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Colorado Trail

The CTR Has Already Started

The blue sky disappearred. Dark, angry clouds moved rapidly overhead. Thunder rumbled across the sky. Rain drops thumped off the rocks and splashed onto the narrow, dusty trail. I moved slowly. So, slowly. The storm turned violent. Wind, rain, lightning. I had no place to hide.  I was surrounded by high alpine tundra. And still, I moved slowly… too slowly. Why couldn’t I go any faster? A flash of light streaked across the sky; an ear-splitting crack exploded all around me.

I woke up in my bed. It was still February. Still winter. And the Colorado Trail Race, still months away.

I walked to the window and peered outside, surprised to see that it was not raining.

I’m amazed, and a little bit disturbed, at how quickly the CTR has engulfed me. I’ve been kept awake at night by gear comparison tables, maps, and the ride reports from other racers. The ride reports might be the most useful resources available for someone trying to wrap their mind around a Colorado Trail through-ride. They might also be the most effective deterrent. As I read, I ask myself, “do I really want to do that?” In the past, the answer was always an easy, unprovoked, “no, not really.” But not anymore.

Privately (and publicly) committing to an event that requires homework, along with the normal physical preparation, has a strange cementing effect. The question is no longer “am I going to ride in the race?” Instead, it’s “how am I going to get ready for the race?” Ah, how indeed?

Reading, of course. But also doing. That is, strapping the bags to the bike, and pedaling.

Alas, it’s still winter. Sort of. There hasn’t been much snow to speak of over the last few weeks. And the temperatures have been mild. I’ve started to see cyclists on the roads. The sun is hanging in the sky a little bit longer every day. But winter isn’t finished. There’s still more snow, more skiing, more cold. And that means more time obsessing over trail maps, gear tables, and the experiences of other people.

I coasted into the parking lot at Waterton Canyon. It was well past midnight, I had just finished a 20 hour blitz. My hands and feet were numb. My legs were heavy and worn. I was wet with sweat and rain. But I was smiling. I had done it. The Colorado Trail—all 470 miles—was behind me. I was a CTR finisher.

I was dreaming again. But not in my sleep. Daydreaming. Visualizing a moment that has become the sole motivation for every session on the indoor trainer, every repetition with the weights, every interval, and skipped dessert. It’s the same daydream that helped me arrive in Fruita, Park City, Eagle Point, Old Pueblo, and countless other finish lines.

Every pedal stroke, and every mile that I ride and race gets me a little bit closer to Denver. The Colorado Trail Race is not 470 miles, it’s far longer than that. The trail to Denver started in my basement weeks ago, and will pass through the deserts of St. George, the hoodoo of Moab, and up and over  the Wasatch and Tushar mountains. It will be glorious and tedious. But already some of that is behind me. And already, it’s too late to turn around.

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