Race Report: Grand Canyon Alpine 100

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Racing on Father’s Day weekend has become a given in our household. My race of choice has usually been the 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest in year’s past. I love that event, but I’m doing the Oregon 24hr in July and was looking for a shorter format event to help dial things in for Oregon. I was in luck when I spotted the GC Alpine 100 on Mountain Bike Radio’s Endurance Race Calendar. It was the perfect fit!

In chatting with Rob at Las Vegas Cyclery the day before the race, I learned that after 20+ years of guiding bike excursions in the North Rim, this was only their second year hosting this event. It’s easy to see how this race can explode in popularity, but the organizer’s have a goal of keeping this event under 100 registered racers (good luck with that!), so I’m here to tell you….this race sucks. 60 miles of singletrack along the “Five Fingers Loop” (2x Rainbow Rim trail) with terrible views of the Grand Canyon. You wouldn’t like it. Do not do this race. In fact, don’t even come to the North Rim. With it’s lack of crowds, no cell service (your emails aren’t going to reply to themselves) and overnight lows in the 40s during the summer, you would have much more fun at the South Rim with the sweltering heat and gobs of tour buses. Besides, it’s much more fun watching canyon hikers make their final push up the Bright Angel Trail with 60lb packs, weaving in and out of tourists, only to be stopped by one and asked to take their picture. “Oh hey, would you mind holding my ice cream while I make sure my iPhone is in HDR mode? Do you think this is a good spot? You must be tired, what’s it like at the bottom?” Save yourself the grief of a fun weekend off the grid with great food, really great people and live music and just skip this race in 2016, okay?

Later that evening, my family and I were enjoying the cooler temperatures huddled up by the fire, but with a 7am start the next morning, I called it an early night. It was a bit chilly in the morning, but I decided to forgo arm warmers and/or a wind vest knowing that temps would rise pretty quickly. I did a quick warm up ride with some brief intervals to get the engine running.

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My boy keeping me company on my warm up ride

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Race face is on!

At 6:45am, I was towing the line at my first 100 miler in a long time.

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“And then he said, my derailleur wasn’t shifting smoothly, so I couldn’t climb as well.” – Fellow Singlespeeder Mike Hileman (not really, but thought it was a good ‘Caption This’ submission)

I thought back to my training for the Leadville 100 in 2012, which was my last 100 miler. Don’t push too hard at the start and blow up. Save Z3+ for the second half. Any semblance of plans was thrown out the window however. I wanted to push hard from the start, “for training purposes” I told myself. So there I was, for the first time ever, out in front of the field at the start.

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Full throttle

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Bottle hoarding

No one passed me after the first mile, I was in such disbelief. I even looked back to make sure I hadn’t missed a turn! It didn’t take long however, for Mike Hileman to overtake me on the first climb. He was motoring pretty good. I was never more than 30 seconds back for the first 5 miles, but he steadily increased the gap, keeping me guessing whether or not I would ever catch him. He must have been seriously amused at my jackrabbit start!

I settled into a strong pace. A comedy of errors in preparations found me sans GPS (along with no chamois cream and training shorts, not my normal race bibs). All I had was a simple cyclo computer I picked up in Flag on the way to the race. I didn’t even bother setting up the sensor, so no mileage. It was going to be a long day, but as long as I had a clock, I could gauge distance based on my perceived pace and target of a 7:30hr finish. More importantly, I knew when to drink my POW, take a pull from my Hammer Nutrition Sustained Energy (every 15 minutes), and load up on my Endurolytes (2-3 per hour).

My family hitched a ride to the Locust Point Aid Station. I was super suprised and excited when I came around the bend, to find them cheering me on.

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Lil Hammers

Yep, the image below is a view from the race course. This was the only race where I actually stopped to savor the moment. First time ever and it was worth every second. All 5 of them actually.

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View from the course

If memory serves, this was about the 1/2 way point. The temperature started to heat up, but I stayed on top of my hydration and electrolyte needs like a boss and was virtually unfazed. My pace seemed to be on track to hit my target, but reeling Mike in was beginning to look like an impossibility. Final results haven’t been posted yet, but I’m pretty sure I came in after 7:40hrs, about 20 minutes ahead of the fastest overall time set for the inaugural race in 2014 and close enough to my target to feel pretty damn good about my showing. I’m not exactly sure of his time, but Mike came in faster than anyone else on the course, taking both the Men’s singlespeed title as well as the overall win….total baller and an absolute thrill to race with.

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Hanging out listening to the band and waiting for the awards ceremony

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Jackson taking a shot at the Huffy Toss with Smokey the Bear supervising

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Feeling good

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Father’s Day morning

Final Results: 2nd place Male Singlespeed, 88 miles, 7.995 ft. total climbing

 

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