Canmore on the morning of May 30th was zero degrees with a little rain and snow in the air. I was up at 6am to prepare for a mountain bike race I was participating in at Calgary Olympic Park starting at 9am. I was registered as half of a two man team to race the 8 hour mountain bike race and I’ve got to be honest, I wasn’t real motivated when I took a look out of the window.
Don’t get me wrong, the only thing I enjoy more than riding my Mountain bike is spending time with my wife and kids but I’m more of what my friends call a ‘fair weather rider’. To make matters even less motivating was the fact that it had been snowing and raining for about three days straight prior to to Sunday so I knew the course was going to be a mix of slick wet root and rocks and deep slippery mud.
My race partner had even called me on Saturday night giving me the opportunity to quit before I began – he was in Calgary already and had taken a look at the course. He’d told me that if he wasn’t in Calgary already he’d be calling me to drop out but as I was the one that had to drive in from Canmore early Sunday morning it was my decision. I seriously thought about it, but then I could hear the stories he’d be telling all our friends that asked about the race “Yeah, I wanted to race but Richard didn’t want to ride in the mud and cold” – there was no way I was going to be the one to quit without giving it a try.
Sunday morning at Calgary Olympic Park didn’t disappoint for weather, there was snow on the ground and it was freezing cold – below zero for sure – which is exponentially colder when wearing bike shorts and bike shirts. The race organizers gave their pre-race talk and let us know that they had to change the course layout due to the weather and that the 8 hour race would still take place although if the weather deteriorated they would stop it after 4 hours.
At 9am the horn sounded and the race started. My race partner and I were taking it in turns to each ride a lap. He rode the first lap and his words of wisdom when he came around for the first exchange was “it’s real slick out there, be careful”. As I started out and hit the trail it soon became obvious that the trail was very trecherous. Most racers in front of me were taking it very cautiously as they tried to get used to riding in such slick conditions. The rocks and roots on the climbs made it near impossible to climb on the bike and the first 10 minutes of the lap I spent more time walking than riding my bike. Once at the top of the first few hills the trail went into the trees where we had to battle deep mud, off camber trails with mud so wet that it looked and felt like Chocolate fondue and more really wet slippery tree roots.
The further the trail progressed the more it stayed the same and at the end of the first lap I stopped and spent a good 10 minutes wondering what the heck I was doing at 10am on a Sunday morning racing in these conditions. Then my race partner came back around and I went back out on my second lap without even thinking.
The longer the race went the more comfortable we became on the trail and the faster our lap times became. The trail also started to dry out and was much easier to ride after about 4 hours. At the 5 hour mark we both looked at each other, decided we’d had fun, were pretty tired and ended our day a few hours early while we could look back at the race as a fun time of racing in the mud.
Deadgoat racing were the race team to host the race and they did a fantastic job of being hosts. To all the guys and girls that competed in the Solo division – I think you’re nuts to race for 8 hours straight and even more nuts to do it in those types of conditions but congratulations to all of you on your efforts.
I will be back next year, I’m already hoping for better weather – and I will stay and race until the end. Next up is the Organ Grinder race in Canmore on June 13th. A 5 hour mountain bike race at the Nordic Centre and I can’t wait to race the trails in my back yard.