I wasn’t really sleeping. I don’t think. I bivvied out under a swallow’s nest and momma bird was dive bombing me. I was laying on my side looking past my bike at the aspens which seemed to be glowing under the moonshine. Suddenly a light flashed across them. Then again. I jumped into action and started preparing to ride.
“Shit”, I whispered to myself, “Tracy is going to ride all night”.
But something seemed strange. Like a inner feeling that reality is slightly off. Maybe this feeling came from actually waking up from a dream. I suddenly realized I was sitting in a dark forest all alone. No lights coming up the trail. No sounds of gravel under tires. Nothing. I let out a sigh of relief.
I wondered to myself why I was imagining things. Is the pressure from being in the lead cracking me? Was it the Perseid Meteor Shower expected to peak over the next few nights. I fell back asleep.
Much of the morning I sat in 4th place behind Joel Ahlum, Brian Remilinger, and a off the front Tracey Petervary. I figured we were all going to ride for second place because Tracey was obviously going to smoke it this year.
Later that morning I passed Joel and Brian who were stopping for a snack. I shot by with a warm smile and they cheered me on. It was obvious we were all having more fun then usual. Fabulous day so far. Then they caught back up to me as I stopped for a “water filter” break. We were over the initial 30 mile climb and heading across Sleeping Child Divide.
I rode off saying, “I’m done filtering” … “see you down the trail”, and assumed my 133 beats per minute pace was really starting to pay dividends. That was the last I saw of them. Except when I THOUGHT I saw them as I approached the East Fork. I looked behind me to see a rider approaching pretty quickly. I waited for them to pass. So much for my steady pace idea. But it was not them.
“Tracey? What happened? Did you …”
“I missed a turn but it was no big deal”.
“So much fun … right”?
“Yea … I get so caught up in it all I forget I am riding”.
I was feeling really good and figured I might have a chance if Tracey stopped in Jackson for dinner. I could keep on riding and try and get a lead before anyone would know what happened. My pace was maintainable and I felt fresh. The ketogenic fat burning plan was working well.
The decent into the East Fork I was able to out ride Tracey and gain a tiny lead. I figured this was another tidbit of an advantage I had and wanted to make the most of the downhill’s. The difference in descending styles basically came down to my ignorance of the possibility of running into a big animal, like say a bear. While my racing partner would chime her bell while approaching openings and corners.
When I stopped to soak my feet and filter water Tracey did not come by until I was about finished. Soon I was back on my bike. I wanted to see how long I could climb before she would come past me. We were heading up Shultz Saddle now and the climb was made even more hard due to the afternoon sun. While cresting the top a couple ATVers told me she was about a mile back. And that was the last I heard of anyone.
I stopped to filter before crossing highway 43 onto the Foothills Road. Finally! I was in the Big Hole. This all-fat-for-fuel thing was really working out for me and I was ecstatic. The only thing that could put a rub in the ride was the fact that my only two training rides were the Butte 100 and the 24 Hours of Rapelje, both of which I didn’t finish. That and maybe a handful one hour rides. But as of 6 PM at mile 111 I was feeling great. And after a slight navigational mishap, thank goodness for my GPS, I was bombing down an easement heading for Jackson.
Where was everyone? The route sheets obtained the day before were totally backwards. A left meant right and vice-a-versa. The maze of access roads and easements would definitely affect the outcome of the race. Lucky for me I knew this area well. When I came to a locked gate that said “Private Property Keep Out” I knew I could jump the fence and ride through. Mo and I were allowed through there last October. The land owner was nice and I looked forward to meeting him along the way to explain the need for this passage.
My plan was to ride right past Jackson and into the night to get a lead. But by the time I got into town I really wanted a bacon bison burger. Besides, I wanted to see if anyone made it through the maze of roads as well as I did. My burger arrived, I loaded it into my jersey, and took off toward Skinner Meadows. I took about 30 minutes out of my busy schedule to get lost in the dark. So instead of bivvying out at Skinner Meadows I decided to go further on and try to make Bloody Dick pass. Halfway up the climb I decided to bivvy out. “What a day”, I thought to myself as I dozed off.
After the nightmares about Tracey’s lights shinning on trees and a couple more dive bombing missions by mama swallow the night sky started to lighten up. It was time to get going again.
The freezing cold air was an expected burden as I bombed down the pass. In fact so cold my eyes were tearing pretty badly. I tried to look at my GPS through the tears and leaned forward to get a better glimpse at the screen. Then it happened … a pivotal mistake. Maybe the only mistake of the adventure. And a doozy for sure.
I hit a water bar and started soaring through the air. If the bump would of been expected all would of been fine; but it wasn’t and I threw my weight back to salvage the mistake. I didn’t crash but landed hard. In the process my feet came unclipped and I landed on my seat with feet sprawling to the sides like I was riding a bronco. I pulled back the break levers and came skidding to a stop. The damage done, landing on the seat so hard I got a abrasion on my undercarriage. Spandex + sudden pressure = friction burn. I figure it for a bruise and started riding again. Within the hour I realized that maybe this new injury was going to haunt me.
I pulled over and felt around under the bike shorts. I felt a couple ripples of skin right where I sat on the seat. And now the new injury was seeping fluid and sticking to my bike shorts. Every time I pulled the material away another layer of scab would come off. Most of the day I stood on the climbs to relieve the pain but it was definitely affecting my ride. Hell, it was going to affect the rest of the ride. I suddenly felt worried for the first time.
There is a considerable amount of climbing up Medicine Lodge Road and just when you think you are at the top … your wrong. The riding was made extra long by the new “problem in the undercarriage”. I took numerous breaks to ease the pain and tried pedaling seated to one side.
Then after a long climb in the heat of the day I had reached a familiar spot. The Big Sheep Creek Road to Lima has some sentimental memories for me. Two years ago it was Mo and I’s first bike pack route. I remembered the time we stopped for water and sat mesmerized looking at maps, eating jerky, and trying to decide a route. In fact most of the ride was all about appreciation for me. The big Hole where we have had numerous snow adventures and now in this canyon. Appreciation trumps butt pain any day. Well … almost.
“Um … hey how is it going?”
“Going to have to troubleshoot your spot …”, the conversation started and I found it so surreal. After all those times following this guy riding the Tour Divide, he was now following my dot. Apparently my spot had not been working since I crossed the East Fork. So I guess no one was following my spot. Just then tons of text messages started lightening up my phone.
“Are you dead … or alive?”, came a text from a friend who from this point on was my eye in the sky and inspirational motivator. I started replying and texting around to get a idea of where I was at and give updates. I was really quite busy for about 45 minutes typing away while sprawled out under the gas station gazebo in Lima Montana.
After about a hour Matt and I determined that the GPS unit had burned out. I was bummed out that I was not being tracked because all the way I felt as if others were watching. I truly was out here all by myself.
As I headed out to the Centennial Valley I did feel alone. I did have Matt’s advice on where to find shade and some texts from friends warning me about snakes. Other then that it was the animals I turned to for my social needs. Except for the snakes. After one great little conversation with a horse at a local watering hole I started feeling impatient. This place seemed to just swallow me up … a little of a time warp as well. I felt like I was stuck in the middle of this huge basin and I would never reach the other edge.
To combat my insecurities I decided to make it all the way to Island Park. But the more I tried to conquer the never ending valley the more it’s vastness swallowed me. A little frustrated I would yell out my gripes as if there was some panel of jurors listening to my testimony. The only comfort I had was the fact that my shorts had dried to my wound and if I kept seated would go numb couldn’t feel the mornings mishap.
“Updated goal … Lakeview”. “Oh wait”, I thought to myself, “I have only gone 10 miles” … “That’s not much. I must be slowing down”. “Why am I talking to myself”?
With an hour until dark I was only at mile 282. Much later I finally rolled into Lakeview. It was dark and I was disappointed to find … well … not much. So I continued down the route. I wondered what kind of effort it would take to reach Island Park overnight. I simply could not find a place to Bivvy out so I kept going. For a little while.
My ass was really bothering me again so I found a secluded road that seemed to go into a vast dark chasm. I followed it until I was out of sight from the route and I stripped down and tore open a Action Wipe. I was in so much pain cleaning “the area” that I pulled out my sleeping bag and decided to lay down until it felt better. I fell fast asleep.
I woke up to the most beautiful sunrise … over a lake? I felt fresh and ready to ride so I just ignored the fact that I still had such a large valley to ride through. My spirit still felt optimistic when I realized I left my glasses back at the place where I spent the night. Joyfully I went back and scoured thought he tall grass until I found them. I wondered if anyone caught me over night and passed me. I did not care … I was going to finish this thing today.
I was on top of Red Rock Pass with such ease that I had to think that the previous day’s climbs must of been a nightmare. In fact biking seemed fun and effortless today. I suspect it was because I was finishing. I started to get “finish fever”.
Funny how things take longer then you think. My thinking was that the morning ride off of Red Rocks Pass would be a breeze. But as usual there is that extra climb. That oops section where you missed that corner. That freaking long valley you have to cross. But really in the grand scheme of things it was really just “down the hill”. And just like that I was eating breakfast at a Island Park restaurant.
Bacon that could be used as a hammer and an omelet that was made out of dinosaur eggs. I gladly gobbled it up and even splurged on my first carbohydrate of the trip. A piece of sourdough toast. Lathered with about a pound of butter of course.
I took my time getting back on the bike and took an opportunity to grab some cheese and nuts at the gas station. My ass was killing me again and it took a while to get going again. Once numb I was fine and enjoyed the large climb to the top of what seemed to be a large volcano. The landscape was fabulous.
On the way down into Idaho I was looking forward to a serious downhill. But what I didn’t realize was that I was bitten by the “finish fever”. I am not talking about the flu you catch in Finland on vacation. I am talking about how your mind throws away all that it knows because you are ALMOST THERE. Like when you get home after a long road trip and suddenly you have to go to the bathroom so bad you could supposedly die.
In the case of FitzyBarn I started skipping watering holes. Not eating according to plan. Just letting the plan go to hell because … I was ALMOST THERE. But I wasn’t.
When I emerged out of the forest and into the rolling hills and farmland I was reminded of Iowa. I wondered if I could endure Trans Iowa as I stood out of the saddle for all the rolling hills. Riding like that driving hard because of “Finish Fever”. Soon I was worn and started to wonder if I was ever going to get across the Teton Valley. And sitting was so PAINFUL.
The fever even contributed to a missed corner that took me even further out of the game. I was nearing Tetonia about 4PM on the Rail Trail when I looked down at my GPS to discover the route was no longer there. I re-traced back to find out the route had left towards Wyoming … and more rolling hills. Worst of all in the late day sun with a not-so-happy ass.
I was getting fried and the fever had me counting down the miles. I was at 418 miles with about 20 miles to go when I suddenly realized that I had not stopped for water in 3 hours and I had not taken a drink for 1. Plus I had not eaten anything since Island Park. Damn “Finish Fever”.
I had been texting my tweets so that Matt Lee could update the trackleaders website. I knew Fitzy was expecting my arrival that afternoon. I kept driving towards Victor … and Victor seemed to never come.
At 7:18 PM I stopped one last time to update my twitter account and reported that I was on the bike path about two miles from the finish. The BarnFitz was about to come to a conclusion. I arrived to a finish line constructed of flagging tape and the smiles of Jay P. and Scott F. After beer and pizza I bivvyed out once again … on Jay P’s floor. And I dreamed about people tracking me, following my tracks, as I pedaled nervously trying to get away.