Two Top Divide Dreamland
I was finally at the West Yellowstone checkpoint. I had been at it for 14 hours and it was a welcome thing to be indoors and get warm. Bonus! There was tons of yummy looking food. But I needed to stay on my diet of fats and stay away from carbs. I had not bonked yet in fact felt nourished … just pooped from riding. And I did realize that I had not eaten anything in a while. I looked around for my drop bag, because inside it was a soup mix I made special for this time of the event. Soup with chia seeds, butter, and MCT oil.
No drop bag. JayP scoured around and others looked around as well. Couldn’t be found. I felt a little discouraged. Trouble with the stove earlier in the day and then all the flats. And now my food was missing. I did what any panicking long distance racer would do. Served up a huge serving of stew and settled into eating a pound of candy nuts…. so much for the diet! Then I went next door to a toasty fireplace, put my feet up, and devoured 4 poppy seed muffins. It was like a luxury cruise.
I knew I was no longer in ketosis and if I wanted to continue I needed to take along a garbage bag of carbs to keep going. But I was not going anywhere. Not while I had good eats and a comfy spot in front of a fireplace. Then T-Race stirred … seems it was time to head back out. I searched my mind for excuses but they all seemed lame. Shoot … I might as well get going too. Besides I was feeling great now… high on poppy seed muffins!
Just as I asked to be “signed out” Jay approached me with my drop bag. I figured great I was all set and stuffed it into my frame bag. Yes, stuffed it into my frame bag and set out into the night. No, I did not get hot water and make my soup. I have to plead insanity because without a bunch of carbs … or any nutrition besides jerky bars this was a suicide mission.
It didn’t seem like a suicide mission … at least in the beginning. The trail was now groomed and hard as a finely packed dirt road. The riding was really enjoyable. In fact I could say suddenly I was having fun. Then the pitch turned upward. My mind went back to a discussion at the last checkpoint where Jay described these climbs as “punchy”. I was off my bike and hiking straight up to the Continental Divide. There is a range of mountains between West Yellowstone and Island Park where the trail called Two Top Divide Trail runs. Once upon the divide it wiggles into Idaho, back out, and then returns a couple times before dropping back down towards Henry’s Lake and the winds coming out of Red Rock Pass.
Once into a place called Tygee Creek Basin I was becoming exhausted and searched my bags for some carbs. Nothing but powdered mix and jerky bars. I should have stopped and made hot water but it was cold and I spotted lights coming my way. I climbed over the high point at about 8,200 feet and paused before descending.There were these ghostly white figures in the landscape. Beautiful monoliths that were once trees and rocks. But now they where huge statues of ice and snow. The stars above me were out in force and seemed to engulf me and the white goblins on that ridge.
My surreal world was interrupted by bike lights coming my way. I turned and bombed off the ridge. The decent was huge and I wanted to take advantage of any gravity fed “Free” cycling I could. I figure if I am not walking it is a good thing. And if I cover ground fast … well that is just pure awesomeness. The goal was to cover 125 miles as quick as possible right? My tactical error was to not stop and put on an extra coat.
At first the descending was fast and furious. Then after 10 minutes it became soft and I stopped paying attention to the contours of the trail and forgot about crashing. My pedaling became effortless and my wheels left the ground. I floated down the mountain in a dreamy haze. I let mother earth take over and let my senses drift off until I was in this world of comfort. No longer did I even need to breath. Everything was being taken care of.
I woke up to bright lights combing my way. I was picking myself off the ground and decided to bundle up. I was shivering when the light reached me. I expected it to be Tracey but instead a man’s voice shot out, “are you OK?”
“Yea, just putting on a coat”
“Pretty cold out eh?”
“Yea,” and as I pulled my puffy coat over my head the man with the light disappeared. Then I woke up from what seemed to be a dream. Did I really see someone just now? I started riding again. But the trail would not stay in focus. I fought back the urge to fall asleep.
Every time I encountered another person I shook my head and it made them disappear. I was involved in so many scenarios I couldn’t tell if I was dreaming or awake. I started to make a check list to determine if I was awake. If the scenario did not include a bike I was asleep. I sifted throughout the worlds until I found the one where I was riding my bike and put on the breaks. I stopped and stood there for a moment to give myself a pep talk. “Do not sleep, you will freeze if you sleep, do not sleep”. Something hit my leg, maybe a crocodile. I looked down to discover the biggest snake I ever saw. I screamed.
Something woke me up, I think it was someone screaming. It was cold and my bike had pinned me down holding my leg stead fast into the snow bank. I walked my bike to an intersection 20 yards down the trail and flipped on my GPS. We were to go right. I spotted a warming hut and recognized it from a reconnaissance photo Jay posted a couple weeks prior. I ran to it and looked for a way to turn on the gas. I wanted to warm the place up and catch a nap maybe. But no cookies … the gas valve to the heater was locked. But all this excitement did wake me up and I felt like I could ride again.
I rode the rutted and difficult route into the valley and as the sky turned from black to dark blue Tracey finally caught up to me. I was relieved to have someone to ride with. To keep me awake. And safe from the sleep monsters. We rode exchanging leads and words here and there. Companionship is what I need at this point. I needed reality, something concrete. And chasing Tracey through the drifts did just that.
When the sun rises it changes everything. In 24 hour racing all you have to do is make it to daylight and you get this extra surge of energy. The sun is a beautiful thing. When it came out on day 2 it did it’s magic again making my mood change from despair to hope and optimism. Tracey and I pulled into the final checkpoint at around mile 100 called “The Man Cave” at about the 25 hour mark. I proceeded in taking all my gear off dreaming of a hot bowl of my soup I had been carrying around. Word at the checkpoint is that Rebecca was “hurting” and everyone looked “ragged”, much like I probably felt. Tracey came alive and was out of there in a flash. It was the last dash to the finish line. I felt no such urge. I had this weird feeling that I needed “a moment”. I made my soup and fell back onto the couch.
In moments the dreams started up again but this time I knew I was safe. I welcomed them … fast asleep upon the couch in a place called “The Man Cave”.