Here comes the mud again.... Race Support at the Half Growler

View from the Powerline descent - that little cloud would soon turn nasty....
Getting woken up at 11:00 PM with pouring rain isn't the best way to start a race weekend. Having that pouring rain turn into a thunderstorm right overhead is even worse. The hail started at 2:00 AM and combined with the thunder and lightening kept the entire Gunnison Valley awake until sunrise. Even then, there was no respite. A heavy fog had settled over the KOA and Hartmans Rocks, cloaking everything in grey and damp. Gradually, the sun worked it's magic and burned away the layer of clouds, revealing blue skies and drenched surroundings. An interesting start to my day of race support and Nick's race. Hopefully, the sun would stay out and dry the trails into the hero dirt that Dave promised in his race morning update email.

The Half Growlers heading making the right turn onto HWY 50
Photo - Matt Burt, http://mattburt.zenfolio.com

I dropped Nick off at the start in downtown Gunnison and headed up Gold Basin Road to wait at the short blacktop section near the Bambi's entrance. With the rain and Nick's experience last year during the Growler, I wasn't driving up into Hartmans. I was anticipating that Nick would be there in about an hour, so had plenty of time. I hiked up the Powerline road, looking at the conditions and evaluating lines for my race. I noticed that the road was sticky in places, a mild peanut butter mud, but still bad. I didn't pay that much attention though, wanting to get up where I could get some photos of the race climbing Josh-Os. It took forever (or so it seemed) for the leaders to roll through. I got the photos and jogged back down the road to wait. And wait. And wait some more. An hour after the start and even the leaders hadn't yet dropped off the Powerline descent. What was going on? Meanwhile, another storm rolled through. It started out mellow, just some grapple and wind. Then rain and hail, pelting the volunteers and support crew waiting anxiously along the road.

Nick climbing up Josh-O's
Kalan B - in second place at that point, with his bike more then a little muddy
Finally, the first riders came down. And immediately quit, saying his bike was destroyed. Huh. The next two riders that passed me were covered head to toe in mud. Bikes caked in clay and drive chains grinding. Every rider was filthy and many were trying to clear the mud through futile attempts at bunny hopping. I realized that the same peanut butter clay that had forced me to walk last year was wreaking havoc among the Half Growlers. There were numerous drops at that point - with riders pushing bikes caked in mud. Then Nick's orange helmet came into view. I'd been watching the bikes rolling by carefully - no other single speeders had yet passed. I gave him his fresh water bottle and shouted after him (after prompting) that he was in the lead.
Yeah, just a little muddy!
Time to pay attention for Matt. I had clean sunglasses and a bottle for him. He was a few minutes behind Nick and made a quick pit stop. His bike was just a filthy as everyone else's - and his legs and back were coated brown. I hung out at the blacktop a little longer, watching the riders. Choices were being made with every turn onto the blacktop as some riders turned north to head for home and others south for the next section of singletrack.

Nick clearing some rocks and making it look easy
Photo - Brian Riepe, Mountain Flyer
Then to the base area to wait some more. With the trail conditions, I didn't know how long it would take Nick to finish. All the riders were slower this year due to the adverse weather and atrocious trail conditions. And then, there Nick was, bombing down Collarbone. He'd held onto his position in the single speed race, finally coming home with the win this year. I don't think I've seen him that beat up after a race ever

Coming in for the finish

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