Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2010 Paul's Dirty Enduro: "What doesn't destroy you makes you stronger"

At first blush, the quote above verges on trite. But a bit of thought, given it was delivered in the context of stage racing by a Pro Tour rider, reveals substance below the surface. "Destroy" needs to be operationally defined, because if we take it literally, its equivalent to 'kill,' right, except more violent. In this context, 'destroy' means thrash, trash, empty, cook, bake, fry, toast, crack...completely deplete. In cycling, completely emptying yourself might win you a battle or two, but you won't win the war if you do it all the time, especially when it comes to stage racing. This is because recovery is essential to actually maintaining form, let alone improving. So destroying oneself is ok at select times, given you have time to recover. That can take anywhere from a day or two to a couple weeks, depending on the sort of destruction you've wreaked

I headed to Paul's Dirty Enduro with a clear intention not to destroy myself. After all, my cyclocross season is about to start, and I committed myself to improving on my 2009 results way back in the winter. Yet, as September hit I was still signed on for endurance events, which I knew would mean I would not have much chance to tune up for cross until October. Oh well, Hastings is awesome, and I've wanted to do Paul's for years. As long as I didn't destroy myself in the process it would be all good.

Step one was getting there, and as no other Tall Tree riders were signed on for the race, I had to scramble at the last minute to find a ride to Ganaraska Forest. With not a bit of arm twisting, Peter Mason and Mark McNab, of Big Ring Racing fame, granted me a spot in their car, and away we went Friday night. Conversation abounded on the drive to the venue, and we were there before we knew it, Zen navigation and all. My start was at 8am, theirs 11, so they dropped me off at the venue, helped me set up my tent, and rolled off to their motel 20 minutes away.

There is something comforting about sleeping with your bike next to you. And your shoes, cause they make good clubs in the case of a bear attack.
"Everyone has a plan...'till they get punched in the mouth" - Mike Tyson

Before I knew it the clock had struck 11:45 and I was ready to sleep. Or not. As it turned out the 100g of chocolate I'd pigged out on at 5pm had other designs for me: insomnia. Not exactly to plan...more like a punch in the mouth. Ah well, I've had my share of insomnia this year, so I don't stress much. I'd slept well Thursday night, and that's always the more important sleep.

Ugh, this is my face at 6:30am. Not pretty.
Day breaks, and its time for breakfast in the tent and suiting up for the race. I didn't have a clue about their feed zone practices, so after sussing that out I placed a bag of bottles in a truck that would stop at two feed zones, and placed another couple 30 feet from my tent, where we'd pass by at 40k into the race. Then it was go time, but first, call ups/attendance: "Yada yada, Ben Dawson, yada yada, Hatt Surch." "Matt, its Matt," I said, and under my breath "or perhaps 'ass-hat,' guess we'll find out.' Go.
Mmm, layered Clif gel. Mocha/Vanilla, repeat. I fit 6 packs in here and consumed about two thirds. Kinda gross, but effective.
"Healthy Energy" apparently. Hey, why not try this stuff for the first time before a massive race? Sure, sounds good. Pretty much juice, FRS seemed pretty good. I think I will experiment some more. FRS, wanna send some samples?

If you'd expect a fairly mellow start to a 100k mountain bike race, you'd be right. Group ride pace would be right. The faster guys moved up right away out of the 20 or so rider field. I knew who to follow, Ben Dawson, reigning King, so I did just that. However, a few others had other ideas, so they moved up, and started falling down. After the second or third time this happened, about 5k in, I instinctively took advantage while second wheel, and surged ahead. This created a gap I maintained for about 10k. Then 5 came back to me after a long slog through very sandy singletrack. As it turns out, motorcycles ride a chunk of the 100k course, and have clearly been doing so for some time. The top soil is long gone, and the trail is up to two feed deep, forming a channel. While the motos clearly contribute to some interesting trail features, such as whoops and berms, I can't help but wonder how their riding can be considered sustainable? From a cyclists perspective, the sand sucks, literally.
Hanging with the others felt good, so I was happy. By 40k in there were just four of us, Ben, Andrew and Alex. Alex had won before, as had Ben, numerous times, and Andrew apparently lost it last year after being misdirected. Rolling out of the 40k checkpoint it was just Ben, Andrew and me, so I figured my odds were looking pretty good.

It was clear how Ben won numerous times: he was steady and smooth. It was pretty clear that Andrew had a bit more go from my perspective third wheel though, so I kept a close eye. Then I took another punch to the mouth. On a quick descent about 58k in, I clipped a tree with my bar on the right, saved it, but careened into another, which I could not avoid. Down I went, handlebar turning 180 degrees and requiring the jaws of life to turn back around (its a 29er thing). Andrew had asked if I was ok when he heard me go down, always nice to see that sort of consideration. I was ok, but they were gone. Ok, so, protect 3rd now. At the 60k feed zone I fixed my shifter and brake lever positioning, and got rolling again.

"Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever." - Lance Armstrong

My chain was squeaking. Pulling a total rookie move, I'd only applied a thin lube, Pro-Link, at home, and after going through a couple puddles it was gone. Sure enough, chain suck followed, then a broken link. I always carry a spare master link, so in that went and I was rolling again. 3rd place, hold it. My pace was steady, and felt pretty good. I'd come into the race with tender hamstrings, so I'd been taking it easy on them, and walked some really loose steep climbs to preserve my legs. That was the smart thing to do, and I needed to be smart. After breaking the chain I knew the granny was a no-go, so any steep climbs should be run. That worked really well, and felt pretty good too. Cross training, I thought, cool. Then the unthinkable: I spotted Dawson! Ok, how long until I get to where he is? I wondered. About 3 or three minutes it turned out. Wow, big surprise. We were about 70k in. Soon I hit a feed zone and asked where he was. One minute ahead. Wow, ok, thanks folks. I caught Ben about three minutes later, and confirmed that he was completely cracked. I offered a word of encouragement, and he indicated Andrew was long gone.

A choice had to be made: chase or maintain. In my mind, holding steady was akin to quitting, to giving up the fight; I had to chase. There was no telling how far ahead Andrew was, so I simply had to ride as hard as I thought I could. Agony ensued. After consuming Shot Bloks and caffeinated gel all morning, my chest felt like it was imploding, while my neck ached immensely and, quite frankly everything from the waist up just plan hurt. But my legs were fine, so I just kept them going and tried to savour each tic of the computer. Descents at 35kph were a gift, eating up the distance. Mental gymnastics were required to stay positive and gain satisfaction from each meter gained. At 90k in I was prepared for the last 10. The hills did not stop coming over the last 20k, but in fact increased in length. I was thankful to be able to stay on top of my 34x34 and avoid walking. I figured my computer was a little under in total distance, as it had been visibly missing some of my rolling, but I was not prepared to find myself riding toward the start/finish area at just under 94k in. Would they have my bypass the finish, rode another 6k, then finish? That’d be sadistic, wouldn’t it? It would. A short looparound had me pointed at the finish line and delivered one of the highest points of elation I’ve experienced in a long time. Katie thought I wanted more when I remarked on the 94k total, mistaking my joy for disappointment! I’m sure my intonation in that nearly-destroyed state hardly sounds joyous. Andrew was way ahead, about 16 minutes away, so that was that. I ended up rolling in with a total time of 5:52, and my computer showed 5:36 of that was spent rolling. With an average speed reading just under 17kph, I hit a high of 50kph; my 34t big ring was more than sufficient.

After a scrub with poison ivy neutralizer and cold water, staggering to my tent, cleaning up some more and lying down for a bit I was ready to return to the world. Tents sure are great to have around post race!

Post race food was excellent, featuring wonderful volunteers serving up both veggie and carnal chili, salads, buns, apples and drinks, along with a coffee stand and beer. While waiting for Peter and Mark to roll in I had opportunity to really soak up the vibe of the race after spending so much time alone over the course of the morning.
I ate more than twice this amount of food, then repeated when I got home at 8:30. The veggie chili was great, as was the rest of the fare, especially the pasta salad here. Thanks cooks, this was all much appreciated after a day 'eating' space food!
Lots of families and kids, this was a great grassroots sort of race. Everyone seemed to be in a great mood and enjoying themselves.
Peter and Mark came in with three minutes between them. Aside from feeling like puking for the last 10k or so, Peter was lovin' it. Mark was going strong until about the same point, when he faded a bit, but still finished strong. 9th and 12th in  the 40-49 category. Well  done guys!
Peter rocked the one cog like a champ!
Chattin it up with a fellow Hastings Hilly Hundred rider I met the previous weekend. He figured he'd make his 7th mtb ride a race, why not? That's the spirit, biking rules!!!!

Katie, event organizer extaordinaire and super cool lady, delivers a bit of Shakespeare to the crowd. Or tosses bottles, your pick. Katie is an awesome MC, no question. I'm sure she's a total hoot to ride with.

The Big Ringers are sponsored by beer. Yep, beer, Steamwhistle specifically. They had to pay for these, as they forgot their 'get beer free' cards at home, but Peter did have his PRO-issue bottle opener handy. After one of these Peter's nausea subsided; neat huh?

Damn, talk about a pants catastrophe. Mine are so droopy I look like a spaz, and Ben's...well, I'm hoping they were meant to be ironic. Yep, ACDC. 
"The King is dead, long live the King." Andrew Decal and Heather Gray. Congrats on awesome races folks!

Super cool booty! I'm holding a handmade tile I'll have to work into a backsplash, an exercise ball (I've been wanting to get one for a while; yes, I'm serious), Ergon grips (which I've wanted to try for a while, but refused to because of their offensively wasteful packaging), and polka-dot Sugoi arm warmers in XS! I figured my daughter would like them as leg warmers, and I was right! They are darn cool.  It was nice surprising her with a prize back at home.

Big thanks go to Katie and the Paul's volunteer crew, who put on a heck of a great event with a really positive atmosphere. I'll be back, and I'll try to bring some friends along. A big thank you also goes to RE:FORM Body Clinic, specifically, Katie, who fit me in last Monday to cash in the massage they donated at the Hell Climb. I'm certain my legs would not have felt nearly as good had I not had the opportunity to benefit from the massage therapy RE:FORM provided. And last but not least, a big thank you to Peter and Mark for helping me out at the last minute to get to the race, and for being such great travel companions. I look forward to more opportunities to hang with you guys. 

Ok, so that's a wrap on my endurance racing season, and it is now time to turn full attention to cyclocross. With an exciting Steelwool cross bike due any day for field testing, I'm psyched to get racing and keep on learning and improving. With so many Tall Tree riders and friends taking up cross this year for the first time, it's going to be a really fun atmosphere at the races. We'll continue to do what we can to liven up the vibe, cowbells and all. Hope to see you all there; bring your kids if you have 'em and get crazy for cross!


Disco Stu said...

Congratulations, "Hatt"!!!
A sub 6 hour is friggin' amazing! Well done!
I remember the first time I rode the 100K course and I know that feeling of elation you mentioned...Paul's is definitely one of the hardest races around and the sense of accomplishment is hard to describe.
Great write up and pics...wish I could have been there.

Matt Surch said...

Thanks Stu! Such a different experience riding singletrack for that long, and at a 'mellow' pace. It really would be cool to try it with friends and attempt to stay and work together. I'm sure we'll ride it together in the not to distant future.

Rob Young said...

Congrats on the awesome finish Matt!

When I was waiting to start the 60 km, they announced you were in second or third, I was impressed!

Hope you avoided the poison ivy!

I wish those trails were closer, they're so fun.

Matt Surch said...

Thanks Rob! I take it you had a good time on the 60 then? I would ride there all the time if it were closer too, so much fun trail. I seem ok in terms of poison ivy, fingers crossed! Its pretty likely I was exposed, but the neutralizer seems to have worked. There is a product called Ivy Block I might try to get to keep on hand. I believe its homeopathic, so no fear of toxic chemicals. Hope nobody got it too bad.

Rob Young said...

Yeah, I had fun! I was having an off day (in retrospect, I should have drank more water before hand), so I merrily watched my ride buds ride off, and I suffered (er, road) in the forest alone. It was fun, my third year doing it. It's such a pretty forest, it's a shame you can't take more in while racing. I DNF'd at the 3rd rest stop, I know when to throw in the towel. :P

Yeah, I've thought a barrier cream might be a good idea, although the one I was looking at is petroleum based, which isn't so hot. I've never caught PI, looks like I'm in the clear for this year too!

Peter M said...

Awesome ride Matt. There's no way I could have managed another 10k let alone 40, it was a course that never gave a moment's rest, especially those last 10k or so. I don't know how you managed. I have to thank Mark for talking me out of doing the 100. Definitely an event to put on the list to go back to.

the original big ring said...

Well done Matt!

Paul's is one of my all time favourite races - the single track, the laidback'ness, the super volunteers, the after show....just so much fun.

I love the 100km course - have done it twice - the first half is definitely the hardest.

I've used babyoil on my legs in the past with great success (never got it!).

Hopefully I'll make a return to the race/event for a great cause next year.


Matt Surch said...

Thanks Peter and Craig, much appreciated. Pete, I think the way the 100k works is you have to ride easier than you think you should most of the time. It was a unique experience for me, and I look forward to my next opportunity to do it, with a hope of feeling less 'caned' in the upper body. I really couldn't help but think about how much fun it would be to do it as a group ride, kinda like a century, where you stick together and stop for a bit at feed stations. I think that really would be fun. Hopefully the event has the staying power to afford such an opportunity.