This past Memorial Day weekend, 700 racers filled the Gunnison Valley for the Gunnison Growler. The Growler has been around for 6 years now and every year becomes more and more popular. The race is held at Hartman’s Rocks, and is sure to test anyone’s ability. There are two races, the 32 mile race, which was held on Saturday, and the 64 mile race held on Sunday. Each year the tough course rotates directions from clockwise to counter-clockwise. This year happened to be the faster (clockwise) direction.
This was my first race on Team GO (Griggs Orthopedics). I felt the pressure in the days leading up to the race, but that was expected. Not only that, but my legs were not feeling 100 percent after I raced the Kokopelli Trail the previous weekend.
I woke to my alarm at 5:00am, after a decent night sleep. For breakfast I made some bacon and eggs. Stew Gross and I made our way down to Gunnison shortly after eating. I was pretty nervous. I knew I would feel better once on the trail. After getting changed and packing my food in my jersey, I was ready. We all piled in on the street in downtown Gunnison just waiting for the shotgun start, singling the neutral roll out to Hartman’s.
It was cold but I knew I would heat up fast. Bikers were rubbing tires jocking for a good position on the road. Once we reached the entrance to Hartman’s, everyone took off and it was complete chaos. The narrow road created a bottle neck. I wanted to keep to the left as there were no washboards on that part of “Kill Hill.” Later in the race Troy kept saying local knowledge is to our benefit. This was one example of that. I got up “Kill Hill” and noticed not many riders behind me. I was at the tail end of the leaders group.
I was thinking my pace was too hard, but I just kept pushing. Josho’s, Sea of sage, Skyline, and down to Bambis. After completing the difficult Skull Pass section, I made my way back up to the first feed zone. I was greeted with a platter of food, bacon, bananas and Honey Stinger gummies. The support crews were overwhelmingly helpful. Rhett was all over the place… Skull Pass-Base Area-Skull Pass…that is true dedication. I changed out my bottles grabbed some bacon and got going toward Enchanted Forest. Ochs would soon pass and eventually Troy as I rode solo through Dave Moes, Josies, and Gateway. I reached the Top Of The World/Ridge intersection when I noticed Evan pumping up his tire that was giving him some issues. I rode through the Ridge like a sloth and made my way down Collarbone.
I reached the second GO feed tent. I knew there were a bunch of GO riders ahead of me so we all must have kept the the support crew pretty busy. I was in and out quickly, knowing one of the hardest climbs lie ahead, Backbone to The Notch. This is when my legs succumbed to the pain for the first time. I got off my bike on the sandy Backbone climb and hopped back on for The Notch. There were some fun spectators at the Beck’s junction which gave me a bit of a boost. It wasn’t over yet as we then had to climb up Rattle Snake, brutal.
By this point everyone was a good distance apart, which was nice. Josho’s, Broken Shovel, Skyline, and back down to Bambi’s. The course was pretty beat up and dusty after the race on Saturday and the first lap of Sunday. The climb out of Bambi’s was tough and Evan passed me. I was determined to stay on his wheel. I again made it to Skull Pass as the heat of the day started to crank up. The climb from the bottom was painful and I started to cramp up. I reached the feed zone and had to get off my bike and get some fluids in me. The support crew, again, was super helpful and made sure I didn’t stay too long.
I felt refreshed, I downed a banana, some gummies and had two fresh bottles for the finish. Evan was still in sight which was my driving force not to let go. I reached the Josie’s climb when I saw Jefe. He was behind me as my legs started to fade fast. He caught me at the Gateway trail junction. I knew it was the final stretch but when he mentioned it I picked up my pace a little bit. The Cokes our supporters were handing out were adding up and giving me an extra boost.
I saw some other riders ahead and passed them just before The Ridge, that was such a confidence booster. The finish line was near as I suffered up The Ridge, exhausted and cramping. My legs wanted to stop as I started to climb out of Tailpipe. The cramping got worse and worse, but I was so close. I made it to the top and cruised down Collarbone with feelings of joy running through me, I had finished.
Team GO killed it. Brian Smith took 3rd (5:02:15) and only 7 seconds back from the winner Kalan Beisel. Bryan Dillon took 4th (5:07:52) and 1st in the 20-29 class. Dave Ochs crushed the single speed class and was 13th overall with a time of 5:37:27. Troy Hyatt placed 12th at 5:36:50 and Stew Gross rounded up the top 15 with a time of 5:43:07. The rest of the men placed in the top 25 with Jefe Branham in 21st (5:47:54), Evan Ross at 23rd (5:48:55), and myself at 24th (5:49:59). The women slayed the course with Janae Pritchett winning the ladies class at 6:14:05 and Jari Kirkland right behind her at 6:15:55. Sarah Stubbe was also in the mix at 6th place for the ladies at 7:12:23.
Overall, Team GO did a wonderful job on Sunday, with the help of Rhett and the whole support team. A big shout out to the whole team at Griggs Orthopedics, thanks for what you guys do. Acli-mate you guys rock thanks for the boost. Rock n’ Roll Sports and Dave Moe, thanks for having such a rad shop. Stan’s No Tubes thanks for keeping them tires rolling, by far the greatest invention ever! I’m new to this and I have a lot of more people to meet but to the rest of our sponsors, thanks for everything. This would not be at all possible with out you! Go To Guide, Pike Builders, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Rudy Project, Elk Mountain Lodge, High Mountain Concepts, The Alpineer, SRAM, Chucks Glass, and Squirt. Finally, thanks to Gunnison Trails and Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association for having trails for us to ride, with out them we would be nowhere. YOU. GUYS. ROCK! Thanks again and have a wonderful summer, until next time.