Chris passes me at daybreak, but I’m a bit too cold to get going. It’s only in the morning that my drive to compete diminishes and I’m content to spend a little extra time mentally preparing for another day of riding. Seeing frost all around me last night I knew it would be cold in my damp 40 degree bag, so I wrapped my tent around me creating more moisture issues, but in the past this has worked, giving me another 10 degrees of warmth. My camelback hose is frozen confirming below freezing conditions. It’s another 3 hours of riding and pushing before I got to Silverton but it’s on an empty stomach as I’ve refrained from eating or drinking. I’m having the worst diarrhea of my life, but I like the tests this trip has put me through.
Keeping an eye out for the store, I spot Dan in town getting some breakfast. I decide to do the same. My goal now is to finish in 5 days but I know taking an hour now to refuel could save 3 hours later. I get two breakfast burritos, with the second one wrapped for later. I read about someone else doing this in a blog somewhere and being so used to “trail food” never would have thought of this on my own. The food takes a while but is delicious. I dry everything out, throw away some food I can’t stand the thought or sight of, and run to the store. I’m trying to amp up Dan as well but he doesn’t share my urgency. I figured I’d try riding with him for a bit but once I made that agreement was anxiously waiting/killing time at the grocery store. I ride back to where we have breakfast and he’s just coming down the road.
How singlespeeders are so strong I have no idea. He easily sets the pace up Molas and it’s only the fact that he needs to de-layer that I catch him. I don’t think our paces will be compatible, but he’s only human after all and later in the day, after 10 hours in his legs, he can no longer ride up what I struggle on in my granny gear. He has to put it into damage control mode and now we’re compatible.
Within two hours we catch Chris, and by the way, those were an EPIC two hours! We rode on the edge of huge valleys with the trail traversing the mountain walls. Plenty of flowers, plenty of small stream crossings, and a feeling size and open space you can’t begin to describe.
Chris kicks the pace up for a bit and I yoyo off the back of the group of three. I stop too many times, change my clothes, eat that breakfast burrito that despite looking and feeling like a tube of lead, feels great in my stomach, and take some pics. It’s on the descent that I finally make contact. Chris reverts to his former pace, and I move on ahead as I’m feeling good to ride many sections he chooses to walk.
Dan catches up in a bit and for a second it seems like the two of us are set to go, but he’s just too strong. I’m also losing power, what precious watts I’m putting out are being absorbed somewhere in the filthy, inefficient drivetrain. The bottom bracket seems to be the culprit but on further examination my two derailleur pulleys are frozen. I lie on my side, take out the tools and pull out the pulleys and oil them. They go back in easier than when I’m working on it at home and they spin now. Unfortunately it doesn’t make me fly up the hills but it’s for sure better.
Climbing Blackhawk pass there’s no sign of Dan, but I like the time I’m making. Having ridden the DDC a few weeks ago everything from here on out is familiar and I only have to double my race time from that day to estimate when I’ll reach Junction Creek. I look back and see Chris and that confirms how much time I loose with all my mini breaks. Come to think of it I’ll have to stop for food and grab some water soon.
I loved motoring down to Hotel Draw, moving at a speed that’s really too fast for my fatigue, flying over mounds of dirt onto flat landings. Brapp, brapp. I cruise past hotel draw, 5.5 hours at race pace, maybe 8.5 today. Back to climbing and suddenly Dan is in view ahead. Either he’s slowed or perhaps I need to upload my GPS data for the Strava challenge, because somehow I just closed a 20 minute gap.
Now we’re on the same pace, the same page, and we ride together to finish this thing out. We get small gaps on each other at time but they always close. It’s 9pm but I feel more like I have at 1am or 3am. It’s gonna be a long night and some limits will be pushed but I don’t see the need for sleep. What’s considered hard trail and a hard race (DDC) is easy compared to what we’ve been though. Indian Ridge is mostly rideable and the last hike a bike section before Kennebec is relatively easy (sorry Dan you weren’t expecting this).
Everything is different than three weeks ago and without much warning I spot the lake below and know it’s pretty much all downhill from here. I ride as much as I can of the technical descent and this gives me a little time to myself down below, to look at the sky, to reflect on the trip, to rest, to start to get cold. Nothing profound comes to mind. No emotions rise. I’m just a man on a mission and the mission is almost over.
I’m a little off on the descent from Kennebec Pass. It doesn’t help that my fork won’t give an inch and I feel like I’ve got carpel tunnel in both wrists five times over. My light is pretty fresh but I’m not processing what I see fast enough. I turn for a banked switchback and suddenly I’m pointed off the side of the trail. A huge waterbar fooled me. Luckily I stopped on a dime after realizing my mistake.
I wish I could have more fun right now. I think to myself how much I hate my fork but upon later reflection realize after 5 days of riding I will hurt no matter what.
So I don’t pin it the way my mind wants to. My mind, the most reliable equipment on this whole trip still finds going forward easy. It’s easier than finding a job or looking for an apartment, two horrors looming on the horizon. Riding is easier than managing the pressure and the stress of day to day life. It’s easier than figuring out what you really should be doing with your life. It’s easier than stopping and getting cold. Riding isn’t like yoga. It’s doesn’t require levels of concentration. It’s like a pull-up or a pushup – one dimensional, on or off, just do it or quit. This isn’t a nightmare, this is an escape. I’m just plugged in, watching a movie, nothing to think about, just along for the ride.
My throat is sore and I’m wiping my nose constantly. I’m so far bonked but I’m stubborn about eating. It doesn’t matter that I don’t eat. My food sucks and I’ll keep going.
I watch the mileage on the GPS and soon we’ll start climbing. During the DDC I caugh Kip on this section and he put me though some pain trying to drop me through 90% of the 1000+ foot climb. The result was, it went pretty fast. Even with that in mind the climb lingered forever. I pushed harder, sweated more intensely, but was stubborn about taking off my jacket. There was just a little emotion coming out. I wanted to pound the hill into submission and move it out of my way but the clock just ticked on.
At one point Dan began what seemed like a confession. I thought he was ditching me and my pace was too slow. Instead he claimed it was too high and he might rest. I practically called him a liar. Every time I lead he was on my ass. Every time he leads I yoyo off the back. I don’t know how that got resolved but he continues to follow.
It’s just 5 or 10 more miles of downhill and then some swichtbacsk and then a bridge and then make sure you stay right and stay on the trail all the way to the end. It’s really muddy down here and not much warmer so I creep through the puddles. Dan gains on me but then gets frustrated and I lead again, the last ½ mile. He calls out to tell me he’s going to pee but I shout back that we are done. I know we’ve got 500 more feet and it’s true, his piss can wait. We roll in and there’s one car there, my sister.
No great words can sum up the moment. In truth, we are really tired and all emotion and realization can wait but my hunger has me wired and lucid. I chat with my sister. We’re cold and pile in the car and stink it up. Dan is asleep.
I’m still stunned that my sister is here, at 4am awake and following the dots. It’s what I always wanted, just one person to be there (sure more would be cool too) for when I was finished, not just for the comfort of food or clothing, but to take a small part in what I’d done. This was a total surprise. I never asked and she never planned to make the trip from Fort Collins to Durango, but on Thursday night she must have had the same feelings as me. If I’m going to wreck myself, riding through the night for 5 days, there should at least me someone there when I’m done. That for me was emotional.