Racing in Dixie

Grant experiences his coldest race yet

Here in Utah we refer to the southwest corner of the state as Dixie. They tried to grow cotton here in the 1800s and named it after the southeastern United States.

Every year on the first weekend in March, St. George hosts the first Intermountain Cup cross country race. There's no better way to blow out the ski and board legs than a bunch of punchy power climbs. I usually suffer like a dog at this race; but, oddly enough, this year was not as bad. Without the presence of some of Utah's old guard like Bart Gillespie, Burke Swindlehurst, or Jason Sager, I was left to fend off the young guns by myself. After four laps of good racing, I managed to get away from 16-year-old Keegan Swenson for the win.

If you haven't heard of Keegan yet, you will soon. He's junior national champ in his age group and is on track for a great season. Watch out.

The day after the race saw a binge of trail riding, and then it was back to snow country for a few busy weeks of work and some road rides. Did I mention busy work weeks?

This Friday evening, I hit the road yet again to Dixie for some more sun and tacky dirt. It was the first annual True Grit race on some of the best desert singletrack around. The organization was spot on, and the race looked to be one for the books, until the weather decided otherwise and made it one for the books for entirely different reasons.

The temperature at the start was a balmy 44 degrees (Fahrenheit), but the forecast said 62 so we all shed our warm layers and got ready to go. Thirty minutes in, it started to sprinkle, and shortly thereafter the skied opened. For those who have ridden desert clay, you know how disastrous this can be.

The race up to that point had been going well. After an hour, I shook off a strong group of guys that included my old Monavie-Cannondale teammate Bryan Alders and was able to stretch the gap out on some technical trails that I had the advantage of knowing pretty well. After a couple hours, I had a decent lead and was feeling good on the bike. I still hadn't been able to warm up my hands -- it was still raining and the temperature was in the low 40s.

Then it really started to rain. Just in time for the longest descents of the day. I started to get the shakes, very similar to Leadville in 2009. The difference was that at Leadville the sun came out and it warmed up. Here it just kept pouring.

I started to tell myself "You're not cold, you're not cold -- over and over and over. I was losing it. By then end I could barely pedal up a hill, steer, or even see. The run in to the finish included a paved downhill then a couple miles of flat roads. I remember seeing white spots and feeling like I had no control, and I was worried about veering into traffic accidentally.

In the end I managed to win in just over four hours, but the course conditions were almost indescribable at times, and I still can't believe I finished. I heard 178 people started and only about 12 finished the 50-miler. Bryan Alders was running second with 10 miles to go but had to stop due to uncontrolled shivering and get in an ambulance. Bummer man, next time!

As for myself I've honestly never been so cold and was surely hypothermic. I took off my wet stuff and sat in a warm car with the heat blasting, wrapped in a wool blanket but didn't stop shivering for a half hour! It was brutal, definitely an experience I will never forget. It was one for the books for sure.

As for the race, look it up, it's an amazing course in a great spot, with usually beautiful weather. This one was a fluke, and I'll be back for sure. If you like singletrack it's a must do.

Thanks for reading.

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