Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Gunnison Half-Growler

Race #2 in my effort to try new things

Despite meeting my goals, this was probably one of the worst races for me in a tactical sense.  Cold, apathetic, lack of outdoor saddle time… …etc.   Most everyone else was in the same situation so it’s really an indictment of my mindset.

About The Race

The growler course alternates directions each year with the 2015 edition heading clockwise.  After pre-riding the couse this past weekend, it starts out a pretty fast ride with the last 8 miles or so having a bunch of punchy climbs, semi-technical power moves and rock features.  I figured under normal conditions that 4hrs was attainable with a stretch goal of 3:30.

Well, lately conditions here have been anything but normal.  My wife told me that this May has been the coldest on record since 1917.  The preciptation has been pretty significant as well.  I’m not going to research it but you’re pretty well aware that it’s been fairly Seattle-esque around most of the state.  So Saturday morning began with a little of both aspects.  I looked out my hotel window and saw a nice sheet of ice on my windsheild.  Local weather reported a crisp 36 degrees and a slight wind at 6am.  The forecast indicated low 40s at the start with a high in the low 50s and a significant chance of rain throughout the day.

Anticipating these conditions, I’d decided beforehand to race with my second favorite base layer (craft coolmesh sleeveless ), shortsleeve jersey, the versatile champion wind vest (rocking Echelon logos – I love this vest, dual zips, mesh back, heavy duty zipper with a long pull…) and PI Softshell arm warmers.  I decided to forego knee warmers as I despise “wet” clothing and didn’t want to rip up my softshell ones, opting instead to use some “medium” embro – if you’ve used this, it’s a warm medium imo.

I ran into local legend Dave Wiens a few times last weekend as he was refreshing some course marking and giving pointers to people like me out reconnoitering the course.  Super good guy and I was a little star-struck but he’s about as humble as they come.  This race is organized by Dave and the local advocacy group Gunnison Trails which benefits… ….Gunnison area trais (surprise) .

In pre-race emails and at the start line, Dave repeatedly voiced that the Hartman Rocks trails ride well when wet.  I guess that’s somewhat accurate but I’ll get to that in a second.   

The race 

begins in downtown Gunnison with a police leadout to Hartman Rocks around 4 miles away.   We averaged almost 24mph and I felt terrible for the SS crowd as there was no way they could keep pace.

The course would inevitably bottleneck at the first singletrack (doesn’t every race?) about 30min into the race. So I did my best to be well positioned heading into Hartman Rocks.

Kill Hill (somewhat obvious but highlighted above just in case) is at the entry to Hartman Rocks and where the shit hits the fan.  Short (roughly ½ mile) but somewhere around 20%, it’s a pain in the ass when dry but after the overnight rain….  Well it sucked.  

I probably overextened myself here (~320w avg)  navigating bad line after bad line with everyone else through the mud.  

Just after Kill Hill is another grinder around  1.5 miles on a jeep road.  Less muddy but rutted, it was amusing watching people try to avoid puddles and in doing so have their front wheel wash out.  Dumbass moves every 30 seconds all so they didn’t get wet.

In the first hour and a half, I can’t count how many times I was forced off my bike either through my own fault or more often being behind others.  Check out the number of times watts = zero on the climbs/flats.  I was pretty close to dropping out at this point as I recently procured a new drivetrain (xtr 11spd $$$) and wasn’t really excited about replacing anything this early in the season.
The point where the Blue line bottoms out would represent the Hail/Snow/Hurricane portion of the event.  Hoping some pictures exist as it was pretty crazy.  Only thing missing was lightning and I’m okay with that as we were in the midst of one of the massive Sea of Sage sections of the course and there wasn’t much cover offered.

Thankfully, the trail composition changes from clay to decomposed granite right around this point.  If you’ve spent time at Buffalo Creek, the conditions are fairly similar and THESE trails do handle moisture well.  When saturated, they’re still slow but they’re grippy

 At about 2hrs in, I stopped at the Skull Pass aid station to fill up the bottles and generously apply some chain lube.  Lots of squeakin and grindin going on around me but my rig was ninjalike despite the mud caked everywhere.

It was right about here that I stopped eating for some reason having only a gel and one bottle of ~2/3 strength skratch.  I don’t think this was a huge deal but it probably did cost me some time near the end Look at the power and RPM tail off the last 20 min or so - 194w NP @ 60rpm avg vs. 222w @ 78rpm for the entire race.  Oooops.  Maybe I shouldn’t have chased the bacon with whiskey?  Or maybe I needed a second serving.

I did really fumble around the last couple of miles on the “ridge” section of the course walking many of the moves rather than  risk it.  I just wanted to get home without any additional damage to body or bike.  Full gas on the last climb and then down likely appropriately named Collarbone Alley to the finish.

Data Things

Time - 3:58:22 -1:10:02 back
Placing  - 79th overall  11th in age group 46 minutes (exactly) back
Training Peaks  - http://tpks.ws/58eD

Some Pictures:

What did I do well…

  • ·         I rode within my limits for the most part
  • ·         ate and fueled well early
  • ·         proper choice of clothing
  • ·         Finishing the damn race in mostly sucky conditions

What could I have done better

  • ·         Ridden with some urgency/aggression
  • ·          nutrition was poor over the second half of the course

 What am I not sure about

  • ·         Did I go out too hard
  • ·         perhaps a more aggressive tread for the rear (Saguaro?) might have helped with the mud at the expense of rolling resistance
  • ·         If I care that I didn’t do well
On to the next one...

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