This week last year, I was pretty much shitting my pants getting ready to go to the BC Bike Race. The weekend before, I had taken a tumble on the Fargo on pavement and completely jacked up my elbow and shoulder. I was a basket case. I was, without question, completely undertrained, and injured on top of it. It’s safe to say, I did not have high hopes for the outcome of this adventure.
But Lauren, the best teammate ever, and I rocked it, with style and grace. We didn’t race the race, it was more of a tour, but we probably had more fun out on that course than anyone out there.
The ‘red hats’ or the BC Bike Race patrol staff, who was wearing red POC helmets, hence their nickname, told us all week how they could hear us from a half a mile away, laughing and squawking our way up the climbs. Once, they rode up on us mid-trailside picnic. We had Rice Krispy treats and I can’t remember what else, and I am certain everyone who passed was dying inside from jealousy, as they should have.
It was Day 5. We had just ridden the gnarly miles and ridiculous climbs of Day 4 and well, we had a hangover. A full-on picnic was just what the doctor ordered. It may have very well been the best 10 minutes of my life.
I don’t remember much else from that day, which was probably my hardest, except that I felt my body settle into a rhythm, surrender somehow, to the routine of wake up, pack up, coffee up, eat up, saddle up and ride your fucking heart out. Return to camp, wherever it may be that day, eat, sleep, and repeat.
What a week it was. Yes, it’s glamorous in hindsight, I’m the first to admit that. Some days, I wanted to just cry. And I did. Riding a bike on technical singletrack for seven days straight on trails you’ve never seen before, even when you’re not going race pace, is hard as hell, mentally and physically.
But Lauren and I, we somehow, despite only having ever ridden together maybe three times before, managed to complement each other in a way that I still can’t quite get my mind around. When I was low on blood sugar, motivation and moxie, she was flying high and just shredding the shit out of the course. It inspired me to do the same. I’d like to think I lifted her up too, even when she practically broke her mother-effing hand crashing on Day Two. I think we both knew that if we let the mind go down the rabbit hole of doom, we’d be pretty well fucked.
So we just didn’t go there. We’d teeter on the rim of the hole, but somehow we’d always manage to pass it by and just keep pedaling.
Day 6, we camped in Squamish, and I was so overwhelmed by a cocktail of emotions ranging from exhaustion to complete and utter elation that we were almost done. But sadness started to set in too, because I knew that after one of the best days on the bike on some of the most amazing trails on this planet (Half Nelson, hell yes!), it was all going to come to a screeching halt, right when I was settling into a blissful routine.
The vision of the camp in Squamish at sunset, post-brewery and pizza haze, with a group of new and old friends the Sturdy Bitches, is branded into my mind. I remember wearing recovery compression socks with flip flops and knickers and not giving a flying fuck. I remember the soft glow of the late BC sunset casting shadows on Chief Timothy, the granite wall that towers over Squamish like a diligent sentinel.
Most of all, I remember realizing, perhaps for the first time, that I was going to finish this. I am not and have never been a natural athlete. I work hard to achieve things physically, and if you’d have asked me one year prior, I would have laughed at the notion of ever completing a seven-day stage race across BC’s finest singletrack.
But that week was the first real proof for me that such endeavors are at least 95 % mental. And I’ve spent the past year putting that theory to the test, with various running accomplishments that really never could have dreamed I could pull off. But I did, and my tick list, both on the bike and on the feets keeps getting longer.
Day 7 we climbed up a fire road on an easy green downhill trail at Whistler Mountain Bike Park, a place I’ve spent a few hours riding and flailing myself downhill, riding the lift back up. That I would ever pedal uphill in that park was an insane notion. But we did. It was the last day, and our shortest. I, in my clipless pedals, confidently rode skinnies on the Lost Lake XC trails and climbed like a mofo on short, punchy hills. We were so close I could taste it.
I think the lump started in my throat about one mile from the finish. Like horses going back to the barn, as we got closer to where had started that day, we ramped up the cadence. Tears had formed before we saw the finish arch in Whistler Village. Lauren and I held hands as we rode under it.
We had done it, and so much of my being wants to do it again, even though it was hard and it hurt. It was one of the best weeks of my life–one that changed my thinking when it comes to what my body, and more importantly, my mind can achieve.
I raise my glass to the racers this next week–may you have as amazing of a week that we had, and know that anything is possible.