In a typical race report, I’d start with an some explanation or another about the start of the race day. But this race which was new to me, but also to the Rocky Mountain Endurance series, started with a little misadventure a few days prior.
I had ridden near this trail on the Colorado Trail, but not there before. The trails at Indian Creek lay just to the south of the Colorado Trail’s segment 1/Waterton Canyon. From the riding (and hike-a-bike) near the race course there I knew this could be steep and rocky. This was confirmed in an off hand way when the race distances were shortened by adding a “short lap”. While this could mean that the main lap was a bit long for two laps, I figured it meant my nemesis: climbing.
After work a few days prior, I took off a bit early and found the drive took longer than I expected. By the time I hit the trail, only half sure of where I was headed, it was 6 pm. Typically laps for this series end up around 10 miles and so I wasn’t too concerned since I knew sunset was after 8 pm now. Surely this won’t take two hours! I climbed up the road into the campground and found the trail and continued to climb up. This is fitting, I though pedaling up and up, another long climb to start a race. Sure, it’s standard cross country racing, especially here in Colorado to climb and climb at the start. But suddenly I was surprised. The trail pointed down through the cedars, skirting down a ridge of almost loomy soil. Roots and small rocks here or there, fun turns to lean your way through. Views opened up on both sides, exposing mountains to one side and a view of a distant Denver on the other. A ripping descent that just kept point itself downward. By the time I hit the third or fourth mile (yes really) of the descent the realization hit me that I was going to have to climb back up.
Between navigation and stopping to gape at the views and beautiful trail, time had started to slip away. I reached the bottom of the descent near Roxborough State Park and started the long fire road climb. The beginning of the climb is an arduous, steep, eroded bit of red dirt road. After that it becomes a bit more manageable becoming a long stretch of double track before reaching a powerline section of trail. The course was marked during my preride which was very helpful, especially as I neared some whoop-de’s that were pretty extreme. I nearly endo’d on one of these before realizing how steep these were. The trail undulates a bit after this, descending over steep roots and water bars. Then after a couple creek crossings you suddenly hit it: a steep hike-a-bike … and the first of a couple. The last few miles of the course prove to be the hardest. There are several sections where the ground points upwards at extreme angles often meaning a hike-a-bike for most.
At the top of one of these hike-a-bike sections I stopped to take a picture of the sun going down. I rode on for a while and the light kept fading. It had been a while since I had seen a race marker and the trail was getting dark enough I wasn’t riding a few things since it was getting hard to see. I passed some people hiking into the trail so that gave me some hope. But I still didn’t know how long this was going to last. Finally I was hiking most of the trail as I couldn’t see. In worst case I figured I had my phone to provide light, but luckily I didn’t need it. I finally reached the parking lot after an epic night adventure.
Race day went pretty much as I expected. The race started about a mile down the road and doing both laps was doable but difficult. In total there was over 6k feet of gain over the day. Beer and some pasta tasted mighty nice after this one…