What I learned at the BC Bike Race
Wow. What an amazing week. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed up for the BCBR last year...I'm looking for sponsors for 2014:)
I was there for the experience, the adventure, to have fun and meet people from around the world. My goals were to work hard, have fun and not get hurt. In the end I reached my goal and surprised myself by finishing 7th in the Solo Open Women category to boot. I can't be anything but stoked with that:)
I've done plenty of races. Long ones, short ones, multi-day staged ones, epic through the night ones. But the BCBR 7-day staged mountain bike race was unlike any other race I have experienced. As with any race there were highs and lows, hi 5's and thumbs up, new race friends and competitors, big climbs and fun descents, friendly volunteers, awesome views and random race adventures. But the BCBR multiplies those experiences by 7 and adds the unique elements of community and daily travel to the mix.
I had seen the event roll in and out of my town. I had watched the videos, creeped the results and read the daily race reports. But until I actually became part of the traveling circus, I did not realize the massive scale of the BCBR. The logistics are insane- 550 racers (and who knows how many volunteers) were transported to seven different communities via ferries, buses, trailers, campers, trucks, cars, sea planes, water taxi's and more. But that was probably the easy part. In addition to human cargo there were hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bikes in semi trailers, mobile shower and washroom trucks, first aiders, massage therapists, bike mechanics, bike wash stations, racer relations, communication stations, not to mention all of the equipment and personnel to actually run each 40-60km race, to be broken down, transported and set up day after day after day. The BCBR set up and tore down a small community for 7 consecutive days and they did it seamlessly.
Many local BC/Island riders think the BCBR would be fun but wouldn't dream of paying the fee's to race it. Saying ' I could ride those 7 days anytime' for way less $$. 'Why would I pay that much to race in my own backyard?' I will admit that up until a week ago I was one of those locals. However, now that I have actually had the opportunity to experience the BCBR I can honestly say that it is worth every single penny and even MORE than they charge for registration. It is truly a great value for all of the services that are included- and the experience really is priceless.
How much did you pay for your bike? How about those weekend races that you did over on the mainland? How much did all of your other trips and holidays add up to last year? Or, can you put $50 or $100 aside each month until you have enough saved up for the race?
If you have ever considered doing this race but were on the fence, or thought it was too expensive, or didn't think you were fit enough or fast enough or whatever... JUST DO IT. Go online and SIGN UP today. Deal with the details later. I can promise you that you will not regret it.
At the start of the week someone asked me if I would do it again. I instantly said 'no, I think this is a race you do once in a lifetime'. But then I finished the 7 days,watched the 2013 videoand relived the week. And now I can say for certain that 'yes, I would do it again in a heart beat'.
So...what did I learn? So many things! Not only did I learn in detail about the stages, the physical requirements, the training requirements and the logistics of the event, but I also learned a lot about myself along the way. The race is like a mountain bike camp where you can improve your skills through volume, repetition and race intensity- and that in itself is worth the registration.
Things that I learned that might help those of you who are racing BCBR, however:
Suffer during your training so you don't need to suffer (more than necessary) in the race. Even though I didn't have very long to train, I did manage to get enough quality and quantity in the books to feel prepared for most of the demands of the race. Make sure you get the long back to back rides in, including a few that are longer than you expect to ride, but even more that are race pace if you are planning to push yourself. Get your intensity in through races in your community and you will get the benefit of becoming one with racing logistics, fueling and strategy in the process. Plan out your training, give yourself enough time to get up to your goal mileage/training weeks and hire a coach if you want to do well. 2-3 months of committing to higher volume training and racing will pay you back in spades come race week.
The power of drafting. Kill yourself to grab and stay on a wheel because the payback is priceless.
Let go of the brakes! The less you brake the less you have to pedal in the end and that is a powerful motivator after hundreds of kms.
Sprint your guts out off the line. Even better- train to sprint your guts out off the line. Getting to the single track ahead of the pack is the first race of every day. Your final result can be effected greatly by your ability to do well in this race.
Warm ups, fueling, post ride cool downs, refueling and recovery and 7 times as important over 7 days of racing. My body felt great because I followed my plan day after day.
You will probably crash at some point.
Your bike will probably cry at some point. You must know how to fix your chain, fix a flat and adjust your derailleur so that you can get yourself to the next aid station.
You don't need to take all of your maintenance/cleaning gear with you- they have stations with everything you need.
You don't need to take your laptop - they have a communication station with computers and wifi.
You don't need to sign up for the meal plan unless you really want to. Although the race is good value, you can eat for much less than the meal plan costs if you don't mind finding your own grub. Towns are always accessible and I enjoyed sushi, thai, pizza and whatever else I felt like after each day.
You will want to have your own tent if you can afford the upgrade- or share with a friend.
Bring the most comfortable shammy's you can afford. And bring lot's of them. If it's wet weather, bring gear for 7 days. If it's sunny and hot like this year, you can do laundry half way and it will dry in the breeze.
Don't take Benedryl during a race. Take Reactin when you get to Squamish.
Take ear plugs.
Take ginger gravol if you ever get motion sickness. I took some every day with all of the buses and boats.
Get a new bike. Yup. If you are in the market anytime soon- just get the new bike. You will have less issues on trail with newer gear and more time to enjoy the experience.
Do it with a friend- but race as solo's unless you don't care what your results are each day. It is near impossible to race the same pace as someone else over 350kms of singletrack. But so fun to share the adventure with a friend.
Have your spouse or a friend join you for the week for free by volunteering. It is hard work and long days, but they will be able to experience the journey with you and not have to pay for meals, accommodation, travel, ferries etc...
Persevere. It ain't over til it's over. Just keep the wheels turning and you never know how the cards will fall in the end. Push hard on your strengths and endure your weaknesses. Everyone is suffering out there no matter their finish time.
Say hi. Be nice. Help out your fellow racers. You never know when you will need a hand. We were all 'competitors', but we were also a team and we all got to the end together.
I could probably go on but that is it for now! Message me if you have any questions! firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you BCBR organizers, volunteers and racers for an unforgettable week. The BCBR is truly the Ultimate Single Track Experience and I know I will be back...maybe even next year?