The North Shore Dirty Duo, one of my favourite races, took place a few days ago (March 8). It’s a big event, and Mountain Madness does a great job putting it all together. There are several races on the day. They offer a 15k run, 25k run, 50k run, 30k mountain bike, a 25k-30k run/bike relay, and of course the 25k-30k run/bike Solo category. The entire event sold out again this year, and from 8am until 3:30 pm, there was non-stop action. It’s kind of an orchestrated chaos; one that Heather, Peter, and a ton of awesome volunteers pulled off amazingly.
It’s not up for debate: the Solo event is the killer…and it’s the one I choose to tackle. Not only do you have to be adept at both trail running and mountain biking, but you also have to deal with the unique problems of the transition from run to bike. The obvious challenge is convincing your trail running legs to convert over and to start turning the pedals. It’s not pretty. I can describe it as having two powerless bags of shit for legs, that are trying to convince your brain that there is no way in hell you will survive the ride. Thankfully, stubbornness and suffering will get you through that part. This year though, there was another transition element which was quite significant….RAIN
I absolutely suck when I’m wet and cold. There is no denying it or fighting it (I’ve lost that battle before). At some magical/low core temperature, the power switch to my muscles shuts off and I spiral into heat loss and hypothermia. I knew I needed to be prepped for this years version of the DD. The forecast on Saturday had a weather warning for North Vancouver. Massive amounts of rain were predicted to hit us right around 10am, which is exactly when I expected to be transitioning on to the bike. I needed to be prepared for water. Not just the water falling from the sky, but as any west coast mtb rider knows, water shooting upwards from the trail and your wheels. So… I had a plan: Gore-tex (more on that in a bit).
Last year, Carl Riley kicked my ass at this race. I wasn’t prepared, I wasn't ready to suffer, and I both physically and mentally cracked. This year I was ready. I knew my engine was strong. I had some solid workouts leading in, and I knew where my fitness was at. Equally as important though, I was determined to stay mentally strong...no matter what happened out there. I knew Carl was racing again. Plus, Justin Mark is leaner, meaner, and tough as ever. Add in a dark horse or two, and we had a recipe for a great race.
I came in to the DD this year with a fairly simple goal: don’t worry about the outcome, focus on the process. I can't control what my competitors do. I can only control what I do and what I feel. Absolutely no giving in or taking my foot off the gas. Just absorb the suffering and push until I’m cross-eyed.
Race morning, and the rain was holding off while we all set up and warmed up. As soon as I started doing a few strides, I could tell right away that I had great legs and great lungs. At 8am, the first wave of racers was sent off: relay runners, 50k runners, and Solo (run-bike) athletes all. (These are all the events that will take around 4 hours and more). I went to the front and took the lead right away, settling in to a comfortably strong pace. After around 15 minutes, without having put the hammer down, I found myself alone off the front. Not what I was expecting, but my effort was perfect, so I kept it up. The first 90 minutes of the run absolutely flew by, and I could feel that I was on a really strong pace. I roughly know my old time markers on course, and I was well ahead of anything I had done before.
I told myself to stay in the moment, focus on the process, make sure i'm fuelled up.
About 5 minutes out from the end of the run, almost as if on a timer, I started to feel the rain. I wasn’t getting soaked, but I knew it was going to build. My plan had always been to put on a full waterproof outer layer in transition, but I had also put an extra thermal base layer into my transition box, as a possible add-on. Right before the transition area, I caught sight of my girls cheering at the side of the road. Fully decked out in their yellow rain slickers, yelling ‘Go Daddy Go’... I had a huge smile.
There was a slight overlap between myself and the 25k run wave start, but my transition was so complicated and slow that there were no traffic issues with them at all. I peeled off most of my wet gear, opted for my extra base layer, and then proceeded to put on all my rain gear. Struggling with dry clothing and my wet body, made for a painfully slow transition (more than three minutes), but it had to be done.
New base layer, dry bib shorts, gore-tex knee warmers, rain jacket, hydration pack, gore-tex cycling shoes, dry toque, and dry gore-tex gloves…it all seemed to take forever, but I was ready to get wet! As expected (and planned for), the first 20 minutes of the bike was a slow grind. Thankfully the legs slowly come and around start to feel normal...not that you ever really get up to full 'fresh-leg' speed in the solo event.
Stick to the plan. Go by effort. I chose to be here doing this, so soak it all in.
Much like the run, I had amazing focus on the bike, and the ride just flew by. Before i knew it, I was at the top of Neds. Feeling strong, I had blast ripping down Neds, and I hit the climb up Twin Bridges trail as hard as I could. Standing, sitting, grinding, snot flowing, and fully anaerobic, I rode that climb as hard as possible. I got to the Gazebo check point, and my legs were still holding up. I choked back one last gel, and kept my focus on pushing right to the end. I had about five minutes left to race...make it all count.
I crossed the line in 4:07:47
Nothing left on the course. No weak spots. No regrets.
After hugging my girls, and some friendly congratulations, I headed straight to my car to swap into dry clothes. I managed to strip down and get re-clothed before the deep/core shivering set in. Jodi and the girls couldn’t stick around, but I was content to hang out with friends until the awards (a few hours away). Pretty quickly, I saw Justin inside. He had an awesome race, finishing second. Carl didn’t have a great day. Turns out he has been struggling with a knee injury, and he toughed it out for 4th. Hopefully he hasn’t done any more damage. A surprise in third place, was Dusty Caseria (from Washington). He had a great first crack at the DD, and is definitely someone else to keep an eye on.
I am totally satisfied with my race. I executed my plan to (almost) perfection. I was able to stay in the moment, and I kept an amazing focus the entire day.
The silver lining is that the outcome (results) had a direct correlation with my effort. I managed to win the race, set a new run course record (including the 25k runners and relay runners), and also set the new fastest DD Solo finishing time*. (I put an asterisk besides that last one though, as the course and conditions can be a bit different between years at this race).
Next up is a few days of recovery, then start to ramp up some running miles in prep for the Cap Crusher (March 23) and then Diez Viasta 50. I am definitely excited for the next month of running. One last thought:
It’s all about the process...not the outcome