To be specific, Jefe will say that you can do more than you think you are capable of. And truth be told, he will show this to you.
It’s amazing what you can do if you have your heart and soul wrapped into it.
This is Jefe Branham who we visited with in Gunnison Colorado last week. While it is snowy and cold in the late fall, Jefe is consistently training for his next race — his next challenge.
He blew into Gunnison in 1992 and his outlet to the backcountry was snowshoeing and snowboarding. “We were just posers back then.” It took only a season or two before he wound up with a pair of cross country skis and the glide had him hooked. To share some insight on who Jefe is, it was this same year he decided to do the Grand Traverse.
For those who are not familiar, the Grand Traverse is no casual affair. This race is a 40+ mile tour through epic Colorado backcountry, summiting mountain passes over 12,000 feet — and for one at Star Pass, you need to be there by around 7:00am (20 miles from the start) just to continue the rest of the way — climbing almost a total of 8,000 vertical feet and racing from Crested Butte to Aspen. The start is at midnight. Check out the specs of this race here.
Jefe tries cross country skiing for the first time in his life and a few months later he takes on the Grand Traverse. “I stepped in when a friend broke his thumb. Three weeks before the event.”
Authors note: I have raced the Grand Traverse four times — each time is an epic experience. And no ordinary person ‘steps’ into the Grand Traverse.
Jefe Branham is no ordinary person. He is a person in pursuit of a limitless boundary–and he is out to prove that boundaries are truly limitless.
Jefe is the current champion and record holder of the Colorado Trail Race. He holds the fastest record from his winning finish in 2012 at 3 days, 23 hours, and 38 minutes. In 2013 he repeated his win with a time of 4 days, 4 hours, and 14 minutes. The slower time was due to reversing the route and adding another 50 miles to the distance. The Colorado Trail runs from Denver to Durgango (2012 route — in 2013 it ran from Durango to Denver). It covers more than 470 miles and climbs more than 65,000 vertical feet. Folks, like Jefe, ride the trail completely self supported on their mountain bikes.
The first time Jefe raced the CT was in 2007.
When asked how he got into the long distance endurance riding he shared a story of backpacking. Jefe was way into backpacking after he took a break from snowshoeing and snowboarding. In 2001 he picked up a ‘bob’ trailer to help him access trailheads and get out with his loyal, four-legged, adventure buddy, Wiley. He had no car and he thought he could bike to the trailheads and backpack from there. It just so happened, the convenience of his bike was hard to leave.
He was three days into an eleven day trip on September 11, 2001. Most of us born before 1990 remember where we were on this fateful day. Jefe learned about 9/11 from another trail user outside of Durango. Jefe was riding from Durango to Gunnison with Wiley. As he left a conversation with a small group one guy turned around and asked him how long he had been out on the trail and if he had heard what had happened. Jefe replied “no.” The guy explained the events as best he could and it blew Jefe away.
“I wouldn’t shit you about that. It’s gonna be a different world you’re going back to” was the individuals parting words.
Jefe had another eight days of space, time, and trail in front of him before he ever came back to that ‘different world.’
In 2013, Jefe has his sights on larger races, like the Tour Divide for 2014. (anchor link http://tourdivide.org/) The Tour divde riders complete 2,745 miles from Banff Canada to Antelope Wells New Mexico in the U.S. Thru riders climb more than 200,000 vertical miles and they complete this in 16 days or more.
Jefe rode this in 2011, averaged 167 miles per day and finished 2nd place — on a single speed.
I did it once on a single speed. I wont do it on a single speed this next time.
When asked if there were bigger races he gave a classic Jefe smile and said “Yeah, it’s the triple crown of bikepacking.” This includes the Tour Divide (2,745 miles), the Colorado Trail Ride (470+ miles) and the Arizona Trail Ride (750 miles). He may place this in his schedule for 2015.
We asked Jefe what can be learned after days of sleep deprivation, gas station nutrition, and bumping, dusty trails. He replied:
Ultimately its about pushing yourself.
You learn to appreciate good people and kindness. Experiences like these strip it all away to the core.
If you are in Gunnison, stop by Rock N Roll (insert link) to find him wrenching on bikes during his working hours or catch up with him in the backcountry.
Jefe’s parting words?
Many people have lost connection to what they are capable of doing. So much of it is mental. Everyone is capable of so much more.
Jefe continues to push his limits and he has no idea when it will stop. We seem to think he will be spinning tires in his grave — should he ever slow down enough to be stopped.
Here he is showing off his “race townie bicycle.”Share