By Ryan Taylor
I am halfway through Singletrack 6 and life is moving in slo-mo.
Stage 2 was a test of wills. Between the heat, constantly-steep climbs and choppy trails, I’m beat up. The majority of the day was spent going uphill, and the descents were so dusty if anyone was around you that there might be a sinkhole or a random rock in the trail and you’d never know.
Yesterday, I spent much of the day in my easiest gear with an almost identical routine to Day 1. At first, I rode really well and gained some confidence for the the first two hours, then blew up spectacularly and hated my life and suffered while trying to scrape by to get to the finish where I drank about two litres of Coke and anything else I could find that resembled food.
Day 3, however, was much much different. The Singletrack 6 course followed the entire Seven Summits Loop, which is located just outside Rossland and boasts 35 kilometers of pure singletrack and 1200 meters of elevation gain. It was one of the best days of riding in my life.
The descents are fast, flowy and long. The last timed decent of the day was around 15 minutes. Additionally, the views are spectacular, and the total package makes for an unforgettable experience. It was a great day and absolutely scratched the singletrack itch I that I came for (and I highly recommend the Seven Summits Loop).
All said and done, we are now three days into a six-day stage race and have done around 4200 meters of climbing in the hot British Columbian summer. Everyone’s tired and the amount of funny tan lines, droopy faces and exhausted postures that are hovering around the dinner table is increasing.
Despite Singletrack 6 being a race, it is only a race for a handful of people. The majority of the participants are here to ride fun BC singletrack, push themselves, meet fun people and have a great life experience. Everyone has their own story and struggles. The layers of the onion begin to unravel as you talk to people on the shuttles, at the dinner table or simply from overhearing conversations.
At some point in these races, you must leave something up to fate or luck. You can have all your food in order, eat a good breakfast, train properly and have the right gear, but all of that can change in a second with something as simple as a flat tire, a minor crash, or your legs just not working. I think a big part of life experiences like these is giving up control and being open to the fact that you just have to roll with what happens, good or bad.
I might complain because I’m kind of fat and haven’t really trained for this race, and as a result I’m suffering like a dog, but there are so many people who are pushing on and not making a fuss. One guy I ran into today has been riding with his frame held together with zip ties since his linkage bolts broke. Everyone has their reasons for pushing on and for biting their tongue. I guess this race is a metaphor for life in general in a way.
I realized today that while doing these MTB stage races, your body and mind act a lot like being a teenager. You’re moody and tired all the time, but then when you finally lay down, you can’t sleep. Other times, you can’t stay awake. You crave sugar and food, and in 10 minutes can go from totally fine to having the worst overwhelming hunger pain. Everything is sore and stiff and the most minor things turn your mood.
On the other side of it, because you’re eating so much refined sugar all day long (Coke, electrolyte drinks, gels, bars), I have learned never to trust a burp or a fart.
The hardest day of the race is tomorrow, with 2000 meters of elevation gain in 40 kilometers, and we move on to another legendary mountain bike town, Nelson, BC. Nelson is one of the places where free ride (and everything that came with it) began.
At this point, all I can hope for is that my space boots will save me.