I’m racing in the Red Bull Divide and Conquer on June 16th. It’s a team-relay style race up and around Grouse Mountain. My team, Arc’teryx is strong: Adam Campbell is doing the running portion, Aruthr Gaillot is our mountain biker, and then there’s me, the kayaker. I figure I’m the weak link, but am doing everything I can to get up to speed on downriver racing in two weeks. A week ago I went out and fore-ran all the “good parts” of the course with the all-star team of Vancouver area talent that is organizing each leg. First Gary Robbins cheerfully talked while I neared the puking stage on the way up Grouse (neat running course, all sorts of techno/lush terrain, beautiful). I have a torn/tweaked right hamstring right now that doesn’t allow for much running, but let’s be honest: I couldn’t run that course if it were lined with $1000 bills you could only grab at a running pace… It’s just savage. I felt pretty humbled to think how high the level of mountain running really is today; some sports I can sort of see from where I stand, but running up something like the Grouse Grind a couple of times and down and around, fast, just blows me away. I look forward to watching it.
Next up was the mountain biking. I was feeling a little worked by the hike/run, and some relaxing mostly downhill mountain biking sounded pleasant after a lunch of pizza. Now, I’ve been mountain biking for a long time, and on my home trails I can hang with everyone but the racers. So I was feeling pretty confident as I clipped into the pedals on a “light free ride” bike, a Rocky Mountain Slayer, and headed down the course following some guy named Andreas, and with Scott from Red Bull. We were off on a “best of” tour of the mountain biking course that started with huge snow banks–it’s still winter on top of Grouse for sure. We soon dropped into the single track, and my head fully blew up. I casually followed at the same speed as the other two guys into what I can only describe as complete fucking mayhem on a mountain bike. Rocks, logs, roots, rain, slime, madness. And my two riding partners just hammered it. I’ve only ridden on the North Shore once before, and that was on easier trails with full armour, a full-face helmet, platform pedals and at low speeds with frequent stops to chill out and scope lines. This was different. My goals went from, “ride it fast with the boys” to “Avoid broken bones, excessive blood loss (some was inevitable), and dental surgery.” Andreas has won the Trans-Rockies three times, raced in the Olympics, and looks his bike is grafed directly into his brain. Scott rides all the time on the North Shore and area, and is also bad ass on a bike; he’s a “weekend warrior” that has lived for skiing and riding for decades, and it shows.
Most of the “technical” riding here in the Rockies isn’t very technical in comparison to the North Shore. The average afternoon ride around Canmore might have a few places that’ll slow you down, but I might clip out of my pedals once or twice on a ride if that. I don’t think I made it more than about 500 feet on whatever madness we were riding on Grouse without clipping out. Finally I just had to accept that I suck, slow down, and then it became one of the all-time funnest things I’ve ever done. I used to BMX and do ride enough that I can mostly stay upright, just not at speed. I’d watch Andreas style something, then Scott, then I’d bump and bounce down it. One day of that is worth a summer in Canmore for getting better at technical riding. I rode almost everything, and seldom have I had so much fun getting so humbled. Thanks to Andreas and Scott for an absolutely stellar experience. I finally crashed after styling a steep section; I got too confident and went into the next section blind and with some speed. I’m glad I still remember how to shoulder-roll in rocky terrain… My knee is still blue, but it’s not broken. I simply can not imagine anyone RACING down that course. Oh, and the uphills were on the same terrain, and boys were riding up it. At speed. I thought I was going to get back into the game on the uphills as I’m normally decent at that, but no, hind tit was my spot yet again. Full respect to the North Shore, Andreas and Scott, and to any of you psychos who are going to RACE that course! I may have to move to BC and deal with the slugs, rain, slow-ass hipsters and other issues at some point just to learn how to ride that terrain. Bike7_loco
I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see a kayak and a river than I was at the Cleveland Dam put in for the Capilano river. I’ve only run this stretch of river once, maybe 20 years ago, and it was just a pleasure to be back on it. I ended up solo as my guide was down with pneumonia or something, but I felt far, far safer than I did during the mountain bike. I used it as training session and did intervals and then floated in the mossy,cool world of the canyon. I swear my brain was over-heated from the mountain biking, the river cooled it down. There are some decent drops in it, but it’s going to be a hammer-down race rather than a more typical creek-style race. It was cool to go from the snow on the top of Grouse all the way back to the ocean, through three very different experiences. The kayaking is going to be brutal too (race pace under 45 minutes?), but I’m pretty sure it’s the safest of the three courses!
I’m still not sure what boat I’m going to paddle. The rules require boats nine feet or less, which doesn’t leave that many options. And some of the nine-foot boats are actually longer when measured unfortunately. My old Nomad seems about as fast as anything else out there, but the bow is annoyingly wide for getting a good efficient downriver stroke going. I’ll be trying some more boats today…
I’ve been training a ton the last few weeks for the paddling, and riding my bike when I need to rest my upper body. You can see some of that here; my new Suunto Ambit is pretty neat, tracks here.
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