First off, we apologize for this long post, but to tell you the truth, the trip to the NIMBYFifty was so awesome in many respects it was too hard to make any cuts.
This self described epic mountain bike race covers many of the world-class single track trails, climbs and decents that Pemberton, BC is famous for.
Here is how the trip went down for Mark:
Sarns provided a compelling argument for me to drive 12 hours to Pemberton to race the NimbyFifty then drive 12 hours back home. It was “Do it”. Heput Tony Robbins to shame as I hypnotically went to my computer and signed on for the race, despite not really knowing much about the race other than the likes of Max Plaxton and Catherine Pendrel raced it last year.
Beautiful views and a single lane bridge on the way to Pemberton
We started the weekend by having a Kokanee Redbike team sleepover at Mike’s house facilitated our early morning departure for Pemberton as we packed the car Thursday night. After coffee in the morning, we left town at a leisurely pace, but with Josh driving like Goggles Pisano, we were in Kamloops before I got halfway through my non-Danielle Steele book. If you haven¹t driven theroute from Cache Creek to Lillooet to Pemberton, put it in your “must do” list as it is one of the most scenic exhilarating drives I¹ve ever experienced. That alone was enough to convince me that this trip was worth doing with the team.
Not Danielle Steele as previously reported
The start/finish area was located at this lovely bucolic farm which was owned by the Pemberton mayor. The weather turned out to be vacillating as it was predicted to rain all day during the race, but in the morning it was sunny with clouds surrounding us, threatening to rain. The atmosphere at the start line was very relaxed as it seemed that a lot of the racers knew one another, very similar to a local race. It helped for me to see some old friends from Edmonton, Evan Sherman and Cody Canning, as it gave a semblance of a local ABA race. I looked around at the other racer¹s bikes and felt aqueasy uneasy realization that at least half, if not more, of the racers had dropper seatposts. Did they know something I didn¹t? The NimbyFifty race has been purported as one of the most technical races in North America,which normally doesn¹t intimidate me, but I hate bringing a knife to a gunfight.
The race started as most marathon races do, with a road ride into a long steep gravel road to spread out the field before the renowned single track began. I knew that it was important to move quickly to the front of the massive crowd so I wouldn¹t get stuck with the middle of the pack group.The gravel road was actually quite tricky to climb, as there were large loose rocks scattered amongst the racers and they were being spun up into other racer¹s bikes. Not knowing the length of the climb, I kept a pace where I constantly passed people but not so hard as chance blowing up early. By the time I reached the infamous 101 switchback climb, I felt I was with a congruent group of racers so passing people was not such a concern as I knew I had to keep a steady effort to complete the climb. While the climb was not excessively steep, it felt like it went on for hours. Not only that, but each switchback had roots or rocks you had to negotiate over to avoid dabbing and incurring the reproach of fellow racers behind you. It basically turns into a mental game because the relentlessness of the climb can bore you and the suffering can break you. I once looked down below me and saw a zig-zag of continuous racers making this cacophony of grunting, breathing, swearing and the occasional sound of chains pinging and breaking. It was achingly beautiful.
After the climb was mercifully finished, we started our first long descent.This is where being an Edmonton mountain biker became a disadvantage, as I was not mentally or physically ready to handle the length and degree of the downhills in the West Coast mountains. With no dropper seatpost to maneuver my center of gravity lower and with only four inches of travel, most of my weight was forced unto my upper arms and shoulder. It felt like I was doing hundreds of pushups on my bike, and that was during the shorter downhills. By the time I got to the RedBull timed downhill, I barely was able to put weight on my arms. The downhill that followed was simply terrifying. Boulder dropoffs, steep rooty descents and Tippie screaming hitting a hubcap were enough for me to cry slightly. I lost my front end on a boulder dropand ejected from my bike where I slid down on my knee and hip. I think I ended up in 254nd place during the timed downhill. I don¹t even want to imagine how demoralizing it would have been for me if it actually rained as predicted.
Thank God more uphills were on their way; yeah, that¹s how much the downhills hurt. Most were beautiful singletrack climbs that I simply adored, and by that time, the field did spread out so there were some isolating moments where you can just admire the beauty of the mountains. I knew the end was approaching as I felt I¹ve been racing for five hours and my body had a gumby-like constitution to it. Then I saw the road finish ahead and rode the rest of way off the bars in satisfaction. At the end, I saw my friends Mike and Evan cheering me on to the finish line. Mission accomplished.
After the race, there were food and beverages to help you recover, and then the barbeque opened up serving delicious hamburgers, hotdogs, potatoes and salad. They gave racers Phillips beer to drink with the food, which is agreat brewery in Victoria. No Kokanee, but great beer non the less. The organizers set up a great atmosphere where the racers can hangout and enjoythe unexpected hot sunny weather. Considering the race only cost $90, it was probably the best deal you can expect. You get 3 hours plus of mountainbiking, pre and post race food and drink, great barbeque, Tippie on a junior high school PA system and new scars. If you compare this to any multi day races, it¹s one of the best values I¹ve experienced.
From Josh’s point of view:
We’ll, my first NimbyFiftty is in the books. The weather forecast was a little ominous but race day came and the clouds stayed away. I was pretty pumped for the race and the chance to give my new bike (Rocky Mountain Instinct 970) a real test
The start of the race had me watching Mike, Evan, and Mark fade away into the distance. I pushed as hard as I could and made my way through the pack to, what I think, was a respectable position by the time the climbing started. The problem with an 11 km climb with over 100 switch-backs is that I’m a big guy and have a fairly heavy bike. I climbed at about 180-190 BPM and was on my game for about 45 minutes. It turns out that I can sustain that effort for about 45 minutes before shit starts to fall apart. At that point I felt like I started moving backwards with dabs almost every switch-back and plenty of people passing me. I took time to eat and backed off the pace to recover a bit before the RedBull downhill section.
Evan Sherman give the NIMBYFIfty 2 Thumbs Up!
As soon as I went through the Redbull gates I realized why it was called the most technical marathon mtb race. Very gnarly stuff . I used all of my 130mm of travel and my dropper post as much as possible. Everything was feeling pretty comfortable and I was passing quite a few people on the first part of the downhill when I pushed a little too hard on a right hand curve and lost the from wheel. There was a moment when I was flying though the air and saw that the slope fell away drastically that I figures I might be in trouble. I hit the ground pretty hard with a big helmet smack followed by my bike hitting me. One of those where you have to move everything before you know that you’re not broken.
All smiles despite the dirt face plants.
I was able to shake off the crash and continue. The one thing that I can say is that I didn’t take any of the chicken lines and only ended up walking one section. The highlight was the giant boulder with about 20 people heckling. I had to be pointed toward the line which I them rolled though thinking I was about to hit the ground again. I had one more crash in me right before the end of the race where I was just too tired and didn’t activate the dropper properly. The result was me cracking into a log with the side of my rib-cage. Pretty sure nothing was broken (didn’t hurt right away) but I still can’t breath deeply (4 days later).
Mark & Josh hangin’ out after the NIMBYFifty
My race went really well. Since we were a bit asleep at the wheel, we started waaaay at the back of the pack. We should have caught on when people were lining up their bikes in the start shoot, 30 mins prior to the start, but we were too happy soaking in all the tubular pre race energy and good vibes.
With some MTB stage racing experience under my belt (BCBR, TransRockies, Furious3) I knew that I could move my way up in the pack. I bid adieu to my teammates and flowed up in the pack, steering clear of any sketchy riding activity. After burring a few matches, I made my way to the back of the leading group, and settled in around Mical Dyck and co. to start the first climb. Good sensations, legs didn’t hate going hard to bridge past 300 people.
I felt really good on the opening climb, and should have known better when I saw Mical sprint past me. Ah yes, the single track. So I got held up a little, but nothing to sweat about as it was early in the race and I really had no idea where I was positioned.
After that first downhill, along the flats, I motored into the front of the group, which included Mical and the other girl she battled for the win, and took to the 101 switchback climb and road really smooth up the switchbacks. Unfortunately, my granny developed a affinity for my chain, and I began to experience the dreaded chain suck, so I did want any smart racer would do – I stuck it in the big ring and hammered! This turned out to be a good strategy as I gapped that group behind me and moved up in the field with one other guy who, due to my over gearing, would grumble at me in the switchbacks, so I’d let him by, only to catch and pass him a minute later…oh well.
Dropper Post in Action (Photo Credit: Jon Anthony)
Man, the downhills were gnarly! And man was my new Rocky Mountain Element 999 even gnarlier! That bike is amazing, especially with my Specialized Command Post. Now yes, you don’t’ really need a dropper post around Edmonton, but for these BC types of races its a big advantage, even with the weight penalty. 2/3 Kokanee Redbike guys had one for the race and 3/3 Kokanee Redbike guys would agree – dropper posts are RAD!
On the downhills, I reminded myself to be “Smooth Like Lega”, a saying I often recite through my head as I race – in reference to Roddi Lega, one of my friends and secret racing heroes who is incredibly smooth and fast on the race course. The guy is a living legend – but that’s for another blog post.
After thoroughly cooking the legs riding the big ring all day, I was grateful to hear “it’s all downhill from here” and TT’d in on the last 3 ams of flat pavement to finish my first NIMBYFifty. I got interviewed by Brett Tippie, who told me we were crazy for driving from Edmonton for this, and I disputed that, arguing we were not as crazy as Tippie!
Photo Credit: Jon Anthony
As the results came out, Mark squeaked into the top 100 and completed the race in well under three hours, so considering he came into the race unaware ofthe trails, he felt he did quite well. Mike came in 17th overall and 3rd in his age category, which we were all very proud of. Josh survived a few crashes and finished the race despite the hindering injuries like the giant he is.
Yes, Mike got beat by an 8 year old in a pink dress
The NimbyFifty was a memorable race, and not just for the amazing mountain biking, but because it was the first Kokanee Redbike roadtrip. Hopefully, the first of many in the upcoming seasons. All in all it was a fun experience and we all agree that one of the coolest parts was being able to travel and stay as members of the team. Then having Evan show up to race was a bonus.
Photo Credit: Amir Shahrestani
Thanks for reading and see you at the races!
Mark, Josh, & MIke