As always, feel free to hit me up if you have any bike touring or CTR questions.
I finally pieced together my vlog from the CTR (yes, that took a very long time). Watching it is probably pretty painful and boring. My apologies. When I watch the videos, it kinda fills me with joy and nostalgia. I hope to be able to do more bike touring events in the future. Lately, I'm focusing on school, my new job in my new home in Washington state, and finally feeling like I've fully recovered from the CTR. Despite feeling like I've recovered, I must admit that doing that race changed me as a person. Hopefully for the better.
As always, feel free to hit me up if you have any bike touring or CTR questions.
This post is for all the crazy kooks who want to geek out about what I was hauling on my bike for 539ish miles across Colorado. Its not much, but its (almost) all I needed. As a beginner bikepacker, I found it really helpful to be able to read about what others packed. I hope somebody else finds this post useful :)
There are few things I would change about what I carried with me for the CTR. Two items I wish I would have brought are knee pads and a proper light system. I bought a light at the halfway point and it was awesome, but I could have done better. I grabbed my knee pads after I scratched- I couldn't actually wear them though- (they rubbed too much on the fresh staples) so they ended up just being bonus weight for the last few segments.
I carried WAY MORE food than I needed for the entire journey. When I finished at Junction Creek, I actually had leftover jerky and bars that I had started from Denver with. Luckily, I had food to give my friends who were waiting for me at the finish in Durango.
On the bike:
Juliana Joplin (hit me up if you have specific questions about the build)
What I wore:
What was in my fanny:
Deuter Pulse 3 F18
On the handlebars:
Oveja Negra Front End Loader
On the fork:
Oveja Negra Chuck Buckets (2)
What was also on my handlebars:
Oveja Negra Lunchbox
On my top tube:
Oveja Negra Snack Pack XL
What went under my seat:
Oveja Negra Gearjammer (with a ColoRowdies mud guard)
That's it. Not much I would change if I were to do it again. Now ... what ultra bikepacking event should I look at doing next? AZT? Highland 550? Olympic 420? IT all seems so new and exciting to me!
The Colorado Trail Race 2018 will go down on the short list of major life experiences that has forever changed me. Other honorable mentions include the time I stood up to the bigger, older bully when I was seven years old and the year I spent in Baghdad in my twenties. These life-altering experiences are typically overwhelmingly positive and I treasure them. I'm going to try to share a few things that made the CTR so special.
Lesson #1. If you want to do something very hard, tell everyone about it. And then make yourself be accountable to all those folks rooting for you.
If you are reading this blogpost, no doubt you are aware that I am new to bikepacking and ultra racing. I wasn't sure how I would do during the CTR, but I knew it would be tough and that I would be tempted to quit (AKA scratch) at some point. I was very public about my intentions and I tried to make my race meaningful to my community, so that when I was tempted to scratch, I would know that everyone watching my dot on trackleaders would know right away, and their disappointment would haunt me just as much as my own.
If you want to know more about my fundraising efforts and why I decided to do this as a memorial ride for Tricia and my sister, Melissa, read about it here.
The morning of day 1, just after leaving the trailhead as I was pedaling the dirt road through Waterton Canyon, my eyes welled up with tears for the first of many times. Prior to this summer, I wasn't too much of a cryer- and usually only got blubbery in moments of great sorrow or frustration. At that moment, surrounded by about 90 crazy kooks all doing what we loved for various reasons, I was choking back tears of happiness to have come so far in this journey and to have finally seen it to fruition. I was thinking of Tricia and hoping that she would smile to see me there.
Lesson #2. Don't underestimate what you are capable of. Pack some decent lights.
In training for the CTR, I did a lot of overnight bikepacking trips. I tried to ride terrain that was part of the Colorado Trail, or very similar in difficulty. My hardest day was a 16 hour effort involving 9,000 feet of climbing/descending and 60 miles of riding. I was cracked the next day and had to rest. So I figured that during the race, I wouldn't be able to maintain efforts like that day after day, and that I would only plan to ride during daylight, about 6am to 9pm. I would aim to sleep 7-8 hours every night. My light system included a rechargeable Black Diamond headlamp and 2 tiny commuter lights on my bars. I figured this would be enough to get me to a flat spot to sleep in the dark and that I didn't need anything stronger. It also meant I didn't have to worry about charging huge 800 lumen lights. I wouldn't have to carry a heavy battery brick and various cords and plugs to keep the lights running. Well, I was wrong. My first day consisted of about 110 miles and 15,000 feet of climbing, and the biggest ride of my life thus far. I only stopped to camp because the fella I was riding with, (Cody, RN), decided it was time to camp and I was certain I would get lost in the dark without him. We had already missed a turn and gone about 1/2 mile downhill in the wrong direction. I slept great for about 2 hours, but then wanted to ride more. My mind was racing all night as I lay in my shelter, wishing I had a good light system and a GPS line to follow. I peeked out from under the edge of my shelter tarp and watched as a group of 4 riders rolled by, joking and chatting with each other in the dark at 1:30am. I desperately wanted to join them, but knew that by the time I could pack everything up, their lights would be gone and I'd be fumbling with my phone, worried that I was lost.
Day 2 was very familiar terrain for me which gave me quite an advantage. I was awash in texts from friends as I rode through all my favorite trails in Summit County. I used to live about 20 yards from the Peaks Trail TH in Frisco, and I had so many memories from those segments of the CT. Going up Miner's Creek trail was a lonely place. I played the first of 2 songs that I would listen to during the entire CTR on my phone for a little mental boost (In The Wind, Lord Huron). (The second song came on day 6 during a celebratory moment- Ring Of Fire, Johnny Cash). I crested the Ten Mile Range at sunset and ripped down Wheeler trail to Copper in some spectacular golden hour light. I couldn't have imagined a better farewell to my old home.
Lesson #3. Everybody has a story, listen, share and make friends.
Without a doubt, the number one reason that I was able to go as fast and as far as I did each day while feeling good and having fun, was because of the amazing people I got to spend a lot of quality time with out there on the trail. On day 3, I met Chris. He was possibly the most fun individual I rode with. On a Trek Slash, he knew how to throw a proper whip while descending, despite the extra weight of the bikepacking setup. And he had a goofy sense of humor. On day 3 I made it from Copper to Buena Vista, another one of my favorite sections. Thanks to Chris, I learned about the Leadville Bypass and managed to get a call in to Boneshaker Cycles in BV (after a tip from Katie on Kokomo Pass informed me that Cycles of Life in Leadville was closed on Tuesdays). I paid for my new light over the phone and Dave had it charged up and waiting for me outside the back door when I arrived at 8pm. Bypassing Leadville was a very good call as it kept me moving and likely saved me over an hour. I'm sure I would have gone to Safeway and High Mountain Pies and all my favorite spots. I used to live and work in Leadville, and I love that town. And the Bypass was great, taking me to places I hadn't been for years. I stopped at the golf course and had a delicious, cold Gatorade. Hanging out with Chris was such a mental boost, I felt like I was figuring things out and I got a strong start to day 4, almost halfway to Durango!
Lesson #4. Look for purpose wherever you can.
I don't think I was actually hallucinating at any point on the trail. However, as I started up the singletrack below Monarch Crest and the Fooses Creek climb, I found myself in another lonely place. I suspect I was hungry and dehydrated as the segment from Mt Princeton Hot Springs to Highway 50 was grueling and long. And then, somehow the song playing on repeat in my head got rather intense, "Don't stop, get it get it ..." (Feel Good Inc., Gorilaz) and I noticed that everywhere I looked there were hearts. On the trail the rocks were heart shaped. Pieces of tree bark were heart shaped. Clouds. Lichen on rocks. Leaves. Shadows. I felt surrounded by love and hope and even though I'm not spiritual and this might sound a little crazy, I was sure that Tricia was with me on the trail. At a certain point, a pair of little yellow butterflies flew into my face and one of them fluttered on my lips and then flew away. This magical bit of twilit climbing went on for a spell. I passed a small camp of hikers about a hundred yards down the trail and heard them yelling across the valley to their friend, "Horale guey, donde andas!?!" This added to the surreal feeling of that segment. I briefly conversed with them in Spanish and wondered if I had been launched into some parallel realm. Shortly after, I started up the switchbacks and there was Chris! He seemed happy to have caught me and I was motivated to keep him in my sights for the last stretch of the climb, in the dark, above treeline. At the pass we added lights and layers, and then ripped down Monarch Crest blanketed in a velvety sky of stars. I slept great that night, with a belly full of ramen.
Lesson #5. When an angel comes to visit you in the middle of the night, take the cookies.
Day 5 was by all accounts a raging success. I woke up with the light before dawn, ate my oatmeal and used the bathroom at Marshall Pass. I was packed up and ready to go before 6, but I noticed that other folks were stirring and I was excited to say hi to Alexandera and Artec. I had ridden a bit with "Art", an ICU nurse from Flagstaff the day before and he had told me a few stories about "Alex", who I had only met very briefly the day before above Clear Creek reservoir where I passed her looking very tired, but hadn't really chatted with her. I had been looking forward to finally talking to Alex and learning her story.
We started Sargent's Mesa and the 4 of us (Artec, Alexandera, Jim and myself) carried on nicely, and seemed to be pushing each other. Breaks were short as I didn't want to be left behind and alone, so I got a lot more efficient at using my purification tabs. At a certain point, the terrain was surprisingly loose and rugged. The descents were numerous and enduro-worthy, and Jim, Art and I lost sight of Alexandera. I was sad that she wasn't hanging with us, but also stoked that I was ahead of her (and possibly in 3rd place for women?!?) When the 3 of us got to the La Garita Wilderness detour, I was warned that it would be long and grueling. I settled in and commenced doing as much stretching as I could while pedaling the same pace as the fellas. My right hand hadn't regained sensation since Buena Vista, but I continued to do my carpal tunnel PT as much as I could, while in the saddle. We climbed into the night and my energy and ambitions started to waver. I continued to climb, but I started to noticed that I was feeling less energetic and that it was harder to be positive and chatty. I decided at 10:30 pm, after about 16 hours of hard riding to camp at Slumgullion Pass, a closed campground with a locked bathroom along a desolate highway in the middle of nowhere. Greg, a CTR'er who had just ridden back up from Lake City (he ran out of food), and was camped under the shelter of the roof of the closed latrine, just on the other side of a stone and wooden wall from me. I pitched my shelter, made and ate my ramen and was inside my sleeping bag before Art and Jim had pedaled off. I was hopeful that I could fall asleep quickly and get to Spring Creek in time to catch them leaving in the morning. It was only about 10 miles further down the highway, but involved another climb.
Well not long after 12pm, just as I was beginning to drift off, a car pulled into the parking lot and shined its headlights directly on the bathroom and my shelter. I was very annoyed. I glared out from under the edge of the tarp into the headlights. The window rolled down and I heard a familiar Southern twang shout out, "Leigh Bowe!" My response wasn't aggressive, but it wasn't exactly welcoming and it may have included a "WTF?" Bree offered cookies which I rejected. In my sleepy state, I was upset that she might put me in a situation that might compromise the integrity of the rules of the race. She then remarked that my friends up the road (Art and Jim) were happy to take cookies and than proceeded to feed cookies to Greg, (who I never actually saw in the light of day, but I chatted with through the wall of the latrine). I begrudgingly took 3, very amazing cookies, but declined fruit and chocolate (*facepalm*) and didn't think to ask for water. I learned the next morning that Alexandera gladly accepted the cookies, bar of chocolate and a juicy peach and I felt like the biggest rookie.
I awoke at about 3:30am, before my alarm went off, feeling energized and ready to ride.
Lesson #6. Share your favorite treat.
I started offering to share food anytime I was having a snack with other people around, pretty early in the race. Most racers seemed hesitant to accept at first. But eventually most everyone was experiencing some form of flavor fatigue and intense hunger. We basically spent a week talking and thinking about food. On day 5, I had offered to Alexandera a drink of my coffee (cold brew, dairy free, instant latte- just mix in Nalgene with tasty stream water, throw it on your bike and shake for about 15-20 minutes ;). She also took some Muddy Buddies. Art was partial to my Korean BBQ Pork jerky, which was great because I left Denver with like 3 pounds of it. On day 6, arguably the crux move of the CTR and definitely the high elevation and most exposed to the elements of days, there was rain predicted. It seemed like it might not storm, but as we were in Colorado, there were no weather guarantees, other than the increased likelihood of lightning in the afternoon. I met Dana in the morning- and rode with him briefly. He was quite fast despite having had to ride down to and back from Lake City after a broken spoke. He also happened to be a lightning strike survivor and I'm sure he has some incredible stories.
On day 6, I was feeling really strong and was sharing lots of food. Jim, Art and I had just it the high point of the CT, Coney Summit and climbed back up to Carson Saddle and were sharing a cold Coke that Jim had brought. I was elated that we were through the scariest, most exposed section and none of us had been hit by lightning. Alexandera showed up and I was happy to see her, and a little surprised. I knew she hadn't slept much and I was really impressed that she had caught up to us. I decided that it was go time and I asked Art to take a picture of me with my phone as I was dropping into (IMO) the most epic scenery of the CT, Cataract Lakes.
Lesson #7. Never go full enduro. If you are going to go full enduro, do it properly. Don't be too lazy to take a piece of equipment that you had planned all summer to ride with just because the car with your knee pads in it disappeared for a few minutes just before the start.
I'll admit that I may have been showboating a little when I dropped in from Carson Saddle, I rode fast and strong for a few hundred yards, having a blast. I had to grab my phone back from Art, so I aimed to stop on large slab of rock and found myself launched from my bike and tumbling off trail. I landed on my right side and was annoyed. My leggings were torn, my knee was scuffed and my right hip felt bruised. I turned to look back up at my friends, who didn't seem at all interested in the fall. I glanced at my knee and saw that it was a bit more than a scuff and I figured I needed some stitches. I contemplated my first aid kit, which included bandaids, dirty duct tape wrapped around my water bottle, blister pads and a needle and thread. None of this seemed adequate, so I decided that the laceration wasn't as bad as it looked and that I needed to just deal with it until my options improved. At that point Art and Jim showed up. I think Alexandera was fixing something on her bike, but she was on scene about a minute later. After we had established that I had crashed (apparently nobody saw it), and that I had a decently large, gaping hole in my knee, I was presented with a big bandaid and some athletic tape. I quickly bandaged the wound. Like a child, I felt like if I couldn't see the large, fleshy hole, then it wasn't really there. Art suggested irrigation and I declined, feeling suddenly very hurried to get to Silverton before the knee refused to work anymore. I jumped on my bike and continued riding down. I suspect that there was probably some discussion about what to do about the bleeding girl they had been riding with for the past 2 days, but I don't know the details.
I'm not sure if it was the jerky or the fact that he is a nurse or if maybe Artec just drew the short straw, but his pace seemed to slow a bit and I noticed that he was taking more breaks than usual as I slowly pushed and pedaled and descended my way to Silverton. I didn't want to hold anybody up, but I also was grateful not to be left alone with an oozing wound. The mental strength that I gained from having someone nearby was remarkable. It was about 33 miles, 3,500 feet of climbing and 5,500 feet of descending into Silverton. The final descent from Stony Pass was the worst, and I started to wonder if the cut in my leg might make me have to scratch. Up until that point, it was full blown denial. I wasn't taking great care of myself; I started eating and drinking less often immediately after the crash. I had texted Bree, who happens to be a PA and she was meeting me in Silverton with my proper first aid kit (which includes a small skin stapler) and I had reserved a hotel room in Silverton. I figured we could irrigate and close the wound in the bathroom and if the swelling wasn't crazy in the morning, I could continue the race.
Bree gave it her all, but felt strongly that 5 staples were not enough, that the risk of infection was too high, and that I may have partially torn my patellar tendon. Artec also seemed to think the situation was hopeless and that I needed proper medical care (more than the 3 of us could provide in the hotel bathroom). I called Matt and Sienna and finally gave in to some of the tears that I had been choking back for days. I scratched and let Bree take me to the nearest open medical facility, Mercy Medical Center ER in Durango.
Lesson #8. Success is what you decide it to be.
After negative x-rays and a whopping 7 staples (staples preferred over sutures as it was over a large joint in a patient who might consider returning to activity sooner than recommended), I was back in the van, feeling really defeated. At first I was angry with Bree because I had tried so hard not to scratch and I had learned that I was less than 10 miles from both first and second place women (Liz Sampey and Ashley Carelock at that time), and I really felt like we could have made the 5 staples work. I slept for 2 hours, and then awoke at 1:30am, very uncomfortable. The discomfort in my knee quickly became unbearable- it seemed that the lidocaine had worn off. I tried elevating my knee on a pillow- I found the ice pack from the ER and tried that and then I began to writhe and moan. It was pretty bad. I think it was more mental anguish than physical pain, but the pain was really intense. The van was a mess and I couldn't find the hydrocodone or even any ibuprofen. This went on for approximately an hour (I think I woke the neighbor's dogs with my moaning) until I managed to turn on a light, move enough to find ibuprofen and hydrocodone. I slept hard until 9am.
When I awoke, I felt fine. Well, about as fine as when I woke the day before (pins and needles in right hand, sore saddle area, tired legs). I lay there for a bit, thinking about my options. I had no idea what to do with the day. And then, I thought about going for a ride. And then I thought about where to ride, and the only sensible thing to do seemed to be to go back to Silverton and ride to Durango on the CT. I called Matt and we both agreed that finishing the ride, even if I was out of the race, seemed like the most logical thing to do with the day. Bree was happy to drive me to Silverton (after a shower), and I became anxious to get moving quickly.
We pulled into the same stall in front of the Avon Hotel that we had left from the night before, and who do we see walking out of the hotel? None other than Artec! He still had to swing by the bike shop and I needed ramen. So we arranged to meet at the grocery store and rode out of town together, discussing at length our mutually satisfying breakfasts.
I finished the CT the following evening at about 6pm. Liz, Bree and Art met me at the Junction Creek TH. We met with Alexandera the next day for ice cream.
My result is unofficial because by accepting outside assistance when I got in Bree's car to go to the ER, I broke a race rule. My dot changed to a recreational rider dot, and I didn't actually finish the race. Despite that, I do feel like I finished the CTR and I did it faster, stronger, and kinder than I had thought myself capable of. I made countless friends and hopefully I touched some of those people in a positive way and managed to sprinkle some of Tricia's kindness around while I was out there.
Thank you so much to everyone who had a hand in this journey. There is no way I could ever name all of you, but I am forever indebted to Bree Reza and Artec Durham for putting the pieces of me back together out there. I could not have finished without them. But really, I owe so much gratitude to everyone who raced, followed the race, donated to CIF or said a kind word to me this summer. Thank you all.
Please reach out if you have any questions about bikepacking, the Colorado Trail, brain health or if you just wanna say hi.
Its no secret that I'm moving to the Inland Northwest, AKA Spokane, Washington. I may or may not be ready to leave Colorado (depending on what kind of a day you catch me on). Either way, I've loved living here for the past (almost) decade. Its been real. And before I go, I wanted a last hurrah. So I have committed myself to the CTR (Colorado Trail Race), 539 miles and 70K feet of pushing/pedaling myself across the state as fast as I can.
Read more about why I'm doing this and about the fundraising I'm doing here and give a donation to The Check-In Foundation if you're so inspired.
The race starts in 5 days. Lot's of friends have been asking me if I feel ready. Here's a version of my standard answer: I feel like I was born to compete in the CTR, and I also feel like this is the sort of thing that no one is ever really ready for.
This is an update on training, which has very much been a mental as well as a physical endeavor.
If you wish to follow my (slow and steady) progress starting next Sunday, July 29th at 6am, you can follow my dot on this website.
My first overnight bikepacking trip was somewhat rushed between selling our house in Frisco and moving our last van load to Spokane and racing my first Scott enduro cup of the season. And it resulted in a brief disaster. I attempted to do the Kokopelli trail from Loma, Colorado to Moab, Utah by myself just before the Moab Scott Enduro Cup. I got off to a great start, but I forgot to pack a few little things (like fuel for my stove). I had heard from a friend that the usual water refill spot at Westwater had been capped, so I would need to stash water along the route. Due to a lot of driving to deposit some water jugs, I got a late start (like 2pm). I still managed to knock out 40 miles in some pretty high temperatures before nightfall. I have never done well in the heat, and by early evening, I was battling a migraine. I collapsed at my water cache in Westwater around 9:20pm and promptly emptied my stomach of everything I had eaten over the previous 7 hours (which wasn't much). I spent the night shivering in my bivy, and woke up feeling hung-over. As soon as my eyes glimpsed the sun on the horizon, I knew I had to call it. Thus began my foray into the world of bikepacking.
I tried to see this as a success as it was a learning experience and my first overnight. But I honestly felt like a failure and I decided to lower my expectations and to have a successful next mission.
I never wanted to race Andes Pacifico. This is strange because I love travel and all things Latin American and Andes Pacifico has a reputation for being the experience of a lifetime. Its accolades include all of the goods; amazing meals, views, trails and of course pisco (and beer and wine). Its also well known for Andean desert heat and I have a history of heat stroke. I always figured this one wasn't for me. Alas, my better half (after seeking my consent), signed us up and I reluctantly resigned myself to a damned fine time in the southern hemisphere.
Goal #1, finish. Goal #2, don't be scared.
We were fed a delicious appetizer of made from scratch pizzas with scrumptious toppings while we sipped bottomless brews on tap and soaked our legs in the river that flowed alongside our camp. Dinner consisted of a variety of meats, salads, sides (all delicious) and of course delicious dessert and vino. A girl could get used to that sort of treatment.
The first stage was memorable for a very pleasant single track traverse of a transition. To a nice mellow descent. The temperatures were mild and I decided that I liked it in Chile.
The second stage was a long one. Especially when I snapped my bars (carbon) in half midway down. The bottom was quite steep and with half a bar and only a rear brake (which is useless on the super steep stuff, FYI). I slowly jogged/slid/tried to ride my way down (Did nobody get a picture of me riding with half a handlebar?) I was optimistic that there would be a replacement bar that would work and I’d be back at it the next day. After dinner, I went back to the Santa Cruz tent where Nacho advised me not to race the following day. I had exploded the bearing cartridge in my lower pivot link. Rough start.
Either way, the race was effectively over as the snapped handlebar cost me about 10 minutes. The rest of the race would be about attitude and finishing.
This was by the numbers, likely to be one of the hardest days of the race. I decided to disregard Nacho’s advice. After all, I survived one day of Andean pistas riding a wet noodle. What harm could one more day be? And I really wanted to finish the race and not miss any stages.
I rode very cautiously on the first stage and still managed to pass quite a few riders, thanks to the reverse start order at the beginning of each day.
We had a break for lunch before heading to the next 4 stages. At lunch, the Santa Cruz mechanics were waiting for us and Nacho found me and told me he had a fresh bearing kit and would have me all situated within 20 minutes. I helped myself to sandwiches and brownies while Nacho dialed me in like a homesick long distance caller (terrible simile, sorrynotsorry). The next 4 stages were without incident; fun dirt bike trails with a lot of whoops!
Day 3 (my favorite day of AP)
We were treated to a nice long shuttle up to the top of El Arpa ski area. Then we got out of the trucks, hefted our bikes onto our shoulders and started hiking steeply uphill. We kept hiking for about 3 hours.
Things I saw on the very long hike-a-bike: condors, guanagos, wild horses, and eventually Aconcagua (tallest mountain in the Southern and Western hemispheres). The views were alright.
The first stage went on forever. We just kept dropping. The terrain was amazeballs. And then we did some more stages. The last stage of the day had us finishing at sunset and I couldn’t see the trail through the dust when Jaime Hill flew by. And then the Trans Cascadia guys passed me and I was blind and eating dust again. (Getting passed is not as fun as passing). And then I crashed unexpectedly, going quite fast. I was ok, but a bit shook up. Worst part is that the crash was only about 200 yards from the finish, so I came through the finish area with a frown on my face and not at all cheerful.
Day 4 (I got lost)
We were getting a lot closer to the coast. This was possibly the mellowest day of the race and consisted of fun, ruts, and dust (but virtually hero dirt compared to the antigrip of the Andes). I got lost on the climb and the descent of the 3rd stage of the day. Oops. Still had fun on a flowy trail along a dry arroyo with optional lines and little rock drops and jumps. The locals were cheering us on and it was rad.
Stage 2 was a fun flow trail. Although we were getting close to the coast, it was incredibly hot on the climbs in the sun. It seemed like every time we dropped onto a stage, it would get cloudy, no ocean views. Our massive group ride to the coast was cloudy and brought some of the coldest temperatures of the whole week.
Alas, we were not taking a dip in the ocean post race.
My biggest regret is how much I procrastinated getting excited for this experience. I really didn't feel the stoke until I was soaking in the river at our first camp. Part of what makes an experience amazing is the build up. Nevertheless, I DO NOT regret going to Andes Pacifico and I hope to return, better prepared, next time.
I'm sure there are a handful of folks who think I'm a fool for wearing cheesey, flimsy, non-polarized shades, (and you are more than welcome to berate me). While I don't really feel a need to justify my eye-wear choice, as I often do, I must explain myself.
Awhile back, I was living in Leadville, where the local thrift store, Community Threads, still exists. Inside that amazing little shop of treasures, there lives a sunglass rack. Eons ago, perched upon it were a pair of bright pink heart-shaped sunglasses that fit my face perfectly. I paid $5 for them, and (mostly by accident), immediately wore them mountain biking. They ventilated perfectly and they were wide enough to keep dust out. They fit my face and didn't pinch under my helmet. I bought a second pair in blue.
That's the story. Since then, it has evolved a bit. I often wear sunnies while racing and this is where people are [shocked] [impressed] [appalled] [amused] with my funny sunnies.
I've had friends express concern that I might be damaging my vision because the hearts aren't capable of blocking all the harmful UV rays- to which I say, "thanks for your concern, but I'm confident that they are up to the task." This has lead to heated debate about how much of that UV warning is just hype and what percent of UV rays actually pass through hearts, or t-shirts, or anything for that matter.
If I'm out for a solo bike ride, I am instantly recognized (to the point of embarrassment as I'm not all that good with names) by my sunglasses. Lately, I'll grab my Smiths if I want to be incognito- like wearing a disguise ;)>
My dear friend, Stoken Female, commented a couple years ago that she needed to find a fun-shaped facial accessory to cover-up her "resting-bitch-face" when she was coaching. Sadly, her contemplative expression (that face that she gets when she's trying to puzzle through how to explain a mountain biking skill), might be interpreted as resting-bitch-face. So my final attempt at explaining the hearts is this: even if I'm having a bad day, my sunglasses will turn that frown up-side down and bring me joy (or at least I'll look that way).
Lately, I get asked where my heart shaped sunglasses are if I'm seen riding in anything else. Community Threads no longer stocks them on their sunglasses rack, so I've had to turn to eBay to keep a pair of hearts on hand. Desperate times. No matter what it takes, I'll keep the heart-shaped philosophy alive.
There have been a lot of big changes that have raining down on me in the past few months. Some are wonderful and some have been tragic. It's time for me to tie all the changes together into something powerful.
I have wanted to ride the Colorado Trail (CT), in its entirety, for a long time. I've ridden many segments, but never put them all together. My time in Colorado is suddenly limited and it seems like now or never. I've decided if I'm going to ride the whole CT this summer, I might as well do it as quick as I can and I ought to just sign up for the Colorado Trail Race (CTR), a roughly 500-mile, self-supported mountain bike race. My good friend Porsha, constructively pointed out that if I'm going to go all-in with such a silly endeavor, I might as well do it for a good reason. So I decided to fund raise and try to spread some good while I'm pedaling myself into saddle-sore oblivion. I wanted to fund raise for a cause that is meaningful for me, so that I would have something bigger than myself pushing me on the trail. But I didn't know what that would be.
I am utterly sin palabras. But I'm going to try to find some words to describe what a perfect experience this was.
Regretfully, I set myself up for a crazy trip, arranging my flights so that I arrived at about 11pm, the day before we were scheduled to bus to the race start in Benito Juarez and departed for home at about 6:45am the morning after the race ended in Etla. The whole experience was sandwiched between long work days and a slightly spontaneous 20-hours-in-the-car road trip to ROAM fest in Sedona. Needless to say, this girl felt pretty nuts about biting off more than she could chew and was worried that she would go off the rails from all the locura.
Luckily, in typical Mexican style, the TranSierra Norte crew had my gringa schedule covered with plenty of time built in for mid-race siestas.
I expected that the morning after I arrived would be just about my only chance to explore la ciudad de Oaxaca during my short trip, so I woke up as early as I could, and quietly built the bike, trying my hardest not to wake up my roommate, Krista, (I had woken her the previous night when I came in with all my bags, quite late, and not quite so gracefully).
Once my steed was assembled, I jumped on and rode to el zocalo and bought some queso Oaxaceno, a few bolsas of mole and spontaneously had my face painted in honor of Dia de los Muertos.
I was nervous about getting back to our hotel in time to make the shuttle, so I asked for a rush job on my face and sprinted up a rather steep hill climb from downtown in order to make it back just after noon.
Of course as soon as I was back at the hotel, I realized I had plenty of time to kill, so into a taxi and off to a bike shop I went. Then lunch with friends: crickets, mole and cervezas were shared with gusto.
We did finally load onto the bus shuttles to Benito Juarez, where we found more amazing food, and our cabins for the night. A kind gent wandered from cabin to cabin offering to build a fire to keep us warm from the mountain air. I slept well and awoke refreshed for the 3 days of racing ahead.
We eased into this race with the first few stages keeping us at higher elevations, in loamy single track that flowed as it twisted through the forest. The 4th stage was another story entirely. I had heard rumblings that this stage would be incredibly physical; long and technical. I wisely aired up my tires and settled in for a beat down. Easily one of my favorite stages of the race with deep gullies filled with jagged rock gardens- it was a hoot!
Days 2 and 3 were filled with more phenomenal trails, long shuttle rides to the top with gentle pedal transfers and plenty of opportunities to pass around an ice cold chela with new friends. There is an fast bond that develops in races like this when we all feel a little like family while we spend long days together in a foreign land.
The trails were primo and generally consisted of 20 minutes of loam to flow to gnar gullies of loose, rugged rock garden. Basically everything.
Red Bull was present, filming and providing us with tasty, ice-cold, energy in a can. I must admit that Red Bull is not typically my thing, but it sure helps you find motivation after a long shuttle transfer via Mexi-bus in the middle of the day.
Do I regret my whirlwind schedule? Not really. I had an incredibly wonderful experience that left me wanting more. This has been one of the most FUN enduros I have ever participated in. So I have to go back ... that's nothing to be sad about.
Until next time, nos vemos.
This was an all-inclusive kind of race. Picture hiring a tour guide to arrange airport pickup, lodging, meals and transportation, with the added bonus of timing you and all your friends while you ride a closed course that has been freshly cleared and groomed, just for you. That's what you are getting at the TranSierraNorte, and its well worth it!
Written at the end of the day before the first big winter storm
Its the end of the weekend and "mud-season" is full on. Each day feels like a gift during autumn in the mountains, like any minute we might get a big storm that covers the dirt up for the next 8-9 months. There's a certain desperation to get every high alpine epic in ... just 1 more time. I always want to savor every last autumn day in the High Rockies.
Matt's alarm went off at 4:45 am and as he shuffled out the door to work, I managed to fall back asleep for a couple more hours.
When I did get out of bed, the sky was gray and I lounged for quite awhile. I knit quietly while listening to a book about the neurology of emotions. I also had a healthy dose of screen time and caught up on EWS Finale and Outlier Vail conditions. I drank tea and coffee and tried to make the day last.
The sky continued to look threatening, but by late morning, it seemed like things were about as dry as they were going get on the trail, so I rallied the dogs (or vice versa), and we rolled 30 feet down the rec path to our local trail network. The dirt was in premium shape and I wasn't the only one taking advantage of the conditions. There were a handful of hikers and families on the way to Rainbow Lake, and I opted to turn off the main trail and climbed steeply after the first 0.5 miles of so. I noticed fairly quickly that in addition to Sucia and Tucker, a new, large brown dog had joined my clan. I was planning to try to pedal up a section of trail that I usually only descend, but this would have taken me quite a ways from the direction that the big brown dog's family was likely to be coming from. So I executed a U turn and headed towards Rainbow Lake. Before long had passed, I encountered the dog's family, and we bid farewell to Hux, I apologized and made a comment about the dog trying to adopt us and his master thanked me and placed him on a leash, blaming the incident on Hux. I spun past the lake and started climbing up the switchbacks towards the cabin on Miner's Creek. The conditions in the draw were quite soggy and slick, but so much fun!
A few miles of climbing and wouldn't you know it, Huxley found us again. Now I was in a bit of a pickle. I didn't know about his fitness and I hadn't a clue where his humans were at that point. I probably should have turned around and taken him right back to the lake, but I didn't want to miss out on an autumn ride. So I kept climbing and eventually, grabbed Hux by the collar and sent a text to the # listed there. I quickly got a reply text and we arranged to meet up after I ripped the 3 miles of descent back to a dirt road where they were able to rendezvous.
Huxley proved to be a great trail dog and Tucker and Sucia delighted in the fine company.
The skies were beginning to darken dramatically as I led Huxley back to his family. His master, Ben, shook my hand and thanked me. I was a little bit sheepish about puppy-napping him and apologized and bid Hux farewell.
We ripped the last mile of trail home and were impressed by how the place had cleared out. Raindrops were starting to fall and the air grew quite a bit crisper.
A warm shower felt quite nice, even though my frozen toes shouted in sharp pain as they warmed back up.
Refreshed, I whipped up a batch of curried lentils and treated myself to a bowl as I listened to the rain intensify.
Back to the screens and knitting, savoring the last hours of the weekend and the last days of fall, snow is beginning to blanket the dirt outside and I'm glad I was able to get out and enjoy what might turn out to be one of the last rides of autumn in Frisco.
Vanlife seems to be nearing epidemic status this spring. Although I may secretly long for a full size, custom, 4WD Sprinter, its not a good time for me to sell the house or go deep into buyer's remorse. So we settled for a mini-van. We scored 'Roxanne the Van' with less than 10,000 miles on the odometer (we've managed to triple that number in the past 12 months). Last year we recreated all over the Western US and up to British Columbia. Usually I like to go against the grain and avoid lauding too strongly any new trend, however, we totally love our van! Its delightful to be able to pull over anywhere and grab some shut eye before the next adventure.
Say what you want about #vanlife, but I am sold.
2010 Ford Transit Connect, cherry red
Rhino Rack, Sun Seeker awning
Road Shower 2, solar shower
1Up USA, Heavy Duty Double hitch mount bike rack
Yakima cargo box (got it over 10 years ago at REI garage sale- not sure which model)
Yakima Front Loader, roof mount bike rack
Homemade interior subfloor and murphy bed that folds up and expands from a single to a double with plenty of storage underneath.
What's your dream van?
Rides bikes, a lot. Heals people. Fond of thinking and knitting.