20 days. Aug 1 is 20 days away. Last time I looked, it was 50 days away.
As you may have guessed, I’ve been deep into CTR prep. The other day I thought about it and realized that most of my racing does not have a lot of preparation. I train “generally” for racing 50-100 miles. A little more prep goes into stage racing. CTR? It’s been 6 months or more in the making starting all the way back in February when I was carrying a 15lb back pack, 2.4 mtb tires, and riding the road in the winter uphill. I remember riding with the boys (Jon Davis and Joe Saperstein) and feeling frustrated that I was slow and bogged down by the weight. Now, 15 lbs is nothing. I remember riding up Magnolia road on snow where if I opened my mouth, my teeth would hurt from the cold. Then the racing started with varying distances, most over 70 miles, and a stage race to add multi-day fitness and recovery.
Now it’s July. Already. It’s amazing to me how fast the summer flies away. My training gets more specific each week. I did an overnighter a few weeks back for my first time(scared shitless of course) and now I’m not so nervous about the nights. One major thing I wanted to do for my training was hike-a-bike. It’s a HUGE part of CTR. There’s tons of pushing, one foot in front of the other.
I told Jeff that I wanted to do a training weekend near Salida. I wanted him to make it hard. Harder than a day in CTR. Push me farther than I want to go. Make me push my bike a lot. Try to demoralize me. So, he made up a route, we parked the car on Saturday around 11AM and off we went into the mountains.
I have been training with Jeff for 3 years, so I know what to expect when I tell him I want a hard route. The funny thing to me was that I think he surprised himself with the gnarly route he created. We rode for maybe an hour before we were off our bikes…. for many hours. The trail got rocky and steep… and unrelenting.
There were some water crossings. This one in particular was disturbing to me. I was very nervous trying to balance a bike and pack on a skinny, wet plank that was bowing underneath me with water rushing underneath. Halfway across, my legs started trembling and I clammed up. I had to force myself to relax and got across.
Filtering water. It’s awesome to have a water filter (and know there are water sources). It’s empowering to think that I had everything I needed to survive out there for multiple days, and that I could cover distance.
The sky got dark and the rain started to fall. “This is just like how it was at CTR last year,” Jeff dejectedly reminisced.
The gortex was put on. “I’m glad it’s raining. The harder it is, the better.” Fortunately, the thunder was a low rumble as we approached treeline. We weren’t in any hurry, hoping the clouds would clear out.
The trees got smaller and more sparse. We hung out by a lake for a couple minutes.
The trail dumped us out on a jeep road. Jeff said, “Oh yeah, this is the road! We should be able to ride this to the top!” Ride? Wrong. How about steep, loose, rocky, and very high. Also, there were clouds building to our left. “I don’t want to go back down the way we came,” Jeff anxiously said to me. He hikes almost twice as fast as I do, so that was a mere and kind suggestion to hurry the F@*& up! Oddly enough, the hard part of hiking was not leg strength. It was pushing the bike. My upper body was on fire. I was breathing hard and had to take very short breaks. My traps were stabbing with pain and all the while, the sky to the left was getting darker. I marched up that mountain, head down. Jeff was just a speck in the distance.
Keep pushing. Keep moving forward and up.
We finally made it to the saddle sitting above 13,000′. Mt. Antero was right next to us. Secretly, I wanted to keep going to the top. The sky that direction looked nice, but the weather was very unstable.
At the base of Mt. Antero
Game on, time to descend.
As we started riding down, Jeff said, “You know, this is one of the most dangerous roads in America.” Me – “!!!!!!!”
I proceeded with caution.
Jeff is in this photo… a black dot. Can you see him?
We got going again on a railroad grade climb. It almost felt odd to pedal for an extended period of time. Suddenly, we heard, “HEY ERGON!” I looked over and saw 2 guys. We got closer and it was my friends Brian and Davey! I couldn’t believe that in the middle of nowhere, we ran into friends. They offered me a beer. At first I declined, but then I decided to take it when Brian said, “Cutthroat Porter!” He also gave us oatmeal creme pies. I shoved it in my full pack, not caring that I was putting in another pound of weight and on we went.
I can’t believe it! Davey and Brian. Frickin’ sweet! I thought I was hallucinating after 8.5 hours!
We stayed where the alpine tunnel used to be. The sun started going down. I didn’t feel anxious about the animals. It’s weird, I realize that it’s only close to home that I fear mountain lions. Now, the main thing I’m afraid of is lightning, which is very real.
After I got my sleeping spot set up, it was time to enjoy a beer and an oatmeal creme pie – DINNER! The Clif bar was for breakfast. It was odd, I didn’t eat very much all weekend(a total of 7 or 8 bars in 2 days) considering what we were doing. I didn’t feel hungry, or maybe what I had didn’t seem appetizing. I’ll be perusing the “processed foods” aisle before the race… an aisle I normally bypass. This time, it’ll prove worthy with high calorie foods that’ll keep. For once, I’ll be looking at nutrition labels for high calorie items instead of putting them back on the shelf saying, “That’s too many calories!”
There were some clouds coming over the ridge, but they weren’t very big and it normally doesn’t rain at night. I eyed where I would quickly run if a thunderstorm moved in. When I finally drifted off to sleep, I was awakened by cold raindrops pattering on my cheeks. ”Jeff, it’s raining.” He didn’t have a tarp so he scooted next to me and we draped the tarp over our heads. My waterproof sleeping bag cover (almost a bivy, but doesn’t cover the face) also kept my sleeping bag dry. The pitter patter would subside and start up again throughout the night. The rain seemed to get harder each time a cloud moved over. I got to see the stars very briefly, and had very restless sleep all night. We slept at 11,600′ in the shadow of tranquil, ancient giants; peaks that had been there for millions of years.
We got up at 6 AM, packed up, and started moving on and up the next morning.
To be continued….