Even in the calm of early morning, the sunshine dazzled Howe Sound with urgent intensity. Light seared the white peaks along Sea to Sky as I drove to Whistler for the BC Provincial XC Championships, wondering what to expect in a race so different from the technical marathons of the Sunshine Coast and Squamish. The day’s agenda would be multiple laps (6) around a short course (4.4 km) in blazing heat (37+ degrees C) – a very familiar race format and temperature to me from my days racing in the southeastern US. Those days were several years back, though, and until Saturday I hadn’t raced in crazy heat for a long time.
“Warming up” before my race felt like one of the more redundant things I’ve ever done, seeing as how the temperature in my car was 46 degrees when I unpeeled myself from the seat to go spin around. Nevertheless I made my way over to the top of Peaches en Regalia to watch the Juniors come flying past headed for their final lap. Great to see such a huge Junior field, and they can all shred like mad.
Soon enough I found myself in the start corral looking down a dusty gravel path. The heat rolled off the ground in waves. One minute from start, I was not in a cheery mood. My mouth was so dry my lips kept sticking to my teeth. Fifteen seconds from start I was considering bailing straight down the hill into the creek.
Then we were off. In an instant, everything clicked. I stopped being mad at the heat. It ceased to be the personal vendetta of a hateful sun. Instead, it was a force to respect, to work with. My entire race was a contest of temperature, a dialogue between my body and the heat. If I pushed to the line, I gained ground and closed gaps. If I pushed slightly over the line, my legs broke out in goosebumps and chills skittered down my spine. Back off, recover, push again. Skratch mix in my bottles kept me hydrated and electrolyted.
For much of the race I was close to a couple of very strong and talented Whistler racers, Chloe Cross and Cathy Zeglinski. I fought to stay on Cathy’s wheel for the first half of the race but lost touch when she bridged up to Chloe. I spent a lonely couple of kilometers wallowing in despair before cheering spectators gave me the mental push I needed. I got down to business, gave an all-or-nothing effort, caught up, and closed the race in third. Congratulations to Chloe and Katie Button for their respective second and first place finishes – it was an honor to be on the podium alongside these two excellent riders.
Met up with Owen, Andrea, and Cody Scott at the finish and we caught up on the day’s events. Owen had a strong race, we were on the course at the same time so I couldn’t see him but it was awesome to know we had two Green Machine racers representing. Great job Cody on powering through the field in the U15 race despite a flat on the last lap.
I closed the evening with a swim in Howe Sound and a Bridge Brewing Hopilano on the beach. Lovely finish to an exciting day.