After logging around 4000 miles worth of driving for XC and Marathon Nationals, I was looking forward to the short trip down to Sun Valley for the Galena Grinder this past weekend. The Marathon event that they put on down there, has gained a decent reputation for being a challenging event with lots of climbing. To boot, back in the early days of mountain bike racing, the course was the site of a great Tomac vs. Overend battle. Anyway I headed down to Galena Friday afternoon, having been told that folks at the Galena Lodge open their doors and hearts to racers who come down to camp out for the weekend. Friday night consisted of some tasty food, a few beers, and chatting about the race with other folks who had come down for the race. Once the sun went down everyone went their separate ways to get some shuteye.
Race morning came with a chill, and it seemed like the sun was going to wait until the last possible moment to warm the valley. I went through the whole process of getting some food in my stomach, prepping the bike, and making sure I had all the food I wanted. A racers meeting for the marathon participants took place, where we got our instructions for the day. While all this was going on, I kept telling myself to not blow my legs up on the first lap, and too keep drinking not matter what. Finally the gun went off, and we were on our way. By the start of the first major climb I had moved up to the top singlespeed position, and would hold that position for the day. The course was a wonderful mix of both doubletrack and wonderful singletrack. Depending on who you asked, the 22.5 mile lap had anywhere from 3000 to 3500 feet of climbing, however while riding there was only one sustained climb, the rest of the climbing just kind of happened. The one main climb was an absolute bitch, that forced many racers off their bike cursing the steep gradient.
After the horrible climb, we were treated to one of the finest descents I have ridden in a long time. Tons of switchbacks, loose sand, throw in socks rocks, and the occasional set of roots combined to form a wonderful descents. The course even had large logs across the trail, which reminded me of the east coast riding that I grew up on. The rest of the course was also top notch, and the folks holding down the aid stations were great (one guy even offered me a beer and a cigarette), and spectators did a great job of keeping racers motivated as we headed out for the second lap. In the end I wound up taking the win in the singlespeed class, which was welcomed change after getting my as handed to me at my past two races. For the win, I walked away with another knobby tire necklace, some new Smith sunglasses, a package of coffee, and a green and white trucker hat with “BEER” printed across the front. I was told that this was a prize reserved for the singlespeed marathon winner, and that it was mine for the next year, until I came back to defend my title in 2010.
After everyone was finished chowing down on the delicious food from the Galena Lodge folks, a group of racers headed over the pass to Stanley in search of a music festival, some camping, and more mountain biking. Turned out the music festival cost a little too much money, so the new makeshift group of four mountain bikers I was a part of headed to a camping spot, where we started a fire, drank some beer, and ate marshmallows. Come Sunday morning, the group headed outside of Stanley to ride the Fisher creek trail, and once again after a long climb, we were treated to a phenomenal descent. As good as the descent was, it was followed by an even better climb, which was singletrack cutting through the trees, and the perfect gradient for a singlespeed. Once again following the climb, we were treated to a great descent, which unfortunately had to end once we got back to the parking lot. After some food in Stanley, the group was no more, and I followed the Salmon River home, trying to get ready for the Laramie Enduro this coming weekend.