Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Snow to surf

by Wendy

The first day that I strapped on a heart rate monitor for a mountain bike ride I knew that I had turned into one of those “serious” racers that I swore I would never be. To some people, training to improve your race results might seem like a natural progression, but I had actually fought it for years. I had been quite happy racing on minimal effort. I always assumed that training would suck the fun out of cycling, so I had avoided coaches, intervals, hill repeats, lactate thresholds, and maximum heart rates for years.

In fact, when I first met Norm he asked me what I did for training - “when the time changes in the spring, I put it in the big gear” and he almost wet himself laughing at me. When I qualified for cyclocross worlds three years ago I was terrified of making an ass of myself (and my country) so I decided it was time to hire a coach and with that came the first of many hill repeats. But with that first real workout I promised myself that if I ever stopped having fun, I would quit. So every year I enter at least one fun event where I honestly don’t care what the results are.

This past weekend was one of those races.

Snow to Surf is a relay event on Vancouver Island that starts at Mt Washington ski hill and makes its way down to the ocean by way of skis, feet, bikes, and boats. You might guess I would do one of the bike legs but I am usually the XC skier. Over 100 teams enter (each with 9 members) and there is a huge outdoor beer garden at the end of it all.

I have done this event for the past 5 years with an incredible group of girls that have all become great friends. Many of the girls have competed at a high level in some sport but most are weekend warriors now, just looking for a good excuse to get outside and play.

We rent a cabin up on the hill and spend Saturday night drinking wine, catching up, laughing, playing games and pretending that we aren’t competitive about the race. Sunday we race our individual legs as if it were the world championships and Sunday afternoon we drink too much at the beer garden and tell each other how many teams we passed, the near puke, the beefcakes that wouldn’t let a girl pass, the mechanicals, and how bad we are going to hurt because we didn’t train this year. It is always a great time and even though I am usually gearing up for a big mountain bike season in April I always take part because it is a great reminder of why I race – good times, great friends, cool places.

I knew this year was going to be a wicked Snow to Surf because it was sunny and warm! After three solid weeks of cold rain, hail and even snow, everyone was pretty excited about sun. I did a huge ride up to the hill on Saturday and after 8 girls pushed Janet’s truck out of the snow (one in flip flops, two in shorts) we hiked into the cabin. We feasted and drank, went over race logistics and caught up on everything that had happened since our surf weekend in Tofino in February and my wedding in December. There were usually three conversations going on at once, and always laughter.

Sorry guys, there were no pillow fights in our panties.

Sunday was sunny as promised and we went to breakfast a little fuzzy and dehydrated.

Leg#1 – DH ski: Erin Ward was our down hill skier. She has been my friend for years and was a National level ski racer before that. A natural pick except….the skier has to run UP the mountain in ski boots before they get to ski down. It is the shortest leg of the relay but by far the hardest. You can always tell the skiers in the beer garden because they are still coughing 6 hours after the race. DH skiers are hard to get back two years in a row – the pain is not easily forgotten. But Erin had been skiing a lot this winter and more importantly practicing running up hill so she came down in a great position.

Leg#2 – 8km Nordic ski: In previous years I have started the XC ski near the back of the pack so I had to pass a lot of people. One year I swore I was going to the Olympics because I passed 100 people during my leg! (Ok some were classic skiers and some obviously hadn’t waxed their skis in years but I felt like a rockstar!). I hadn’t been able to ski much this winter so I was a little nervous but when my personal technician crew delivered my skis freshly waxed to the start (thanks Rumon & Norm) I remembered that sometimes it’s not about skill, it’s about the gear. Erin handed off the sweat band and when I could tuck faster than guys twice my weight I knew that my skis were waxed perfectly. But it wasn’t as much of a rockstar ski for me this year because Erin’s good position had put me in a more competitive group. I only passed a quarter of my quota but snot was still flying out of my nose and my tongue was dragging.

Leg#3 – 6.8km downhill run. I passed the band to Malaika Ulmi who is our downhill running legend. Every year she does this leg which has most people so crippled two days after the event that they need assistance getting off the toilet. It is a steep grade down the mountain on pavement. You can usually hear someone’s IT bands popping during this leg yet Malaika practically skips it. She is the ultimate racer as she will gut herself for the team, almost puke at the end, and then smile for the camera 2 minutes later. Her pass tally was low this year too because Erin had such a great leg.

Leg#4 – 6.4km downhill run. Steph Green was a last minute addition and had no idea what she was in for. We had met her at the surf weekend, got along great and she was coming up to support us (read: drink). The last minute change was probably going to kill her because this leg was another steep downhill run on pavement. Good thing she was just a buck ten. She was nervous at the start but seemed to find her stride because she finished strong, with a smile (or was that a grimace?).

Leg#5 – 12km mountain bike. Catherine Hamilton was fired up for her mountain bike leg because she had just purchased a shiny new bike the day before. Virgin ride. I think the new bike was probably 5lbs lighter than her old one so nothing could stop her from feeling fast! And there was more trail on the course this year so she put her mad technical skillz to use. I think Catherine keeps quiet about how much fun she has on her leg because she doesn’t want to trade it!

Leg#6 – 5km Kayak. Janet Rygnestad had moved to Protection Island last year and was commuting by kayak. Her daughter Natasha had apparently been “helping her train” the past couple weeks by sitting back and watching the seals while mom did all the work. She booked a fast boat and borrowed a carbon paddle to get an edge. There was a big battle with a guy who did NOT want to get “chicked” but Janet snaked him at the end!

Leg#7 – 30km road bike. Alison Keple was decked out in full pink for her road bike leg. Pink helmet, pink kit and I think she had pink earrings. She said she could hear little girls screaming “I LOVE YOUR OUTFIT” as she hammered out the ride in her tri bars. Hopefully one of those girls will be getting into cycling in the next year – guaranteed! She was psyched about her ride because the sparkly purple girl that has taunted her in previous years was nowhere to be seen Sunday.

Leg#8 – 10km canoe. Our paddlers Winnie Chow and Sarah Cormode are the secret weapon of our team. Wee little girls with huge smiles that will DESTROY guys on the water (and then flirt with them in the beer garden). They know how to read the tides and paddle SO well together that they are impressive to watch. They too snaked a boat at the finish to ring the bell and get the team beer tickets.

We all met in the beer garden and told stories of the day. As usual we drank too much beer, got too much sun and spread out to chat with friends we hadn’t seen for awhile. We ended up second in the open women’s category (destroyed by the same team that beats us every year).

After picking up our chocolate medals we said our goodbyes and promised to start training for next year’s race so we could finally beat them, knowing full well that none of us really cared that much if we won. So with a great race weekend fresh in my mind I head out to do some speed workouts with a heart rate monitor AND power tap on my bike (total XC geek, I know).

After this weekend I know that I still enjoy my racing as much as ever so its not time to pack it in just yet.


At 11:31 PM, Blogger Kelvin said...

Kia Ora (Hello) from a krazy blogger down under in New Zealand. Boy, talk about "turning wheels" !!! This blog is really great. So much so, that I have mentioned it on my blog - 21 21 21 Blogs Keep those wheels turning !!!

At 11:33 PM, Blogger Kelvin said...

Me - again !!! Forget to mention, that I numbered it #582

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Awesome report!

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At 2:40 PM, Blogger The Teaguy said...

Nice race details - I know it was a while ago, but I saw an old friend in there - Sarah. Where is Mrs. Cormode hiding out these days?

Brendan Waye


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