"Damn you, Tony Horn. Damn you."
It's my steady mantra with each pedal stroke as I climb the cemetery hill. Until my front wheel starts spinning on gravel, my lungs revolt and my legs simply give up. I'm not even a third of the way up. The rest of the hill looms steeply ahead.
I start pushing my bike. Then the real cursing begins. This is just the first climb. There's more to follow. Not to mention trails like 99er and mid Danimal.
What have I gotten myself into?
Betty versus Veronica, that's what. Race guru Tony Horn's latest concoction.
Two weeks left until some 200 female riders tackle the west side trails in Whistler's first ever women's only mountain bike race. It begins with a downhill run in the bike park, followed a few hours later by 15-kilometres of cross-country.
Riders are either a Betty or a Veronica, divvied up into teams after answering Horn's questions upon registration. The idea behind creating the teams was to make the race less intimidating.
That's a good idea in theory but this is a Tony Horn ride after all and Horn's name is synonomous with epic bike races like the gruelling Samurai of Singletrack, the Four Jacks and the Four Queens. This will be no walk in the park (though to be fair, in my case, I could be doing a lot more walking than riding).
To say I'm out of my league is putting it mildly.
Not so, Tracey Howlett assures me.
"I've gone back and forth about dropping out," she says.
"I've cursed Tony's name up and down."
It's good to know I'm not the only one. Misery loves company.
Howlett ended up in Betty versus Veronica because Horn offered her a free spot as thanks for all her volunteer work with his previous races like the Samurai and her weekly Loonie race work.
Howlett's not really sure if a free entry spot was the thanks she wanted.
It certainly wasn't when she did an endo over her handlebars mid-Danimal during one of her pre-rides a few weeks back, spraining an ankle and getting four stitches in her hand.
"First time I've ever had stitches," Howlett says.
Do I detect a slight hint of pride?
I've had my Betty versus Veronica war wounds too. My first ride up that cemetery hill followed with the slog up Scotia Creek almost killed me. So we decided to nip into Danimal North and head home. Not so fast. My legs were like jelly, my mind a little rattled. Next thing I knew I was face first in the dirt. Slow-motion endo off a bridge.