Growler part deux

I'm not sure why this race report has been so hard to write. Maybe because I wasn't every really racing - I was riding hard, but my primary aim for the Original Growler was to finish in one piece. After the full pre-ride and crashing on Friday before the race, I was more then nervous. Would I really be able to finish a course as demanding as the Growler? I was nervous about my bike choice - I went with my Era, knowing the bike was a little slower then my Fate. But I also wanted the suspension for some of the technical spots. Staying on my bike and riding everything (or almost everything) would be easier on my little bike. So I was sacrificing speed for fun and flow. I was also worried about the heat. Hartman Rocks gets really warm - and unlike at Whiskey, there would be no shade to hide in near the end. No shade at all - and very dry and dusty.  Nick was in charge of my water and I knew he'd be  awesome and on top of things like usual. So all I had to do was ride my bike and stay smart. I kept that mentality the entire race - ride my bike, be smooth and relax.  Ride the first lap smart and paced, then if I could pick up the pace on the second lap. That would be hard - between the fatigue of the first lap and the growing heat. Overall, I did well. I had a fun time on my bike, finishing just off my goal time in 7:09:31, and placing 4th woman overall. But I'm just not sure I was "racing" at all. I was too focused on staying upright to ever really attack on that first lap and then getting too tired on the second lap to really pick up the pace. I stayed pretty consistent, handled the heat well and kept the rubber side down. I was very happy with how I handled the technical sections, even as the race progressed. So I'm not going to call this a race report - more like a collection of thoughts and observations from seven hours in the saddle and a few photos. I may have a more formal "race report" later - or maybe not!

The Original Growler taking over US 50 just before the turn onto Gold Basin Rd
Photo Jesse Parker

Finishing up the race - with the Gunnison Valley in the background
Group road rides at prep for mountain bike starts!
This was a mellow start. I think everyone was mentally prepping for the long hours ahead and the energy trying to escap on the rad wasn't worth it. We had US 50 all to ourselves - a living, breathing mass of cyclists sprawled across the entire road. It was a nice neutral rollout as well - we were pointing out all the road hazards and making room for people to squeeze in. A far cry from the angry, writhing herd of women at Whiskey! At least until the dirt. At the dirt, the niceties were forgotten and the racing was on. I was swallowed by the mass as we climbed Kill Hill. I knew the left line was smoothest and held onto my spot dearly. One of the few victories for the day. 
Focusing on the rocks!

Fitness does not equal strength. 
I've known that for a while, but this was a great reminder. It's really easy to be fit on the flats or the dirt roads, but when rocks get in the way, strength and technique will shine every time. It's a lot faster to ride through things then to stop and unclip, then have to walk. Fitness alone will not get up and over some of the technical sections of this course. And as the day gets longer and I got tired, I was really happy to have the strength to apply power when I needed it. I was able to keep riding in sections the guys around me were off and walking.
Setting up for the next rock obstacle
Photo - Dave Kozlowski
Practice makes perfect.
Or how working in skills can really make a race fun. I've been better about actually practicing the skills and drills with Nick. On this course, every single tool and trick I've been working on came in handy. Balance? Yep - especially when someone unclips and topples over in front of you! Wheelies? Oh yeah - no rest for the weary on the back half of that course. Flow? Can you say Sea of Sage and Enchanted Forest? Getting my weight back? Only one way to clean Skull Pass and that's to have my rump as far back as I can get it! Made the Skull Pass descent on both laps and was pretty proud about that.
Getting tired, but still paying attention

Etiquette matters - even in a race.
Overall, this was the mellowest event I've been in. Yes, we were racing and time mattered. But I saw very little of the Cat 2 syndrome I usually see. If someone bobbled a rock, they got out of the way. If someone needed around, the pass happened at the next chance. Most everyone knew it was a long day. I don have one little rant about the guys. I only a few times had someone in my way on a technical section and he didn't move (once was on purpose - he stopped right in the middle of the easy line and then gave me shit about taking chances and being cocky when I balked on the hard line. I wish I'd just ignored him and taken the bigger drop.) And then on Skull Pass - rider back means rider back. And that means move, not stop in the middle of the rock and stare. Just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I'm not gonna ride that - and I'm not stopping just because you are walking! Me yelling at the herd on the rock to move got a few laughs from some of the men behind me. I guess I'm not the only one who gets annoyed by the "if I can't ride it, it's not rideable" mentality in some racers. 
I also pulled a few stupid moves, so I'm not an angel. Getting waterbottles when I'm not thinking straight isn't my strong point , so I will apologize to anyone I chumped while wandering across the trail. 

This was one of the times I bobbled a waterbottle hand off. Sorry!
Help can make the race. 
All the top riders had ample support out on course in addition to the neutral aide tents. When someone heads out for a 64 mile ride with naught more then a bottle and a bar, you know there's lots of help. Me? I had Nick. And he's the best support person I could have. In addition to racing Saturday, he spent all day Sunday helping me. I saw him seven times in four different spots. He had to ride his bike to all of them - and fast enough to beat me! He lugged water bottles and food around, took my back pack to swap my bladder out and get me fresh (and ice cold!) fluids. And even when I wasn't quite thinking straight, he got it all sorted out and kept me moving.
My awesome bottle sherpa! He raced Saturday and then helped out all day Sunday!


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