Monika Marx: Mountain Bike Stage Racing – And Why You Should Do One

monikamarxMountain biking for me has truly been an evolution. Something I discovered while surviving the drudgery and routine of stay home motherhood. A schedule dictated by naps, preschool, meals, laundry. Don’t get me wrong, I love my children, but when they are young, every day starts to feel the same, and you need and deserve a little something for yourself.

Mountain biking gave me this. It gave me back my sanity, excitement, connection with the outdoors. It filled the gap, and allowed me to be satisfied again with my daily life. It brought me home muddy, bloody, bruised and exhilarated.

My bikes evolved from hard tail to full suspension to free ride. Then something interesting happened. They started to tip in the other direction. Suddenly the urge to pedal for hours became as equally important as the urge to descend. Shuttling to the top of the trail seemed like a waste of time. Technical climbs became as motivating as technical descents. My bikes became smaller, until I finally owned a 4 inch travel Carbon XC race bike.

When I first started riding some 12 years ago, I remember catching wind of multi-day stage racing, and thinking to myself “I could never do that”. It seemed so far outside my realm. I believed everyone who participated in such an event to be a mutant of aerobic fitness. A gift they were born with.

Two years ago, my significant other suffered an injury that turned chronic and debilitating after a mountain bike crash. Anyone who has ever been in a position of watching a loved one suffer knows how devastating this can be.

This is where mountain biking saved me a second time. In what was a very difficult, dark period, I decided to commit to racing the Singletrack 6. I knew taking on something like this would keep me riding my bike, maintain my fitness and keep my mind strong. I needed a commitment of this scale to keep me honest in my training. I carved out the time I needed to train, made it a mission to chase elevation and distance, and built the fitness I had thought was impossible.

Heading into the event, I had the pre-race jitters that any first timer would have.   Six days in a row, of 30+ degree heat, and 1300m plus average elevation gains.   But the body is amazing at adaptation. You get into a rhythm of eating, riding, eating, eating again, eating some more, sleeping, repeating. You adapt to the heat, You learn the ins and outs of passing etiquette, the skill of uphill track standing, and all the other good things that come from challenging yourself for six days in a row, in the company of 350 other riders.

You witness entire communities overtaken by mountain bikes with race plates. The knowing smiles you exchange with other riders in the grocery store, knowing they suffered just like you did that day.

For me, finishing Singletrack 6 was an event that made me feel I’d earned the right to call myself a cyclist   It was the most demanding event I’d committed to in terms of personal fitness. I am not a genetic mutant. But the process of preparing gave me a glimpse into attaining the fitness I’d always lusted after.

Was it challenging? Yes. Will I do it again? Absolutely. And you should too.

Monika Marx, North Vancouver’s first certified RKC trainer, is passionate about outdoor sport and constantly on the lookout for new training techniques to make her clients stronger, faster and injury free.  She is an avid cyclist, having participated in downhill, cross country, and multi-day mountain bike races, and GranFondo length road races. Her favorite indoor activities are deadlifting and playing with kettle bells!

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