During the last day of the CTR I pretty much swore I’d never ride this again, instead ruminating on the idea of BACKPACKING parts of the trail. There was just too much bullshit hiking, a phase used by many other participants, that it wasn’t fun anymore, exhausted or not. Not more than a few hours after finishing and certainly by the middle of the next day I was already fantasizing about next year. Sure, hearing that it might start in Durango could have been part of it; it would be a different race, but that wasn’t the main reason. Something happens in the brain. I think it’s quite like drinking, in fact. A strong, bitter drink, leads to a euphoric experience. You question the process but even acquire a taste for it. You most undoubtedly love the final results.
I was hooked on the chemicals floating in my head, heading out within the next week to climb Longs Peak, and suffer some more – the true sign of an endurance junkie. I felt I could do anything, at least temporarily, but it was hard not to still be consumed in the race for a few weeks following. I wanted to know the story of Jefe, Ethan, and Jessie, where they made it to each day, how much they slept, and who had been in the lead. I also thought of how close Dan and I were to Max but the time we took in Silverton and the few hours of sleep somewhere before Stony Pass didn’t leave me with frustration of what could have been. Most of what went through my mind was how I would ride it faster, because I knew I could. For being a newbie to bikepacking and the CTR I played this first race conservative. I never did anything that I thought would jeopardize my ability to finish and brought everything I might need, including a lightweight spare tire. I knew the devastation of not finishing after months of buildup would eat away at me so badly I would be likely to want to try an ITT later in the summer, and that would be just crazy.
So with one finish under my belt there would be certain things I’d leave behind and plenty of things I learned about what I really need.
- I expected to need to sleep more than I did and I expected to be able to sleep more. I allotted myself 6-7 hours of sleep the first night but only slept about 3. Being nauseous, sleeping without a pad, and being wired from 17 hours of riding were all part of it. By the end of the race I felt confident that a strategy that would work for me would be to ride to 3 am or later each day and then wake up when it’s light – around 6:00 or 6:30 am. Counting all the hours I slept, this would be reducing my sleep by just 3 hours. I spent plenty of time lying around trying to sleep and just being too nauseous to ride.
- I made a tarp tent specifically for this race. It was a sil-nylon canopy, mesh sides, a zippered door, and a PU coated bathtub floor. I wanted to be ready for any amount of rain and bugs. It worked great but took time to stake out. It also could be slightly overkill. For the rain we got, I would have been fine in a bivy and it would have saved me time in the evening and morning. There is a chance the rain could be worse or the timing of it worse but I’m willing to take the chance. This will save me ½ to 1 lb and some precious time.
- Although I loved my sleeping bag and was actually cold while sleeping in it one of the nights, I’m considering not bringing it. I’ll either use a down jacket or purchase a lighter one. I just think I can get away with it. It’s save me space and another pound of weight.
- I never expected to lower my standards and be so savage but sleep deprivation is no different than drunkenness. I brought along an extra chamois, a pair of socks I may not have needed, and long underwear. After I washed the chamois it never dried. I see myself cutting a pound easy in clothing (2 pounds wet).
- I knew I could probably get away with iodine but brought a pump filter as well. The water sources were great and this year I’ll be ½ lb lighter without it.
- The spare tire was to ensure I finished the CTR. This year I’ll probably stick with the Maxxis Ikon EXO 29 2.2 tires and definitely skip the 500 gram spare. Those tires took plenty of beating as my riding got sloppier and they held up fine. They’ve got 1000 miles on them still with no flats.
- I might skip a Spot or a cell phone or both. My reason for no spot is: I’m cheap and borrowed one last year. The only benefit is for others to track me. I will once again run my GPS full time and record my track. I also don’t want to rely on the Spot as a way to get help. I don’t want to push myself so far and know I can push a button and be rescued. Riding without a spot will help me make better decisions. I also don’t think I need a phone. I only used it a couple of times to try to figure out where everyone was. It only frustrated me as I couldn’t get good information.
- With less overall gear, about 5 lbs pretty easily, I’ll have less weight on my back, and in turn, less pressure on my hands and wrists which suffered after the first day. I’ll also raise and shorten the reach. My XC race position was not good for a ride this long.
- I’ll bring less food. I listened to recommendations from veterans that you shouldn’t go light on food from BV to Silverton. I brought about 15,000 calories for two days of riding but ate 10,000 at the most. I was also heavy on food the whole ride. Although I might eat more if I’m not nauseous, I don’t think I’ll down 8,000 a day. In fact, the first day I was most hungry. After that, riding at a slower pace, the body went into fat burning mode. I think for a 4 or 5 day race, losing one pound a day is fine. I only need to eat the minimum to perform at my highest. I can’t expect to completely replace what I’ve lost.
- I need to change up my diet so I’m less nauseous. In retrospect, I brought a lot of calorie dense foods, many which aren’t real easy on my stomach, but I’ve always been able to eat about anything for 12 hour rides and that was my only training. What worked great was sub sandwiches and meat, egg, and cheese burritos. What didn’t work was soy protein, corn products, high sugar and high fat foods. This is still somewhat a mystery I’ve got to figure out.
- I’ll probably change my light to a Fenix or another regulated light. After buying my Black Diamond Ikon I realized it wasn’t regulated. That is great for when you’ve run out of batteries and still need to have light, but sucked as my light would dim but batteries still had life left in them.
- For clothing, I’m looking to bring a better rain jacket, pants, and possibly booties. While I had a good jacket, it didn’t have a hood except for my thrown together at the last moment crappy home made one. I’ll get some gore-tex paclite pants and either neoprene or gore tex socks or booties. The goal is to be able to ride in wet weather and not fear getting cold. I spent some time waiting out storms because the temperatures were low enough and I didn’t feel comfortable getting wet.
- The last item to change is shoes. I didn’t want to spend the money last year but I already had the same idea. Regular bike shoes are bad because you’re slipping on the rocks like the hooves of a horse. They also aren’t ramped like running shoes. This makes the heel drop on ascents and you’re working more and walking slower. I’d like to hike faster with less effort and the Peal Izumi X Alp still looks to be the best choice.
There are a few things that worked perfect and I’ll keep the same.
- I’ll have once again a 29er hardtail. This year it’s aluminum. Last year was carbon. You can guess why. For parts I’ve had mixed luck with Sram/Avid but I do like their 10 speed shifters, derailleurs, cranks, and cassettes. Every year it changes though. They’re smooth but do seem to wear a little quick (who really knows though when you ride them through mud). I also like KMC chains and shimano brakes. I haven’t liked my Reba fork but a replacement may not be in the works.
- My tool kit was adequate, light, and I wouldn’t change much. It included the usual: lube, multitool, quick links, brake pads, derailleur hanger, zip ties, tubes, patch kit, and probably a few other things. You have to bring the obvious but you can’t kick yourself if you didn’t bring a cassette lockring tool or something to adjust the hubs. Get your bike fixed up before the ride as best you can.
- I didn’t use anything in the first aid kit but it’s really just set up to stop blood. There’s tape, gauze, a few band aids and not much else.
- I’ll bring the trifecta of body and undercarriage supplies – chamois cream, Vaseline, hand sanitizer.
- Hopefully I have the same determination and attitude. I never thought of quitting last year or asked myself, “why am I doing this?”. I do suspect a second time could be harder to stay motivated, especially if I push myself harder. I could see myself asking, “why am I doing this again” when it gets tough.