I’ve known about the Test of Metal for at least 5-10 years, but this year was the first year I actually signed up and raced it. The biggest reason for not racing it (especially in the last 5 years) was that you had to literally sign up on Jan 1, 6 months before the race, and it was never enough of a “priority” on my race schedule for the year to make a commitment that far in advance. This year, however, with literally no race commitments and a little bit of a push from my buddy Wylie, I decided to sign up.
Mindset going in
Going in to the race I had not trained specifically for this race. This means, not dedicated plan, no coaching, no nutritional plan, no nothing. Sure I got out on the bike and even ran once or twice, but nothing dedicated to anything. But, I was good with this. I wanted to do the race because it’s a local event and I’ve heard some really good things about it.
So my mindset coming in was to enjoy the race, enjoy the day and enjoy the crowd. That was it. Having this mindset really left all pressures at bay and I was amazingly relaxed at the start line. There were definitely no pre-race butterflies.
I had two primary goals:
- Smile as often as possible and thank as many of the volunteers as I could.
- Breathe deeply through any pain and any tough moments as I learned from Ryan Leech.
I had two secondary goals:
- I wanted to finish the race under 4 hours.
- I didn’t want to get fogey’d by my buddy Wylie, though he didn’t know this. Did I just create a new term? I know of guys who’ve said that they’ve been chicked, but not fogey’d.
I knew that my primary goals were achievable any were 100% my choice to achieve. The secondary goals I was unsure of because I did a training run of 3 hours one day on two thirds of the course and because the Monday before the race Wylie smoked my ass up 9 mile hill. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to break 4 hours or beat Wylie.
We had ideal weather for the race. It was 12-16 degrees and cloudy all day. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions. I started off in the 3h15m-3h45m grouping with Wylie. The race started smoothly despite some gentle rubbing. I told myself to start smart and not blow up on the first paved hill. I stayed true and kept my heart rate under 170 and felt really good. Wylie and I stuck together to the top of the pavement but I never did see him again.
As we descended towards Jack’s trails there was a predominant path to take and then chundery rocks to either side of the smooth path. Most people got in the pace line and followed the trail. There were a couple of dough heads that tried to pass on the chunder and almost took out me and other racers as they did so. It was a total dickhead move because the 5 guys that they passed all passed them again (almost instantly) as soon as the trail turned up Jack’s trail.
Very early in the chunder I lost my water bottle and realized I had no water now until I was going to see Tanya. I needed to be calm and conserve my energy and not over exert myself. Thank goodness it was cool out. Just after passing through Alice Lake campground I saw Janet Kindree with 3 water bottles on the ground and I asked for one. We didn’t know each other, but she gave me one and said, make sure you give it back! Yikes, now I had to remember her name. Kindree, Kindree, Kindree I repeated in my head.
The race continued up the FSR and Bob Macintosh trail and I steadily joined small groups and then gapped up to the next group. I was feeling good. Into dead end loop I snuck in front of two guys which allowed me to set my own pace up Rock N Roll to the Corners. The corners were fun and flowy and I caught two more guys before heading down Mashiter to Roller Coaster. Roller coaster was packed with people cheering and ringing their cow bells. What an experience!
As I exited Rollercoaster with some air on to the pavement the crowd, went “oooh” and I was off down Perth to get my bottle from Tanya and head towards the second half of the race. The pavement and FSRs were inconsequential on my way to the feedzone which had 100s of people from Squamish cheering us all on. It was truly awesome. I saw faces in the crowd that I knew and just really enjoyed climbing that hill.
Next up I ascended 9-mile hill and was feeling quite good as I slowly but surely picked off riders one by one as I ascended. A gal with a CORSA jersey hitched on my wheel and we weaved our way up the climb and up lava flow. She slowly fell off my wheel up lava flow where I was greeted by a smiling Nathan McKay who offered a nice little push to help me crest the summit. What a nice guy!
From the top of lava flow it was all downhill but my legs were started to have small little sharp cramps and I had to slow myself a bit to ensure I wouldn’t cramp up. I descended quite quickly (some of my fastest times ever on some sections) and rolled into the powerhouse plunge behind about 6 guys. Being right behind someone on the plunge is not the best position. I ended up taking their lines and as they crashed one by one I finally got in to the open for the 2nd half of the plunge. This was great because it was the steepest part and also had 100s of people in the middle of the trees cheering, ringing their bells and probably secretly hoping for crashes (a la Nascar fans). I loved the rush of going through the yelling people and back down to the feed zone.
From the feed zone and up in to crumpet woods my legs felt good and I just kept pushing. Amazingly my time up farside and fartherside was my fastest ever despite having just raced 50km. I passed a few guys on the climb and was on my own on the descent to S&M when I got passed by Dre Hestler! I couldn’t believe I was ahead of him and I also realized there was no way possible I’d be able to stay with him on the descent.
After crumpet woods it was pavement all the way to the finish, through cheering fans on the roads and sprinklers and volunteers. It was so much fun. I crossed the finish line in 3 hours and 17 minutes. Top 20 in my age group and top 150 overall.
I smiled all day long as evidenced by the photos I have collected and by the one fan at the top of Far Side who said, “You’re the only guy who I’ve seen smiling as they came up this hill”. I successfully used Ryan’s breathing techniques to breathe my way through back pains and quad cramps. I blew away my 4 hour time goal and due to a couple of mechanicals I was able to not get fogey’d by Wylie. Check, check, check and check!
I’d loved the tons of fans and support on the course. The vibe was amazing and it was easily one of the top ten races I’ve ever competed in based on the overall event feel. I’d like to thank Tanya for giving me the time to race, Wylie for the camaraderie and friendship, Janet Kindree for the water bottle, Nathan Mckay for the push, Ryan Leech for the self awareness and breathing exercises, Norco and Norco John Henry Bikes for the support this season, mother nature for the weather and of course to the ToM volunteers, staff and all of the cheering fans of Squamish.