In the month of June I wasn’t able to ride as much as I would have liked being busy with work and having it be in the high 90s by the time I got off. Way too hot for me to get out and ride in the desert. After not getting out much, for some reason I found it to be a good idea to sign up for the Crested Butte Fat Tire 40.
After work on the Friday before the race, we packed up our camper and set off across the state. We met some friends from Denver in Almont to camp by the river. We had a great dinner and enjoyed some good conversation before heading to bed. In the camper I pulled up the race profile and found that over the course of the 40 mile race there was a casual 5600 feet of climbing. That’s a serious ride at high altitude.
The morning of the race, I got up, got changed and headed to CB to pick up my packet. I ran into a few friends whom were all wondering what to wear. It was 33 degrees, but the forecast called for hot weather. I got talked into wearing a base layer. The race started right at 8am. There was a neutral start through town before climbing up to the ski resort. The pace picked up on the climb and we were going hard before hopping on the first of the singletrack. I felt good, maybe a little too good, and spent a lot of time trying to pass people on the single track. The initial climb goes up, and up, and up and that’s why I say I maybe felt a little too good. I exerted a lot of my energy and my tank took a big hit on the initial climb. I probably hit the first climb too hard considering the altitude. Riding hard at altitude takes a toll on you. There was a small descent before hopping onto Strand Road for another grinder climb. The descent from Strand Hill is awesome. Flowy singletrack through bright green aspen trees this time of year. Then we had the pleasure of climbing up Deer Creek, which is where I fell apart. I had spent so much energy going hard up the initial 2 climbs that I hardly had anything left. And we had only completed half of the total mileage.
This is where I mentally switched from racing the Fat Tire 40, to riding the Fat Tire 40. And it still hurt. I rode Deer Creek at a more comfortable pace and was able to enjoy the beautiful day and the priceless views. We descended back toward the ski resort on Gothic Road and I was completely spent. I was optimistic that we would simply hop on a trail that would descend back to town and the finish line. I was wrong. We rode the Meander trail. I was hoping that around every corner, the trail would take a turn, and we would descend back to town. But at this point, it felt like there was still climb after climb. When you are completely spent, it gets so easy to get discouraged. The only motivator at this point was a cold beer at the finish line, so I kept turning over the pedals. Finally, we were back on familiar trail on a small section of Upper Loop that we rode twice and I knew we were close. We hopped onto Tony’s trail and it was all down hill from there. Really.
I crossed the finish line, only to have my 5 year old ask “what took you so long?” Exactly what you want to hear right? I told him that the bike race kicked my butt – then I had my cold Bristol Brewing beer and immediately everything was good again.
Some days you have it. Some days you make all the right moves. Push when you can and recover every chance you get. Some days you forget to take into account the altitude and you push hard, when it makes more sense to conserve a little energy early on to make sure you have some gas left in the tank later on. The important lesson sometimes is that you are able to learn from your mistakes. This is a race/ride that everyone should check out. The riding is amazing. The views are breathtaking. The climbs are grueling but you are always rewarded with flowy descents. Just remember – the altitude is serious! Settle in early and figure out where you’re at on the Deer Creek climb before you really try to push it. That will be my approach next year.