Colorado Trail Race – Beauty Within the Failure

by Andy Amick on September 1, 2019

in Bikepacking, Cycling, Personal

The Colorado Trail Race is both brutal and beautiful. The beauty of the trail, the mountains, and the vistas allows one to keep pushing (literally) over pass after pass after pass.

Unfortunately, this rider was not able to keep pushing to the finish. I had to stop my race on the third day in Lake City. But not before I saw some of the most amazing scenery while riding alongside some great people.

Colorado wildflowers

The picture above is my favorite from the trip and one of my all time favorite pictures. Wildflowers, thin ribbon of trail, snow, mountains, and sunshine. All of the things that make me happy on a bike.

Going into the race, I planned for patience on day 1 to ensure I didn’t create Achilles issues like I did at the beginning of the Tour Divide. With a 4 AM start, I stopped as day faded into night, with the rushing waters of Cataract Creek to sing me to sleep. Sixty-five grueling miles, most of them uphill.

Unfortunately, the writing was already on the wall regarding my future in the race. During the day, I was not able to eat much food while on the move. This problem came up on my final few long training rides before the race. I tried to ignore it during training, thinking it was just something I ate or me not feeling very well.

Colorado Trail sunset

After waking up at 4:45 AM and making my way to Silverton, I felt better. Coffee and a big burrito has that effect. Things felt fine going up Stony Pass with Joe Tonsager and Josh Uhl. As the day continued, my eating problems returned. My bike and my gear performed perfectly. The rider with no calories began to crumble physically and mentally.

high above Taylor Lake

The views, like this one above Taylor Lake, continued to inspire awe and reward the effort.

After forcing and barely finishing a freeze dried meal for dinner on day 2, I went to sleep hoping for a better day 3. Wishful thinking does not overcome a broken body. Even more frustrating is a broken body that’s broken on the inside where you can’t determine the real issue.

Waking up on the morning of day 3, I discovered my GPS unit still on and draining batteries for the second straight night. At that point, I knew day 3 would be my final day of the race. Running out of batteries is not that big of an issue by itself. For me, it was an indication of my mind not working well combined with the knowledge of my physical self also not being well.

But I still had to ride and reach the road that would take me to Lake City.

CTR Brett Stepanik

This picture of Brett Stepanik on day 2 sums up my race. Tired and worn out while being surrounded by high alpine beauty. Brett and I crossed paths after both of us ended up dropping out. That is a great story for another post.

In the end, I covered 130 miles of the course and enjoyed the short time I had on the trail. After returning home and visiting my doctor, she diagnosed my problem as adrenal fatigue and the eating issues as a symptom of the fatigue. Too much stress and exertion in the months leading up to the race submarined my chances at finishing.

A month later, and I still struggle with energy. Some days I feel better and some days are much worse with barely the energy to get off the couch. The recovery path is slow, much like pushing a loaded bike up a pass at 12,500 feet on the trail.

About Andy Amick
A little bit nutty in general, a lotta bit nutty about bikes. Each of his boys received a bike helmet for their first birthday and the three of them have been biking together ever since.

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