If you aren’t sure what this hub-bub is about when I say CTR, I’ll tell you. This will be one of my last posts before I embark on an epic journey.
CTR = Colorado Trail Race
It’s a 470 mile self-supported and self navigated course, mostly singletrack, 71,000′ of climbing, starts in Denver and ends in Durango, CO. There will be some hours of bluebird skies and vibrant wildflowers. There will be hours of horrific rain and thunder, and huddling in the fetal position. There will be hours where I will have to overcome mental hardship and fatigue that I cannot even imagine and moving forward will be my only choice.
This means that you sleep on the ground, you’re by yourself a lot, there is NO pre-arranged outside support, no course markings, no course marshalls. It’s you and your integrity vs. the trail. There will be hiking and pushing the mountain bike. There will be lots of filtering my own refreshing water. I will be eating food I normally point and laugh at because gas stations are a place you can refuel your feedbag. When I find a grocery store, I will be looking for the highest calorie items which feels foreign. There are only about 4-5 convenient places along the route where you encounter commerce in civilization and can buy more food or small parts.
It’s harder than just riding because you carry everything. My bike has an extra 10-12 lbs strapped to it. I’m carrying 100 oz of water, food, and clothing on my back. I have a light on my helmet and handlebars. I’ve spent more money than I’d like to admit on lithium ion batteries.
I’ve spent months going over my gear list. What do I need? What do I want? What is too much? Am I OVERpreparing? Am I forgetting something? Do I have enough? Can I do this? Can I sleep and move forward on the course alone, in the cold dark of night? I’ve made trips to the aisles in REI and other “outdoor” stores where I haven’t spent a lot of time – I sheepishly admit I’ve never been backpacking.
It’s going to get cold. I’m going to wish I had something warm to eat and drink, or maybe I’ll just wish I could get a hug from someone (other than Mr. Bear).
How have I trained? I’ve been riding with weight on my back since January. Granted, I stopped riding with weight when I started racing in April, but I went back to the weight in June. I’ve done mostly 70-100 mile mountain bike races and a stage race. I’ve also done a couple multi-day pushes on my fully loaded bike, hours of hiking in my bike shoes. It still is demoralizing to ride uphill, but at least I’m used to the slower speeds. I’ve mentally prepared myself for the suffering and discomfort along the way, but knowing there will be far greater moments that overpower what make it hard will keep me going.
My goal? In the 6 day range. Statistically, 80-90% of people who attempt CTR their first time DO NOT FINISH. While this is an intimidating number, I do not intend to be a statistic. I am very prepared and super fit. The things that will hold me back will be catastrophic things… like my bike breaking beyond repair or body failure. My main bodily concerns will be my heels from hiking or my joints. Everything will hurt after a few days, so maybe I won’t even care. I am not a person who gives up easily. I will see that finish line trailhead in Durango. I will not give up. I have had this photo as my phone wallpaper since January as a reminder.
Here are a few favorite photos over the last 7 months of my preparation.
Then I got sick for a month….
Then race season started.
My first or second ride with bags on my bike. I’ve come a long way.
Why would I want to do this??
This race will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I want to do it because it’s a new challenge. It’s the next level. I’ve never started a race that I wasn’t sure I could finish except this one. It’ll simplify things down to basic instinct – a true vision quest. I’ll push through adversity to be stronger and self-reliant. It’s taken months of preparation…and months of telling myself that I can do this. Months to muster the courage and swallow the lumps of fear in my throat. I’ve gained self-confidence in one of the rawest forms – I now know that I can survive and take care of myself in the backcountry and overcome a difficult feat. A place where many would not dare to go and only few succeed. It’ll demand physical strength and mental perseverance. I’ll get beat down, I’ll cry, I’ll hurt, I’ll overcome, I’ll move forward, and I’ll see beautiful natural simplicity unlike anything I’ve seen.. In the end, I’ll be stronger than I ever have. I’ll feel everything more than ever. And hopefully, I will finish. Showing up to the start and giving it my best effort is a win for me.
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
What lies within us is almost an untapped resource. Doing the things that are comfortable and routine every day never let us experience what truly lies within us. I’m not afraid to test what lies within. I’m a person who lives with great passion and love in my heart and unrelenting drive, so challenges like this feed me.
Nom, nom nom.