Colorado Trail Race

Link to all the photos: Colorado Trail Race

Like all the really long races I’ve tried, the CTR made me feel about as good as a stick of butter that was dropped in the dirt on a hot day, then run over by a coal truck. But I’d do it again.

It was a busy weekend in Carbondale, so I worked a half a day before the race, then my homeboy Ole Poop Splash and I headed for Durango. During the car ride, Ole Poop Splash felt some dysentery coming on, likely from an adventure in an area heavily populated by cows, and made an emergency roadside stop. He dug a hole on a hillside, relieved himself, then accidently kicked a large flat rock, which tumbled into freshly filled hole and covered him in the particulate that would give him his new name. Ole Poop Splash.

He came running down the hillside, shedding his clothes like they’d just been splashed with poop, and ripped some fresh shorts out of the car.

A lady that was stopped to take pictures of the pass perked up.

“Now boys, keep your clothes on. You just made an old lady’s day.”

Ole Poop Splash got in the car.

“That’s really great that she’s into skinny guys covered in shit,” said Ole Poop Splash. I held my breath until we made it to Paonia to buy stuff to sanitise the car (baby wipes, lighter fluid, an acetylene torch).

“You’ll be feeling great tomorrow Ole Poop Splash,” I assured Ole Poop Splash.

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Sadly, I was way wrong, and Ole Poop Splash couldn’t leave the couch. And although I felt a lot better than my unfortunate amigo, the morning of the race still wasn’t a great one for me. By the time I had everything squared away the night before, it was 11:30. My friend’s dog slept with me, which was really cute except for the four times he saw something on the street, jumped on me, then ran downstairs barking. By the time three rolled around, I’d gotten a solid hour and a half of sleep. Then to town to make the 4:00AM start.

I put batteries in my big brother box. Nothing. Must have been duds. Couldn’t do anything about it then, so I decided to ride without a tracker to Silverton and try to find lithiums there. That gas station turned out not to have any. I forgot to look in Buena Fiesta, Leadville was all alkaline as well, and I couldn’t stand to hunt around in Copper, the place was so packed with tourists and close to I-70 that after days on the trail it made me want to skewer myself on one of the hooks holding up the Chex Mix.

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The first day out of Durango was the hardest day I’ve ever had on a bike, and starting without sleep probably didn’t help. Pass after pass after pass, hours of hiking, pressing a heavy bike forward over rocks. Awesome in the real meaning of the word, but so hard. I had to bivy at eight- 16 hours and only 75 miles in. I was certain I’d get to Silverton the next morning and quit.

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The next morning, I left Silverton and figured maybe I’d quit a little later. On top of Stony Pass outside of Silverton, I hung out with a guy on some rocks for a rest. I asked him something about the next section.

“You know how it is man. I don’t even question it. Just keep going until it stops,” he said. So I did. I caught up to Alice, who as of yesterday became the first female Triple Crown finisher, talked for a minute, then walked away on the rolling trail- which rolled straight up and down from 12,000 to 13,000 feet for the rest of the day.

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My phone died, my spot was dead, and I didn’t see anyone other than a few hikers until the finish in Waterton Canyon. I was out there cruising on my own. I didn’t feel like I was being constantly watched, and nobody knew where I was. That was actually pretty nice. I called Colleen from a pay phone in Leadville.

My back and feet mostly went numb. Which was good, because then they didn’t hurt anymore.

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Somehow I lost track of the days, and by the third day, thought the race clock was on day four. Since I figured I was going way slower than I’d planned, I told myself I’d just do a fast tour and finish in around seven days. I slept a long time on the Monarch Crest, and imagined that people must have passed me in the night.

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I put in a big fast tour effort the next day, made it to Camp Hale early the next morning, woke up two hours later, rode another full day over Kokomo, Searl, and Ten Mile, then boogied over Georgia Pass in the moonlight. I stopped at the top. Wind blew softly across the tundra, clouds swirled around the moon and the mountains. Layed down. Closed my eyes, breathed. Ok, back up and dropping down the trail fast, back in the trees, weaving in and out headlight throwing long shadows.

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I planned to sleep an hour and knock out the rest of the trail, but set my alarm clock to one in the afternoon instead of the morning.

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Up and moving late, at four. But maybe I could still finish in under six and a half days. Sun beat down on the Tarryall Detour, it rained, soft wet sand on the second to last segment. Six and a half days came, went. Still 20 miles left. I saw a rider coming the other way, said hello and tried to ask what the trail was like up ahead.

He pointed to his ear buds. “I can’t hear you,” he yelled. Well suck on a tree stump, dick. I’ll just keep going until it stops. Rode down to the river, purified water. Two and a half hours until sunset. No way I was finishing in the dark. I attacked the last big climb like I was in a cross country race, descended, then hit the last little climb before the finish. Thought I saw somebody back on a switchback. No, couldn’t have been. I hadn’t seen anybody all week.

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Sprinted down the last bit of trail, lost it in a loose corner and slid on the dirt, stupid, everything ok popped back up and put it in big gear on the road down to the bottom of Waterton Canyon.

A few people hung around, waiting for other finishers.

“Nice work,” somebody said.

“Yeah, glad I got it done in under seven days.”

“We’re on day five.”

“Huh?”

“The race clock is five days, 16 hours.”

“Oh, no way. That’s rad.” A day faster than I thought.

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A rider rolled in and locked up his back tire.

“Who was that on that last descent?” he yelled. I raised my hand. “Montana, you lucky fucker. That was the only flat I had the entire race. I almost had you.” Then two other guys finished. We must have been right around each other the entire time, they were all together, and I had no idea they were there.

I really dug the Colorado Trail. The Divide kinda made me never want to race my bike again, but the CTR has me all jazzed about bike racing. It was everything I love about mountain biking- big scenery, screaming descents, hard, technical riding. Very neat.

With that terrible night’s sleep the day before the race, I ended up bivying more than I wanted to out there, but it was probably good to be a little conservative on my first run.

These were my days:

0: Durango to the last pass before Silverton

1: Last pass before Silverton to Los Pinos Pass

2: Los Pinos Pass to treeline on the Monarch Crest

3: Monarch Crest to Camp Hale

4: Camp Hale to Georgia Pass

5: Georgia Pass to Finish

8 comments

  1. Great blog! I really enjoy the stories. Looks like you made the switch over to An internally geared hub. Why the change? How’s it working for you? Also why the narrower tires for the race?

    • Thanks man. I switched to a Rohloff for the CTR because I decided I didn’t want to walk the entire thing. Tires are 29×3.0 Dirt Wizards, they just look a little smaller because they had to shrink the casing to fit the knobs

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