The Gunnison Growler.
First things first. The Gunnison Growler is so far the best event I have been to. Dave Weins and the Original Growler Crew (OGC) do an amazing job.
Second things first. I broke through new barriers during this race. One of which was literally breaking my bladder, thru the barriers of my chamois. I pissed myself.
The Growler is famous for being a grueling 64-mile race that feels more like 100 because of the constantly undulating and technical nature of the trails. Having not ridden here before, one can expect to be punched in the face around every turn. It has a reputation for breaking people down, both mentally and physically.
|Elevation profile. Up-and-down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.|
Sunday morning started dark and early. I was out of my tent before sunrise at 5:15 am. I quickly got dressed, grabbed my drop bag and gear, and headed towards downtown Gunnison and The Bean coffee shop. It was 34°. I don’t do well in the cold. By the time I made the 2 mile voyage to downtown my hands were numb and body in a state of shock. At least I still had an hour to drink coffee, warm up and think about things before the 7 am start. Out the door of the coffee shop I went at 6:45 back into the cold morning with ¼ of a cup of coffee in my hands, which I promptly spilled all over my frontal crotch region. Great. Not only am I out of my last dose of caffeine, but my junk is wet. It wouldn’t be the last time. As I stood there in the group of 350 riders awaiting the start I started to shiver badly. Luckily the sun was coming up and before long we were off; a neutral motor-paced roll-out the 3 or so miles to the trail.
The singlespeed field for this race was bigger than any I have previously seen. My main competition (or so I thought) was Dan Durland, who beat me by a good margin at last year’s Breckenridge 68. There were also a bunch of other very strong and capable singlespeeders, one being Gunnison local Dave Ochs.
I knew coming into the race that it would be a good idea to latch onto someone with similar ability, and also who may know the trail. Having knowledge of this trail system and how to ride it, which lines to choose, what’s coming up, etc. is a huge advantage. I knew Dan had done well here before, so I decided I would try to keep pace with him. This turned out to be a good idea, as he kept the pace moderately fast without going too hard; always keeping in mind how long of a day we had ahead of us. I rode with him most of the first lap, just sitting behind and conserving energy. When the trail wasn’t beating the shit out of us we had small conversations, which was nice to take the mind off of a long hard day. He told me that Dave Ochs was up in the pack leading, but he wasn’t worried because he had caught him during the second lap last year, and was hoping to do the same again. At one point we passed Josh Tostado on the side of the trail fixing his chain. I had a feeling it wouldn’t be long before he was passing us again. About 30 minutes later he was quickly approaching. Both I and Dan let Josh pass, and it wasn’t 15 seconds later that he was out of sight. This dude absolutely slays trail! At about 25 miles into the first of two 32 mile laps Dan took a wrong line down a slickrock section and I was forced to pass. Although I hadn’t wanted to pass earlier, it actually felt good to have some clear air. I think I was descending a bit quicker than him and once ahead I decided to put just a little bit more juice into the climbs. After a couple of minutes I had put a decent gap on him. I rolled into the start/finish feeling really good about things, other than a full bladder that I had been holding since the start. It took me a few minutes to fumble with water bottles and grab more food before I was off for another 32 miles. The second lap was pretty much a daze. The old “cramp monster” kept peeking its head out, but I was cautious to push too hard, trying to keep it in check. The most eventful thing that happened was coming down a long ATV road descent; I finally made the decision that I was going to have to let my bladder free. I was chasing first place and didn’t want to lose valuable time pulling over, so right then and there I let things “flow”. I didn’t realize that I was descending into a checkpoint, at which point things were flowing at max capacity. I hope I gave everyone a good laugh. There was one girl who was walking up the road towards me, and as I passed, piss rushing out of my leg, I said to her, “Ohhhh that’s warm!!” All in all, it wasn’t that bad. Would I do it again? Sure, why not? It was dried up in minutes and I was back at it. About halfway through the second lap I took a Coca-cola and bacon-wrapped pickle handoff from a volunteer. Just the energy I needed to keep going. I was still making my way through the field this whole time, and was looking at a top 20 finish. The last guy I would pass was wearing an Avery Brewing kit. He told me that he thought Dave Ochs was only a couple riders ahead, that I was closing the gap, and that he would give me a free 6-pack if I caught him. Inspiration. I hammered all of the climbs as hard as I could, but still struggled on the technical sections. In the end it turned out I couldn’t catch Dave, but was more than ecstatic to finish 2nd in singlespeed, and 20th overall. Just finishing this monster of a race felt like a huge accomplishment. Being able to race hard, feel good, and have fun was a big confidence boost going into my first 100-mile races. Next up, Mohican 100, Saturday June 1.
I can't say enough good things about my equipment for this race. The Ergon GS2 grips and SM3 saddle were money. Riding a hardtail for 5 hours 45 minutes on this terrain with absolutely NO soreness in the ass or hands is hard to believe. My Maxxis Ikon EXO tires worked beautifully. I saw a lot of flats on the course, but none for me. The White Brothers Loop 100 fork worked perfectly all day! This was my first time putting the fork to test, and it handled everything I threw at it with ease. It is the perfect "set-it-and-forget-it" singlespeed fork. It will be my fork of choice for any rugged race courses.
|Thank God I'm empty handed.|
The post-race party wasn’t too bad either. I ate chicken-on-a-stick, filled (and drank) my complimentary growler with New Belgium, ate countless cookies, and even won some pretty nice swag. I’ll definitely be back for the Original Growler again next year. Cheers.