Race Report and photos by Charlie Gilmore, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team.
This was my third time racing the True Grit Epic and it is hands down my favorite race. The course is about 45 miles in length with over 5,000 feet of climbing and combines some of the best mountain bike trails in Utah, including Barrel and Zen Trails and Barrel Roll. In addition to being physically demanding, the course tests your bike handling skills, both up and down. This year I traveled and roomed with three really fast riders, including Chris Heinrich who also races for The Path Bike Shop and is an accomplished single-speeder.
On the drive out, Chris educated me on his strict race diet which includes a heavy dose of Cheetos and Taco Bell along with a spirit or two. We arrived in Santa Clara on Thursday and settled into our condo which was less than one mile from The Zen Trailhead. We met up with Brad Keyes (Carbo Rocket Keyes) and got a great pre-ride in on some of the most technical trails on the course. Friday we did a shorter Zen ride, had a very relaxing pre-race day and got to bed early. Race morning we did a very brief warm up ride and lined up for our race. Chris was racing open single speed and I was racing in the 50-59 category and we both started in the third wave.
There were well over 100 racers in our starting group so getting off to a fast start was critical before it funneled into single track. Chris and I started in the lead group of about 8 riders and I hung as long as I could, but about 20 minutes in the pace was just too fast and I watched Chris and a few other riders disappear into the distance. I settled into a pace that was hard but manageable and quickly began catching riders from the earlier waves which was motivating. I was amazed at how many riders recognized my Path jersey and shouted out encouragement and positive comments about the shop and the podcast. I had a clean run down the infamous waterfall and the rest of Barrel and Zen trails. I grabbed a quick water bottle and headed out for the remaining 25 miles. This is where it typically really starts to hurt but surprisingly my legs felt great. The cool weather definitely helped.
At the last aid station I took another water bottle and headed out for the remaining 10 miles. Right about the time you think you are nearing the finish you enter Barrel Roll which includes some really technical terrain made even more difficult because you are mentally and physically shot. This is normally a guaranteed cramp spot but I managed a clean cramp free run through the last technical section and sprinted for the finish realizing I had a chance at a PR. I ended up finishing in 3 hours in 51 minutes which was 7 minutes faster than my previous best and good enough for 3rd out of 81 in my category and 54th overall out of 494 overall. Unfortunately they made a timing error so I wasn’t aware I made the podium until two days after the race and missed my opportunity to stand on the Podium. Chris lit up the open single speed category winning by over 5 minutes and finishing 38th overall!
I would like to thank The Path Bike Shop for helping me get onto a Scott Spark RC and fitting me on the bike. The Spark is incredibly efficient while still being very trail worthy and my revised positioning from the fit up (thanks Ian) really seems to be working for me. Overall it truly was an epic race day and I’m already looking forward to next year, hopefully with more riders from The Path Bike Shop! Next up, Vision Quest.
- Top – Chris Heinrich taking in the UT views during a course pre-ride
- Center - Left to right, local rider Kenny, Carbo Rocket Keyes, and Chris Heinrich at the top of Zen trail
- Bottom, left – Quick stop at Taco Bell on our way to Santa Clara UT
- Bottom, right – Chris Heinrich on top of the open single speed podium