Race Report: Gunnison GrowlerJeff Kerkove 5:15 PM
The 2009 Gunnison Growler is in the books. Unlike last years event, this years race was plagued with off and on rain and thunderstorms. Lucky for the racers, the rain made the course that much better....but as the day went on, the rain would become the second item to battle...other than the rugged course laid out by Dave Wiens.
Hartman Rocks, site of the 2009 Gunnison Growler....with clouds looming in the back ground.
The start was at 7 AM under skies that were spitting rain and temps in the mid-40's. Starting in downtown Gunnison, the race started with a 2.5 neutral lead out out to Hartman Rocks. Going into this race I had a nutrition and pacing plan to follow. Knowing how hard this course was, I was not going to repeat last years race performance and go out too hard.
The race officially started once we hit the dirt to Hartman Rocks...this is when I started my Suunto T6 HR monitor. After 100 yards of flat dirt road, we hit a steep punchy climb seen in the photo above. What you don't see is how muddy it is. The previous nights rain left this clay-like road sticky, slippery, and covered with tire packing mud. Many folks went super hard up this climb, but I kept my HR in my race pace zone of 162-167 bpm. The goal was to stay on the bike....no matter what the speed up the climb. As we went further up the climb many riders began sliding out and getting off their bikes to push. Since I was conserving energy, I cleaned the climb and was greeted by a hard packed road at the top. From here is was a gradual dirt road climb to the first section of singletrack. Once we hit the single track, I was in about 20th place. This was not a huge deal to me, as I knew some of the guys in front of me would come back. Even with all the rain, the course was so fast! The moisture made for a rookie traction. It seemed no matter how hard you went into a corner the brakes were not needed as my Conti Mountain King 2.2 tires were hooking up perfectly. As the lap went on, positions where exchanged. I would pass some riders....and some other riders would pass me. My nutrition of the event was simple: 3 gel flasks and 3 bottles. With roughly 3 hour laps, I would take one flask and bottle per hour. With the many connector roads between the singletrack sections this left plenty of time to fuel. As mentioned earlier, the skies were sketchy from the start. Sure enough, about 8 miles from the finish of the first lap, the skies let loose with a moderate rain. This was enough to turn some of the course to peanut butter. Lucky for the racers, this type of muddy trail was only found on a few sections of the course. By the time I crossed the finished line on the lap one, the rain had already stopped.....it lasted a whole 10 minutes. Lap 1 would be complete in about 2 hours and 50 minutes.
At the start of Lap 2 I swung by the area where the Topeak-Ergon racers had their drop bags. I grabbed 3 new bottles and 3 gel flasks. I was resupplied and ready for another 30 miles of the demanding Gunnison course.
Once loaded up, I head out on lap 2. Lap 2 was tougher, as we were forced to scramble up the rocks seen in the 2nd photo above. Keeping the pace in my zones laid out by Coach, I spun the granny gear up the kitty litter like trail. When the rocks got super steep, I got off and ran with the bike. With the race in the 2nd lap now, the riders were few and far between. It seemed like I road alone for a lot of the lap. Half way through this lap I caught a few other racers.....but I was also caught by some racers that were chasing. As much as I wanted to suck wheel on some of these racers....I knew this would push the limits of how hard I wanted to go. I knew there were a lot of demanding course sections yet.
Racing at 8800 ft, you have to run the engine as high as you can. Once you hit red line, the chance of getting back to feeling good are slim to none. As I pushed on through the race I kept looking back to see who might be there....but there never was anyone. About half way through the last lap, I was join by Shawn Meredith. We rode the remainder of the final lap together. About 3 miles from the finish, I was able to get away from Shawn on a technical climb. Knowing Shawn is a strong rider, I kept riding smooth and consistent as not to bobble and force a dismount and run.
At 6 hours and 5 minutes, I crossed the finish line. This put me in 14th place overall......about 1.5 hours faster than last year. From start to finish I felt strong....as the energy levels were consistent. Those that beat me in this race were simply faster....'nuff said. My race was executed perfectly....and a good sign of being dialed for the high priority events coming in July.