Inaugural Dinosaur 100 trail race still on in NW Colorado, offers adaptive options

Shelby Reardon
Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After working years to create, plan and execute the inaugural Dinosaur 100, longtime Yampa Valley resident Mike Mathisen isn’t going to let a global pandemic stop him from putting on the race. The already rural and socially distanced bike and foot races will go on as scheduled June 27 and Aug. 1, respectively, with some additional safety protocols in place.

The races will feature a staggered start and require face masks at all aid stations. Both the bike and foot race will start and end near Juniper Hot Springs, with the turn-around spot being on a Dinosaur National Monument service road. The adaptive routes will be half the distance since the route is so difficult.

Mathisen’s main inspiration for creating the race is to bring more attention to the Yampa Valley Trail, which runs entirely on Bureau of Land Management land in Moffat County. It’s primarily two track and allows electric bikes. Mathisen hopes the Dinosaur 100 brings more traffic to the trail.

“The only way trails become more accessible is if they get used or if somebody promotes them,” he said. “One way to get funding and more things done on trails is to make them more adaptive.”

Including an adaptive route is important to Mathisen, who has been a long-term year-round volunteer for STARS — Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports. There are many accessible trails within Steamboat, but there are few that bring adaptive recreaters into the backcountry. Most trails aren’t wide enough for an adaptive bike or don’t have a parking lot or surface at the trailhead flat enough to allow someone to get into an adaptive bike, many of which have three wheels.

“Making adaptive trails isn’t just about making the trail more accessible, it’s about making getting there a little more accessible, providing enough space for somebody in a wheelchair or who maybe has a tricycle with them to be able to maneuver so they can actually get on the trail,” Mathisen said. “Then, when you’re on the physical trail, the trail actually needs to be a little bit wider to accommodate equipment and other people on the trail.”

Mathisen also hopes the race is a way to bring more people to Moffat County as Craig and the surrounding communities begin to undergo some economic changes. He hopes the trail and the race are signs that anything is possible if you learn to adapt.

“As you know from all the articles, Craig is getting ready to go through a major transition with the mines and power company pending closures,” Mathisen said. “Getting this trail active and busy will help seed transition to a more tourism-based economy.”

Registration is open until a week before each race, and all proceeds will go to Mathisen’s nonprofit, Follow the Footsteps, which helps people with disabilities experience the outdoors.

The Dinosaur 100 is an out-and-back race and is not a casual course. Starting at Juniper Hot Springs, the trail immediately brings competitors up a mountain. The course then brings bikers and runners to Maybell before bringing them back south.

Eventually, the course crosses U.S. Highway 40 near the “I Do” Fire Monument before heading west to Dinosaur National Monument. Including the start and the turn-around point, there will be five aid stations on the course.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, participants will have their temperatures taken at the beginning of the race. There will be no drop bags, food will be prepackaged and water will be in sealed bottles. Support teams aren’t allowed near aid stations, and there can be no gatherings larger than 10 people.

Rules are changing on a weekly basis, though, so participants will have to keep an eye on the website for up-to-date information.

“We’re doing everything in our power not to reschedule,” Mathisen said. “This has been almost a four-year project for me. So, I’m ready for something to actually take place.”