Had the privilege of riding in the 5th Gunny Loopy Loop over Labor Day Weekend. It was a hot sunny weekend in the mountains, but it was anything but a walk in the park. I took on the Biggie loop, 307 miles, 40,000’+ vert and while that might sound hard enough in numbers alone, there was much more to the Loopy than that. Some of those miles were just wicked! Steep, loose, with more rocks than you can imagine. It went from very physical hike a bike up, to super demanding descending that required a lot of work and focus.
Day one from Gunny thru Crested Butte and a bit beyond was 120 miles in about 19 hours, it was fairly fast, but so hot. I slept about 3 hours and got going at about 3:15 in the morning. Day two thru Taylor Park and up into the alpine odyssey portion of the route was more like 70 miles in about 20 hours, so much slower, so draining. My whole being was worked, body, mind, spirit were pushed to the limit, I slept about 3 more hours and got going again at about 3:30 AM. Day three I was actually feeling a bit better, guess I got a knack for getting my ass kicked after all. I managed to finish the route with about 110 miles in just over 24 hours, with just a 10 minute nap on top of Fossil Ridge to keep my legs and eyes from wobbling so much. I did the whole thing 3 days, 2 minutes, my goal was under 3 days, so I was damn close.
I experienced so much out there in that time. There is so much exposure to your thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a ride like this. After day one I saw no other racers, I spent almost all of those moving hours completely alone. It was filled with so many ups and downs, radical ones too. I had bleak moments of wondering why I was still going out into the mountains with an ultra light kit, taking on huge days, suffering immensely. I really thought at times that I didn’t have what it took to do this stuff any more, I wanted to quit a few times as my knees, hands, and feet screamed at me on climbs and descents. It hurt quite a bit and I didn’t sleep all that much. I kept thinking, who was the mad man that created this wickedly nasty route anyways?
It was so intense, so difficult, and down right brutal, but that also became a source of some of the magic I experienced out there too. I marched on through the pain and deep moments of doubt, on the other side of that I found much light, laughter, and joy. I found the truth that, for me especially, doing hard stuff is good! It makes me happier, more satisfied, more content with the things that were troubling me back in everyday life. I could see solutions and possibilities where I only saw deadends. My head was full of ideas! I also appreciated what my mind and body was somehow doing, it wasn’t a source of depressed disappointment, it was amazing in its capacity to do this crazy stuff and to do it with very little training, so few miles.
I finished at 4:02 Tuesday morning, 3 days and 2 minutes I was out there traveling under my own power from mountain to mountain, it seemed so much longer. I rolled home, ate some food, took a shower, crawled into bed and slept a few hours. I got up with my family, made some food, ate some more, started some laundry and went back to sleep. I got up in the afternoon feeling groggy and sort of useless, although I did manage to do some chores. Since then it has been back to the usual routine, work, chores, eat and sleep. It is hard to describe how strange it is to go from that place of intense, raw, exposed emotions and the acuity of my awareness to everyday life. I haven’t forgotten much of my thoughts and experiences and ideas that I had out there, but they are less in the foreground as I assimilate back into the reality of being a father, husband, worker. It is not bad, but I can still feel the call of the wild!