Saturday, March 17, 2012

Race Report: 2012 True Grit - 100

Each stripe in the upper left represents one lap around Barrel Rolls.  Getting all 4 as quickly as possible became a constant obsession later on in the race.  I was only free to exit the endless trail of slick rock, dirt, and sand once I had obtained all 4 stripes.
I took on the True Grit again this year.  Last year was kind of a mess with the rain, cold weather, and mud which forced an early end to 95% of the participants so I was hoping for a little redemption this year.  The weather reports all showed what looked like a repeat of bad weather with a 50% chance of rain and 35mph wind gusts - all of this turned out to be overstated and the riding conditions were dry and almost as close to perfect as one could expect.  Also unlike last year, the promoters created a double-evil 100-mile course that consisted of a second lap on the 50-mile course (shown below).  To make things more interesting I opted to race the 100-miles on a single-speed.  I say opted because I *did* have a choice, sort of.  I could race single-speed or not race at all, as the only mountain bike I have right now is 1x1.  I didn't mind too much though.  I've been wanting to race an endurance event on a single-speed and this looked as good as any to start with.  The only downside to that choice was the 100-mile race didn't have a single-speed category so I would have to battle it out with the geared racers in the open category.  Having pedaled most of the course on my single-speed a few weeks earlier for Camp Lynda, I felt pretty comfortable about taking the plunge and the gear ratio I ended up racing (32x19, 29" wheels).

We started racing 2 hours before the well attended 50-mile event, our event having a total of 14 racers toe the line (13 dudes and Amanda Carey).  We started in the dark with Amanda the only one sensible enough to bring a light but she and the other top contenders quickly pulled away shortly after hitting the pavement.  I hit the first dirt road in the dark with a few other riders, two of which were also on SS.  Once the eyes adjusted there was enough light to see contour of the road and the trail. By the time the first big climb was over and we were pointed downhill there was enough light to see and race at maximum speed.  Probably my best last-min choice of the day was to swap out tinted lenses for clear lenses on my Oakley Jawbones.

Lap 1 felt great on the bike.  I found myself again where I usually end up, not quite fast enough to hang with the leaders, and not quite slow enough to ride with the chasers, but riding my pace and feeling good.  I was sitting in 6th place, had my tunes, my CarboRocket, snappy legs, a 110mm Cannondale Lefty eating up the bumps and delivering a great ride on some sweet single-track through Zen.  As I hit the bottom of Zen on my first lap I had the first of what turned out to be 7-10 brief but frustrating mechanicals.  My bottom-bracket had loosened just enough that I could throw the chain if I hit a section of trail just right, but it was tight enough to keep the chain on during any kind of climbing.  I debated over the next 20-30 min, and numerous stops to reset my chain, whether I should just take the time to pull out the tools and tighten it back up. I finally pulled over and took a 5-min hit fixing that issue on the back side headed toward Stucki.  Fortunately this was good enough to keep the chain on for the duration of the race and it never plagued me again.  The second (and last) setback of the race also occurred about 10 min later on Stucki.  While riding along on the main course there was a distinct detour with tape and a sign pointing riders to a sharp right.  It seemed odd to me but it looked legit with a lot of tire tracks so I took it.  After a few more min of riding the trail markings dried up and I soon ran into Jonathan Davis leading a group of three back up the trail.  After a quick discussion we concluded this was a mistake and headed back toward the main trail and Barrel Rolls.  On the way back up the trail we picked up Amanda and one other rider and rode as a group until we splintered back into our respective pace on the main course.  In total I spend 20-min off course, Jon Davis spent close to 40-min and I suspect Amanda was 10-15min off. I finished my laps on the Barrel Rolls and started lap 2 feeling very good.  The legs felt good which boosted confidence to hit the wash and do it all over again.

Lap 2 was uneventful, I rode at a good pace, there was a lot of wind on Zen on the climbs and I felt like a Jeep in low-range 4wd.  I walked the technical sections (up and down) and generally rode as fast as I could playing it safe.  It is important to have respect for these trails especially when you are riding tired.  They are technical, demanding, and never let up.  After 4-5+ hours battling them, one wrong move could have you eating rock, dirt, and cacti, and walking defeated off the course.  I lost my music on mile 65.  While this wouldn't seem like a big deal, it was like loosing a riding partner that had been there coaxing me on for the first 6 hours.  The tunes were replaced by the desolate sounds of the desert, the wind, my chain rolling over the rings, and my breathing.  Oh, and the most annoying song I had listened to all day, despite my efforts to purge my iPod of such, was repeating over and over in my head.  But I pressed on, ever stalwart, and ended up finishing in 5th place with a time of 9:21:02.

LeBoeuf: Never doubt the Texas Ranger.
[Cogburn rides off and LeBoeuf shouts after]
LeBoeuf: Ever stalwart!

Course map and elevation profile taken from my Garmin. The horizontal line across the middle is a 20min detour taken due to a bad course marking. 6 other riders made the same wrong turn costing valuable minutes for everyone and DNF for one.

Lap1 on Zen - Crawling Spider Photography

Lap 2 cranking up one of many climbs - Crawling Spider Photography

Tired race bikes ready to sleep on the long drive back to Highland, Draper, and Heber.

Caption by Adam: "Jeff finished the Grit 100. And now he is writhing in pain in the car."


Daniel Zvirzdin said...

The loose chain issue always sucks. You killed it dude, nice first endurance race on the SS.

Nate said...

Beast! No way would I ever attempt a 2nd lap of that mother. I BARELY made it for one. Helluva job man! Great to finally put a face with your name.

Jeff Higham said...

Wish you could have been there Dan. I could have used guide on the 1st lap and a fast wheel to follow on that 2nd lap!

Great to see you there Nate, let's hook up for a ride in the coming months.