After a successful (read: I crossed the finish line) Test of Metal race in 2010 I decided that I would like to challenge myself a bit more in 2011.Â So I decided to complete the entire Hell of a Series (HOS) group of races and get that coveted belt buckle!Â So without further adieu, here is my journey, my story about what I learned, the challenges I faced and the many, many great times I had.
First off, I had to decide on how much training I would need.Â This endurance sport thing is very new to me but I knew what I wanted to get out of the HOS. Â I wanted to be fit enough to enjoy riding and finish all 6 races!Â There were no grandiose ideas of a podium, I just wanted to be in good enough shape to enjoy myself.Â With that in mind, I did a ton of research, drove a couple of knowledgeable friendâ€™s nuts with emails (thank you Aimee) and joined an endurance clinic to get me to my peak just when I wanted it.
Come early March and the 1st â€œfunâ€ training race of the season!Â The FVMBA put on an xc race in Mission that a few Bunnies came out for.
Race-wise it was pretty terrible for me but I learned something and had a really great time riding in an area that doesnâ€™t normally see much traffic.Â So I considered it a win overall!
A couple of months later, during a more appropriate time of year (Iâ€™ve decided only crazies race in BC in early March), the very popular Sunshine Coaster weekend of races and my first long race of the season was here.Â Thankfully Diana was heading over as well for the marathon xc race and provided me with some much needed pre-riding, moral and fun support.
Before the race I was super nervous, much more than I thought I would be.Â I was prepared and knew fitness-wise I could handle this course but still I was pretty nauseous!Â Once we started, the gorgeous weather and fun fellow racers quickly made me forget to be nervous and I completely enjoyed the ride right to the finish.Â It was a great first long race to get my feet wet. And it didnâ€™t hurt that Diana and I both finished second in our respective categories!
Finally, after 2 months of serious prep time, I had a race under my belt that was equivalent to what I would expect in any of the Hell of a Series events.Â But from here on out I had a race every second or even every weekend for 7 weeks straight.Â The training program I had been following didnâ€™t account for this many of the races to be so close together and I was lost on how to continue.Â In comes Cynthia from Endless Biking, super rider and coach extraordinaire, to help me through these weeks with her amazing advice. Endless Biking coaches are amazing and have the envious ability to be blatantly honest without offending.Â Now, if they could just teach me that!
The next challenge was the Orecrusher, my first and only lap race.Â This race was relatively flat which is not something I had been training for.Â I was used to big climbs and recovery descents, not picking a good trail speed and holding it for 30 kms.Â This was also my first race without other Bunnies being there.Â I knew I was the only Race Team member doing the HOS but it wasnâ€™t really apparent to me until I showed up to the first of the races, solo.Â It was a bit scary and a little lonely to be honest.Â I learned that I enjoy the challenge and the friendly atmosphere of races, not the actual competitive racing aspect.Â But on I went to have a fun race and finished 2nd in my category again.
Two weeks later the famed Nimby Fifty, (which can I please state was a new addition to the HOS that I did not know about when I initially decided to complete the series in its entirety!) was staring me in the face.Â Thankfully many great friends and Race Team members signed up for this race so we could all suffer in good company.Â This race is known as a suffer-fest and it did not disappoint.Â At the end of the course, when I hit the road and new I would definitely be able to cross the finish line, I was filled with so much emotion that I just started crying.Â Not just crying, full on blubbering.Â I crossed the finish line at the same time as another fellow racer and we were hugging like it was the birth of our first child.Â Later when we had composed ourselves it turned out it was the infamous Dean Payne of BC Bike Race.Â (Side note: He is a super nice guy and fun racer buddy so consider doing the BCBR next year!)
Wow is the word that comes to mind when I think about the Nimby Fifty.Â Wow is not a bad thing.Â Wow is just, wow.Â So many reasons why I was wowed by this event, from the people that enter it from veteran racer to casual but passionate rider; to the punishing yet fun trails; to the cheery volunteers to the amazing food and beer.Â This race was probably my most memorable of the season, for all the right reasons.Â The vibe was inspiring and I am so happy I was able to participate in an event like this.
Exactly 1 week later I found myself at the start of the North Shore XC race.Â Another race known to beâ€¦ tough.Â Tough may be an under exaggeration with James from Obsession being the course designer.Â However this was not my first rodeo with this event so I had a decent idea of what to expect.Â Within the first hour a good friend in front of me went down hard on a tech decent, couldnâ€™t continue and needed help.Â I stopped, ran up the trail and got a medic volunteer to come down.Â This probably only took a few minutes but many other racers passed us and my race mind-set had been shaken.Â It took me quite a while to feel good about the race but passing the folks that went by us earlier kept my mind busy.Â I was cleaning techy sections that I hadnâ€™t before and climbing strong.Â Overall I was having a great race and enjoying the trails.
What I new to be the final climb from the previous years race is long and steep.Â But I knew it was there, I knew it was the end so I pushed up it hard thinking I could recover at the finish.Â Being the funny guy he is, James put in a surprise ending that was not on the course map.Â A second climb up the Richard Juryn trails.Â The volunteers directing racers up the trail at that intersection were hearing some pretty vocal signs of pain and suffering!
And there you have it.Â Half of the Hell of a Series was done, complete, a past memory.Â Two of the hardest races were finished and my peak race was coming up in two weeks time.
Stay tuned for more!