Wednesday, March 20, 2013

True Grit 100!

The National Ultra Endurance Series added a couple of new race venues this year and I was lucky enough to try one of them this past weekend in St. George, Utah. Since the True Grit 100 is new to the series, I wasn't too sure what to expect from the course or from many of the other singlespeed riders registered. Additionally, I was not too sure if my body was ready for such a difficult race this early in the season.

As the race date approached, I wondered if I made a mistake by deciding to do this race. I had a list of 101 things to do on my plate (including the start of a new position at work and the purchase of a new home) and felt like I was very ill prepared. I decided to think of the race more as a good training opportunity than the meaningful race if was. So, I jumped on a plane with my new Specialized Carve with a rigid carbon fork and began my True Grit adventure weekend.

Since I've raced pretty much every NUE Race with a full rigid SS bike, I figured this choice would be fine in Utah also. However, after doing some pre riding of the course, I decided that using a suspension fork would be a much better choice. Fortunately, my CF Teammate, Cary Smith, was able to hook me up with a spare Brain equipped Rock Shox he had. Cary also provide me with some much needed information about the course and how to best prepare for the checkpoints. Without the use of his fork and knowledge, I'm sure this race would have been much more difficult. Thanks, Cary!

The race started right at the crack of dawn. The promoter suggested using a light, but I decided against it. I really didn't want to be bothered with carrying a light for 15 minutes of riding during a 7 plus hour race. I will admit that it was a little tough to see initially, but I never felt unsafe. As a matter of fact, I was able to ride at the front of the pack with the fastest riders at the start just fine without a light. This lead group only contained about ten riders and seemed to be missing many of the folks I expected to be there, including no other single speed riders. I learned after the race that many riders had missed the start because they assumed the race would begin when there was more sunlight.
A shot from part of the Zen Trail.

It wasn't long though before the one SS rider I knew would challenge me came into view. When AJ Linnell caught me we rode together and chatted for a short while before he was able to slip away from me on the technical Zen Trails. During my pre ride of the Zen Loop, I decided it would be best to conserve my energy and do my best to protect myself from the consequences of crashing or having a major mechanical by going too fast on this section of trail. Doing this gave AJ a nice time gap over me by the time we exited this loop, but I knew there was a lot of racing ahead too.

The next section of trail known as Stucki was super fast and allowed for me to make up the time I lost to AJ.  By the end of this section, I was actually able to put a little extra time on him before we entered another technical section of trail known as Barrel.  I rode Barrel a little cautiously during the fist loop because it was pretty rocky and I didn't want to possibly get a flat tire or crash.  I guess AJ didn't ride the trails as cautiously because he caught back up to me by the end of the first loop of Barrel. I rode the second lap of Barrel much faster to stay a head of AJ.

After we finished the two loops of Barrel, AJ and I entered the fast Cove Wash Trails.  During this section, I created another gap over AJ.  Over the next few hours, I built on this gap until my fourth and final loop around Barrel.  With about 8 miles to the end of the race, I got a flat tire by tearing the front sidewall on a sharp rock.  At this point, I wasn't too sure how much of a lead I had, but knew I had to do a quick repair to hold off AJ.  Luckily, I had a fairly trouble free repair and was able to get back on my bike just as AJ came into view.

Racing hard during the last few miles of an ultra endurance mtb race is painful, but I knew this is exactly what I needed to do if I wanted to win the race.  I spun my cranks as fast as I could on the trails leading back to the finish and hoped my torn tire sidewall would not completely fail before I finished.  I was so relieved to finally see the finishing line in view and nobody chasing when looking over my shoulder one last time.

I must admit that crossing the finishing line in first place is always a good feeling for me, but the roller coaster ride of this race made this win feel a little more special.  Overall, the True Grit 100 was a lot of fun to ride and definitely a very good early season test of my fitness.  I was very happy with how my body performed during the race and with how nicely my new Specialized Carve SL rode the technical trails.  Also, I'd like to congratulate my other CF teammates at the race.  Cheryl Sornson took the womens open win, Cary Smith was second in the open mens and Charles Buki was third in the 50+ master men.  Let the season begin!

Happy Trails........  Gerry