Race Report: 2017 Half Growler

All smiles on Collarbone Alley (Photo by Dave Kozlowski)

It was just one of those days…

2017 marked my third time racing the Half Growler in Gunnison, CO.  Great but challenging course and great little town just keeps bringing me back for more… even after all the mud of 2015!  This year I was hoping to break the 4 hour marked since I came within 4 minutes of that last year.  Easier said than done! Odd years marked a clockwise course, which is supposedly “easier.”  They changed up the course a bit, taking out the long powerline road descent to pavement, and added in a lot more single track near the end.

Friday I did a short 10 mile ride to wake my legs up, and they just didn’t want to wake up.  I didn’t get too concerned, as I’ve had pre-ride days of feeling like crap and then having good races.  I was able to sleep fairly well and woke up about 7-ish to get ready.  Like the two prior years, I struggled with figuring out what to wear, settling on a stretchy long sleeve base layer under my jersey, and big wool socks.

Somewhere in that with an orange helmet! (Photo by Matt Burt)

The neutral start managed to have a crash on the pavement that I avoided.  The “neutral my ass” start was a lot faster and everyone strung out really quickly.  That, or I was just a lot slower.  Kill Hill went ok, and then started a long, double track grind of a few miles or so to the single track.  I think that’s why I don’t like the clockwise direction… going counterclockwise we descended rather quickly after Kill Hill, which I think gave some recovery.  On the doubletrack I watched myself go backwards through the field, and kinda settled in mentally of just surviving.

Suffering is better when the scenery is like this! (Photo by Dave Kozlowski)

It was great to enjoy this direction without all the mud, hail, and rain of 2015!  It was going by fast, especially when I realized it was time to climb to the highest point of the race and then descend to the biggest aid station at Skull Pass.  I felt like I was riding pretty well technically, riding some stuff that more familiar with, but still walking some stuff that I felt like wasn’t worth the risk.  I would even go off some drop on Skull Pass and feel my saddle hit my stomach, which is always an eery feeling (oh yeah, what dropper post?  That damn thing I keep forgetting to use…). I had forgotten to lube my chain before the race, so I was being treated by the Song of My Chain’s People, which was getting rather irritating.

At the aid station I stopped to fill my water bottle and eat half a banana.  Filling my bottle took way longer than expected, but I was on my way… until I saw a mechanic set up, who threw my bike up on his stand and slathered it in gooey thick glorious chain lube.  “Thanks, now I’ll be able to hear my thoughts,” I told him, to which he replied, “Are you sure that’s a good thing?”

He was probably onto something.

The descent down and out of Enchanted Forest went well, and I found course traffic to be considerably thinned, but I continued to go backwards as people caught and passed me.  I knew my goal time of 3:59 was busted, and just settled in to survive.  My bike handling was getting messy, and at times I even struggled to get on and off my bike.  My legs felt so incredibly dead, but then again, maybe I was just thinking they were dead.  On and on I pedaled.  At first it seemed like the weather would unleash it’s wrath, but luckily Michelle protected us all by putting on her rain jacket, and the sky cleared up!  The wind did kick up, and it could get a bit much on some of the high ridges.  Came across a Coke aid station, and the lady told me 4 miles, and I made her swear that she wasn’t lying and we all had a good chuckle.  With the new single track out of the way, I knew it was one long grind up a hill, descent down, and then all the Ridge trail nonsense and then the finish would be near.

Seriously, the scenery! (Photo by Matt Burt)

Ridge actually went a little quicker than 2015, but I walked a lot.  I’m weird with exposure and cliffs, and with my noodle arms it was better.  I was so happy to hit Tail Pipe, as I knew the finish was so soon!  I followed a guy up Tail Pipe with another girl behind me.  As we hit the small bit of road that leads to Collarbone Alley I sized them up, and decided that I had been riding for 35 miles, and dammit, nothing was going to damper my fun on what has become a favorite short trail of mine!  So I downshifted and passed them before, hit the dropper, and told the guys directing me onto the trail “This is my favorite part, I’m not missing it!” to which they cheered.

4 hours and 22 minutes.

Done to my relief.

Then I heard the announcer say I placed 4th in pro women and I started crying.  Because it ain’t an endurance race without some sort of crying!

(Turns out Karen was mis-classed into age group, so I would officially be placed 5th when they moved her into pro.  DFL, just like last year, by over an hour.  But hey, I beat the girl who registered but was a DNS!)

I won’t lie, I’m disappointed I didn’t meet my time goal and I don’t really have an excuse.  My body just didn’t show up to this race.  But I did finish my third Half Growler, which isn’t too shabby!  Initially I said “Oh hell no, it’s time to find another Memorial Weekend activity,” but by the next day I was thinking it’s time to plan for next year, which very well might be the direction that suits me a bit better!  (Rumor has it they might stop reversing the course direction every year, though…)  I do notice small things that help, like more confidence descending and I feel like I did well holding my descending form throughout the whole race.

It’s great, because every since the race my legs and body have been on fire and I’ve been riding strong.  Thanks, body.  Love you right back…

Nutrition plan:

Breakfast – Egg White McMuffin, hash brown, medium Hi-C Orange

During Race – 2 liter Camelback with 2 scoops of Tailwind Green Tea Caffeinated Endurance Fuel and 5 scoops of Tailwind Lemon Endurance Fuel, half banana, 6 ounce can of Coke, 30-ish ounces of plain water

I drank 1.5 liters out of my Camelback.  Which beats last year, where I drained maybe only two inches out of it.  Nutritionally, I felt well fueled and hydrated!  Mixing the two flavors and types of Tailwind I thought was great, as I got a small bit of caffeine but not the crazy amount I usually consume when I do straight caffeinated mixes (which I think contributes to late race hallucinations I’ll have of cats and gnomes… or maybe that just happens when I race in South Dakota).  Lemon and green tea mixed well together flavor wise.  I think I’ll experiment more with mixing.

So come December 1st, I think I’ll be giving it a 4th go at the Half Growler… eventually I’ll break 4 hours, right?

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