AKA – Whose idea was it to race anyway? (Oh right, mine.)
Day 1 – Practice
It’s funny – having lived in Calgary and BC and travelling the #1 highway so often, up until practice day I had never actually been -in- Golden. The road up to Kicking Horse was absolutely beautiful. You cross an old school single lane bridge and head up a road with gorgeous views. As a nature lover, I was duly impressed by the mountain ranges and rocky waterfalls. We did get slightly lost driving in, the signage on the main lodge isn’t too fantastic, but the drive up the road was rewarding anyway. The resort village itself is very modern looking and I thought the black and wood style suited the environment well.
The gondola ride up was long – nearly 15 minutes. The rock faces were absolutely unbelievable. Looking at the terrain made me think about winter again and what it would be like to board/ski there. The view from the top was unbelievable. I wish I would have taken a picture but I was so focused on the race that I forgot. The trail down from the gondola has crazy exposure. It was sooo cold and fast. It was a 12 minute rip down the mountain on the main trail (road) to Pioneer, the race track.
I headed out the gate with quite a lot of confidence (my shoulder injured the previous Friday was just twinging a little bit) – until I came to the first rocky section. The section itself didn’t intimidate me at all. At least, not until I took a bad line and fell on my face. I got a rock in between my goggles and jawpiece on my helmet and smacked my nose and lip pretty hard. My first thought was actually that I had broken my nose. I pulled off the trail and waited for it to bleed. It didn’t! Back on the bike. I headed down through some more rocks and gnar, came around a corner and….whoa, whoa, brakes. Rock drop. I pulled off the side of the course and watched a few people hit it. It looked easy enough, but by this time I’d been standing there too long and my confidence was gone. I took the ride around and got stuck in the corner. Dead stop. I awkwardly got around the corner and kept heading down the trail. Took a bad line around a rock slab into a corner and blew off the trail. At least the tape was gone and looked like it been ridden over more than a few times – so I wasn’t the first. Back up again! Made it through some more roots and came to a crazy chute. I didn’t stop to watch anyone, just took what looked like the fastest line down on the left – I made it down okay but messed up the last drop and clipped my front tire on a large orange root at the bottom (they did paint it – I still hit it!). I spun off into the trees. Back up again! I made it down to the bottom without incident, although my hands were sore and I was so tired. I couldn’t actually believe how tiring the trail was.
Other than my fat lip, I was miraculously uninjured. At least physically. My spirit was damaged. I sat in the racers pavilion and had to go over in my head all the reasons I had for racing, because at this point the fun factor had dissolved. I was also kicking myself for forgetting my pressure suit. I almost never wear it but I was wishing for it at that moment. Then I spotted the friend that had come to Kicking Horse with me in the lift line and went to catch up. I saw some more friends from my hometown (Nakusp is as close to a hometown as I’ll ever come) and waved. Friends always brighten things up. I expressed my dismay to my friend a bit in the gondola (it’s always nice to have someone to vent to) and he more or less brought my confidence back up by laughing at me (he knows me well). We rode down to the racetrack together via some blue trails and I decided that I wasn’t going to do that again (I’d just conserve my energy for the racetrack). We split up at the top of Pioneer and I braced myself for my next ride down. The second run was much better – I wimped out on the rock drop and got stuck on the ride around again but didn’t crash. I was still exhausted at the bottom but I felt better and more confident.
By this point I saw the Liv tent was set up and I went to meet the girl running it – Leanne. She was really nice and told me it was a place for all the women to hang out. It gave me a place to hang my bike and chat with some other ladies. She told me that a bunch of girls would be going out together for the women’s only practice and invited me along. I decided to take it easy for the next 45 minutes because I was pretty tired. I sat and talked with some of the other girls there – it was nice to see some I had met before, and I saw some new faces too.
We all headed up for the practice together and it was pretty neat to see all of us zipping down to the racetrack together. Some of us went down together to stop at points and talk about lines. We stopped at the rock drop and two girls offered me their opinion on the line going in – it was the same line as I had previously chosen but it was nice to have the positive reinforcement. With the ladies watching I hit the drop and landed it with success, albeit a little messily. I stopped at one other point and some of us discussed a line into the chute and we agreed that the one I had picked out was the smoothest and most natural – though not necessarily the fastest. I rode down to the bottom and just tried to focus on figuring out where I could pedal and pump.
After the last practice run I met up with some of my friends and we rode a couple of the trails at Kicking Horse. I got to check out a new jump trail (Swamp Donkey) that was pretty fun.
I finished off my day at the park with the huck off – I’d never entered anything like it before, and was a tad nervous. My first jump was a paltry 16 something ft, but I managed to bring my second jump up to 19ft. I feel like I could have gone even farther, but it was weird being on the spot like that with everyone watching. Next time something like that comes up I’ll have a better idea of what to expect. =D
I didn’t obsess over the race when I went to go to sleep like last time. It took me a while to actually fall asleep, but at least my evening was uneventful and there were no trains involved.
Day 2 – Race Day
I woke up bright and early to make sure I would have lots of time to get to Kicking Horse and be prepared (I dreamt about biking…) and started the day with a few of the better proferred items from the continental breakfast at the hotel.
My first practice run was disastrous. I went too slowly and too far to the right off the rock drop and hit a rock in the trail. I crashed super hard, smashing my elbow, scraping my side and blowing my shorts off! (Okay, they were still on, but the snaps and zipper came open.) After that I just clenched my teeth and held on to the bars until the finish line arrived because I was hurting.
I decided at that point to call it a day for practice. I knew my lines already and just wanted to conserve my energy for the race. I went and hung out in the Liv tent and chatted with the girls for a while, won a jersey for showing off my damaged side, then had some lunch while my trusty mechanic looked over my bike for me.
The starting line was again a very positive environment, all the ladies got a picture together and offered encouragement. Unlike last time, my nerves at the top didn’t mess me up right out the gate. My run started pretty strongly. I did crash a bit off the drop and slide out around the berm after it, but I didn’t feel like I lost a whole lot of time there. The real problem came in my second crash. I rode the chute faster than I had in practice, and dug my front wheel into a hole at the bottom. I went cartwheeling off the trail and got all tangled up in my bike. I think the fact that I was trying to be fast made the entire ordeal even worse. I hurt myself again but barely noticed it at the time. I had so much adrenaline that I made it to the bottom without noticing how hard I hit my arm and hand. (I definitely noticed it later.)
Overall, the Western Open was a positive experience, I just need to find a good balance between training and racing.
Personal Change Takeaways:
Keep in mind that these are my personal takeaways for myself. The nice thing about biking in particular is that different things work for different people. These are just some things I’m going to try differently or focus on more in my next adventure. (I think this is my disclaimer now – haha.)
- If you find something challenging, try the ride around at least once.
- Do not obsess over one section and let the rest of the trail suffer. I had this one in last time but I did it again so…
- Don’t forget to bring your armor – even if you don’t plan on wearing it!
- Suggest a takeaway for me!?