Colorado Trail Race - Cochetopa - Gunnison and Rio Grande National Forests - CTR Colorado Trail Guide

It’s Wednesday, three days before the start of the Colorado Trail Race (CTR) and the head cold that plagued the house I’m staying in for the duration of the One of Seven Project finally caught up to me.  I don’t feel too sick but it’s there.  It’s just enough to have me worried about starting a 540 mile mountain bike race from Durango to Denver, CO which has an average elevation over 10,000′.

Three days later I woke up at 3 am for the 4 am start.  The cold was still there, hiding in a dark corner of my head.  Most likely it was hanging out having beers with all those dark thoughts that would come out later in the race.
Before photo CTR
I knew the Colorado Trail Race was going to be a beast but it was much harder than I had imagined.  The weather was the big unknown factor and it didn’t disappoint.  People said it was probably the worst in regards to weather in the races’ history.  Once I started the race, myself and my gear would never be fully dry again.
I wouldn’t say my race started as I would have liked.  Less than a quarter mile into the race I almost fell off a very short bridge.  I didn’t see it had a raised center and my tires crossed up.  The fact that my race almost ended before it really started, left me unsettled.  With so much at stake with the One of Seven Project, it would have really sucked to have a stupid little mishap like this end it all.
Colorado Trail - CTR - San Juan National Forest - Colorado Trail Guide
If the bridge left me unsettled my crash just up the trail really got me.  There was a large rock blocking the left 2/3’s of the trail.  I moved to the right side to clear the rock and what I didn’t know was there was another rock embedded in the side wall of the trail covered by the lush brush that was slowly trying to engulf the trail.  My front tire hit it straight on causing me to high side off the left of the bike.  Of course the left side of the trail was a drop off to a creek.  Phillip and I landed hard in a stand of alders.
Once I came to a stop, I couldn’t get up.  My right foot was still clipped in and I couldn’t get it out.  Thankfully the next two racers stopped and lifted Phillip off me. My phone had ejected out of my pocket but I found it quickly.  As I went to throw my leg over Phillip I noticed my left barend was missing.  This wouldn’t have been an issue if it wasn’t for the fact that the barend is what holds my grip on.  If I couldn’t find it my race was over in the first mile!
From where I landed I figured the barend was down the hill.  After not finding it I looked on the top, then the bottom, and in between, no luck.  Finally I started a grid search and it was oddly right on the edge of the trail.  So not to take up the whole trail, I moved up the trail to where there was a bridge and more room to make repairs.  With all this turmoil behind me I got back to racing and wouldn’t have another fall until a greasy wet root covered descent into Copper on Day 6.
CTR Stony Pass
My Colorado Trail Race experience was filled with rain, hail, fog, mud, lots of hike-a-bike (HAB) 70 miles of it, amazing singletrack, highs and a few very low lows.  It was what one would expect of a race of this nature but it still surprised me.  By the end of Day 3, I was pretty crushed mentally.  It was the second night in a row that I had a rain storm descend on me just before camp.  To be dry and then have a storm dump on you so late in the day was a real kick in the balls.  Mentally I just wanted a dry flat camp spot.  Nature had other plans for Phillip and I.  To have been rained on multiple nights after already being wet multiple times that day was as the saying goes, “Adding insult to injury.”
Another tough pill to swallow was the wrong turn I took after cresting Stony Pass outside of Silverton.   I went 3 miles down hill the wrong way.  On the way back to the course I got caught in a heavy hail storm followed by even heavier rain.  By the time I got back to the course I was wet and very cold.  It was only 5 pm but I quickly set up my tent and didn’t move for 12 hours.  Actually I did move as there was an excessive amount of shivering, from mild hypothermia.
Days 1-4 were very tough and wet.  The wet combined with the share intensity of the riding really took it out of me.  I can say for certain I wouldn’t have gone as deep as I did into those dark places one goes in events like this if the weather was better.  That’s not an excuse but me admitting I know that my mood is greatly affected by weather.
It was also hard knowing a lot of the trail during those days.  Most times I knew what was coming and how hard or easy it would be.  I think I’d rather not know if I was given the choice.
Cochetopa - CTR
Day 5-8 were much brighter mentally.  On the morning of Day 5 I caught up to Brett Stepanik who I had met on the Tour Divide.  Brett is one of those people who is almost always in a good mood and lifts those around him up.  I told Brett that I had said to myself that if I caught him I wouldn’t let him get away from me, I would finish the race with him no matter what.
I did just that despite Brett setting a torrid place through the end of the Lost Creek Alternate and the Buffalo Creek area (the racer behind us caught us so we were trying to drop him again).  During those days Brett and I pushed each other on many levels.  The whole experience laid the foundation of a friendship that is bound to last years to come.
As I mentioned throughout the race I was constantly getting wet and my gear was never fully dry.  As a result I just wanted to get to Waterton Canyon, the finish.  When I got there I wasn’t relieved, grateful, or happy to be done.  Like most of my adventures the finish is anticlimactic.
What was emotional and brought me to tears was telling my new friend Brett what he meant to me, after we finished.  The Colorado Trail Race reminded me that there’s certain people in your life that really matter and that you need to foster those relationships and work at them.  I know who these people are and I hope from my actions they know who they are too.  Brett was already one of those people.  Despite him being from Wisconsin I know we’ll be friends for a long time.
Waterton Canyon CTR Finish
One might get the idea that Colorado Trail Race was a miserable experience filled with rain, darkness, mud, physical exertion, and wet gear, but there was so much to smile at.  Like stories, adventures have two sides as well.  The singletrack I got to ride, above and below tree-line was amazing.  The wildflowers, mountain peaks, wildlife, and views were like that out of a Planet Earth episode.  My fellow racers were diverse as the terrain I rode.  They humbled me and pushed me to go further and longer.
Most of my adventures are done alone but like everyone I need others.  The older I get the more I realize how true this is.  My adventures increasingly remind me of this, and I’m grateful for that.
Colorado Trail Race by the Numbers

Position:  7th

Time:  7D 12H 56M
Distance:  538.9 miles
Route Distance Per Day: 71.2 miles
Route Average Speed:  3.0
Moving Average Speed: 5.0
Moving Time: 4:12:07
Stopped Time: 3:05:42
Day 1:  51 miles – 4 am to 8:24 pm
Day 2:  41.1 (92.1) miles – 3 am to 5:46 pm
Day 3:  76.5 (168.6) miles – 6:20 am to 9:35pm
Day 4:  59.3 (227.9) miles – 5:27 am to 8:19 pm
Day 5:  78.3 (306.2) miles – 6:17 am to 11:35 pm
Day 6:  70.7 (376.9) miles – 5:33 am to 11 pm
Day 7:  80.3 (457.2) miles – 5:30 am to 1:18 am
Day 8:  81.7 (538.9) miles – 5:36 am to 4:56 pm
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