Thursday, January 2, 2014

First Downhill Race

me riding top-of-the-world

black tusk in the background

Hey everybody, I been very busy over here in Canada, far too busy for going to the library. Plus the sun has been shining (it was almost the driest July in history!) and so I've been riding!

top-of-the-world again.vest all the way "suns out guns out"

On a very rough estimate I think I have ridden 3 times a week for almost 11 months straight! So I'm starting to get the hang of it now. Whistler Bike Park is phenomenal with over 200km of trails with over 50 different tracks. They range (same as ski runs) from green as easy to double black diamond which are very difficult (has unavoidable drops and jumps and is generally a lot steeper).

riding joe's backyard night?!

So when the park opened I was in for a shock, I can ride double black runs in NZ however things are a little trickier here in Canada. For one it was raining, I usually don't ride in the wet but hell if I was gonna wait for it to dry. So slipping on wet roots and down rock drops (they love rock drops in Canada I never even seen them in NZ! You just gotta lean off the back and hope for the best, brakes off all the way. Also the tracks are graded a little harder so I had to build up from blue runs back to double blacks.

So as you can imagine there were a few weeks of building up to a reasonable level before I started really sending it so lets skip the training montage and get to the fun!

I'm riding the famous "A Line", this is a legendary track in the mountain biking scene,it is a long flowing track with dozens of jumps all the way down (its graded a Black diamond because of the unavoidable jumps and a sneaky little rock drop). I'm riding with Gabe in the "tech section" a steep narrow path bordered by scarred trees that have seen their fair share of close encounters with mountain bikers. I was about to add to that statistic. I drop down a rock bank at a fair speed into a 90 degree right hander when I suddenly experience an, all-to-familiar view of blue sky spinning through the trees followed by a close up view of the dirt. I have taken a handlebar to the crotch at a good pace and it is stinging to say the least. I have also managed to rip through my padded shorts but feel pretty OK considering I'm now lying on my back about 5m away from the trail and another 5m away from my bike. The usual post crash bike inspection follows (gotta love my bike not a scratch!) and we drop back into the trail hitting 3 more jumps including a massive 15 foot table top (which I nailed! the adrenaline is truly pumping now!) followed by the GLC rock drop which is a small cliff in front of the GLC bar so pressure is on not to crash in front offull crowd.

When we reach the bottom I'm examining the damage to my shorts when I start seeing blood. A quick inspection and my face pales. I have gashed right across my crotch slicing through the top of my most private of limbs! Looks like I have slashed clean across my "bits" ending with a handlebar end shaped cut on the inside of my leg. I reacted quite calmly and told the lads I was gonna "pop off to hospital" in a shaky murmur. I then tried to ride my bike with out moving my legs too much, which looked like a bowlegged circus clown waddling away. Oh the hilarity that followed in the hospital! Skipping the painful details I ended up with six stitches to the cock and ten days off riding and a day off work (not to mention a pretty funny claim to the insurance company for the $900 hospital bill.)

So ten days of sitting on the couch with an icepack on my nuts and the occasion flash as I tell people what happened and they wanna see (who wouldn't?) and its time for the stitches to come out. Game On!

Same day back up the bike park and it's my first race for the Phat Wednesday Race Series (amazing beer league race series! $2 entry with a free beer at the end but fully marshalled tracks and electronic timing facilities. highly recommend)

So there I am at the start line. nervous doesn't even begin to describe it! this track has a double black diamond. I have ridden it once before and was hoping for a practise run but didn't have time after work. So I'm going in blind. Joe offers me some advice "stay between the white tape, and if you crash don't try to make up the time," wise words if slightly scary. as we edge forward in the queue my legs are shaking and my hands and feet start sweating profusely. I have a stomach ache and go for maybe 3 nervous toilet breaks. I know the first two corners because I can see them, after that is a bit of a mystery but only one way to find out!

I'm up next james and joe have already gone and I'm waiting for the 10 second call. I feel actually sick! I pump my brakes to get any air bubbles out and warm them up a bit. twist my head side to side to loosen it off in case I fall on it in the next few minutes.

"10 seconds"

You can drop in anytime after the 5 second mark, I go on 4. I pedal hard into the first corner checking for my exit on the way out and hitting the peddles again small drop and I'm rolling into the gentle left hand corner, rough rocky section and I pop onto another left hand corner, my wheels drift out in the dry dust (it hasn't rained in over 3 weeks and the track is sloppy with dust and loose gravel) up ahead is a jump, I've never made this jump but this time fly over it beautifully landing perfectly on the landing ready for the next jump which I also sail over. I can hear my wheels whirring and the wind whistling in my ears before I land into the unknown. I have absolutely no idea what lies ahead but I peddle on, my legs are already burning and I'm about 20 seconds int the race. the adrenaline and lactic acid in my thighs is building up and I can barely get any power through my legs. I'm going as fast as I was before the jumps as I come out of the wooded section, I'm absolutely flying (in my opinion) then up ahead is a very steep cliff into a rock garden with lots of very jagged rocks in it. i hit the brakes and slide down trying to find a route as I go, no sense of a race line or anything just pure reflex and adrenaline pumping fear.

I actually don't remember the middle of the race I think instinct and luck got me through the middle section and I was so scared I didn't even want to remember it. As I come into the last section I hear a shouting from behind and I'm over taken (the person behindme is a full 30 seconds faster than me! I'm exhausted as I drop down two long rock rolls that a few months earlier I thought were impossible now I'm doing them as fast as I can! I go off the track at one point and grind to a halt before cursing wildly and pushing off agin for the final section. a windy off-camber root section where I blast into the catch berms only about 4 inches high but rely on them completely sliding my bike in at 40 degrees clinging to the rocks with the edge of my tires slipping until the side of the root or the pile of dirt and dust force my energy down into the wheels and back out shooting me off in another direction.

i cross the line in one piece but unable to talk or breathe. Joe runs over to ask how i did, he's bleeding heavily from both elbows and has a decided limp. my heart is beating so fast I can only just hear him over the whining rushing sound in my head. my legs are absolute jelly and the marshal is asking for my race plate. I'm rushing so much I can't even stand still. he has to hold my bike and take the race plate off as my hand s are shaking so much. they said when I did the bull run that your heart rate gets up to 160 bpm and that your pupils dilate from the fear to take in more or your surrounding to prepare you for fight or flight response. I get it at the bull run and I felt it that day on whistler downhill. i could see more and react faster than ever before. so much so that you get jittery and twitchy as your body tries to react to everything. I'm finally able to talk through ragged gasps for air and my legs are still shaking "that .was fucking sick!" I said to Joe and he just laughed.

I came 6th from last in the open mens category. Joe and james came far far higher despite both falling off their bikes completely. Joe apparently did a full superman impression over his handlebars into one of the rock gardens I described. He couldn't ride for almost a week from his swollen leg but with the adrenaline still flowing we went for beers and were drunk after one pint.

Downhill biking. What a fucking sport ay?

That's all for now guys. See ya later and sorry for being so shit at filling my blog. If u want to see videos of me biking and falling off check out;
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