Well here’s a start line, let alone a finish line, I wasn’t really sure I’d make!
I got back on my bike post-op day 17 from my big surgery, and took things slow and easy and realized how quickly I lost fitness, but also core strength. I had the refund deadline on my calendar, and debated back and forth if starting my fourth Gunnison Half Growler would be a good idea. Finally I decided the best idea would be to give it a try… 5 weeks after surgery. Yeah, don’t tell my surgeon…
This year I was unsure if I could get Friday off from work to make it to the Saturday rendition of the Half Growler, so I signed up for Sunday’s “late bus” offering, which I heard is actually a lot chiller and more fun.
Sunday’s version is indeed a lot more chill! The neutral roll out, which I’m use to burning a match or two to stay at the 20+mph pace in the peloton, was in fact a lot more neutral, and served as a good warm up. Kill Hill was painful as ever, and I started in on successfully going backwards through the field all day. But racing wasn’t my goal, my goal was to finish, however long that took!
This being my third time racing the course in this direction, more and more of the rock features are rideable to me since I’ve had a chance to see their line. Definitely nice, as my technical skills remind intact… however, sometimes the lack of strength and fitness meant I had issues with uphill technical features. I only had one “crash” and it was on an uphill rock face where I just ran out of steam and stalled out, and luckily there was a tree there to catch my fall. Which left me awkwardly stuck on my bike, leaning onto a tree at a 45 degree angle. Thankfully there were two other girls nearby to assist me. Whoops! I’ve never been ashamed of walking, so walking I did when I thought I had to, or if a feature was beyond my abilities at the moment! Including some non-technical climbs that I simply didn’t have the lungs for this year. But overall I was feeling good, apart from my usual 15 minutes in “I wanna quit” thoughts, which soon faded.
About the time of Skull Pass I started traded spots with a 16 year old racer, which was actually nice for the distraction. She had amazing descending skills, and I’d get her on the climbs. Back and forth we went! This year I remembered my dropper post on Skull Pass, and rode what seemed to be a lot more of it this year.
The course was dry, sandy, loose, and dusty this year, which made me think my tires were constantly flat, and made me miss the year of mud. Or just a good rain the night before to pack things down. With a 7am start I wore arm warmers and a thin base layer. Arm warmers I yanked off within the first hour, and by mile 24 I decided to stop and take off my base layer and dump another Tailwind stick in my refilled camelback. Imagine that, stopping to wardrobe change during a race! Who was I?! (Honestly, quite weird to do this race NOT wearing a thermal jersey, like previous years)
Overall, I was really positive mentally during this race. I just felt so lucky to be even riding my bike that I didn’t care that I was going a lot slower than my previous three times. Even on Ridge (a trail I will always hate), where I decided to walk a hefty amount, I knew the finish was coming and I just had to keep moving forward. And that I did, crossing the finish line at 4 hours 57 minutes! Woo hoo! I had given myself a goal of 6 hours, so needless to say I smashed that goal… and was only 23 minutes slower than my next slowest time. 23 minutes I don’t think is a huge amount honestly with all my extra circumstances coming into play this year!
Oh, and the pro men in the Full Growler race never lapped me! Victory! I think I had 21 minutes on Dave Wiens, ha! Though I was thinking several times during my race, “Where in the world is Kalan Beisel?”
Nutritionally, things worked great. I had worried about the longer time on course impacting my nutrition, but was able to pace things well. I started with a 2 liter camelback with 7 scoops (700 calories) of Tailwind Nutrition green tea and lemon flavors mixed in. At the halfway point at the Skull Pass aid station I had them top off the water, and later added another 2 scoops (200 calories) of naked Tailwind. I also ate half a pickle slice and one Clif banana pouch. I only drank about half of a 16oz bottle of plain water. Sadly no aid stations had coke this year 😦
I was pleased to discover after the race that I felt no worse than I had in 2015-2017, and happily rode back to the start line to discover there’s no finisher prizes for this year, but still free beer.
There is just something about this race that keeps bringing me back to Gunnison year after year, so of course on December 1st I’ll be registering for my fifth Half Growler! Now that I have experienced it both on Saturday and Sunday, I will be torn on which day to register for. I liked the more chill neutral roll out for sure. We shall see! Just happy to be back on my bike, and “racing” and rebuilding.