Monday, June 7, 2010


I spent yesterday standing near the bottom of "Ned's Atomic Dustbin", a popular downhill mountain bike course on Mt. Seymour. Let's just note from the top that this is not a trail I have ever ridden on my bike; it is far above my skill level, a very technical trail with several big drops, tight corners, steep sections, and very few soft places to land. I have a great deal of respect for everyone who finished the "Specialized Smackdown" race yesterday.

Being a course marshall was fun, if nerve-wracking. I learned that mtb races are vastly different from running races. This particular race was really short. The winner did it in 2:40ish (that's 2 minutes, 40 seconds!). But we were there all day because not only do the racers have to go down one at a time (they are timed--there is no room for passing), but also before the race even started there were 3 hours of practice runs, so each racer could run the course several times before the race. Once the race started, there was only 30 seconds between racers. It got pretty intense! Also, unlike running, they start with the slowest racers and work up to the elites. This meant that the action got faster and faster as the race went on.

The nerve-wracking part was the potential for injury. As a marshall, this made me a bit nervous. Fortunately I only had one injury at my station, and that was during the practice runs, not the race (don't worry, he was ok--just some bruised ribs). However during the race there were some other injuries, and the poor injured people had to walk down the mountain to the nearest road; I can't imagine. One girl was making her way slowly down the mountain with a broken collarbone.

Anyway, the race itself went well, and I took lots of pics, but my favourite was the exploding tree. During the practice run one of the riders missed the tight corner and went over the edge, completely demolishing a tree stump; it literally exploded before my eyes. It was spectacular! The best part is that the guy got up laughing, went back, and took the curve again (successfully this time!).

This was the tree before:

And after:

Good times! I definitely want to volunteer again next year! I should also mention that I was incredibly impressed by the elites! Not only were they crazy fast, but they took the technical parts so smoothly that it looked deceptively easy. Amazing.

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