Kokopelli Trail Race Report

That was awesome! No photos though as I didn’t have room for my camera so this will be a boring text only post. I’ll give the punchline first to save you from wading through my yapping.

Painless version:

I was 7th overall in 15 hours and 3 minutes and the first female to finish. Sweet!

Long and gory version:

I’ve never done anything like that before and I loved it. I loved the sleuthing and pre-race prep we did to figure everything out and I loved going out on race day and putting it down. The unique nature of the event brought together a super cool bunch of people. I got to meet some new ones, including the big man of the day himself Mike Curiak. Big kudos and thanks go out to Mike for putting together this event in its unsupported format. The unsupported format makes it easier in some aspects and harder in other aspects. I like it. I also got to reacquaint with an old friend I haven’t seen for about 10 years and it was great to see him looking so fine and riding so fast. There were lots of special moments during the weekend.

It was a beautiful night, full moon and warm. The excitment on the start was huge with about 56 racers. I was pumped on the start because I found out Jari Kirkland was racing. She is a super fast biker chick stud so it meant I did actually have a race on my hands – a special treat for me. Super fast ladies at the ultra level are few and spread thin over the many neat events to choose from so getting to the same start line as one is a rare pleasure.

Although the field was small and we had a big day ahead of us the start was fast. I saw a lot of eager overpacing in the first hour. Guys were amazingly aggressive at first up Sand Flats road but things mellowed out after about 20 minutes, right when I was warming up and turning it on. In the dark it was hard to see who was who but just after we passed the Porcupine turn off I caught a woman who was riding along chatting. I picked it up a notch and went by quite fast. I was impressed she jumped right on my wheel. The chatting stopped but I couldn’t hear her breathing real hard so I knew whomever it was she was strong. She stuck right in behind me on the rest of the road and up into the double track. Eventually I asked her if she wanted to pass but she said no and I asked her what her name was. She said Jari. Great!! Game on. I told her we were gonna have a great day together. Then she dropped off the pace a little and I hit the pavement with a wee gap on her.

My plan for the 2k pavement descent was to put on a jacket but it was so warm and Jari was so close I shelved that plan. The moon was bright. It threw huge moon shadows down the cliffs and spires of Fisher Valley below and made the snow capped La Sals above glow blue. But for this race I would never be riding my bike up on that road at 2am and get to see that view – another special moment.

At the start of the next 2k climb Jari was nowhere to be seen – but then it was dark and you couldn’t see very far. My legs had kicked in and felt superb. I took a fast pace up the climb and started yo-yoing with single speed stud Dejay Birtch. He looked like he was fighting his single cog and would fly by me standing up cranking or I’d pass him while he was walking. It looked like doing intervals. Crazy single speeders. It is almost beyond belief that Jon Brown won an an SS – he must be an animal.

The first 3.5 hours of the race have 6k of climbing and my tactic was to ride them light and fast and filter water in Fisher Creek at the top.  Jari was close enough that she passed on by while I was crouched pumping by the creek. My original plan was to pump again at McGraw but I shelved that plan right there – I didn’t want passed again. I pumped enough to get me to the spigot at Westwater ranger station.

On the big descent off Beaver Mesa I was all over the place. There was a lot of dust in the air from the riders going through in front of me. I had gone with a helmet light only and it was lighting up the airborne dust right in front of my eyes. My helmet was flopping around too and things were generally bugging me. I turned my front wheel in some sand while descending fast and got body slammed hard – so hard it took me a minute to get up and quite a few minutes to shake it off. I did have to bleed for this one after all. I usually get what I ask for ;-) I was slow and cautious for the rest of the descent. The prime goal was to finish and breaking myself or bike was not going to help.

Dawn was beautiful and right after dawn I caught Jari. Again I went by her flying but this time she didn’t respond. This time we were descending and I put a big gap on her quickly. I paused to take off my knee warmers and switch out my clear lens for a dark one then motored on. I ran out of water just before McGraw – so much for filtering enough to get me to Westwater! We had a headwind from the start and it was warm – dessicating conditions. I squatted by the Colorado and pumped more than I thought I needed. I’d been yo-yoing with Fred Marmsater since the start and he stopped to see if I was ok. From behind it probably looked like I was puking or something. People were so nice in this race! I was faster filtering this time and got everything I needed and back on my bike in 7 minutes – Jari didn’t pass.

McGraw – Westwater was hot with headwinds. I reeled in and passed a few guys along the way. I caught Adan Lisbonbee a mile before Westwater and we spun down the road chatting side by side. We had a headwind and Adam is a big dude. His draft looked so warm and welcoming but I didn’t pedal 100 miles to sit in a draft for a few minutes. Adam was looking superb and we chatted like we were out for a wee Saturday morning spin. He was faster than me at the fill up spot and gave me a nice carrot to chase back up the road. I was certain Jari had not passed while I took the detour – all was well.

My race plan was to pace steady to Westwater then let it out and speed to the finish and that is what I did. I was flying through Rabbit Valley in the big ring hammering out of the saddle – what fun. My legs never complained once the whole day. My back and butt were complaining though and standing up made them feel better.

Across Salt Creek and up the hike-a-bike you can look back a long way down the course and I couldn’t see a soul behind me. The day was heating up by then. High temp recorded in Fruita according to the National Weather Service was 87F but it felt hotter. I had to walk up the steep single track on Troy Built not because my legs were tired but because the heat I generated to ride up it was too much and made my head boil and stomach turn sour. After riding a short section I had a melt down. I got off my bike, sat down and mixed up my last packet of PowerBar endurance drink. I downed 24 oz in one chug. My body took it like a sponge – never even had a sloshy stomach. Kind of surreal. The last 8 miles were fun contouring trails and went by fast.

My goals were in this order were

1. Finish

2. Finish at 3 pm in 15 hours

3. Be the first ever Kokopelli female finisher

4. Enjoy it.

I nailed it – snagged them all :-)  finished at 3:03 pm in 15:03, close enough to give myself a tick on goal number 2, especially with the never ending headwind, dry sandy course and hot dessicating day. It was not a fast day but there were some fast riders out there.

Results and some other race reports are posted here. There were 56 starters (including 5 women) and 23 finishers (including 4 women).

I’d love to do it again but it looks like that was the sixth and final running of the event. I’m lucky to have been able to do it this year. It was EPIC!