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Test of Metal-2006 Tales from the Tail End

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June 22, 2006

The Test of Metal for me this year was fun, but man, was I slow!

The last time I did the test was 2004, and it was over 30 degrees that year. I didn’t drink enough in the first half of the race, and as a result my first cramp came on the Ring Creek rip, followed by 10 or 20 more. Most of them caused me to drop my bike and fall to the ground for several minutes, usually weaving a tapestry of profanity that may still be hanging over the area.

If the cramps weren’t enough, one screw came out of my right cleat on the nine mile, so my shoe would turn, but it wouldn’t unclip. Try riding down the Plunge and Crumpet woods with leg cramps when you can only dab with the left foot.

This year, nothing bad happened, no cramps, not a scratch on me, my bike was perfect, the course was shorter and yet, I was 15 minutes slower than when my race totally fell apart in 2004.

How can it happen you ask? It may have something to do with the training plan I have been using this year. I call it the "Deny yourself nothing" plan. In retrospect, it may not have been the best approach to training but there is always next year.

I don’t want to take anything away from the 11 or 12 people who finished behind me (4 of them walked in with broken bikes and 1 with a bone sticking out of his leg) but it is a different race back there.

My first clue that I was off pace was on Thunderbird drive at the start. I was cranking away in the pack killing the hill, when a "Dude" in board shorts on a beach cruiser single speed with a Springer front end, swoopy fenders and swept back bars passed us. The bike must have weighed 60 lbs. If the little bastard hadn’t gone by so fast I would have pushed him over.

My next surprise was at the start of Jacks trail. Apparently, several of the people riding my new relaxed pace had never seen a wet root before, because the first one we came to, they got off their bikes and stepped over it. I am not talking about 1 or 2 people here; it looked like Highway 1 at 152nd street in the morning rush hour.

By the time I got to the top of Rock & Roll hill I realized that I was not going to realize my dream of winning, let alone have a PB. From that point on I was just


going to enjoy myself. I stopped at all the water stations and chowed down, I talked to people, I got off to pee 3 or 4 times, it was like a trail ride with 800 friends. I should probably point out that 600 of them were in front of me and 100 of those were finished, showered and half way to Britannia Beach when I got to the top of Bonk Hill.

I learned one more thing on Saturday, 700 bikes really tear up a trail. It seems, the farther back you are, the worse the trail is. The plunge was unbelievable, it was muddy, torn up and just generally thrashed. In spite of the conditions I had a great ride down, but 90% of the people were walking and the other 10% were Kamikaze down hillers who never even thought of touching their brakes. The Plunge is challenging at the best of times, but it is a little more difficult when you have to ride around walkers and their bikes. I found myself repeating "Rider up, rider up" like a broken car alarm all the way down. This is definitely new to me because I am usually the guy getting out of someone’s way.

I had a minor cramp at the feed station at the bottom of the Plunge but I was in good company. There must have been 20 guys stopped just past the bridge with their faces contorted in pain, punching their quads and dreaming of ways of killing themselves.

I got off the bike and walked for a few feet and I was fine. I headed into Cramp-up woods and it was like the march of the dead. No one was riding up the switchbacks, not one person. After passing about 20 people I decided to join the parade and walk up with the expressionless hoards.

It was a boost to my ego to be riding in this group, because people got off on every incline, so no matter what I rode I heard "good ride", "Way to go" even if it wasn’t steep enough to roll a beer can down.

The other interesting phenomenon in Crumpet woods was people falling over for no reason. They were so tired, any slip in the mud spelled disaster. I don’t even think some of them tried to clip out. They would just fall over and lay down for a while.

I glanced at my watch on Endo and the reality of my day (year) hit me like a hammer, 4:50 and I still had a few kilometers to go. I ended up coming in at 5:02 but don’t tell anyone.

The absolute best part of being at the back was the FREE BEER just before Smoke Bluffs. I came out onto the road and there was a 5-year-old kid on a BMX bike to greet me. He said, "Free beer down the road mister". I assumed it was a joke, but sure enough one of the wonderful people of Squamish was holding out a cup full of ice-cold beer. I snatched it out of the woman’s hand and told her that I loved her. It was the finest sports drink I have ever tasted. Just as I was taking my last gulp, another Squamish family that looked like they had taken a few trips


past the free beer table themselves yelled, "Drop your beer mug here" Now that is a community you can take pride in!

So, what did I learn at the 2006 Test?


  1. You can’t eliminate your spring weight loss program because you bought carbon bars and seat post.
  2. You should not celebrate every training ride with beer, wine, and a steak.
  3. 46 is not the new 26 after all.
  4. Thinking about how hard you trained last year is good for the soul, not the Nine Mile.
  5. "Don’t go out too fast" is good advice for a marathon, not the Test.

I believe that is 5 Test’s for me and I don’t think I am done yet. Next year I want to focus on something big, so I might give the test a pass in 2007, but I’ll be back and next time I am going to kick ass!

Matt Law can have my spot next year.

Pat Murphy

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