Stage Racing: Making the Leap

Thinking about 2015? You are not alone! Coming up we have a couple stage racing articles from brave Bunnies that will roll out like a buffet for you. Enjoy, ask questions, and let us know what your 2015 plans are!

Words by Karin Grubb.

About five years ago, I tagged along with someone to watch a small portion of the Test of Metal race in Squamish. At that time, I’d been mountain biking on and off for two years and “racing” seemed to me to be synonymous with “crazy” or “waaaay out of my league”.

Watching the race that day, I was blown away by both the speed and competency of the top competitors, but even more so, by the sheer grit and determination I saw in the faces of all those average Joe and Jane’s who do the race, especially the ones at the back of the pack just putting their head down to win all the races going on in their own heads. Watching that race inspired me to do the Test the next year and take that leap – I also wanted to go up against my own self-doubt and come out on top! I wish I could write and say that I committed to doing it, put in the hours and stood on the top of the podium the next year, but the truth is, I took up a structured training program on a bike for the first time ever, and largely thanks to the good folks in the Endless Biking Enduro program, I did cross the finish line around the 5 hour mark (probably only a mere hour and a half off the podium ;), but damn was it hard!! My big win that year was the jump in endurance and fitness that training for a race gave me, together with the knowledge that those gains are only hard won with hard work. Since then, I’ve kept looked for challenges to keep that growth in an upward trajectory.


This year was a BIG leap for me: the BC Bike Race. By the time I committed to doing BCBR I had several other single day races under my belt, but 7 days is still a big, giant leap.

Karin and SV

BCBR was awesome, I loved it, and.. I won’t lie… there were moments without much love. But all in all, spending 7 days doing nothing but riding bikes, eating obscene quantities of food, and getting to meet people from all over the world while being taken care of by some of the most cheerful, competent and helpful volunteers on the planet, is pretty freakin’ great. There was definitely a wide spectrum of people at BCBR, some top notch competitors and lots of people out to just race their own best race. The vibe was amazing, supportive and upbeat. There were a lot of high-five’s, and new Facebook friends and future travel plans made all happening in the hours between races. I didn’t really want it to end, but by the time Day 7 rolled around, I think my body was ready for the break. When we rolled across the finish line in Whistler I was both elated and a little sad. The race itself is a bit of a blur of the many hours of riding sweet trails, feeling at one with my beautiful bike. Climbing, descending and climbing again and again…the feeling of bumping up against discomfort and doubt a constant companion, friendly faces cheering from the sidelines and so so many strangers cheering me on for being a girl and a Muddbunnie in the race.

BCBR trees small

What really differentiated BCBR from a one day race, for me, was the before and after. Preparing for BCBR is a much bigger commitment. I trained pretty regularly for about 6 months to develop the capacity to ride the distances and elevations in BCBR, at speed, for 7 days in a row. Training this year really helped me truly understand the meaning of “adaptation”. Monika Marx designed a program for me that I followed pretty religiously (though I did take a few cheat days – our little secret) and that, without a doubt, stressed my systems and forced adaptation to handle the repetitive load. Some people may not need to train for that long, but I did. Doing BCBR was a leap for me, a big one, but it was really worthwhile. Now that those 7 days are over (and I’ve had some weeks to rest), I feel like I’ve become stronger, faster and infinitely more mentally resilient. The other really cool thing about 7 days is that, by mid-way through, my body started taking the race in stride. Everything could ache, tummies could hurt, but get on the bike and you are home – your body knows: this is what I do today. It took me a long time to warm up as the week wore on, but I never once felt like I couldn’t finish or I couldn’t do it. Sometimes I needed to slow down, eat more or drink more, but riding day after day, I physically and mentally developed a confidence in finishing – there was no “if”, only “when”. There are many one day races where I’ve definitely had long negotiations with myself about the “if”. The benefit of spending that much concentrated time on your bike can also not be understated, by the end of the week I (and lots of others) were riding both up and down features without any hesitation that would have previously sent us into brake-grabbing self-doubt territory. In the weeks after BCBR I have ridden a few of the trails we rode during the race on my bigger bike and I can honestly say that I feel so much more at home with them on my 4 inch carbon Camber, and actually prefer the playfulness and responsiveness of the little bike. Familiarity and time in the saddle breeds shred-ability.

BCBR Tippie small

Now that it’s over, I’m excited to ride my bike for fun and take a few months off intervals; but I suspect the strange sadistic urge to torture myself will return. And not because I feel like I’m not good enough and need to get better, stronger, faster (like I always used to feel), but because I now know that I am good enough and I like reaching into those scary places and finding the growth… it’s better that way.

finish line