Ganaraska Forest, (Paul’s) Dirty Enduro, 60k, and Me
5 years ago, at the end of my first year racing, I did my first Paul’s Dirty Enduro, 30k distance. When I got to the race, a friend was standing outside of the Ganaraska Forest Centre Quonset hut. He was doing the 60k. I couldn’t believe it–he was going to actually ride 60k. On a mountain bike! The very idea was as foreign to me as flying to the moon.
And he looked so damn cool. He DRESSED the part, he was PART of the cycling establishment, and he had a strong cyclists’ PHYSIQUE. In a word, he was BOSS.
And I knew I could never be like him. Like, ever.
On Saturday morning, as I was getting ready to leave for the Dirty Enduro (the new and rebooted Paul’s), I was walking past my hallway mirror and saw my reflection. I was wearing a hip cycling shirt (last year’s O-Cup shirt, and cool cycling baggies. “Hmm”, I thought.
Then I NOTICED something.
“Um, am I seeing things, or is that someone else looking back at me?”. I was looking at a cyclist. The cyclist in the reflection had calves that belonged to someone who spends a LOT of time pedaling up and over logs, roots, and rocks, and clawing up nasty hills (and as a bonus they were pockmarked with bruises, cuts, poison ivy scars, and chain grease that never seems to wash away), his forearms belonged to someone who regularly grips handlebars for hours and hours trying to stay on his bike, and his upper body was that of a speed rider.
The cyclist in the mirror was me.
I DRESSED like a cyclist, and I LOOKED like a cyclist.
And then I REALIZED something. I was going to (Paul’s) Dirty Enduro TO RIDE THE 60K DISTANCE. I was the a guy who could race 60k on my mountain bike. I WAS a cyclist.
But it didn’t stop there. It got even better.
I FELT something: I felt awful. I had tired legs, a still sore shoulderneck (yes, an actual body part), and numb wrists.
Okay, that’s not the great part, but the reason for feeling awful was pretty great. My body was tired, sore, and numb because I hadn’t recovered from last weekend’s 90k at the Epic 8 Hour…
…or from the Great Albion Enduro 40k the week before that…
…or from the two cyclocross races I did the week before that…
…or from 80k at the Kingston XCM the weekend before that.
…or from the three weekly series rips in between.
All told, in the last five consecutive weekends, I booked close to 350k of race pace pounding.
Let me just say, I do not have the training or physical condition to do 5 big races back to back to back to back to back, and I’m never going to win races or stand on the podium of a race (unless there is a Clydesdale category and only two other Clydesdales show up).
Let me also say the cyclist in the mirror also had side gut flaps (because you really can’t hide 250 pounds), but that just didn’t matter on Saturday morning.
It never really matters. Who cares what I weigh, which part of my body oozes out of my waistband, and whether I win or not. I’m only ever racing myself, and in the month of September, I raced against Team Colin a whole lot. I WANTED to do 5 consecutive races, I had the ABILITY to do 5 consecutive races, I had the DRIVE to to 5 consecutive races, and I DID 5 consecutive races. I feel like I popped this September (and this race season). I did my first marathon distance race in the spring (and my second, and third…), I rode as hard as I could as often as I could for the rest of the season, and I kept jumping headfirst into new and awesome bike things (the 24 Hour and my first night ride, soloing the 8 Hour, racing with the worst cold ever experienced by modern human…).
And that gets a giant BOOM. Yup, Team Colin is feeling pretty groovy, which is kind of a nice departure from my usual “Team Colin sucks, boo hoo, I’m such a bad rider” posts.
It’s time for a Race Report.
Race Report: (Paul’s) Dirty Enduro. Ganaraska Forest (September 28, 2017)
I met a friend, Simon (and his friend Mike) before the race. Great to see a familiar face. After a few words from the organizers, and a note about our purpose for the day–to raise money for CMHA (more on that later)–the race was on. The long sweeps of double track at the start served as a neutral start. There was no bunching, and it was easy to seed ourselves. I zipped up to about mid place in the pack, and stayed there pretty much for the duration.
I wanted to ride with Simon. He pulled far ahead (I thought) so I worked hard to maintain his pace. A few km in, I realized he was actually a bit behind me. I figured he’d catch me when I faded later in the race, but it never happened. It would have been our third race to finish together, but instead I got to watch him cross the line just after me.
The first 30k were uneventful. Despite a busy and sleepless week that lacked any real recovery from the Epic 8 Hour last weekend, I felt strong and confident. It was a beautiful day, the crowd was awesome, and I was riding my bike at one of Ontario’s biggest and awesomest trail network. Plus, because of the epic summer of racing I had, I wasn’t simply riding to finish. I was riding to race, and I was riding hard.
At some point, I was even riding with Lenka! I came upon her, in the distance, bridged the gap, and actually passed her. If you know who Lenka is, you know that I am NOT in the same league (or anything) as her, and something was definitely wrong with the picture. After a few km in front of her, I missed a turn, she passed, and order was restored in the galaxy. She took a lead and kept building it.
And I was still riding hard.
Then, at pretty much the halfway point of the race, when I would have usually finished the race, and after a staggeringly fast, intricately technical, and really really hard double track descent (that was probably the longest and gnarliest I’ve ever done in a MTB race, and really really took a lot out of me), we hit a WALL: a long, mean, nasty, hill on top of a hill on top of a hill. Yeah, a three part hill. It was the race equivalent of a billboard that says “If you lived here, you’d be home by now”. Pretty sure the organizers were reminding us we could have done the 30k…
And the Ganny was reminding us we were IN THE GANNY. I hatelove (also a real word) the Ganny. It always pummels me. Tight and twisty single track, challenging and technical double track, gruelling climbs (and even more gruelling descents), and the strange ability to occasionally lull riders with some sweetly flowing sections, only to punch us in the throat with an unexpected corner, log over, or something else that hurts.
The trails in the Ganny are no apologies, Rule 5, MTB. And if you don’t like it, there’s a kid’s race at 3:00. Really, there was a kid’s race that started at 3PM.
The course was tough and unforgiving, and by 40k, I had enough.
I was no longer riding hard, I was riding a really hard race.
The course also had some marking challenges. With such a huge event, and two years of growth since the last one, the organizers had their work cut out in order to make the race a reality, and more than a few of us stood on course, in the middle of the race, scratching our heads and wondering where to turn after a long shot in the wrong direction. It was frustrating, but only mildly so.
By the 45k aid station, I was kind of cooked. My pace was a mess, I wasn’t confident, and I was making silly mistakes. I rallied a bit in the last 5 or 7k, and even nailed the last jump at the FINISH, but it was far from a strong ending.
- 1200m of climbing.
- 26/54 overall.
- 14/34 in the 40+ age category.
- Lenka beat me by 16 minutes.
End of Race Report.
So the race was pretty great, and who cares about whatever small challenges we faced trying to find the course. This is MTB. We didn’t register for a quilting bee, and the challenges just added to the awesomeness. I think the organizers did an amazing job with the resources they had.
In fact, after the race, I was talking to my friend, Bob Ramsay (a literal Single Speed legend, who at 50 something, placed second in the 100k with a time of 5:40). He told me there were problems accessing volunteers, and by race day there just wasn’t enough time to finish.
I can only imagine the time, energy, and money that goes into a giant race, so thanks to Ben and Ashleigh Logan of Fontaine Source for Sports (in Peterborough–for a job well done. So awesome.
Oh, and can I talk about the post race meal for a sec? The chilli was spectacular. And the peanut butter and bread at the aid stations? Awesome. And the spectators, and the jump at the end, and the organizers, and the registration table, and the map… Honestly, the volunteers made the day a pretty awesome experience. Thanks.
Before I finish, I want to talk about Paul Rush. We rode the Dirty Enduro for a reason. Well, two reasons. First, to be boss on our bikes. Second, and more important, to raise money for CMHA. The second reason was probably stuck somewhere in the background for most racers, including me, but make no mistake, we were raising money for the Canadian Mental Health Association.
For those who don’t know, the Dirty Enduro was formerly known as Paul’s Dirty Enduro. It ceased being Paul’s two years ago, on the 20th anniversary, and took a year off. Over the years, Paul’s has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for mental health education and suicide prevention. The ride is named after Paul Rush, who faced mental health issues, and secretly kicked at depression for years. Here’s a great article from the Globe & Mail about Paul. Paul was a fan of long rides, and he loved the Ganny. He was a big boss cyclist, a friendly giant, and from what I’ve read, one heck of a guy. I can’t think if a better reason to get on a bike, than to support his memory–especially since we so often don’t talk openly about mental health and suicide.
Like a hidden trail feature that jerks your handlebars off course, or an inescapable rut that swallows your wheel at high speed, mental health issues and suicide are always around us, and always a part of life. In the world of MTB, in our personal and professional lives, and in our families.
My father killed himself. He battled quiet demons and addiction for most of his life, right in front of our eyes. We never knew. If CMHA can continue to do their work, and if we can be a small part of helping people overcome and/or deal with their demons, that’s awesome. And if it’s on a bike, even better.
I didn’t intentionally race for my dad, or Paul, or the CMHA. I rode because it was a Saturday, and there was a race. But whether we were actively aware of the importance of the day or not, together, we rode for an awesome cause.
Thanks again to the amazing volunteers, Kerri Davies, CHMA, and the amazing Dirty Enduro sponsors:
- Fontaine’s Source for Sports
- Bob’s Watch Repair
- Ganaraska Forest Centre
- Laser Helmets
- Outdoor Gear Canada
- Tree Top Trekking
- Wolf 101.5
Congratulations to the Overall winners of the 2017 Dirty Enduro:
- 100k Overall: Paul Cooney
- 60k Overall: Jamie Burr
- 30k Overall: Brendan Jeffery
- 15k Overall: Cole Zufelt
Congratulations also to Facebook’s Mountain Bikers Ontario guy, Steve Bator for a win in his age category for th3 15k. Boom.
A complete list of category winners is on the OCA website.
PS. It was great to see so many of Dan’s people at the race. Simon and Mike, Peter and Donna, Chris, Lenka, David, Bob, Guy, Will, and so many more. I took a selfie with a few of them, but for some reason, it didn’t capture.
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