Sunday, September 9, 2007

How to find 7,000 feet of vertical in Saskatchewan

After dinner, we headed to Moose Jaw. It was a 45 minute drive away, but we could see it the moment we were out of Regina. This place is flat. FLAT. Like, really, really flat. And we came all of the way here for a mountain bike race?

We stayed in a house that was built in 1908 and operates as a b&b now. Clean, comfortable, reasonably priced, friendly Saskatchewan hospitality and a funny lookin' little basset hound named Jenny to play with. Sure beats the Super 8.

The venue for the XC8 bike race was Buffalo Pound Park, which is just north of Moose Jaw. As we drove there, I was still confused about how there could be a mountain bike race hosted here. And then, there it was, a valley.

The race format was an 8 hour enduro, which means that riders see how many laps they can do of a prescribed circuit (which, in this case was 8.75 km) within that time frame. Eight hours is kind of intimidating when you are just getting started. Thoughts such as '10 minutes down, 470 to go' are not particularly productive, but inevitably enter your head. Fortunately, the circuit format offers more palatable bite sizes (45-60 minutes per lap) to focus on. As well, the practically non-stop singletrack prevents your thoughts from diverting away from the immediate challenges for very long.

There was 270m (885ft) of vertical per lap, which meant we were constantly climbing or descending. This is not the Saskatchewan that most people get to see. Less than one kilometre of the circuit was straight, flat double track. The rest was twisty, hilly single track, with a new challenge around every turn. From the hill tops, there were spectacular views of the valley. Autumn has arrived here already and the trees are changing colour. It was breathtaking (or was that the hill that took my breath away?).

Based on my first three laps, I calculated that I should be able to do 9 laps within the time limit. While I knew that I had not fueled by body well to that point, I was feeling strong. But, by lap six, my poor decision making had caught up with me and my performance started to deteriorate. My lap times increased. The hills felt steeper and the course more technical.

Lap seven was the hardest. My disappointment of realizing I could only fit in eight laps in was offset by the thought that I only had one more lap to go. Half way through my eighth and final lap, Pat, Erik and Craig lapped me again. It wasn't the fact that it was the fourth time they lapped me that was demoralizing so much as the fact that they looked fresh and full of energy as they blew past me. The new Deadgoat jerseys and shorts looked crisp and clean that one could have believed they were on their first lap.

Of the 80 or so racers, seven were Deadgoats - one mixed team of two (Gerry and Linda), three in the mens solo category (Erik, Pat and Craig), and two in the womens solo category (me and Trish). The mixed team placed sixth, despite TWO broken chains (Gerry has some seriously powerful legs). The three boys battled it out for the entire race, taking first (Pat), second (Craig), and third (Erik) overall and finishing with two more laps than the guy who finished fourth.

Trish finished with two more laps than me, but there's no shame at all in finishing behind a gal like that. It turns out that ninth lap wouldn't have made a difference afterall.

It was a good day to be a Deadgoat. This must be how the US Postal team felt at the Tour de France.

Deadgoats also cleaned up on the door prizes, with 6 out of 7 of us winning something, including a new 2007 Marzocchi Corsa World Cup for Erik (retail value $1,400 - which definitely makes the expense of a weekend trip to Moose Jaw seem worthwhile). The race organizers even gave me an Axiom hand pump for 'best dressed' for sporting my bee costume.

If you're looking to try an endurance race, the Offroad Syndicate and Blocks Saw & Cycle put on a really fun race. The XC8 is very well organized and takes place on an outstanding course. It was a great way to enjoy Saskatchewan.

55 Comments:

Blogger BikingBakke said...

Yes, it's a long drive. Yes, it's Saskatchewan. But if you're into mountain biking, make the trip sometime. The course, organization, and event in it's entirety were a complete blast. Funnest mountain bike course I've ridden. Fast and flowy, always twisty, rarely straight. Technical came from the challenge of high speed turns and mastery of kinetic motion on a bike, not senseless root and rock chatter till your hands can't grab the bar anymore.

September 9, 2007 at 7:24:00 PM MDT  
Blogger jon said...

congrats Tori! That's is amazing but I'd be deceiving you if I said I was surprised... Great job to all the goats!

erik- "Sensless root and rock chatter"?!? never heard of such a thing!

September 9, 2007 at 10:35:00 PM MDT  
Blogger BikingBakke said...

Jon - descent off the Barrier Lake lookout? That's gotta be close ; )

September 10, 2007 at 9:00:00 AM MDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog Tori, I suffered thru 8 laps, had the pleasure of riding with you a bit...it is great to have out of prov. riders come to Sask. and ride with us ... well, sort of, the Deadgoats went by me so many times I was getting dizzy... and I agree, they looked really fresh... all the time. take care, Randy Lewis(an old guy)

September 10, 2007 at 12:31:00 PM MDT  
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