Champs return to Ultra 100
“I realized the meaning was I wasn’t going to quit,” said Grainger, a Boulder resident who returns to this year’s Ultra 100 Aug. 17 as the defending women’s champ. She sounds like the type of person who wouldn’t mind pedalling 100 miles – and those kind do have a unique ring to their voice. She played off the fact that five days after finishing second at Brian’s Head, she was asthmatic, on her bike, trying to convince her team it was wise to continue defending her title at the Montezuma’s Revenge 24-hour race – an endurance contest with fangs.
She did, and finished fourth.
“After 50 miles into it, you find out a lot about yourself. I asked myself if I was just racing to get first place, or am I racing to get what racing gives me,” she said. “This is what Ultra Racing teaches you. You don’t quit if it’s not going the way you want to go.”
The defending men’s champ did quit, for a brief stint at least, after winning the 1999 24 Hour World Championships. But life outside the single-tracks didn’t settle so well with Carbondale’s Rishi Grewal. He returned in the middle of 2001, won the Vail Ultra 100, and the 35-year-old has returned to peak condition.
“Last year was really tough for me. I wasn’t lucky, but I just used experience,” he said. His confidence, along with his conditioning, has risen steadily sense. If he sounds boastful, it’s because he’s not shy in acknowledging the fact that from the world championships he’s won, the Ultra 100 is just salad dressing.
“I will be hard to beat this year,” he added. “If someone beats me, they’ll have to have a perfect race.”
If he or Grainger place first, it will mark the first repeat champion in the four years of the event. Grewal won last year in the time of 7 hours, 19 minutes, about 19 minutes ahead of runner-up and 2000 champion Jimi Mortenson. Grainger, meanwhile, posted a time of 9:14 and a narrow three-minute win.
“Both Rishi and Michelle appear to once again be at the top of their game coming into the Ultra 100,” said organizer Jeff Brausch, president/CEO of Highline Sports. “But with a race like this, there are so many things that can come into play and affect the results.”
Like asthma. Grainger’s one of 15 million Americans with the breathing disorder, also the leading cause of sick days at work, according to Dr. William Slivers M.D. P.H.D, of the Asthma, Allergy, Immunology Clinic of Colorado in Denver.
The rate of asthma doubles in relation to serious athletes and reaches almost 50 percent of winter endurance participants, particularly Nordic skiers. In other words, Grainger’s condition isn’t rare, but it also doesn’t help her cause in long, oxygen-depriving events like the Ultra 100.
In fact, two years ago when she finished third, she suffered an attack midway through the race. Still, she insists the solution resulted in improved fitness.
“My limiting factor is I can’t race as hard as my body can race,” she said. “I can’t use my lungs at that level. I’m still worried. There’s some races I don’t go to, or sometimes where I don’t race as often.”
But that’s the lesson, Grainger said, of racing. Whether it’s flat tires or flat lungs, she knows every hurdle she clears is one less in her path.
“Change and the unexpected made us learn,” Grainger said. “It’s the same in bike racing. Success, you get used to that, but it doesn’t encourage change. In my first experience racing, I learned it was the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. That’s the way it goes.”
Race moves to Beaver Creek
BEAVER CREEK –Three things are new this year at the Ultra 100: the course, the options and the afterparty.
While the this year changed course, it did so only slightly. The 100-mile mountain bike race will start and finish in the heart of Beaver Creek – a change from the previous spot in Vail –with course sections using Arrowhead, and a significant amount of the previous race course.
The most important switch is the location of June Creek, Red and White Mountain and Muddy Pass, which had been at the end of the race. Now, they’re the first challenges for the 2002 field.
Registration for the Ultra 100 is $160 for individual competitors.
A 100-kilometer race is also new this year, with the price at $130 for the shorter contest. Entries received after today will be charged an extra $50 fee and day-of-race registration will be on a space-available basis.
Racers can register online at http://www.ultra-100.com through Thursday. Registration packets are also available at the Mountain Pedaler locations in Minturn and Eagle.
The final addition to this year’s event is a post-race party.