Amateur Hour at the Colorado Trail Race

I’m back home after an early DNF at the Colorado Trail Race. Needless to say I’m pretty upset about it, but am trying to remain positive about the experience and learn from it what I can. This was only my second foray into multi-day endurance racing, and while failing at an event that I put so much energy into preparing for is frustrating, I know that there will be opportunities for redemption in the future.

My decision to drop out came mostly as a result of poor judgment and rattled nerves. Despite feeling the thin air and walking more than I would have liked, my first day went fairly well and I crested Georgia Pass around 10pm. This put me roughly 80 miles into the race, and was basically where I wanted to be given my aspirations of a midpack finish. I began my descent, and then for whatever reason made the purely idiotic decision to bivy midway down the pass to hopefully avoid rapidly approaching thunderstorm. This would have been forgivable if my sleep system included a tent or tarp, which it didn’t. I was thinking like a tourist but had packed like a racer, and I got soaked. Pounding rain, hail, and a soaked down bag had me shivering uncontrollably and seriously worried about my safety. Scared and unable to make myself do the right thing (pack my shit and move on in the rain), I instead pulled on every piece of clothing I could find and huddled in my wet bivy. I turned off the 4am alarm on my phone and mentally quit the race at that exact moment.

The following morning I waited for the sun to rise, then dried out a little bit on the way down the pass. Despite feeling that my race was over, I had a blast riding the remainder of segment 6. The final descent to highway 9 was such a blast that I considered detouring to Breckenridge, plopping down a few hundred bucks on a tent, and pressing on. This scheme lasted about as long as the adrenaline from the descent, and instead I called my Mom, turned off my Spot, and pedaled to a motel in Frisco.

I expect to return to the Colorado Trail someday in the future, though not necessarily in the context of this race. If I do line up for it again it will be with the assumption that I can race it at my full potential, something that may be difficult to achieve while living at 1000 feet above see level. Maybe I’ll just have to move to Colorado in order to prepare for it effectively! In the meantime I’m happy to turn my energy towards some events closer to home. I’m keeping an eye out for sleeping bags rated to -20F, and I hope to be seeing to some unfinished business in Grinnell next April. Plus, there seems to be more and more multiday events sprouting up all over the country, so who knows what opportunities I may have in the near future. If you’re a cyclist with an appetite for long distance, self-supported adventures, there’s never been a better time to be alive and riding than right now, so take advantage of it! Here’s a few pictures I’ll be looking at for reminders of that in the coming months.

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