June 28, 2008
The last three days have been a blur. It's hard to believe after so many months of training and thinking about it, we're here. Day one is over. I'm not sure what's been the biggest challenge, but there have been plenty (and I was under the false impression the training was the hard part).
I'm not sure whose idea it was, but Jon Posner and I both listened intently to Chris Eatough carry on about how outrageously fun the BC Bike Race is (after he won the first running of the race last year). It was convincing coming from such a seasoned racer as Chris so we agreed we were on it in 2008. It doesn't matter how much you run it through your mind, but when the adventure begins there's no turning back, and you deal with the knocks as they come. And they have come fast and furious.
Our first flight out of BWI [Baltimore - Washington International Airport - ed.] was delayed due to what the lady on the mic said was a crew who apparently were forgotten by the cab service. Then she hung up the mic and told her co-worker they were out partying too late and slept in. This wrecked our other two connecting flights and the fun game of re-routing began. Luckily we had all day, but our trip managed to take all day. But all seemed back on track once we arrived in Victoria, British Columbia.
The next morning we realized the shuttle pickup that would run us to the start of the race was a bit further than we anticipated. Lugging a bike box and two large bags for eight blocks was challenge number two.
The third and possibly most daunting challenge was getting all our gear for the seven days of racing (including nutrition during each day) into the bags provided by the race. The exceptionally cool embroidery took my mind off the fear that not everything would fit. Kind of. Imagine, sleeping bag, pad, riding clothing (for any conditions), spare parts, post-race clothing (for any conditions) and about 10 pounds of gels and bars and mix. DaKine makes some bomber bags as that thing was stretched beyond safe limits. Then I realized my messenger bag with laptop and camera was still sitting beside me...
Another fun hit was getting my bike built only to find my fork was blown - an apparent casualty of the flight. The team of mechanics from a local shop named Bike Obsession were helpful but had no replacements. It wasn't until a local guy named Matt offered me his personal shock off his bike since he wasn't racing. He drove 25 minutes home to get it and then back - without accepting a dime. The techs didn't even charge me to change it out and instead told me to get some rest - that they'd have it dialed in come morning. Wow! I'm used to seeing pros get that treatment but for me? I was pleasantly floored.
The first day of racing found Eatough and Schalk, defending champions, foiled on the prologue loop due to a grassy field that first clogged almost everyone's derailleurs, but special for Chris & Jeff both, ripped them off the bike. They fought back from a 40 minute deficit back to an amazing fourth place just a breath away from third after a finish-line sprint.
Poz and I were not so competitive having escaped incident at the start only to find the heat and length of climbs (the main climb to Aid Station two ran 12km up 700m- ed.) were the most punishing challenge of the trip so far. Poz started viciously cramping to the point of walking climbs he would normally hammer up, swearing at his legs. For me, the hike-a-bike sections inflamed my right IT band to the point of searing pain. Poz and I finished best we could trading pulls with a few of the other super-friendly racers then outsprinting a few more at the end to feel better about ourselves.
Day two looms as the longest day of the race: 80-some miles (125km) that will either break us, or bring us back from the catatonic state we both are currently in.
Trek / VW Team:
Jeff Schalk (USA), 34, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Chris Eatough (USA), 33, Oella, Maryland
GFK Racing Team:
Jason Berry (USA), 33, Arlington, Virginia
Jon Posner (USA), 33, Catonsville, Maryland