James Durand

Without setting goals, how do we improve?

By James Durand

Last week, I raced the second annual Mega Volt e-bike race in Cowichan Valley.

This three-day race is put on by my BC Bike Race buddies, and just like all their other events, it includes a ton of riding and just as much fun throughout the weekend.

Some old race friends and I went last year and had a pretty good time on e-mountain bikes. We rode hard, and represented the old crew well, but it was a tough weekend for me and getting back into race mode after so many years away was a hard transition. No prep, no conditioning, and maybe too much “socializing” between stages.

But this year, I decided it was time to get faster. I know, who gets faster in their 50’s? Our bodies are decaying, our skills diminishing, and our reflexes slowing. All this plus a higher level of self preservation adds up to slower mountain biking year over year, so slower is expected. Maybe I bit off more than I can chew here.

Like any race, you have to study your competition, and since I was only trying to better my own riding, I looked back at last year to figure out what I had to improve upon if I was going to achieve this dream goal of “faster.”

Even with another year added to my age, and all that comes with that, I was sure I could pull it off this year. You know, mind over matter, visualize it and it becomes reality, if you dream it you can do it … blah blah blah.

Here’s how last year went:

2021 Race Schedule.

Morning of race – wake up, try to lift injured shoulder over my head, no luck, pop two advil – grab a demo e-bike off the floor at Swicked that I’ve never ridden and drive to Maple Mountain in Cowichan at the last minute.

Day One: consistency race, finish all three laps – ice down shoulder so I can hopefully move it tomorrow – hang out with 20 old friends I haven’t seen in 10 years – drink way too many beer – shoulder feels great – go to bed at 2am.

Day Two: ice shoulder and head, everything hurts now – pop two advil – 20km technical DH loop where I hide mid pack and wonder when this headache will go away – finish first lap – on advice of good friends, drink beer to make headache go away – ride second 20km technical climbing lap, wishing I’d ignored “good friends” – wonder how it is possible for my head to actually hurt worse than my shoulder – finish second lap – ice shoulder again – hang out with 20 old friends I haven’t seen in 10 minutes – drink way too many beer – shoulder feels great – go to bed at 2 am.

Day Three : 1st lap of poker run – try to keep up with former Olympian – wonder how either of us is riding today after last night – hope there is ice at the finish line for my shoulder and head – try to ride fast on DH, only to discover my shoulder doesn’t want to anymore and I might be seeing double at this point – ride slow while my equally hung over friends leave me in the dust – finish first lap and go lie in trail side ferns waiting for friends to finish second lap – wish someone would bring ice.

Drive home: recover for a full week … maybe longer.

BUT, despite all the pain and debauchery, I had so much fun last year that I headed back for round two this year … And I had a plan. I rode my e-bike for a couple of weeks ahead of time this year to get used to it. I managed to rehab my shoulder to the point where I can ride pain free again, and, this part is brilliant, I took fake beer. I put it in a glass so no-one knew (Mwahaha ha ha ha!).

I got home Sunday night feeling great. The climbs went smooth and the downs felt fast. I rode with loads of friends and managed to keep the pace with minimal suffering.

It worked, I actually achieved my goal and rode quite a bit faster this year. So, all you naysayers who think old dogs can’t learn new tricks, don’t give up yet, there is still potential in all of us.

Campbell RiverCycling