Hartmans Take 1 - The Original Meowler

Or how to make one lap at Hartmans harder then it already is!

The Original Growler course - complete with long climbs, techy rocks and sweeping descents through the sage. It's a challenge in it's own right. So how to make it even harder? Throw in a nice little run in the middle! That was the task ahead of me at the Original Meowler - ride out to the base of Skull pass, swap my cycling shoes for running shoes to run the Aberdeen loop, then return to cycling mode to finish the race. It's the exact opposite of most duathlons and made even more challenging with the requirement of carrying all my running gear to the transition and back to the finish. To me, that sounded like a great day.

 There were 76 racers entered making for a much more mellow day then what was coming in a week. We gathered at the base area, waiting for the signal from Dave to start our journey. At 7:00, the race was on - up the double track for a bit, then onto Jack's. It was a mellow, cordial start, with everyone realizing that it was going to be a long day and there was plenty of road coming up. I'm not sure which is worse though - the train up Jacks or the grunt of Kill Hill.  I slotted into second women right away, just behind Sari Anderson. I was hoping to try to stay close, but that wasn't going to happen. On the road out to Luge, the gap was already growing. Time to ride my own race. I'd set out a few goals for the race the week before - one was to try to race under 5:00 and the other was to ride everything except for the push up Skull Pass and the Powerline Rd climb. Neither of those two goals would be easy - I've wasn't sure how long the run really was or what it would take out of me for the last half of the race. I also wasn't sure about being able to ride everything - but you have to dream big sometimes!

The start lap for this direction was brand new to me. In 2014, the Full Growler didn't do the full start lap because of the weather - rain all night had turned the roads into clay bogs and riding them wasn't an option. We'd climbed Kill Hill and then turned right onto Tail Pipe - no road to thin things out. I was not prepared this year for how long that road to Luge is. I also wasn't ready for some of those sharp lefts as we descended to Top of the World! It was a good wakeup call for paying attention and riding my bike. Top of the World is a steady climb with a few punchy rock slabs. The small field meant no bottle necking and I was able to ride my bike easily through the rocks. The first major obstacle to being able to ride everything would come on Gateway. Halfway through that section of trail, a large rock slab that the trail wound around, then up and through a crack before descending on some chunky granite. I'd never made it before - usually running out of power halfway up the slab. This time I tried something different - dropper halfway down, in an easy gear. Up the start of the slab, made the 90* left to approach to crack and I was still on my bike. A bit of a dab getting through the crack, so it wasn't clean - but I didn't have to unclip with both feet and get off. I'll take it! My elation at nearly cleaning something that was unridable two years ago was tempered by the sight of a pink helmet behind me. Sarah S - closer then I wanted.

A very familiar climb up Jacks - using the rocks to my advance.
Photo Jesse Jakomait
Through the rock outcroppings and long sage lined climbs of Josies - I was thrilled to ride everything on Josies without thinking about it this year. But that pink helmet stayed right behind me, never dropping to far out of sight. Sari was already long gone - the race was for second at that point. I was the hunted. I also didn't feel very spunky on the climbs. With most of the first half of the course being long, singletrack climbs, not having the spunk there wasn't a good thing. I just kept ticking off the trail segments and landmarks - Josies, Dirty Sock, Buddy Bear, Dave Moe's, Enchanted Forest... Each trail offered something that I'd either struggled with before or hadn't even attempted riding. Not this year. Each obstacle that I cleaned gave me a mental boost. It might not have been my fastest trip on any of those trails - which given that I was only doing one lap was a little disheartening, but it was clean. As I dropped into Skull Pass to start the run, I'd met one of my goals for the first half of the race. Now to see how the little run would feel!

Not  my usual quick transition from back in my triathlon days. I'd run through the transition a few times during my training, but didn't get it dialed. I pulled off my knee warmers, gloves, helmet and cycling shoes, swapping out for hand-held water bottle, visor and running shoes. As usual, I left my area nice and neat - ready for the return exchange. The race was still very close - two women came into transition as I was changing. Over the little foot bridge to the Aberdeen Loop. My legs seemed to respond well to the change in sports, but I was yet to hit the climbs. That first road climb up to the start of the singletrack was a shock. Ouch. How had my hard brick runs not prepared me for this? Onto the singletrack and it was even worse. Running was a challenge - my calves were aching and tight, with any increase in grade making it even harder. There were more then a few moments of panic - had I worn the wrong socks, gone out too hard on the bike? But the racers around me were also walking some of the climbs. I tried to turn off the criticism and doubt and focus on forward momentum. If not running, then power hiking like I've been working on for the ultras. I could see Sarah behind me, but she didn't seem to be making up ground. And then, on one of the long gradual climbs it was like a switch flipped. The achiness in my calves subsided and I was able to run. I took advantage of the downhill to the aid station (Thanks Jefe!) to open it up and get my legs back under me. With a quick refill of my handheld, I headed out on the section of double track to the east half of the loop. Even with the small numbers in the race, I was never alone, with other people always around. A few glances over my shoulder revealed that the gap to Sarah had grown. I just needed to keep the pressure on. Mixing running and power hiking on the next climb, I also made sure to eat some of the food I had with me. There was another two hours of just riding to look forward to once I finished the run! The last half of the run was trending down, a nice break from climbing. The views were huge - empty expanses of sage framed by mountains and blue sky, with little dots of other athletes scattered among the scrub. If it hadn't been for the runners, there was sign of the trail I made up some time, catching some of the guys ahead of me. I was finally feeling good and feeling like a runner!
Out on the run - this was not the fun part....
Photo Dave Kozlowski
http://www.davekozlowski.com
That meant is was time to get back on the bike... Unfortunately, my neat organized pile of gear was scattered when I got back into transition, with my bike tipped off the rack and leaning against another bike. Argh... people! Took me a little longer then I wanted to return to cyclist - between the scattered gear and not practicing that transition enough, I was slow. But there was no sign of Sarah before I left transition. Then it was off for the hike-a-bike up Skull Pass. I attempted to ride some it, but my legs were feeling the effects of a 10 mile stroll. There was little riding until after the big rock obstacle. At the top, the awesome volunteers were ready to help with pitchers of water, bacon and anything else I might need. I just needed the bladder in my Osprey topped off for the last half of the ride. I'd metered water for this event, taking just enough to get to Skull Pass at the start. No sense in carrying more then I needed! Then it was back to the trail. And man. I was sluggish when I started up Outback. The rocks took a little more oomph then I had anticipated. I was still riding everything, but I'd slowed down significantly. I kept telling myself it wasn't any different then on the second lap of the Growler and to settle in and pedal harder. It only partly worked, but I started feeling more like a rider as I climbed up Nine-O.

The time was ticking by and I was starting to question if I would break 5:00. I actually didn't know how long it would take for the rest of the lap. Up and around Back In and through the 4-way onto Bambies. That is one fun thing about going this direction - the descent down Bambies is really awesome. I opened up the suspension and just let the bike fly. Unfortunately, that fun was followed by the Powerline Rd climb. There was no way I was riding it. I was off the bike and pushing after the first switch back and my legs weren't happy about that at all. As I hit the 4-way for the second time, I had about 30 minutes to ride what I anticipated would take 40. My five hour goal was most likely gone - but that didn't mean I could slow down. I'd lost Sarah on the run, but now I didn't know where she was and how much I'd gained during the run. And besides, I still had to goal of riding everything that I was so close to meeting. That goal took a hit on Skyline, when I had to unclip and hop off in the one rock obstacle. I tagged a pedal on the entrance and lost the line I'd hit during my pre-ride. Drat.

Oh yeah - having fun in Hartman's
Photo Dave Kozlowski
http://www.davekozlowski.com
But once I was on the Skyline descent, I had just a few more little climbs left. To the summit of Joshos I headed, turning over a steady cadence. Another benefit of this direction - the descent into basin of Joshos is another fun ride. But as with every descent, this one ends with a brutal steep climb. One that I needed to ride. Grinding it out, over the rocks, taking the wide line on the slab, I made my way towards the end of Joshos. Ugh. Tired. Soon enough, it was time for Rattlesnake. I'd used Rattlesnake as my pre-ride the day before, so I knew the lines. I wasn't as fast as I wanted, but I was smooth and comfortable - riding smartly, shifting appropriately unlike prior years. And I was making  up time on the two guys I'd been trailing since the run. After a short little road section, Becks. I've ridden Becks so many times - between pre-riding for the Growler, the Growler and all the laps during 24 Hours in the Sage - that it's almost a relief to finally reach it. That and once I'm on Becks, it doesn't matter what race I'm in - it's almost over. I made my final pass on the slickrock at the top of the Notch - another trail I've ridden a bazillion times, so I was able to make it look easy this time. I've had some spectacular crashed coming off the Notch during 24 Hours in the Sage, but this time it was smooth. Coming down the Notch is one of the measures of how I've grown as a rider. In 2008, at my first 24 hour race, it was terrifying to me. This race, I was using the berms and launching off the rocks to gain free speed.

Look out below!
Photo Dave Kozlowski
http://www.davekozlowski.com
At the finish, I rolled through in 5:12:29. A little off my goal and well behind Sari who finished in 4:45:57. I'd almost met my goal of riding everything but Skull Pass and Powerline with a dab and a bobble. It was super fun race - a great experience and different challenge then I've been doing. But with the ultra training and the mountain biking, it was the perfect race. I really like all aspects - between the base area start (although with many more people it would have to move onto the road and head up Kill Hill)  to the self supported part of carrying all the gear needed for the run. I hope Gunnison Trails keeps the Meowler and Growler on separate weekends next year - I'm already plotting how to improve that little run!

Women's Podium
Sarah Stubbe 3rd, 5:20:54;  Me 2nd, 5:12:26; Sari Anderson 1st, 4:45:57


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