The subtitle of this post is "20 miles of mud-choked smiles." It was a tough day one for TransRockies, especially for those of us competitors who don't really know how to ride a mountain bike. That didn't stop it from being 30 kilometers of giggly fun, but, yes, Keith and I did take four hours and 32 minutes to wrap it up, and yes, if I knew what the conditions were going to be like and I was given the choice of whether to ride my bike or leave the bike at the starting line and run the time trial instead, I would have picked the latter option. I would have definitely moved faster on foot without the slippy wheels/mud-clogged anchor.
This is my partner, Keith, and my friends Sierra and Jenn from Whitehorse, Yukon. Sierra and Jenn are racing in the Women's Open category. Keith and I are in Mixed Open. It rained most of the night and all morning, and by our 11:34 a.m. start time, the trail had been thoroughly soaked and torn to shreds by the nearly 400 competitors who started before us.
These girls started just a few minutes before we did. I like their strategy - if you can't be the fastest, you should be the most stylish.
This guy finished the race before we even started. The look on his face gave us an idea of what we were in for.
The route gained more than 1,600 feet right out of the gate, in less than six kilometers (like how I'm mixing my distance/metric measurements? Expect that from me a lot in TransRockies.) It was a super fun climb; definitely my favorite part of the day, and I'm not joking about that. It was mostly rideable and incredibly scenic, and I have decided that gravity is not my friend. Yes, I would rather just ride uphill and skip the descent. As I said to a guy climbing in front of me earlier today, "I like riding uphill because at least then, I own gravity. Once I turn my wheels downhill, gravity owns me."
A few too many times I shouted to Keith in a rush of glee, "It looks just like Juneau! Oh, Keith, I miss Juneau." (And I promise, this was said without an ounce of sarcasm.)
Another picture from the climb. After "trail amnesia" sets in, I can always tell which parts of the ride I was in a great mood and which parts I was grumpy, because the good-mood stretches are saturated with pictures, and the bad-mood stretches have no visual documentation.
Top of the first climb. Keith endo'd just a few hundred meters down the trail and we both picked our way down after that, mostly on foot. The surface was cheek-clenching steep, covered in sticky mud with veins of wet roots flowing across the width and length of the narrow, switchbacking trail. It was much more technical than anything I have ever attempted to ride, and I wasn't about to start on day one of a seven-day stage race that I'd like to finish.
This was part of a five-kilometer downhill section that we were able to ride. This is only my and Keith's second time riding mountain bikes together, and we found we're both well-suited to each other as partners. Both of us prefer self-preservation to taking big chances for a small boost of overall speed. As he said to me earlier today, "I'm a trail runner, and after this race, you probably will be, too."
About midway through a long, rolling descent called the Coal Discovery Trail, I was pretty much ready to chuck my wheels in the woods. The tires got so clogged with gummy mud that they were worse than slicks, fishtailing down the chewed-peanut-butter trail even when I didn't hit the front brake, and I was side-slipping off the slope on a regular basis. I finally got frustrated enough with it that I announced to Keith I was just going to jog the rest of the way, and I hoped he didn't care. I did jog a good most of it, and my mood improved again pretty quickly. By the time we were freed from our self-renamed "Mud Hell Discovery Trail," I was singing at the top of my lungs, a song that Keith had running through his head all day thanks to our friend Dave and a clever shirt, the "867-5309" song.
Keith and I at the finish line, giving our best defiant sneer to stage one. One of the advantages to not riding much of a 30-kilometer stage is that you don't really get tired at all. I can't even feel it in my legs or head, so I'll chalk this one up as a free day and hope we get a fresh start tomorrow.