Saturday, July 30, 2011

Race Report: Grindin' the Grinder

 The Trip

At the last minute, Drew and I decided to take on the Galena Grinder Marathon. The "Grinder" is a race our friend Doug has done and talked about for years.  His whole family goes up in their travel trailer to Galena Lodge, which is on Idaho Highway 75 north of Sun Valley and Ketchum on the way to Galena Pass and Stanley in the Sawtooth Mountains.

There are two races going on at this venue, the cross-country (22 mile) race and the marathon (44 miles).  In preparation for our upcoming Pierre's Hole 100/50 race, we thought the Marathon would be a good prep race.  It was!

 I had to throw in this picture
 as documentation of me working on my bike.  Drew and Carl (top mechanic at the bike shop) were giving me grief for having a dirty chain.  OK, OK, I cleaned it!

After an 8 AM start from the house, delayed because we were watching the first half of the penultimate stage 19 of the Tour de France (best TDF ever!), we made the 5 hour drive to Galena Lodge.  We had our two smart phones going with live feeds of what was happening on the last climb up the Alpe d’Huez. Bike geeks!

We arrived and set up camp next to Carl.

 I have decided that I am too old to sleep on the ground the night before a bike race, so we've invested in cots instead.*  They are very comfortable, but unfortunately, we don't have a big enough tent to house them, so we improvised with our sun canopy.  It doubled as a frost canopy this time.

*We were hoping that Bobke could make the trip, but we are worried about the old air-cooled engine on a hot summer drive up a mountain pass. He stayed home :-( 

Our set up lacked any sort of privacy, but all the other campers had tents or trailers, so we just figured they weren't looking.

We pre-rode a portion of the race course on Friday evening, then cooked up some pasta and made a tossed salad as the temperature dropped and dropped.  I went to bed in our exposed quarters with much trepidation about how I would stay warm.  A few minutes after we tucked in, Doug and Susan came carrying an extra sleeping bag for me.  SAVIORS!  It kept one side of me warm, but I had to keep rotating to keep the other side from freezing.  When we woke, our water bottle and sun shower were iced up.  It must have been in the upper 20s. Brr.

The Race

The Marathon started at 9 AM.  It was so chilled through when I finally got out of my semi-warm bag that I had to start the race wearing knee warmers, long-fingered gloves, arm warmers, and a vest.  My Garmin says it was 42 degrees at the start.  I started out slowly at the back of the pack with only Doug behind me.  About a half mile in I passed one guy, then another.  About 2 miles in I passed a woman that looked to be in the 40 to 49 age category with me.  I knew before the race that there were only two in my category**, so I was hoping this was her and that I could stay ahead of her for the next 5 to 6 hours.

** I tried to register in the Open/Pro-Expert category, but I didn't have an UCI annual license so they wouldn't let me.

The course was pretty fun.  Most of the climbs were on fire road in the back woods.  There was a lot of singletrack too, with just enough exposure, log roll-overs, bridges, tight turns, and close trees to keep it interesting but not mentally draining.  There was one long hike-a-bike section where the grades were up to 22%, but honestly, I welcomed the chance to get off my bike and push for a few minutes.  Marathon racers do two 22 mile laps, and the lap comes back through the start/finish area 3 times before the actual finish, so it is great because you can stop at your camp and grab food or whatever and dump all those warm clothes.  That is a really nice set up because, frankly, the aid stations were not very good and placed in funny places.

I took it pretty slow the first lap because I wanted to be able to finish.  I did start to get worried though around 2 hours in when I was still 7 miles from the end of lap 1 and had only an hour to make the time cut.  I ended up going through the lap at about 2 hours 33 minutes, so no worries.

It was on lap 2 that I began to feel good.  I started to pass some guys that looked to be in a bit of hurt, my husband included.  We rode together for a mile or so but he was having stomach problems and the like, so I dusted him ;-)  By this time, I had drunk about 48 ounces of water, a 20 ounce serving of Hammer Sustained Energy, and ate a gel.  Before the hike-a-bike, I ate a nutty Mojo bar for some long-lasting energy.  That seemed to do the trick and my legs, while tired, held up to the task.  My left knee, which I re-injured a few weeks ago, was still weak, and consequently, my right quad was doing a lot of the work.  Poor thing would be sore to the touch for days afterward.  Go legs!

5 hours, 31 minutes and 27 seconds after the start gun I finished the course dirty, tired, and smiling.  Drew came in a few minutes later in the same condition. What a ride!
I would recommend this race to anyone looking to get into endurance racing.  The course was technically not too hard, there was plenty of climbing but none of it was excruciating, and the event itself was a hoot.  Really great grass-roots feel.  I have challenged Drew to a rematch again next year.

Next up: post race activities and the rest of beautiful Idaho.

In case you are interested, here, Galena Grinder 2012 Marathon by jubebug at Garmin Connect - Details, is my Garmin track. Or you can preview it below, I think.

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