Colorado Trail Race – Day 5

My First Trail Magic That was Not Ant-Covered

Trail Magic - Photo Credit: Felipe Borja
Trail Magic – Photo Credit: Felipe Borja

The climb up Princeton was uneventful. I crossed paths with a family that was out hiking. The father (presumably) commented, “Impressive work”. “You have no idea”, I thought to myself. I had not ridden the segment of trail from CR 343 to CR 306 (aka Cottonwood Creek) and found that I had to push my bike for most of this 3-mile section of trail. The reward for my toil? Trail Magic!! Beautiful, amazing, Trail Magic. A cooler with Coke and Snickers out in the middle of nowhere!!! Magical!!!

As I rolled into Buena Vista, I had the sense that things were going to be ok. I was going to make it to the finish. I had a good night’s sleep, had a good meal, my bike was going to get fixed, was going to resupply food. “I’ve got this.” I had ridden all the rest of the Colorado Trail between here and Waterton (except 10 Mile) and I knew I could finish.

Resupply at Buena Vista

As I got to Buena Vista, I arrived to find that Boneshaker’s bike shop was open earlier than expected. The guy at the desk was super friendly and asked me how he could help. “There are 3 things I need.”, I said. Except, it took me a good 5 minutes or so to remember even one of those 3 things. Eventually, I did remember. The mechanic could find no fault with my brake pads or shifter. No replacement parts for the CamelBak either, but that’s ok, I was making due with my Platypus bladder. They didn’t know anything about the dynamo hub and couldn’t really help with that. I thanked them for their help anyway and headed off to the supermarket to resupply (and made sure to stock extra batteries now that I would be relying solely on my backup light).

I don’t know what happened, but now my dynamo hub wouldn’t charge my Garmin or provide light for me.

As I headed out of town, I saw Felipe at K’s. I pedaled ahead again, knowing he would catch up.

As I pedaled along 371 to Clear Creek Reservoir and the start of Segment 11, it got pretty hot. I stopped a couple times to jump into the Arkansas River. Then, as I started up Hwy 24, the shifter became increasingly harder to shift, and then, it just stopped shifting. The chain stayed in the hardest gear and wouldn’t shift out. Just that moment, as I was single-speeding it up Hwy 24 and about to turn onto CR 390 (to Clear Creek), Felipe catches up to me. We pedal to the Clear Creek Reservoir and I contemplate making the bike a singlespeed as the shifter is completely blown. I tried to imagine what it would be like using a single gear to get through segment 11 and Halfmoon Creek to Leadville (and perhaps stop at Cycles of Life bike shop for a replacement shifter).  But thats not what I wanted to do.

A Dramatic Revolution

Something happened. Something changed for me.  Prior to this point, I rallied to meet every challenge with gusto. But when I tried to rally to meet this challenge, I simply didn’t want to. Having made it this far, I knew I was capable of finishing. I no longer had anything to prove to myself. There was nothing left to motivate me to keep moving. I was satisfied. I had experienced an amazing journey and felt content to end it right there.

Felipe didn’t want me to quit. In fact, he looked pretty disappointed. But, this race wasn’t about him. It was about me. In fact, my primary motivation for doing this race was to have the opportunity to escape from other people’s demands and expectations of me.

You see, for the last 4 years, I’ve worked as a doctor at a Community Health Center (and I have been a physician now for over 7 years).  Most of my time and energy is spent in caring for the problems and concerns of other people. The majority of the people I see have advanced diseases, complex psychosocial issues, financial issues, mental health issues, substance abuse issues etc. I care tremendously for my patients, and because of this, my heart is broken almost every day. I see about 100 patients in my clinic every week. There are moments of joy, but these moments seem so few and far between. This work has taken a tremendous toll on me emotionally.

This race was supposed to be my chance to escape from all these responsibilities and obligations. The thing I desired the most was isolation. I just wanted a purely self-centered experience. CTR seemed like a great opportunity for this. But, on CTR, I found that I was not released from expectations. People were watching my dot, expecting me to finish. Other racers around me were urging me on, expecting me to finish as well.

All I want is to sit here and eat Hot Tamales.  ...and sleep.
All I want is to sit here and eat Hot Tamales. …and sleep.

Sitting there by the reservoir, contemplating these things, something brilliant occurred to me. At this point, the most self-centered thing I could do was quit. I thought about my friends and teammates back home who would see this as a failure.  I worried about not meeting their expectations or letting them down.  Then I thought, “Fuck everyone else’s expectations”.  I had just had one of my most amazing and profound experiences on a mountain bike EVER. I didn’t need anything else from this race.  I’m not breaking a record and I don’t need to finish this race to prove anything to myself.

I found a shady spot under a tree with a cool breeze, made a phone call to my boyfriend to come get me, and started eating away at my fresh supply of fruit gummies and Hot Tamales (mmmm… one of my favorites).  I napped so hard that I awoke in a puddle of my own drool.

Lessons Learned

1- Make sure you, your bike and you’re body are 100% before embarking on a demanding race like this.  My lungs were not 100% and it was risky (and perhaps arrogant/ignorant) to be pushing myself so hard at altitude with my lungs in this condition.

2- If you are prone to altitude induced edema, avoid high sodium foods.  Train more at altitude to acclimate.

3- Live in the moment.  Fully.  Always.

4- Manna is only delicious for 2 days.  After 2 days, any food becomes intolerable.

5- Sometimes, real moments of solitude are needed to balance how much of ourselves we give away.

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