Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Stage 1

What do you pack for this sort of thing anyway?

Sarah and I arrived at the start of the race on Thursday afternoon. After a quick hour spin on the trails of Buckwallow, we set up camp next door at the KOA and set about the task of packing up our bags for the three days of racing/volunteering. We each received a big red Crank the Shield duffle bag that would have to hold all our gear (clothes, sleeping bag/pillow, riding gear, spare parts, toiletries, etc.) It turned out we really didn't have to do this since Sarah found out in the morning that she could drive the truck each day. Still, it was a good exercise in order to prepare for some race down the road where I won't have that luxury. We woke up to fairly mild temperatures on Friday morning and made our way over to the start of the race. I got dressed and got the bike ready while Sarah went to her volunteer meeting, and then she was off on her way to Aid Station 1. This left me all alone with a bunch of Canadians for about half an hour before the rider's meeting and the start, but I was able to pass the time chatting with other racers (280 of us) gearing up for the big unknown. And I really mean the big unknown. Since this was the first running of the event, nobody knew what to expect (including the race directors). The gun went off right at 10:00 and the madness that is mountain bike racing began. The first 10 km. or so were on the same trails that Sarah and I had ridden the previous day. We just rode them all at a much faster pace. They were fairly technical with a lot of exposed rock and tight corners. After about 45 minutes of this fun, we shot out onto the road and made our way to the first ATV trail of the day. This area of Canada is known as the Canadian Shield (hence the name of the race) which means there really isn't a whole lot of dirt on the ground. Instead there is mostly exposed rock and hard clay. Since there is no dirt to speak of, any water that falls from the sky or springs from the ground pools instead of drains. This leads to one of the biggest challenges of the race: large, long, deep pools of muddy water that Canadian's affectionately refer to as bogs. Occasionally, you can ride your bike through them; but for the most part you have to dismount and carry your bike through knee to waist deep muddy water. Needless to say, after a while this gets to be a real b**ch. And so the rest of the first day's 80 km. were alternating sections of ATV/bog trails and dirt fire roads. You'd get a good steady pace going on the fire road sections and then BAM: back to the bogs. I was able to keep a pretty positive attitude about it since everyone was in the same boat. I was even joking with other racers about all the dismounting and remounting being good practice for cyclocross season. So anywho, after 4 hours and 38 minutes Stage 1 was in the books. From the finish, we had to ride about 7 km to Camp Kandalore where there was a nice bike wash station set up and Subway sandwiches waiting for us. After cleaning the bike and shoving some chow down the hatch, I retrieved my bag, went to my cabin, and set about finding a shower to rinse off some the nasty mud that was covering almost my entire body. After that Sarah and I were able to hang out for a little bit on the docks and have a beer before dinner. There was a brief awards ceremony for the top riders and a preview for Stage 2 after dinner. Since we were looking at an even longer day in the saddle for Stage 2, I hit the bunk before 9:00 for a little reading. I'm pretty sure I was asleep by 9:30 in order to rest up the next days adventure.

Sarah volunteering at Aid Station 1.

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