Colorado Trail "Racin"
The Colorado Trail Race I could say is one of the harder things I have done on a bike. I will skip the ever encompassing preparation and logistics that led up to the non-stop 22 hour road trip to get out west. Then dealing with riding and breathing at elevation, stack multi thousand foot single-track climbs that I had to get a loaded bicycle up and down, all made for a lot of effort. But as with most things, effort put forth usually pays off in rewards. And when I wasn't totally scared of losing my breath, freezing to death, getting struck by lightening, tumbling off the side of a mountain, lost on the dark, or any other not just paranoid things, I was totally blown away with the natural beauty and the vast scope of the mountains.
420 Harrison Ave. Leadville, CO
Some background to my history of Leadville and the Colorado Trail; It was 1998 the last time/first time I been cycling in these mountains. I did a small portion of the CT on the southern end of the trail while in Durango, enroute to my first ever 100 miles I had ever ridden on a bike, at a little event known as the Leadville Trail 100. I told myself I would be back when I could do the mountains some justice. I may have sidetracked from that process somewhat, or maybe it just took that long for my definition of justice.
I will take up this journey in Leadville, Colorado, to meet up with with West Virginia native Eric Cutlip, who has set up shop on main street, where my traveling partner Andrew Forron and myself got a little tune up. That felt super nice buddy!
Hanging Out in Leadville
One lay over day at 10,200' to regroup, round up some last minute supplies and to align some strategies to be ready to start this adventure bright and early n the morning.
A word here on the Spot trackers that Andy purchased and registered with the folks over at this "non-registration event" - it didn't show up on their site. He had a direct link to the Spot website, and if one had that (I didn't), it showed up. But somehow it never made it to the official website of the race (the link that I provided). This was something that was out of our control and I will apologize for any confusion. I never was too interested in laying down the dollars that was required to get this feature of this "no entry fee" event, and little bit of mystery is not necessarily a bad thing.
Day 1 - Front Range
Bright and Shining
From L to R - top to bottom; myself, e, and Andy - squishy gears, SS rigid, SS rigid
Kicking things off at the trail head just south of Denver, the CT starts with about seven miles of road before the single-track begins with a climb. Traveling with gears amongst single-speeders sometimes there are pacing issues, and I saw Eric somehow nail the first part of the climb quickly pedaling out of sight, Andy was right there too. I just let that party rock on without me. Keeping my geared self moving upward I eventually spin around Andy who had shifted to feet. Lots of other company coming together along the trail as there was about ten CTRers that left within a few minutes of each other at this Saturday morning's first light.
mechanical discs and thumb shifters = simplicity + reliability
I wait around on top for a bit and do what I like to do at a couple of the vistas. Still no Andy. I was torn between keeping moving of waiting up. With Eric ahead and Andy behind I was stuck in no-mans-land and I decide to press on. In the process of pressing onward I flatted my rear tire. I had not the air pressure for the added weight on the bike and not enough Stan's to stop the leak. I prepared to tube up. A random CTRer rolls by and informs me that Andy ripped a sidewall on the climb of all things! Soon enough a booted up Andy rolls through near the end of my repair. Not a good start to this long tour!
We regrouped at the next trail head, where we find a familiar east coaster, Jenifer Wolfson inquiring about the availability of water, while I break out the dental floss and sewing needle to stitch up the tire enough to last the rest of the week. Not my best work but good enough to last forever, I think.
I have to sneak ahead at the regroup if I am to get a full frontal of Eric, I don't get too far up the climb before I get a chance. Eric sticks the climbs proper, as us low landers are gasping for breath.
Up into and through the rebirthing burnt out section and to the top to no regroup - so that's how it's going to be? I grab just a quick peek before heading on down the trail. We find Eric later on the trail and that is fine, he's is pushing the pace and we are trying to hang on.
It is fun in the trees and the flats but when the trail turns up, we fall back. Later I totally spaz and wait around for Andy, who turns out is in front of me. I wouldn't bomb down the road into the town of Bailey until the next random CTRer (Walter) informs me that he had not passed him. That half hour put the ominous road climb on the rt 285 Wilderness detour in an all out downpour where my weary body begins to unravel completely. At the top around 10,000 feet up, we need to hit some trail to drop to our camping spot for the night. We come up about 30 miles short of where we need to be and finish the day with 70 miles with just shy of 10,000 feet of climbing. I straggle in late, just before dark to find the camp and all I can manage is to throw down a bivy, get out of my soaked clothes, get into a dry set, get in my sleeping bag, cook and eat a bag of camping food. In that order. Sleep came in a fitted 8 hour form.
the sun sets on a long first day - near the camp in the valley
so much for sticking together
I awakened feeling fairly fresh, ate a waffle Stinger and a couple of cheese sticks, plus drank some Hammer Fizz. I packed away my wet stuff and started the day. Nine miles into day two, just one little climb and we find our slummy little selves at Georgia Pass, a beautiful high meadow that I had seen numerous photos of on the web. That didn't stop me from spending the time as I like the pace interruptions, as I tried to capture my mesmerized state of mind.
Two together and we discuss the option to cut Eric loose, it is obvious our low landers pace is crimping his go fast single speed style. But I am on top of the world and not in a big hurry to leave. These mountains so far away form it all and so close to God, is why am here.
4 riders in there
I didn't know it at the top but Andy and Eric are just off the other side of the pass at a trailside stache of candy bars and pop all on fresh ice, all for the taking by all users of the CT, left by so-called "trail angels". I didn't really need too much, but I drank a pop and took a candy bar. By the time I got there they had figured it out that Eric was going to be in Leadville that night and there was no way we two could keep that pace. As much as would say that I would miss him, it was a relieve to see him go. The pace was less hurried now and I laid back even more so. I proceeded to hang out all my laundry to dry in the warm sun. Andy broke out the alcohol stove and served up a couple hot cups of coffee that had got skipped that morning. Life was good.
The last to be seen of Eric?
With Eric off the front bee-lining it to Leadville, Andy's and my pace dropped ever so slightly and we started to see more and more of a lone CTRer behind us, Mark Allen from AZ joined our crew as it seemed we worked together and enjoyed each others pace nicely. He had a more realistic longer timeframe in mind for completing the CT and he was still on target to do it.
The drop off Georgia Pass is long and mostly follows the lay of the land to Breckenridge, few climbs in that distance but is generally fast and flowing singletrack.
The blue skies turn to grey by mid-day and the pack covers came out. It looked to be one of those quick and solitary afternoon showers that come and go without too much of a trace, that I have heard so much about. But mostly it was downhill and I enjoyed myself as I passed some normal non CTR riders that didn't have a bunch of extra baggage on board.
making the turn to Breckenridge
Ten Mile Slog
The next section is called Ten Mile which is an infamously steep nine mile section of what I head called a climb-a-bike. Over three thousand foot of elevation gain in half that mileage, up to over 12,400 feet above sea level. I was given instructions as to if I was pulling the plug to bypass this section on the paved bike path around to Copper ski area. Well, I didn't come al the way to Colorado to ride a paved bike path, so we filtered some water at the base and started the ride up to the slog to lay up and ahead. I was keeping on eye on the storm that was pushing it's way over Georgia Pass, it look like it was getting hammered back there. I was hoping it would push on east and not funnel down the valley toward us.
We made our way up and over the first bump into a sheltered little draw when to deluge hit us. There was a little panic as we three bailed for some small shrubbery for cover. A little bit too long for the little bit of cover there was soon had me shivering uncontrollably as opposed to shivering on purpose to keep warm. The temperature dropped into the forties, and I was one of the first ones to start moving in hopes of warming up. So thankfully it was all up hill after that, a couple more thousand feet to the top.
Pushing in to a large upper ravine we think we are nearing the top. Marmots offer encouraging sounds and distractions for what has to be near the end of the climb.
It sure looks like it tops out.
But there was so much more.
Though I could not grumble, when I was so blown away.
Some moisture on the lens, with the clouds on the move.
The amazing light show would leave us in the dark, with the lights of Copper ski area lighting our destination for the night. Time to turn on the lights for a stumbling mumbling descent to wrap
up day two.
Living large in Copper
As the morning’s first light begins to trickle inn, my eyes have yet to open. My head is lying upon a big fluffy pillow and I am in-between clean crisp sheets. I can hear a fan blowing cool air in my direction. I think of home and if the last couple of days of Colorado high country were just a dream. I slowly open my eyes to reveal a hotel room at the Copper ski area, this first solid night’s sleep since getting at elevation. I begin to realize that I am not in a dream but in a 6 room, three bathroom condo that fellow CTRer purchased for night for four fellow racers. We hooked up our own beds and feasted on lots of pretty much organic homemade chili the night before. We arrived in Copper around 9:30 the night before wet and cold and went straight to our rooms. That was pretty nice. Everything got dried out by the next morning which was a lazy late start, followed by an interesting and overpriced breakfast in the ski village.
The climb out of Copper was a very agreeable grade for the single gear minded, and Andy quickly rolled out of sight. I was happy for him as it seemed he suffered more than me the past two mornings. I myself on the other seemed to be a bit off, pork pace I called it, with the last of my two meals high in regard to the pork product. Also there was a lot of horse shit on the trail. That never does much good for my attitude.
We had picked up Jediah (sp?) who picked up the tab on the room (HUGE thanks) and then Jason somebody was to catch up with us somewhere around half way up the climb, that morning We were five riders strung out on the climb, traveling as a group.
I catch up at the top where the group has been watching the ominous skies. I was surprised to see them as my first reaction was to get my butt off the mountain as quickly as possible. But I let the majority do the thinking, and we hung out some more, and things did look a little better before we started the traverse. I fell off the back right from the git-go and I was the one that flirted most with the mid day storm, mostly in the form of high winds before being able to escape the onslaught when the trail finally turned down hill. And still I stop and take pictures.
My dowhills and uphills start to run together as I sit here and type (I guess I could look at a map) but I think I am thinking of the long down hillin’ into Camp Hale, it is just about as much fun one can have on a mountain bike. Followed that by a nice flowey single track climb the Kennedy Pass that was a lot like riding a mountain bike through the woods. Andy kept it pinned off the front as I think he had burrito truck on his mind all day long.
Ten miles of road leads away from the Wilderness Area of the CT and bring us back to Leadville.
Sitting at the taco truck feeling pretty good with a chicken quesadilla and a couple of Jarritos in the belly, Technically speaking Andy and myself are still in the race. We have stuck to the route and the rules. We have covered what seems like a paltry 141 miles up and down the top of the Rockies in three full days. Eric on the other hand rolled into Leadville 14 hours earlier than us at about 3 AM in the morning. He was at his house pulling the plug on the whole CTR thing.
That was one of my happier moments on the trail when I learned of this. Don't get me wrong, I had all faith and I wished him luck to pull the whole thing off, but you know when your homies come across half of the United States to ride bikes with you...well, I think it was a super cool thing.
Doing the math on my average pace I figured out that completing the whole 487 miles of the Colorado Trail was going to take more time than I had to be out west. So we we said our goodbyes to Mark, J, Jason and the CT and rolled to Eric's house on the hill and in doing so removed us from the race. The plan was to have a lay-over day in Leadville then head down the the Monarch Crest and Crested Butte for some base camping and joy riding some super nice trails.
Down to the Monarch we picked up a van shuttle to the top and trip like 20 miles of climbing to the crest of the ridge, and didn't feel the least guilty about unloading our bikes at 12,000 feet, blue skies and white fluffy clouds were our companions along this long ridge of delight.
There was nary a worry in the world as we enjoyed the day in a lazy way. But things turn around quickly and you can round you way around a bend or cross a peak and those big white fluffy things can turn dark and angry real quickly. This was a classic afternoon storms, the ones I had been hearing about, the 20 minute ones that are gone without a trace, as opposed to the two hour soakers that we had been having. Just so lucky to get that 20 minuter in the downhill bomber down to the Rainbow trail. Down we went off the mountain and the dryer and warmer it got. The road coast finale manage to wind blow us dry and we were back to happy campers in no time.
Coming in to the town of Crested Butte if you make the turn to the ski area and keep going up till the road turns to dirt, then keep going some more you will come to the Goth camping area, that is where we through down tents/flies for our base camp for the last couple days of riding,
This view just outside my bivy at our camp, I thought was not too shabby. We rode on the Trailriders Trails 401 and 403 and with some longer rain delays lounged leisurely around camp. Eight solid days of riding in the high country. The lungs and breathing start to be les taxing, but the legs, although they where numb and didn't complain too much were, I think a bit tired. The over the top awesome views and the glorious landscape that these trail run through, well I was still blown away on a constant basis. We would wrap up an abbreviated day of riding with about a four hour ride, before turning the vehicles north to Leadville then a quick turn around for and additional 22 hour commute back to West Virginia.
Three riders in there.
7/25 Ona to Leadville
Lot going on here, well not so much here on the web site, but in my head . Packing up the r-v, or the water tanker, thinking fat. 37+ pounds and growing. 100 ozs of H20 the top tube and one small and one big bottle. Still have to find some room for a little bit of food. Lots of little tweaks to the bike. But I think the big rig is ready.
So close, so far
So not much time here to pecking, but in a nut shell it is coming down to this: My Colorado Trail Race tour, it is one of those official non-event type of event. No registration, no entry fee (that part has me written all over it), no awards, etc, type thing. A suggested start time when a bunch of hurried folk that will take off at the same time, be tracked by Spots for all the interested arm chair convicts. 500 miles later you are Durango, and your life will be changed forever, or something like that.
Of course, I won't be doing it like that. I have read the rules, and I think I can stick to that, but take the rules and make them work for me. A two day head start, is totally legal, I am so down for that. I am sure to see what it is like to really race thing at some point when those fast guys and gals overtake my turtle butt.
Sorry but it looks like no Spot for me, oh well just extra poundage of hassle. But the we that is me is three. Completely self contained each, but getting the local knowledge with little Eric C, and the road trip compatriot Andy Forron will round out the tour group. They are are planning on Spotting up, when they somehow get registered for this "non-registration event" look for the AF and EC Spots, and you will just have to have faith that I am there taking pictures and all that shit that I do. In my heart I feel that this is the kind of place that you share, so I am looking forward to the company.
Colorado Trail Race
Barboursville FAT Tire Brethren
Beech Fork Association of Trails
bFAT is an informal group of riders who appreciate the land and ride for a healthy well being.
Beech Fork - WV State Park is mostly a single track trail that follows around the lake leading into a combination of creek bed, hill climb, and fast downhill back to the lake. Barboursville WV, City Park has some nice runs from the top with numerous scenic overlooks from the sheer cliffs and steep drops. The flat single track that follows the river and comes out behind the lake - is where the real fun can begin or end. Click on the link at top of page - above left to see a map! The Kanawha Trace and Adahi Trails are 32 mile and 17 mile multi user trails crossing over private land. Check with the Tri-State Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America for trail information and registration.
bFAT email groupo<----click here Become a part of an e-group forum that will let all subscribers communicate (free!). Send an e-mail with the word "join" in the subject or body and you'll get hooked up with other riders, to do fun group rides, get trail info and conditions, technical advice, etc.
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