Have you ever watched like, I dunno, ski jumping or downhill skiing or ski moguls or race car driving and thought to yourself "self, that doesn't look too steep/fast/scary" only to one day to see such events live and think "oh man, that looks absolutely insane!"?
Well that's what I'm going to say about the highway 99 northern bike leg of the Ironman Canada Whistler bike course.
The morning started out easy enough. I woke up, ate a delicious breakfast prepared by Team Terrific Tammy, passed some nervous gas and saddled up and headed out. Brandon was in the lead (aka I saw him basically three times all day when he decided to take a break and let us catch up) and Tammy, myself, and Tammy's husband Shane sort of formed a loose riding group. A very loose riding group.
Now downhills are fun. Me go fast! My eyes were watering and my cheeks were flapping in the breeze (both sets) and I was thinking "weeeeeee" until I thought "oh man, I have to ride back up this hill.....and this hill......and holy crap this hill too!" There were a lot of downhills. Life was good. Tammy dropped a chain pretty early on, we all stopped and helped her fix it and carried on and reached Pemberton at the bottom of the hill in a little over an hour (pretty decent 40km ride). Brandon was sitting alone on a curb somewhere caressing Intrepid. He has an unhealthy obsession with that bike.
Turning through Pemberton Tammy pointed out the place where "we would get cinnamon buns later" (spoiler alert: they were out of cinnamon buns, so I had banana bread. It was okay) as we headed out on a stretch called "The Meadows".
The Meadows was actually really cool. A 50km out and back that was totally flat, nearly devoid of traffic, well paved and very scenic. Now it was windy as hell, especially on the way back, but it was a great "on road" opportunity to test that trainer work I'd been putting in with some steady watts and good aero. I had a lot of fun. Well maybe not fun, but a lot of satisfaction.
I also dropped Tammy and Shane...twice. That's never happened before. And I guarantee I didn't actually drop them, they just felt like looking around a bit more (I basically just stared at the tips of my aero bars, because we all know the tip has the most "personality"). But I'll take any little victory I can get! Not that it's a competition (everything is a competition)
Back into town. Banana bread time, rest up. And deep breath.
Exiting Pemberton you are literally faced with a massive hill right out of the gate. Like not even a kilometre out of town. Someone smarter than me can probably figure out stuff like the grade and length and difficulty and all that from my Garmin data. All I know was this was a big effing hill.
Now I'm going to pause here for a moment with the following warning: STRONG [EXPLETIVE] LANGUAGE TO FOLLOW (sorry Mom).
Almost immediately upon starting the first ascent I was in a pain cave of immeasurable proportions. I mean not James-Bond-sitting-in-a-bottomless-chair-getting-his-nuts-smashed-with-a-big-rope kind of pain, but a generally unhappy place. Tammy cruised by me in the first 50m with her uncanny "big ring standing the whole way" technique of hill climbing. She quickly caught Shane and then....dropped her chain again.
But this time there was no team effort. Shane stopped (he's required to, nuptials and all). And as I rode by at a breathtaking 9 km/hr (about 5.5mph for our US and UK readers, or 2.5m/s for our science nerds) I "offered my help" without slowing my pace and just continued right on up the hill not pausing for Tammy's response. Taking a top tip from the TopGear rules of road tripping, they were on their own.
And here's were everything began to fall apart for me. Any of the headwinds (gusts up to 42km/hr), grade, length of ascent, burning legs, fatigue, heat, or bugs were manageable, individually or even together. But add all of that into a highway with no dedicated bike lane, questionable highway shoulders (which at some points disappeared altogether to make way for a cliff drop) and what seemed like an endless convoy of hillbillies in jacked up pickups pulling overloaded trailers wagging the dog all the way down the highway blatantly in excess of the speed limit, and it was too much. Way to much. Enter "Trevor Needs To Quit Rest Stop 1".
I'm going to digress for a moment. If you're an outdoorsy individual who enjoys long walks in the woods, the smell of campfire, and a well planned and loaded trailer rig for going on your adventures who actually knows how to pull the thing, all the power to you.
If you're a piece of shit hillbilly with a jacked up boulevard queen, running 40s on your chrome rims pulling a 30' trailer on a trailer balls as it wags and bounces and pulls your truck all over the road, then you should perform a self-castration. Because you're a menace, to everyone. No one should be "okay" with their trailer wagging behind them. Get a better rig, or stick to the boulevards.
Okay back to me. Quit Rest Stop One. I'm pulled over having not crushed that first hill. I mean I made it up, but I worked for it. Hard! I've looked back to see no Tammy and no Shane. I needed just a few minutes to stretch it out, to regroup, and to decide if I needed to call the loser cruiser for a ride.
I decided that I didn't. So I saddled up again, and got my focus back.
The way I got my focus back is by composing and performing a motivational song. Something I've done since I wrote the "Tomato Soup" song in the tomato soup isle of the Co-op when I was like 4 maybe. Admittedly my motivational song was a bit angrier than usual, and went something like this (not to be confused with the Tomato Soup Song):
"[Expletive] you hills. You're a piece of [Expletive] I'm going to ram my [Expletive] down your [Expletive] [Expletive] you [Expletive] hill you have no [Expletive] idea how I'm going to [Expletive] you Is that all you've got [Expletive] hill? You're a [Expletive] hill. [Expletive] you. [Expletive] you Bend over you [Expletive] [Expletive] hill I hate you SO MUCH! Is that all you've got you [Expletive] [Expletive] hill? Oh you've got some wind too? Well [Expletive] you to you [Expletive] [Expletive] wind. Can't you blow any harder? I bet you can't you [Expletive] [Expletive] you, [Expletive] you, [Expletive] you and die!"
Pretty good song right? So I basically sang that (in an ascending and descending scale) at the top of my lunges for a solid 30 minutes. At one point in just deteriorated into swearing. And like loud swearing. For the hillbillies cruising by me I have no doubt that more than one of them thought I was swearing at them. I'm sure at some points I was.
Enter Trevor Needs to Quit Rest Stop Two. I've pulled over out of breath from cycling and swearing, and I'm on what is actually a pretty nice part of the highway all things considered. Little waterfall, grass, all that. Tammy and Shane still aren't caught up. I'm not that worried about it, although I hope they're alright. I again think "I need to call the loser cruiser". But I look at my Garmin and it reads "99.16km".
Now this was already a full 10km further than my longest ever ride. So I was ahead of the game. But I wanted that 100km. So I saddled up with the intention of hitting 100km, finding a safe place to pull over, and then calling it a day.
Funny thing though. Not long after I jumped back on the bike I saw a sign that said "Whistler, 20km". The Pemberton to Whistler stretch was 35km, and only the first bit was really tough hills. I mean there was about 10k of rollies, but in my mind that sign said to me that 1: I'd actually come a lot farther than I thought, and 2: The hard stuff was nearly over. It was literally a sign!
So rather than pull over I just put my head down and motored, still at 9km/hr. The traffic started to die down, the shoulder started to widen, that banana bread kicked in and the grade started to ease. Things were going okay.
Probably another 30 or so minutes passed and it was time for Trevor Needs To Quit Rest Stop Three. Only instead of "needs to quits" it was more like "Trevor's feet are numb and rather than suffer through just take 5 minutes to get them out of your shoes". So I did that, I slowed down, moved over on the shoulder, unclipped my left foot as I do.....I promptly dig my front tire into some soft dirt and eat shit sideways and roll down an embankment (aka sticking the landing).
So that was sweet....
Some hillibillies on the other side of the highway WHO HAD SET UP THEIR LAWN CHAIRS BEHIND THEIR TRUCK ON THE SIDE OF THE HIGHWAY (what the hell is wrong with hillbillies?) perked up a bit when the saw me roll, but once I stood up and it was apparent I was okay they got back to crushing beers and screwing their cousins without too much regard for me.
I picked up my bike, took off my shoes, and stood there drinking from my bottle all covered in embankment dirt. And what pulled up? A LOSER CRUISER! For serious.
Turns out Tammy actually had a pretty bad go of things after getting her chain back on. Including more slippage and a dangerous fall towards traffic. To her credit she was smart enough to call it a day and phone a friend. No disrespect to Tammy in the least. She really made a smart decision and I'm proud of her.
Now I didn't know a loser cruiser was coming. And I didn't recognize the vehicle. I thought that some Good Samaritan with a bike rack had watched my tumble and had pulled over to see if I was alright. Apparently, though, I was basically just standing there staring at the cruiser with an epic resting bitch face. Shane said it was hilarious. I have no doubt. Because I couldn't see who was in the car so I didn't know it was friends and I was all like "why are you up in my biznass random car?"
Tammy jumped out, brushed the dirt off me, asked if I needed a ride, which I declined. She then tried to sell me on a ride, but I said "you know what, I'm good".
The cruiser took off, I put my shoes back on, got on my bike, and absolutely crushed the last 18km. And I'm going to say crushed, because my average speed was through the roof and I felt good about it.
The worst hill of the day is this little shit hill leading up to Tammy's cabin. It sucks. So I humped my handlebars up that hill, parked the bike, walked into Tammy's cabin to a huge roar from my friends (which felt really good). Did a little air hump Triple H dance (as one does) and promptly downed about three hard iced teas.
[Expletive] you hills. You never stood a chance!