Holy Crap!!!  What an amazing adventure!  Since many people have been asking me a lot of questions about my adventure, this post is pretty detailed.  Sorry if it’s long on words and a bit short on pics.  I traveled light the entire summer and only carried my phone.  Luckily it has a sweet panorama feature to it that makes the landscape views a bit better.

PREPARATION

If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I started my main prep for the Colorado Trail Race by doing the Arizona Trail 300.  While my intentions of doing the CTR on my single speed were set in stone, for some reason I did the AZT on my geared bike.  This meant having to make myself different bags for each bike.  About a week before leaving town for the summer, I finally finished up my kit for the single speed.  I’ll create a different post that addresses my equipment in detail.  For this post I’ll focus on the ride/experience.

My awesome teaching job allows me to leave the hot box for just over 2 months straight.  After attending the funeral of a former student (yeah….big bummer and not a great way to start out the summer), the family loaded up and headed north.  We always make our first stop at Water Canyon outside of Socorro, NM.  I had a great ride up there on some little used trails.  Bear shit every where.  Jen dropped me off at UNM for a week while I had to get certified to teach AP Physics.  Needless to say, I was chomping at the bit to hit some trails after that week.  So the family regrouped and we headed to Salida.

In Salida I did some big rides in the heat (100 degrees on the section south of Princeton Hot Springs).  Eventually I parted with the family and headed from our camp at the bottom of Marshall Pass on the CT to Lake City.  That was my first single speed ride of the year.  About 116 miles and over 50 of that was on flattish dirt roads.  Ugghh.  I got to test out my rain gear and the waterproofness of everything else I had.  I had a great ride and camped pretty much on the trail just south of Hwy 114.    Then it was on to Crested Butte where I put in some more good day rides.  After 2 weeks in the Butte, we headed to Leadville where Jen was to participate in the Silver Rush 50.  I got in another over nighter looping from Leadville on the pave to Copper, then the CT over to Hwy 24 and back to Leadville.

So no major “training” other than 2 over-nighters and a few big rides.  Most of my big day rides were done on the SS fully loaded with all the gear I was planning to carry in the race.  No sessions of “spin-ups” or threshold  intervals or tempo bullshit. No heart rate monitor, no “race” foods, not even any stretching/yoga.  I just rode my bike at a comfortable pace and tried to have as much fun as possible.

DAY 1

My start did not coincide with the race start.  On our way back from Laramie to the Front Range, our dog Luna was not doing very well so we took her in to an emergency clinic.  She was having massive kidney failure.  It freaked us out and we paid $1500 to leave her there overnight only to figure out later that night that she was done and no way we could afford to take a gamble on keeping her in the hospital for multiple days of treatment that might not work.  She kept “telling” us she was ready to leave us but we either ignored it or refused to acknowledge the signs.  Instead of starting with the big crew on Monday, we went back to the animal hospital to put our dog to rest.  Only 8 years with us, but she’d been with us for every summer we spent on the road traveling to races and having great adventures.  Needless to say, we mourned the rest of the day in our camp spot at Chatwick Lake State Park.

I was ready to ride as not doing so would have been pretty foolish. I spent many hours prepping for this thing.  Most of that time was getting my gear dialed in.  While carrying a bit of guilt and remorse about having to put Luna to sleep forever, I felt that the worst thing I could do was let that stop me from doing what was planned.  I attached Luna’s registration tag to my bar bag to remind me of the times she joined me for trail rides.  I chuckled a bit when I headed up Waterton Canyon and read the sign that said “NO DOGS”.  She was with me the entire time…..the only ride on which she was ever able to keep up with me.

With pain in my heart, I pedaled with a purpose and soon I was on wet single track.  Lots of climbing was in store for the first day and my goal was Hwy 9 near Breckenridge which would put me at about 100 miles for the day.  I soon realized that I would be walking A LOT.  No biggie.  I knew it would be that way and it was one reason why I decided to do it on a single speed.  If I was going to be pushing my bike a lot, why push one with a bunch of gears and shifter thingy stuff on it?

My first day followed a big storm and I ended up riding through what looked like a real race course with lots of tire tracks and quite a bit of mud.  Once again, no big deal.  Being on a single meant minimal worries in adverse conditions.  I paced myself but moved with a purpose.  I let myself float down the descents.  My bike felt super stable loaded with all the gear and I’d venture to say I descended as fast or faster than I do on my full suspension bike.  Sometimes I’d reflect back to times I rode with Luna.  One time was on a descent and the bike flowed down the swoopy trail.  I honestly felt like I wasn’t even on my bike and I was upside down making loops on a roller coaster.

The day heated up and I found myself in some really dry terrain with lots of decomposed granite.  Much like home only much smoother.  Eventually I found myself in Bailey where I stopped to refill with water.  I had not scouted anything east of Georgia Pass and did no research in regards to food stores/restaurants in the tiny little town.  I had plenty of food to get me to Leadville where I had a USPS mail drop waiting for me with 4 MRE entrees and heaters as well as other food.  So I headed on up the road eventually stopping on the side of the dirt road portion out of Bailey to heat up an MRE and get some calories in me.  I was rifling through my energy bars which was probably an indicator that I was riding too fast.  After my lunch I backed off on the pace and cruised up to the top of Kenosha Pass.  A few feet up the trail I ate another snack and realized I was almost out of water.  I went back into the campground to the pump to fill up and then headed up to Georgia Pass.  I topped out on GP to the giant “Trail Magic” cooler where I partook of a Coke and packed another 2 sodas into my bag since I had gone through most of my energy bars.  I was a bit worried about making it to Leadville with the food I was carrying.  After starting the descent there was another stash of “Trail Magic” from which I took a couple of tortillas.  At the bottom of the descent I passed a rider from Houston (Raul??) who seemed to be suffering from the altitude.  He said he had a buddy up the trail a ways and was just looking for the lowest point possible to put down for the night.  I gave him words of encouragement and tried to keep him jazzed up about the trail experience that lay ahead, but I’m pretty sure he dropped.  After passing him I stopped for more food near a spot that my family has camped at for years and contemplated the good times we always had there with our wonderful mutt.  I pumped some water into my water bladder and Dave Pickett-Heaps caught me.  He started about an hour behind me.  We headed up the trail and he asked if I was riding all night.  Uh…hell no brother.  My goal was 6 days with 6 hours of sleep a night.  We got nailed by a sleet storm when we caught the other guy from Houston who was putting on way too many clothes for a storm that I was sure was only going to last a couple minutes.  I left the Houstonite and  DPH as he seemed to be struggling in the wet conditions and  I made it past the dredge to a flat area above the Tiger Run RV park where I put down for the night.   I slept in the bag and the bivy, but was a bit too warm most of the night.  I probably slept for about 5 hours with almost 6 hours of non-riding time in that location.  About 95 miles for day one.  I was asleep well before midnight.

Day 1 gps file

DAY 2

After awaking well before my alarm, I changed out of my sleep gear, rearranged snacks and so forth in my bags, and was quickly packed and was on the trail in about 15 minutes.  I was able to cross HWY 9 well before the rush hour traffic (Summit County is way to crowded for me) and headed up to the top of the 10 Mile mentally preparing myself for a long day of hike-a-bike.  Near the top of Wheeler I passed Wendy Skean and her son.  They were in great spirits….the first people I passed who seemed to be having a really good time.  I passed someone else on the descent into Copper who was walking some sweet DH.  On around the base of Copper then back up to tree line and above for the sweet haul across two passes, Kokomo and Searle.  I saw quite a few hikers up there and on the way down to Camp Hale, I caught up to two guys doing a bikepacking trip unaffiliated with the CTR.  I ate an MRE and then quickly moved on to try to get to Leadville before the post office closed.  I had sent forward some light batteries and some more MRE’s, fruit leather, and Clif Bars.

On the road up to Leadville I passed some more tourists as well as a group of CTR looking participants with their bikes leaning against cars.  They were getting hugs and taking pictures just before town.  So much for no outside assistance.  LOL. I’m sure Toby Gadd would have shit a brick.  In Leadville I stopped for a Subway and then went to the post office.  I got my box, grabbed the food, then pulled a big bonehead move by leaving the batteries in the box.  I shipped the box to Silverton thinking it would beat me there.

Out of Leadville I headed stopping one last time at the place that sells liquor and ammo and grabbed some more snacks.  Spinning my way down the roads, the weather didn’t look too good.  Heading back into the forest, it started raining and I hid out in a pit toilet.  I heard some others outside and we all hung out in the shitter, with two guys from Reno on single speeds and Mark Caminetti.  Mark said I was dilly dallying and should get the move on and shoot for a 4 and change finish time.  We left with it still sprinkling and the two guys from Reno pinned it pretty good all the way to Buena Vista.

We got to BV well after midnight and went straight to the 7-11 (closed as of summer ’13) for some hot eats.  We scorched plenty of burritos and hot pockets and back tracked a little to the baseball stadium where we poached the dugout with no issues.  We all snored and I woke up around 5 am ready to ride for a 4 and change finish.

Day 2 gps file

Day 3

After leaving the dugout, I got lucky with a fairly new and super clean porto next to the tennis courts in order to take care of business.  A few minutes later I headed to the City Market hoping it would be open in time.  I got there about 10 minutes before they opened, so I called MTB cast.  Not sure why as I don’t find listening to those to be that interesting.  I guess I was bored and had nothing to do except clean the trash out of my bags and plan what I wanted to buy.  A few minutes later I was in and having scouted the store several times before during summer travels, I had a basket full of stuff to make it to Silverton in about 5 minutes and was at the register ready to roll.

Heading up the road from BV, I felt like I was carrying a ton of bricks.  I had an unopened Coke that I seriously considered giving to the garbage truck driver that I kept passing.  Finally I hit the trail and I felt normal again.  I came across a older woman who was pushing a baby stroller.  She asked what I was doing so I filled her in as quickly as I could without sounding rude.  She told me I had the most amazing looking legs she had ever seen on a man.  I replied with, “Thanks, I haven’t showered in 3 days.”

A few minutes after passing her I found myself in some pretty tough hike-a-bike and my shoes seemed filled with dirt.  I stopped to check things out and sure enough, the sole of my shoe was almost completely off and dirt was getting into the shoe.  The glue in my repair kit had leaked out (brand new and unopened) the tail end of the tube and dried up causing quite a mess inside my repair kit.  I put a piece of Gorilla Tape on the blister than had formed on the ball of my foot and continued forward, hoping the little store in Princeton Hot Springs would have some super glue.  Sure enough, they had 3 different types of glue!  I bought two tubes, repaired my shoe, ate some more hot food, and rolled out not far behind a girl who had started a day ahead of me.

I hike-a-biked with her for a while, chatting about thyroids (her’s had been removed and mine has been a low producer).  We soon came upon a LARGE group of riders before Angel of Shavano.  Some were getting water from the stream, I rode on knowing I could get water from the pump at the campground near Shavano.  It’s not in the CT pocket guidebook, so I’m not sure they knew about it.  Out of Shavano, I drove on not really looking forward to the climb up Foose’s.  Before crossing the highway, I sent a text to Jen to let her know I was rolling….fast…and when I would probably be finished.

Across the highway and up to Foose’s.  I had to stop again to take care of business….twice in one day….that’s a record.  I got hit by a short storm that put down some small hail, but it was soon gone and I continued up the road to the trail.  The climb up Foose’s was everything everyone says it is.  Ugggh. Heavy bike, heavy legs, STEEEEP trail.  Finally on the Monarch Crest.On the Monarch Crest Trail

It appeared that there were some BIG storms out there and that I had made it around or through some big ones with no issues.  It started to get dark as I headed over Marshall Pass and the trail started getting sloppy.   I didn’t like my pace compared to the dry, daytime pre-ride I had taken a month before.  I finally made it to the creek at Tank 7 where it wasn’t too cold and I washed my jersey and my body as best as I could.  I backtracked a little to a flat place that was soft with pine needles overlooking the trail.  Someone else camped near me.  A bit disappointed to have such a short mileage day I slept well for 4 hours.

Day 3 GPS file

Day 4

The next morning I was back with Dave Pickett-Heaps and we caught on to a BUNCH of people before Apple’s convenience stop.  One of the riders was CTR gps honch and rule stickler Toby Gadd.  I gave Toby a brief descending clinic down to Apple’s camp.  It was deserted, but there was a  sign-in book, a note regarding the protocol of just grabbing everything in sight and devouring it immediately.  Toby rolled in and started up the stove for some soup.  I grabbed a couple of sodas, some chips and cookies, and headed out on my own.  I knew I had a lot of road ahead of me….some fast, but most of it flat and boring…the bypass for the La Garita Wilderness.  I passed a couple others before the bypass and kept up the spin.  I rode with a front ranger for a while and then before the next highway, I passed a ZOMBIE.  I asked him if he was ok, but he didn’t respond.  I shouted at him and he startled and finally responded.  He was pretty non-coherent but pedaling along at a not too slow pace.  He said he wanted to dropout.   I told him to drop his ass down to Lake City for some sleep, then if he really wanted to drop, he should do so the next day.  Turns out, he stayed on course and if it’s the same guy, he ended up pushing his SPOT rescue button about 10 miles from the finish after he walked away from his bike and couldn’t find his way back to it.

I fumbled around looking for water (probably wasted 20 minutes or more) near the campground near the highway and eventually backtracked to a spring that had a film of oil on it.  I wish I had scouted that area better on my pre-ride as I could have easily made it over the next mountain pass on pavement then pumped water from a nice stream just off the highway.

I arrived at the next trailhead and ate dinner before heading up to what was not a very fun section at all.  Extremely bumpy and slow, the trail was obviously headed into some pretty high elevations.  The sun finally set and I saw lights behind me.  Dave Pickett-Heaps finally caught up to me and we drove on through the highest point on the trail.  Somewhere in here I passed a thousand eyes and a barking dog with a reflective collar.  Sheep shit was everywhere on the trail.  The trail seemed awesome and I knew I was missing some good views.  Around and over Coney Peak we rode and hiked.  I started to run out of water, finally found a creek crossing the trail, and noticed quite a few bivies and tents strewn about near the trail.  After topping off with water, I found a flattish spot next to a tent, sprawled out, snored for 3 hours knowing I was going to hit it hard as soon as I woke up.

Day 4 gps file 1 and file 2

Day 5

Up and at it with a bit of frost on the ground, I looked I forward to the descent into Silverton and hopefully I’d make it for some breakfast somewhere.  I passed some more riders….dudes just chillin’ doing nothing in the thin air….and continued from cairn to cairn around peaks, down and up, and around some more.  Then finally, the dirt road to Silverton.  This road was STEEP!  Less than half way down, I lost my rear brake.  Luckily I was able to pull off on a little side road that went uphill.  I had the pads changed in less than 5 minutes but not without almost burning my fingers in the process.

Silverton was a bit of a let down as there were a million Texas wheelchairs driving all over the place.  It seemed absolutely packed.  I found a restaurant that was still serving its breakfast buffet, but it was terrible.  The orange juice was rancid (they didn’t believe me) and the eggs were gross.  I reluctantly paid and headed to the grocery store in town.  I didn’t even try to find the post office because I knew my package wasn’t there yet.  I tried to find some decent food in the store and then hauled my butt up the road to Molas Pass on which I set some sort of Strava record….seriously.

Molas was beautiful and there were lots of hikers and bikers on it.  After pumping water from a very oxidized stream crossing, a girl coming toward me on a bike shouted, “BEAR!”  I looked up and didn’t see it.  Five days on the trail and I had yet to see a bear and this one crosses right in front of me and I missed it.  Oh well.

I started getting really hot and had to cool off in a creek.  I soaked my jersey and dunked my head, drinking as much as I could.  There was little shade and it felt like it was getting close to 90 degrees.  Riding hard didn’t help I’m sure.  Eventually the trail started to descend and I caught up to Heaps again.  He was cursing his bike and his gear.  He looked like a wreck.  I told him that we’d finish under the 5 number and that he should be stoked despite all his bad luck.  Apparently he had several flats and had even bought new tires in Leadville.  On to Indian Ridge we rode.  Heaps ended up leaving me while I stopped to eat before it got dark.

Night came fast and Indian Ridge was slow.  I eventually passed Heaps in his bivy.  I kept a safe pace on the exposed rocky ridge.  Eventually I was headed down the REALLY steep stuff and on to the final descent into Durango.  Heaps came BLAZING past me on a hairball section that I was walking.  I saw his light go into the woods, then it stopped and I heard A LOT of cursing.  I chuckled and made my way past him as he was removing a tire.  I think he may have been crying.

Once again, I found myself on some really wet trails having just missed a big rain storm.  My lights started to dim and I got nervous since I was on the last of my batteries.  I switched out to a battery I knew wasn’t completely cashed, Gorilla taped my tactical light to the bars, and strapped my white tail light to the bars.  It was midnight and I knew I still had a ways to go as I hadn’t hit the final climb that’s in between Kennebec and Durango.  I rode on hitting the finish line at 3 something in the morning.  I slogged my way up to the campground where my family slept….it took me almost half an hour.  I was done.  It was awesome! I finished in 4 days and 21 hours.  It was the fastest SS time of the year and I think I was the 7th fastest overall for the year.

Final gps track

 

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