The race started fast up the infamous kill hill. I hit it fairly hard myself, but held back just a bit. I hung on to the front pack for a little bit, but with lead still in my legs from the 10k of climbing I did the previous weekend I wasn't looking to pull for a top ten spot. I settled into my own pace for the first big loop. Although I wasn't feeling quite at top form, I felt pretty damn good. That alone is worth all the hard training I've done over the winter and spring. I worked the climbs, and enjoyed all the great descending. The Gunnison trail system is absolutely fantastic, and rides like a roller coaster. There is also a good share of technical to keep your wits about you. The worst of it is in the last couple miles of the loop. Technical climbing up boulders, steep switchbacks, and rough terrain made the last bit of the loop feel like pure hell at times. Once I made it through the first time I made a mental note for the second lap what to expect.
The start of the second lap is just brutal: steep technical climbing that seemed to last forever. I was so happy to finally see familiar trail from the first lap. At that point, I was feeling even better than I had on the first lap so I upped the pace a bit. I put my head down and grounded out all the climbing. I felt fluid and smooth through the trail. Around 20 miles into the loop there is a lollipop loop in the Growler that is full of a lot of tech and fun. I concentrated on clearing the section quickly without killing myself. With a big smile on my face, I succeeded and even passed another racer along the way. After that section is the last stretch with a lot of great descending, and some mean climbs. I upped the pace just a bit more, but also kept in mind that I needed to leave a little bit in the tank for the last couple of hell miles. Once I finally hit the last section I was ready. I dug deep and cleared every last bit of it. I knew that there would be a few people that would crack during this sections, and I jumped up a couple of spots along the way. I did such a good job conserving that I had a pretty good sprint left in me for the finish line.
I ended up with 23rd overall. With a brutal race in North Carolina a mere week earlier, I was pretty stoked with the result. The Growler solidifies all the hard work I have done this year, and it felt great! It was great to see old friends, and meet new ones. I had a great time, and would like to thank all of my sponsors for making it happen! Special thanks to Barrels and Bottles Brewery for the growlers for the Growler! So happy race season is official underway!