Sunday, March 27, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Grit 50 Mile Epic (True Grit)

Course map and elevation profile

I took part in the inaugural True Grit race in St. George, Utah over the weekend and it did indeed dish out plenty of grit (see photos below). It was an awesome and technically challenging course (see video below) and I will be there again next year if there is a repeat for this event.  I only say *if* because of the way this one went down.  In short only around 12 participants actually crossed the finish line while the rest of us were told, in my case a few miles before the finish, the race was cut short due to bad weather and deteriorating trail conditions.

A quote from Dave Harris sums it up:

"I was on the sidelines as a volunteer for this one and saw it all evolve. At about 9:15 the radar I saw told the story of what was coming. Intel was fast from BLM that Bear Claw was a no-go, beyond that it was safety concerns AFAIK that drove decision making. Hindsight is always 20-20, but I can say that the cove wash descent back to the ranch had nightmare all over it. Once it had a lot of riders through it would have deteriorated into a 90 lb bike drag contest. It's a bitter pill to have ridden 90% no doubt, but that last 10% would have become an epic evac operation."

I had a great race despite the conditions. This was a long 50-miler in my opinion due to the rough terrain of which there was plenty.  I had a blast on the technical sections particularly in the Zen Loop which served up some Moab-like slick rock and plenty of big drops.  It definitely helps to know the Zen trail.  This was my first time seeing it so I made plenty of mistakes. If I had any doubts about 29" wheels in a race situation before this they are gone.  I felt like an agile monster truck hammering over the rough terrain. In short the new ride passed the first test with flying colors.  

If I had to pick a low point in the race, it had to be the Barrel Rolls section.  Under normal conditions this would be a fun section of singletrack.  This was the last section of the race before the drop back into town and the finish line.  By this time, I had been riding around 4 hours, 3 of which in some steady cold rain and at least 1.5 hours pretty much by myself in no man's land.  I had fallen (guessing 30-40 min) off the lead pack of riders, as expected, and from what I could tell, in the top 5 in the 35+ class (again, without having any result it is hard to know exactly although my Garmin info shows me finishing the 2nd lap at around 4:25:41 ).  I had just finished miles of muddy rolling jeep road on the Stucki Springs trail and started in on 2 laps of semi-technical singletrack.  My main problem here wasn't gogo power, but rather a complete loss of dexterity in my hands.  I was unable to feel my brakes or shifters and found it difficult to do either effectively.  Although I couldn't feel it, every time I had to brake with my right hand I could hear my thumb shifting my rear derailleur down a few gears.  I had to laugh a few times as there was pretty much nothing I could do about it.  What I didn't realize at the time is that I was starting into early stages of Hypothermia and I wasn't the only one that fell victim to the cold it turns out.  

After the 2nd lap on Barrel Rolls I was amped again and ready to hit it hard down Cove Wash to the finish.  Like many others, I was told at the last aide station that they were not allowing riders to continue on the course and we would have to either take a shuttle back or ride down on the road.  I made a quick swipe of every kind of Honey Stinger bar I could see, stuffed a few of them into my jersey, the rest in my mouth, and headed back down the road to the park.  About 5 min into what turned out to be a 20-min ride, I started to shake uncontrollably.  I couldn't hold my bars straight so I sat up and rode with my arms folded up trying to keep myself warm.  I was soaked from head to toe and was pretty much out of it when I pulled up to the team trailer.  I put my bike up on the stand and sat down apparently not responding well.  Brian Sells and other teammates helped me take off my wet stuff and then threw me into the truck with the heater running (thanks Brian).  He had some good cookies in there and I ate about 10 of them.

Alex Grant's Video.

Some photos (most of which are from Dave Harris).

Race lineup with teammate Chris Baddick

Race Start I'm there in the middle #123 (Photo via Dave Byers )

Bryan and Chris leading off the front.  I was tucked away behind Chris.  Jonathan Davis (left of Chris) rode a good race to capture 4th place.

pretty much sums up what it looked like out there.

Somewhere on the Barrel Rolls section.

Snow off and on out and back.

Fancy bikes get the team trailer for the ride home. Not sure how Davis' bike made it in there over mine...

My bike, post-race out in the cold.

Brian Sells' Niner post-race

Not a lick of chain lube left.

Brake pads long gone.

Visible wear on a 2-month-old SRAM X0.
Only 3 of us had the joy of cleaning out the trailer.


Lynda Wallenfels said...

Our poor bikes. Grit water and carbon are an abrasive mix.

Fun riding with you a little during the race. You looked strong out there.


Jeff Higham said...

Lynda, Yea I think I lost a few grams of carbon from my frame. It was a blast riding Zen with you. I was stuck in a mess of riders slowly picking their way through the trail then you came hammering through! I decided to just stick your wheel and ride your line the best I could on through. It was the perfect solution to that mess. You saved me some serious time in there!

Roger Stones said...

You're an animal Jeff! Keep up the strong riding - you'll be top of the podium before you know it! Now that your bike is used, I'll buy it off you.

Grizzly Adam said...

Despite the muck and the mess, it was a fun out there. Good to see you again.