Typing is still a challenge*. Parts of my hands and feet are still numb. And I don’t have much dexterity. Recovery from the CTR is a slow process. And while I’ve promised not to race the CTR again, I have been thinking of ways I can be faster, more efficient, and ultimately a better CT racer. I made several mistakes, which wasn’t surprising. And while I want to make good on my promise, I’d also like a chance to correct the mistakes I made. And anyway, I will bikepack again!
*I’m still working on my story about the race. It’s long. Just like the race was.
Below is a summary of what worked (gear, food, etc.) and what didn’t work on my thru-race of the Colorado Trail.
Sleep system: I made some last minute changes to my sleep system, opting for a more robust (and heavier), waterproof set up. I used my OR Aurora bivy, with my Lafuma Warm N Light 600 down sleeping bag, and the Big Agnes Clearview 2.5″ pad. It worked really well. I slept (relatively) comfortably every night. I stayed warm and dry, and the system was easy to set out, and pack up. However, it is a heavier, bulkier, system. I could have gotten away with the lighter SOL Escape bivy, as we miraculously avoided getting caught in any prolonged rain storms. But I chose the safer, drier option.
What I’d do differently: If I were to ride the CTR again, I think I’d opt for a lightweight bivy/tarp combo. The tarp would be useful in heavy rain, and if not needed, could stay packed away. Of course, that would mean that between now and then, I’d need to get some experience camping with a tarp! Sounds like I have a new project to think about. I’d keep the pad/bag combo as is.
Bike bags: I used the Revelate Pika seat bag, Revelate Sweet Roll w/ pocket add-on, 2 mountain feed bags, and a Jandd frame bag. Overall, the system functioned well, but I plan to fine-tune it some.
What I’d do differently: I had too much weight on my bars. I think I’d eliminate the feedbags (although they were great for carrying bottles of soda) in favor of a Revelate Gas Tank to get some of the weight off the bars. A bigger frame bag would also be very useful.
Ty and I debated our food strategy quite a bit in the days leading up to the race. We had 2 options: Go light, and get to Silverton before the grocery and convenience store closed; or pack heavy, and ride right through Silverton (late at night) without resupply. We went heavy. We left Durango with 4 days of food (to get all the way to Buena Vista), and it was heavy. Really heavy. Too heavy. And worse yet, we finished day 1 well short of Silverton. So we carried all that extra weight, needlessly. We weren’t the only riders to make this mistake. But it was a significant mistake for two reasons: The extra weight slowed us down; and the food I was carrying was utterly unappetizing.
What I’d do differently: If the race began in Durango, I’d start with just enough food to get to Silverton. No more. I still might not make it to Silverton before the stores closed, but getting delayed overnight and waiting for the stores to open in the morning wasn’t a big deal. Of course, we got lucky with the weather on the Cataract/Coney segments. Had the weather been worse, I might think otherwise. A Durango start will always present a resupply dilemma.
My Scalpel performed flawlessly. 550 miles and no flats, repairs, or mishaps. However, after 550 miles, there are a few things I’d change about the bike.
What I’d do differently: I think the perfect CTR bike is a longer travel full suspension trail bike. 100+ mm of travel, a more upright geometry, lots of front triangle room (for a proper frame bag), but still light enough to pedal up the hill. Jesse J., who finished 2nd in the race, rode a bike with 27.5″ wheels, and 150mm of travel. Although Jefe won (again) on a hardtail. To each his own. For me, I would have loved more travel, and a more casual riding position.
My only goal for the Colorado Trail Race was to finish. I did what I had to do to make that happen. Of course, the racer in me (which stayed mostly dormant during the event) wonders now if I could have been faster. In order for that to happen, there are a few things I’d have to do differently: Pack lighter, eat more consistently, and sleep less. In other words, I’d have to spend more time being really uncomfortable. Of course, I was plenty uncomfortable during the 6.5 days I spent on the trail.
What I’d do differently: If I were trying to go faster, I’d get up earlier each day. I fell apart pretty quickly around 10 or 11 each night. I don’t night-ride as well as I used to, and when I’m ready for bed, I am ready for bed. But instead of crawling out of my bag at 5:30, I’d start moving around 4 or 4:30. I’d also stop less often along the way. No hotel (although that was awesome!). No long lunches. Just forward movement. However, we leap-frogged several riders who were using the ride slow, don’t stop, don’t sleep, pace. They’d pass us during the night while we rested, and we passed them back sometime mid-morning while they rode slowly. Is one better than the other? I really don’t know. It seems the only way to ride the CTR fast, is to ride hard, and not sleep. And that’s not exactly easy.
The Bottom Line
I had an incredible time on the Colorado Trail. It challenged me more than anything I’ve ever done. I’ve been missing the trail, and the everyday simplicity of eat, ride, sleep. I want to ride parts of the CT again. I’d love to bikepack segments again. The CT is a beautiful trail, passing through incredible mountains. More photos here.