Riding to the top of Blue Mountain with my friend was great, I wouldn’t change that. But there are some side-effects to joy riding the first 3 hours of the RMVQ. Specially when your desire is to set a new record. I needed to make up a half hour by the time I hit the first aid station on Kona Bridge. I rode at a higher intensity then the previous year but when I reached the end of the Grave Range I was even further behind pace. The big snow storm the days leading up to the event had the course super saturated and there were lots of huge puddles, each at the bottom of a screaming downhill. I had to slow down and find a way around. Then start a fresh up the next climb without enjoying the benefit of momentum from the speedy downhill. So the puddles got me.
I pulled into the first aid station with the idea in my head that this would be an epic RMVQ instead of a record breaking one. Already out was Norman who was determined to be the first non-Bill finisher. He took one look at the snow and bypassed the a-frame on top of Snow Bowl. I was anxious to see this snow and see if I could make it to the next aid station without abandoning the course. The RMVQ has been completed by yours truly every year since I started it and this year I wasn’t about to let it be the first to have no finishers. I was the only one left. I spent minimal time with my lovely aid person and headed up the long climb to the a-frame.
The climb was long but I expected it to be. What I never ran into was the huge snow pack reported earlier in the day. But as I climbed up the mountain everything got wetter and wetter. When I swung around the last switchback to the a-frame there was around 4-6 inches of snow. It was easy enough to pedal through but when I arrived at the a-frame it was apparent that I was going to have a “interesting” time descending the “Bear grass Highway” (A sweet single track section that in the summer is a hoot). I shoveled the snow from the front of the door and went in.
It seemed warm inside. That is because it was 34 degrees outside and dropping as the sun started to set.
“A frame snow bowl. 60 miles 10000 feet vert so far
I typed this out on my phone and tweeted before I went out on the deck to post a “Marcy Photo”.
I put on every piece of clothing I had but as I descended I became cold. Add to that numerous crashes due to deep snow that had blown into the bowl. It was like descending a luge track that had 3 inches of fresh snow on top. The decent was tricky … but fun too. I reached Snow Bowl Lodge and ripped down to the Ravine Trail to begin my final ascent to get to Aid Station 2 in the Rattlesnake.
The sun had set and my lights burned into the dark ravine as I climbed a local trail known as, interestingly enough, the “Ravine Trail”. My goal was to make up time even though hopes of setting a new record had vanished with my slow decent into Snow Bowl. Now I was just trying to finish the RMVQ in 24 hours. Any more lost time and I would fail. I climbed fairly well and reached the top to post another “Marcy Photo”. Soon I would be in the Rattlesnake Recreation Area parking lot.
I shot down the “Drop Out” trail and my mind drifted to aid station 2. Would the parking lot party still be raging? How much snow would be on top of Sheep mountain? Would I be able to stay warm enough on the next leg?
“Shit”, I screamed as I neared “Sawmill Gulch”.
I left my flat pedals and snow boots in Bozeman. Now the question was how to get my booties to survive some extreme hiking on rocky terrain. The Sheep mountain leg was going to be epic enough. Now I had to do it with my bike shoes and clipless pedals. I shuttered and I though of how long of a hike might be in store for me on shoes designed to never touch the ground.
Soon the trail took its toll on my concentration to worry. I started grinning wildly and screamed excited phrases into the night air as I ripped around corners and dropped off the ridge. I raced down “Sawmill Gulch” taking air off the big water bars and dashed into the “Maditory Singletrack”. This twisty piece of goodness took away all the pains of the previous 9 hours. I swerved around the trees as blissful and nimble as an owl. Music blaring in my ears I finally broke out into the parking lot and skidded to a stop. No one there except for one car, a recognizable car. It was Mo and Norman.
“Holy cow that was fast, I mean we figured it would take you 15 minutes to get off from Ravine but had no idea”
“It was fun, I am having a great time”
Shivers were rippling through my body. All the descending had frozen me to the core. Still … What a great ride so far.