There was a part of me that was pretty sure I wasn’t going to race something as hard as the CTR again. Not by choice, but forced to sit out due to my hand’s inability to ride such rough and tumble trail for so long. Still deep inside me I was craving a return to competition, to some serious self guided suffering, and experiencing a ton of amazing places. Realizing that I can’t wait for perfection to present itself, it was time, I was just gonna have to try! So a couple weeks before this years CTR, I threw my hat in the ring and said, “fuck it” lets do this!
There I was July 29th at Waterton Canyon, lined up with a large and rowdy crew of fellow adventure seekers, all of us pointing our front wheels towards Durango. The air was filled with excitement and fear, so many unknowns facing us all as we embarked on the journey. I settled into a nice mellow, yet still painful pace and let race fever take whom it would. I had not trained enough,(more accurately I hadn’t trained at all) to go hard, especially not at the beginning! So I let the excitement pass over me I and I just pedaled along, just below the cramping threshold in my legs.
The day was hot and I continued to pace myself, yet I slowly began to catch up to some folks. As a result I got to ride with some really cool people the first day, bikepackers are pretty great peeps! After The Stagecoach Stop I saw fewer and fewer folks and really got into my rhythm of pushing the steep hills and riding long into the night. Turns out my tried and trued methods still work, as I pushed and rode consistently day after day slowly crawling south.
There was nothing easy about this ride. I was hurting, legs almost cramping with harder efforts, knees swelling, feet sore from so much walking, my butt raw from lack of training miles. Yet I was happy, so stoked to be out there once more, doing the thing I love so much and thought I might not ever do again. It was liberating and enlightening. I felt like I was in the race, but somehow removed from it by being so relaxed. Still I struggled mentally with the idea that I was counting every minute, hour, and day. I was timing my experience, instead of living in it. Regardless of my thinking process, I just kept moving.
The Colorado Trail is tough and sometimes cruel and brutal, yet it is always captivating and gorgeous. I was reminded over and over again how beautiful these mountains are and how lucky we all are, that such a trail exists. I felt especially lucky to know this trail so well and to have it right here, running thru my back yard. I can close my eyes and see any section, the roots, rocks, the flowers and ridges, sunrises, sunsets. It is all in my blood, pumping through my heart and soul.
Long story short, I kept up my slow and steady pace all the way through. I rode more trail in places than ever before, I also walked and walked and walked. My mind was always on, always thinking, questioning. I had so many powerful moments out there that I am still trying to process and catalogue. It is impossible to walk or ride the CT and not be changed. I for one, am done timing myself on the CT. I am not looking for another record, or another time stamp, or to even think of this trail as a “course” anymore. I have come to the conclusion that I need to adventure, but not race. After thinking I was never going to race again, it felt so good to persevere and traverse that wild bit of trail. With 8 CTR finishes, I am ready to chill out and take it slower and it feels so damn good to be here!
Thank you for sharing your outer and especially your inner self. Cycle for Life!
Your new philosophy is well earned. At a “certain age” we should get over the metaphorical medals and trinket trophies and just RIDE. So glad you hand held up for such a brutal race!