Mountain Bike Nationals Race Report

I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited to start a mountain bike race as I was yesterday! It was a perfect Canmore summer day, the course was in great shape and it was very high on the fun factor!

Over twenty elite women wheeled to the start line at 12:15 (aaaah, nice not to be so rushed like my usual super early triathlon starts!). The field seemed disappointingly small, but one factor is that the U23 women have had a separate start over the past few years. But since we have the World’s number one rider in the World Cup rankings (none other than my LUNA teammate Catharine Pendrel) and Canada is ranked number one in the World for women, staying near the leaders was going to be no easy feat!

My goal going into the race was to shoot for inside the top ten. I was a little nervous about the start as I haven’t done a serious mountain bike race in awhile and didn’t know how much speed I had in the legs. Luckily we had a small start loop to settle things down so I followed my bro’s advice to sit in and just move up when it was easy to do so. Once we hit the first real climb I was feeling comfortable at the back of the front group and was able to move up a few more spots before the first technical descent, the Laundry Shoots, which was a bit scary as I had to make it through the first few turns and drops with my right foot clipped out, but stayed up!

Nearing the end of lap two I was sitting in 9th with Brandi and Mical in 7th and 8th dangling within reach. That’s when a little hiccup happened and I got major chain suck. I ran out of the short piece of single track I was in and luckily was able to finally yank the chain out. Yay, my day wasn’t over because I was having fun and feeling good! By then Jean-Ann had caught me. She rode stronger and stronger and by the end she’d broken away, and my legs were starting to cramp so 10th it was for the day!

Catharine repeated as Canadian Champ with Marie-Helene Premont in 2nd, and Emily Batty in third. Interestingly, although there are some talented U23 and Junior women coming up in the sport, apart from my first running rival, Brandi Heisterman (who is also a mom of two and finished an impressive 7th after riding the last 3 laps with a fractured, dislocated finger!!), the top 10 riders in Canada has not changed up much since I began racing all the Canada Cup races about 10 years ago! That’s why it was fun to end the weekend today as part of the Fast and Female mountain bike camp to encourage girls from 9-19 to get into the sport. Kudos to Catharine Pendrel, Emily Batty, Amanda Sin, Catherine Vipond and Mical Dyck for taking the afternoon to teach an impressive number of young girls some bike skills and inspire them to get into mountain biking!

The Evolution of an Active Family

My “little” brother Geoff arrived in town this week for mountain bike nationals coming up this weekend (pictured with Zoe and her first official cowgirl hat at the Calgary Stampede). Here we are both getting ready for the same race again and sometimes I find it comical that we are still both racing so seriously now that we are both officially in our mid-thirties! I often joke with my parents saying, bet you’re wondering when your kids are going to grow up and focus on “real” jobs, ha!

All jokes aside, I think one big reason we have both lasted this long has been from the continual support and encouragement of our parents. Since the day Geoff and I both joined the local track club at the ages of 10 and 12, my parents have been actively involved in a positive way. First, they have participated alongside us over the years. I have very fond memories growing up of family runs on the weekend with our two border collies leading the way in the trails around our house in Courtenay, B.C. My parents also chaperoned at many track meets over the years, and attended high school basketball games in the winter. Pictured below Geoff and I are riding on Hornby Island in high school, me on my brothers first ever race bike, the good old rigid purple Kona Kula!

When Geoff switched to mountain bike racing in high school, my parents soon followed along and took up mountain biking too. When an injury sidelined my running after university and I took up mountain biking, it was my parents who taught me trail skills that first summer while riding in Courtenay and on Hornby Island! Geoff was also my coach for the five years I focused on mountain bike racing before switching to Xterra.

My parents have been to countless races over the years, and I’ve always appreciated how well they understand what we do. They’ve always understood what interval times mean on the track, and understand our sport involvement (from soccer, track, volleyball, basketball, cycling, to triathlon) well enough to understand what a good or bad day means because they enjoy following it all, especially with plenty of internet race viewing now! Now both in their sixties, they aren’t running much anymore but are both still mountain biking as much as ever!

Now that I’m a mom, I’m even more grateful to my parents support. My mom or both parents have traveled with me to several races and team training camps the past four years in order to help with the kids. As a parent myself, I hope I can encourage my kids in the same way my parents have encouraged us – by simply taking an active interest in whatever sports (if any, no pressure, ha!) my kids would like to pursue. I think taking an active interest in understanding the sport, and encouraging the process and effort is the best thing a parent can do!

Furious 3: Final Stage Race Report

After another 6am wake-up (ouch!), J-F and I rode the 3km from our condo to downtown Fernie. Unfortunately, my dad had to take a pass on day three. He wrenched his back yesterday trying to avoid a tree during a fall and felt too stiff and sore to continue this morning. But we’re super proud of the 12 hours or riding he already put in! He is also stoked about how much he feels his riding skills improved in the two days as well!

Like yesterday, the race started in three waves, 5 minutes apart. I was in the first wave and felt the sore legs pretty quickly, as I imagine most people did! After getting out of town, we climbed on the some double track where I started to work my way up. Unfortunately I didn’t work hard enough to move up early because before I knew it we were on the narrow and long “Hyperventilation” climb where it was very difficult to pass. But I was able to gain about 5-6 positions by the top. That is when we hit the super fun black diamond “Hyperextension” descent. It seemed to go on forever and was so much fun and we whooped through root filled corners, drops and undulating dips back down into a warmer climate again, ha!

Although I had the women’s race leader, Kate Aardal, in sight during the climbing it was all over after the first long descent. After the first ascent and descent the climbing was less sustained but still tough. There were plenty of bridges, and logs in today’s trails which were fun, one or two were a little nail biting! Unfortunately the rock star descending skills of Margie Smith, local Fernie rider Krista Turcasso, and Megan Rose were too much for me today and I ended the day in fifth, still with a big smile on my face (finish line in downtown Fernie pictured below). And after 8:33:11 ride time over three days, I ended up third overall.

My Coach, Cal Zaryski (pictured below with me post-race), ripped it up in the very competitive Sole Men’s 40 category and finished second overall, not bad for another Xterra triathlete!!

J-F had a solid last day and had tons of fun out there. He finished 55th overall in the Solo Men’s category, not bad for a guy who barely has any miles in his legs this year! He should be a little bit better prepared for the Highwood Gran Fondo he is doing next weekend!

Well, as long as they get the course marked dialed in for the second annual Furious 3 next summer, I would highly recommend this race to anyone! It was some of the most challenging climbing I’ve ever done on a bike and I loved the fact it was mainly all single track! And the descending is as fun as it gets on a mountain bike, I would definitely like to try and do this race again in the future! Finally, a big thanks to my mom, Grandma Peggy, who looked after Nico and Zoe while the rest of us were out riding. She spent lots of time helping Zoe on her bike, Zoe enjoyed hitting the dirt on her bike and mountain biking just like mommy!

Furious 3: Stage 2 Race Report

Well, in an ironic twist most racers in the Furious 3 stage race finished the race feeling plenty furious today!!! I have mixed feelings about today’s stage. On the one hand, my legs felt good, and the riding was awesome! The climbs weren’t as steep as day one but they were more technical and rooty and the descents were SO much fun, long and flowy with plenty of rolls, roots, drops, scattered bridges and logs, and loads of bermed corners!

On the otherhand, myself like pretty much everyone else went off course at some point due to poor course marking and race marshalling, sorry a few pieces of red flagging doesn’t cut it! Real signage with arrows on posts or tacked to the trees would be a good start! There were some points where it sounds like the entire field went off course or rode in the wrong direction without even knowing it! A few guys I was in with less than 10km to go (it was supposedly 45km day and my Garmin recorded me at over 49km by the finish!) accidently rerode a gravel climb from the beginning of the day before realizing we were back on part of the course we’d done about an hour earlier. After backtracking and getting going in the right direction towards the finish line we met up a growing group of racers that was stopped by two passing trains for a good 15 minutes. Volunteers were recording race numbers and times to be fair but it won’t mean anything now unfortunately as I heard the entire stage may be neutralized.

After the long pit stop at the train, was the short section of trail after which it was a hard 5-6km sprint to the finish, where I practiced my time trialing (gotta do some prep for the Calgary 70.3 at the end of the month!) and some drafting in small packs to gain a bit more time – although my lung busting effort won’t mean anything now I don’t think, ha! And that’s too bad because other than the solo women’s leader, Kate, who was definitely up ahead and out of sight again, the next three women, Margie Smith, Marg Fedyna, and myself (both whom I only had 2min 30 and 1min + lead over respectively from day 1) were having a good little battle amongst ourselves, and with Margie catching me on every descent after I’d do the catching on the climbs, it could have made for an interesting race after two days!

As for J-F, he did some major backtracking with the group he was with, and he was plenty pissed when he hadn’t even seen the first aid station after 2h30 of racing! After some anxiety over how my dad would fair and whether he’d make to the finish with all the directional mishaps out there, my mom called to say that he’d made it to the finish line coming from the wrong direction after over 7 hours of racing – so yes, he got lost too! And of course, there are plenty of stories like this from every racer today. It is really unfortunate because as much as we’re here to experience the amazing trails Fernie has to offer we’re also all here to race and see how we all stack up against each other. When you pay big bucks for the entry fee for a race like this, I would say the minimum requirement is having a course that is well marked which makes for a fun AND fair race!! And hopefully that’s what the last day will be tomorrow!

Furious 3: Stage 1 Race Report

What better way to spend Canada Day on Canada’s 144th birthday than riding sweet singletrack with 300 other people on a perfect day in Fernie, B.C.?! I have only ridden in Canada Cup mountain bike races at the ski resort in Fernie and have always wanted to discover the other amazing trails around the valley here. When the Furious 3 mountain bike stage race was announced last fall, my husband, my dad, and I jumped on the opportunity to enter.

Just after 9:00 this morning we rolled out of downtown Fernie on a 40 kilometer mystery ride – well for me at least, and many others who’ve never ridden here before. The first 15 minutes was super fast and I struggled to stay in contact with the front pack before hitting the first long double track climb. I made some gains on the climb butbeingg such a lightweight on the following double track descent before the first single track I lost spots again. With some rain and a late snow melt the single track kept everyone on their toes with plenty of wet roots and semi-wet bridges. I’m riding my Orbea Oiz for this race and it is fun to ride through the undulating dips.

I’m pretty done right now so it is hard to remember exactly how the race all fit together but what stands out is the “Hyperventilation” climb at the halfway point which was a single track climb with plenty of steep switchbacks that never seemed to end. It was so high at the top I was
considering putting my armwarmers back on! This was followed by a steep descent back towards town before one more grunt up double track and down to the finish line, which I crossed 2h36 minutes after start time in second place in the solo women category behind Kate Aardal (I will update more when results are posted later). J-F was a trooper and on very little training finished in 3h10 with some major leg cramping issues on the climb. My young 67 year old dad was a trooper, and after blowing out his tire and fixing a flat, he came in around the 5h mark and is gung-ho to go again tomorrow! Here he is pictured crossing the finish line! Yay, Dad!!