Aaron Johnson | CTR: Day 6

CTR: Day 6

March 06, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

September 16, 2013

Georgia Pass to Waterton Canyon Trailhead

135 miles, 13,370' gained, 17.5 hours

I woke up totally disoriented, the sound of rain still hitting my tarp. It was 4:45am, I had just unintentionally slept almost 9 hours. I was still fully clothed in all my wet riding gear, surrounded by soggy gear and Hostess pastry wrappings.  Damn, I did not mean to fall asleep like this!  I was so uncomfortable and just wanted to get moving, which made getting up to face the cold dark rain much easier.

I quickly packed up, filled my bladder at the nearby creek, and began the dark, wet climb up to Georgia Pass.  I started off slowly, gingerly - my heels didn't feel much better, and I was slowly coming to terms with the fact my race was probably over, not knowing how I'd pedal another 130 miles.  To my surprise, the climb up to the pass turned out to be much easier than expected, and I was able to pedal most of it. It had stopped raining, dawn was approaching, and I ascended above tree line into a glorious, bright morning, blue skies, everything fresh and shimmering from the rain in the morning light. It's amazing what a sunrise can to do your mindset - I was enraptured with the surroundings, the colors, the views of Mt. Guyot, and crested the pass with seemingly no effort. The heel pain was gone, I couldn't believe it! It's funny how fast I went from the lowest moment of the race to the highest, standing on Georgia Pass in a perfect morning, realizing I could finish this race that I had invested so much time, money, and effort into after all but giving up and feeling like my body had let me down.  I don't know if my Achilles had just worked out whatever was causing the pain or if it was all in my head, a strange mental block that just needed some mountain sunrise magic to unblock itself - I suspect the latter. The mind is a strange and powerful thing.


Nearing the top of Georgia Pass

Georgia Pass

I whooped my way down the long, fast descent, feeling like a new person - no pain, full of life.  I was intensely motivated to make up the time I'd lost, to catch Ryan and Pete and the guys who'd passed me while I was sleeping. The energy of the morning sun fed my soul and made it to Kenosha Pass in no time.


Descending from Georgia

Almost to Kenosha Pass - looking back towards Georgia Pass

A few more fun miles of singletrack led to the start of the Tarryall detour, 72 miles of dirt roads with something like 6800 ft of climbing. It was 10:30 am, I set a goal of finishing the detour by 5pm, shoved 2 king size butterfingers down my throat, and started the grind.  After a few boring miles of ups and downs, the route turns onto a paved road and goes right past a bar/convenience store in the middle of nowhere. Completely unexpected surprise! I pulled into the parking lot and was greeted by Pat, the owner, who not only was familiar with the race, but knew my name, and where everyone else was.  He told me I made excellent time from Georgia Pass, that Ryan was about 4 hours ahead, and that 3 guys were only an hour ahead of me! Stocked up with potato chips and more butterfingers, motivation freshly stoked to catch those 3 guys and hopefully Ryan, I got back on the road and put my head down, getting into a good rhythm and making fast time.

Before long, I spotted a long chain of stopped cars, and remembered that there was construction happening on this road and that we were told to expect long delays.  As soon as I got close, the cars started moving, and I just kept pedaling, expecting the flag lady to stop me but she just waved me through with the cars.  Ok, I was expecting to have to ride in a pilot car, but I guess they're letting bikers through today.  Sure enough, after a couple miles of furious pedaling and angry stares from workers in huge trucks, I was told to stop and wait for a pilot truck, it was too dangerous to ride. The truck appeared almost immediately, a cheerful guy hopped out, threw my bike into the back, and told me to get into the front seat.  He told me he'd been shepherding us bikers through the construction, that we were insane to be doing what we're doing, and offered me some chewing tobacco. No thanks bro. Apparently, they were only letting people through every 3 hours, so if I had shown up 20 seconds later, I would have had to stop and sit for 3 hours! Damn was I lucky I had decided to haul ass.

Not 3 minutes after starting to ride again, I caught up to the three guys....apparently they had gotten caught at the construction and had to wait for an hour.  After chatting for a couple minutes, I slowly pulled away from them, still feeling strong. Next target - catching Ryan or Pete! Unlikely as they are both strong and were several hours ahead, but I would try nonetheless. The pavement ended and we turned onto a dirt road that marked the halfway point of the detour, and I was on pace to beat my 5 pm goal.  The road snaked its way North through the Hayman Fire burn area, and it was super interesting to see the devastation of that fire, even a decade later. The terrain was so different than anything we had seen - huge rock formations, endless burnt trees - everyone said how much they hated this section, but I actually really liked the scenery. I was making good time and was looking forward to getting back on the Colorado Trail for the final stretch to the finish.

Hayman Fire burn area


Tarryall detour

I made it to the trailhead right around 5pm - 72 miles in 6 hours.  Not bad, but such a large effort left me pretty haggered. I figured I didn't need to save too much for this last mostly downhill 40 miles, save one final 1200 ft. climb near the end.  These last segments were awesome - late afternoon sunlight filtering through the trees, swoopy sandy front-range singletrack. It was fun but I was sooo ready to be done.  It got dark as I started the final climb up from the Platte River, and I was starting to get frustrated with the trail, my mind was playing tricks on me, why wasn't the trail descending?? The elevation profile isn't like this?!! I fell hard on my side trying to clean a steep switchback and smashed my shin on a rock and was so angry - and then started laughing, what the hell am I getting upset for, I'm almost done!! The rest was a blur - steep singletrack descent, feelings of happiness and relief as I exited the singletrack onto the Waterton Canyon dirt road, feeling dazed and hypnotized by my headlights as I pedaled the 6 miles down the road to the finish, being so tired once I got to the finish I couldn't find the parking lot, the awesome crew at the finish who sat me down, gave me a beer, and listened to my half-coherent ramblings about the trail and angry llamas and lightning while waiting for my dad to pick me up.

Another burn area at sunset, near the finish

Finally home - tired, dirty, happy

5 days, 19 hours.  Wow - what a massive, wholly encompassing experience that was, and I still can't believe how well it went overall.  I came in expecting endless rain but got 4 straight days of sunshine, my bike and gear had exactly zero problems, I stayed healthy for the most part, no crashes.  It was hard, definitely the hardest physical thing I'd ever done - but I never felt like I was in over my head, that I pushed myself too far - in fact, I know I could do this race significantly faster with the experience and knowledge gained from this trip.  It was so awesome getting to see the state of Colorado like this - we did it the hard way, truly earned the experience, which made it that much more potent.  There's nothing like the raw, beautiful simplicity of living off your bike, doing nothing but pedaling forward for days....I will be back, but probably not to this race for a few years, I want to get the other ones under my belt first.  Next up: Arizona Trail Race next April!


No comments posted.
January (2) February March (2) April (1) May June July August September October November December (1)
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December