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First of all, HUGE thanks to Dave Wiens and everyone with Gunnison Trails.. The Gunnison Growler this year was, without a doubt, a huge success!!! The course was the best marked course I have ever ridden with markings at every course junction and even signs saying “NO” if you were going the wrong way! The field this year was also extremely competitive compared to last year in both the men and women’s races. The course was laid out in the opposite direction compared to last year, and it was very dusty and loose!

350 racers lined up at 6:45 AM for a 7 AM start. It was absolutely freezing at 7700 ft in Gunnison clocking in around 30F! BRRRR. You don’t want to overdress at the start because once you get moving, it’s not quite as cold so the option is to freeze for about 20-30 minutes. A real shot gun was fired at precisely 7 AM piercing the crisp early morning air to kick off the 64 mile trail of pain. The neutral roll-out was a little sketchy because some of us were shivering so violently that our arms where shaking and it was hard to keep your bike from twitching!

The first hill is called “Kill Hill” and is a dirt road leading up about a mile or more to the singletrack.


I pretty much settled into my pace for the first lap…and the pace was slower than I wanted. My legs felt heavy, kind of like the short track on Wednesday and I was sucking some major wind since the course is between 7700-9000′ elevation and I was at sea level in Germany for a week a few days before the race.  I’m not sure what the overall elevation gain is for the race, but I’m guessing somewhere around 8000′ of climbing total on technical terrain.

Lap 1 was a bust for me. I was not riding like Sonya. I was not riding fast OR aggressive. In fact, I was downright timid and I will ashamedly admit that I was walking most of the technical sections. Instead of being on top of my gears and pedal stroke, I was struggling under the load behind it, gasping for air, and just plain sucking on my bike. I opted for the hardtail on this course, and had not ridden a hardtail on technical terrain in several months. That may have had something to do with it. Lap 1 also had some less than ideal circumstances. I was having some major shifting issues and my front derailleur kept shifting my chain so it’d get badly jammed between my frame and small ring. Once or twice, it wasn’t looking like I was going to get it out and I’m really glad it didn’t end my race. I also took a nasty fall on one of the descents, knocking and rotating my seat about 30 degrees. I learned a lesson – don’t keep your multi-tool in your seatbag for a race. It’s much quicker if you have it in your pocket for adjustment. Around mile 25, my legs started to turn on a little bit and I tried to push a little harder. I came through the start/finish in 3h 35 min for lap 1, almost exactly how long lap 1 took me last year.


After I left the start/finish and started up the hill, I noticed my legs felt… lighter.  I could push a much bigger gear and actually have power behind my pedal stroke.  I wish I knew why I suddenly felt so much better – maybe it just took me 3 hours to warm up?  I’m going to try longer opener rides the day before some of my upcoming races and see how that goes.  I felt like a rock star and decided to see what kind of time I could make up.  I wasn’t sure what place I was in.  I knew that Melissa Thomas (what a badass!) was in front of me, but I didn’t know which of the women at the start were in my race or the 32 mile race, or who was in front of me.  I got reports that I was in 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 2nd.  I had no idea so I just kept charging forward.  It’s actually hard to describe my metamorphosis other than I was riding like Sonya again! I felt confident riding all the technical sections and cleaned most of them with ease.  I was on top of my gear, and even spinning a bigger gear than I thought I could.  It was a great lap and went by really fast!  I still hadn’t seen any women except for Melissa on a two way traffic part of the course at mile 37 and calculated that she had about a 16 minute gap on me.


It was fun to catch some of my friends on the course and get encouragement from them to keep pushing on.  I ran into Matt Turgeon (on his singlespeed no less) on the last leg of the course and was glad for the company.  He said, “We are going to break 7 hours!”   I knew that last year, it took me 7 h 22 min.  We crossed the line together in 6 h 54 min.  That meant that my second lap was 3 hr 18 min and  a whopping 17 minutes faster than my first lap!!!! If only I hadn’t ridden lap 1 like an idiot!  I also beat my time (on a longer, slower course from last year) by a full 28 minutes.  I couldn’t believe it.  My results this year have been about 10 minutes faster compared to last year’s race times, but 30 minutes faster is a lot!  Where is this coming from?!

I finished up 2nd overall in the women.  I didn’t know it, but apparently Jari Kirkland was chomping at the bit behind me, only 6 minutes back at the finish.  Melissa gave us all a beating,  finishing 18 minutes ahead of me!  Women’s results are here.  All results are here.


The racing wasn’t the only great thing about the weekend!!  There were so many fun friends at the event that made it that much more fun, although there were some faces I missed.  Great job to everyone at the Growler. I’ll post more photos as they come in. You bet I’ll be back next year!




I am LOVING the finisher prize. I’m going to try my hardest NOT to fill it… because then I’ll drink it. Kind of like how I try to avoid baking. If it’s there, it will be consumed! Maybe I’ll put flowers in it for now 🙂


….and to be a total hypocrite to what I just said, I sheepishly opted for the 12 pack of Ranger IPA from the prize table and leave the bike schwag to those more in need than I. 12 packs are for sharing! 🙂

Midland Trail, BV

Our crew finished up the weekend with a 1.5 hr ride in Buena Vista. MMMM. My favorite views – huge mountains, my true love.

Midland Trail, BV

Midland Trail, BV

Kerkove posing with his Growler wound.

Junko, Yuki, and I

Next up… Teva Games this weekend.  XC Saturday and 10K Trail Run Race Sunday.  I better rest up.


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