The course winds from Grand Junction, on Colorado National Monument Park's Rim Rock Road and ends in Fruita. A review of the course profile should prepare you for what the race is...2000 feet of elevation gain and 2100 feet of elevation loss. There is very little flat terrain. By the end you really were hoping for some flat terrain...
The race takes you through three tunnels - one on the ascent and two on the descent. I was not a fan of the tunnels. Sure it was "cool" but it was really dark! While I read race reports that said the first three miles were the toughest uphill miles, I would add that mile four was no picnic...it felt the steepest to me.
The high point occurs during the first half of the race...not a mountain race but if you are a flat-lander, you might feel it a little. We were lucky that the weather cooperated - the predicted possible rain and snow stayed away and we had partly cloudy and partly sunny skies - and some windy sections...
And the views are breath-taking...
It was almost as if we had the park to ourselves. The park closes the west bound lane to all traffic, so there were many miles of no vehicle traffic. My kind of race! I thought Ute and Upper Ute canyons were going to be the highlights. And then came Monument Canyon. Wow...
The volunteers were awesome and every aid station seemed to have Hammer gels, bananas, orange slices, pretzels, water and sports drink. This was not a PR race for me, but I was happy with my effort. The hardest part of the course occurred between miles 21-23. I think this was the steepest downhill section. And my lack of hill training really became evident on this section - such a shame to not take total advantage of the downhill. I was not a fan of the last few miles outside the park on HWY 340 but the finish area was well in sight and kept me distracted from the traffic and the wind.
This was a great way to end a rather lack-luster racing year. I think everyone "must do" this race...or at least make a visit to the park and hit the trails! I know I will race this one again...and now I think I need to go and put more biofreeze on my legs...oh my poor legs!