I forgot to mention that somewhere between Gateway and Ash River shelter I broke my chain. No big deal. I am a professional bicycle mechanic by day.
So anyway: After eating, refilling my Camelbak and bottle, and talking with some other racers I was on my way. In and out in 45 minutes: a new record! It was dark and I didn't know how far I was going to make it before I had to sleep. I was hoping to get to Myrtle Lake shelter or better yet Elbow Lake and then take a nap, maybe even give the shiv-a-biv a try. After the first couple of huge hills the trail flattened out and I was riding easily. I was leapfrogging with a couple of other cyclists, but it was clear to me that they were faster overall.
Time and miles have a strange way of passing in the dark. Every mile seems to take forever, but before you know it you're there. I think it has to do with being unable to focus on anything but the here and now. It's a feeling I look forward to. I crossed the Elephant Lake road then stopped at they Myrtle Lake shelter for a few minutes to eat and sit for a few minutes, then Highway 23. After that the hills started back up in earnest.
I've gotten to know this section of trail pretty well, even in the dark, these past few years. I knew there were hills and I knew there were more than I thought (if that makes any sense). Somewhere in here I ran across Nick Wethington whom I had driven up with. He had left Melgeorge's as I was arriving and I was surprised to see him. We talked for a minute, but I wanted to keep going and he needed to eat.
Before long I passed the meadow where I had had to refill my Camelbak the past two years. I was looking forward to arriving at Elbow Lake shelter. Although I wasn't really tired I decided I was going to take a nap when I got there. I figured I'd put on my down jacket and snooze for a while then, in an hour or so, I'd get up and move on. Just to prepare myself for the hills ahead. Yeah, right.
When I got to Elbow Lake around 2 AM there were already two people there. One person was just leaving. The other was Charlie Farrow. Charlie is something of a hero of mine so to find him here in his sleeping bag was something of a surprise. I had figured that he would be almost to the finish by that time. I stuck to my plan, laid out my pad and put on my jacket. I slept pretty well for not being in my bag. I napped for a while, but just wasn't getting any rest. I was too cold. Finally I gave up and pulled out my full sleeping bag. That was the end for me. There was no way I was going to leave soon.
After a few hours of sleep I got up to pee. Charlie asked if I was going. I said I was going to pee. He may or may not have said something at this point like, "I'm staying until the sun is up." I may have said something like "Good idea, wait for the hills to go away." Who knows we were all tired, maybe it was a dream.
When I opened my eyes again there was light in the East. I started to get up. Charlie jumped up like he had just realized this was a race. We packed up. I gave my toilet paper to another guy who had camped out with us and we were off. Charlie dropped me immediately.
Hills, hills, hills. Sometime in the night a groomer had been through. There were only a few tire tracks in the soft trail in front of me. As I was going up my tires started to dig in and I'd lose momentum. Then I'd push. After a couple of those I dropped my tire pressure down to about 6 psi. I was back to riding the hills. I took some pleasure in riding over the footprints of cyclists who had walked before me.
My 24 hour goal was gone and my backup goal of 30 hours was unlikely. I sat for a few minutes and refilled my water at the Teepee checkpoint then climbed the final hill, Wakemup. From there on it was flat.
The trail was rougher, but harder and I pumped my tires back up to 8 psi or so. I was finally able to use the middle ring and push a little harder. It's true though, after wanting the hills to stop it is only a little while in the spruce bog before you want something other than flat. I made myself some cold coffee at the final shelter and rode in to the finish. No big deal.
As I've said before it was a bit of a let down. In 2006 when I finished it was my greatest achievement to date. Now it was old hat. Next year skiing or maybe someone is selling a Conundrum.