Colorado Trail Race Part 2 of 3

Cataract Lakes

I started out my 3rd day by climbing up a gravel road to Stony Pass and getting back on singletrack. This section of the trail is shared with the Continental Divide trail and we spend around 30 miles above treeline and are pretty exposed the whole time. I don’t have the right words to describe how amazing this section of trail was. Not only was the riding excellent and the scenery unbelievable, I also met a few hikers who gave me a few lessons on above tree line lightning and made me feel a lot better about the rest of the storms during the trip. Finally, I got to see a new friend, David, on the trail, which was super cool. I met David as I was doing some training and pre riding a portion of the CTR around Breckenridge 3 weeks before the race and we chatted for a bit. We realized that we’ll meet again as he will still be on his journey when I start the CTR. That was SO cool.

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On the Continental Divide portion coming out of Silverton

My favorite section of the day and possibly the whole Colorado Trail was dropping into Cataract lakes, halfway through this day. There was a probably 20 minute descent or so on really amazing singletrack down to a set of lakes that was literally jaw dropping. Also along this section was the highest point on the Colorado Trail at 13,200 feet. While it was a pretty viewpoint, it also signaled a 30 minute downhill and I was being chased by a thunderstorm, so I just took a quit pic and took off down the trail.

After all the remote single track and beauty it was time to bypass some Wilderness areas on a long gravel detour. This detour was actually fairly pretty as it went inside of a valley and resulted in some very cool views. After spending hours upon hours over the last couple of days to gain a few miles up crazy terrain, I was excited to actually put some distance down and get my pedal on. I spent the night next to some aspen in another ninja camping spot and got myself ready to climb all the way up to the Monarch Crest area.

Highest point on the Colorado Trail
Highest point on the Colorado Trail

When I woke up on Day 4 I think something fundamentally changed and my body went into a sort of beast mode. It wasn’t quite the “diesel mode” that I experienced in the past on long bike packing races where the body sort of goes into a equilibrium and you just ride along slowly. My legs just stopped hurting and I just started doing work. The scenery and the surroundings until you got to Monarch Crest were a little meh, so I just pedaled and climbed. Hills, mountains, and passes fell by the wayside and I found myself a full day in, on top of the world at 12,000ft at 10pm at night. I found a really cool camping shelter and crashed out with the intention of making it to Buena Vista by the next night.

On top of the world
On top of the world

The next day started with a huge downhill down to Highway 50. I think somewhere in the 3500ft range and I think the better part of an hour. It was a perfect way to start my day and really gave me a kick start into Buena Vista. I was originally worried about getting into town before all the businesses closed, but I realized that even if the next section takes a long time, I’ll be there before dark, which was a good mental boost. The section from Highway 50 to BV is very up and down, and even though it does not cross any passes, it’s super grueling and takes forever.

On this section I passed the Westbound leaders and got to chat with them for a few minutes. Everyone that I met and passed was super cool which resulted in more mental boosts along the way. I also met Rob right before the end of the single track, who was my car logistics buddy. Originally I didn’t know how to get to Durango to the start or what to do with my car if I drove there, but Rob, a Westbound racer, offered to drive my car back to Denver as he wanted to leave his car in Durango. After this, I turned right onto some pavement and had a nice long descent into Buena Vista, getting there ~5pm with plenty of time to restock.

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