We just returned from the Gunnison Growler MTB Race. Still have a buzz going from the endorphines. Had a great time racing with my team mates John Klish, and Nick Sontag.
We signed up for this race back in December. We knew when we signed up that it was going to test every system, and that we needed to arrive with our “A” game. You will find that I refer to “We” quite a bit. The we is our TEAM.
The Gunnison Growler is held in the rarifed air of Gunnison, Colorado. 64 Miles and 8000 feet of climbing through Hartman’s Rocks will test anyone’s fitness.
The Shotgun went off at 7:00 am to signal our start. The peloton of 360 rolled out of town and towards our destiny or Hartman’s Rocks. The roll out was pretty calm. Everyone soft pedaled for about 3 miles and chatted it up with each other. You actually had to speak up pretty loud, as the sound of knobbies on asphalt was pretty deafening. Our “Chill Ride” ended when we hit the dirt road entrance to Hartman’s Rocks.
Kill Hill is a dirt road with a 30% grade for 1/4 mile. 360 riders hitting a 30% grade does a nice job of blowing up the peloton. I was at the back of the lead group, and looked up just in time to see my team mate John Klish take the King of the Mountain Prime for Kill Hill.
We climbed for another 3 miles on a steady grade dirt road called “Main Street”. Just enough grade to keep whittling away the peloton into smaller groupettos. The group I was in was all made up of people that had raced each other before. We knew each other by name, and this was really the first race this year we got to see how hard each of us had been training. Sure enough, all my friends were training hard, and climbing with them hurt as deep as it always does.
Our first stretch of single track is called Josho’s. My guess is this race is about 80% single track. It is a great mix of tech moves, buttery smooth single track, and a few jagged rocks on a trail called “The Ridge” that we’ll talk about later. The course is technical enough that you are always working. You really don’t want to take your eyes off the course as the consequences are always high. I think in 6 hours of racing, I looked at my Garmin twice.
One of my favorite trails during the race is called “Sea of Sage”. We ran it downhill for a stretch of about a mile. It is some of the smoothest single track you will ever ride. 2 minutes of never touch your brakes, flowy, smooth single track. It makes all the climbing worth it.
Climbing, did I mention climbing? 8000′ to be precise. I don’t think there is a single climb over 300′ of vertical however, just A LOT of small climbs. During the roll-out, I over heard someone describe it as death by 1000 cuts. Cliche, but accurate.
We descended down Powerline to our first of at least 6 feed stations. Every station was full of volunteers ready to hand out bacon, pretzels, Dots, and you could wash it down with water or your favorite energy drink. If you went thirsty or hungry during this race, it was by your choice.
Nine-O, Skull Pass, Skull Bypass, Enchanted Forest, were just a few of the trails that we raced on. During each of the two laps, we finished the lap on “Ridge Trail”. Imagine an asteroid, full of jagged rocks, sharp plants, and deep gulleys full of sand and cactus. That asteroid crashed into Hartman’s Rocks and then someone had the brilliant idea to build a trail through it. It was a brutal attack on your body to finish the race loop.
We ended lap one at the pit area. The pit crew brought their “A” game. Picked up 2 bottles, 2 gel flasks, and a freshly lubed chain in the span of about 7 seconds. Nice!
Lap two was pretty close to lap one in trail selection. The big difference was that my legs had 3 hours of racing in them already. The pain cave got a little bit deeper during this race, and it was a good visit.
6 hours 15 minutes, 64 miles, 8000 ft of climbing, 3000 calories. All in all it was an awesome day on the bike.
Come join us for the next race in Vail!
Half Growler (32 miles)
John Klish: 1st Place
Nick Sontag: 37th
Full Growler (64 miles)
Mike Driver: 12th