LIFE AFTER THE
WHEN IT'S ALL OVER
BC BIKE RACE
What can I say about the BC Bike Race that hasn't been said already? You've likely all heard about the near endless ribbons of singletrack
that look to be straight out of a movie (some of them actually are
), countless technical challenges in the form of roots and rocks that can be made even more demanding by B.C.'s sometimes unpredictable weather, and so much camaraderie that you might end up naming your first born son after someone you meet during the week. And anyone who tells you that the race is a breeze is either full of shit or hasn't yet ticked it off their own list. The truth is, you can never be too fit, too strong, or too good of a bike handler, and that applies regardless of if you're heading into it with podium aspirations or if your results are about as important to you as what shade of blue your wife wants to paint the washroom. After all, teal is a great colour, and mountain biking is fun and all, but it's even more enjoyable when you're strong enough to have fun during the hard days, right?
All that's a bit obvious, though. Less clear is what happens after you cross that last finish line in Whistler, enjoy two or seven celebratory fizzy drinks, and then pack up a week's worth of dirty socks and chamois before heading back to wherever you're from. First things first, get over the fact that you not only survived, but that your weeklong stay in la-la land is over and that it's time to go back to normal life. And I don't care how awesome you think your normal life is, the B.C. Bike Race is "awesomer". It's Not Over, Is it?
Racing for a week straight is a funny thing. First, there's the steady build-up of nerves: did I train hard enough? Will my bike see me through all seven days? Will my tent-mate fart all night long from downing thirty gels during every stage? All those thoughts kept me from getting a good night's sleep before the first day's early morning start in North Vancouver, but I'm sure that I'm far from being the only one who would admit that. Put in a good showing on day one, though, and the remaining week is tough, but you'll have a much easier go of it for the remaining six stages - the higher your placing on the first day, the closer to the front you'll get to start for the rest of the week. In other words, think of stage one as a qualifying session. It's completely true that your legs will feel worn out everyday, but don't forget that many of your peers are also waking up at 3am with their quads locked in a painful seizure that feels like they'll never soften up.
By the time you get to the third and fourth days you'll be hitting your stride, so long as you've been taking care of yourself, and then, if you're like me, day five and six will start off being more about survival than putting the hurt on others... even if the trails are some of the best that B.C. has to offer. My advice: take a few deep breaths, push a gear or two easier than you might want to for the first thirty minutes, and let the race come to you. It might actually end up ''coming to you,'' or you might end up in the pain cave all day regardless, but at least you'll see the finish line with that strategy.
The final day of the BCBR almost doesn't feel real. You've made it, or at least you will in another hour and a half barring disaster, but rather than being grateful that the end is in sight like you expected to be, you'll likely be wishing for it to go on and on. Just a few more nights in the tent, just a few more days of breathing through your eyeballs on climbs and skidding around loamy downhill corners, and, of course, just a few more days of hanging out with new and old friends. But then it's all over and you're supposed to go back to normal life like it never happened. No more falling asleep in your dirty riding gear in front of your tent after a hard day. No more going up for desert three times without shame (''It was a hard day!
''). Singletrack cold turkey with a badass glove tan from your efforts.
Where Are My Legs?
|You've likely all heard about the near endless ribbons of singletrack that look to be straight out of a movie (some of them actually are), countless technical challenges in the form or roots and rocks that can be made even more demanding by B.C.'s sometimes unpredictable weather, and so much camaraderie that you might end up wanting to name your first born son after someone you meet during the week.|
Putting in a half decent performance at your local cross-country race is no easy feat - it takes a fair bit of commitment, or at least a willingness to pedal hard as balls for awhile if you hope to do well relative to those around you. Putting in a half decent performance at a week-long stage race is a whole other ballgame, though, and I'd say that challenges like setting the time on your VCR, earning a master's degree, or raising a few children are about on par with being strong and consistent through a week of racing on British Columbia's technical singletrack. Then again, I haven't done any of those things except the bit about the BC Bike Race, so I may be a little off-base with my comparisons. Even the fittest and cockiest of riders out there knows that the BCBR is a hard event to complete, let alone actually race, but it's funny what your body can handle when the other option is telling your friends that you gave up. Each of the seven days essentially feels a lot like a very long cross-country race, and you'd usually take the next day off the bike, or maybe do an easy recovery spin to keep the legs moving, but the BCBR obviously doesn't allow that. Nope, you get up the next morning and do it all over again, and somehow your legs are okay with that. It's when the race is over that they say enough is enough, though...
I'll admit that I felt pretty damn smug about how I rode at this year's event, and I seriously expected to head home after a week of full-on racing and crush everyone in my local crew. I was really looking forward to stepping on their balls during the climbs, and feeling fresh as a daisy after a three hour ride that put them in the hurt locker. I'm an idiot, as it turns out, and that's pretty much the last thing that was going to happen. Your body, or at least mine, wants to go into re-building mode after a hard week spent in the saddle, and a few flights of stairs had me reeling from lactic acid that hit my legs in much the same way that I suspect sticking a fork into a wall socket would do. Sure, drink all the chocolate milk that you can pour down your throat. Stretch until you're so flexible that you feel okay about those Lululemon ''guys pants'' that you bought. Get on up with that foam roller so hard that you start talking dirty to it. It's not going to matter because you're going to feel like you got taken out at the knees by a fat kid on a scooter regardless of how much so-called recovery work you do.
Your legs will come back, eventually. And not only that, they'll come back even stronger than before, but it's going to take time unless you race bikes for a living. I found that almost two weeks had passed until I was back to the point where I could only feel the good effects of racing the BCBR, which is, not surprisingly, a newfound ability to suffer more than your friends. I'm not going to lie, that's a great feeling. In fact, you'll feel like a million bucks all around after a short while: lighter, fitter, stronger. Basically, it's the world's funnest boot camp.
There's My Legs!
|Sure, drink all the chocolate milk that you can pour down your throat. Stretch until you're so flexible that you feel okay about those Lululemon ''guys pants'' that you bought. Get on up with that foam roller so hard that you start talking dirty to it. It's not going to matter because you're going to feel like you got taken out at the knees by a fat kid on a scooter regardless of how much so-called recovery work you do.|
Mountain bike boot camp, er, I mean the BC Bike Race, will turn you into an animal on the bike, and there's a good chance that you're going to want to ride, ride, and then ride some more after you recover from the event. Weeks after the BCBR, I often found myself wanting to keep rolling, work and other commitments be damned, and I just couldn't understand why others in my local crew didn't want to ride for the entire day - what else could there be to do? Can't your four year old make his own dinner? What do you mean you're going to get fired? The BCBR spoils you: you wake up and go stuff your face with as much bacon, eggs, and pastries as you want, then your only other responsibility is to get chamois'd up and be on the line when the horn sounds. It's the good life, one where being at work on time or arguing over who's turn it is to clean the dishes doesn't exist. But it also spoils you by giving you a taste of what life could be like if you won some sort of lottery that awarded you with free time rather than useless money. I think that it should really be called the B.C. Bike Race Time Lottery. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that the event has been directly responsible for a few divorces over the years.
Are you one of those Strava nutbars who screenshots their latest KOM conquests and posts them on Facebook or Instagram? If so, please stop doing that. But if you won't stop, the BC Bike Race is going to feel like the perfect training program for the real race in your head, which happens to be every timed section of your local trail network. Prepare to likely be faster than you ever have, just please have some class about it. And go easy on your riding buddies once you fully recover - no one likes a showoff, do they?
Where's Everyone At?
| But it also spoils you by giving you a taste of what life could be like if you won some sort of lottery that awarded you with free time rather than useless money. I think that it should really should be called the B.C. Bike Race Time Lottery. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that the event has been directly responsible for a few divorces over the years.|
Almost every firsthand account of the BCBR that I've read, including my own, inevitably has a few sentences where the writer complains about trail traffic, often Euros who seem to think roots and rocks mean eating shit or walking, or long lineups of less than ideally fit riders practicing their trackstands at the entry to tricky sections. That happens, no doubt about it, but if you're just quick enough on the ups to stay ahead of riders less adapt at B.C.'s singletrack, you'll likely be rewarded with latching onto a group of shredders who posses similar skills and lungs. I can't overstate how awesome it is to race for hours with the same group of guys, day-in and day-out, which is something that leads to an immense amount of heckling and name-calling that is only ever going to be appropriate when way out in the bush.
''You'll climb faster if you don't brake on the uphills,'' was yelled at me while my eyes were rolling back in their sockets during a steep gravel road climb in the blazing heat. I wasn't squeezing the brake levers, but I may have well been.
There's a lot of technical sections in the BC Bike Race, and you're bound to get caught out by a few of them, which might lead to a peer piping up with a ''Is this your first mountain bike ride?'' The funny thing is that you might be so tired that it does feel like your first time on singletrack. Which lever operates which brake? Inside pedal up or down? OMG, I'm cross-geared!
''Are you choosing lines or just closing your eyes and hoping for the best,'' is something that I asked a fellow racer ahead of me after he got lucky a handful of times on a rocky, rough downhill. I think I hit the deck about two minutes after that. Karma is a bitch.
Apparently it's not kosher to yell out ''Hey everyone, Lance Armstrong wants through!
'' when the guy behind you tersely asks to get by during a fast, strung out, single file climb that saw thirty of us lined up. Dude, where the f*ck are you going to go? I let Lance past, as did a few people ahead of me, only to see him a couple of minutes later, tangled up in his carbon hardtail on the ground from trying to execute a shady off-trail pass through the bush.
It's those moments that really make those long, hard efforts in the saddle so much better; simply knowing that you're all suffering but still having enough wits about you to come up with a smart ass remark. That in itself is worth the packed trails and crowded post-race shower lineups (oh look, another penis...
), and it's something that I don't think I really appreciated until I was back home, doing long rides with either a single friend or by myself. I always think of myself as a bit of a loner who tends to avoid crowds, be it a big group ride or going grocery shopping on welfare Wednesday, but the BCBR was an eye opener - I really do like riding with others. There's no coming around a corner while 30 kilometers out in the bush on your own trails and seeing Rocky Mountain's Brett Tippie wearing a wig and yelling at you through a megaphone that you're awesome. You're also unlikely to get two sasquatches on one dirtbike pacing you up your local gravel road climb. Or stumble upon two or three different feed zones during your weekend epic that are fully stocked with drinks and food. I really do wish that last one would happen, though. So, About Next Year...
A lot of the world is heading into the darkness known as winter, which, if you're anything like me, mostly involves eating my feelings, wearing thermal underwear, and reliving the good times I had on my bike before it started getting dark at 4pm. In years past I've usually done my best to acquire diabetes between December and late February, but this winter is different. This winter is all about next summer, which is probably the furthest ahead that I've ever planned anything in my life, but that's the sort of thing that the BC Bike Race will do to you. You could be sitting on your couch, listening to the rain come down or watching the snow pile up, and suddenly realize that yes, you do want to go to spin class. Maybe you'll be doing your usual Sunday night grocery shopping when you figure out that grocery shopping should consist of more than buying chips and cookies. This is the sort of thing that the BC Bike Race will do to you, even when you're months removed from the event as we are now: even the most committed of slackers (that's me
) will be scheming and planning for next summer's event.
Those with families will likely be thinking longterm by planting the seed early, ''You know, honey, B.C. is really nice in early July. I think we deserve a holiday together!
'' Those with jobs who might not cater to such fantasies will be browsing Wikipedia for some sort of believable disease that they can use as an excuse to get away, while others will be saving every penny for their mid-summer adventure. Don't assume that the homeless looking guy collecting cans along the side of the highway is doing it for food money... it could be for his BC Bike Race entry fee. Whatever your method of getting there, doing the race once isn't likely going to feel like it's enough, even though it'll really feel like more than enough when you're trying to get through it. One day removed, though, you'll likely be find yourself planning for next year as you clean out wounds from the week's racing that you just completed. It's a funny thing how that works, isn't it?www.bcbikerace.comPhotographery by Dave Silver, Margus Riga and Todd Weselake