My great-great grandmother was a tough little Finnish woman who decided in order to survive she needed to leave and come to the United States. So she got on a boat, came through Ellis Island and made her way to a rural eastern Oregon mining town. She decided and she did it. Alone.
I have often thought about the courage, determination and strength she must have possessed to make the trip in the late 1800’s across the North American continent. What were the biggest challenges? What demons did she fight? What happened on that journey? What were her thoughts? I wish I could sit down and talk with her and her daughter and grand-daughter now that I am an adult. As a child I knew her daughter (my great grandmother) and she was a firecracker. Highly intelligent, a bit overbearing, intensely driven, but the most loving and beautiful soul I knew. I was too young to know the third generation (my grandmother) before she died, and I will always be sad for this.
I would hope to gain a better understanding of myself as a woman with a fierce drive, a wealth of intensity and a strong sense of determination all coupled with a tender heart. I trust, forgive and seek the inner beauty in people in a childlike way that I refuse to abandon. Dealing with the resulting disappointments and heartaches is a consequence I have learned to manage within. Notice I did not say “accept” or “become accustomed to.” Oh hell no. It has been a long process of learning, picking battles and just rolling with the punches sometimes. The insight and wisdom I could gain, however, over a long fireside chat with three tough Scandinavian women and a pot of coffee (or who knows, maybe a bottle of whiskey) probably could have made high school as a whole and some relationships since a little easier. DNA is an amazing and powerful thing that controls tendencies and traits we can only hope to manage in a successful way throughout life.
The rest is environmental. I grew up in rural eastern Oregon. I was never in the house playing. I was always out on my horse exploring. I became somewhat of a loner because none of my friends lived close by. I had to find a way to get on my horse when I couldn’t reach the stirrups. I had to find a way to open the gate if I wanted to ride further. I developed a good sense of how to survive, overcome and not give up. I am not scared of being alone in the middle of nowhere at night. The things I learned in Nowhere, Oregon are things I still carry with me today. I would never trade my childhood for anything.
I think that my innate characteristics dictated by my DNA along with the environment in which I was raised both contributed to the success I experienced on the CTR. And some dumb luck, for certain! I did some things right. I am happy to have put another female on the finisher’s list. My gear worked well for me. I didn’t spend a lot of money on custom bags. Would they have been nice? Definitely. Necessary? Not at all. The only thing I would change is I would have brought one more layer to keep my core a little warmer. (Hmmmm, or maybe had I eaten more and more often, I wouldn’t need it).
But in the seven days since I rolled into Durango, I have had time to think about the many mistakes I made that cost me hours and days. I will finish faster next year. Sub 6 days is my goal. I am confident that it is very attainable in my world. The simple, basic experience of just being a part of the race is a huge factor. The rest? I have a little under a year to dial it in.
Not only is the CTR one of the most epic races through one of the most gorgeous places in the world, but it gives one a chance to critically self-analyze. What works for ME? What changes, upgrades, strategies will make me faster and stronger? I don’t have the raw power, speed and physical ability of Thomas, Kerkove, Jakomait, Passant or Jefe. And I never will…Damn DNA. I saw some guys with Tour Divide style setups with nothing on their backs. Won’t work for me. I need to distribute the weight I carry. I can safely say my gear and bike was lighter than a great majority of the racers this year, but for sections like Ten-Mile Range, Fooses Creek and Section 22, a super heavy bike/gear setup will crush me while going up the almost vertical pushes. No single setup, style, strategy or sleeping system is ideal for every person. Yeah. That is one of my favorite parts of this race.
Enough incessant rambling. On to my mistakes:
I should have started with brand new tires. I had been rolling with the same back tire since late April. I love the tire for the distance of racing and riding I had been doing. I used it in the Durango Dirty Century without problems, but it really was pretty worn out when I started CTR. My inexperienced eye didn’t really detect the substantial wear, until it was pointed out to me after it blew at Celebration Lake. It cost me about 20 hours total.
I stayed too long in towns. I needed to be more efficient in stores. I knew I was hungry and besides a can of Coke, I would catch myself wandering around looking but not really wanting anything I saw. Trying to figure out what food to take with me to Silverton from Buena Vista was harder than Sergeant’s Mesa. When I finally did leave the store, I didn’t end up taking enough food. I planned well as far as the food I started with, but once that was gone, I wasted a lot of time. Next year, I will have a plan for what food to buy and where to find it in each town.
If at all possible, I am not going to sleep in towns next year. Its too easy and too comfortable and makes it really hard to leave. The hotel in Leadville was an absolute luxury and I loved it every second of that shower and warm bed. But…..could I have survived without the hot shower? Yes. Could I have crashed under some shelter for a few hours and dried out my clothes? Yes. I would have gotten dry and been on my way hours earlier. I will have a sleep plan and daily mileage goals.
I have to eat more frequently. I can’t roll on a gut full of pizza or burritos. No way, I would be sick and miserable. But what I need is lots of high calorie food like bars, dried fruit, trail mix, crackers, yogurt, bagels, candy, etc that don’t weigh me down but translate into energy on a constant basis. That’s the food I ate, packed and bought. Just not enough. I seriously underestimated the amount of calories I needed. I am able to ignore hunger and push on and I paid for it for the first time. I lost the ability to keep myself warm enough on the road detour to keep moving. I shivered all night inside a bag in which I should have stayed plenty warm. I needed more far more calories than I consumed that day.
My fitness needs to improve. That is a given. And it will.
I got off course just before I dropped into the RV Park near Breckenridge and it probably cost me 45 minutes to an hour. That won’t happen next year.
I am sure I made many more and will identify them in the next few months, but I will go with these for now. I have so much more riding, racing and learning ahead of me in the time between now and next August. What a ride it was. What an absolutely incredible undertaking. The 2011 CTR was my first taste of a truly colossal effort on a bike.
Yep. I’m hungry for more….