I can’t say what caused a complete 180 in my attitude. I had never wanted to ride a bike more than 12 hours at a time and only during daylight hours. Now I was spending months focusing and planning for a point to point race expected to take a minimum of 4 days. Having turned 30 this year and finding it increasingly hard to stay up late or drive into the night I thought this might be an attempt to turn back the clock. But after some hard thinking, what had occurred was a fundamental change in what I thought would be enjoyable.
For a couple of years I’d followed the blue dots on track leaders and knew of the favorites, eager to see who could keep it together to the end, but doing the race myself held no appeal, it just wasn’t me. It was sometime in April or May when one of the locals came into the shop I worked at and mentioned he wanted to do the Colorado Trail Race (CTR). Like that, a switch was turned and I thought “why not do it?” Suddenly all the reasons for why not became insignificant. The CTR is so much bigger than riding for 24 hours straight or going on a night ride. It’s not just making 8 mile loops along a course. It’s a high altitude rugged adventure, and that was enough to override any hesitations I had.
I knew I hated riding when thoroughly fatigued but what if the pace was much slower and the goal much greater in scale. Once the idea was in my head I had to test the waters to see if I was up for it. The first test was to go on a long bike ride. Long had previously meant 6-8 hours at a hard pace. Now I was shooting for 12 or more hours of riding but not pushing the pace. I picked out a mostly dirt road route I’d been wanting to complete for a while and after getting lost, spent about 12 hours on the bike covering 160 miles. I expected to end feeling completely spent and dissuaded from riding the CTR. Instead I finished with more to give and confidently proclaimed it only took about 50% effort. I was tired sure enough, but not to the point of hating riding my bike.
The next test came in late May. Riding in the daylight in one thing, but pushing through the night is quite another. I’ll mention again, I never go on night rides. It’s just a pain in the ass to see and I get too tired. Again, old people talk. I decided to move back to Colorado and rather than make the trip from California in 2 or 3 days as I’ve done before, I figured I’d drive straight, more CTR training. This definitely is not recommended for safety but the CTR is anything but a safe and sure bet so I decided to make an adventure out of the 25 hour trip. I took a couple 30 minute naps but was able to make it through the night. Training test #2 was passed.
At this point the CTR seemed like a sure thing. During June and July I rode three more 100 mile mountain bike races and each time seemed easier than the last. I knew I could do it but why was this appealing?
Figuring out why you want to do a ride like the CTR can be more challenging that figuring out if you can do it. Midway through the race when many people were having mental breakdowns, the reasons for why they were doing the race suddenly seemed (to them) stupid, selfish, and egotistical. My reasons may be all three, but before I lined up at 6am I’d thought about them and already realized that. For me it came down to two things. I wanted a challenge unlike any other I’d done and I wanted an adventure to rival anything I’ve done. That’s the sum of it.