Two cyclists from Durango finished in the top-four of the Colorado Trail Race recently, both riding the 526 miles from Durango to Denver in about 4½ days.
Will Bodewes said he was so tired he had an out-of-body experience and, at a different time, fell asleep while riding his bike. He still managed to finish second in four days, 11 hours and 30 minutes on his brother’s hardtail bike.
“It was pretty gnarly,” Bodewes said. “It really was a challenge to accomplish it, so doing well was a bonus.”
Scott Simmons said he was planning on riding his gravel bike up near Estes Park to do some Fourteeners with his wife, Holly, but when he saw the trail race was happening, he decided to ride the Colorado Trail up there. Despite the spontaneous entry, Simmons tied Bryan Klahn for fourth in four days, 17 hours and 58 minutes.
“The race went pretty good for me,” Simmons said. “There were some hiccups for sure but nothing drastic.”
Adam Haughey of Durango finished 15th in 6:21:21, and Jesse Mogler of Durango placed 21st in 7:10:56.
Neil Beltchenko of Minneapolis, racing under the psudonym “Nad Bachanko,” won the race in 4:03:09. Alexandra Houchin of Cloquet, Minnesota, was the first female to finish in 6:09:05.
“The course is equally brutal and beautiful,” said race organizer Jefe Branham, who completed the challenge for the ninth time and placed third in 4:16:08. “I love it and so many others do too. Those that have experienced the Colorado Trail know how hard it is and how much it gets in your blood.”
In addition to the challenge of the trail, the riders also had to overcome sleep deprivation, hunger, mechanical issues and thunderstorms.
After jostling for position in the beginning of the race, Bodewes said he moved into about 10th. On the first downhill, however, one of the screws on his bike shoe fell off, preventing him from being able to click out. He said he fell about 30 times because of it.
“They weren’t hard falls, but it was so frustrating,” Bodewes said.
A rainstorm began while he was riding in the Molas section, so he found a bathroom and was able to fix his shoe. Then he rolled into Silverton, hoping to resupply. Unfortunately for Bodewes, the gas station was closed. He ate some pizza and then, with most of the bikers waiting out the storm, he pedaled on.
“I was feeling OK so I kept going,” Bodewes said. “That was one of the best moves I made in the race.”
Bodewes and Beltchenko were the only two bikers who made it through Silverton that night.
Simmons also had some issues early on that he had to push through.
“I flatted twice the first day and then lost my food,” Simmons said. “Riding on empty, I got pretty disoriented and took a wrong turn on Rolling Pass and went about 45 minutes out of the way. These three mishaps caused me to not make it to Silverton before the downpour started, so by the time I got to Silverton, I was wet and very cold, overall in bad shape and definitely considered quitting.”
Bodewes, meanwhile, rode until 1 a.m. then went to sleep. He said he woke up three hours later when a trio of bikers went by him and figured it was time to go.
The three hours was the most sleep he got during the race. He said he slept two hours the next night, then one hour and then tried to do the last day with only 15-minute naps to reset his brain.
Simmons slept a little more than Bodewes, allowing some competitors to pass him and then chasing them down.
“I slept about four to five hours a night, so I went to bed in third place each night and then would start the day in fifth or sixth,” Simmons said. “Others were sleeping less I guess. However, I think if I had slept less, I would not have finished as I was pretty sleep deprived. I really enjoyed being four days into the race and still battling for positions between third and fifth.”
Bodewes said the second day was “a grind,” adding that he didn’t have anything that he wanted to eat, just peanut butter, Nutella and salt burritos.
After two hours of sleep that night, however, he said he felt “really good” and “strong” on his bike and made it to Buena Vista where he was able to get some more food.
He said he was concerned a biker behind him was going to pull an all-nighter and pass him, so he slept only one hour before continuing on.
“I woke up confused where I was, like I was dreaming,” Bodewes said. “I thought I had to pay someone to camp there.”
Struggling to stay awake, he said he had two different conversations going on in his head and saw a lot of weird animals that ended up being tree stumps.
Despite the disorientation, the limited sleep helped him hold on to his second place.
“Sleeping only one hour, I gained a bunch of time,” Bodewes said. “I put 30 miles on the third-place guy and was living on that stoke.”
Near Breckenridge, Bodewes said he fell asleep on the side of the trail with a granola bar in his mouth. The 15-minute “factory reset nap,” however, stopped his hallucinations, he said. At least for the time being.
Later, he said he had a completely “out-of-body experience,” where he felt like he was watching himself race. He said he then fell asleep going downhill, but fortunately woke up a few feet in front of a cliff.
“That was one of the craziest experiences I've ever had,” he said, “but it saved me.” With a jolt of adrenaline, he decided to keep going so no one would catch him.
About 70 miles from the finish, Bodewes’ derailleur broke. After banging on it for over an hour with a spork and a rock, however, he got about half of his gears working and was able to finish the race.
“It was a little underwhelming; just my girlfriend was there (at the finish),” he said. “But I got tons of texts and calls.”
Simmons, meanwhile, said the section near Sargents Mesa was the toughest, while the smooth singletrack that went on for miles on the east side of Breckenridge was his favorite.
Not having a Garmin, however, hurt Simmons with navigation, he said.
“I actually finished fourth, but I had lost my tracker so I just got the same time as Bryan (Klahn), the fifth place guy,” Simmons said. “Believe it or not I came off the trail just a few seconds before him. I didn’t even know it was the finish, my light was almost out and I never saw the Colorado Trail sign. We cruised down the road to the parking lot together it was a good way to finally be done.”
Simmons then climbed a pair of Fourteeners on Friday and Saturday with his wife.
Neither Bodewes or Simmons, however, is certain if they’re going to do the race again.
“I was definitely telling people during the race that this was crazy and I would never do it again,” Simmons said. “However, I have been thinking about things I could do differently.”
Bodewes called it an “enjoyable mountain bike ride,” but said he didn’t know if he’d do it again. He said some sponsorships could sway him to do it again.
Bodewes, however, isn’t a huge biker, he said. In fact, this was only his third bike race. In college, he was a cross-country ski racer for the University of New Hampshire.
With challenges like this, Bodewes said gear doesn’t matter too much and planning doesn’t matter too much either.
“What matters is going out there and pushing through,” he said.
As of Monday, 45 competitors finished the race, 43 scratched and one was still active.
Locals Nick Armano, Todd Koskinen and Liz Carrington all started the race, but did not finish.
One notable finish was Chris and Marni Plesko – they became the first duo to complete the race on a tandem bike (10:13:13).