TransRockies, Not a Ride in the Park

It is amazing the level of suffering people are willing to push through to get a T-shirt. The 2010 Trans Rockies Challenge was a 7 day, 400 km mountain bike race attracting 450 crazed riders from Europe, South America, the states, across Canada, and even a couple demented cats from Medicine Hat. The race traversed the great divide using single track, seismic lines and old roads, climbing 12000 metres of vertical gain from Fernie BC to Canmore Alberta. A typical day in the saddle took pro teams 3 hours, slow teams 9 hours, and old guys from the flatlands were somewhere in the middle. The 7 day event required teams of two to push themselves, each other, and even their bikes way past the comfort zone on a daily basis.

There was a gal from Mexico City who had lungs and legs of steel so she would crush the uphills but then invariably crash her bike on a lot of the descents, I saw her eat dirt 4 times in one day, blood dripping down her lower leg, one bruised and puffy cheek…she hopped right back on that 2 wheeler and left us in her dust.

There were almost daily stream/ river crossings where the cold waters of the rockies provided an excellent lower body anti inflammation/ freezing effect. This was all good unless you lost your footing and dipped your whole being in the icy chill. Saw one experienced athlete ( mid 60s) completely submerged, he popped up choking, spitting but laughing and smiling as if he had just had the carnival ride of his life.

The medical tent was busy every evening taping strains and strains, stitching cuts, icing bruises, and handing out Immodium. (Don’t even ask)

At the wind up dinner one table had two guys with black eyes and one with a set of crutches, it looked like they had been in a car crash, but they were all smiles.

But through all the physical toil, crashes, mechanical break downs, flats, bonks, even through the gut cramps there was a camaraderie and sportsmanship that was absolutely unbelievable. Every person stopped by the side was asked by every passer if they needed a hand. Even the fast competitive folks on the podium were gracious and modest, congratulating and fist bumping one another as if together they had won the day.

As I suffered through this gruelling event, I mean pedalled merrily along, I kept coming back to the parallels between this one week race and the daily and career commitments of many of the young athletes I am blessed to work with.

Up early to a hearty breakfast… can’t afford to put suspect fuel in an engine that needs to function optimally.

Hard intense effort, scaling seemingly insurmountable obstacles one step/ pedal stroke/ day at a time.

Daily dancing with pain, soreness, fatigue and injury. Is it serious, will using it make it worse, is there a stretch, exercise, or better athletic position that provides relief? Is there an expert who can help? How many anti inflamms are too many?

The right team-mates making all the difference. Sometimes you’re feeling great and pulling your squad along, other times you’re “off the back, wearing your underwear on the outside” (bike talk for head down drooling close to cashing it all in). The right team is there pulling you along. Thanks to race partner Wayne Mihalicz and support crew extrodinaire Jamie Hillier for doing all that good teammates do.

Athletics demands that we push our body and our minds beyond what many others feel is possible, strong athletes ignore the nay-sayers. Athleticism is an admirable pursuit, believe in yourself, keep striving to be better than you are and you too can cross the mountains!

Ed Stiles BPE, Certified Exercise Physiologist is a member of the Alberta Sport Development Center’s Performance Enhancement Team and operates Peak Performance Fitness Services. He can be reached via email at asdc@mhc.ab.ca or at peakperform@hotmail.com.