The BC Bike Race so far

As with any race, jitters abound. The three of us made the six hour drive to the city of Kelowna, where our race would start. After some bad highway fried chicken and a lot of gas station snacks, it was lovely to settle in to the massive home of one of my old residency friends, who now has two very loud young children, and a husband obsessed with mountain biking. He was so excited for our arrival and probably more excited for our race than we were.

The following morning, we readied our bikes and bodies and headed to the start line, where we then proceeded to wait in line for an hour to sort out registration. Our race bibs state our names, number, and a little flag to show country of origin, aiming, I assume, to foster comraderie and conversation.

The first day was a prologue ride, a cheeky 10 km that would still count toward our final time, but would help with seeding everyone for start times. As timing chips are on our race plates, we could choose to do the ride any time that day, as long as we were back for 330pm, as the racers meeting was at 4.

It was a road rollout before we hit the timing mat, then a punchy climb on single track with a fast, flowy descent. We were in and out in 45 minutes.

As part of my bike purchase, the shop threw in the “Optima package” where after each race day, I drop my bike with their mechanics and advise of any issues, and they clean and tune my bike each night, then valet it to the start line each morning. So I leave my precious bike with them, advising that the dropper is sticky and annoying, and trot off to my friends house.

I’ve gotten bags of saline and a vitamin concoction called a Myers’ cocktail, and re-learned how to do IVs, so I hook myself and my friends up for a little intravenous rehydration before we head to the racer meeting. (For the record, this is not cheating, as the race itself used to provide vitamin and saline IVs for purchase in pre covid times. )

There, we are introduced to the 16 year history of the event, the people who organize it, and breathe in the buzz of excitement. There are some who have come from all over to ride; South Africans, Mexicans, Brazilians, Peruvians, and a bunch of our American friends. I’m amazed at how far some have come. We are reminded to be kind and courteous, to let people pass, to ask nicely. We are advised about bears and snakes and cougars, medics, emergency phone numbers. Then, we are dismissed.

Day 2, Stage 1 is 41 km, and 1600 m elevation. It, too is in Kelowna. We climb and at the 20 km mark, despite my carefully timed fueling plan with electrolyte tablets and gummy blocks and protein bars, I feel my right quad threatening to cramp. I get off my bike and stretch, then keep going, hoping to get to the aid station before it fully goes.

Finally, I get there and upon dismount, it spasms and I’m on the ground trying desperately to bend my knee to stop it. A medic comes by and hands me a couple glasses of electrolyte and I sit for a while before deciding to keep moving.

There’s a fast and fun descent that comes after. There are a lot of xc riders on very racy tires who clearly don’t ride this kind of stuff regularly and they’re all bunched up on the features trying to walk them (and if you’ve ever tried to walk steep features that are meant to be dropped, then you know it’s probably just easier to ride them), so blasting past them on my bike while they cheered or looked on in awe felt pretty great and confidence inspiring.

But there are still a lot of kilometres to be ridden, and my quads are threatening revolt. I switch into granny gear and pedal incredibly slowly for all the climbs, willing myself not to get off the bike or stop moving, and annoyed I can’t push harder because my energy is still pretty good. I’m hydrating as best I can and by the time I cross the finish, it’s been about three hours and a bit, and the legs have settled into a dull ache.

I drop my bike, and we head back for showers and food and another IV before driving to the next destination.

It’s a little hotel in a small town, and we eat dinner at the hotel sports bar, gorging on as much carbohydrate, protein, and salt as we can muster, then putting the Theragun to each other, then crashing into an achey slumber.

Day 3, Stage 2 in the town of Salmon Arm starts in much the same way as day 2, but this is a “Queen Stage” (with no real explanation to why they call it that), designed to test endurance and fitness. 52 km, 2000 m in elevation. I’m extra careful with hydration and electrolytes, pausing every 30 minutes to get tablets in me, and then taking bites of food while pedaling any flat bits. After the first big descent and starting the second climb, a guy from Argentina is exhausted, wobbling up the hill.

“It’s like I’m drunk! But only my legs!” he yells.

The second climb is 60% a long service road, and strangely enough, I feel great, so I push hard up it, occasionally chatting with the guys I’ve been yoyo-ing back and forth with all day. The positive energy and encouragement everyone is sending out is awesome, and sometimes a rarity in these situations.

Before long, we’re treated to a long descent on ribbons of black loam through a temperate rainforest, then on dusty tech with spectacular views overlooking the town and massive lake below.

I finish in just under six hours, my friends coming in about 25 minutes before me. The pros are finishing in about half our times, and total racer numbers have dwindled a bit each day. I’ve managed to hold my place in my age and gender category (5th out of 12; there are maybe only 45 women here), but am far enough behind the woman in front of me that I’m unlikely to move up at this point, though I guess you never know. It’s still early. And also, it doesn’t matter!

We get chiropractic and massage treatments at the wellness tent, eat a bag of chips, and sprawl onto the yoga mats on the field to stretch. We see the Peruvians and a South African and rehash the day.

It’s another hour drive or so to the next location, and we check in to the condo we’ve rented, tired, sore, and spent.

It’s showers and three bowls of pasta and a load of laundry before running the IVs, drinking loads of water, and crashing into bed.

It’s a bit hard for me to sleep in, so I’m awake, documenting this experience before I forget it all, listening to my friends grumble and fart in their sleep, before I commit to getting up today for the third stage, another 40+ km and who knows how much elevation. All I know right now is that I hurt everywhere and I had to lance two bumps last night (they’re not saddle sores or blisters, but they get swollen and hurt like crazy until I can pop and drain them).

Four more days and another Queen Stage to go.

Right now, at this moment, I am really just hoping I finish the race.

And then I will never do it again.

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9 thoughts on “The BC Bike Race so far

    1. We’re only infusing 500 ml. Clearly, we’re not drinking enough, as even with hydration during the race, before, and after, *and* the IV, the pee is still too yellow.. I think because we’re running a deficit every day, it’s really hard to get enough food and water in before the next day’s race..
      Definitely working hard and having fun and so far, staying on the bike!

      Liked by 1 person

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