After finishing the Colorado Trail Race in 2011 on a Singlespeed it was always in the back of my head to try and go under 5 days. With the addition of they Tarryall Detour a few years ago the course ballooned to a total of 550 miles with just north of 70,000 feet of climbing. Regardless of the additional millage I knew a sub 5 day finish was within my grasp if everything went well.
My riding this early spring wasn't quite what I wanted between working at a ski resort and massive snowfall in May which allowed the local trails to really only open up until ~6 weeks prior to the race. However, my fitness came around well and I was ready with a slightly more streamlined kit. However it has been a wet summer in the high country and I was ready for 5 straight days of rain as that has been the norm around here. Turns out, we has a perfect weather window and I only used my rain gear once.
I left Durango at 4am on July 26th with ~15,000 calories stuffed into my kit and my eyes on Denver. I rode quite slow on the first day knowing what was coming. On the hike-a-bike up to Rolling Mountain Pass I flipped up a big piece of shale and it kicked up into my left ankle. It hurt as it was ankle bone to rock contact. I slowed slightly with the pain but managed to hit Silverton about 8:30. A full 2 and a half hours behind where I wanted to be, however I felt fresh and wide awake and like I was out on a day ride so that was good. I started the long ride/push up Soney Pass as the moon came out and illuminated the entire valley. Despite feeling good I made the conservative call and slept along the Soney Pass road at tree-line around midnight, not wanting to spend a cold night even higher. A call that in the end was not necessary but living in Summit County I know how cold and wet it can be up there even in Summer.
I was up and riding (well pushing) at 3:30 am up towards the infamous Coney/Cataract section. Watching the sunrise from up there was amazing and I kept riding and pushing onward at a steady pace. My left ankle hurt while walking and especially while pushing the bike on rough terrain. It was swollen a bit but there was a sharp pain running from the outside of my ankle up my calf. I could make progress though and I kept steady until I hit the road early afternoon. The road detour went fast and I hit the end of the detour just after dark. The valley before HWY 114 was damp and cold so I kept riding until about 1 AM and slept at the start of the single track after the highway with 107 miles in the books.
I started the slow going section to Marshall Pass about 4:30 am and it was apparent that my ankle was still cranky. Pushing over all the baby head rocks and rough loose terrain wreaked havoc on it. I could only push from the left side of the bike as anytime my left ankle would rotate to the outside a sharp pain would shoot up my leg and I would slip. It was slow, even slower than I remember. Also, it was hot and there was not a breath of wind so I just cooked as I was walking. The steep push up to Windy Peak nearly brought me to the edge as it was rough on my ankle. However as with all crappy segments on the CT, it passes and eventually I crossed Marshall Pass and started my way up towards the Crest. Actually being able to ride slightly more make my ankle feel better and I made good progress. Before I knew it I was dropping down the Fooses Creek drainage. I crossed HWY 50 and called it a day early at about 10 PM wanting to get weight off my ankle. Not a very big day with all the ankle issues but I made progress.
I was up at 3 AM and moving steadily along some of my favorite parts of the CT. The more consistent riding helped and I made good progress getting to Buena Vista by midday. I made a quick stop at the grocery store to procure another 15k calories followed by some running around for random items and finally a stop at Panchos for a burrito. It took longer than I wanted and by the time I left town it was HOT again and I was stuffed. On gravel going through the old railroad tunnels there was a slight tailwind which matched my speed to again I was roasting, this time with a stuffed belly. I kept moving and made it thru Twin Lakes and into Leadville at dark. A quick stop at a gas station and I was out of town headed towards Tennessee Pass. It was dang cold down in the valley but I climbed up onto the Wurtz Ditch Road a ways before calling it a night.
That was my 3rd attempt and the Colorado Trail Race and my 2nd finish. After 4 years away it was good to be back, however to be honest, I am a little disappointed in missing my target of sub 5 days. The ankle has been swollen and pretty tender for the past week but is improving slowly. Overall, the CTR is quite a beast and I am happy to have another finish to my name. The downside is that I can't stop thinking about next time.