Friday, June 3, 2011

Gunnison Original Growler Race Recap

The Gunnison Growler IV race was everything I expected. It will quite possibly be some of the hardest 64 miles I'll do all season and in the end I was rewarded with 36th place overall out of 194 riders and 15th in the 30-39 age class.  I’ll take it! Race video: Race Video (there I am 57 seconds into the video!)

Luckily a few bumps in the road before race day were manageable, one involving a bistro nearly wreaking havoc on my stomach and sabotaging my race.  The other, some shifting issues that local bike shop mechanic, Sam, at Rock 'n Roll Sports diagnosed as a very worn 13t cog. Thanks Sam! I therefore replaced the cassette with a 11-32 tooth.

I had two major goals in place: one was to finish sub 6 hours 25 minutes (exactly averaging 10 mph) since it put me in the top 45 according to last year's times and the second was to laugh at least once during the race because laughing is better than crying, which was saved for the finish line.  More on that later.

Brett and my camp site, so freaking fun!

Since the competition combined a collection of many great enduro racers and a course composed of <300 foot punchy climbs, very technical rock features, and hairy descents, the course left little room for error or recovery. I don’t remember once letting up on my pace even when there were many miles on the second lap where I was riding alone and even wondered if I was on the proper trail.  As it got deeper into the second lap, I knew if I didn’t spend time convincing myself that I wasn’t going to crack, then I would.  I ultimately convinced myself that cracking was a choice and not because my body wasn’t up to the task.  Once I realized that, I could feel the finish line from nearly two hours away despite lacking significantly in the hydration department for the remainder of the race. In the last 45 minutes of the race, I felt like a pack of wolves were behind me and I pedaled for my life. To get passed in the last few miles by half a dozen riders would have been a great disappointment. It helped that a female rider I had been trading places with gave me the prompt, “45 minutes to go.” At that point I was able to throw down harder and later heard that she’s the female 24 hour national champion of 2010.  Unreal.

Once the race was over, I draped my body over the handlebars, my lungs still filling the cavities under my chest with every breath. It didn’t help that in the meantime, I was swarmed with emotion by hammering the course for nearly six and a half hours.  Brutal training rides in the nastiest weather conditions this winter came to the forefront of my mind. Suddenly, I had my very own crying session a few bike lengths from the finish line.  I’m ambivalent whether it’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life, but the thought entered my mind and is still there. Here's what I had to do to get there...Garmin stats
Done and Done!

There was plenty of self-talk throughout the race, some pep talks and battles where an inner dialogue pronounced itself more and more throughout the race. There were countless times that I had checked my breathing rhythm and wondered how long I could keep up that pace. But I did, so I expect more from myself the next time around. I’ll never know my limits if I never test them and I’m planning on taking plenty of chances at the next race in Bailey. I don’t care whether it’s thirty more miles than this race, it’s going to happen and I’m going to be ready.

For whatever reason, I feel hardwired so that on every morning one of my first natural thoughts include the notion that I must prove my abilities to myself all over again. It works in tandem with another hardwired idea that if I’m not getting stronger, I’m getting weaker, which is a great fear of mine. To satisfy the notion, here’s Wednesday’s proof...Garmin statsAfter I realized I had done something special the day of the race, I read later in the weekend that this fella named Bill Martin had won 24 Hours of Round the Clock in Spokane, Washington and finished with 300 miles in the saddle! That’s one of many motivations of why I dug so deep on the following Wednesday, two days after the race. I was very humbled upon this news and have learned to appreciate that I'm just getting started and have many miles to go.

I couldn’t demand more from life right now, only more from myself. I cannot wait to find out what’s in store for the next race, the Bailey HUNDO, but for now I’ll enjoy the fact that I’m flying over the Pacific en route to meet up with family, some I’ve never met, and to watch my brother, Chris, play professional basketball for the Philippines national team.  Try to tell me that’s not a motivation for my goals and dreams.

What I woke up to for breakfast on race day.  Worked like a charm.

We all earned a Growler for finishing the race. I bet it would hold all of the beer I've drank in the last 9 months!

Holy hell! Tapering for races makes me feel like a caged animal!

See you on the trails,