The Pain

The Colorado Trail Race is almost three weeks past and since then the world has continued to spin. Nothing has changed for anyone else. But for me and maybe a few others this race is drilled in my head. I can’t stop writing about it, I can’t stop thinking about it, and can’t even stop dreaming about it. In my dreams I keep worrying about someone catching me and passing me. I dream about stubbing my toe on every damn rock in Sargents Mesa. I dream about finishing and how anti-climatic it was, but how the feeling was totally awesome. Anyways I should probably stop talking about it, so this is my last hurrah until next year.
The pain that I endured during the 5 days on my bike has really set me back, as far as getting back on my bike. I have had ridiculous pain in my knees.  From what I’m told my my meniscus is not getting enough blood flow. This happens when muscles around your knee don’t have anywhere to go — which in turn squeezes the veins and cuts blood flow to the meniscus. I’m not quite sure I believe it or not. Ice, arnica, and rest has only recently helped me stop walking like I’m 75.
My achilles tendon, which creaks like an old rocking chair, has continued to do so, on and off for a good part of a year now. It’s fine when I don’t hike my bike, but I tend to put myself in dumb situations like climbing Block and Tackle Trail, up Brush Creek Road near Crested Butte, or entering the CTR for that matter. Still rest, stretching, and yoga have yet to cure my ailing achilles.
My hands, ohhhh boy. After the Arizona Trail Race I experienced numbness caused by entrapment of the Ulnar nerve. What I understand is that this is very common for many racers participating in long multi-day races. Slowly the numbness went away with a few hand exercises I was told to do — but be warned it’s no fast fix. For the Colorado Trail Race, I experienced the same thing, but this time, it feels like I’m recovering from a broken wrist. The motion in my right wrist is far worse than the left. The strength in my fingers is very weak, especially my middle three fingers. To top it off, my pointer finger is bent, mimicking the position of gripping my break (this is kinda funny looking).
My toes were absolutely crushed, especially in the Sargents Mesa section. My bike shoes have too big of a toe box creating lots of movement. They also have very little stiffness and protection near the toe. Those two elements have killed both my right and left big toe nails. Also, the CTR created a wicked blister on my left big toe that had finally stopped pussing a week ago. Oh and the big toes are also numb.
Last but not least, I can’t remember eating so much food in a two week period ever in my life. The cravings I am having for junk food are way over the top. Gummy Bears, Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, Butterfingers……..Yum. Then you add Ice cream into the mix, Third Bowl has seen me far too often, Ice cream cookie sandwiches taste far to good for the price I get them for, and I can’t even stop eating home made shakes, which in turn keep me up all night because I’m so damn full. The cravings have slowly stopped. Luckily, because it was starting to really put a dent in my already small bank account.
All of this hardship you think would have me never considering a bikepacking race again. I told myself, “no way in hell am I ever doing this again” when I was on the trail. I’m not sure if it’s just me or what, but I seem to just block out and forget the bad times. Fortunately or unfortunately, the reward of such a race is so great, there is no stopping my inner drive from doing the Arizona or Colorado Trail Races next year. At some point throughout the winter, I’m sure I will heal up and be ready to go at it again, thats the beauty of time. You would think being a bit younger, your body would heal up faster? But thinking about it, the strongest riders are in the 30’s or 40’s and maybe their bodies have already gone through such agony that ‘The Pain’ is second nature. At any rate, I can’t wait feel normal on my bike again!

Gear differences…Colorado Trail Race vs. Arizona Trail Race

Now that I have completed the Colorado Trail Race (CTR) I want to go over my gear difference between the Arizona Trail Race (ATR) and the CTR. There are some obvious differences, I mean one race is in Arizona and the other in Coloado. But there are also many similarities and they are both ridiculously hard adventure races. I’m so very happy to be done with my adventure races for the year, but at the same time I super excited to start planning for next years Arizona and Colorado Trail races.

Arizona Trail Race rig
Colorado Trail Race rig

The gear you bring is so important, especially when dealing with scorching hot days, and freezing cold rainy nights. Lets start with my sleep system. For both races I carried a Revelate Design Sweet Roll. It packs down very small and is waterproof. This prompted me to carry my important dry items in the

My Sweet Roll is stuffed.

front, which included most of my sleep system. I use an older Big Agnes Zerkel 25 degree sleeping bag, the Big Agnes Clearview Pad (which I stored in my saddle bag as it didn’t need to stay dry), and a Marmot Alpinist bivy sac. The bag is a bit old and not quite at the 25 degree rating it once was, but it has worked well for both races. I was cold my first night in the Cataract section of the CTR, luckily for me it was the only night I was cold. The pad and bivy sac are extremely light. The bivy sac worked wonders in Colorado when is started to rain on me at night. It also dried very fast, which was important as my rig was already heavy enough. For next year, I think I’m going to get a new sleeping bag, I have to do my research but I’ll probably stick with a 25 or 30 degree bag, just something lighter. I also may just go without a sleeping pad. I used my pad every night in the AZT and CTR but one night. I really like not dealing with deflating and packing it that one night. I have a few things to mull over for next year, but in general it was a flawless setup.

The Nuke’s Little boy with custom lime green accents.

As far as saddle bags go, I used a Revelate Design Viscacha for the ATR, and a Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks Little Boy for the CTR. I was having issues with the Viscacha hitting my rear tire when I stuffed it full. For the AZT I put little in the saddle bag just a few clothes and my sleeping pad. It worked very well and it cinched down very small. I decided that I would purchase something a bit Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks, near the end of the ATR. We chatted about bikepacks and his side business. I bought a Little Boy Saddle Bag from him in June. It worked great for the CTR, but I didn’t really have enough to fill the bag. I cinched it down as far as it could go, however there was still a bit of play. This bag would work wonders if you intend to pack more things but I did not. For next year I think I’m going to ditch the saddle bag all together for a full frame bag. Both bags, however, were very strong and tough, repelled water and held up as they were intended to. smaller for the CTR. I rode with Dave Wilson, owner and seamstress of

The main compartment that can fit a lot of food.

I purchased a partial frame bag from Revelate Design (the Tangle Frame Bag) before the ATR, and also used it for the CTR. I absolutely love this thing. For the ATR I packed food and a full 3 liter bladder in it. Because of the heat in Arizona, it’s a good idea to carry extra water. This bag has won me over because of the side pouch which is just so convenient. In both races it carried my maps and cues sheet. My replacement sunglass lenses and my phone. For the CTR I packed a whole lot of food in the main section of the bag. Seriously, I packed way too much food. Near the end of the CTR I assessed my food, I still had 5 Tuna packets, a big bag of precooked bacon, huge bag of trail mix and other little snacks. I honestly never needed to really buy food as I packed the frame bag to capacity. You live and learn I guess. The seams and zippers held up great and I had no issues with water penetration when it rained. Like I said above, I might go with a full frame bag next year. It’s more convenient and it should keep the weight more centered on my bike.

The Jerry Can and Gas Tank.

I carried two top tube bags from Revelate Design, the Jerry Can (rear) and Gas Tank (front). I love both of these small bags, as the access is so easy. For both races I carried all my spare batteries, my Ipod Shuffle and headphones, sunscreen, chap-stick, and chamois butter. As for the Gas Tank, I filled that thing with snacks, it can fit soooooooo much… 4 Cliff bars, 4 protein bars, 10 fruit leathers, Emergen-C packets, and more. When the bag got low, I transferred a few snacks from my frame bag to the Gas Tank. They are also great bags for long day rides if you don’t want to carry a backpack. I can fit my rain Jacket in the Jerry Can, and I can adjust the Gas Tanks velcro to cinch it smaller. Overall, these are two great products.  I will no doubt be using these two bags again for next year.

On to the debate of the backpack. A lot of people like backpacks for races like these. It’s a convenient way to store water, and things you may need throughout the day, arm warmers/coolers, knee warmers, etc. Backpacks are also a convenient place to put a bunch of extra, unneeded crap making it feel like your carrying bricks on your back. I used an Osprey Raptor for the ATR, and I stuffed it to the max. On top of a 3 liter bladder, I put all of my extra things in the large compartment. By the end of the race, my back started to cramp, creating issues for a long time after the race as well. I decided to change it up for the CTR. I bought a Camelbak Octane. It a lumbar backpack that holds two liters of water horizontally around your waist. My thinking behind this was to keep the weight lower on my back. I also knew I would not need to carry as much water as it is plentiful on the Colorado Trail. It’s also much smaller and holds very little, alleviating the issue of carrying unnecessary items. I ended up storing my bike repair kit and a few other things. This was a much better option for my back. I will most likely be using this for the ATR next year for water storage. As far as next year’s CTR, I’m going to attempt to do it without a backpack.

The lumbar 2 liter bladder.

Lights are another very important piece of gear on races like these, if you ride at night you will need lights. I bought two Fenix LD 20 Lights over the winter. I liked them a lot, they are bright enough at 100 lumens on high (which I rarely used), super light weight, and battery operated. However, during both the ATR and CTR, I had one of my lights fail on me. The light wouldn’t turn on. I replaced the batteries, took the thing apart, and even threw it. It brought upon negativity which is what needs to be avoided at all costs on a race like this. I even questioned finishing both races. Luckily I had my Black Diamond Spot headlamp as backup. I’m super happy I packed it for both races, if not I would have really struggled in the dark. I have already ordered and received my AyUp Adventure V4 Lighting System. It is a 2 light rechargeable lighting systems that comes with mounts and batteries packs. I know it will work for the AZT next year as long as I carry the necessary amount of batteries. But for the CTR I’ll need to figure out something else, in order for the lights to last long enough, I would need to carry a lot of batteries.

I road a Specialized Stumpjumper Comp Carbon HT for both races. I love this bike and it’s currently the only thing I have. I have wondered what it would be like if I had a full suspension for both races. I feel like the amount of beating I took was tough on my arms, back, and butt. I did however love it on any of the road sections, I felt like it was a small advantage. With the technology of these new full suspension bikes, I am leaning towards a full suspension for both races. I’ve been looking at the new Specialized Epics, and the Salsa Spearfish. I’m going to steer clear of carbon, so I’m leaning towards the Spearfish — especially with it’s new split pivot technology. The drivetrain was a 2X10 with 24/38 tooth chain rings. I had not issues other then a chain link breaking in the Taryall section of the CTR. For the AZT I used my stock Roval rims, they worked but I was excited to get a new set. I had Southern Wheelworks build me up a much lighter wheel. Hope Pro Evo 2 Hubs, with DT Swiss Competition spokes and Stans Crest Rims. They held up great and really reduced the weight of my bike. On those wheels I rode only the best, Maxxis Icon EXO 2.2 tires.

To be honest, not much was different in terms of gear for the two races. I carried much more water on the AZT and much more food on the CTR. Both were fit into my frame bag so the weight distribution felt the same. I am really going to try and cut some weight down for next year. Clothes I never used, food I never used, and a lighter sleeps system should all contribute to a lighter rig. I also just received and installed my new XX1 drivetrain that I will most likely be using from here on out. I’ll have to play around with front chainring sizes but I’m really looking forward to testing it out in the next few days.

Brand spanking XX1 Drivetrain.