Thursday, August 6, 2009

Intermontane Challenge: Amanda's Race Report

I just finished in 2nd place overall at the Intermontane Challenge, a 5-day stage race held in Kamloops, BC. It was the hardest race I have ever done. There were many, many challenges in this event but the most formidable one was the heat. It was 100 degrees every day, adding an extra challenge to an already difficult race. This was only my second stage race so I went into the event knowing that I had to be prepared for anything.

When we arrived in Kamloops on Saturday afternoon our car's thermometer read 103 degrees. Yikes. I was especially nervous about the heat because I had a terrible time of it at this year’s Sea Otter and could barely finish the 1:30 race! However, Kamloops’ heat was incredibly dry. It felt slightly less oppressive than the Massachusetts brand of humid heat I grew up in-no hot and sticky here!

Stage 3 course profile. It didn't matter anyway
because 1/2 the field got lost and the stage was neutralized.

I could write a 3-part novel about drama associated with this first-year event. The important details: we had 4 huge stages ranging from 40-60 miles and a final 17-mile time trial on Friday. Each day we set off in the morning with a 30 min. neutral rollout on paved roads escorted by the RCMP. Every stage included what felt like an obscene amount of climbing and super-fast downhills on trails that varied from technical, narrow, rooty-rocky singletrack to wide open doubletrack and graded dirt roads. Only a handful of the trails were built for mountain bikes and much of the terrain was barely cut in and much of it was overgrown. The course marking were insufficient most days and people were getting lost all week long.

This is the race director's moto. He really
enjoyed riding it on the trails we raced on.

After riding with or directly behind Sue Butler for most of day one I lost 38 minutes when I took a guess on an unmarked turn at mile 40 with a group of men. For some reason we thought we were on the right track when a race official smiled and waved at us from a passing truck when we were headed 6 miles in the wrong direction. Right. Miraculously, I recovered from that added 40 min. time-trial/detour and kept my head in the game for the rest of the week. I rode my heart out every minute of every day through flat tires and numerous crashes no matter where I was in the GC.

I ended up taking crawling back from a distant 4th place in the GC on day 1 to 2nd overall. I decided to split my prize money with the 3rd place woman, Sarah Kaufman. In my opinion, nothing about this race was fair to anyone involved so sharing my prize money evenly with Sarah was the one little thing I could do to correct one of the wrongs. Every single Pro Woman got lost at least once during the week and depending on what day it was it either killed your spot in the GC or it didn't count against you.

Most importantly, this week was a phenomenal reminder that a pro mountain biker is only as good as the support she receives. Many thanks to Tomac bikes for making the Type-X, the nicest carbon hardtail on the market. This race was loaded with steep climbing and fast, technical descents and I couldn’t have wished for a better race bike. My set of Kenda Karma 2.0s were the perfect tires for the terrain, as I needed something fast rolling for all the fire road climbing, but also something that would hook up well in the loose, moon-dust filled Kamloops desert. My specialized S-works helmet was as close as I could get to wearing nothing on my head. It vented extremely well and my specialized BG Pro shoes kept my feet the most comfortable they have ever been in an endurance event. They provide just the right amount of room in all the right places for your feet to swell throughout the hot days.

Hammer Nutrition kept me fueled and hydrated. Fist-fulls of endurolytes, heed and especially recoverite allowed me to perform and recover from the extreme heat and get back at it day after day in the triple digit temperatures. Oh, and a special thanks to the inventor of ibuprofen, zoots compression tights and arnica gel. Dave Zabriskie deserves special mention for making the best chamois cream on the planet. Lastly, a uber big thanks to my husband Nate who stood by my (and LOTS of other racers he didn't even know) side the entire week, handing me freezing cold bottles, stuffing ice down my shirt at every aid station, washing and fixing my bike and especially for encouraging me day after day when I thought there was just no way that I could-or should-pedal another day. I couldn’t have done this without him or without all of the support from my generous sponsors-thank you!

I am incredibly grateful for the experience as I got in some good training, learned a lot and made a ton of new pals. Next on tap: The Leadville 100! Although some are affectionately calling this year's edition the Lance-ville 100, I am very much looking forward to this crazy event. This will be my second attempt and I know that the energy and positive vibe of the circus that is Leadville will only fuel my fire!

Thanks for reading!