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Bodewes looking to break record in Colorado Trail Race

Race begins Sunday morning in Denver
Will Bodewes eats watermelon after pedaling the Colorado Trail Race in four days, 11 hours and 30 minutes last year. He finished second, but wants to go faster this year. (Courtesy Will Bodewes).

After completing a big ultra endurance race like the Colorado Trail Race, Will Bodewes said he always thinks he’ll never do it again.

As time goes by, however, he said he begins thinking about all the things he could have done differently.

Last year, Bodewes rode his brother’s hard tail bike on the 527-mile self-supported race from Durango to Denver and ran into some mechanical issues. Early in the race, one of the screws on his bike shoe fell off, preventing him being able to click out of his pedal and causing him to fall several times. Then, with about 70 miles to go, his bike’s derailleur broke. He banged on it with a rock until he got a few gears working so he could finish the race.

His diet wasn’t great either: lots of peanut butter, Nutella and salt burritos.

He also got so tired he had an out-of-body experience.

Despite the difficulties he encountered, Bodewes still finished second in the race, finishing in four days, 11 hours and 30 minutes. Neil Beltchenko won in 4:03:09. Another Durango rider, Scott Simmons, finished fourth in 4:17:58. Neither Simmons nor Beltchenko are registered this year.

After thinking about the race, Bodewes not only changed his mind and decided to compete in the race again, he’s now looking to break the record of three days and 19 hours.

When Bodewes sets off from Denver at 4 a.m. Sunday (the race switches directions every year), he’ll have a new plan (including less sleep), a new bike (still a hard tail, but with an extra 20 millimeters of travel) and different food (including lots of Tailwind Nutrition powder to make drinks) to power him.

“With my fitness and experience with the trail, I’m confident,” he said. “For me, it’s about seeing how hard I can push myself and seeing where that line is. I don’t think a lot of people figure out their limits, but I think there’s value in knowing and value in finding out.”

He said he thinks whether or not he can break the record will come down to external factors: weather, specifically lightning, mechanical issues with his bike and if he can avoid injury. His plan to sleep just one hour per night, divided in 20-minute segments, meanwhile, will be a wildcard.

“My biggest concern is the weather and lightning; that’s always a big danger,” he said, and will require him to make some good choices while climbing. “Second, I have to not get injured. And third, I don’t know how little sleep I can handle.”

Bodewes isn’t taking a sleeping bag with him, just a tarp, a down jacket and some rain gear. That’s partly because he only plans on sleeping a few hours the entire race.

“I’ve never really found the right limit and right balance,” he said, noting he plans power naps just long enough to refresh his brain. “We’ll see if it works,” he said.

Bodewes has also done some sleep banking to prepare: sleeping a minimum of 10 hours a night for 14 days before the race.

And he’s been training for the past eight months, mixing runs and rides to prepare.

Doing ultras is in his family. His dad and brothers have also done some while his sister, Kristina, recently hiked the Colorado Trail in just under 15 days – setting a record of her own.

“We’re encouraging siblings,” he said. “It’s such a good mental challenge to overcome and provides stability and confidence in yourself. They’re more about learning how to be out there enduring a lot of pain and motivating yourself: Can I keep going, and can I deal with the challenges that arise? The real value is intrinsic of what you get from the experience.”

Bodewes is one of 92 people registered for the race (only about half finished last year). To break the record, Bodewes will need to arrive in Durango by 11 p.m. Wednesday.

“Personally, I think I have the potential to do it,” Bodewes said. “I might as well try and see what happens.”

People can track the racers’ progress live at http://trackleaders.com/ctr22f.php.