I’ve been looking forward to this race all week, so when I arrive at 8am and there is a big field ready at the start line my blood starts pumping – for a moment I think I screwed my time up. Fortunately it turns out to be the Circumbezerkers and the runners. Must be a good 100 athletes lined up. Circumbezerkers do the course twice.

Relieved, I leave them to their antics, and go up to the lodge, sign in, score some swag and along with a few more sponsor gels.

Admin done, I head back to my car and relax, and despite all the hubbub around me manage to fall asleep, which is much needed now after getting up at 4am. Too much drinking wine the night before, and I couldn’t sleep till midnight. Maybe it’s pre-race nerves. Stomach is on a titanic rise and fall.

I’ve been taking it easier than normal all week, kind of tapering I suppose, but really just very busy at work and not able to take too much time on the trail or the road.

Also, the weather is crappy and not much fun to be out there. It’s supposed to rain today, but so far the clouds are keeping their load to themselves.

Once napped, I wake up and start to get ready. Or is that get ready to start? I’ve got the pre-ride ritual dressing and filling water bottle dialed in and go about my business with purpose, nice and relaxed. The sun has come out. My parking lot neighbours are on flats.

I wonder about taking only 1 bottle from the gate full and 1 empty with only the powder in it. In the end I go normal policy and soon regret it. Nothing else coming for the ride – just some co2, gels, and a multi-tool. No spare tube, no nothing. Oh, my gilet in case it gets cold. Which it doesn’t.

Next supported race 1 bottle only – why carry almost a kilo extra weight for no good reason!!

I line up near the front and someone asks me if it’s going to be a neutral roll-out. I reply it will be slow, but not that slow, kind of half-kidding. As it turns out the start is fast, really fast!

By the time we reach the first feed station I’m on sitting on needles and cranking razor wire, feeling decidedly light-headed and heart howling. I have to stop and catch my senses for a what feels like a good few minutes. That’s a long break for me on a race like this.

We’ve been climbing for the best part of an hour. Oh it started out easy enough with some harmless gravel, an innocent fire road, but soon we switched to aggressive single track climbing, with super steep pitches – all on rocky and uneven, rooty trails. Think Gearjammer my BC friends.

My every instinct is to quit – am feeling my inner roadie to be uptight and aggravated. Doubled over my bars at the feed station others ask if I’m ok, I can only grunt and shake my head under my breath.

I finally find the motivation to keep going – just to the next feed station I tell myself. And off I go again. Less abusive single-track, more flowing, but again before I know it we’re into hard punchy climbs, and steep drops across roots and rocks.

This goes on until the 3rd aid station, where suddenly I see to my delight 20 or maybe 30 riders are standing around, fueling, matches clearly spent. I hunker down and grind straight past the opportunity to rest. Same thing on the 4th aid station – before I know it I’ve regained 50 places. I’m now hammering past pace lines on the false flats and holding my own on the 20 degree up pitches. No more slipping back.

From time to time we’re treating to auburn vistas, and a glimpse across the valley before plunging back into the clouds of the red zone. The trail pain is relentless.

Towards the 3rd feed station I’m riding up and back with another guy chatting a bit, sort of distracted. When we come around to the chute into the feed area there is a bypass and a jump option – I always avoid the jump in races (yes, just in races, honest) – it’s just not worth the risk. However in this case I fail to observe the jump warning and get right up to the lip before I realize I’m about to go airborne – like five feet airborne.

In some kind of subconscious ninja moment I manage to feed the brakes just enough to avoid endo-ing over the jump and the front wheel drops into the face, my body follows, and somehow slinks itself with gravity along the roll and bike gods be praised – I’m alive, alive! It’s so insane what just happened, especially so on a hard tail, and especially so with no dropper seat post. I’m laughing like an idiot – what the fuck was that!

All day I’m loving my 46 tooth gear, using it regularly to clear the steep pitches. I get some apple sauce for making it up some insanely steep pitch near feed station 5, and I know its home hard. I get a couple more gels and fight them down one after another. I hate to bonk now and crawl the last few miles home.

This race is relentless; yes more technical climbs and then super long berms on the way down to the finish line. I’m caught just before the line by an actual downhiller. Bad form friend! Unlike me, who has moved on from mountain biking (not by choice, just by virtue of where I live and how I live). There are definitely more baggy shorts than lycra on this ride!

I’m loving the ride finally, but it’s criminal not to have a dual suspension. What was I thinking? I should have bought dual, not razor thin single suss. Middle aged riders causally roll by on their dually – I’m thinking they are not stronger than me, but still kicking my ass.

But I’m loving it – the pain is right at the limit – not cramping, but right there, not sick, but right there, not exhausted, well you get it!

It’s a great race in the sense that almost 75% is single track, and well maintained at that. Leaves blown for the race, and the trail design is just superb. Evil genius. And the race director certainly keeps us working hard to the very end.

At the finish it’s a fun little party happening. We’re greeted by music, food and a smiling team of volunteers. The sun is out, I enjoy my soup and lemonade and fall asleep to the sound of cheering for the steady stream of incoming finishers.

Finished 95th out of 525 riders or something like that – I’ll take it since it’s my fist technical MTB race in a very long time!

Thanks to all for putting on a great day for us – looking forward to letting my inner mountain biker out to play again!