Monday, August 15, 2011

Colorado Trail Race Day 1 and 2

This is Part 2 of several long posts of my Colorado Trail Race Adventure. 
For Part 1 The race preview go here.
For Part 3 Day 3 go here
For Part 4 the final countdown go here

Before we get started with the advanced topics of the Colorado Trail Race, I think you should have some background information and general things I found after completing the race. Some interesting fun facts if you will. So here they are....

Types of animal feces encountered and ridden through followed by type, starting with the domesticated varieties:
  • Cow;  runny diarrhea-ish, cow pie-hard and soft.
  • Horse; large piles and small apples
  • Sheep; small and large. More slippery than the runny cow. Also stinkiest.
  • Dog
Wild animal
  • Deer
  • Elk
  • Moose (not verified but I saw one next to the trail)
  • Bear (red piles by red berries, black piles other places)
  • Coyote
  • Pika
  • Marmot
The number of times I got off my bike to push up a hill;
5000? maybe more?

My toes and fingers are still numb one week after finishing.

The trail is marked well unless it isn't.

The Spot trackers make a great tool for fans/family to follow racers and can keep mothers up at night worrying when you take a wrong turn at 4am.

And finally a quote from Virginia Reed of the Donner party,
"Remember, if you come this way, don't take no shortcuts and hurry along as fast as you can." (Virginia Reed, Age 12, Donner Party Survivor, 1847)

The following is my recounting of Day 1 of my CTR adventure. 

The sun had been beating down too long as I stopped to get water from the stream. Somehow I was out in front after the huge climb and descent over Georgia pass. However, the cramps in my legs had taken their toll. Groin in right at first, hamstring in left, quads in both legs, other groin and hamstring, repeat. I had taken all my salt tablets and stopped to get various drinks at Bailey but I still felt like I was out of balance. Ouch, my groin cramps again and then Ethan goes by with just a glance and up the hill never looking back.We now had the 1000' or so climb up to get to the highway between Breckenridge and Frisco. 

At the start

The day had started innocent enough. We had started as a pretty large group of racers from Indian Creek Trail Head just south of Denver and had met up with the Colorado Trail at the South Platte. The trail was fun with some hike a bike sections and some fun single track. I passed Eszter H as she didn't have her burrito cinched down and she lost it on the trail out of her pack. I would see her on the trail much later. It didn't seem hot at first but by the time I got to Bailey at about mile 50 at high noon my leg muscles had all gone through a series of cramps many times and they were sore.  I needed some more salty goodness in Bailey. The gas station/store in Bailey was closed (WTF??) so I went back a block to a small ice cream/tourist shop and picked up a couple of bottles of orange juice. I had taken some salt tablets and the cramps had let up some. 
I still wasn't feeling super great so at the next store in Grant a few miles up the road (Grant Country Store-open 7 days a week by the way) I stopped and picked up some chips and chocolate milk. My cramps subsided a bit and I headed out to climb the highway up to Kenosha pass.

Elevation profile up to camp 1.
Here is the elevation profile of my Day one.A little over 95 miles and ~14,600' of climbing. Below is a map with some notes.

Day 1 route. Note Detour in yellow.
On the highway, I started riding with a guy named Zach Guy and his buddy. It seems everyone in the race knows Zach. Anyway he was pretty cool dude as I found out he had read my blog about what to bring. The highway had a narrow shoulder for several miles and wasn't great with the traffic. I did notice a pair of red women's panties on the side of the road. This would be interesting as later I would see another pair on Molas pass. Someone with a mountain pass fetish perhaps? Another guy with a name I forgot rode with us to the top of the pass. I turned onto the trail at the top of the pass and saw Kevin Thomas having a snack. He was very strong and on a single speed. I rode over to the campground and grabbed some water. Zach and pal came along and took this picture. 
Getting water at Kenosha pass
 The trail here was pretty good single track for a while. I passed a family where everyone had the most interesting teeth. Even the "mother" and "father" and son and uncle?. They kind of looked like this:
The trail began to climb up Georgia pass and got really rocky and rooty. My first taste of extended hike-a-bike. I passed quite a few people on the climb. First Kerkove who had a really funny look/grimace on his face. Then Ethan Passant and a couple others. Ethan said he and others were also suffering from cramps. He had just finished the Tour Divide a few weeks earlier so I was surprised that he could still walk, to tell the truth. A storm was threatening so I pushed hard over the top.
Georgia Pass
I let it rip down the other side. The Superfly was really flying. There were quite a few downed trees that stopped the flow but it was nice mostly. Now I stopped to get some water at the bottom. My groins kept cramping as I tried to swirl my Steripen ultraviolet light water sterilizer in my bottle. And Ethan goes by. I get up and eat some of the trail mix that Becky gave me before the race. Now I had completely forgotten that we had a climb over 1000' to go over to get to the highway and the next section. I began to follow Ethan up the long climb. I came around a corner and across the road to the trail and a forest service guy pulls up and says he's closing the trail. It's 5ish and I had already gone up the trail a little ways. I said "OK that's odd I wonder what the other racers are going to do..." He said, "You know it's not a sanctioned event so you're going to have problems." I found out later that some took a very easy detour (CTR rules say not to break the law, see yellow line in map showing approx detour) and others just rode the trail anyway. The bark beetle had really hit this area hard so they were cutting down all the dead trees. The trail all the way to the highway was a huge clear cut. They had closed the trail for the lumber dudes to work. This section really was putting the hurt on me after riding all day and my body not having the right electrolyte balance. I reached the highway and ran into several other guys. They started up the trail. I began to shiver and feel nauseous. OK I guess I had better stop for the day. It was only 7ish. I trudged up the trail a little ways and found a nice soft spot between some trees and laid down and went to sleep. I went in and out of sleep and saw several people pass by. I woke up very early and was riding at around 2 am up the next pass--Gold Hill.
Stats for the day. 95+ miles 14,659' of climbing. 6+ hrs of horizontal time.

Day 2 of CTR
The trail here climbs steeply and becomes a hike after a few miles. I passed many sleeping racers and around 3am saw a girl getting up. I asked her name as there were only a few girls racing. It was Cat. 

After a few miles, you push up the very steep trail to where you think you will drop down the other side. NOT. You keep climbing up and up and up. Foggy clouds began to form as the wind came up over the high ridge at 12,500' and the air began to cool considerably around 4am. The trail on top of the ridge was difficult to see in the fog. I hit a rock and fell off my bike. I heard as pssss....... Oh crap. This is the worst time and place for a flat. I quickly looked at my front tire but the sound was just the grass rubbing against the tire. Phew! The descent wasn't great either. I gracefully stepped across a creek and put my right foot in it. A little later I put my left foot in. I hate riding with wet feet! I finally got to Copper Mt. As I hit the trail at the base of the ski area, I again ran into Zach and his buddy. I also saw others sleeping here and there. The trail climbs along the ski area and eventually up a valley to Searle pass and then over to Kokomo pass. 
Looking down from Searle pass the way I had come
Looking up to top of Searle pass. Note Ptamigan in foreground if you can.
Climbing up Searle pass I noticed several backpackers. It was interesting to see the different types of people who were hiking. The first parts of the trail near Denver they were mainly middle aged to older men. Here several single women were on the trail. They had dogs to protect them from the men on the first part I presume. 

As seen in the above picture, I saw so many ptarmigan on the top of the pass that you could throw your bike in any direction and hit one for dinner. 
Route for Day 2.
Kokomo pass?
The trail descends down to Camp Hale and old WWII winter training camp. I didn't stop to check it out. Here's a pic I found on the web.
There was some great single track and it is a deceptively long way to Tennessee pass. Finally you hit the highway to 
Leadville... And what do I do? I printed a map for this detour and I'm like, "I don't need to look, Oh yeah take a left" after climbing the highway I see the Tennesse pass Nordic center that I had seen a while ago. Errrrggg!!! Take a right!! So on down the highway to Leadville. I stop and get a bunch of food at Subway and wash up in the bathroom. Sorry about the mess.... I also stop a the bike store to see where everyone else is at. I'm in 7th or 8th place and Eszter had just blown by while I was relaxing at lunch watching a storm blow by! That girl is hard core. So I grab some Honeystinger products and out the door I go. I find the trail head past Halfmoon creek campground after some looking--this is one of those spots where it's not marked well. The trail climbs steeply and then you get some great single track before dropping down to Twin Lakes. You climb up again after going around the lake and get some more fun riding before dropping down to the detour to Buena Vista at Clear Creek Reservoir. As I dropped down, it began to rain and by the time I got to BV around 8pm, I was pretty wet. I felt OK but didn't want to get too tired and have to sleep in the woods in the rain so I grabbed a bunch of food at City Market. The next food supply would be at Silverton A LONG WAY AWAY. I thought I had a ton of food anyway. I ran into John and Jerry, two other racers, at City Market and grabbed a cheap motel next door. I got my clothes cleaned up and sort of dry by the time I woke up at 3:30am and got going around 4:00am the next day.
Day 2 Stats. 100mi, 11,700' climbing. Horizontal time 5.5+ hrs. My legs hadn't cramped at the high cool elevations but were sore here and there but feeling better all the time. The hikers after Leadville and to Buena Vista seemed to be more families hiking......Even a guy that was a huge WSC bike team fan.

Day 3. Prelude

It was dark. The coyotes howled--not yipping like the normal unpossessed variety. His huge front tire darted back and forth through large white rocks trying to find passage like lovers' tongues. The darkness was pervasive.  The large eyes of  bovine in the middle of the trail shone unmoving until the light from my headlamp created shadows that spooked them off. The partial moon dropped behind the ridge. And the rocks and roots continued....... unrelenting.

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