Road trips are one of the best things about living in America. I like to take every opportunity to get out of my immediate locale and explore somewhere new. America has the advantage of being massive, and everything connected with straight roads. Add in the (relatively) cheap petrol, and a 1400 mile weekend trip becomes a reality. This weekend was St. George, Utah.
The last time I cruised down Interstate 15 was on the way to California for Sea Otter, and St. George was simply a petrol stop on the way. This time it was the destination for the True Grit 50 bike race.
After my last trip to the desert, I was hoping for a break from the weather and enjoy a nice weekend in the sun. Looking at the forecast told me to stop dreaming and I turned up fully expecting British weather. Although rain is never much fun, it’s not something I can change, hence when we arrived in St. George on Friday afternoon with overcast skies and big bands of rain streaking across the desert, I wasn’t too bothered. Either way, we would ride and enjoy ourselves.
At least the weather provided for some fantastic atmosphere:
I’ve heard lots of people comment on the riding in this little corner of Utah, and I was glad to see that it didn’t disappoint. The race was 50 miles, but we chose to only pre-ride the most technical section of the course; the Zen loop. It really is fantastic. Having ridden in both Fruita and Moab I can easily say it equals or even betters the riding in either place. Combinations of slickrock (which is ambiguously named – Griprock would be more appropriate!), rock drops and scarily fun sandy singletrack was all enhanced by the light rain and cool temperatures. Anyway, I wasn’t too bothered considering the weather was supposed to improve for the race itself.
Race morning: temperature was holding steady at about 5°C with the promise of 16 degrees by midday. I threw off my extra layers thinking that I wanted to be carrying as little as possible. What a mistake. The race started very leisurely. Without any kind of pace vehicle, Bryan and I sat on the front of the group and pedaled softly towards the dirt.
The race only got moving about 30 minutes in, when the eventual winner, Alex Grant, made his decisive move, only to be followed by Bryan. This coincided with the heavens opening. Instead of the temperatures increasing, the rain got heavier, the skies darker and the ground got muddier.
From then on, I rode in a bunch with two other riders, one of whom was local; this was a great help in navigating the somewhat dubiously marked course. longer races have always been a bit of a challenge for me; I can do 2 hour XC races no problem, but after that my endurance wains and I struggle. This race seemed different. Perhaps finally finding a drink that works with my stomach (Carborocket if anyone is interested) was a big part of that. Maybe I’m also just getting fitter, too!
At this point, the test of endurance had turned from physical to mental, and the race of attrition was simply to get across the line without hypothermia. Unfortunately a wrong turn put me off course for a good two miles, and although I crossed the line for a podium position, missing a checkpoint meant my result was nulled – I can understand the directors decision, but its still frustrating to loose a result through technicalities rather than skill or ability. Disappointment soon gave way to positivity though; I rode 52 miles in terrible weather, much of it with a smile on my face. I felt strong and relaxed for the first half of the race, and I surprised myself with perseverance towards the end. I would have liked to have my name on the results sheet, but in the end I know where my fitness is, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.
Travelling with the epic endurance team was great too; there is a definite morale boost seeing people on your team out on the race course. I hope that I can support the team as much as they support me. Having the trailer was a nice convenience before the race, but entirely essential afterwards; 8 mud laden and grit destroyed bikes could simply be hung up without worry, to be dealt with another time. The final cost on bike wear was less than I feared; change of cables/housing and new brake pads and I’ll be all set.
(first and last photo are mine, the others are from Brooke Lacey Free via Facebook)