If you have ever heard of the Leadville 100 mountain bike race, then you’re probably familiar with the name Dave Wiens. Dave has been a professional mountain bike racer for more than 25 years. He’s ridden mountains, dirt, and rocks to 6 Leadville Trail 100 titles, 2 US National Championships, 2 World Cup victories and an Adventure Racing World Championship. He races for the Topeak Ergon Racing Team, is the Executive Director of the non-profit Gunnison Trails, the Director of Mountain Sports at Western State Colorado University, and an ambassador for Lifetime Fitness and the Leadville Race Series.
As if all of that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, Dave operates The Original Growler (an epic mountain bike race in Gunnison, Colorado) and decided to add an off-road duathlon to the mix the week before. We caught up with Dave to learn more about The Original Meowler.
DirtTRI: What inspired you to create The Original Meowler and add it to your immensely popular mountain bike event The Growler?
Dave: I have had the idea for this format – a trail run within a mountain bike loop – since my days adventure racing back in the early 2000’s. For training, we would do what we called “sneaker rides” and a sneaker ride simply meant using our mountain bikes for an approach to a trek, trail run or peak ascent. We’d have our running shoes in our packs and stash our bikes, transition over to foot travel, do the run, trek or bag the peak, return to our bikes and finish the biking loop or ride back out. I always thought this would be a cool race format, the kicker being the isolated transition area, really using your mountain bike for the approach and having to have everything that you’d need for the run with you. At some point, I realized that the Growler was ideal for this format because at it’s furthest point, a 10-11-mile circuit called the Aberdeen Loop takes off going even further from Gunnison. In 2015, I finally pulled the trigger on this event by having a small field and running it at the same time as the Full Growler. The Meowler name, not so popular with some, is simply a play on the word Growler and a parallel to the imagery we use for the Growler. The Growler has always been associated with a wolf so we use a mountain lion for the Meowler. It’s even more relevant since mountain lions do inhabit the Hartman Rocks area whereas a wolf hasn’t been in that country for decades.
DirtTRI: With 2015 being the first time you held the event, what was the feedback you got and how did that change the race this year?
Dave: We received rave reviews from participants in 2015. I think racers liked having to be self sufficient as far as their equipment. A solo racer could show up, park their car and compete without having to stock a transition area or be at a disadvantage to someone who brought a crew. We also heard that competitors liked that it was longer than many multisport events.
As a competitor, you really got the sense that you were “out there.”
Our oversights last year were under-stating the mileage for the run and in not having back up timing for the run. Our timing mats didn’t work so we didn’t get run splits. We have addressed both of these for 2016.
DirtTRI: Being a multi-time Leadville 100 winner, you’re used to racing long. Do you think the length of the Meowler is a draw or deterrent to some athletes? What would you say to those athletes?
Dave: I think that’s it’s both depending on what an athlete likes. If you like the long stuff, I think it’s very appealing. It is a time of year where it could also be a great training tool for an XTERRA athlete to build base endurance and improve bike handling and trail running skills in technically demanding terrain. The Meowler is certainly not positioned as a sprint! It will test athletes from start to finish and it puts a premium on smart pacing and technical skills. You can’t fake you way around either the mountain biking or the trail running and a 40-mile day on dirt is a great challenge.