The Big Lonely: A Recap


Photo credit: Seth Dubois (insta @sethdubois)

The Big Lonely Route:

I was drawn to the Big Lonely by the same person that drew me to ultra/bikepacking racing in general, Jesse Blough(@thegreatjesse). I've never really been a competitive person in a traditional sense but more so in a self-challenging sense, so when Jesse asked me to join his new team he was creating(@northwestcompetitive) that was more about challenging yourself to just be the best athlete YOU can be, I jumped on in.

He definitely inspired me to keep pushing myself and start signing up for my first races, including the first iteration of The Big Lonely 3 years ago in 2020. I ended up scratching that race due to weather conditions, shearing a tire sidewall, and just being way overpacked for a race(I was basically touring it, lol).

Nonetheless, I vowed to come back and finish what I started, and I had to skip last year (2021) because the new bike I was building was delayed heavily, so I didn't have a bike to ride, nor was I in the best headspace.

Luckily, this year lined up well.

Photo credit: Sean Dronia (insta @seandronia)

The look of disbelief (in the photo above) was that I set a goal and hit it. I was shooting for 60 hours to complete and did a little over that(60hrs 36min). My longest ride since I was hit in May was 45 miles, so I basically off the couched this thing.

Getting ready for this race, I had no idea how I was going to do, and I exceeded my own expectations with every pedal rotation. I think what kept me going was that after a rough year(jaw break, heartbreak, etc.) I spent September really just working on my emotional and mental health, perhaps not making the best decisions but doing things I wanted because they brought me joy. This led to more than a handful of late nights and early mornings(training for lack of sleep during the race, maybe?).

Being in a good headspace, I feel, was more important than any physical training I could've done during that time as well. The folks I mentioned and some I didn't were friends that made me some playlists for the ride. I had three different playlists I cycled(lol) through over the weekend.

Each as diverse as the love I have for them.

Photo credit: Sean Dronia (insta @seandronia)

My high during that race was definitely the first day. I hit three milestones that really got me lifted and feeling real nice; in one day, I not only rode my longest ride since I broke my jaw but tripled it, got further than I ever had in The Big Lonely, and broke that by 35 miles, and broke through my longest day in the saddle ever at 145 miles(110 previously).

I felt good enough to keep going too, but by 1 am that night in the Ochocos, the temps had dropped to around freezing, and I couldn't feel my feet anymore, so I stopped to sleep for a few hours.

The low was on the third day; after pushing my bike upwards for a while, I got to the single track around Paulina and hopped on my bike, only to realize that a saddle sore I had acquired had burst and would need frequent redressing for the rest of the ride. I would have trouble being in the saddle for the rest of the race. Luckily, I had only 45 miles or so to go, and most of it was downhill anyways.

Photo credit:Sean Dronia (insta @seandronia)
Photo credit:Sean Dronia (insta @seandronia)

As I kind of mentioned above, this race definitely confirmed that these kinds of events are more of a mental/emotional test than anything else. Your legs come back around if you keep pedaling, the back soreness comes and goes, and you get used to bruised palms, but you also can outrun the voice in the back of your head telling you to quit.

That's the real fight all along; you just need to keep telling yourself that it's fine and you're worth a strong finish. I'd like to do more of these events, too. The Big Lonely got my gears turning and questioning how folks do longer events like the Tour Divide and whatnot. I'd also like to come back and try to hit that sweet, sweet 48 mark for the Big Lonely. I'll probably play it by ear, though, and sign up for what sounds good.

Photo credit: Sean Dronia (insta @seandronia)
Photo credit: Sean Dronia (insta @seandronia)
 

Meet the rider/writer:

Photo credit: Colton Berk

Hey!

I'm Colton. I do bikes, coffee, camping, amongst other things. It's been a wild year of self-discovery and looking retrospectively, or as the band Rozwell Kid says, "I'm on a lightning bolt of cosmic self-expression."

What got me into cycling was living in the midwest, I was working at a coffee shop, and a group of messengers from the bay area were touring across the country and needing a lawn to sleep in. When I saw their rigs, it blew my mind that you could just put all your camping gear on a bike and go while being self-sufficient. A couple of years later, after bike commuting for a while, I realized you could do the same thing but on off-road bikes and ride into the woods, so I bought my first offroad bike, a Bombtrack Beyond, and fell in love with the sport.