This was the monster that had me worried last year…flash back- got my shit together, hired a coach and slayed the dragon. I was stoked as hell to go back; that part of the country is one of my favorites, the trails are amazing and of course Flip Flops in March.
Leading up to this years edition, a couple of things happened in terms of equipment and training. I made some necessary changes to my equipment; the primary change was losing my shifty bits, and going SS full time, running Endless Bike Co cogs. #PurpleCogs Did you know they’re scientifically faster? I truly feel that I’ll be faster in the long run by going SS full time… the hope is to limit my short term losses. The last two years of doing the VT50 single were good prep and showed it was most definitely possible for me. I’ve got a number of good friends that ride SS exclusively, so I had people to lean on. Secondarily, was changing the travel on my fork from 80mm to 100mm. I’m racing some pretty tech stuff this year; 20 mm isn’t a lot, until you need it and it isn’t there.
My training leading into the race wasn’t exactly by the book. I suffered a concussion the end of my first week of training in December. I had headaches for a good while after that and really started with the hard efforts a week or two into January. I got to train on my local trails Jan 18 in the freezing rain, with my mind on my brain and we haven’t been able to get back since. In Feb, we drove 3 hours south just to see dirt and make sure bikes were still in working order. Monster CX getting postponed was yet another setback, eliminating my one good chance to let it all hang out and kick the tires on my ‘fitness’. So… I went into True Grit with both a changed mindset and expectations.
Originally our little group was to be Jeff Chad Jody and myself. Paul was interested early on and won the registration race. He was to have his own little group heading there. As it turned out, Paul was the only one of his group that was determined to go and Jody had to back out because of work…so our group was Paul Jeff Chad and myself.
We left way way early on Wednesday, after an uneventful flight we ended up having lunch at Aces and Ales in Vegas and were in St George in time to build bikes that evening. Thursday morning, we hit Red Rock Bikes for odds and ends…the silly TSA doesn’t like CO2s and they set Chad’s big ass 29+ Maxxis Chronicle tires up tubeless. First stop on the pre-ride was to hit the relentless Zen to let Paul and Chad get a feel for what they were in for, midway through Zen Chad wasn’t sure about his gearing…Paul wasn’t sure about his rigid. It was there that we met Riley and his homemade jersey, he offered me some homemade Granola that was super tasty. 3/4 of the way through both Paul and Chad had fixed flats (silly bike shop liked Orange Seal for Chads bike, silly puncture didn’t seal). After Zen we saw a woman riding her SS up the climb to Bear Claw Poppy, once we regrouped at the top, we said hello and introduced ourselves to Cathy Coleman. We nailed down our lines on the Three Fingers of Death, and Bear Claw Poppy proved to be as fantastic as I remember. At the end of BCP Cathy was there and she ended up as our guide for the rest of the day. Cathy, a 63 y/o ladyshredder of her SSMTB, was fantastic and is my new heroin. She took us on some off race single track and we all had a blast! In the end we were out there for about 4 hrs of goodness. We met Monte for some Mexican, had a good time but somehow the meal sat better last year.
Friday morning, we hit another LBS that carried more than just specialized tires and they set Paul up with a new front tire, 2.2 Maxxis Ikon with EXO…It proved to be much better than the little baloney skin he was running prior. Pre-ride was Rim Rock and Barrel Roll, some sweet riding different than the uber tech of Zen and pump track of BCP. Of course, in between Paul ripped his sidewall, silly baloney skins. These two trails are super flowy fun with some little switchbacks and tremendous views that played into my wheel house. We hit the LBS again, for Paul to buy the last Ikon and hit George’s for some tasty pre race dinner.
Race day- up early with a little bit of butterflies. So much single track and tech in this race that it’s slower going and it has some tight time checks…I was concerned but determined. It has a smaller field than some other NUEs, and splits the Men’s open from the rest of the fields. I saw Jeff and the rest of the field off, and watched 7 precious minutes tick off. When Cimarron eventually let us go, it was a smooth pin flat 3 minutes until we hit the Jeep road. Sonya was blazing away and I stayed at the tail end of the stretched out front, tucking into the wheels of those ahead. The Jeep road was a pretty good ledgy pitch, and by now I was settling in and letting those in front, including Paul do their thing. Once the trail led us to Barrel Trail I was repeatedly reminded how climby that portion was. It was also picturesque, climbing little mini canyon get to top, turn around, drop all the way down climb another gulley, traverse then down super tech. Somewhere before the super tech drop I saw Jeff up ahead, I didn’t want to push to reel him in, just thought ‘race your race’ a couple of times. I got him at the entrance, he gave me the heads up that Paul was 4 min up. I thanked him, wished him well and went to the tech…I rode the first portion and while hitting the second section, chickened out. I told the guy if he’d had a video camera I’d’ve rolled it. Thankfully he didn’t and I got down safe. I knew Paul climbed well, and figured I’d catch up with him eventually during the ebbs and flows of the race, he’s better going up I’m better in the tech and going down. I was on pace when we hit Zen the first time and was having fun. I was by myself for a spell here…some a little and behind. Somewhere here going up I saw the photog, he was in a tight light section and I’m fortunate he waited to take my pic until i was back on the bike, lol. I saw Thom, on the fun little section of lower Zen, I think…always fun seeing smiling faces! Went through the aid station again and the first 50 miler, on a fatbike no less, passed me in the pits. My first inclination was he ‘missed a turn’ because there were several spots you could do so…ends up in the dirtwire highlight you can see he started an hr early with my wave. I went up the climb excited to get to the Three Fingers of Death, and fun I took the middle finger, dropped to the transition and launched the lip on the other side. On BCP, I launched off of everything I could, maximizing the fun factor. You have to know that when I rode aluminum rims I stayed on the ground. The flex factor was too great and the potential for failure was real. With these Nox Composites I launch everywhere without abandon. When I hit Stuckey I settled in, super thankful that the wind was calm! A short bit later, Lee and Brenda Simril, last years NUE ladies Champ, came along and I fell in behind. Somewhere along this section Justin Lindine, all alone, came screaming past, then a few minutes later second and third. This is where I expected to be passed by the 50 mile hammerheads. I cruised for a while with the Simrils until the pitches started and they cruised away. Rim Rock provided majestic views again and the fun factor went high coming off the jeep roads, and I first shot a glimpse of Paul again, he was visible at times but not close. When I got to Barrel Roll I needed a bottle change, while they got my bottles finished I sat in the shade for a moment…It was already getting hot. I had dropped an empty bottle but left it at Zen, hindsight I should’ve grabbed a water bottle and dropped it at Zen when I got there.
By the time I finished the first mini canyon, at mile 50, I was getting hot, I stopped and noticed brake rub. Joy. How long had that been there, I thought as I fixed it ‘oh well, should make the rest easier’, tongue in cheek. By the time I hit the super tech descent I was overheating in a bad way, sweat pouring into my eyes stinging like crazy and blurring my vision. I told one of the ladies in the safety are that I was real real hot, she replied …”well, we are in a desert” first non nice thing I’d heard anyone say since I left NY. I didn’t have the time nor energy to tell her, I hadn’t seen that FEB average high temp was 21 and this was maybe 60* warmer. She was volunteering so I won’t be mean, but that was the first time in a race I didn’t thank an on-course volunteer. I was completely empty by the time I hit Zen. Paul was in the aid station, said to me we have a half hour… I corrected him, we’d have an hour to get through Zen. The pressure was starting to build, I had dumped water on my head trying to cool off, but my body temp was still no where regulated and I was climbing. I had to tell myself to “pickup the pace and that it was still possible”several times while on going up. Once it flattened out and started pointing down, I started cooling off, and I was grateful. I was watching the clock, and going as fast as I could muster. Once I hit the climb if lower Zen I found Paul, he was not in a very good way talking about the 3:30 cutoff. We chatted a bit as I caught him and pushed on, he in quick pursuit. Dreams almost shattered as I got to the aid station. The timing tent was down, aid station was packing up. I grabbed water and a can of coke. I saw Paul and encouraged him loudly “grab a bottle and let’s get the fuck out of here!” who knows what time they had on their watch…I didn’t want to chance it. The climb up to Three Fingers, Paul cruised up and I suffered and walked, once at the top, I found Paul waiting. I stopped tightened my cleat on my right shoe and took off down the middle finger again. Somewhere on BCP I noticed my left cleat needed tending to, once I could pass Paul, I hammered ahead to take care of it once at the end. I went over the details with Paul, we had enough time, we figured out whay speed we needed to avg this to get there…we started pacing and I realized I maybe didn’t have it…maybe my best wasn’t good enough on this day. I told him to muster along if he wanted, Paul dialed back and settled in and kept a good pace. When the trails started pitching I took the lead knowing that I’d feel the pressure of him behind and find a little more umph. I encouraged him and then 3/4 of the way he hit a wall… I yelled to him on many occasions that “we needed to pick it up, we could do it.” On the last steep pitch that lead to some fast downhills I looked back at him yelled one last time and left him…and emptied the tank. Aero tuck, super spin/coast….I was doing it all. I pushed up to the 5P cutoff and made it. Stress level dropped like a stone. I could make the 530 with my eyes closed, this section suited me and I went, I hit Rim Rock enjoying the views and pacing strong. When I got to Barrel Roll aid, I relaxed a bit, I had a ton of time, they had cold water and it
was amazing. Barrel Roll was fun, I was sure I was last… I’d written Paul off, I was sure they pulled him. I saw some big boys chasing cutoff for the 50… That’s a long time to be out there for 50 miles. I crossed the line did my power slide and finished in 10:04… Beating last year by about 10 min.
I was surprised when Paul wasn’t there when I returned, I greeted my friends and interviewed with Thom. The food was all but gone, my ticket was in the car that was over there and I was over here…so I left to get a beer from the beer garden. A nice double IPA, yum. I grabbed a seat in the pseudo shade and sipped my beer. I saw Paul walk up, carrying a finishing medal, he’d done it! He must’ve dug deep, I know they would’ve had to physically remove him. I gave him a big hug and we shared a celebratory beer.
I rode the new Giro lace up VR90 with the Vibram soles, they were comfy as hell and stuck to the rocks like I’ve never done in cycling shoes. People asked about laces I never had an issue readjusting or needing to readjust.
For the first time in forever I used a different chamois cream. I’ve used DZNuts for seemingly forever and recently switched to That Butt Stuff. It doesn’t quite tingle like DZs, is that good or bad, I’ll let you decide. I rode 10 hrs without needing to reapply, that was fckn awesome for sure.
Brand’s rents bike boxes and Dan has set me up on my last two trips. This trip I was undecided on whether I wanted the new Evoc or Pika Packworks. I ordered the new Evoc from Dan…then the port strike, and I got antsy we were getting close… And then I ordered the Pika Packworks. Packed with tools it weighed 44, bonus I didn’t pay on the way there, though I did on the way back. I was coming from a Trico, which is damn near 30 by itself and the TSA never seems to be able to repack the same way. Bike traveled safely, I’m happy with the purchase.