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Day 5 — Sechelt to Langdale Ferry Terminal

July 24, 2010

There was a rumor going around about how wonderful this day would be, something about a long and glorious downhill at the end, which was sort of true.   We had ended in Sechelt yesterday, so no morning bus or ferry.  The ferry would be at  1:05pm or 3:25pm in the afternoon (apparently there was another one at 7pm but that would have been a bummer).  With that in mind there was a 1pm cutoff for the second aid station.  It was Canada Day, the red and white was everywhere.  Yay Canada!  I think it’s a bigger deal there than the 4th here.

Breakfast at 6:30 (closer to 7 by the time you’re through the line) and race at 8am.    I don’t know about you, but that worried me, I can’t digest anything in an hour.   Half way through breakfast it started to sprinkle.    We lined up in a light rain and took off.   First through the paved streets of town and then climbing a dirt road through some sort of gravel pit or quarry.  It was pretty steep in the back and there was the most horrible smell that wouldn’t go away.   Smell, effort, breakfast not too long ago — a bad combo.  I didn’t hurl, but I felt pretty bad.   We finally entered some easy wooded trail and before you knew it — conga line!   There was a steep little downhill to a river you had ford.   It was ankle-numbing cold, but kinda of fun.  The next bit of terrain was pretty good and we climbed steadily over a gazillion slippery roots.  I had used a bad pump in the morning and the gauge was way off.  I had to stop and let out air which helped a ton.  I was no longer the human pinball.

We reached the first aid station at 10am.  That meant we had 3 hours to go 18km.  That didn’t sound too bad, but you never know what is out there.  Ha.  Yes, indeed.  I didn’t want to freak out Debra, so I was keeping an eye on the time and kilometers and pulling us along the best I could.  I knew both of us wanted to make the cutoff.  We were doing ok, until the 2km uphill push-a-bike that took 30 minutes.  From there, it was pretty much, grind grind grind.  It was dark, damp and relentless.  Hardly enough time to really savor the fun freeride stunts we passed nestled in the woods.  No time for pictures either.

We finally pop out on a road, I have us at around 32km, another 4 to the aid station, we’re 2 hours into our 3 hours.  The guy in front says something … I see something.  Sure enough, it’s the aid station, 4kms too early.  We got there at 12:10, 50 minutes to spare.     I grabbed Debra as she entered the station and we cried a bit, a worrisome milestone met.   We were lucky, we had friends get there at 1:03 and 1:08pm, just past the cutoff and they were not allowed to proceed.

What I’m not sure I’ve mentioned is that the highs were a lovely 65 degrees most days, but you tended to get chilled as the day went, especially on a wet day like today.   I grabbed some Sharkies (yum), I should have slammed a Red Bull shot (another race sponsor) but I didn’t.  There was always plenty of food in the aid stations, but you had to bring your own as well.  I swung briefly by the fire the crew had going and then back on the bikes, a little more uphill and then the downhill.

There is something about 2100m (6900 ft) of climbing that takes the stuffing out of you.  Combine that with the death march pace, well, it makes the downhills just not as fun as they could be.    The stage winner did the whole race in less time than it took us to go downhill.   That’s why they are pros and I have my desk job.   But can I wish to be just a little faster?!   There were a lot of skinny bridges, I walked nearly all of them.  A couple of racers in baggie shorts caught us, whooped and disappeared out of sight.  I think they know how to ride this stuff!   It was a long downhill for us, only near the bottom did it really get a little more flowy and smooth.   Here I was definitely skill-deficient, but fatigue also played a huge part in it.   I enjoyed parts of this, but mostly I wanted to be done.  Periodically you could see how high you still were and how much lower you had to go.    And long last, we emerge from the woods.  I had unzipped but never removed my light rain shell.

We flew down the road right to the ferry terminal.   I’d guess we got into around 3pm and only had a short wait before we were boarding and on our way.  For me, the longest day ever on a mtb, riding/pushing time of 5:20 (recorded time with all the stops at 6:45).   Luckily my new friend Melissa had a spare bar and it tasted soooo good.   Then Debra and I split some snacks on the ferry.   Thankfully the Texans let me crash their hotel room for a real hot shower.   (Today’s tip: apparently in a lot of the aquatic or ice facilities we were staying at/near you could swim and use their showers usually for a small fee!   Good to know.)

After surviving today, the race seemed feasible barring anything crazy.  I was tired, today was a long day and not enough sleep.  The good thing is we’re in Squamish for two nights, so no packing up, no buses, no ferries.

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