Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2 - Chasing Lima

Day Two: June 21
A camera flash just after 5 am confirmed that somebody was up and it was time to move. The stopwatch was still ticking. Most of us were on the road just before 6 am and feasting at a remote café by 7:30 am. The early start aside, the race felt like a holiday cycle tour. All the riders were enjoying each other’s company, the fine weather and excellent scenery.

Just the beginning of about a hundred tree falls - luckily most were hoppable.

Everyone carried a camera and looked forward to the possibility of a bear or moose sighting (as long as it wasn’t too close). We were heading for Mt Richmond, an area where delinquent bears causing trouble in towns are taken and released. I saw a small Grizzly in the morning when riding alone, after which I made more of an effort to stick with another rider. This turned out to be a Brit, Carl Hutching, an Iditasport champion. He’s about twice as muscular as I am; a good man to be standing next to should a hungry Grizzly attack.

I caught up to Carl on the climb after stopping at Lake Holland Lodge, where I was lucky enough to score a packed lunch just before they closed for a wedding. It was so hot I walked back and forth under the lodge's sprinklers.

Carl stops for a bottle recharge. Some environmental surveyors shared some water with us a bit further on. It was always a pleasure to stop and chat with somebody in the middle of nowhere.

What's my pack doing unzipped?! Most of the riding was smooth gravel roads - perfect for a rigid MTB.

Typical scenery in the Richmond Peak area.

Well into the climb - almost at the snowline.

Now we're talking. Gerald films Carl as we start a long trudge.

As we got higher the snow was banked up on a steep angle and eventually hid the track completely.

Despite surprising heat, countless tree-falls and difficulty following a track buried by snow, we made good progress. Nobody got eaten. By 11:30 pm I’d covered 241 km, but ended up in a one-horse town that was all closed up for the night. Half a Powerbar and a cookie sufficed for dinner. Geoff Roes and I tried to sleep on the local museum lawn, only to be woken by the sprinkler system and, later, a heavy downpour.

Day Three: June 22
The racing field was starting to pan out. John Nobile was off the front, riding through much of each night. Geoff chased until he could chase no more and then pulled out, exhausted. Another six of us battled on at a similar pace, sharing each other’s company, on and off, for the next few days.

Fred, Geoff and I head off for Lincoln, very happy that heavy rain had cleared while we ate a hearty cooked breakfast.

Some very nice fireroad after Lincoln - it wasn't all like that!

Feeling pretty chuffed to be clearing the Continental Divide for the first time.

The meadows above the tree-line contained acres of wild flowers

These mine relics featured in Kent Petersen's GDR blog. As I'm a similar age, I was keeping an eye on his early splits to check I was on target to make the race cut-offs.

By noon of the third day I was starting to feel the effects of the day before. My quads were spent and saddle sores had begun to develop. To compound things, I was riding totally solo and the navigation was taxing the old grey matter. The air was thin in the mountains and hot in the valleys. By 7:30 pm my day was done, with only 162 km covered. If things continued to get worse, the chances of making the cut-offs would be slim.

Fortunately, Carl caught up with me, looking as bad as I felt. We split the cost of a hotel room and shared a decent meal; recharged our batteries. By checking the race blog in the morning we could see that only three riders were ahead of us. They’d pushed on into the dark and explored various wrong-turns during a midnight thunderstorm. This race was like a roller coaster, with highs and lows aplenty, all transitory in nature.

Day Four: June 23
We entered some extremely technical terrain on the fourth day, which for me pushed all the right buttons. The organiser commented that I looked as if I was in a cross-country race, which was precisely where my mind was at. After a break, during the most intense afternoon heat, all the physical difficulties of the race were pushed to the back of my mind, hidden behind one single goal – reach Wise River Lodge before the restaurant closes at 9 pm. Thank God I made it. Nobody wants to see a grown man cry.

The Lava trail was the first serious test of technical riding skills.

On muddy section you could see who was in front of you, and the tree falls ensured a vehicle-free trail.

The rail trail between Basin and Butte. I caught up to Jenn and Carl in Butte and was starting to feel stronger.

The interstate into Butte had a generous shoulder - the aero bars were very handy here.

Day Five: June 24
We left the forest and began some incredibly tedious riding through arid ranch land. Luckily Carl caught up with me again and for much of the afternoon he shared tales of racing in Alaska. There were no shops until the end of the day’s 220 km, but I’d posted some treasures to a remote post office: a Powerbar, some chocolate peanuts and a can of peaches. We got water from small creeks – which had been contaminated by cattle – and treated it with iodine tablets. By evening we were wasted, again, but had now covered the 600 miles to Lima within the six-day cut-off. Incredible single-speeder, Jenn Hopkins, caught up a couple of hours later. We discussed saddle sore remedies and race goals over dinner. Carl apologised that he was going to have to race harder from now on. He was gone by 3 am the next morning and we never saw him again.

Catching up to Jenn after a sleep-in in Wise River. Right about now she put the hammer down and I struggled to stay with her.

If you insist.

What is this thing?

This sign was the only shade all afternoon. The red packet contains chocolate peanuts I'd posted to Polaris - a tiny town with a post office, but no shops. In fact, I saw no shops from Butte to Lima - almost 300 km.

1 comment:

David Blaine said...

Seeing poictures of the time we spent together makes me think about getting out on that trail again. This is a bad thing. How have I forgotten the difficulties and left all of those good memories behind. It was a blast. it really was.