Multiday race reports, Trip Reports » The Grand Loop – Race Report
Prologue to the Prologue: Mike, Lee, Jim and I are pedaling over the railroad tracks en route to the Tabeguache Trailhead. My rear tire quickly goes flat. The tube split. Everyone stopped and the crew went to work to fix it. “Not a good omen,” I thought, “but the race hasn’t started yet.” I should have been splitting myself in pre-race anxiety, but I wasn’t.
At the parking lot three more were waiting: Stephan, Jefe and, the shocker, former record holder Gary Dye.
Prologue: 20 miles of pavement to the Loma Trailhead. Light headwind + 15 mph = desiccation. I went through an alarming amount of water.
The group crosses the Colorado River on the way to Loma Trailhead
The race: 340 miles of variable terrain. 40,000 – 50,000 feet of climbing. Dirt, gravel, sand, singletrack, slickrock, chipseal. Kokopelli, Paradox and Tabeguache trails.
I started strong, not wanting to be stuck behind anyone on the beginning technical stuff. I was alone for a while, then two riders came from behind.
“A twelve pack if you clean this next move,” says Gary Dye as I clean the previous one. I didn’t even try it. “I won’t embarrass you by cleaning it,” he says as he walks up it.
My amped up start really amped Gary up. He rode around and disappeared off the front. Jefe and I alternated riding and walking as the sun set.
I slammed on my brakes, stopping a foot before running over the snake. As I walk around it coils and hisses, feigning a strike. It’s not a rattler, but the threat jacked my heart rate up.
Climbing up the west side of Salt Creek I notice what I had suspected since the beginning: I’m really not feeling good. Jefe walks away at a nice pace and I’m left struggling up the trail, alone in the dark.
As the trail joins the dirt road I find Gary eating a piece of pizza. “The sign said: ‘Ride bikes, eat Pizza’, so I pulled out my pizza.” I joined him, pulling out my piece. When I sat down I realized how tired I was. There was no use pondering it. The only thing to do was to keep moving.
I struggled to hang near Gary and Stefan’s pace as we cruised some of the easiest miles of the race. For the next while, the four of us (Jefe too) bounced around between each other. Eventually Jefe and I ended up near each other, and it would stay that way through the night.
Rolling towards Westwater I was greeted with a sea of glowing deer eyes. Jefe didn’t see any a few minutes later, so they must have all run off.
After Westwater I started feeling slightly better. Just enough that I was able to enjoy the riding for the first time since the beginning. I’d click my lights into high on the descents to see how much time I could put on Jefe. He always caught me on the climbs.
Jefe, the strong wookie
It was such a picture perfect night that it was hard to not enjoy it. But it was so comfortably warm that I knew the sun’s coming heat would not be welcome. I longed for the sunrise but I also feared it.
The universe doesn’t care whether you love it or fear it. The earth rotated into the sun’s influence regardless, right when it was supposed to. I caught some views of Yellow Jacket canyon I had missed in the darkness of the Kokopelli Reloaded ride.
I crossed Dewey bridge at 6 am. As I was stretching on the boulders blocking the bridge, Jefe came rolling up.
It was time to climb. “Finally,” I thought. I really enjoyed this climb on my “Kokopelli Reloaded” ride. I had expected I’d feel at least as good, and probably better. Oh how foolish I can be! Even before it heated up, I was grinding to a halt. I resorted to walking on many occasions. “What the hell? I rode it all last time?”
Technical descending to Rose Garden hill was a hoot for a while, then it just plain hurt. I stopped to feel the wind on my face and didn’t like the result. 3 mph tail wind.
The other side of Rose Garden Hill
Looking at the above trail and already burning up, I knew we were in trouble. As I walked and rode up that stretch the heat almost became unbearable. The tail wind robbed us of any cooling whatsoever. Our sweat was just wasting water.
I pushed ahead of Jefe, knowing there was shade and possibly a trickle of water on the other side of the next pass. We stopped to filter some cold water and try to pull ourselves together. There was a lot of negative talk between us, about the heat, the trail and making it to bed rock or the top.
Jefe said he was “considering his options,” as I packed up to leave. I didn’t think I’d see him again.
I rode, walked and burned myself up. I could not believe how powerful the sun felt. Obviously I needed to be knocked down a few pegs. Coming from Tucson I figured I could deal with any heat the Moab sun could dish out. I had completely underestimated the heat and its effects. I was amazed that I was able to stay on top of hydration and electrolytes. In hind sight, I believe I was struggling for other reasons, and the moderate heat was simply the effect that was easiest to focus on and blame. At the time I thought I was dealing with record heat because it seemed unbearable.
Polar Mesa, climbing into the La Sals
Eventually I couldn’t handle walking my bike in the sun anymore. Even at 7200 feet there was no shade to stand in, so I fought my way into a little cubby hole in the trees. I laid down for a few minutes before hearing someone coming. It was Jefe. “Impressive,” I thought, as I got up to catch him.
We kept riding and pushing up the mountain, through the sand and shadeless stretches of North Beaver Mesa. When we hit a huge sand pit at 8000 feet I realized how much more sand there was compared to two weeks ago. I couldn’t remember any sand this high.
Jefe pulled away as we neared Fisher Creek. Each descent was a gift. It meant the sweat we were cranking out actually provided cooling. No wind, or slight tail winds prevailed.
At Fisher Creek we rested and once again tried to pull ourselves together. It wasn’t easy. I was not in good shape. My eyes were seeing stars, jittering. My fingers tingled. My stomach was in a knot. Even small efforts, like filtering water, made me groan and wince. Placing my feet into the creek made me shiver. I couldn’t really put any food down.
Jefe in the shade and cool air of Fisher Creek
I went to get something from my bike. Standing in the sun made me weak. I scurried back down to the creek. Now I was “considering my options.” I think the only thing keeping my going was that I had already ridden all of the course this far and I could not bring myself to drop out before seeing anything new.
Again there was a lot of negative talk, mostly from me. I admitted to having no interest in leaving the safety of the creek anytime soon. We talked about how impressive it was that Mike and Gary had finished this loop in close to 72 hours. It seemed completely out of our league.
Jefe noticed some high clouds rolling in. “I guess I’m going to keep moving, see how it goes and take advantage of this cloud.” I couldn’t believe the words that came out of his mouth. He was going to go back *out there*?! Then my fried brain processed the word “cloud.”
“I’ll be right behind you.”
I couldn’t believe the words out of my mouth this time. But I packed up, hobbled back to my bike and readied myself for battle again.
I saw Jefe climbing up the other side of Beaver Creek as I was descending. Shortly after I caught him and we pushed on together. We continued to walk the steeper climbs, and it just didn’t make sense to me. I just felt weak. As we pedaled through Taylor Park I was reminded of the Great Divide route. I had never felt this weak or burned up during the divide either.
Our sweet mountain cloud held throughout the afternoon and evening. It completely saved us. I started feeling more myself as we climbed towards Deep Creek and the high point of the La Sals route (9000 feet). The smooth, graded surfaces of the Paradox Trail and the fantastic alpine scenery surely helped.
Descending next to Geyser Creek, blasting whitewater like a geyser, was an unexpected pleasure. The air was cool, the trees were dense and the sinuous road felt like singletrack.
The wookie cruises through Red Ranch
We emerged into the pine tree lined meadows of Red Ranch as Jefe started talking about caching it in for the night. It was 7 pm and I was just starting to get some strength back. We talked for a few minutes near Buckeye reservoir before parting ways.
I climbed a steep grunt to attain Carpenter ridge as the sun lowered. My strength was back. I had now regained the ability to stand and pedal steep sections if I so desired. And let me tell you, I did so desire!
Evening is just a magical time to be out riding. And the high of pushing through the meltdown of the first 24 hours of the race made it even sweeter. Each pedal stroke free of crippling fatigue was a gift. It had taken 24 hours, but I was finally warmed up.
Back in bizness
The Paradox Trail dives off the sharp edge of Carpenter Ridge, losing 2500 feet in about 5 miles. Knee shaking views of the Paradox Valley present themselves at every corner. At the valley exit I was shot off like a canon onto the paved road.
Carpenter ridge descent and the La Sal mountains
For the next hour I cruised through rural Paradox on quiet back roads. Families were out having barbeques, waving as I pedaled by. Ranchers struggled with their vehicles, also waving as I rode by. It was a quiet, picturesque setting. All of us were making glances to the west to check on the sunset’s progress. It was a superb one to watch develop.
Pyrotechnics behind the La Sals
I kept a good pace, desiring to make the Bedrock store before complete darkness. There was a chance I could resupply, if the store keeper was home and not asleep.
Her truck was there and a light was on, but there was no answer. I called Mike and Paula, ate some food and stretched before throwing out my bivy gear on the store porch. I set my alarm for four hours. Right as I laid down I was overcome with anxiety and fear. Even though I knew I was feeling better, the prospect of another hot day of walking my bike in the sun was absolutely shambilizing. I could not visualize myself doing it. And I knew I couldn’t get up high before it got hot.
I calmed myself by reverting to the plan of making it to the turn off for Nucla as a minimum goal, and from there I’d see how it went. I knew I could make it to Nucla no problem. With that thought consciousness ceased, broken only by cars and waking up with numb body parts.
At two in the morning, I continued on the route with earnest, paralleling the Dolores river through the dark, moonless night. I was happy for the change of pace (a climb) out of Uravan. Near the top of Spring Creek Mesa the sun began to rise over the expanse of the Uncompahgre Plateau. I tried not to think about the monstrous effort it would take to attain the plateau.
Sunrise over the Uncompahgre Plateau
After crossing Tabeguache Creek trail conditions get much more primitive. The mastermind behind the Paradox Trail is Paul Koski of Nucla. I had the pleasure of meeting Paul on my way north from Nucla. He’s a great guy, but I should have known something was up when the short ride he took me on *started* with hike-a-bike. How many rides have you done that *start* with hike-a-bike? I was just about to find out a little more about Paul on this section of Paradox Trail.
As the morning warmed up, I pushed my bike over countless hills. The old 2 tracks are faint in the valleys and steep, rocky erosion gullies in the mountains. I got turned around a few times, but my map prep proved invaluable, my GPS worth its weight in gold. The going was rough, but it didn’t last too long.
Typical climb on the Paradox Trail
I had already gone off route to Nucla. My whole system was so out of whack the first day that I had been burning through food at an alarming rate. I might have had enough to finish, but I decided to play it safe. The call of a real meal and a cold drink was very hard to resist as well.
I left town with a stomach full of burgers and a sack full of ice and water. The ice made a huge difference as the afternoon sun settled in to cook me. For a while it was all I could do to keep moving. Every bit of scrub-oak shade called me towards it.
I was now on sandy two track. The smoother of the two tracks had been pulverized to dust by the resident bovines. The other track was too rocky to ride. So I walked more and more.
I gained the rim of Pinto Mesa, at 7200 feet, but it was too hot, dry and dusty to stop to enjoy the view. I started getting the feeling that things could turn ugly out here. I could end up a dehydrated, puking, shivering mess, unable to get myself out. So I started taking mandatory “shade” breaks every 10 minutes — just long enough to get my heart rate and core temperature down to reasonable levels.
After a grueling, exposed hike-a-bike on cow destroyed road, I rejoiced at the sign of a closed gate. No more cows meant no more sand. I began the Glencoe bench section, full of meadows, cow ponds and forgotten two-tracks. Really pleasant riding, actually, with a few route finding challenges and downed trees in the mix.
At some point I looked down at my fork and saw this:
Mike’s fork had started doing the same thing about two weeks ago when I saw him near Cisco. His eventually compressed with oil and he ended up bailing on the pavement with a compromised (bent-over) riding position.
I was still 140 miles from the finish. I figured my chances were about zero of finishing the ride with a functioning fork and a reasonable riding position. I knew there would be much descending off the plateau and doubted I could do it with a bum fork. Desperation began to sink in, except that I didn’t care about losing the race and all the effort I had put in to get this far, this fast. I was mostly disappointed that I might miss the Tabeguache trail and not be able to finish the ride.
But for now I had climbing to do, and I figured the fork would be just fine until I started some aggressive downhill.
Glencoe got me to 8200. The last ~2000 feet to the Plateau were on the well graded Houser road. I knew they wouldn’t be hard. I wasn’t moving extremely fast, but I wasn’t walking and I was able to find a good rhythm.
Meadows on the Glen Coe bench. You tell me where the trail goes.
At the Divide Road, just shy of 10,000 feet, I was treated to some beautiful alpine meadows complete with wildflowers. Things didn’t seem so bad, for the moment.
The connection between Paradox and Tabeguache trails is unspecified. Mike was unsure of the connection himself, so I went the long way to ensure there was no singletrack we were missing. I grumbled a bit about it as I turned off to climb right back to the spot I was at 10 minutes ago. There was not singletrack off Transfer Road.
This brought a short wave of negativity that gained momentum into full-on anxiety. I was in a dark forest, on a tiny, unused singletrack trail. I had never been anywhere near this area before. It was all unfamiliar. The plateau houses the largest population of bear and mountain lion in Colorado. I hadn’t seen anyone since Nucla and knew there was no one up here, no one on the trail. The sun was setting. I needed to finish the singletrack before total dark in order to navigate it. Then I’d need to find a place to get a few hours rest. I had just ridden a section that felt “out of the way” and “unnecessary.” The kicker was that most likely I would not be able to finish the ride due to my fork’s increasing oil splats. I thought I was doomed to a long and uncomfortable road ride.
Eventually the anxiety turned to a near-panic attack. I’m not really a hysteric or panic striken person, but this was as close to a panic attack as I’ve ever experienced.
In the end, logic won out. Panic serves no purpose. Best to suck it up and take it as it comes.
I rolled through the singletrack, over trees and around switchbacks. It was really good stuff, but I wanted to get off it as soon as possible.
The sun set warm on the Tabeguache trail
I did make it to the end of the trail in twilight. I was still at 9600 feet. I switched on my most powerful lights to begin a 1500 foot descent on the Roubideau Trail. What an awesome ride in the dark! Just technical and steep enough to keep you on your toes, and fast and fun as hell. I was having a great time and the anxiety faded away.
I rolled up and down a few large rolling hills before finding a nice meadow with spruce trees on the fringes for shelter. It was the perfect spot. I threw out my bivy gear, forcing as much food down my throat as I could. Sleep was instant and extremely comfortable on the soft ground.
I was up at 2 am, packing gear and again shoving food down my mouth. I was only frightened by one thing: the fact that my hands were not cold. This didn’t bode well for the afternoon’s high temperature. I knew it was going to be a hot one.
I had several hours before I needed to worry about that. For now the trouble was staying on trail through the dark. The traverse on the Roubideau trail is very poorly marked. By the end I realized there was one rule to help: if it’s unrideable, you’re probably on the right trail.
Again, the GPS and hours of map work were invaluable, limiting my off course errors to ~5 minutes a piece.
Maybe it was my state of mind, but I found no redeeming qualities on this section of the course. It was just miles and miles of sh*tty, eroded roads. The downhills were not fun, the uphills were always hikes and the meadows were too short to really enjoy. There was plenty of wildlife — I guess that was the only plus I found. I spooked several herds of elk, watching the thunder away across meadows and through the trees. At Potter canyon a huge bear caught sight of me and took of at 25 mph.
There’s a bit of “singletrack” at the end of the Roubideau trail, but it was even worse than the road. “Stop climbing already!!” — I just wanted to be finished with this long, long section. I was amazed that my fork was still holding. Maybe it would hold until the end?
I wanted to get to the graded roads that followed it. They were bliss, but the lack of mental challenge would come into play. Throughout the morning I had noticed that I had begun talking to myself. There was one entity in charge of pedaling, another steering, another overseer (the boss) and then, of course, my whiny stomach, always begging for food. They were talking to each other, all trying to get attention from the boss. I caught myself thinking things like “Leave him alone, he’s doing good.” “Don’t want to upset him, he’s had a rough day.” My butt wanted me to stand up all the time. My stomach wanted my hand system to feed it. My legs wanted a harder pace, but it would hurt everybody else.
I was also thinking of myself in terms of “we” not “I.” “Next time we stop, we’ll grab that Luna bar and stretch that right hamstring, OK?” “Should we stop and filter water here?” “I think so… what do you think?”
It was bizzarre and odd to experience. But as I hit the graded roads the line between concious and sub-concious thought began to blur. I started getting vague senses that I was not alone. I felt like other people were around, like Paula, or random strangers. But I was alone and had been for the better part of 24 hours. Only bears and elk were out here.
I reminded myself that I was completely alone. I slept alone last night and had not seen anyone since Nucla. There was no one else around and to think otherwise was absurd. I knew I was getting hit by sleep deprivation, but I decided to see if I could fight it as an experiment. I kept focused, ate sugar and even hit myself a few times. That kept it together for a while.
Then while descending I was sure I was riding with my older brother. We were in Park City and he was about to show me a trail he had just built. I tried to reason out what was really true, but the trees looked just like Park City. I saw a water tower in the trees that was not there. I fully expected to turn off onto singletrack around the next corner. But there was no singletrack.
This threw up a big flag. I was falling asleep, with my eyes open, on the bike. I knew it was not safe to continue. I stopped in the shade, set my alarm for 15 minutes and hit the dirt. What followed was an intense rush of images and feelings. It was as if all my dreams had been collecting behind a flood gate for the past three days. The levy had been spilling over as I had been riding, and now the gate was wide open. I was strangely aware of it during the 15 minutes. I still knew where I was and what I was doing, but the images and thoughts were overwhelming. They were so ridiculous and fast that I knew they weren’t reality. It was powerful.
My alarm pulled me out of it with its buzzing. I got up and rode with huge sense of focus and dedication. The next few hours of riding were some of the best of the whole race.
Climbing back to 9600 feet along Love Mesa almost seemed too easy. I was in middle ring, moving fast enough to create a breeze, and enjoying all of it. The creeks were running, elk and deer abounded and I felt the strength in my legs.
I stopped to filter 200+ oz of water. I was not sure I’d have many more chances before the finish.
The ride along the divide road continued the good feelings. It’s smooth, hard and fast. I surveyed the La Sals and the route I had been riding for the past three days. At 9000 feet the temperature was just perfect in the morning air. And I felt like a million bucks.
Flowers and views on the divide road
It was over too quickly. Time to descend into the desert just as the day was heating up. I was not looking forward to it. The Dominguez trail was desolate, devoid of trees. Even though most of it was still above 8000 feet, there were large sand pits and it was hot. There were plenty of climb in the mix with the descents.
At Big Dominguez campground I did some math and realized I had a very good shot a breaking the record. This was surprising to me, since I hadn’t really thought about racing (the fact that I was “winning”) or about putting time on Jefe. I had actually forgotten that anyone else was on course. I was just riding, surviving and (sometimes) loving it.
I walked the sandy switchbacks out of the canyon, marveling at the sheer drop of the sandstone cliffs I was climbing. It was quite the spot. I was moving with vigor, unsure of the decision to race the last part of the course. I wanted to enjoy it, but I also knew that darkness would come sooner than I thought and I thought “the sooner I get to a cold drink, the better.” That settled it, the race was on.
It was a great section of the course to be racing. After attaining the rim I was met with an awesomely sandy (hard to imagine) gradual descent. It was like powder surfing. I’d hit deep pockets and slide and grind into turns. I only had to stop and walk (downhill) a few times. A breeze had picked up to keep me cool.
Sand surfing near Cactus Park
I was buoyed by the sight of the highway and Unaweep Canyon. I thought I was on the final descent to highway 141. But there were several, hidden and rough climbs waiting to attack me. They landed several jabs, but I was unphased.
When I did begin the long descent to the highway I cursed the breeze that had now turned to a full on, strong, head wind. It kept me cool, but it also served to desiccate. I couldn’t afford any more dehydration since I had a long climb in front of me and the temperature was nearing 100 in the valley below.
East Creek, at the highway, had a small trickle. I jumped in to wet my head and to dunk my jersey. Then I was off quickly to being climbing “No Mas” hill. I knew this would be a brutally long, technical climb. Since my expectations were such, it didn’t seem too bad. I walked the steeper pitches, but in race mode I gave myself permission to perform technical maneuvers and generally knock myself out on the trail.
No Mas climbs from 4600 to 7200. It was finally cool at the top, as the sun had dropped. I knew these last miles would be hard, but I also knew I had some elevation to drop, so there couldn’t be that many climbs, could there?
The riding was hard, and I began to feel the effects of 3 days of riding and racing. The ledges and boulders on the trail forced oil out all over my fork, wheels and legs. On a few of the steeper pitches I grabbed my front brake only to feel my wheels sliding unfettered. The oil on my rims had rendered the brakes about 40% power. I really scared myself on one section, unable to stop. I didn’t have too long to worry about this before my front end got really soft. I assumed the fork was crapping out, but it was my front tire going flat.
“This is getting epic,” I said aloud. I still thought I had enough time to beat the record, even with the flat change. Since it was the front tire I couldn’t change it without getting oil all over my hands, shirt and legs. It was a real mess. I wiped the braking surface off and continued down the trail.
I rode by the last source of water, unwilling to spend the time to stop for it. I had a few mouthfuls of water left, and I knew a gas station was not far from the finish.
After a couple climbs I could make out a paved road in the distance, but I didn’t like what I saw. There were no city lights in front of me and a huge ridge to go over. I was wholly unprepared for how long the climb out of Rough Canyon was. I could not see the top. I checked the time and began to panic. I couldn’t remember the exact time of Mike’s record — I never thought it would be this close. I knew I either needed to finish by 10:15 or 10:45, but I was not sure which. The suspense and unknown factor of both the record itself and the trail ahead was killing me.
There I stood, pushing my bike up a shelf of slickrock in the last remaining light. Each step was absolute torture. My mouth was dry, lips sticking to my teeth. I was covered in grease, dirt and three days of sweat. I was focused on the one goal of breaking the record, but I had no idea if it could be done. Each foot of the climb drove the spike in my mind further. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t at the top yet. “If that isn’t the top I’m going to cut my f*cking head off!!” I yelled into the night. I just wanted it to be over, record or no. “End!! Stop climbing!!! I beg of you…”
As if the mountain or the universe is an entity that can be changed or reasoned with. I knew this, but I released the energy and tension anyway.
I asked myself, “Is this harder than Alamo on AZT 300?” Nope. Harder than suffering down Oracle Ridge? Nope. Harder than carrying my bike out of the Grand Canyon? Nope. Harder than limping along on day 4 of the Great Divide Race? Nope.
The last year had trained me well.
Even in the parking lot the trail climbed to meet Little Park road. “NOO!!” I groaned as the pavement even had a little climb to sucker punch me with. My legs pumped battery acid, completely drained. My last sip of water provided a few seconds relief from the dry air and hard effort.
It was dangerously close. Only if I flashed through these last few miles could I make 10:15 and assure the record. At worst I’d have the consolation of 10:45 finish. After the relative relaxation of cruising paved little park road, I just decided to let what happens happen. It had been a great ride, an amazing adventure and whether I broke the record or not wouldn’t change any of that.
Cold gatorade was calling, though, so there were other reasons to descend quickly. It was dry, dusty and dangerous. Not too hard to follow, but confusing. I’d ridden in this area a couple times, but not enough to really understand where I was. Eventually I recognized the low fence that led to the parking lot. It was over. I had split the difference between 10:15 and 10:45. Only Mike could tell me if I had broken the record or not.
64 oz of gatorade vanished after I peeled my lips off my teeth. I broke into uncontrollable shivers as I crossed the Colorado River on the way to Mike’s house.
I hadn’t broken the record, but I had come darn close. I missed it by 8 minutes, which was less than the time it took me to change the flat. Not that there weren’t a thousand other places I could have saved 8 minutes.
The Grand Loop is an epic challenge and superb adventure ride. I love the fact that it’s a loop (no shuttle required) and that it’s (sometimes) marked–even well marked at times. It requires solid technical skills and incredible physical endurance. The variability of terrain–from miles of smooth roads to long stretches of unrideable trail–is another plus. The scenery and epic scale of the landscape is also unmatched. It should and will remain one of the ultimate mountain bike challenges.
The natural comparison (in my mind) is with the Arizona Trail 300. I would guess that I actually pushed my bike roughly an equal amount of time in both races. However, on the AZT it was “hike/push/drag-a-bike” while on the GLR much of it was simply walking alongside the bike. You could ride, but it was either too hot or too sandy to burn the energy. I also felt like the AZT’s hike-a-bike was much more satisfying in that it led to a reward–usually sweet singletrack. The GLR has very little singletrack and the most trying sections often led to more trying sections or easy dirt roads. In some ways this makes the AZT easier to deal with mentally, even though the riding is harder. Depends on what you’re looking for. I found the riding more “fun” on the 300.
Overall I’d say the two races take an equivalent amount of effort to complete. Without a doubt the AZT 300 is harder, mile for mile (as Mike’s saying goes). It’s just shy of 300 miles, while the GLR is 340+. My average speed was 1 mph slower on the 300, and I was much more focused and felt stronger throughout. The 300 tore me down like no race has before. I’m recovering more quickly from the Grand Loop, so far.
The combination of both in the space of six weeks has been immensely rewarding. I feel unbelievably lucky to have experienced the extreme highs and lows that both brought me. I’m learning with each event how my body reacts, what gear works and how far I can push myself. To be able to actually measure progress is a pretty remarkable thing.
Still, it’s just riding bikes, and riding bikes that few people notice or care about. The fact is that few people understand what we’re doing out there. It doesn’t matter. I have no sponsors, no career in cycling. I do it because I believe in applying myself and using the body and opportunity I was given to the fullest. I do it because there are few things that I can be certain of, and my love of riding bikes in the mountains is one of them.
I have a sense that a person only has so many of these efforts in them. I’m going to make the most of mine. That means it’s time to rest. It’s time to ride unloaded and it’s time to ride fast. My mind is already asking, “what’s the next challenge?” But sometimes the best time to stop is precisely when you’re still chomping at the bit.
No more big adventure rides for a while. So it’s time for you, the reader, to feed the hunger in your stomach, not with vicarious calories, but with your own adventures. Get out there and ride until you can’t ride anymore.