Thursday, August 18, 2011

Colorado Trail Race "It's the final countdown!"--come on sing along!

This is the 4th and final part of my Colorado Trail Race Saga for part 1 click here for part 2 click here for part 3 click here.

I finally fell into a deeper sleep sometime in the night. It was chilly even in my 32F down bag at 11,700'. I had on my balaclava as I had lost my lighter hat. (Thanks Zach for finding it and carrying it all the way in and mailing it to me!) This was bad. It is pretty dense material so I couldn't hear my watch alarm at all and didn't get up until around 6:00am and got moving soon there after. I soon caught Jerry who had gotten up very early. Well at least I got some good rest... 8hrs-crazy. We rode somewhat together until the last few large climbs and then he caught me at the bottom of the last big hill at Apple the trail angel's camp. It was so nice to hang out in a comfortable chair and drink a coke and eat some chips. Apple hangs out there just before the trail crosses Hwy 114 and helps out CT travelers after the nasty section we just did. We both agreed he must have a story... I was thinking he is in the witness protection program. He looked kind of like he could have been in "Goodfellas". Super nice either way.  I grabbed a package of 6 mini Oreos (240 Calories) and tucked them into my pack. This would be my emergency food if I ran out.....

Trail hits section 18 at the highway. I had walked and ridden some of this doing trail maintenance with Martha Violett, a retired music professor from Western State College where I work. She and her husband Ted  (physics professor for 50yrs at WSC) had maintained this section of the trail for many years.  Since his death, a bunch of the science faculty have been helping her out. This section was fun to ride but I might have to go back and cut some branches back as they whacked me while riding but I hadn't noticed when hiking it. This is the last time I would see Jerry. I gave him the map I had printed out as he was confused about the next detour. He hadn't got a ton of sleep. The detour is a dirt road that has a couple of good climbs. I was making good time making the big wheels roll but it seemed to make me eat like crazy to keep my sugar levels up. I had to stop a few times to check it and eat more as it would drop into the 60 range... 

I did have some trail magic at the start of Los Pinos pass--the peak in the middle of the profile above.. Some Texans had taken up residence at a ranch. They were having a huge BBQ and offered me ribs or the like. It smelled quite good. I described the race and they didn't quite get that there were no set distances each day or places to stay. I told them I would take some water so one guy gave me some and brought out a banana and some prosciutto ham. I ran into some rain higher up and waited it out under a tree. Then the nasty looking storms all cleared and the mountains where I was heading looked perfect. 
Clouds clearing as I go over Los Pinos Pass
The road up to the highway where it goes over Slumgullion Pass above Lake City seemed to go on forever and I began contemplating going down to get more food as it was a difficult section to Silverton coming up. I also started to wonder how much energy gu I could get out of the empty packets in my backpack. You know you can never get it all out. Towards the top of the pass I finally caught up to Eszter. We talked for a minute and then I rode on up to the top and over to Spring creek pass where we hit single track again. I filled my water and was hanging out in the evening sun and she catches up. We chat and she pulls out some freeze dried food in a ziploc bag that she had added water to and put in her bra to heat up. She is way ahead of me and the guys in the food department. Hmmm I'm going to have to bring that next bike ride (The food not the bra that is.) I thought as I ate some crackers I had gotten out of Apple's food box that backpackers had left for others to to eat.

We start riding and I pulled ahead. I had ridden this section with some friends a couple of weeks earlier. Pre-riding this was huge as you are at high elevations 12-13,000', the trail has MANY passes that you have to go over and they can really get in your head if you don't know how many more you have to do. The sun set as we climbed higher. It was a very beautiful night. A partial moon. Clouds way off in the distance with flashes of lightening. Stars. Above tree line.... I rode to about 10 pm when I found the yurt. I checked it out and a couple of girls from Australia offered to let me sleep inside. It was kind of a mistake as it wasn't all that warm, I didn't want to wake them at 3 am, and I wasn't super tired and could have ridden on. After sitting for a minute, I decided to crash there. 
Stats for the day: 95mi, 10500'. Hmm I just noticed I seemed to ride just about 95 miles each day....

I woke up not so early again going around 6. Eszter, of course, got up over two hours earlier and was ahead. I got to recognize her tread pattern pretty well. This section of trail like I said is very beautiful but very hard. You climb up to 13,200' and have to hike up some really steep passes. From the profile below you can see there are MANY passes. 

Looking south at cloud in valleys

One of the many high passes

Flowers and Mountains
About half way through this high alpine section, I passed John, who I had seen on Monarch Crest. He must not have slept much and wasn't moving fast. He also had some issue with his single speed bike. That's weird. 

I knew I had several more passes but remembered when I was getting close to Stoney pass where you take a jeep road down steeply to Silverton. On the last corner, we hit sheep poo as they were grazing on the grass. As I rode Stoney pass, a storm was passing over Silverton and I headed down. And low and behold, it's Eszter again as I was going down faster. We cruised into town together and had lunch at a cafe at 2pm. I had $35 worth of food. Smoothie, ham and cheese grilled sandwich, large cookie, breakfast burrito (and one burrito to go). We had a great lunch.  I called my family and they said Cat was just 20 miles back. OK they are really slow miles but Eszter got a look like she had to get going as she started saying how hard Cat rides. She then went and checked on a guy's computer who was surfing the web.  After lunch, she headed off to the store for more batteries for her spot and what not. I had a package at the post office so I went for that. I had spare shorts, shirt, tools, food, etc. I change, grab food, and mail some stuff back to Gunni. I decided to go light. I got rid of my front handlebar pack, some of my clothes, my sleeping pad, my down jacket, my small light and one spare tube. I headed up Molas pass at 3pm.

Here is a tally of all the food I ate after lunch on the final push to Durango from the wrappers left in my pack..... 
Powerbars 5 banana @240 Cal
Gu or power gels 11@100-110 Cal
Probars 2@270 Cal
Fruit bar 1@180 Cal
Granola bar 1 @180 Cal
Breakfast burrito from Silverton ~300? Cal

For a grand total of about 3800 Cal. Hmm not a huge amount.... But it was a lot of wrappers.

I made it up Molas pass in about 55 minutes even with my blood sugar tanking--I couldn't seem to get it up above 60. 80 is "normal" but I like to have it higher. I ate 2 gu's and a powerbar on the climb. 
So you're probably wondering, "does this guy really have diabetes" as I haven't really talked about it much. I cut back on my insulin considerably. I hadn't taken hardly any Humalog quick acting insulin. I did take 3 units with my big lunch but probably could have done 1. I also had taken much less Lantus at night and added a bit more in the morning. There is nothing worse than not being able to wake up when you're in the woods alone, under a tree and off the trail..... After the first day I cut my Lantus from a normal of 15 to 5 at night and 3-4 in the morning. And decreased it from there.

The trail here after Molas is more geared for biking and is great trail. I hated to ride it in the night. I didn't plan on stopping much for the night as I was getting burned out on the hiking and even the single track. My body was actually feeling pretty good. The balls of my feet were a bit sore and my throat had been getting more and more sore and I seemed to be getting some sores on the roof of my mouth. 

These flowers are handle bar high...

 The  sunset was great. After dark, I began to have a hard time riding as my bike seemed to swerve all over the place and the trail was often on the side of a steep hill. In these areas you could see the uphill side but just a black abyss on the downhill/cliff side. I stopped and once again my sugar was low. I stopped and ate my burrito and a bar and watched the stars for a while. I also was getting a little gripped as in 1988 I had crashed on junction creek and had to ride out for 15 mi to get 30 stitches in my knee and shin. And I guess I missed Anne and the kids and thought she was very worried about me falling off a cliff where they wouldn't find me for a long time. So it was slower going for a while. I finally came around after the big climb after Bolam pass. I rode until about 12:30am and found a nice spot under tree to take a nap. I took just 3 unit of Lantus. I was sleeping lightly and saw Eszter go by......

I slept for a couple of hours and was riding again at 2:30am. My sugar was 300 but quickly dropped to 60 when I got lost an hour later. The trail here goes across a road a bunch or hits the road  and then soon after goes back to trail. I made all the junctions until about 3:30am when I missed one and thought I saw a marker on the road. I didn't remember the trail following the road but I couldn't really say as once again my sugar was low and I hadn't had a ton of sleep. I kept stopping to see if I could see E's tracks but the road was packed to well. I finally decided to go for 5 more minutes and if I didn't see a marker to turn around. I couldn't see the stars to tell my direction either as the trees were too thick. So I finally turned around and got back on the trail. Here you can see my bumbling...

My 1:30 delay.....
 I got back on the trail and sure enough there were E's tracks. I caught her again in a bit before sunrise. Sunrise was very nice also as the sky was red and the mountains were silhouetted. She was looking pretty tired as her normally chipper crackling voice was not as chipper. We got to the final pain in the butt climb (big climbs up steep loose sliderock) before Kennebec and the mountains to the west, where I grew up climbing and biking, began to lighten with the rising sun. Really nice. I gotta bring a digital camera if I do this again. As I can hike a bit faster I dropped E again. I dropped down to the lake just before Kennebeck and then up to the trail head and parking lot 26 mile from the finish and mostly down.

I ran into a couple of bike packers and talked to them for a while. I took off my back wheel to check out my back brakes before the downhill. My freewheel/wheel had been making weird sounds for a few days but I knew I couldn't fix anything there. It was making a whirly chirping sound when the wheel turned like a crazy bird and when I peddled after coasting would make a thunk-thunk sound. I would soon find out what was wrong. I decided to put my other set of brake pads on and when I grabbed my back wheel to put it back on something wasn't right. Only half of the pieces were there. The cog set was still on the axle had broken sometime. Below is a reenactment of what it looked like. 

Calm as always I carefully slipped the pieces back together and put it back on my bike.

I figured if my skewer could hold it that far, it would probably hold for another 20 miles. And down the trail I went.... The trail was nice with the classic water falls. About half way down, I got paranoid that I had missed a turn. I didn't remember so much climbing in the middle. Crazy what happens after making some wrong turns and not much sleep.  So I rode back down the climb and there was E coming up. I said, "so this is the right trail?" she was a bit confused why I would be coming back and said yes it showed up on her GPS. I then turned around and rode about as fast I could the rest of the way back to the end of the trail..... I finished in 5 days 5hrs and 15min or so. E arrived soon after. Stats for this day: 115mi almost 18,000' climbing and almost 2 hrs of sleep.

 I found Anne, and the kids, and Grandma and Grandpa. I sat down and ate a bunch of cantaloupe and good ol' Zach had been by to pick up some stuff and left E and I a PBR beer. I found my stash of Oreos that I got from Apple, the trail angel, and split them with E. We all then went to Carvers for some lunch. E talked them into giving us a beer.  She is a force of nature.....

I came in 4th and E a close 5th out of 70ish. For more info with maps go to: and

Immediately after stopping for a while, my ankles began to swell up--Kankles I think they call them. My mouth was sore.  However, I didn't really smell at all.

The next day we drove back to Gunnison. We saw that Becky was about to hit Silverton so we stopped and looked for her. Little did we know that she had thrown in the towel. As she was looking for a phone, she saw our car and then ran into us. We got her some of Anne's clothes and put her bike in the car and gave her a ride back as well. Sitting between a 4 and 8 year old may have been almost as bad as riding the rest of the way to Durango. We had a bbq with some of the CTR racers later in the week, E, Becky, Jordan, Chris. Until next year?


Anonymous said...

Great ride and great stories! Inspiring for me to see a diabetic athlete performing at the highest level of endurance competition and I know how challenging it can be to keep the blood sugars dialed.
Type 1, DX’d at age 30, 18 years ago and took up cycling about 10 years ago to help build the body back up. MDI’s of Levemir/Novolog, so quite similar to your program. I do better at the mid-distance type riding and XC as I just can’t figure out my BG’s for longer stuff but enjoy trying! I look forward to following your other adventures!
Chris from New Mexico

Jerry Oliver said...


Heckuva race! I really enjoyed riding with you, and your write up captures the race perfectly.

On that last day/night/day, I felt like a a ranger chasing outlaws...everytime I felt like I was getting close to you guys, I would find a figurative deserted camp with the coals still smouldering.

You were just too damn strong for me. Great job. Until next year, my friend.

By the way, have your hands regained feeling? My ring and pinky fingers are still numb. Oh well.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jarall,
My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
I was looking for blogs about Los Pinos in Breckenridge to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
Hope to hear from you :)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry I spelled your name wrong, Jarral