This was my first time to Ganaraska, and while I sucked and did everything wrong like some dumb newb, I actually really liked the event, the people, the general 'feel' of the event, the course (amazing!!!) and the company (when I wasn't alone out there) but I've never done so poorly or made so many rookie dumb-ass mistakes at an event since my first 24hr relay in 1998 when I refueled between my first and second laps by drinking beer and eating big fat BBQ'd sausages with sauerkraut. ..word to the wise kids. Don't do that. my second lap that day was really really hard. no foolin' around, it sucked.
anyway, back to Pauls.
Training for Pauls Dirty Enduro. (This won't take long). Basically with the exception of Hot August Nights and a couple rides in the week before HAN I've been tapering for this event since getting back from the BC Bike Race.
Which is why my poor showing is so surprising to me. ..I mean I'd been tapering for over two months. Shit, if sitting on couch heaving in beers (carb loading) for 2+ months doesn't give you fresh legs for a MTB race then what ever would??
Seriously, I knew that the lack of time in the saddle would make it hurt a bit more than usual but I'm o.k. with hurt. Really. Biking usually hurts a bit. Racing always hurts a lot. It's a fact. So, worrying about a bike race hurting is like worrying about winter coming in Canada. Why bother? Neither Winter nor Hurt care two shits how you feel about them so you might just as well learn to like some of the things that come with them like skiiing in the case of winter and singletrack in the case of MTB racing.
I think what really screwed me over for this race was the 21hrs put in the previous day doing renovation work on a apartment unit in Toronto. Trenching in concrete with hand tools, skipping dinner, guzzling coffee, working until after 1am, not drinking water, then packing up, driving back and not getting to sleep until 4am really set things back a notch on the preparation front.
I'd actually been strongly considering doing the 100km event (which I knew would really hurt even under ideal circumstances) but that ship sailed off into the sunset around midnight the night before when I was still down on my hands and knees chipping at concrete with a hammer and chisel and a two hour drive from my bed for the night..
The 60 though. That should still be a doddle.. Easy peasy. Right as rain. Walk in the park. No worries. Just another training ride.
So, following the horror show of renovation work the night before, and nearly 4hrs of blissfull sleep, I got up and decided that apart from puffy sore eyes, sinus cavities full of concrete dust and sore hands from working the stone hammer I felt pretty good so i'd go and race the 60km of singletrack.
After piling in a huge breakfast courtesy of the mum-inlaw (there's nothing they don't know about big breakfasts) I jetted off to Millbrook to the ATM, then down to the Ganaraska forest center to sign up and throw down. Only I was a little shy on time. Ensueing big ol' panic getting the registration and waiver thingy done, changed, assembled bike, and rushed off to the start area.
There were a few little details that I, with help from sleep deprivation and anxiety from fear of missing the start, let slip in that preparation process that would be haunting and hurting me later on. First, I had no water in my bottle or hydra pack. I did have two scoops of eload in the bottle but without a like-m-aid stick or water it wasn't helping me any. I'd not filled up before leaving the inlaw's cause they've got that nasty sulfur water that smells like eggy ass so I arrived with only about half or 2/3 of a bottle worth in the hydrapack. Coupled with not having drank much of anything except coffee the day before I was pretty far into the dehydration hole already. I also didn't have time for my morning fruit smoothy ritual. I live or die by these things and going without is for me a harbinger of doom.
So, dehydrated and without water or electrolytes I lined at the startline halfway through the role call with about 1 min to spare. I used this generous window to plan my strategy for the race and quietly gloat to myself knowing I definately had the lightest water bottle and hydrapack of anyone there! Fools!, I thought. Not being weighed down by water I would surely be flying up the hills!
And thus we have the preamble and excuses laid down. Now on to the race itself.
I was at least initially right. Not having any water in or on my body, nor on my bike I was fast out of the gate. About 25 positions from the front for the first bit, picking off riders, giving up to some others I was going pretty hard. I figured I'd just go hard and see what comes of it. (it may be also that I lack discipline so would go hard anyway until I blew up and I'm just forming strategies around inherent proclivities, you decide.) So while I felt crappy and felt like puking I kept up the speed and for the most part held my position.
one other thing I'd forgotten was my watch. I'd put the HR strap on but neglected to put on the watch part and so without a cyclometer on the bike or watch on wrist, I had NO idea what time it was or where I might be in the course. Generally I know I can ride between 15km/h and 19km/h in singletrack depending on distance course conditions etc and so with a watch could guesstimate my position on course and know when to expect a feed zone.
But without it I was totally fucking lost. I'd never been in that position before and had no idea how much of an effect it would have on me throughout the race, and especially in the 'low' times.
But back to the race. I'd held pretty good speed and came into the first feed zone around a quarter after 12. So about 1:15 in. I made the mistake of asking a volunteer what time it was and where we were in the course.
(Stupid! I know never to ask the volunteers where you are. They want to be, and feel the need to be helpfull and provide an answer but often don't know where they are themselves and/or don't appreciate that they got there by a different route or maybe don't know that every kilometer counts so as often as not don't give a correct answer and you end up playing head games with yourself as a result)
The guy at feedzone 1 said I was about halfway.
Halfway?! an hour and fifteen in and I'm halfway? can't be. I can't ride 30km of singletrack in 1:15. no way. I'm just not that fast.
or am I?
So I left confused and playing headgames like "maybe I am halfway??" "maybe I'll place really well!!" "maybe I'll kick everyones ass six ways from sunday and I'll keep my weight weenie secret of the empty water bottle and hydrapack to myself!! hahhahahhaahah!!!, Victory, nay, World Domination will be mine!!!"
But alas, having filled my water bottle at the aid station I'd dashed all chances of remaining lightweight and fleet of foot and wheel.
That said between aid station 1 and 2 I was still riding fairly well. I'd lost three positions, one to the guy in the Canada jersey, another to the guy with the fender and the third I can't remember cause he dusted my ass so fast I didn't have much chance to see him, and while I wasn't feeling exactly 'spry' I was turning decent consistent revs and going forward.
Shortly after the second aid station things got a little sideways on me. At first I had what I though were my legs showing up. All of sudden they felt great. They started turning circles really smooth, my upper body quietened, my back pain eased off (it had been going from extreme to dull ache and back)
and I thought, this is it! I remember this, this feels like BC when the legs just spun by themselves. I could see one of the positions I'd lost up ahead and I was reeling him in. Cool! I got past him, caught a glimpse of another position lost earlier and so kept the pace to gain on him. I'd just gotten up to him and he called for me to pass on a hill. I didn't have really any power left but since he'd called the pass I dug in and cranked by him. It was hard.
Then I cramped. My left quad went mental, and the right one was rattling it's sabre also. I had to stop and lean against a tree. I couldn't support my own body weight without the bike under me so tryed to stretch it out a bit on the bike. I don't think I was there for very long but it was enough to lose back the two spots I'd just gained plus one more. poo. and I could hear another rider catching up from behind.
So I tried to spin it out and that sort of worked to keep things moving but the legs were pretty fragile so it was all down to spinning within a fairly narrow envelope of rpms and effort. At this point I was feeling pretty fragile all around and was just trying to stay ahead of the rider in back. They were not really gaining on me very quickly so I thought I might be able to hold them off, but it became apparent that they were indeed going to catch me. Oh well, I thought it took her a while to get me I should be able to hold her wheel and pace off of her.
Despite how long (so it seemed) it took for her to catch me, once she got by she tore me off her wheel like nothin. poo. I'm pretty sure it was a strategy thing to sit in back for a moment, gather some steam, then blow by me and gap it out so I can't use her to pace or draft (it's what I do) but even still I had nothing left for trying to hold onto her.
..I did keep her in earshot long enough to ask a desperate sounding "where are we on the course?" She said it was 42km at that point.
I'd hoped for something in the fifties. 18km left, I'd cramped, I felt weak and hollow. Shit. I thought. I know why I feel hollow. I haven't eaten a thing besides a few orange wedges at feed zone one. Stupid, stupid, stupid!!
I stopped and pulled out a bag of sharkies, ate half, sucked in one gel put another one in my jersey pocket and proceeded to gring along in my granny, feeling sorry for myself. Wishing I was smart enough to stay in bed, or smart enough to eat, or drink, then I would think, "No! I like this! I suck, but the trail doesn't so just try to enjoy the course." For a little while I fought the despair but eventually I was just wallowing around lost in self pity bouncing between feeling sorry for myself and thinking "fuck sympathy, I want Vengeance!" "surely this isn't MY fault!?!" "Someone else MUST be to blame for this piss poor performance!"
like I said, the company was great when I wasn't alone.
to make matters worse, during this section when I was metaphorically kicking my lunchpail down the street I'd been spending a lot of time head hung down grumbling about shit and consequently I missed a turn. So, I stopped looked around. Didn't see any overt sign of trail under my wheels, indeed didn't see much 'trail' at all. I started back tracking and saw another woman rider was coming towards me. She asked if I was lost and indeed I was, but just as she'd asked I saw a trail marker, so with an 'aha!' I said, "I think I was but this must be it, though I thought I'd just come up this way" Anyway, the arrow was clear, I had another rider interpreting it the same so I rode on in front of her. Until a few minutes later I realized I'd already been through this section. Yep, I was doing it again and I recognized it clearly because I didn't particularily like it the first time. That said, I did at least know I was on the course and that was a small improvement over being lost so I rode on and did a couple kilometers two-times. ..cause I'm cool like that.
I managed to stay in front of the other rider until the third aid station where I had a leisurely stop and found out from my fellow rider (soon to be in front) that it was another 15km to the finish. So, I'd only made 3km since the last woman passed me and it'd seemed like fucking forever. yay.
oh well. I kinda thought about quitting, and if I'd known where I was I might have considered it more seriously but I'd have had to ask for directions and admit to failure and quitting when it was clear I was still standing, ambulatory, coherent etc. so.. I left the third aid station hoping that it would be a fast 15. ha.
I was walking a lot of the hills by this time. Indeed, I was stopping and considering walking anything that wasn't dead level or down. I was passed not far past the third aid station by a SS true north woman and a guy. They asked me if I was doing the 100. "No." I said thinking shit. 'I look so bad and desperate that folks think I must have an extra 40km under me to look this bad. I suck.'
so grumpy bird walked up the hill.
They were off over the horizon as quick as they came and a few minutes later I had some more cramps. but in my belly this time. oh shit. (<-pun)
I held off the stomach rumblings for a few minutes but I knew as the capt did too it was the witch of diarreahea come stealin.
off into the woods for me. Beauty. I wear bibs like, hardly ever, and the one time I do is when I get crampy diarreahea. Anyway, another few minutes lost to that. (thank god for wet wipes) The original big ring rolled past while I was getting my kit back on and while I could hear his hope hub telling me that he was walking the next hill, I couldn't get back on my bike in time to catch him. It's just as well too, cause he was having a good race so I'd have held him back and stolen his mojo if I tried to ride with him.
Thankfully, the 60 and 100km courses merged with some shorter races a little ways after that so there were more people on the trail, even better some were even slower than me so I got to perk up my ego a tiny bit and so finished the last few km's a bit quicker.
So, while it was without doubt my worst race ever. I really liked the event and will do it again next year for sure. Maybe the 100, maybe the 60 again, not sure.
I was very surprised how unrelenting Pauls Dirty Enduro, and Ganaraska is. 60km of singletrack in a race is absolutely punishing. I've done lots of long rides but it's easy to underestimate the recovery you get from even short sections of smooth doubletrack or road. There's also nowhere to (easily) eat and even drinking is difficult by comparison to other courses so it requires discipline on that front and a little more prep than I threw at it.
Bottom line. I highly recommend this. Much fun, great course, great people. As sore and bitter and full of self pity as I was for some of this race, that stuff all evaporates really quickly upon coming across the finish line because in those dark times its all about finishing and that's accomplishment enough.
I don't have any photos of this event or of me, but if you wanted you could imagine me trackstanding or walking with my head hanging down, shoulders slumped in defeat and put a forest backdrop and you've got a lot of my race covered with that one image. ha!
oh yeah, I ended up coming in 32nd of ~95 people I think at 4hrs 4min.