A brief respite in the deep freeze temperatures in Alberta was timed perfectly for the 2nd annual Hinton Growler Fat Bike Race. The last time I raced a bike in Hinton was over 5 years ago, back when Hinton used to host XCO races at their Nordic Centre (one of my favorite race venues in the Province!), but when I found out my good friend, Jay Hoots, was going to be the MC at the race, I knew I had to make the trek to Hinton for this race.
In the week leading up to the event, Hinton powder-hounds must have been happy, as the area got pounded with snowfall. Race organizers were well on top of it though, with the 5 km track being groomed prior to the race start.
Temperatures were around -10 with a cold, cold windchill,. Around 40 racers lined up to tackle the race, and as the Mayor of Hinton, Marcel Michaels, gave the countdown, the race began. The groomed snow didn't hold firm underneath the tires, and I quickly found my heart rate rising above my threshold, all while only actually moving around 10 km/h!
The first lap was slow, and I found myself running around 1/3 of it - sections where the snow was too soft to ride. About halfway through the 1st lap, as I was running, or actually more like walking, through shin deep snow, I was passed like I was standing still by another racer, who seemed to be full out sprinting with his bike beside him. I'm no runner, so I didn't bother trying to match the pace.
As I started my 2nd lap, I knew I was sitting in 3rd place when my speed severely dropped as the course wound its way back into the singletrack. Turns out having 40 fat bikers ride or run through it only served to chew up what little packed surface there was. Now the trail was a shin-deep mess of sugar-like powder. I'm pretty sure I ended up running about half of this lap. Not what I signed up for!
In a quest for traction, I stopped 3 separate times to let air out of my tires. In my laziness the day before the race, I opted out of swapping over to my larger 5 inch tires, which was definitely turning into a mistake! After stopping to let out air the 3rd time, I knew going any lower wouldn't help any, so it was back to focusing on riding/running. (For those interested, my tire pressure at the end of the race was 3 psi)
Lap 3 was much of the same, although I was pretty sure I'd moved up to 2nd place in the category of 'those foolish enough to take their bike for a run/ride in powdery snow and cold weather.' The lower tire pressure felt like it had helped a tiny bit, but it still felt like a duathlon.
As lap 4 went on, I checked my time and knew I wouldn't have a chance to knock of another, so with it being the final lap, I decided to do what I could to sprint as much of the unrideable sections as possible. It paid off! With about 5 minutes to go, I caught and passed the local rider who was in 1st place.
It's not worth making a big deal out winning a recreational fat bike race, but I do want to give a huge shoutout to HMBA organizers and sponsors for the sweet swag haul that came with it. That's right, aside from the custom trophy, all the other prizes I got were 100% beer related! Fitting to win a growler at the Growler. ;)
Anyways, if it's not on your list for 2019, put it there - the Hinton Growler is a great grassroots event - fun, laid back, and excuse to get outside and play around in the snow.
With that, the next race for me will be the thick of Alberta XC mountain bike season. Not sure what Coleman has planned, but stay tuned - I'm sure we both feel the need to enter some whacky 24 hour race of sorts or something this year....
As always, thanks for reading!