Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Riding, riding & a bit more.

Well, looking back at my riding diary, it is apparent I deserve a night chilling at home - eight rides in the previous twelve days & the small matter of four hours of sleep on Saturday night & riding at two in the morning. Most of that time the weather has been pretty average - but the luxury of living so close to trails is that you can choose when you want to go out, knowing that if the weather is not great it will improve soon. The Sunday before last Alex & I headed back up Barrier Mountain from the lakeside, as we didn't have all that much time. Not quite as glorious view as the previous time - but at least the poor forecast had discouraged all the hikers - we only saw a few other bikers. True to form, I got another puncture - but that didn't really discourage me from having a blast down Jewell Pass again.

As I had worked that Saturday, I took Monday off & went exploring around Moose Mountain with James - he was keen to go somewhere he hadn't been riding before. I of course am just plain keen to go riding anywhere in this great area. We had about a ninety minute drive through K-Country (incidentally, that big snow scene in Inception was filmed further up the Kananaskis Valley somewhere - if you haven't seen that film yet, I encourage you to do so) before we eventually found a trail head. We are not sure we found the correct one, but we got a nice short ride (sixty to ninety minutes) on the Sulphur Spring trail - it was a pleasant change to riding on a trail that was mostly dirt & had noticeably less roots & rocks. The clouds did exactly make for great views & we got quite confused trying to work out which peak & valley was which. There are few more rides in the area I would like to do in the next couple of months.
After a couple days' break (due to weather), on Thursday night Alex was keen to brave the showers (it had been raining in Canmore most of the afternoon) & head up to the Nordic Center to scope out the course for the 24 Hours of Adrenaline - an extremely popular 24 hr solo/relay event. Alex was lucky to get in riding for Megan's work's corporate team, as the entries tend to fill up within a day. We found the first half of the course & got stuck in the big climb above the Day Lodge. Quite a bit of this part of the loop was on freshly cut trails & with all the rain they were very slick & the roots were particularly slippery. It was an awful climb & I was glad that I was not racing - also, the laps were 17 km long - that's over twice as long the Moonride laps & there were some brutal climbs in there too.

Friday was an absolutely stunning day & even though Alex was back up at the 24 hr course I couldn't help but go for a ride by myself - the first one in over two months. I headed out to the Montane Traverse on the other side of the valley - this is one of the first trails I did when I arrived. The first hill was still absolutely punishing - but I must be a bit fitter & stronger now as it was more manageable this time. What I remember as a two and a half to three hour ride only turned out to be ninety minutes (riding my oneself has so many less stops) & I was back in time for the weekly dose of the IT Crowd. I thought too soon, as later that night Alex volunteered me to ride in a team from Cochrane & Calgary that had lost one of their riders to unfitness. I was extra pleased for the day's sunshine after that - there was a chance the course may be in better condition.

Unlike the Moonride, this event started at noon in the blazing sun - but I was at work for that. Knocking off work early, I rushed home & organised my riding gear & rocked on up to find my team. I was promptly told that I was riding next & once we were at the RV I busied myself getting ready & fueling up. Once I had got the briefing from Peter (team captain it would seem) on the archaic timing system - lots of people in a tent with big sheets of paper writing down the time of each team's baton change, I couldn't believe it was so bad - I waited around for Rowan to come in. And waited, and waited - it turned out he had got a flat (usually my domain) & had to beg & borrow a tube - before heading out at 1815. I was lucky as it was starting to cool down. I had a great first lap & was pleased to do the 17 km in 64 minutes & only got passed by two other riders. I was even more pleased to be stomping on the big chain ring on most of the fire road & doing the rest of the lap in the middle ring - all that stubborn refusal to drop down in the previous two months was paying off. There was a nice long climb near the end on which I passed countless people & then it got brutally steep for a hundred metres or so - then I realised why everyone was looking so beat on finishing their laps.

There were some interesting comparisons with the Moonride. Firstly, it was summer (you couldn't run a bike race in winter here) & that meant only about seven hours of darkness - a bit short changed on the night riding front. But it was dry & warm; it wasn't quite the same as being covered in mud, waiting around at the team's tent site wrapped in blankets - I missed the adventurous feeling. As I said before this lap was twice as long as the Moonride - which was good & bad. It meant we only got to go out three times each, good for recovery - but you get a lot of time sitting around waiting & doing nothing. It was a much more technical lap than the Moonride, but entirely rideable - this goes some to explaining the band of rider level, which was much narrower than similar events I have ridden in in NZ. It was much more just mountain bikers - there were no really really fast roadies burning around the track & there were far fewer novices & no kids riding. The lack of fast riders could be seen that I only got passed nine times in three & a half hours of riding - I'm not nearly fast enough to warrant that. The lack of children may have also been due to there not being a 12 event running at the same time; I like to see the kids out having a go & or being pulled/carried around by their parents. But the biggest difference was the lack of atmosphere - the Moonride is definitely a much more fun event. I think this was mostly because the lap didn't go through where all the tents were set up - you just weren't as close to the action - & the loudspeakers didn't reach to most of the team sites.

Being so close to home, I was able to pop home for dinner - I forced the third burrito down, thinking I needed the fuel - then went back up to see my team & doze in the RV (Peter works for an RV company, so had the lend of a really nicely finished medium sized RV - but what would be massive back in NZ). My next lap was due to start at one in the morning, so there I was waiting & waiting for Rowan again. This time he broke his chain twice & pulled out of the lap. That third burrito came back to haunt me with a niggling stitch for most of lap, but I made it around in the dark without crashing & only eight minutes slower - I was quite pleased with that. Being nearly three I headed home to sleep in my own bed (luxury) for four hours before heading back for my last lap at nine - I was surprised I was only a minute slower than my other daylight lap (for which I was fresh) & it was still mercifully cool as well. After depositing my gear in the car, I was lucky enough to see a great big bald eagle circling over the road. We got one more lap in after my last one - we finished up with fifteen altogether - it was a pretty casual team that I was lucky enough to help out. A good event, but I was missing the Moonride & Team Santa Cruzin' by the end of it. However, you don't get views like this at the Moonride:
I sure don't get tired of looking out my window, or walking back from the grocery store, or riding around town or on the trails & seeing those mountains around (not the best photos of them, but they're always just right there). Have I mentioned I love this place?


  1. The timing tent wasn't really the timing system - we were just a back-up, and there to monitor the baton changes. The real times were being taken round the other side by fancy people with computers. It was a bit of an archaic system though (especially for an event that costs so much to enter, and has so little in the way of awesome prizes). I'm surprised they didn't have a way of differentiating between riders, even little community run events in Australia will usually give a batch of numbers to a team rather than just one, so it's easy to track who did what lap.

  2. There were people writing things down in pencil, I still can't believe it! And have you seen the results posted online - what a mess.