled away from me on the extremely wet, rooty, rocky, steep descent.  I have ridden the plunge a bunch of times, but never have I experienced it in remotely that challenging of circumstances.  My fingers and arms were cramping from the cold and from the pounding of the trail.  My eyes were full of mud and it looked like I was seeing the world through a dirty beer glass.  By now I was really starting to shut down and go into full survival mode.

As soon as I started climbing through the feed zone the second time, my hamstrings locked up with horrendous cramps and I almost had to stop and walk.  There were support people and lapped riders everywhere in the feed zone and I struggled to find Whitney in the chaos.  If she hadn't been there to give me a bottle, there is no way in hell I would have finished.  I chugged the entire bottle of Clif drink mix within seconds.  That did the trick and my cramps went away.  Now I only had to make it through crumpit woods (aka "crampit woods") to reach the finish line.

Riding crumpit was like "riding by brail" as Patrick described it.  So much mud in my eyes.  I finally made it to the finish but had to dig hard at the end to hold off a charging Carter Hovey.  Somehow I still ended up 5th, which is my best Test of Metal result and first time on the podium.  I would have liked to do a little better, but I'll take it.  Neal Kindree, the Squamish Wonderchild as Ricky Federau calls him, won the race.  Patrick Means had a strong finish for 7th.

After the finish, I went straight to the medical tent and had my eyes flushed out.  My brake pads were worn to the metal backplates.  Cables seized up.  You get the picture.  Full on race of attrition.  I passed the Test, but I was certainly humbled this time around.


  1. Oh man... sounds horrendous.

    I recall one year (way back in the day) racing at Capitol Forest. We started at Rock Candy (in the rain) and by the time we had finished one lap (there were two) most of the field had already worn their brake pads all the way down. Don't forget, this was in the days of cantilevers... People were DNFing left and right because they simply could not slow down.

    The finish (it was still raining) was down a big hill and then through an enormous mud puddle - it must have been about 50' long and 1-2' deep. It was nice in a way as it slowed you down and everyone came down that last hill fully out of control!

    I had to take my bike TOTALLY apart and my clothes never did get clean. The only consolation was back then most people did not use suspension so that was one piece of equipment we did not have to overhaul.

    Awesome ride! I'm glad you got that bottle and that you did not have to quit.

  2. Most of the spectators are wearing jackets and heavy clothing, yet nearly every rider looks dressed for a partly sunny 68F degree day. Is underdressing for conditions typical? x_x

    Oh, I enjoyed reading your last two race narratives. Keep it up.

  3. Great job holding it together until the end, Logan. That was a very special kind of suffering out there.