Monday, August 15, 2011

Starting to Reflect...

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….

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2011 Colorado Trail Race Report

So there is absolutely no way I can put into words how hard this race is. I actually like that. I want it to inspire those reading this to do something you aren’t sure you can finish. Do what you have been dreaming of doing for years. Something hard. Something seemingly impossible. DO IT. Get up. Move. Take a step. Dare to fail. Jump in the ring.

The only people who will truly understand the difficulty are the other racers. They know. They know the physical stamina, endurance and pain that are a given part of this epic undertaking. They also know the mind game that MUST be mastered.
My writing is an attempt to give you an inside look at one female rookie’s experience for seven absolutely EPIC days in August. Let’s call this part one. It’s the raw “data” of what happened during the time you were all yelling at my SPOT dot to get moving. As I recover and reflect on my triumphs and my mistakes, I will definitely have a much more analytical part two to submit to the blogosphere world in the next few days.
So for now, I welcome you to jump into my pedals and experience the 2011 Colorado Trail Race if you are so inclined.
(Oh, and if you are interested, my gear list is included at the end…Ha! Now you are going to have to read all 5500 words. No cheating by just scrolling down!)

Sunday July 31st. 8 pm.
I was pacing AGAIN. Nerves wound tight. All my gear was packed. Food ready. Bags on the bike. I checked my tire pressure. Calculated my weight plus the estimated weight of my gear and  added some to the rear shock. And checked them both again. I went over everything in my head for the tenth time. Batteries. Fresh and extra. Check. Bivvy. Check. Tire boots. Check….Jill, STOP. Go to bed.
I dreamed about riding all night. I am notorious for hovering in that surreal place between sleep and awake and experiencing vivid, almost real dreams about something on which I have an intense focus. In college, it was basketball. I would wake up in the corner of my room crouched in position to shoot a free throw. No joke. So I am guessing that last Sunday night, my legs were most likely moving in a circular motion while I was sleeping. Either way, my dog was annoyed enough that I found her sleeping on the floor, which never happens.
My alarm went off and I was ready. It was like the first day of first grade where you lay all your clothes out clear down to your socks the night before. Yep. I got ready in absolute record time and had my bike and gear out on the curb when Jen and Erick came to get me. I had to have looked like the nervous kindergartener waiting for the bus on the first day of school.
We got to the start about 20 minutes early and I was amazed at the number of cars. My stomach was flip-flopping as I was standing three or four rows back from the front.

We started to roll out and I immediately became calm. I grabbed some guy’s tire and settled into an easy, comfortable pace. My legs felt good and I looked down at my GPS and the red line I was going to follow for the next 400 plus miles.

The weather was good and the pack I rode with stayed relatively close together as we climbed and descended en route to the first town of Bailey. Some were hammering out of the saddle up steep stuff only to slow way down and die at the top. Hmmmmm, I knew that hammering in the first 10 miles was not happening for me. The ride to Bailey felt good even though it was hot through the burn and up the loose sandy hills. I got to Bailey just as the only convenience store in town was closing in the middle of the day for construction and repairs. Ugh! No. Luckily, the clerk who was locking the door in my face said I could come in and get some ice water and a free fountain soda if I was quick. Ok. SCORE!
I sat for a second outside and noticed there were two bikes outside a little café next door and rolled over to use the bathroom. I was getting ready to head out when Sonya walked in the door. We chatted for about a minute and the sky opened up and dumped buckets of rain. Ha! I wasn’t in any hurry anymore. After about 30 minutes, the sky cleared up in its typical Colorado afternoon thunderstorm fashion and I set off. The ride was a small section of dirt road  then onto busy 285 which had very little shoulder. I rode with Sonya most of the way until she dropped me and scooted up the road to the top of Kenosha Pass where we rejoined the singletrack.  I hit the top of Georgia Pass a little before sunset. I was smiling as I thought about how this section had been my first bikepacking trip ever a mere 10 months earlier. At the time, I had no idea how to pack and was just experimenting and trying to figure it all out. I remember being absolutely miserable having well over 20 lbs on my back and wanting to die from fatigue.
I paused for a minute to marvel at the serene sunset and put on my leg and arm warmers.

I plugged my light in and started down the sweet descent. My light which had registered as fully charged was flickering and about to die. Grrrr. What a piece of garbage. I wanted to chuck it into the trees but instead grabbed my 80 lumen Black Diamond head lamp and an additional handlebar light and finished out the downhill. I came to the bridge and saw a couple of racers just setting up camp to my right. I moved along through some deep mud and came to a big group camped near the trail, campfire raging.
“Hey, the Colorado Trail goes to the right.”
“Uh, ok. Sounds like you have seen a lot of bikers today.”
“Yep, and by the way, ignore the trail closed signs ahead. They are logging up there, but not at night.”
I rolled on a little further and came to the signs. I stopped, knowing the big climb that was ahead and saw a paper plate or something that instructed CTR racers to detour to Tiger Run Rd.
Awwww, yeeeeah!
 I really had no desire to ride extra miles if no one else had to, so I ignored what the campers had said and did what Stefan had posted earlier that night. It was around 10 or 11 and I was starting to think about how good my sleeping bag would feel. Being able to fall asleep basically anywhere, I don’t carry a sleeping pad, so I found a good tree alongside the gravel road, leaned my bike up against it behind some tall grass, ditched my shoes, wrapped up in my emergency bivvy and crashed out, for about two hours.
My tiny travel alarm was beeping and I opened my eyes to a head lamp shining on me. It was Michael, a guy from Denver, I had ridden with into Bailey. I quickly packed up my bag and bivvy and followed him down the rest of the detour. We initially passed  the turnoff to Horseshoe Gulch, but turned around and rode back to catch the last few miles of the detoured segment. Michael rode faster than me and didn’t have a GPS, so I gave him my guidebook to get over the top of the Ten-mile range into Copper. The sun was just coming up and somehow I took a right following some tire tracks and got off course for about 45 minutes. A bit frustrated with myself, I backtracked and descended into the area near Tiger Run RV Park and remembered that I hadn’t eaten in a while.
After a quick breakfast, I crossed the highway and started the long, grueling climb over to Copper Mountain Resort. Hike-a-Bike is all it is near the top. I trudged on and on and on. I met a racer who had called it quits already descending and soon found myself riding (pushing) with a girl named Kim. We were passed by a guy named Marco who was pushing his bike with a vengeance. He ripped by, informing us he had just ridden the whole detour with Sonya the night before on the instruction of the campers to ignore the “Trail Closed” signs. He seemed a little embarrassed but in good spirits as he tore up the hill, leaving me to wonder if he had wings in his shoes. All I knew was that the long, steep switchbacks and the straight up, rocky, root-filled climbs were kicking my ass!

UGH! I was happy to see the top and start the gnarly, technical descent down the other side. Some walking was definitely required in some of the wicked steep, wet, slick spots. I didn’t need to be a hero and one mistake on some of those rocks meant certain carnage and would abruptly end my CTR adventure. I met back up with Kim at Quiznos in Copper and chatted with Kurt who was already there but feeling a bit out of it. I was really hungry and ordered some food. I met a singlespeeder from Flagstaff who was contemplating calling it due to some serious pain on the bottoms of his feet. I felt bad because I knew he was done by the way he talked and the look on his face.
I stayed a bit longer than I wanted to and saw Kim take off about 30 minutes before I was ready to leave. I had just gotten all my gear packed up, helmet on when it started to rain. Hard. Ha. I ordered a cup of coffee and chilled for another 20 minutes on the couch. Not wanting to waste anymore time, I was pretty ancy, but knew that getting soaked was a bad idea. I hate to be cold and I knew there was a great chance of more rain tonight. “Finish” was my word of the week and I wasn’t even out of Summit county yet, so this 20 minute wait wasn’t going to kill me.
I consciously focused on the goal of finishing during every mile. Yes, my legs burned. Yes, I was frustrated with the fact that my pace was slower than normal. Yes, I wanted to catch Kim who was now a good hour ahead of me. The intensity that runs in my blood is a very powerful thing and the constant challenge of keeping it in check and channeling it towards the overall goal was a huge part of my race.
I began to climb up Copper Mountain and under the ski lifts. I smiled because the last time I was on this trail I was covered head to toe with mud, headed towards the finish wearing Viking Horns, and had just scaled three old cars in the Warrior Dash last summer.  I continued climbing and a couple hours later, found that Kurt close behind. We rode together for a while and I stopped to eat once again. He went on and waited for me to descend down to Camp Hale. It had started raining just as I topped out and never let up until we reached Leadville. The descent to Camp Hale was sick! It was fast and flowy in some spots, steep and rocky in others, but overall, a wonderful, welcomed treat in the pounding rain. The rain didn’t exist as I flew down the hills, around the corners and through the loose rock. My hands were light on the handlebars and my body was part of my bike effortlessly moving through time and space.

Before I knew it we were climbing up Tennessee Pass. Matt, from Phoenix, caught us and we rode swiftly and intently towards Leadville. I was running on sheer adrenaline and desire to be out of this storm and dry. I know this because I was absolutely starving. I could feel my sides drawn in and my stomach growl and rumble every few minutes. There was no way in hell I was stopping. I was latched onto Kurt’s wheel and the time flew as we got closer and closer to Leadville. Matt flatted on the pavement and we stopped to wait as he tried to add some air. I couldn’t stay stationary for mre than two minutes because the cold breeze was sapping every bit of warmth from me. I rode circles in the road to keep moving as Matt tried to fix his tire and we finally went on when he decided to just limp into town and fix it underneath some shelter.
A hotel room was the consensus if there was anything open and the backup plan was to bivvy in the 24-hour ATM shelter. Luckily, we found a room and all I could think about was a hot shower. My teeth were literally chattering and no amount of hot coffee from the Loaf-n-Jug could warm the ice that had collected in every joint and vein in my body. The shower pressure was absolutely ridiculous but it was warm and I was again amongst the functioning part of the population. I had to chuckle to myself because going into this race I could never imagine sleeping in a hotel anywhere along the way. Now here I was with all the clothes I had drying on the rack beside my bed and not giving a second thought to the fact that I had known the two guys in the two other beds for less than 6 hours. Or that I did not care when I had to make a mad dash from the bathroom to jump under the covers in only a towel all the while instructing them to look the other way….HAHAHA…Priceless!
In all honesty, I was far more worried about getting an early start the next morning and all the time I was going to spend sleeping and not moving forward. Kurt started a little ahead of me and Matt had to get a new tire, so we never saw each other again until Buena Vista. The ride to BV was sweet with so much downhill and rippin’ fast singletrack, I felt like I was cheating. It seemed too easy and before I knew it I was crossing the tracks onto the dirt road leading into town. Ahhhhh, life was good and my mood was seriously elevated. I was again starving and bought some food at the City Market. Here I met up with Jonathan and Kurt and Matt again. Armed with 17 burritos between them, Kurt and Matt left about two hours earlier than I did.
I still had damp gloves and socks from the storm in Leadville and wanted them to be completely dry for the long pull to Silverton. A quick stop at the local laundramat to dry everything and wait out yet another short storm was in the cards.

Part of this race is knowing yourself and what is essential to finishing. Absolutely necessary to my success is warm, dry clothes. Being damp and cold pretty much just pisses me off and can send my attitude southbound very rapidly. I stocked up on food, drank a Coke and set off up Cottonwood Pass at about 8:30 PM. I knew Kim was going to probably stop and sleep for the night and I was completely ready and actually quite excited to push all through until morning. I got to Avalanche Trailhead, put my iPod on the most motivating playlist I had and went into a trance as the miles ticked away. The uphill sections and sporadic hike-a-bike passed quickly and I found myself on the road near Princeton Hot Springs.
I stood up out of the saddle and felt it extremely hard to move forward. Damn. My back tire was flat. But I was ready and expecting at least two or three of them. I calmly took my back wheel off and added some air using my CO2 cartridge, hoping Stan’s would seal whatever hole had caused the flat. Nope. Not happening. It was time for a tube. Unfortunately, I only had one cartridge. Where were the other two I had bought to put in my repair kit? Most likely sitting on my dresser at home. Nice one, Jill.
I realized there was also a small tear in the sidewall and used one of the five (!!) tire boots I had. When I went to air up the tube after getting everything put back together, I had no pressure from the small hand pump I was using. I messed with it forever. On and off, back and forth. Tried and tried and tried….I was getting frustrated because I really wanted to get moving again. I was having no luck getting air into the tube. I didn’t feel tired or sleepy at all. In fact, I felt completely mentally energized and amped to keep moving. My body must have had a different idea, because the next thing I knew it was about 6 am and I awoke to the sun rising, the pump still in my right hand. Ha, not kidding. It looked like I was setting up a small yard sale as all of my gear and tire repair stuff was spread out about two feet off the side of the road. A construction crew had just arrived to fix a dip in the road and I am sure had a good laugh and the crazy chick sound asleep with a bike pump in her hand.
I sent my friend Erick and Steve a text asking if there was anyone close behind me who may have a pump. I actually didn’t get either reply until Silverton, but somehow in the light, managed to get air into the tube. Sweet. I was back on track. I hadn’t made the progress I wanted, but pushed on, hoping to get to Hwy 50 and Fooses Creek soon. Forest caught up with me about an hour before dropping down to the highway and told me of a little RV Park less than ¼ mile to the east. Knowing that I didn’t have a lot of food, I opted to bomb down and grab some more. I was eating and needing far more than I had anticipated, so thinking soley of finishing, I took the extra 30 minutes. The selection consisted of chips, spam, candy bars and soda. There was barely any food at all there. The clerk must have felt sorry for me or something I guess because she came out of the back room with a whole bag of blueberry bagels for which she adamantly refused money. Hmmmmm, wonder what other delectable items she had back there?  
I was back on the highway and just as I started up Fooses Creek, it began to pour. I quickly found a tree, got in my bivvy and covered myself with the only shelter I had—a super light piece of plastic. I sat for about an hour, dozing off, waiting for the downpour to cease. Just as it finally did and I was packing up everything, I looked at the road and saw a guy in nothing but a white T-shirt and shorts grinding away. What the hell? This dude was so tough. The rain was cold. I had all my clothes and rain gear on and here he was in basically nothing.
Why was I such a damn wimp? HTFU, Jill. I began persecuting myself for being so slow and such a rain weenie. My monkey mind started to whirl with doubt. Is it going to rain all night again? Do you want to freeze like in Leadville? There is no town to warm up. You don’t have a tent. You have a bivvy and a plastic cover. What will you do if you get up on Marshall Pass and its windy, rainy and cold? The highway is right there…you can bivvy up in the picnic area. Don’t chance it….
These thoughts were all the negative, defeating garbage that was floating around in my head. I sat for about ten minutes feeling a whirlwind of emotions trying to cloud my determination and focus on the finish. I was fighting the inclination to succumb to feeling safe, warm and comfortable. Pressing on meant being uncomfortable, tired, hungry and quite possibly wet and cold.
I stood up, snapped back to reality, laughed at my moment of silly weakness and swung my leg over the saddle. I was above this crap. Why did I let the “doubt demons” try to cloud my focus on forward movement to the finish? I have dealt with much, much greater difficulty. Sheeesh! Get your ass moving, girl!
The climb up Fooses Creek was like a rainforest in the northwest. I bumped into Andy, the toughest Brit I know a few times and he was beginning to fade. He said he was probably going to call it a day and sleep for a while. My energy was renewed from my mini mental breakdown and I charged on. The final purely vertical push to the top of Marshall Pass was amusing.

It was just getting dark and I enjoyed a brisk spin along the top for a few miles. The reflection of glowing elk eyes in the meadow around the trail added and eerie, yet soothing aura to my ride. So soothing in fact, I actually fell asleep twice while riding. I am dead serious. Who does this? I started singing whatever song had been stuck in my head to keep myself awake. The riding was virtually effortless with the trail oscillating between flat and descending. I rode through a section of tree lined trail and noticed several dry spots strangely just the shape of my sleeping bag. I pushed on, wanting to gain ground while I knew everyone was asleep in their tents. I finally relented and bedded down for a few hours after crashing due to the fact that I had again fallen asleep WHILE PEDALING!!
I heard wet brakes squealing as the sun came up and figured it was Andy starting his day. I packed up and pushed on. I descended and ascended the nasty half mile into Baldy Lake to filter water later that afternoon and met a solo thru-hiker named Emma.

I continued on, leap-frogging Andy and Forest through fields of cows and up and down big, rocky, rooted hills all the way to Apple and some wonderful trail magic.

 I can confidently say that the best orange soda on planet Earth came from his cooler. It was just about dusk when I got to Apple and saw Emma again. She reintroduced herself and proceeded to tell me exactly the same story she told me at Baldy Lake just a few hours earlier. I resisted the urge to stop her and just let her continue on with her script all the while wondering if she lacked short-term memory or was just high as a monkey. I still have no idea. Entertaining to say the least, however.
I bid my new friend good-bye, grabbed a package of Nutter Butters to devour and began the long road detour that would end up at the top of Spring Creek Pass and the start of Section 22. The song “Dirt Road Anthem” by Jason Aldean was rolling through my head for hours on this part of the course. If you know the lyrics, you will understand why. The most, uhhh, let’s say, interesting part was the random drunk dude parked alongside the road who opened his door and insisted I stop and have a PBR with him. I politely declined as I sped up to get by. Yikes!
It was really getting late and I was getting cold. The wind was icy and my teeth were almost chattering again. I had gone as far as I could stand and ducked in near a cattle guard on a side road. I quickly jumped in my bag and wrapped up in my bivvy in an effort to get warm. I set my alarm to go off in 2 hours. I shivered the entire time hovering on the border between asleep and awake. When my alarm did finally go off, I could not force myself to get out of my (semi) warm sleeping bag into the cold breezy night and continue on.
 This was kind of a low point for me. I woke up as the sun was peeking over the horizon still unable to warm up. I looked at my frame bag and noticed a layer of frost on it, my bike and everything around me. Knowing that in 15 more minutes the sun would be higher in the sky and the Earth much warmer, I still made no effort to get moving. The cold was sapping my mental toughness. And, I didn’t know it at the time, but Becky had passed me sometime that night while I was trying to hibernate.

Like magic, I came to life when full sunlight hit my body. I was up and pedaling again in about two minutes wondering the whole time if I was really part reptile and how to better deal with my aversion to cold. I was starting to get bored grinding away on the dirt road when I met a northbounder named Ryan just on the other side of Los Pinos Pass. He had skipped 22 and 23 and stayed in Silverton for a couple days due to horrible lightning up high. He seemed a bit weary and frustrated when I talked to him, but I admired his determination and energy to push on. South to north just seems harder to me. Stony Pass Road and the Junction Creek to Kennebec Segment are two prime examples. Ouch. Those could almost break one’s spirit.
I FINALLY got off the monotonous road and to the beginning of Segment 22 just in time to watch a guy dump his brand new Harley on its side in the gravel parking lot. He was a bit embarrassed, I think, as I jumped off to help him pick it back up. Not much was said and I continued on my way.
I am embarrassed myself to admit that I pushed my bike through a lot of Segment 22 than I wanted. My legs were cooked and my ankle was really swelling. Each step hurt and each turn of the crank hurt. I twisted it or did something minor to it back before Buena Vista, but it wasn’t anything to really even think twice about. At this point, I think it was just the miles accumulating on a tired joint and the swelling was becoming noticeable. I am pretty successful at pushing through pain and had been for the better part of 200 miles, so I just kept it wrapped and managed. Something inside was driving me on. Diligently. Constantly. Finish-focused at all costs.
I stopped at a stream to filter some water and saw Forest coming back down with an older gentleman I had never seen before. Dangerously low on food and struggling with the altitude, Forest had decided to call it. I felt sad for him, but held so much respect for an awesome person and strong rider. He offered up his last two bars and said the older guy was going to give him a ride into Lake City. A quick hug and they continued on down the trail.
I plugged along, in awe of the scenery and criss-crossed paths several times with a group of ATV riders. They stopped and offered me a beer which I declined, but couldn’t resist the little four year-old boy insisting I take his Ziploc bag full of mini candy bars. I politely took one. He looked at me, insulted, set the entire bag by my bike and hid behind his mom. Another priceless CTR moment in my memory.
Happy to have some human interaction, I talked with the group for a while answering all their questions about the race and was called insane a few times. I did learn that the older guy with Forest became quite irate when he saw them on ATVs. Apparently, without provocation, he picked up bucket-sized rocks and hurled them at the tires, screaming that they were not allowed to be on the trail. Things eventually simmered down after some choice words were exchanged. Wow, people do amaze me.

Some images from Segment 22:

I really can’t tell you anything about Segment 23. I pushed through completely in the dark, solo, nonstop. I was in a trance almost. Push up, ride down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat… get the idea. I descended Stony Pass Road right at daybreak and had the best cup of hot chocolate on the planet at a little café in Silverton. I knew I had passed Becky and was now way ahead, but did not know Kim had dropped way back in Lake City. I saw Matt again and met Pete. We ate breakfast and they set out about an hour ahead of me.
At this point, I had been pushing for 24 hours. I had ridden the last three sections before Durango but not the part from Molas Pass to Celebration Lake. I knew the Indian Peak ridge was going to be a bitch, but I really wanted to finish up by the next morning. I was tired, but what was really bothering me was a huge chamois sore that was excruciatingly painful. Heh, here’s where it gets a little personal. Rotating between two different sets of chamois didn’t work and I found myself dreading the five miles up to Molas Pass more than all hard singletrack that lie ahead. Why? Take a guess. The road ride is a seated grind. God, this was going to HURT. I grabbed some food and took off up the pass. I had to ride out of the saddle, playing number games with myself to keep mashing on the crank out of the saddle. In no way, shape or form was I touching that saddle. Nope. Not happening. So I did ascending and descending pyramids (12 turns, rest, 10 turns, rest, etc) for 5 miles of pavement. I think I sat maybe one time only to shoot back out of the saddle with tears in my eyes.
Once I finally rejoined the Colorado Trail from the worst five miles of the entire 2011 CTR, things got significantly better. The pristine beauty and the fact that I was mowing down lush wildflowers that invaded the sides of the trail with my handlebars helped take my mind off my, ummm, painful issue. A lot of people were out and about on mules, bikes and just hiking. The diversity and perfect beauty of this section puts it as the overall most beautiful trail I have ever set rubber on. I was lost in the surrounding peaks, the roaring streams, the vast, thick and colorful flowers and the vibrance of life that filled both sides of the trail. I will be back at a much slower, leisurely pace to enjoy this magical kingdom very soon.

Almost to the end of the segment, I was bombing down a road when I heard what I thought was a gun shot completely out of the blue. WHAT?! Was I in between a hunter (poacher) and a deer? I locked my brakes up and hit the ground. Seriously. Then I looked at my back tire. NO!!!!

Not one, but three holes that completely tore through the casing and tore the tread off. I methodically took the wheel off and then the tire off the rim and began scraping Stan’s away and getting the surface as dry as possible to try and boot the holes. I used all of the remaining tire boots I had and was searching for my duct tape when a thru-hiker named Allan came along. It was about 7 pm by then and I asked him what he thought of the tire. I was dreading hearing the answer he gave me.  He was a bike mechanic from the east coast and told me the tire was toast. Especially considering what I had left to ride. I could probably make it a little ways but would just have to stop and repair several times. I was down to my last tube and not happy AT ALL with what I was realizing. My only option was to carry my bike and gear down Bolam Pass Road into Durango, buy a new tire and ride back up to rejoin where I had left.
I had been going for 36 straight hours. Bike shops were closed, so I went to sleep after a few tears of disappointment. I was primed to finish this thing by early the next morning and undoubtedly would have, but this was going to set me back a full day or more. Durango was a loooooong walk and Bolam Pass was the last thing I wanted to reclimb. But I was going to do it. Tomorrow.
I woke the next morning at 9:30. All gear on my back, bike slung over my shoulder and carrying my wheel in my left hand, I began the long walk into Durango. Thoughts of calling it quits pervaded my mind. I looked up to see a mountain biker coming toward me. He stopped and asked what happened. I showed him my tire and told him of the long walk I had into Durango. A couple minutes later, his buddy rode up and stopped.
He looked at me and asked me one question: “Do you want to finish?”
Surprised, I stammered: “Hell ya, I want to finish.”
Those were really the only words that were spoken over the course of the next 20 minutes. Completely unsolicited, two trail angels sprung into motion sabotaging part of their ride to help me get moving again.
“Get going, girl!”
I was off. Forty miles was all that stood between me and Junction Creek Trailhead. I was up and down Blackhawk before I knew it. I had a couple of minor derailleur issues just before Highline Trail that resulted in some intense cussing at my bike, but managed to solve them somehow. I threw my iPod on every Disturbed song I had loaded and in no time, I was looking at a sign that put me 1 ¾ miles from Taylor Lake.
I lost it. I sobbed tears of happiness and accomplishment as I descended down to Taylor Lake. No, I wasn’t finished yet. I still had 21 miles, but at that point the finish was more of a reality than ever. My ankle hurt. The swelling was a little scary. My toes hurt. I had to unclip a lot on descents to relieve intense pressure and pain, but (ok, here is the Honey Badger reference) I didn’t give a shit. I was low on batteries and my light was going to be dim. But I was going to be rolling into Durango in less than three hours. The hard, painful parts were over. I had two climbs and two wicked descents left and I was going to OWN them.
I finally calmed down on top of Kennebec and was treated to one of the best descents around while it was still light. I stopped at the bridge at the bottom to put on my lights, climbed for four miles and descended the rest of the way to the finish.
My eyes filled with tears of euphoria for the last two miles. There were no cameras. No people. No banners. No one. Just me and my bike and almost 500 miles of Colorado behind us. I screamed. I danced. I hugged my bike. I laughed. I sobbed.
I did it. I set my mind to it 11 months ago. And I completed it. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t at the pace I hoped for, but I did it.
Fourth woman ever.

2011 CTR Bike and Gear List
2010 Gary Fisher Superfly 100
29x2.2 Continental Race King Front Tire
2x2.0 Bontrager 29.3 Back Tire
Sea Line Seatpost Bag with straps (1 extra inside for adjustments along the way)
Epic Designs Frame Bag- purchased used and modified to fit my fully
GoLite Rush Backpack with 3L Osprey hydration bladder
Small Dry Bag attached to handlebars with mileage cues, gu gels, snacks, etc
Camera, SPOT
Helmet, headsweat
Sunscreen, Sunglasses, mosquito repellent
MiNewt Helmet light and battery
Black Diamond 80 lumen backpacking head lamp
Handlebar light (AAA powered)
Cell phone, iPod, ID, Debit Card, Emergency info
GoLite tank top, sports bra
PI Chamois/Team Kit Bib Chamois/jersey
PI Arm Warmers, Leg Warmers
UnderArmour base layer
PI X-Alp shoes
PI bike gloves
GPS mounted to handlebars (6 extra AA’s)
Extra socks, extra AAA batteries, Protein/Powerbars, food, Chamois Butt’r
Mountain Hardware rain gear

Montbell sleeping bag, emergency bivvy
First aid and Repair kits:
                  1st aid contents: bandaids, alcohol prep pads, small guaze pads, vetwrap, xtra butt’r, needle/thread
                  Repair: Tire boots, duct tape, 2 ultralight 16g CO2 cartridges with dispenser, 2 tire levers, bike tool, hand pump,
                  Master chainlink, derailleur hanger, tubes
Spyder thermal gloves
MSR ultralight water filter
2 Plastic Garbage bags
Lightweight plastic ground/rain cover