2022 CTR Fills Up, man I am tired

On Thursday, July 14th, Tracking registration opened up for this year’s Colorado Trail Race, it filled up in record time, just over 6 hours. It has been a slightly hectic run up to the race. I have gotten so many emails, messages and texts. The past few weeks I have spent part of my mornings, my lunch breaks, and some of every evening trying to get back to everyone that contacts me. Answering questions, writing and editing posts, sharing links, doing my own research, and making lists of names. It feels like a lot somedays!

There are lots of experienced riders including a talented women’s field showing up. I am stoked on all that. Despite the accusations of being a “gatekeeper”, nothing could be farther from the truth. I am always encouraging and supportive of folks wanting to take on this ride. When it comes to the Race, it just has to be done within the rules and within the ethos set forth, and I am always willing to be helpful in defining and explaining that as well. As a race director I get really nervous about setting a whole bunch of people with the intention of going as fast as they can, loose on the Colorado Trail. Many of these folks I know nothing about, I just hope that all the info out there has the majority of them educated enough to know how hard this ride is, what the rules are, and that they are prepared.

I will admit it was really hard to not be signing up to race as well. I love the CTR beyond words and it is always hard to sit it out. It really hit me on Thursday morning when I opened registration for Trackleaders. It hit me that I was not racing, also that I am not ready for the ride this year. Life has got me so busy and distracted with so many things other than riding my bike and doing big hikes, that I am really not in the kind of shape needed to have a good CTR. That was a gut punch that I am still feeling. I have managed to pull off a few big rides in the past few years, but I am drifting farther and farther from that ability, as I seem to get out less and less. So all you out there touring or racing the CT, get some of that amazing goodness for me!

2022 Fossil Ultimate and Underground Racing

This year’s Fossil Ultimate was amazing. Not sure if the planets were aligned or what, but everything went so well. The most riders in the three years of this event showed up, the most women lined up, and everyone finished. Not only that but many riders expressed so much joy and stoke after what is got to be one of the hardest 60 miles of bike riding. We have a new men’s and women’s FKT of the course as well as a new single speed FKT. It was also so beautiful out there, the recent rains have made the flowers pop, the grass so tall, and the trails tacky and dust free. So many thanks to this year’s crew, what a bunch of bad asses, I am proud of you all!

I have to admit I was nervous about this event and the other events I have a hand in. This year’s Tour Divide was a mess and I am honestly worried about the state and future of these amazing underground races. Not to point fingers or place blame, but I wonder if the glory of suffering on the bike has eclipsed the reality of actually being out there getting your ass kicked. Seems like there are a lot of folks inspired to experience the magic of being out there on your own, experiencing the highs and lows of the mountains and deserts. That is a great thing, the more folks getting out there and loving the natural world the better, the issue is when folks without much experience skip a few steps and take on the “hardest” races.

There are a few races, like the TD, the CTR, the AZT, that exist only because they are “underground” events. These can not continue if they become problematic, or a burdensome on the places and communities they pass through. If rescues, poor behavior, and increased impacts become part of these unsanctioned, un-permitted, underground rides, they will cease to exist. Land Managers will take notice of more impacts and Group Starts, that almost everyone wants to be a part of, will be a thing of the past. It happened with one of the OG underground races, the Kokopelli Trail Race, it got too big, got noticed by the powers that be and is now more or less ITT only.

As a “Race Director” I am very cognizant of this careful balance. (It is not an easy job and RD’s of underground races do not get paid to deal with all this stress.) And to answer the question, making these races official and permitted would be next to impossible and not what the spirit of all this is about. These routes, these challenges or races were created to give folks a chance to get away from the standard race format. It is a chance to really test one’s own abilities, outside of team/industry support. Sure the rider with an industry sponsor might still have a nicer bike, but within the ethos of underground racing, once the clock starts, they are as much on their own as anyone else. The rider with the ability to adapt to conditions, the rider with the most grit and determination is the stronger racer indeed.

The bottom line is these special events need the participants to be fully on board with what makes them possible, and that is keeping it as underground as possible. That means taking responsibility for yourselves, being prepared, having good risk management in place, being capable of 100% doing-it-yourself, minimizing our impacts, and being nice out there! These are absolutely key to the future of self-supported, un-sanctioned bike racing. These events are amazing opportunities to learn, grow and explore, but if we are not all on board the Group Starts will be a thing of the past. Riding self supported is a great experience and really does minimize impacts and the knowledge and skills translate into all parts of life.

Yesterday the Fossil Ultimate was a great example, folks got to have an amazing experience without it costing a dime and they all took great care of themselves out there. It made me think that maybe the CTR needs to have qualifiers? I am considering such a thing. I am not looking to create barriers to folks expanding their experiences, but one should be ready and tested before taking on the Colorado Trail. For now I am trusting that riders are vetting themselves, that they are committed to being capable. The Group Start is limited to 74 riders and there will be more than that many folks looking to be there, so if you are taking one of those slots please be sure you are prepared and committed to the ethos of this ride.

4 months sober

Coming up on 4 months of being sober. Not drinking and smoking is getting easier and that is pretty great. My head feels clear, I am much better at speaking my thoughts, and better at work. I am so grateful I made this choice and stuck with it. Life on the other hand hasn’t gotten easier, I really thought it would without the chemicals. I really thought I would have more time and energy to do other things, mostly riding my bike and hiking, but also reading and writing. I really thought the clarity would make everything better, in some ways it has, but in some ways I feel like I am not having enough fun. Being sober is great, but it isn’t as “fun” as being stoned or drunk, going out or being at parties feels weird! Sometimes the days seem without any relief, just chores, parenting, work, more chores and more parenting. It feels exhausting. Most days I get so little time for myself.

I really can feel that tiredness too. I have been trying to get up earlier to create more time for myself. More opportunities to ride, stretch, write, think, but I am so worked I just go back to sleep. As it is, I am only riding once a week, sometimes twice. I also don’t read, I don’t write, draw, or create.( I am writing this while making breakfast!) It isn’t enough for keeping positive mental state, it isn’t enough to keep me on track for any of the races I was hoping to do this year. I feel like my bike world, (my own personal world) is falling off big time and this further crushing my spirit. I am really missing this part of my life. I love being a dada, but I am losing myself and so much of what I love about life. It really freaks me out and I am wondering if I will ever get that part of my life back.

It is interesting to me that I am more aware of what makes me tick and what upsets me, being sober. The other side of that is, I am also aware that the things in my life that I am struggling to deal with, are the reasons I wasn’t sober. Drowning your sorrows is an old saying that really resonates. It makes me sad that so many folks are in that place. I am sad that I was for so long, I really am stoked to be sober, I just really wish the rewards were greater on this side of things. I am still working at it and hope to get there, and at least I can see more clearly. None of this life is easy, that I am accepting more and more everyday. I am also trying to accept it with grace, that is still a challenge.

3 months and counting

Just hit three months of Sobriety!

It really does get easier. Something about the habits getting interrupted really makes it less of a hair trigger kind of choice. I used to get frustrated and go straight to getting numb, it was so easy. It feels good to be clean and sober, but it still isn’t easy. Things I have noticed is how much clearer my thoughts are, how much better I am at talking, I am better at my job, I am a better parent too.

Also things haven’t gone as I had hoped, I really thought when I got sober I would have more time, or perhaps there would somehow be more opportunities to fill the void left from being numb with other more positive things. I envisioned riding my bike, being outside more as taking the place of the chemicals. I am still trying to make that happen, but that is one reason why as a busy parent it was so easy to get into the bad habits to begin with. You are kind of stuck around the house, and it is so easy to get numb when you can’t do a whole lot else. Again it was easy.

That was one part of my choice to be sober, I wanted to stop always looking for the easy way through. I love doing hard things, so why was I taking the path of least resistance in everyday life? Turns out life is hard, parenting, being a husband, is super challenging and I am often at my wits end just doing the everyday stuff. I really didn’t want those feelings and it was kind of nice to make them feel more remote, less sharp, muted. That also didn’t help deal with any of what was causing life to feel hard, I am not suddenly full of solutions, but I am no longer hiding them from myself.

Growth is painful, difficult, and a long road sometimes. That is another thing I have committed to with this choice, to try and be the best I can be. Not just on the bike, but in everything I try to do. Everyday is a choice, I am choosing to evolve as much as I can. It is very sobering to say the least, but I hope my life is worth the effort.

18 Hours

my El Jefe

I will admit that as much as I love bikepacking, and camping in general, I don’t get out that much. In fact I probably do as many bikepack races as I do regular bikepacking trips. There are a lot of factors in that equation, but mostly it comes down to time. I am aware of that deficit and I am working on getting out more whenever I can make it happen. Thankfully I got to do just that this past Sunday evening, Grandma was coming to town and we hatched a plan to get me out!

the ole Gunny Spur of the CT

I spent Sunday morning getting my gear in piles, my bags on the bike, food prepped, in between doing a few chores and hanging out with my family. Finally I got the bags packed, bottles filled and at 4:30 in the afternoon I started out of town and climbed up into the sunny sage covered hills. It was fairly hot, but the breeze was blowing and it felt great to be pedaling. I took it easy, and kept reminding myself to keep taking it easy, as I climbed higher and got farther away from town. Signal Mesa was quiet with only one motorcyclist passing me along a stretch of dirt road, he was super kind and even held a gate open for me as we leapfrogged briefly.

Snow….but not enough for mid-May

After just 2 hours of pushing and pedaling I was getting into the aspens, most of our spring riding season we are kept in the sage for wildlife closures and it is always special to get up into the forests. Flittering in between sage, aspens, and dark timber, is a magical zone that I cherish. There was water flowing, a few patches of snow in the deeper trees, barely any human tracks to be seen. Elk jumped away at the sound of my shuffling feet, grouse fluttered and grumped as the sun slowly set. I had no where to get to, no destination in mind, I was just wandering about loosely looking for a place to camp. I walked about watching the elk and then moved on, giving the elk a bit more space, finding a nice spot in a stand of aspens.

Tidy Camp

I built a small fire, cooked my dinner and listened to the incredible quiet of this place. It was so fantastic to feel so relaxed. No hustling, no sleep deprived pushing to get “somewhere”, no where to be but here. I find myself often missing the call of adventure and the drive to race, but I also often forget how perfect just being outside, traveling under my own power can be. After eating my simple dinner, I remembered that there was a lunar eclipse happening! I went for a short stroll just as the moon slipped out from behind a cloud. It was so freaking cool. What a show! Watching the light and color change on that giant rock made me feel so small, so lucky, so grateful, and also made me think deeply about so much all at once. I later crawled into my sleeping bag with many thoughts to digest.

my phone does this no justice

In the morning, I made my coffee and breakfast in the comfort of my bag. Without any thought about speed or urgency, I had my gear all packed up, my fire totally drenched, and my little camp erased of my occupancy. I took the longer, slower way home wandering about, taking roads I haven’t been on in a while. I took lots of pictures. I felt awe at how beautiful this world is, how wonderful it is to have such an expansive backyard. I also felt a bit of shame in my humanity, and wondered are we really going to destroy this incredible planet we call home? It is a deep and loaded question and I often am confronted by the potential reality in it. I want my daughter and her possible children to have this opportunity to explore and marvel at this amazing world. I really do wonder if the selfishness of us all is going to change all that?

big country

Eventually the roads and trails led me back to town and my driveway. It was great to be home with my family. I drank more coffee, ate more breakfast, and shared tales of my time in the woods. I can’t wait to head out and do another quick overnighter, it was so incredibly satisfying. I also encouraged my wife to make plans to do something herself, as well as scheming on how to pull off taking my whole family out there on bike. I would also like to encourage everyone to look for opportunities to get out there, under your own power, without any huge goals or destinations, just go. It is so good for your brain, mind, soul, and is fantastic practice for bigger and perhaps loftier goals. It is also a great chance to reflect on ourselves and our place in this world, I know I have much still to digest. Happy Trails!

popping!

Story of an FKT

In 2012 I competed in the Colorado Trail Race. During my planning for that year’s race I got a bit obsessed about the current record holder’s time of 4:03:20. While I had completed a few CTR’s by then and had managed to go sub-five days, Owen Murphy’s time seemed impossible. I stared at his time splits over and over again, eventually taping a photo copy of them to my top tube for the ride. I was just off getting 2nd place in the Tour Divide the year before and I thought that level riding was outside of my grasp, I thought that too was impossible. The 2011 TD gave me the confidence to see what I could do out on the CT.

I trained harder than ever for the CTR, I rode a lot and smart, I hiked a lot, I ate very well and tried to get good rest. I prepped my gear and bike perfectly. I was so ready physically and mentally, and I was hungry for that suffering. I started the race in my usual fashion of just plugging away, trying to not make mistakes and keeping the throttle on as much as I thought I could sustain. Still I was walking when it got hard, trying to save my legs. One thing I noticed studying those previous time splits, was that in the second half of the ride I wasn’t that much slower than Owen. My goal was to keep it reasonable, then go all out at the end.

Somewhere around the dreaded Cochcetopa Hills I kept doing my math, I did it a million times in my head, it looked like I was almost even with the record splits. While only just over half way through the race, I gave it everything I had. I rode stuff I always walked in the past. I walked as fast as I could when I could no longer sustain riding. I didn’t take many breaks, I didn’t sleep. I got deeper into a zone I had experienced before, but not quite like this. I was all out crushing myself.

In fact I turned myself inside out in that last 200 miles. I went so hard I didn’t know who I was at times. I would think of someone I knew and then I would be thinking from what I thought their perspective was, thinking about their kids, wife, dogs. I would realize this and it was bewildering and unnerving to say the least. I had only me to check on my mental and physical state and I wasn’t really too trustworthy just then. I hadn’t seen another racer in a while, and I wasn’t making eye contact with too many hikers at this point as I knew I was twitchy AF. I just stared at that tiny line on the GPS that was the route and kept moving forward.

I rode the last section from Silverton to Durango almost completely in the dark. It was so hard to keep my eyes open, my bike on the trail, and my head from imploding. I don’t remember all that much, what I do wasn’t much fun at all, it was dark and scary. I rolled across Ethan Passant up on Indian Trail Ridge. He was laying in the trail, also delirious. He asked if I wanted to pass?! Will never forget that. I told him to get up and lets get off that 12,000′ storm magnet of a ridge. We eased down Sliderock trail and then Ethan started to ride hard again till we hit Flagler Creek, he stopped, laid back down and proclaimed he was taking a nap. I looked at my watch, took in the warm low elevation air, (I felt much better about leaving him here at 8,000′) and told him I was gonna wrap it up. Swear he was asleep in seconds.

I punched it up that endless last climb half convinced I could see Ethan and Jesse just behind me and I went hard. I stayed on the gas all the way down that also seemingly endless decent, repeating “no crashes, no mechanicals, no crashes, no mechanicals”. I rolled into the end, the dark and quiet Junction Creek Trailhead. I looked at my watch and it was 5:38:AM, I did It!!! I broke 4 days, just barely but I did it! I gently sat down on a parking curb, ate my last rice crispy bar and drank my last few sips of treated water. There was not a soul awake or around. It felt strange and almost empty. My washed out brain wondered if my spot tracker kept tracking, would anyone believe me, there wasn’t a single witness to this crazy ride that I thought was impossible.

Later a couple folks sleeping in their respective cars waiting for their family or friends to finish, awoke and chatted with me. After over an hour my friend Mitch pulled up out of no where, threw my bike in his truck and took me to his house for a shower and my first breakfast. I was a shell of a human and reality wasn’t connecting with my brain, but my body was starting to hurt something fierce, but I was saved!

My FKT only lasted a one year as the course changed the following year to include the Tarryall Detour, a longer and harder route. When I think about this effort I am still proud of how hard I worked and focused on something I wasn’t sure was possible. As it goes with any record or FKT, it was beaten and on a harder and longer course, in 2015 Jesse Jakomait broke 4 days, 3:20:44, going north, and 2016 Neil Beltchenko broke 4 days, 3:19:50, going south, amazing efforts and no one has touched those numbers since….

2 Months Sober, Goals on the Horizon, and Living Now!

It seems like so much longer than 2 months without anything harder than coffee and it has not been easy! Still I am so thankful for this turn I took on the path of my life and am happily staying true, but it is hard. There is no off switch for the brain, no little reward for gettin through a hard day, rough week, or a shitty night. The other side to that is I am far more connected to my emotions and where they try and take me, I am processing rather than covering up or putting away my problems. That all feels really good, really solid, and setting the scene for good living.

Part of that good living has been putting some goals on the horizon and blocking the dates off on the calendar. I was on the fence about the CTR this year, it was conflicting with a family vacation and work and after 9 finishes it was hard to make it a priority in my busy life. The other day I was checking out the routes I made for this year’s Gunny Loopy Loop and realized that was looking too good to miss! So I am aiming to ride the Biggie Loop and that is going to be great prep for my next goal, the AZT800. The 800 has been on my bucket list for way too long, over a decade, and it is time to give it a go. A lot of my why for not lining up yet for the 800 has been fear, and it feels good to know I am ready to face that and give it my best.

Another part of my life is appreciating the wonders of what is right now. A lot of that is spending this spring and summer doing rad stuff with my family right here in and around Gunny. We are putting more emphasis on getting outside, going camping, hiking, Bikepacking and the like. My daughter is blossoming and I am so excited to show her more of the wonders of being outside, moving our bodies, and exploring both of those awesome things!

Salida 720 done and so done

Yesterday I rode for 11.5 hours in the Salida 720 bike race on the Arkansas Trail system right on the edge of the great town of Salida, Co. Like most races in the last 3 years since having a child, I went in to it extra nervous as I was undertrained and under-rested as usual! Plus this course had a reputation of being techy and hard, that didn’t stop me from signing up to race my Why Cycles El Jefe single speed, cause I am that guy.

This race fell right on my birthday and that motivated me to not only race, but use the event to raise money for local food security through the Mountain Roots Backyard Harvest Boxes. I have a thing about eating, (I love to eat!) and have had to chose between eating good food and paying bills in the past and wanted to pay it forward! The Backyard Harvest Boxes are locally grown fruits and veggies that are sold weekly throughout the growing season and the 100% of the money I raise will go towards buying as many as possible. I am competitive while racing, this pushed me even harder to try and get as many laps as I could to raise more money.

I was trying pretty hard to get 8 laps, the rules state that riders can’t head out on their last lap after 6:PM, or hour 11 of the race. That meant doing each lap under 1 hour and 35 minutes. I was doing pretty good until lap 6 when I just hit the wall, my hands just couldn’t handle the pounding and my back started to seize up and my times slooowwwed down a bit. I got in a solid 7 laps and managed to win the solo single speed class and put in the second best solo ride on course! I also raised over $1500 for local food security, so much winning!!!

Today my hands are still so sore, my legs and back are too. So long as my body can handle it, I am going to keep trying to pay it forward with every big ride or race I do. I have a long list of things I want to help out and I am very excited to keep it up, so stay tuned for more opportunities to #ridewithjefeb and we can do our best to make a difference.

Link below for anyone wanting to give to this round of helping other’s out!https://mountainrootsfoodproject.app.neoncrm.com/np/clients/mountainrootsfoodproject/donation.jsp?campaign=16

Sobriety, Turning 3, and Trying to Train

I have managed to stay 100% sober for a whole month. It isn’t easy. The funny thing for me is I don’t miss being stoned or drunk, it has been great to have a clean head and body. I miss giving myself a treat for getting through the day, or a buffer for being social, giving those up is what is hard. Working in bike shop and talking with folks is not easy for me at all, it taxes my ability to make small talk and chat. At the end of the day I feel drained and empty, and like I gave all myself to everyone else. Normally I would treat myself to a drink or a puff to reset things and start over again, bike rides are a better option, but not as easy to pull off regularly. Think this is why I was drinking and smoking so much.

My wonderful daughter turned 3 this past weekend and it was a lot of fun to see her blossoming and enjoying the celebration of her birth. It also meant lots of family in town, a pretty big party with lots of new people and that is not a comfortable place for me to be. Again I would normally be draining beer after beer to distract my mind from the awkwardness that exists inside me in such situations. I would also be numbing myself to help forget that I wasn’t out riding my bike. Walking around Crested Butte on a beautiful day just to have something to do, felt like torture It sounds and feels selfish to admit that. I also really wonder if trying to race bikes is just asking too much of life right now.

I did get out for a quick ride yesterday. It was my first ride in the warm spring sun on dry dirt, and it felt magical. It really is hard to describe how wonderful it feels when I pedal. So much angst, pain, and frustration melts away. I feel more balanced, more confident, more free and happier. It is the best therapy in the world for me and it is so easily accessible and basically free. I am always trying to find ways to get out more, as I am such a better person and more likely to enjoy doing other things, when I get a little pedal time. Yet life is tricky and even being gone for just over an hour is a sometimes a stress on my family. I really want to give everything I do in life, everything I have, it is more difficult to pull off than I ever thought it would be. I am doing my best and that is all I can do.

Salida 720

I saw that this race was on my birthday, April 16th and that got me excited, enough to overcome my reservations about doing such a hard and intense race after being off the bike for a couple months. About the same time a friend posted a Facebook fundraiser for his birthday and that got the wheels turning. I really have been wanting to do something beneficial for the world while out doing what I love to do, pushing myself on the bike. The format of a lap race made things click into place to raise money tied into how many laps I can manage. 

I then thought about what who I wanted to help. I want to help almost anyone that needs help, but food security really felt important to me. -I truly believe that everybody deserves to eat good nutritious food, regardless of their position in life, the choices they have made, or who their parents are.- We all have made mistakes in life, had set backs, accidents, etc, but for some that ends up meaning not getting enough nutritious food to eat. So my goal is to raise money to pay for locally produced food to help out anyone in need. 

To get involved all you have to do it let me know how many dollars you’d like to commit to for every lap I complete in 12 hours, I am aiming for 7, give or take one, I hope! For example committing 1$ per lap, if I get 7 laps that would be 7$, 10$ per lap at 7 laps would be 70$. I won’t send collections after anyone if they over commit, something comes up, etc. 100% of this money will go towards Mountain Roots’ Backyard Harvest boxes, these are locally grown fruits and veggies that are sold every week. They cost about 25$ each and I hope to buy as many as possible to help folks get good local, low carbon footprint food. Folks can message me here by commenting below, messaging me on Facebook, or emailing me, etc before April 16th. After the race I will connect with everyone and collect the money via Venmo, or PayPal, or cash.

I won’t send collections after anyone if they over commit, something comes up, etc. Also I plan to keep this going with future events so if you can’t contribute now, there will be future ways to Ride With Jefe!