Saturday, August 8, 2015

Colorado Trail Race 2015

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. 

Again, I was moving early in the dark, this time towards Kokomo Pass.  The push up to the pass wasn't as bad as I was expecting and before it was hot I was over Kokomo and Searl and bombing towards Copper. After a stop at the gas station for a coke and a sandwich the push up the 10 Mile Range started.  The 10 Mile Range is slow in either direction but I crossed HWY 9 by late afternoon and started up towards Georgia Pass. The sun set while I was at the top of Westridge but I kept moving across the Middle Fork of the Swan and through the worst of the Georgia Pass hike-a-bike until about 11 PM.

I actually slept well for the first time in the race and was up and pushing at 2:30 AM. Most of the remaining parts of Georgia Pass were rideable so I crested about 4 AM under a full moon. The sun rose as I was nearing Kenosha Pass and before long I was on the long detour through Taryall. After a brief stop at the Stagecoach for ice cream and Coke and the detour was on. Again, it got HOT down there in the low lands and being from Summit County where it never gets above 80 I was roasting. However, the end was in sight and I kept hammering. Finally the detour ended and I was smashing Buffalo Creek. I kept pedaling with my ankle felling the best it has since the first day because of the minimal walking. Darkness set it with just a few miles to the end and I kept pedaling. I coasted into the Trailhead in 5 days 17 hours and change happy to be done.

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.

Firecracker 50

On July 4th, after a 5 year hiatus from the Firecracker 50 I threw down a 4:32 this year which was good enough for a 37th in a STACKED pro field. Even though I was battling cramps for the last 15 miles it was by far my best result at a tough but awesome event! 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Salida Dirty Double Fondo

The seemingly endless Winter in Summit County has made pretty much any riding on dirt pretty hard however, I have made a few trips out to the desert to ride get some miles in. Also, this past weekend I headed down to Salida to stretch the distance legs a little in the Salida Dirty Double Fondo which was a 128 mile mostly dirt road event. I put on the rigid fork and aero bars in an attempt to keep up with the mostly cross bike crew that was racing. It was stupid fun and an awesome little event!

Boneyard Trail in Eagle


Blue Dot Trail in Moab

Portal in Moab

Turns out that Tour Divide gear such as a rigid fork and aero bars are also good for chasing cross bikes. 

The Salida Dirty Double Fondo started out cold and wet with some mud down low that claimed atleast 2 broken derailuers that I know of but once we climbed high enough things either were still frozen or had dried out making for some excellent riding.

The views weren't bad either. 

Cranking out the miles. 

Next up is some New Belgium Short Track on Tuesday and then provided things ever dry out in Summit County some local races. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


It's been awhile since I've put anything up on here but the past year has been busy. I was given the opportunity to travel to New Zealand over the summer to work on a Ski Patrol Exchange so I only got in some minimal bike racing, but I did manage to squeeze some in between my 3 consecutive winter seasons. Don't get me wrong, I love skiing but at heart I am still a summer kid who would choose rallying bikes over skiing but one does not turn down the opportunity to work in NZ when it's on the table. So, think of this as an update in visual form.

Spring time means bike racing, pure and simple

Suffer face

Sunrise at the Remarkables while running Avalanche routes. 

Camping on the Southern Coast of NZ

Proper NZ sketchy rope swing. 

Sunrise from the top of Coronet Peak

NZ Billygoating

Grand Couloir from the top of the Alta Chutes at the Remarkables 

Skiing the Grand Couloir

More Road Tripping

Milford Sound

Trail Running NZ style

I came back to CO just in time to enjoy fall and get plenty of riding in

Nothing beats ripping trails as the Aspens change!

But, eventually the snow fell and I headed back to work. 

However, work isn't too bad

I'll take the skiing when I can but I'm counting down the days until riding season starts!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Without a doubt this past summer was one for the record books which in some ways left me hollowed out and bare. However, after the Divide I discovered a new fondness for mountain running and slowly my goal list for the next year is filling up with hair-brained ideas that are not solely cycling related. When I discovered backcountry skiing it opened up a whole new world of possibilities and as with mountain running I am able to explore places that a bike simply can not take you.  I had a goal of running a trail marathon before work started but for once I actually made the smart call and realized that my body was still limping along after the summer, so I tucked that goal in my back pocket and now it's winter motivation.

Waking up at 4:30 AM after multiple 55+ hour work weeks outside and then promptly plunging yourself right back into windchills that would make a polar bear shiver isn't easy, but the views and grin inducing skiing make it all worth it.   

Up high in the mountains with the wind whipping away at any exposed skin is where I find pure happiness. Sure, I crave a warm bed as my little headlamp bounces along only exposing the next few steps, but who can deny the power of exploring with only your legs to propel you. 

The sensation of having your breath become rhythmic, your heart start to pound harder and harder, and your legs burn up the skintrack causing your thoughts to narrow to only the next steps or the next ridge line can be incredible. However tunnel vision can lead to tunnel thoughts and since I prefer the natural world to the gym I must remember to look around and relax my thoughts.

At times I let my wandering mind get the best of me and I start to spiral down rabbit holes in my own brain, but if I let the wind and cold air narrow my focus to only the path directly ahead of me and the sensation of being in an incredible environment my mind clears and I realize that in that moment I am as happy as I can be.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tour Divide: Ups and Downs

Looking through the lens of the 5 months since my Tour Divide attempt this summer it's easy to omit some parts such as shivering in the cold, yelling into the wind, and sleeping in the snow but what remains is a pretty cool adventure that for some reason I have put off writing about.

In Banff at the start line I was bursting with anticipation and nervous energy over the adventure ahead. I have wanted to toe the line for a good number of years and this year the stars had aligned and I was actually there.

Leaving the Banff I knew I was sitting on some pretty decent fitness however there was no way to escape the fact that I hadn't ridden a bike all winter. Living at 9,000 feet and working at a ski resort doesn't provide a whole lot of opportunity for riding in the winter. However, I ski toured my brains out all winter and crossed my fingers that come spring when I suddenly rode 30 hours a week my legs would remember how to pedal. 

After a spring in Grand Junction I felt I was as ready as I could be and my bags were packed. 

Although the Divide is something you can never really feel fully prepared for. You just do what you can and then one day it's time to start. 

The first few days of the race went well and I was feeling strong. I was also aware that I had a long road ahead and I was pacing myself pretty conservatively knowing that a slower start could yield big dividends down the road.

There was some amazing country in the Canadian Rockies and I was fortunate enough to see plenty of wildlife and amazing views. 

For no particular reason I often found myself riding alone which affords plenty of reflection time and self talk. 

As can sometimes happen when you're alone, a tad cold, tired, and in foreign places at night, demons can sneak in. 

I have always felt that if a person has demons to contend with they will surface in a long bike race. Everything from 24 hour races, to tours, to multi-day races are fertile grounds for those negative thoughts to creep in and take over.

I managed them pretty well and was really enjoying my time out there seeing new landscapes and sleeping in completely random places under the stars. 

A friend once told me: "all that matters is that at the end of the day your desire to go forward is greater than your desire to go back" and I really did want to continue each and every day. 

 As the days ticked by I could feel my body start to adapt and push out some of the fatigue.

My already fairly dialed system was getting more efficient every day. 

Even when I slept in a Forest Service bathroom lean to in the rain and snow I was pretty happy, which proves the point that all you really need is some food and a roof over your head. 

Some days the wind was my greatest enemy and left me miles from anybody else, screaming into the wind gusts that repeatedly tried to rip my sail of a bike off the road and blow my jacket into the next state every time I tried to put it on or take it off.

However, after every negative or tough moment something would happen to snap me out of a negative head space. It could be meeting a random hunter on a 4 wheeler who couldn't believe people rode bikes where I was and then promptly offering me a swig of the whiskey in his pocket or a sudden tailwind blowing me down the road or a stunning sunset that left my jaw on the ground. 

The road ahead of me was still long, but the miles were starting to add up and with all the love and support I had received from those closest to me both leading up to the trip as well as in care packages that followed me along the route I was really out chasing a goal I have dreamed of for so long.  

 Whenever I started to feel down I would simply need to glance down at a pin on my handlebars that said "LOVE".

I loved being out there, I loved chasing the horizon, I loved pushing myself and seeing things and feeling things that few will ever understand. 

 I promised myself that I would not return the same person that started in Banff and even though my eyes were often tired, my belly was often hungry, and my body was fatigued a change was happening.

 However, my journey was cut short by a sudden illness that essentially stopped me in my tracks.

Not long after snapping the picture above I went from riding along to being curled up in my sleeping bag along the side of the road puking my guts out. Complete body shutdown. Thankfully I was able to thumb a ride out from a local jeeper and then was able to make contact with a pretty girl who I had met a month or so prior to arrange a ride back to civilization. I was nursed back to health by pedialite and it would take a few days before I could stomach a real meal. 

My adventure was over so suddenly and without warning which is perhaps why I have put off writing about it. Will I return to race the spine of the continent again?  I don't know. For several months I didn't think so, however thoughts of giving it another shot have started to creep back into my head. The Divide really is one of those things that gets under your skin. It's an experience that one can never understand until you're out there in it. As I become more and more removed from the uncomfortable parts of the race what remains are memories of such magnitude that no pretty picture or flowery words can begin to convey. 

So thank you to everyone who both helped me prepare and who gave me encouraging words and thoughts while I was out there.  It really was an adventure of a lifetime and what matters in the end is the person who gets spit out the other end.