The '07 Kokopelli Trail Race, Part II: The Race Heats Up

A Note from Fatty: A couple notes before I get started on today’s installment of my KTR ride.

  1. Susan and I just got back from the oncologist’s, where we were planning out her chemo program. Susan starts her chemo program a week from today. From what I’ve heard, even though she’ll still be undergoing chemo this August, I’m very hopeful that she’ll still be able to come with me to the Leadville 100. And the Doctor said we should for sure plan ourselves a nice trip to Italy a little further down the road during one of the 2-3 month breaks between chemo programs. So that’s good.
  2. Kenny and I are quoted in this Denver Post article about the KTR. I have just one question: how did I wind up sounding like a new age goober?
  3. I just heard from the guys at Twin Six that the Fat Cyclist jerseys are now on the way to my house, and should be here by this Friday. Which means I have the three-day weekend to get them packaged and ready to ship by this Tuesday. I am incredibly excited to see these jerseys, to wear them, and to get them shipped to you.

You want to know the biggest reason I was glad for the sunrise while riding the Kokopelli Trail? I was tired of dodging those stupid kangaroo mice. As someone who doesn’t like to kill anything I don’t intend to eat (that came out more barbaric than I meant it), I spent hours in the evening avoiding kangaroo mice as they panicked in the sudden glare of my lights and jumped right toward my wheels.

I don’t think I hit many, but I’d be surprised if I didn’t get any.

Anyway, as the night turned to day, the guys I had bunched up with turned toward Westwater to fill up on water. I still had enough — by my projections — to keep going and thus avoid the four mile detour.

I crossed the road that led to Cisco, and then entered onto one of the sections of singletrack I had really been dreading. In my experience (I’ve ridden the Kokopelli Trail a number of times, just not in this direction or without support), it was one of the most painful, slow, agonizing, and interminable sections of the whole trail.

And so, naturally, this turned out to be one of the funnest, easiest sections of the whole day for me.

I don’t know why I suddenly had energy, but I had it. I don’t know why I suddenly loved riding my bike so much — even though I had already been on it for more than six hours — but I loved it. I was just happy to be there.

Even though my feet hurt so much.

I started wondering why I liked this section of trail so much today, when I had always hated it before. I could think of a few good reasons:

  • Distribution of Vertical Gain: Even though the altitude at either end of this section of trail is about the same, the way I was going this time bunched up all the climbing at the beginning, giving me a mostly downhill ride for the rest of the section.
  • Temperature: For the first time ever, I was riding this section of trail early in the morning instead of in the heat of the day. This made a huge difference in how the trail felt (I would observe this fact in reverse later in the day).
  • Trail Flow: Some trails are just more fun in one direction than in the other. There may be no quantifiable reason for why, but you know it’s true.

Meet Your Fellow Racers
Now that it was light, it was more natural to talk with others who were doing this race. At least I thought so. The first rider I passed, I said, “Hey, awesome morning, isn’t it?” to. He didn’t answer. He had headphones on.

Okay. Here’s a rule. If you are on a crazy race where you are going to be spending hour upon hour alone, you are required to greet each and every other rider in the same circumstance. Take out the stupid headphones for a second. Say hello. Acknowledge that you’re both doing something pretty darned cool / stupid / unusual, and wish the other rider lots of luck. Could I get someone to second the motion on this?

To be fair, this was the only guy the whole day who was too preoccupied with himself and his music to say hi.

And in fact, shortly afterward, I came across another racer — this one very friendly — who was taking a short break, to have a smoke.

Let me repeat, in bold and italics so as to make my astonishment clear: A racer on the Kokopelli Trail was having a smoke. 

Sadly, it wasn’t until a few minutes later that I thought to wonder: How many cigarettes does one ration out for the Kokopelli Trail Race? A pack? Two?

Here’s a simple way to tell if the day’s going to be warm: If it’s 8:00am and you’re switching to your sleeveless mesh jersey, it’s going to be warm.

As I crossed the road to get to yet another stretch of sandy, rocky singletrack, I jiggled my camelbak. Not much there. I sucked on it and got the dreaded “Shlurrrpp” sound that tells you you’ve finished it off.

You have no idea how pleased I was with myself: I was ten miles away from Dewey Bridge, the point I had chosen as my first place to replenish my water, and I had two bottles of water left.

Not bad.

Minor Dilemma
It was on this section of trail that I came across my first ethical dilemma for the ride. The rules for the KTR say that everyone takes care of themselves — if you break your bike, you fix it yourself, with the stuff you brought. If you need food, you better have brought it yourself.

But see, this rule doesn’t work well with my own personal rule, which is: if you see a biker on the side of the trail, you ask if s/he needs help.

Anyway, I came across a rider pushing her bike. She said her rear derailleur was broken. That sounded familiar. So, even though it was against the rules, I asked if she wanted me to help change her bike into a singlespeed so she could continue. “No, I’m just going to hike to Dewey Bridge and call it a day,” she said.

Wise choice.

But what if she had wanted help? Or what if any of the several riders I saw on the side of the trail that day had wanted help? I guess I would have been DQ’ing both them and me to help, in which case I think I’d rather be DQ’d than finish the race. If a rule precludes me being a decent person, it’s a stupid rule.

My feet were hurting something fierce as I saw the Colorado River down below me. The halfway point, in distance anyways.

Getting Ready For the Hard Part
I pulled into the Dewey Bridge campground area, then took my time (about 40 minutes) eating lunch, cleaning my glasses, lubing my bike chain, and filtering a gallon of water from the muddy Colorado river.

I was in no hurry to start, because I knew that the remaining part of the ride — about 65 miles, if I remembered correctly — was nothing but steep climbs and fast descents — no easy rolling for the rest of the day.

While I was thus dawdling, a couple of riders rolled in and asked if I planned to go on. Both times I said yes, then asked if they were going to keep riding. Both times they said no. My theory is that from the looks of me, they figured I was done and would be a good person to commisserate with.

It was 9:40am when I got back on my bike, fully expecting the steepest, hottest, most painful, most difficult day of riding in my life.

It’s kinda cool to think in superlatives that way.

PS: If you’re a geek like me, you might want to check out what my GPS had to say about the trip so far. Click here to see the map, elevation, speed, distance, and other stats for the ride from Loma to Dewey Bridge.

PPS: If you want to cheat and see what my GPS data showed for the second half of the trip, click here.

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