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! 

Pedal Therapy

This winter has been rough. I was sick over and over for almost the whole month of November, that crushed any fitness I had, and depleted the bank account as well! When I got back on the bike in December I was trying to train and prep for the Fat Pursuit in January. I didn’t have much time to ride, so I was attempting to make the most of it with short hard rides, intervals and all that jazz. I didn’t realize at the time how messed up my lungs were, maybe I had bloody Covid in November?! Cause every time I went hard it really felt like I was going to sufficate. There were a couple rides when I was out in the coldest part of the day, the wee early morning, testing my systems while also trying to improve my fitness with hill repeats and I seriously thought I was going to pass out. Thought I was going to be found a day later frozen block of exhausted lung matter.

I managed to get to Idaho for the Pursuit and keep it together enough to finish ok. It was hard tho and mostly type two fun. Lots of snow, blowing snow, low visibility, good amount of hike a bike and it kinda crushed me, again. It also made me rethink my goal of ITI, if this was hard to smile thru, Alaska might make me break down completely! After the event I was tired, the early morning rides and late nights with my child who doesn’t like to sleep, all took toll on my being. I was deep down tired. I was also a bit depressed. I was unsure about my goal of ITI and the stress of getting ready for a much shorter and less exhausting race was immediate in my head.

The training, traveling and racing was stressing out my little family. I no longer knew what I was doing with all that obsessive energy. I also started working more to get us back to making more money than we spend. All this left me with not much energy and little time to ride. I just didn’t have the motivation to get up early to get in an hour or two before breakfast, morning chores, and then work, not without a goal in mind anyways. Not riding made me more depressed, I was wallowing in my sad state. Work sucked, home life was at times stressful, I was not getting enough sleep, and I was not getting out. I started drinking more and things just got dark and glum.

Finally I had enough of my shitty head and I stopped drinking, I got sober, 100% sober. I quit my job and went back to the bike shop. Even though it is late winter, or really mud season for us at 7700′, I got out for a decent ride. Things were getting brighter. Today I got out for another mud slinging mess of a ride. The Sandhill Cranes were circling and hollering overhead. Redtail hawks were peering at me from their tall perches everywhere I looked. I stopped at the top of my out and back climb and just crouched and listened. I could hear coyotes howling a couple draws over from me. I felt more alive than I have in quite some time. While I can still feel the void of not having a goal pulling me along my path, I felt much less lost and not like I am squandering my time.

Life is sometimes really hard and now it is far more complex than it has every been for me. My life is intertwined with that of my wife and daughter and that is irreversible. As much as I love them at times I do reminisce about how easy it was to pick a goal and chase it and how fullfilled that would make me feel. I often wish it was easier to combine the love of my family and the pursuit of my individual dreams. I really didn’t think it would be this hard when we decided to have a family, and I do not regret that choice, just sometimes wonder if it could be different. Regardless of all that thinking, wondering and wishing, getting out there and pedaling my bike was the best therapy I could ask for and makes all the hard things easier, and I do like hard things!

What’s Next?

Starting to feel a bit recovered from last weekend’s Fat Pursuit up in Idaho. It was a taxing 125 miles through the snow globe. So much wind, fresh snow, and warm temps made it a difficult trudge and that made this old body hurt. It was a good time up there, seeing friends, making new ones, pushing my mind and body, learning so much, and being outside in winter is always special.

I got asked a lot during the race weekend, “Hey Jefe, What’s Next?” As an endurance athlete, I get this a lot. Folks are curious, they want to hear about some wild crazy hard ride that is out there. I am usually cooking something up and setting my sights on a target down the road. Right now I am actually 100% not sure what is next. I didn’t answer truthfully to most folks, as right now it is time to find more work and that racing is gonna have to take a back seat for a bit. I just didn’t want to go there, so I just evaded the question. I am a bit embarrassed to be honest, I wish I was focused on training for the next thing.

Instead I got to find a job! It was amazing getting to be my daughter’s caretaker this summer and fall, I wouldn’t trade that time with her for anything, butt only working part time didn’t put any money in the bank. Then I was sick for a good bit of November, in December the bike shop was super slow and I missed out on much work for a couple months. Bottom line is our finances are not good right now and my family doesn’t need that stress. I am not excited about my prospects for employment, but that is reality right now. Believe it or not but racing bikes doesn’t do anything to add to the bank account, even with an amazing sponsor it costs a good bit to do events!

I am still looking at a couple races this summer, still hoping for way to register for ITI in 2023?!?! For now the bucket list has to wait, while I buckle down and put some money in the bank.

Magic Mess

Have to admit that I am often a mess. I am full of anxiety and so much of it. I am stressed out and in general doing a poor job of processing my stress. Being a parent and husband is by far the hardest thing I have done and I do it everyday. All the adventures, races, all those cold, dark, scary epics seem easy in comparison. Partially because those were mostly dealing with me, and once I dwelled deep into my head, that wasn’t so bad.

I have also been in this head space of hurry up and get er done. Most of my racing was done with this mindset and it works well for getting from point A to B quickly. Still I wasn’t always “there”, in that I was looking for the next checkpoint, the next top of the climb, the next time split. Always hurrying along in racing, adventures, and in life too. This mindset has made life in many ways more difficult.

Right now I am training, or trying to train, for winter ultra’s on a bike. I have been captivated by winter travel for decades and the bike has lead me to wanting to take it to another level. The ultimate goal is the ITI in Alaska. I have been mildly obsessed with this ride for way too long and I am working on getting there next year. The path to this has been so long and I am now feeling glad that it is Now that I am getting close. In some ways this sounds silly, I was so much stronger in past years. I hiked, skied, and biked so much more, I was fit and strong, but I was still rushing through it all. One thing I kept reading about in doing winter ultras was folks saying don’t sweat. Don’t work so hard that you soak yourself, and stop as needed to adjust layers. As simple as it sounds it went against my entire racing experience of grit your teeth, deal with the discomfort and get er done. While there is still plenty of grit and determination needed, there is also this primary need to listen and be smart.

Thank goodness we can always evolve! It is hard, but I am rewiring myself in this process to be more attentive to my body, to listen to the winds, and to take action. Through the simple act of stopping to take off a layer before it is too late, or the reverse, I am changing my ways on and off the bike.

The other morning I was out for a quick ride while the girls slept. The stars were out and shining strong and bright. The air was cold, but my systems were working and I was warm, and dry! Normally my head is filled with disquiet for the first hour or so of a ride, all the noisy demands of life still intruding on my headspace till the meditative settles in. This morning it felt so great to be pedaling. Still I stopped for second to look at the sky, as it was calling to me. The stars were just amazing, it seemed like complete silence took over, I swear I wasn’t even breathing as I took it all in. It felt different out there that morning, I felt different. I didn’t want this short ride to end, I didn’t want to stop, and I somehow wanted to take my family along with me to experience this. I wanted to take the whole world with me to feel this. It really is impossible to explain how important and fulfilling it is to be out there, taking in this amazing beautiful world we all share, all while traveling along on a personal journey that means so much to me. Powerful indeed.

I have been reflecting on this and all the rest of my life, it is all rolled up into a huge ball! There are so many times when I feel desperate and feel like this path I am on is too much. I can feel the stress I cause my family. I need to be working more. It is so hard to balance it all and often I fail, but I don’t want to give up on this crazy dream. Moments like the one I had the other morning remind me that maybe it is worth the struggle, the problem is, is it worth the stress to my family? Hard to answer that honestly, and wish they knew how much it means to me. I really wish I could share the immense feelings I get while out there sometimes, I am hoping to find a way to do so in the future. Always more work to do, but we can make magic out of our messes if we focus and keep trying.

Hard isn’t Bad

I wrote a post yesterday and a good friend commented that we are always evolving in reference to the sentence I wrote about spending a big chunk of the year taking care of my child, “I wasn’t working towards any personal goals, I wasn’t evolving as a person.”. I can see the wisdom in what he said. We are always growing and learning. I still feel like I wasn’t evolving personally. I was so focused on taking care of everyone else and numbing myself to hide the lack of personal growth from myself. I believe that to evolve we must take the learn knowledge and do something with it, that is the growth that makes us better.

This start of a conversation reminded me that I used to say “Hard is not Bad”. I think we humans are fully capable of doing incredibly hard and difficult things, history is full of this, we are here cause someone in our ancestry was tough, smart, cunning, and able to endure. I also think we humans are very attracted to easy and soft, we are especially drawn to this when pushed by other things in our lives. I can see how when my child was born and I was crushing myself working so hard, trying to make up for the fact that I didn’t have much money, or a great paying job, by working harder and longer, doing as many chores as I could, trying so hard to get ahead in any way I knew. I did all those things, but I was also drinking and smoking a lot. I was numbing myself any time I wasn’t working hard. I was trying to soften my life where I could.

Luckily I snapped out of the drinking thing little over a year ago. One of those things you look back on and wonder what the actual fuck was I doing. But I will admit I was still smoking too much, I was still unable to face my reality and instead was numbing myself to get by. It hurts to admit it all to myself, but I was unhappy about my life. I felt disconnected from my dreams, I felt wholly consumed by my responsibilities, and trapped with child and chores. Instead of getting to the roots of these problems, I continued to numb myself just to get by. Well all the experiences of life were building up in me. The big rides I did this year really did open my mind and fill it with ideas and energy. This bubbled up and leaked through the walls I tried to contain them within. I really do want more and I really am willing to face all this negative energy I was hiding away. Hard isn’t bad, in fact dealing with the hard things allows us to take all we have learned and use it to grow, excel, evolve. All I can say is Hell Yay.

Working towards goals

Life has been crazy for a while. It is really hard to describe how much everything changes when you make a tiny human and they send it home with you. It is freaking intense, for one you don’t sleep and I mean it is true, it has been over 2.5 years since I got regular sleep. That alone tweaks your life and leaves you drained and unprepared for everything else. You also, all of a sudden, have a shit ton more responsibility. Long gone are those days of feeding myself and a dog or two, squeezing by with everything else. Combined with marriage and owning a house it is a lot to take care of and I am that guy that puts most of this before myself. I worked hard for the first 2 years while doing so much else, like parenting, chores, house improvements, and trying to stay on the bike as much as I could. It was exhausting to say the least.

This summer I took on the role of primary care giver for our child, only working part time and spending most days learning and exploring with my little girl. While sometimes hard, it was mostly awesome. She is a very special human and getting to be with her and see her grow and expand is simply the best. Some of the best time spent, but I wasn’t doing much else besides parenting, working a few days a week, and doing chores. I wasn’t working towards any personal goals, I wasn’t evolving as a person.

I did manage to get out on a few big bike adventures this season, an ITT of the AZT300, the CTR, and impromptu ITT of the Gunny Loopy Loop Shortie, well to be honest they were all more or less, off the couch. These were amazing experiences for me, it is very powerful to be on the bike for any period of time. The longer the ride, the deeper my brain goes, the more I explore myself. I came out of these with lots of ideas and energy to do more on and off the bike. Sometimes coming home to my crazy busy, sleep deprived life, much of that energy and ideas would get lost and left un-nurtured. I also went into these events without much prep. I headed to AZ for my 300 ride after only hatching the idea 2 weeks prior. The CTR and the Loopy I did 100% off experience, I didn’t train, I had hardly enough time to get my gear together.

I still have some big ideas and goals. I want to race the ITI is Alaska pretty bad, been in my head for almost 20 years. It also terrifies me and that is something I like most about it, learning to be prepared for something a bit scary and new makes me excited. Part of my journey to ITI is more winter riding and racing and I amazing to be ready for JP’s Fat Pursuit in January. After some good long talks I can feel my family behind me on this and that feels good. It sounds so small and funny, but making that mind switch to making this goal a reality and not just on the back burner, is immensely gratifying and empowering. On a quick ride yesterday I felt the trail extending outward and onward, a step along the path towards my dreams. Tinkering in the garage getting my Big Iron dialed in for riding on snow, (Hopefully some snow, still dry as a hell here), felt purposeful and rewarding. I am excited, I am very much looking forward to this journey and what comes of all that mind space that comes with these amazing experiences.

Howdy everyone in Colorado Trail Race Land!

2022 is still over a month away and winter has yet to even hit Colorado, but there has been a lot of interest in the 2022 CTR already. So instead of waiting till the first of the year to get the info out there, gonna get it out there right away so folks can start to plan.

The Group Start for the 2022 CTR is going to be Sunday, August 14th, 4:AM, Waterton Canyon TH/North Terminus of the CT. Group Start will again be limited to 74 riders. There will be no official registration as this is not an official race, same as last year. Trackleaders will be used to keep track of the majority of riders, as it seems most folks want to be tracked, folks not wanting to be tracked can of course get a spot in the Group Start. None Of This Will Take Place till sometime the end of June!!! Please do not contact me to get on a list till June. Be patient, Keep Planning and Training, but there will be no Registration of Any Kind, including Trackleaders, till sometime in June!

The reason for the August Group Start and field size limit is the impact the CTR has on other trail users. In 2021 there were an amazing amount of folks out on the trail, so many hikers! There is quite a few less trail users in the month of August and that is that. July ITT’s are of course welcome.

Rules are the same as last year and feel free to read them over. Course will hopefully be the same as well unless there are significant changes to the trail, wildfires, etc.

Everyone stay safe and healthy!!!

Loopy, shortie style

I was hoping to ride the Shortie Loopy Loop with the group on September 4th, but life was so busy at that moment that I sadly sat it out. Luckily a little window of time opened up while grandma was still around and I hastily threw myself together. I got all the food, bags, and gear sorted and loaded by 4:20:AM on Monday the 20th and I headed out onto Loopy.

It was magical. The mountains, though familiar, are still amazingly beautiful and compelling. The leaves were about peak gold on the trees, while also covering the ground and dancing through the air. The moon was a bright, constant companion out there, hanging huge in the dark sky, sending white light streaking across streams and ponds. The moon had a couple of bright planets and all the stars to keep it company, except that one that came streaking down as I climbed Rocky Brook Road. The trails and roads were quiet and at times empty of other users. The weather was gorgeous, warm sunny days, hardly any smoke, no rain or snow, but it was damn cold at night. Other than being cold and the night long, it was a wonderful time to be out there.

It was also torture. The trails were rough, so much dirt has been shaken loose from the rocks by a summer of use and abuse, leaving not much more than rocks in so many places. My body was not the least bit ready for this beat down and my legs and hands were protesting from the get go and the route didn’t let up. At 160 miles I almost took the highway home, Gold Creek Trail crushed my hands, feet and knees, I couldn’t imagine what Fossil was gonna feel like. The night was looong! So much darkness, and with no bivy gear that meant a long night of riding and pushing and also falling asleep on the bike riding and pushing. I ended up taking about four 10 minute naps in attempt to keep my eyes open and rubber on the trail. The whole night was laborious, it took so long to cover any miles as I was riding sloppy and falling asleep, also my water bottles froze solid so there was no water, that meant not much food. Oh and it hurt! I swear every step and every pedal stroke hurt deep in my legs, knees, hands, and forearms. Still I kept drudging along, still I was incredibly happy.

I finished the Shortie Loopy Loop just before 8:PM Tuesday the 21st. 39.5 hours after I left. 193 miles, 27,000′. It was a battle to keep going as it hurt so much and I was worried about how late I was running.This Loop is HARD! No doubt, some of the hardest riding I have done, and yet so compelling. I am already wondering when I can get back out there for more. These experiences are so powerful for me. I go from hating life and wanting to get as far away from other humans as I can, to longing to get back to my family and thinking of ways to help others. There is something incredibly powerful about being out there alone. Letting my brain focus on that task, makes for a happy brain. All the garbage and debris that has built up over time, gets sifted, sorted, or tossed. So Good for me and my head, just wish it didn’t have to hurt so damn much, my hands are crushed, I am unable to grip with my right hand, my legs are so sore and grumpy.

I love being out there in the mountains traveling under my own power. I love pushing myself to see how far, how fast, how long I can go. Yet, throwing myself at these rides without any real training is really kicking my ass, the impact on my body is not great. I can’t seem to stop myself, I feel as though I just have to get this stuff every chance I get, cause I do love it so much. I have to admit that while I am out there I have this conundrum of thoughts. I wonder if I shouldn’t hang up this obsession and be there 100% for my family. There just isn’t much time to spend on training and prepping and that makes all these rides much harder and more painful. Yet once home, I can hardly wait to get back out there, to feel it all again as it makes me feel so alive, so purposeful. I am wavering on this seesaw and it will be interesting to see how it goes.

The Colorado Trail!

I just wrapped up my 2021 Colorado Trail ride last Thursday. It was a wonderful and painful trip from Durango to Denver that was full of memories, visions of the future, and so much emotion. I have a long relationship with this trail and with anyone who has experienced the CT it gets in your blood and to quote my friend Justin, it becomes “a ribbon through my heart”. For the CT does not touch upon you lightly, it beats you down as it shows you light you never knew existed, it tears at your mind and tortures your ego. It is anything but easy, but it is compelling beyond words, for after a 27+ year relationship with this trail and I am still somehow unable to stop thinking about, visualizing and wanting to come back to it.

High Point!

Way back in 1993 I was living in Gunnison, Colorado, working a shitty job in a kitchen, making minimum wage, and living in a trailer with 3 other guys. I was also wondering what the hell I was doing with my life, I was full of piss and vinegar and had no idea what to do with myself and all that angst and energy. I was into listening to music, drinking too much coffee, and smoking cigs. I didn’t do much other than hang out at the coffee shop doing those things, plus doodling and playing chess. A friend working at the coffee shop was planning a thru-hike of the Colorado Trail and with permission, I latched on and we began to plan. I had never hiked much, never backpacked, and I didn’t know a damn thing about being outside or traveling under my own power. I was a naive, confused, “green as hell, boy”, but I knew I wanted more and wanted to try something Big! It wasn’t an easy road to get to Waterton Canyon that summer, I almost didn’t make it there. There were so many ups and downs, very tough decisions, and some very dark personal moments along that path.

On that first trip we just made it to Monarch Pass, but I learned so much about being in the woods, myself and most importantly, that there was other ways to live than what I knew/was taught. In fact after that first trip down half of the CT, I was hooked on being outside, planning the next adventure, and scrapping by to make it happen. Since I have returned to the Colorado Trail many, many times, like an old friend I crave its company, its lessons, its solitude. Everyday life has always been a drag for me, I have a hard time doing the normal stuff and it tends to beat me down to the point of not knowing what the fuck it is all for? Before the CT experience, I would often spiral down till I hit the deep dark bottom of the well of despair. I didn’t have any holds, no steps, nothing to break up that fall. Once I had the perspective of the big, rad things I could do with my mind and body, this made dealing with that down spiral possible. Knowing there is amazing things around the corner and always planning the next one, kept me on target, gave me something to look forward to that was strong enough to pull me through the dark bullshit of life.

I can not express how important that first trip on the CT was for me. I am pretty sure it saved my life, certainly changed it profoundly, and while I am not rich or set up, I wouldn’t trade all those experiences for anything, esp money. Cause that is what I keep learning, experiences are always greater than things. Things never make you want to live another day, but the light of possibilities at the end of the tunnel, in my experience can.

Since that first trip on the CT, I have returned many times. I finished hiking the trail to Durango a few years later, hiked again, from Durango to Kenosha Pass in 2000. Started riding bikes again in 2001 and rode the CT from Durango to Gunny with my dog and Bob trailer, then in 2003(?) I rode Gunny to Denver. Finally in 2007 was the first Colorado Trail Race, and things went even deeper. After that first race on the CT, I was obsessed with what I could try with my new found mind-body connection. I returned over and over to race the CT and see how hard I could go, it was a bit of a dangerous and depleting hobby. I really wanted to give it everything I had, and while in retrospect my level of obsession seems a bit extreme, it was very important to me and helped me find more reasons to keep trying, living, reaching.

Fast forward to 2021 and I just finished my 9th Colorado Trail Race! The trail is busier than ever, so many Thru-hikers, and Bikepackers, kind of amazing to see so many folks out there getting some CT. While it isn’t always easy to share, it is empowering to see so many people out there getting to experience that magic ribbon. I had a great trip, including some great conversations with myself, some powerful realizations, and lots of self discovery, also two shooting stars, lots of moon glow, star light, amazing sunrises and sunsets, and so many flowers and mushrooms! I really thought this was going to be my last race on the CT. Have to admit right now that is probably not the case as I can feel the pull of that dirt ribbon as it threads through my heart and it is pulling me back out there!

Snacks go here Dada