We went to bed in the rain in Cumberland and we woke up to heavier rain in Cumberland. Breakfast was good and plentiful - a common theme that recurs during the week. We then hopped on bus and drove the rainy road to Campbell River (sense a theme here?). There was a strange quiet on the bus as we drove to Campbell River. A combination of mental race prep and mental "I'm about to get really wet" prep.
The start was about 5km of a neutral rollout (lead by a police car!) with about 8km of forestry road to get into the single track.
It was wet. I was soaked before we even got to the forestry road.
A brief thought on neutral rollouts. These are supposed to be slow and easy warm-ups that will get you off the main roads onto the doubletrack or access road where racing can begin in full. I don't think they were ever slower than 35km/hr. I was almost tapped out of gears (2x10) and the road cycling vibe was intense. They were not an easy warm-up. There is something really cool about the sound of 500 mountain bikes on pavement at speed though. A cloud of angry bees comes to mind.
It was a bit drier in the trails but the sheer numbers of riders was churning the trail into mud soup. I felt bad for the riders in the back of the pack who the trail was obliterated by the time the front runners had ridden through.
In retrospect this day was the hardest for me. The trails had some definite fun potential with some great techie moves and rock slab decents but I was mostly focused on trying to keep my flow in the roots and mud. I ate a tonne of food, I drank a tonne and I still managed to bonk - keeping warm takes a lot of energy. I then made a critical error in the last third of the race and did not put my jacket back on at the second aid station. I got cold. I got slow. I barely held it together for the last 4.5km of road riding back to the finish line. I basically crawled across the line, washed my bike, found my gear and shivered my way into an empty tent and tried to get warm again.
On a plus note I saw two friends in CR - Mercedes and Bernice. It was good to catch up with each of them and double good to "borrow" Bernice's dryer to prevent rot from setting in on the wet cycling clothes I was packing.
A side note it took the shoes that I wore on Day 2 almost 4 days to dry out - should have brought only one pair...