TR2011 Day 7. Rafter 6 Ranch to Canmore, Alberta.August 13, 2011. 42k, 1500m elevation..course preview here..
And off we went. High-fiving and fist bumping on the start line for the last time, Danny, Marty, Dennis and I tucked into the space behind some serious racers (team Crush Club), and powered down the trail, a cloud of dust covering the ranch as the swarm of cyclists lapped the ranch and pulled out of sight. Spirits were high, the most competitive racers were off the front, vying for position and chasing down seconds, minutes. Our nearest competitors were hours on either side of our fourth place position, so we settled into hanging together, pushing a reasonable pace, and enjoying the ride. Our priority was to stay upright at this point, the trail was still full of technical challenges, and injury was never far away. Dennis and I were not the only ones riding with legs bound in gauze, duct-tape and compression wraps. Danny and I hung back a bit more carefully on the drops, Dennis and Marty, legs out of power for the climbs, were making some time up on the descents. Dan and I inevitably caught them climbing, leaden in the legs, low on muscle glycogen, deep in central fatigue. The technical downhills seemed to wake everyone up, we yakked and hooted as we let it rip through the woods, then were silent and breathing heavily as we climbed into the lower reaches of the Canmore mountains. The course took us through the Alpine resort region, where condos reached towards the cliff bases, meeting the demands of second home owners purchasing a piece of the magical wild Canadian West. Then off again into the famous Canmore singletrack. Ten final kilometers of twisty, gnarly, rooty trail, punishing any tired or careless cyclist with a slap to the ground. Right to the final turn onto main street, the trail demanded full attention, full concentration. Then thrown into the big chainring, we were out of the saddles, sprinting to the finish line, cruising full throttle, hands held as we crossed together, safe and sound. We were presented with our finishers medal, and this year, our finishers t-shirt. Last year I was bummed to complete the day, the week, and leave without a t-shirt, because of our hypothermic collapse on stage six. This year, we hugged, high-fived and hung the shirts proudly on the handlebars as we wove through town in a daze. Shattered and famished on the inside, filthy and bandaged on the outside, exhausted but smiling. The four of us rode through town to the baggage drop, found our gear and lugged it to our rental condo. Four showers and twelve slices of pizza later, there was silence, broken only by snores, then more silence. The official banquet that night provided a video and photographic recounting of the entire week, we laughed and groaned with the other racers as we relived the highlights and lowlights of each stage. While the boys hung out, I hunted down the medical director for a final review of Dennis’s wound, as his entire lower leg was red, swollen and now weeping. Confirmed infected, we headed to the local hospital ER for an IV antibiotic and abscess irrigation as the lads were downing another pint. We have a final IV to take tonight, before we hit the skies tomorrow, back to reality, to a long course of antibiotics, to work, to my PhD dissertation, to the fishing boats, to the construction world. Back to our world of internet, email, iphones, constant contact, constant buzz. Already the week in the mountains is fading, the seclusion from the high pace of life is distant, the primitive routines of eat, ride, sleep, repeat are shifting towards our normal work and family patterns. Next, the laundry sorting, the hurried bike packing. But first, some more shut-eye.