Friday, August 20, 2010

Psychological Challenges

I've been asked by a few people how I managed to deal physiologically with riding the Colorado Trail Race. It's a good question, and one that I thought about a lot before even lining up to start. While there are a number of things that could have ended my ride regardless of how psychologically prepared I was (a broken frame or bones, for example), the CTR was largely a mental game for me--as it is for most riders. Here's a list of stuff that kept me going, not in any specific order:
  1. Stay safe, focus on not crashing or breaking gear.
  2. Eat and drink lots and often. Forward motion requires calories, so keep them coming--even when wanting to barf more than eat.
  3. Don’t get emotional when things don’t align with expectations—just adapt and move on.
  4. Listen to my body, and try to figure out what it needs and what it doesn’t.
  5. Maintain some forward motion, even when “resting”—even if that means just walking.
  6. Deal with small issues before they become big issues (blisters, getting cold, mechanical problems, etc.)
  7. Don’t get overwhelmed by the many small pains and maladies like blisters, saddle sores, swollen hand & feet, tired legs, multiple infections on hands & feet, trashed shins, etc.
  8. Don’t get scared about things that I’m prepared for, like snow, hail, etc.—even if it looks like crap.
  9. Believe in myself, and embrace the encouragement of others. Right before I started riding, Alix (my wife) told me that I could do it because I was a "bad-ass." Amazing how much her words helped at times!
  10. Ignore the negativity of others. That includes naysayers beforehand and anyone whining on the trail.
  11. Have a good time, and focus on all of the positive things about riding a bike through 485 miles of one of the more beautiful places in the world.
Overall, I was happy with my mental performance except for on the last day. My body was getting beat to pieces, and I just wanted to finish already—which made me think about finishing more than just riding. As I result, my focus diminished and I crashed twice—fortunately not too hard.

I'm not planning on changing much for next year, although I hope to ride two days faster. I will train harder, especially my upper body. I will carry a little less gear, and I'd like to have a better bike with full suspension. Knowing the route and having a better idea of what can be ridden quickly and what can't, where to get water, how much food to carry, etc. will help a lot.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Why ride the CTR?

I've been asked, more than a few times, why I'm racing the Colorado Trail. It's a fair question, but difficult to answer. I'll try to give a longer, and more thoughtful answer sometime, but here are a few quick thoughts.

  • Colorado's mountains are incredibly beautiful. Spending a week in the alpine wilderness, amidst wildflowers, pikas, and granite is good for my soul.
  • Adventures are good. It sounds kind of silly to say it, but I wouldn't be attempting this ride if I knew that I could do it. It's good to try things with uncertain outcomes. If I fail this year, I can always try again next year.
  • I like physical work. Yes, churning up a 13,000-foot mountain pass on a bike does hurt. But it also feels good. Our bodies weren't designed to sit on the couch all day, right?
  • Escaping the confines of civilization, if only for a few days, is good. No rat race. No stop lights, McDonald's, or billboards. Just a bike and a trail.

Yes, there's more to it. But this is a start.


Before anyone asks: I am NOT going to win the Colorado Trail Race. In fact, I'll be happy if I finish in last place. Really!

The Colorado Trail Race is extremely challenging. To finish in seven days, I'll need to ride about 70 miles a day--most of it on steep and rocky trails. Some sections are too steep and/or rough to ride either up or down, so walking is required. An average of 10,000 feet of vertical climbing (and 10,000 descending), every day. Climbing up passes as high as 13,000 feet, I'm likely to see snow, hail, rain, and freezing temperatures. Broken bikes, injuries, exhaustion, and fear are pretty good reasons for quitting.

There is no "outside" support. I'll mostly sleep on the ground in a bivy sack (although the route does pass through a few towns, and hotels are allowed). I'll carry all of the clothing, navigational equipment, camping gear, spare parts, food, etc. that I'll need for the race. I will re-supply in small towns along the way, but nobody is allowed to meet me along the way and give me stuff--and I'm not allowed place caches beforehand.

There is no race organization, or race support. Absolutely no aid stations or sag wagons. I'm on my own--if I get lost, hurt, cold, or hungry, I need to sort it out myself. In cases of dire emergency, I can use my Spot beacon to call 911. Hopefully I won't need to use it.

This year there are 40 racers. A few are truly racing for a win. Most of us are just out there hoping to ride long and hard, racing against ourselves as much as each other. If the past is a fair indicator, at least half of the riders who line up to start won't finish.

Starting August 2, 2010

In less than 24 hours, I'll be racing! Here are some ways to track my progress and learn more about the race and the trail. This is the "official" tracking site that will show the locations of all riders. From time to time, riders will be calling in to report their progress, etc. You can listen here.

Twitter: I'll be sending text messages to Twitter, and you can follow me. I've also set up Twitter to forward tweets to this blog (see block to the right), and to my Facebook page.

Spot: I'm carrying a Spot locator beacon, and my personal page will show my location. Kind of like, but only my track.

Colorado Trail Race website: The "official" CTR site. Probably not any live updates, but complete information about the race.

Colorado Trail Foundation: Information about the Colorado Trail. Not race-specific. Note that the CTR doesn't use the same wilderness bypasses that the Foundation recommends; we race a harder route.

Colorado Trail Race Map

The Colorado Trail is a 470-mile (more or less) mountain bike race from Denver to Durango. Here's a map (click to see it larger):

It's pretty steep in spots, climbing to over 13,000 feet. Lots of passes over 11,000! I'll be climbing (and then descending) over 60,000 feet in total. Here's a profile: