Day 8: Rawlins to Silverthorne – 17:44 moving time and 19:21 elapsed, 226.3 miles, 10061’, 12.8mph, 119w
This was the most decisive day of the race and when I found myself as a racer in this race and seriously competing. It sucked that it took this long in the race to have a wake-up moment, but better late than never. I woke up and was mad at myself, and needed to talk to my parents to clarify what I was trying to do in the race. I called them as I was riding and knew that I had lost more ground, and had to stop sleeping as much as I did the night before. They of course were looking at keeping me safe and comfortable, and they thought I was trying to finish in 21 days, but I had to explain that I was shooting for 20 days and that I was having to work harder while awake to make up ground I was losing while I was sleeping. I equated it to the tortoise and the hare, and that I was going fast and doing well while riding, but sleeping for as long as I was, was putting me in a hole that was getting harder to recover from in the race itself. My parents got it, and I called Ellen next and she helped simplify things even more. I needed to not just wake up early, but rather, ride as far and for as long as I could, and if I had to sleep I needed to only sleep for 3-4 hours, and wake up four hours after my head hit the pillow. This is a race and it was time to act like it instead of sleeping as much as I would at home. I took her advice, motivation, and headed out toward Colorado.
In my state of mind, it was hard to process what I was physically feeling like and it made me question whether I was riding well because I was well rested, if I could reduce my sleep more, and how much to push during the day. All I knew was that I wanted to make up some ground that day, and make a big day of it. The day consisted of a long climb up Willow Creek Pass, and I knew I needed to get myself in a strategic position to hit Hoosier Pass the next day early and get back on track. I also had a nice “rabbit” ahead of me in Janie, since she was a day ahead of me, I could use her night stops as a guide to how far I could go and try to surpass if I could. I made a quick stop for provisions at the Trading Post in Riverside at around 9am and could feel riders just in front of me, and likely behind me, because the cashier said a rider had just been through there. My parents had told me that a few riders stayed at the hotel next door to me in Rawlins, and had left just before me and after me, so they had to be close.
The winds were steady at 10-20mph and at one point a dust devil blew across the road and hit me. It was scary to feel the gusts of wind and dust circle around me. I held on tight, shut my eyes and mouth, and tried to get low on the bike. It was only five seconds, but it could have been bad if it had been dark or if I hadn’t seen it to get myself ready for it.
There was a large moose on the side of the road by the creek outside of Walden, and it capped off my list of animals that I hoped to see on the trip. I rode hard until I got to Walden Colorado at 3pm, and I was out of water and food, but I had caught up to three racers and wanted to make it a fast stop to keep pace with them or pass them. I didn’t know it, but some of them were injured and wouldn’t be racing any longer. I had caught a guy from England named Andrew and we said “Hi” in the Shell station, but then he was gone. I rushed through eating and mostly put everything on my bike, and ate as I pedaled after him. I caught him on the flat just before the climb of Willow Creek. It was a weird sensation to see a racer far in the distance on long open roads, and inching myself closer to them. We chatted for a moment, but then he kept wanting to stay ahead of me, so I stopped to do a reapplication of Ora-gel where I had missed a spot earlier and let him go. This was the first spot where mosquitos were bad. They were bad enough that I tried to roll forward a minute and stop again to outrun the swarm, but they were on me. I made my stop quick and kept climbing.
The views were beautiful in the thick forest and the winding Willow Creek next to me. The sad part was the number of dead trees in the forest from what I assume was from a fire, or global warming related, or from either a disease or beetle. It was good to know that I had someone to chase down after the descent and I started wondering what my options were for the evening. Janie had stayed in Kremmling, and I figured I could get there easily, but that Andrew would also get there and may even push on. I also knew a slew of racers had passed me the previous night, and I would love to catch up with them or get closer.
Granby was on my list of places for food, but it was off course a mile, so I wasn’t willing to lose time for that. I rode past the Granby intersection, Hot Sulphur Springs, and passed Andrew in the flat. I was ahead of him and looked online for food close by before everything closed. The Parshall Inn was coming up and was about to close. I called them and ordered two quesadillas, a chicken sandwich, and chocolate milk. I pulled into the parking lot and it was gravel and I realized the Inn was actually a biker bar, but a really cool place. They had my food ready and the staff sat and asked me questions while I devoured my food. I took one of the quesadillas to go so I would have something to eat before bed. I knew I was passed by Andrew while I ate, but I knew he would eventually have to stop. Kremmling was 12 miles away, and I was hoping he would stop there since it was already 9pm when I left the bar, and getting dark. To my luck he did, and I rode through with Silverthorne as my goal for the evening. It was only 40 miles and I was hoping I could do that in 3 hours and be there by midnight. Little did I know that it was all uphill from where I was, and it had a tricky 16-mile detour around the Green Mountain Reservoir and through the town of Heeney.
It was almost 11pm when I made the turn from the highway and onto the old road that went around the big reservoir to Heeney. It was dark and the moon was starting to rise on the horizon to provide a bright reflection on the lake. Unfortunately, the road had no striping, no lights anywhere, was rough, and made me feel alone and a little dangerous because of the desolation of the area. Most of the race is on roads that are off the direct route and going through places that have very few people living in them or visiting them. It gave me a clear sense of “Don’t screw up and fall or anything, because no one will find you.” The route took me over a dam, across places with culverts and canals running water under the road, landslide areas, and winding descents and climbs. The disheartening part is that the 16-mile loop only put me back onto the original highway to Silverthorne that I had been on before.
I made it to Silverthorne at 1am and I pulled into the first motel I spotted, the Silver Inn. I rang the phone at the desk and a woman came out to get me a room. She said that another racer was in the hotel, and that she would put the continental breakfast out earlier than 6am if I was leaving early. I thanked her and told her that I would indeed be leaving early and would love some food to go. I checked online and saw that Pim was also staying in the town and Andrew was at the Super 8 in Kremmling, so my hard work and risk had paid off.