To West Yellowstone
Between the adrenalin from the send off at the first checkpoint and riding pretty hard the warmth was finally coming back to my body. I paused at the base of the Chick Creek Climb to take off all the layers. I was really excited that 40+ racers from this morning had packed the trail up the climb that I had to walk earlier.
The route basically makes a lolly-pop. Then on the second time around the loop we take a right onto a trail to West Yellowstone. The climb was perfect and I barreled down the Fish Creek Trail. I kept my eye on the GPS and 6 miles from the checkpoint I stopped.
I starred in disbelief as two or three fat bike tracks made a right and went up a narrow snowmobile trail. Walking tracks confirmed my fear that this ride so to speak was over. To the left was a sign signifying that indeed this was the trail to West Yellowstone.
After two hours I managed to walk 5 miles. I ran into some snowmobilers stopped alongside the trail. One was taking photos and the others cheering. It really lifted my spirits. Gave a reason to the walking. As the evening wore on I got on my bike more and more. I imagined that Andrew Kulmatiski had rode all of it and must be ages ahead by now. I just wanted to get to West.
I was at mile 46 when JayP came by on a snowmobile again. It was all I could do to crack a smile. It was so hard to keep riding in the unsettled terrain. And it was snowing again. And apparently we were near the top of the climb for the day.
Earlier on the climb someone had passed me riding his bike. I was astonished to see someone riding. I was getting killed by everyone that found a way to ride. So after the sound of JayP’s machine faded in the distance I let out air until I had 3 pounds or so in the back tire. I jumped on and was happy to learn I could start riding. With just under 20 miles to go this was great news.
Think about it. Walking at 1.5 miles an hour just how long would it take me to get to West Yellowstone? Right! And I was starting to believe I would not make the cut off. But now I was riding and it felt good. I caught back up to the fella that had passed me earlier.
“When is the cut off in West, do you know”, I asked.
“I think it is 6 in the morning”, he answered.
Darn … I could definitely make the cut off. I kind of wished I could be taken out for going to slow. But now with my new found riding skills on a super soft tire I was guesstimating I could make it by midnight.
I passed one more person who announced that he “sucked at this kind of riding” to gain 3rd place. I started watching Rebecca‘s and Andrew’s tracks. And it looked like Rebecca caught up to Andrew. And at times maybe even took the lead. I could only imagine the battle unfolding at the front.
It got dark and I made note about the beautiful alpine glow … but did not care. Seems I was getting close to West Yellowstone and started to descend, which seemed more cool then the great views. The riding got better and better. And so did my hopes of finally getting to West. Beyond that … I had not made up my mind. About continuing past West. It was incomprehensible. Then the grade turned upward again. Not another climb? No way? Or was this flat and I was just not able to pedal any more?
The climb out of Dry Canyon was brutal. Finally I succumb to the torture and stopped. I looked down and I had been ridding the rim. I had a flat tire which made this seem like a steep climb. Maybe I had let out to much air, or maybe it was the drop in altitude, or the temperature. Whatever the reason I decided to just pump it up and continue.
I had stopped drinking and eating thinking I was so close to West. But really how stupid is that? The GPS clearly showed I had ten miles to go. I wasn’t almost there. But I just trudged on and wanted to get this leg over. And besides the pedaling was a lot easier now. When I passed a sign for Whiskey Trail I picked up a fresh groomer track, nice and hard. Sweet.
I could start to see lights, West perhaps? But then the pedaling got hard again. Another flat. Shit! I proceeded on pumping it back up … again. Mike Barklow pulled up.
“Are you OK?”
“Yea”, I lied completely, “just had to air up a flat.
“I know how that goes”, he shouted and accelerated down the hill. He could smell the barn as well. I finished up and headed down after him.
Then he pulled away and I knew why. And I was right. Stupid tire was flat again. I took a break and change out my tube, something I should of done the first time. After 20 minutes I was on my way again. Completely proud because this time I took off my gloves and did what needed to be done and then got warm stuff back on. Previously at the “boil water station” I failed to take off my damp gloves and waist time. I was starting to feel like a pro out here. Two miles down the trail I was warm again and on the outskirts of West Yellowstone.
“Yea Bill”, I heard Jay yell as I opened the door to check point two, a nice condo in West. “How do you feel?”
“Yea … ah … OK I guess … kind of destroyed … a little”