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Squamish/Whistler, B.C, Canada
This Blogtography is not a shameless self promotion but a way to keep in touch with folks and share my experiences of what I see and do through the eye of the lens. I feel fortunate to play a part in stoking people to get out and explore and find their own experiences no matter what they are. It really inspires me to capture a moment in time and tell a visual story. Quote- "If I only scrape a living at least it's a living worth scraping for ! " ( Dark Side Of The Lens)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

!9th Annual Test Of Metal

19th Annual Squamish “Test of Metal”




Back in January the on-line registration opened for the 19th annual Test of Metal. The race caps out at 800 riders and sells out incredibly fast so you need to be on the ball to get an entry.
My finger hovered over the enter button for a period of time before 
committing to an event that was 6 months away.  

Squamish presents a unique dilemma… should I be a climber this summer, a biker or maybe try kiting..
Truly1st world issues.
Anyway,
In one click of a button a portion of the summer was decided.
I had some ski expeditions that would take me into Mid May so the idea of the 67 km loop in June was daunting.
The months leading up to race day quickly approached and I had one more expedition to Alaska before hanging up the skis for winter. Ski mountaineering does not do much for top end cardio but it does turn you into a diesel engine so I’d be relying on that base.
A few day’s before hopping on a plane for Whitehorse I sold my old mountain bike and put in an order for a new Ghost AMR Riot 7.
Stoke factor on a new ride might just give me a few extra watts, or so I hoped.
Mid-May I returned home and jumped on my road bike for a few rides to try and stack some form into my ski legs.
Then a few days before the Test Of Metal I received the good news, my bike was ready at MEC.
Anxious to get off the roads and back on the trails I quickly checked the Sorca website  ( Squamish Off Road  Cycling Association) to see a significant amount of new trails were either constructed or repaired.
The Association has been incredibly progressive in working with local government and landowners to build Squamish up into one of the best mountain bike locations on the planet.. I’ve traveled as far as Europe and South America with remarkable experiences in far off places yet I still enjoy returning to my backyard trails after road trips.
The drive home from MEC with the new bike felt unusually long, I was super jazzed to try out the new 650b wheels size and having not demoed it, was a bit nervous as I had committed to the idea regardless of knowing how it handled.
This would be the 1st year I’ve done the event without riding up the famous and cruel 9 mile climb. I did however pre-ride the Technical powerhouse plunge and the Riot 7 handled everything thrown at it.
The newly engineered linkage was predictable and forgiving.
 If I was off my line in the classic rock chunder of the Plunge, the bike seemed to carry me through with confidence. The 650b wheel size allowed a little more playfulness than my old 29er and handled the tight corners like a dream.

Race day quickly arrived and the day was cool and overcast. The previous day’s light rain had tightened up the trails so things were looking ideal.
Despite not having my usual fitness I was excited to treat the Test Of Metal as giant group ride and not set any expectations other than enjoying the day and build off the experience.
 The event allows riders to seed themselves based on anticipated finish times. 800 riders strong would see competitors from World Cup athletes to weekend riders dressed up in costumes. It’s an amazing feeling rolling out with that number of riders and hearing the buzz of the knobby tires.
Lisa Snow - Image©

The 1st 30 minutes of the race more or less put you in your place for the day. The race starts with a significant climb on pavement to thin out the riders before the single track. 
Lisa Snow- Image©




This section can either save your race or end it. There have been editions of the test where I have buried myself on the climb to stay near the leaders and this has resulted in an exit stage left and a DNF somewhere on course. If you redline for too long the chances of recovering are not great.
On the flip side, if you dawdle up the climb you can expect delay’s in some of the single track as the riders try to merge into single file. 
I arrived at the top of the climb feeling pretty good and settled into a group that was just on the tip of my fitness threshold.

This was an optimal place to be as there is a fair amount of fire road before the true single-track starts.
It’s never too early to start thinking about the biggest climb of the race so despite not being hungry or thirsty I found a few opportunities to fuel the body up for the sections where I knew it was difficult to eat or drink. I have a rule of thumb for hydrating and I’ve found it optimal to finish off one large bottle before the powerhouse feed zone, then I can usually make it through the day on one more.
Thankfully the mid day inflow winds were blowing steady up Nine Mile. I was feeling pretty good and holding my position the entire way, I wasn’t sure if it was the bike rolling efficiently or the tail winds, either way I was enjoying the climb.
Nine Mile hill can be broken down into 3 parts. The 1st section is the most difficult because your legs have to transition into climb mode. Perseverance and believing your legs will eventually rally are key points to remember. It’s also easy to fall into the trap of thinking you are the only one suffering.. Everybody is at that point so you are in good company.
2nd part is the plateau before a fast descent to the next part of the climb. I like to break that climb down into minutes because it is not really that long but the day’s efforts are starting to add up. 
3rd section is a grinder but the end is near so I suck it up till I roll over the top for the long descent down the Ring Creek Rip. This year all the racers were treated to new twisting single-track rather than the old straight shot skidder road down into the plunge.
Once again the Riot 7 skimmed through the technical sections and I was caught up behind a number of riders struggling for their lines. 

Rather than try to push my way through I settled in and decided to take the opportunity to rest my body before the punishing climb up through Crumpit Woods.
Cruising out of the Plunge we passed through the chaotic feed zone for the 2nd time. The large crowds help see you through the start of another climb. 
Lisa Snow- Image©

The temptation to stand on the pedals is high at this point but the hamstrings are screaming for mercy as you transition into climbing mode again.
I had a few leg spasms but kept them under control and slowly settled into the Far Side Trails.
The climb is relatively short and it delivers you into some super fun fast single track in a rain forest setting.
I was catching riders on my way to Plateau Crescent when I washed out on a corner. My rear tire had lost a significant amount of tire pressure when the seal on my tubeless broke off in a technical section. I fought it off for a little while but had too many close calls so eventually stopped and pumped my tire but up.
I counted 200 pumps before I was content with the tire pressure and took off looking for those that had passed by me.
With my head down and dropping through the gears I got a few places back but I was more interested in coming in under 3 hrs.
It was super fun Tokyo drifting the final corners, trying to maintain my speed because my timing was super close. The last corner into the finish area was loose and gravely and I barely kept the rubber down to make my personal goal of a few seconds under 3.

This might have been my 8 or 9th Test of Metal.
I competed in some of the original events in the early days and have been competitive with the leaders from time to time.  Although not competitive on this occasion, this is easily was one of my most memorable.
It was refreshing to race with the idea of having fun and racing on a course that was in the best condition I have seen it in.
Huge Kudo’s to all the volunteers and organization and trail builders.
See you at the Gear Jammer.



Chris
MEC Envoy.
Fuelled by Bean Brackendale :)









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