They say the third time is a charm, and indeed CO2UT happened on the third race date it was scheduled for. In full disclosure, I registered for the race because it had a dinosaur theme, and I’m a six year old at heart and dinosaurs are one of the best things ever – AND – it was an excuse to get back to the desert after three too many years away. I decided to bite the bullet and register for the “Triceratops” course, which was 100 miles. When I registered for this in the spring of 2020 I had yet to even race a 60 mile gravel race, let alone 100, but the triceratops is Wyoming’s state dinosaur so it only seemed logical.
The problem with first year races is I can’t look at finishing times, so I had a year to fret about what racing 100 miles in the desert would seem like (or just racing 100 miles in general). Luckily Morgan, the race director, gave some helpful information that he expected the average pace for the 100’s to be 12mph, so I could plan nutrition. But other than that I was kind of in the dark, which was tough. I did 103 miles with a few friends earlier in the spring on the road bike and was feeling feisty and powerful til the end, but the ride also involved pie, green chili fries, soup, and tacos – none of which were available at CO2UT.
16 gels in my bag, 1.5L of water in the Camelback, and bike all lubed and ready… and it was race morning on May 22nd. I awoke in the strangest mindset. I mean, it was BIZARRE. So normally my method of speaking about racing is I have to race XXX miles this weekend, ugh. Which is silly, I don’t HAVE to do anything bicycle related – racing bikes is not my job, and honestly it is quite the first world privilege to be able to just take off of work and go tootle around the desert for a few hours for no other reason than I paid money to. So, strangely enough, I awoke to the though of YAY, I get to ride my bike for 100 miles today!! Okay Heidi, what did you do with Heidi?
My friend and training buddy, Tom, offered to drive me down to the race start since he was injured and unable to race. While waiting for my start time, my friend and teammate, Sarah, rode by, who was already suppose to be racing. She had some mechanicals, so luckily they said she could start with the 100 mile racers (she was in the 75 mile race… yes, CO2UT starts the 75’s before the 100’s). We lined up and soon we were off on 7 miles of neutral pavement. Racing would start when we hit the gravel on 18 Road (and end there, too… no racing on pavement aside from one half mile stretch or so at miles 20 and 70). It was nice to have Sarah in the pack as I trust her wheel and I could nervously chat away race nerves.
Sarah and I did our work to get into the front-ish group, avoiding the chaos of ejecting water bottles as we hit the rough gravel on 18 Road. Sarah dropped off my pace after a few miles, and I found myself strangely feeling good and strangely still in my “omg, can you believe I GET to do this today?!” mindset. I didn’t have much strategy to this race except just survive and to eat an SIS gel every 30 minutes after the 1 hour mark. So I decided to go and just see what I could do as I knew was at least ten 10 among the women at that point.
So pedal pedal pedal I did. I blew through the first aid at mile 20-ish, and swore through a few miles of rutted cow pasture (which I did love how a racer I passed said “No, these are dinosaur tracks!” which was just an awesome statement to make). I had been steadily catching and passing 75 mile racers, which gave some motivation, but at the same time made it tough as number plates didn’t exactly dictate distance category and now I was in full on racer mode wanting to do the absolutely best that I could.
Aid 2 came and went and I could tell I was good on water (1.5L Camelback plus 1 bottle of 200 calories of Tailwind and 1 bottle of SIS electrolyte tabs is what I ran). The 100 milers split from the 75 milers at this point, and course traffic whittled down as we headed towards the Utah border. I decided this was a good place to eat an Uncrustable to boost the caloric intake, and I got the pleasure of taking a few miles to finally get the thing swallowed while chasing down riders in front of me. Exactly on the Utah-Colorado border I had to stop for a nature break and also to reapply some chamois butter. I was happy the only two racers that passed during this were men, so I wasn’t losing positions.
Flying down the Utah border was fun, although there was a stiff headwind. We rejoined with the 125 milers, so once again course traffic got all mangled up. I ended up quite alone on the section working back to Aid 3 (which is Aid 2 also – my course was a lollipop). I was still feeling good, luckily. At Aid 3 I decided to continue on, and latched onto a few racers that I’d go back and forth with for the next ten miles or so.
Then about at mile 65 or so I hit the tough times. The race was flying by, but eventually things get tough regardless how fast or long the race is. Naturally this was around the same time as the second go ’round with the cow pasture, which rattled my forearm muscles so much it was painful (I was very envious of the guy I had been riding with who had a MTB fork… he dropped me on this section, duh). Aid 4 (same as Aid 1) came and I knew I was good on fluids so I pushed on up the climb I started regretting the minute I flew down in a few hours prior. I rode in a group of a guy and a girl in the 100, which was good company as he played music and we discussed random things as we huffed and puffed up the climb in the full sun.
Then it was time for a very high speed section of double track, and time for me to get a little scared of descending on a gravel bike (I don’t trust desert sand and dust!). My friend Emil, who was in the 125 mile race, flew by me in a pack with an exclamation of “That’s my friend, Heidi!” and that perked me up to watch his double track descending wizardry. By then I had dropped my climbing pals, and since I knew that girl was in my race I got rejuvenated to finish out strongly.
Up and down, up and down some more… soon the trailheads of 18 Road were in sight and I knew exactly what was left – a few miles of high speed descending to the finish line. Of course, there had to be like 30mph winds thrown in, but I’m a Wyoming gal after all and if there’s one thing I can do, it is grit through a stiff headwind. I chased down a gal who I caught on the final climb, and we asked each other what distances we were in and the answer was both 100. We had a few seconds of awkward pause and then hammer time. The race is a race is a race to me, and I wasn’t going to chill at this moment. So there went that Heidi with a wattage cottage at mile 89!
91 miles later… 5 hours 32 minutes – bam! All done! Wait, wasn’t it a 100 mile race? Well of course, there was 7 miles of neutral spinning back to the second finish line in the park in Fruita that didn’t count. And… it… was… the… longest… 7… miles… of… my… life… No joke. Torturous. By then, everything was hurting and all the adrenaline was gone. Oh, and my Garmin decided to just stop navigating so when I got to the park, I was on the wrong side of the finish line so had to go around the block.
Officially 99 miles later, announcer Larry welcomed me across the finish line and I was handed my dinosaur finisher medal! Woohoo!! 6 hours 26 minutes total according to my Garmin (which included a few minutes of standing around at the start). Next order of business was yanking off the carbon soled shoes and apologizing to my feet. And taking a selfie. Sarah and Tom wandered over from Hot Tomato with a cup of ice water for me as I tried to figure out where results were posted.
4th place overall woman.
Top 40-ish overall of everyone- men and women.
Shoot, gotta stay for the podium now! Which I failed to clean off my dirt unibrow for, so I was looking like a delicious hot mess. I thought I got 2nd in 30-39, but since the other girl was top 3 overall, I was awarded the win among the 30-39 age group (it might’ve been my first every race podium where I didn’t realize I won, and tried to argue that I didn’t).
So… hmm… this was all very very very unexpected. I was just hoping to have a good day, survive, keep the bike in one piece, and my stomach fed. I didn’t think I’d be racing the course. I also didn’t think I’d have a bizarrely positive mindset about the whole thing. Honestly, I never even really got mentally low during the race, more of just a “if I have to ride over a another freaking cow hoof print I’m going to kill them all for steak” moment. I will say, CO2UT is a fast course, and I do worry what will happen when I end up in a 100 mile gravel race that is more in that 7-8 hour category. Six hours is nothing on a bike for me really… 7 or 8 hours pushes it into more unknown territory. But it is a promising start to my gravel events in 2021! And I think I’ll definitely be back to give the “Utahraptor” (125 miles) course a go! (Seriously, where did Heidi go?! This isn’t Heidi talking… 125 miles?!)
Race in numbers and random facts…
- Pactimo summit raptor bibs keep the bum bum happy!
- SIS gels (mix of regular and electrolyte formulas) every 30 minutes starting at the 1 hour mark. I replaced the gel at 2.5 hours with an Uncrustable
- 1.5L of water in the Camelback (not completely drained, maybe 0.25L left), and drank 12 ounce of Tailwind, 12 ounce of SIS electrolyte tab solution stuff
- 1 little packet of Chamois Buttr on the Utah line
- 1 OrNot handlebar bag holding all the snacks
- 15.7mph average speed
1 thought on “Race Report: 2021 Desert Gravel CO2UT”