This year’s Colorado Trail Race saw fifteen women and non-binary riders at the start line. In this competitive field, Katya Rakhmatulina took the win and set a new women’s fastest known time at 5 days, 1 hour, 53 minutes. Lael Wilcox, Ana Jager, Alexandera Houchin, and Karin Pocock also bested the previous women’s FKT of 06 days, 01 hour, 34 minutes, formerly held by Alexandera Houchin. Alexandera improved her own singlespeed record with a time of 5 days, 14 hours, 31 minutes. In addition to the speedy women’s field, Lilly Hacker became the first recorded non-binary racer to finish the Colorado Trail Race at a quick 5 days and 23 hours.
Once the race was done and dusted, we invited the women and non-binary participants to share a selfie and something they learned while out on the trail. We’re thrilled to share wisdom, anecdotes, and selfies from these incredible folks. We hope you can learn from their experiences on your next ride and in your daily life!
I have been training and racing so hard that my body’s monthly cycle is fluctuating a lot. I had gotten my period right before the race so naturally I thought I wouldn’t need any feminine products during the race so I didn’t pack any in my race kit. On day 4 of the CTR, I got my period really bad again, and didn’t have anything to manage it. Looking back, I really should have just packed my Diva cup— it weighs nothing and keeps me from sitting in a visceral mess of my insides. There’s also the reflection of racing hard all the way until the end of the race. The flat terrain of the pavement on the Taryall Detour had me coasting a lot and I could have ridden a lot more intentionally. It was really devastating to get passed by a geared bike rider less than five minutes from the finish. It was a good reminder that the race isn’t over until it’s over.
The Colorado Trail is a wild ride and I think that it will always provide big curveballs to keep things exciting and unpredictable out there. This year was my second ride on the trail and for a second round it brought me to new zones physically and mentally, and made me dig deeper or problem solve in new ways. A mixture of what I assume was altitude, heat and just generally being really worked a few days in made eating and keeping food down really tough. I ended up sticking to electrolyte drink for the day to try to at least keep hydrated. I’m typically a pretty hungry/potentially hangry person– I was pretty floored that I’d been able to keep things going throughout the day without a major meltdown. For a while just after sunset I felt like I was buzzing with energy and motivation to keep trucking forward despite having not eaten solid food throughout the day (super weird feeling, but I went with it). All day I was jamming, hoping to make it to the Princeton Hot Springs store to stock up on hella snacks. I’d also spent the day imagining how good a rotisserie chicken would taste (pretty funny because I don’t typically eat chicken or any meat). I’m sure imagining those things kept me moving through that day. Turns out I didn’t make it to the Princeton store even close to their open hours, but I did treat myself to the bottle of half drunk ginger ale sitting by the store entrance. Thank you to whoever left that treat out! The lesson for me here was the motivation and also the importance of food. It’s our job to always be eating on these long outings and it’s a total treat and privilege to intentionally wear myself out to the point of being soo hungry. I made it to Buena Vista the next morning just before City Market grocery store opened. I got a huge food load up there and downed a couple cans of cold Progresso chicken noodle soup standing next to the stash of shopping carts (hard to say if I’m still vegetarian after that– I’ve been home a week now and feel like I still need to try a rotisserie chicken just to see if it will satisfy that day of craving). The right balance of food, some snoozing, and bouncing around with friends on the trail is what kept the fun coming throughout the CTR. Big bonks and all, I feel super lucky to have experienced the Colorado Trail curveballs another time.
Don’t hit those roots. Don’t hit those roots. Those roots look wet and slick, don’t hit them. I bet you can guess what happened next. I hit the roots, and went down.
When you’re learning to mountain bike you’re told “look where you want to go, and don’t look where you don’t want to go.” Why this isn’t a lesson that’s taught to us as an application for life in general I’m not sure, it sure as hell should be though. I spent my whole summer visualizing where I wanted to go- the finish line. And visualizing the things I would have to do to get myself there- suffering and powering through, not bonking, staying motivated, being by myself for days (and nights) on end. Yes, I trained for the physical component of the CTR, but the majority of my summer was spent in contemplation of what I was going to do when shit hit the fan. How do you keep going when you’ve hit rock bottom? You pump yourself back up. Tell yourself you’re strong, capable, powerful. Tell yourself you got this. You can do this. And keep putting one pedal stroke down after the other until you’ve made it.
I know there’s some official way to scratch, to tell Trackleaders you’re not continuing on, but I still don’t know how you do that. Because for me, scratching was not an option. I didn’t want to know how to do it because that meant being one step closer to not finishing. Look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go. Visualize what it’s going to look like when you finish, how it’s going to feel. Need to have a mental breakdown before you can get yourself there? Ok. Do that. Have the mental breakdown. Give yourself the time to release that energy, then wipe your eyes, shake your head, and remind yourself how strong and powerful and courageous you are for even stepping foot on the starting line. And keep going.
While the Colorado Trail did prove to be notably challenging, I realized throughout the race that the only complaint I could really decipher was that is was hard. There weren’t any other reasons to quit: I was prepared with proper gear, ample water, enough food, no serious injuries or chronic pains. Even the weather was fairly pleasant. Had I quit, the only reason would be because it was so damn hard. But that isn’t any reason to quit.
This year was the first year I showed up to a bike pack race and didn’t feel like an imposter. I had trained a fair bit and already raced Pinyons and Pines, my kit felt pretty darn dialed, I was feeling the warmth of finding my tribe within the bikepack racing community and I was just full of joy and optimism to get out on this much loved trail.
I had a fabulous day one riding with Matt, Jefe, Jesse, and Lilly, with intermittent hellos from Mike. Everything started to crash and burn around 6pm. I was becoming increasingly nauseated. I had managed my salt/sugar/water balance pretty darn well and live at altitude, so what the heck was going on. There were only two leftover possibilities; the chicken burrito and the mine waste water….shit….no…damn. I stayed the night in a hotel, barely slept and got on the bike at 5am thinking I would just commit. I walked every inch of Stoney pass road, stopping frequently for emergency shits. But by day three, I felt like a rockstar and will profess that my joy was off the hook the whole way through Sargents. I decided to still be in the race and not just chill my way to the end. I was depleted from being sick and not eating, but I so wanted a 6 or sub-6 day ride. I started smashing out miles with a big smile on my face. I love the CTR. And finally, with the rear wheel out of true, my electronics dying, and a push until 4:26am, I came in right on the 6-day mark to Waterton. I’m not sure why the segments leading to the end are always so epic, but they always are
Last year I went into CTR overconfident, this year, I was cautious. I overpacked my warm layers and rain gear. I made sure to respect the mountains instead of being frustrated at them. My mantra became: “it is what it is”. And guess what? My change in attitude paid off! I was generally having a great time!
Zooming on downhills, a tiny sliver of a moon on Cataract Ridge, Tenmile crest entirely at night, and delusional out of body experience on the last 50 miles were some of my favorite things!
I particularly enjoyed the feeling of togetherness; I would see lights at night and they would make me smile. Or I’d see a fresh tire print and would start guessing how long until I can catch up to the next person. After all, we are all in this together, going through the same literal and metaphorical rollercoasters.
So thank you Colorado Trail and fellow bikepackers for making this experience so special!
As the weather started to build above 12K feet on Segment 23, fellow racer, Gordon, caught up to me and said, “Kristen, are you afraid of those clouds?” Without hesitation or reservation, I said, “Gordon, I’m not afraid of anything.” And as I think back on that moment, I learned that I really wasn’t afraid of anything as I settled into my 5th journey down the CT. I felt calm, more tolerant of the weather, the climbs, the highs and the lows. I learned that if I focused on racing the course instead of the people, my fears of being slow or behind really didn’t exist and a “smooth is fast” mantra fueled the fearless flow through the singletrack.
Nothing worth having comes easy….or something like that. I scratched 80 miles into this year’s CTR, a bit less mileage than last years attempt where my husband and I pulled the plug outside of Breckenridge after breaking a rim. This year we experienced a broken saddle, d’oh! Could we have overcome both obstacles, I believe we could have but I also believe the journey to the finish line might not always be simply point A to point B. There’s detours, round-a-bouts, potholes, you know life’s traffic. Someone close to me recently told me maybe the CT isn’t for me after quitting two years in a row, and maybe if I try again I shouldn’t do single speed. That stung, a lot. I’d argue that the CT is for folks looking to strip down the human experience to the absolute basics. It’s raw, it’s grueling, it’s so beautiful. So I’ll keep trying because I want to know who I am when the easy life is at the other end of the trail.
The time I spent with my bike on the Colorado Trail this summer taught me first and foremost to notice the beauty. It was my first full bikepacking race and I went into it knowing my body would be more uncomfortable than I was typically used to when bikepack touring. Normally my bikepacking trips include luxurious breaks for snacks and stretching, some plant identification, and a hot cup of coffee in the morning. Because I was trying to keep moving efficiently and I was running on just four hours of sleep per night, my body and mind protested loudly from day one on the CTR. There were times when the neck cramp felt unbearable, the saddle sore screamed, and the alpine tundra looked like the most appealing nap spot. In these times I drew my focus to the beauty around me. The Colorado Trail has some of the most majestic and awe-inspiring scenery I have ever traveled through. In each moment, I could choose to notice this beauty and draw my focus there rather than the discomfort in my body. In the weeks since the CTR, I have found myself noticing the good throughout each day. Even in challenging times, there is almost always a small beauty to focus on. I want to keep this positive practice going through the highs and lows of life.
I learned the Colorado Trail is HARD. Like break you down into a shell of a human HARD. In all seriousness, my reflection is still in the process. I’m currently learning to be graceful with myself, in that I should be proud of my ride, not disappointed. Instead of playing the would’ve/could’ve/should’ve game, I’m trying to appreciate what my body was able to do out on the trail and pick out the positive parts of my experience. It’s a privilege to push our bodies through an insane amount of discomfort and honestly, there’s part of me that wouldn’t trade it for anything (although a normal person vacation sounds nice at the moment).
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