Thursday, January 12, 2012

Push for the Cure 2011, Part 2

      Come day two, I was realising that carrying a DSLR camera to take pictures was not a very bright idea, and so ditched the camera the night before day two and for illustrative purposes, have hijacked some photos from Andy Russell’s page on Facebook. One must give credit where the credit is due!
Day two, preparing to roll out of Agassiz
       I knew before going to Push for the Cure, that days two and three were going to be pretty long and brutal pushes; 60 and 73 kilometres respectively.  Day two was the 73 kilometre day and the one I was most fearing since I knew some of the hills we’d be tackling thanks to frequent previous visits to the south coast. The morning started with a wicked breakfast provided by Tim Horton’s and a somewhat later start than planned around 9:30.
       The most notable hill day two was just 5km outside of Agassiz, across the bridge from Harrison Mills. The road we had to climb first thing that morning was so steep that if it was a walking path, I can guarantee it would have a staircase all the way to the top. It was an immense climb, and some attendants were ballsy enough to push their board the whole way, this was one particular hill which no one gave you grief for if you chose to jog it. Spirits were high first thing in the morning and everyone made it to the top of the hill with energy to spare. It was a hell of a lot of vertical to climb, but the actual length of that climb was surprisingly short. The other side of the hill was a very long and gentle bomb, with a steep incline at the very end. Before departing, riders uncomfortable with speed were encouraged to jump in the back of a support vehicle if they didn’t feel they could handle it, and I’ll admit, hearing that spooked me a bit, but I decided to go for the bomb anyway. Near the bottom I footbreaked just a little before a bend in the road, but the rest of the trip down was great. A support vehicle remained behind with a volunteer with a stop sign so we could bomb down the left had side of the road without mingling with traffic and caught up with us a few minutes after the last of the troop reached the bottom. Traffic from the top of the hill passed us, with plenty of honks to go around, and one very aggravated looking old lady giving us the thumbs down. Ah well, there’s always one person who wants to poison the mood.
Bombing the backside of day two's first hill
      Second break of the day (the first was at the foot of hill one) was at a place called the Sasquatch Inn, just north east of Lake Errock. This stop would have been entirely unremarkable if it weren’t for a certain “mo-ped pirate” who visited the liquor store while we were in the parking lot. I’ve never seen someone quite like him, not even in a movie. He came rolling down the hill behind the inn on a beat up looking moped, a real janky looking homemade contraption which literally was an ancient peddle bike with a lawnmower engine attached. He had long, grizzly looking grey hair, as well as a beard, and was sporting aviator sunglasses, a black leather jacket, and a red bandanna as though trying to look the part of a biker but the part that really grabbed your attention, was the parrot he had riding on his shoulder. I’m dead serious, you can’t make this kind of thing up. He purchased his choice of alcohol and came back to his moped and looked at the lot of us, as if only just realizing 50+ longboarders were in the parking lot with him. He glanced about nervously, mounted his mo-ped, and sped off, growling a loud “YARRRRR” as he left; definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
       The next stop was lunch, in Deroche, where we chowed down on hot dogs and leftovers from the previous night. It was another lengthy break where the lot of us began to feel a bit sore and dopey from the time laying around. We then hit the trail, bound for Dewdney, Mission, and then our final destination of day two: Maple Ridge’s fair grounds. The flat stretch of farm land we entered now was one of the more hellish stretches to push. The shoulder was narrow, and we had to push along in single file. Not having a push buddy next to you made it a little challenging to have a conversation with anyone, and it became quite silent along our stretch of road, save for the sounds of the 50 sets of longboard wheels rumbling along. The pavement was also in rough shape and it was a fair bit more work to push along it compared to the surface we’d had for the 70km prior, if felt like the road was trying really hard to drag you toward the ditch, and there was a lip where the road ended and foliage began. Many people came too close to that lip, had a wheel slip over the edge, their trucks biting the asphalt, stopping them abruptly, and causing a pile up of riders. This stretch of pavement wasn’t very long, just over 10km, but it was such a rotten stretch to push along that it felt like it was taking forever.
      Once we arrived in Dewdney, the road changed to a really nice push surface, and the outskirts of Mission were visible. I knew of two short but steep hills in Mission, as well as two just beyond there and figured they were probably the sort of hill we were going to be expected to push up and not jog. I was also beginning to think I might not be able to make the final 30 kilometres without at least a little help from a support vehicle at some point. The nice flat push into Mission was over to quick and we were faced with the day’s second unpleasant climb. It was short, and would have been quite pleasant had it not felt like we were pushing through a gravel truck accident. The road above was clear, the road below as well, but the shoulder of this hill and only this hill was a surface that felt like pushing up something between a gravel pit and a cat litter box. It was a very taxing push.
Feeling destroyed at the top of the gravel hill
       We had an additional break just past this hill before heading into our first real push through a city. We commandeered a lane of the road through Mission for ourselves and gave ‘er all the way along the Lougheed Highway hollering “Push for the Cure!” Then came the hill that still makes my legs sore every time I drive past it. There’s a particularly steep uphill climb which bisects the Abbotsford-Mission Highway on Lougheed which we had to push up. It was a rough stretch because people were giving up on the hill, left, right, and centre, and often would abruptly stop right in front of you and force you to stop and lose all the momentum you had. It was quite aggravating and inconsiderate of them not to at least shoulder check and it was causing me to fall further back in the pack, near to where you begin to have no choice but to jump in a support vehicle or be left behind. I jumped off my board, sprinted as best I could ahead a few metres and began pushing again. I must have been looking quite worn out because the gentleman in the RedBull truck rolled up and asked if I wanted a lift the last hundred metres or so to the top of the hill, but I was still feeling stubborn and determined, and politely declined. The top of the hill was glassy smooth, but my push leg was feeling like a bucket of rubber bands now so catching up with the troop felt like it was taking more effort than it ought to. I caught up just in time to make the bomb down the other side of this hill, past Missions Springs Restaurant, with the whole crew and thanks to my weight and some aggressive pushing prior to hitting the hill, I managed to gain a few spots and not find myself at the back of the pack. There was more glassy smooth pavement outside of Mission, but it turned into a construction zone and we were suddenly rolling on sand, which, of course, was impassable by board. Without a shoulder to push along due to construction, we had to pile onto the support vehicles to make it past the next kilometre and a half. I can’t recall exactly how this happened, but the support vehicles weren’t on the road, but were on the dirt inside the traffic cones, so the lot of us were safe from traffic though we may have been breaking a handful of municipal laws. 50+ riders and their boards piled on top of 3 vehicles trundling along a bouncy dirt road. My only thought was that this is what Call of Duty would be like in real life, and in truth, we were riding these vehicles towards a fight. One kilometre after pushing up the hill that almost made me tap out, we were about to push up another long upward stretch before passing Silvermere Lake between Mission and Maple Ridge.
       There was a short smooth stretch before the hill, and when the lot of us dismounted the vehicles and hopped on our boards, I made doubly sure to start as close to the lead vehicle as I could before we began the assent. I would certainly need the buffer zone. Keeping as close to the right hand edge of the road as I could so as not to disrupt those who would pass me, I started to give it all I had to get up the hill. It was long, but not nearly as steep and gruelling as the last hill, and once we’d all made the climb, there was a really great bomb to have down the other side past Silvermere Lake. At this point, I began to feel something very strange in my (right) supporting leg; some very attention grabbing numbness going all the way up to my knee. It wasn’t my push leg that was starting to fail on me, as I suspected it would, but my support leg. Pushing past Silvermere Lake into Ruskin where the last hill that gave me the willies was located, I began to get the distinct impression that if I pushed the next hill, I was going to fall flat on my face because my right leg had nothing left to give. I chatted up the RedBull guy, “I think I’ll be needing a lift to the top of this last hill here.” That was my hope anyway, that I’d only need some assistance up this hill and would be good the last few kilometres into Maple Ridge, but it was not the case. Hopping out of the pickup truck at the crest of the hill, I met a headwind, nothing strong, but unrelenting and enough to prevent me from coasting downhill. I clocked another 2km before having to jump back in the RedBull-mobile because I just couldn’t keep up with the rest of the pack. I felt dreadful for having to throw in the towel, but felt better due to the fact that the third support vehicle, an RV at the very back of the pack, was full of guys in much better shape than me who’d already given up around Mission.
       There was one final hill bomb 2km from the Maple Ridge Fair Grounds. Everyone who’d already punched out for the day and jumped in a support vehicle piled out for this one. It was long, straight, and on freshly resealed tarmac. We all tucked, and flew down the hill, all of us clocking in somewhere between 50-60km/h and it was looking like an awesome way to end day two as we passed by Bruce’s Market. There was a moment of alarm halfway through the bomb when an errant driver decided to cross two lanes which sent him right through the middle of our procession, all of us still at very high speeds. Fortunately, no one was struck, but an ignorant driver like that was an unnecessary blemish on another otherwise epic day of pushing. One more kilometre of pushing and the troop rolled into the Maple Ridge Fair Ground, where a bottomless pizza dinner was just a few minutes away.

Day 1:
Day 3:

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