So many good things have happened to me in the last 4 months. Every time I start to get depressed because I am not “organized” or my “training plan” has been disorganized I have to remember that the root causes are really good things. One good thing, meeting someone very special, is a perfect example. I am also learning and discovering more new things. Like my ability to love and care. And because every good person in your life will add good qualities to ones life you pick up new things. Like courage, the courage to know when what you are doing is more harmful then the excitement of pushing the limits.
As I stood in the Rattlesnake Recreation Area parking lot the night was in full swing. The temps were dropping and it was darker than my favorite coffee. I had been quickly trying to prepare for the Sheep Mountain leg and stay warm at the same time. Another cold tremor came over me as I looked up in the sky for my friend the Big Dipper. Nothing there. The decision was mine alone. The question which seems simple was a complex one for me.
Continue and slog for 5 or 6 hours with minimal gear. I could carry a down coat in case of an emergency and could sustain myself easily over night until help arrived. So in reality my life was not in too much danger. It would be uncomfortable, sure. But what part of the RMVQ is comfortable? I was perfectly willing to take the risk. I wondered if this type of drive and intensity is the very thing that set my end to be somewhere deep in the woods alone. Is it the very thing that keeps loved ones at a distance in fear they would be the ones to come and find my body. Is it why up until last year I have been pretty much alone and single?
I could stop and call it a night, giving up on the RMVQ. This would be something new to me and the thought of it sent another round of shivers throughout my body. This was something I could not bear to think about. No way I would give up. And normally those thoughts would keep me going but this weekend I was not alone. Two good friends stood in the parking lot in front of me. I shined my headlamp in their direction once again, giving up on finding the Big Dipper. I saw concern and despair. It broke my heart. I couldn’t quit this effort because of discomfort but I didn’t want to cause pain in the ones that loved me. I decided upon a plan. But this plan would take courage, the courage to walk away from intensity and focus. To walk away from the Sheep Mountain leg.
“How about this”, I sat against Mo’s car, shivering out another bout of tremors.
“I don’t do this leg. I go warm up, eat, and then Norman and I will resume from Aid Station 3. Norman, can you do the rest of the RMVQ if I ride with you?”
“I can do that, yes”
So we packed up everything and headed off to eat brats and organize and comeback for the rest of the event. Norman busily conjured up some contacts on his smart phone and began the process of organizing aid stations with riders for the last half of the ride. I downed 6 brats and everything that Mo could cook up. Then we rested and waited for our planned 1 AM departure. Our plan was to meet Alden and Lydia at aid station 4 in Turah. From there we would finish the RMVQ and turn a small setback into a successful effort. Norman dozed off and began to snore while I snuggled closer to Mo as silence filled the air.
Norman had set a phone alarm and when it went off all my ambition and focus was no where to be seen. I secretly wanted to get to it before everyone woke up and turn it off. I had been sitting there quietly contemplating what had happened so far and it startled me. I did not want to leave a warm house and food behind for some ten thousand more feet of climbing and tons of miles. And it was cold outside to boot.
Norman took off 20 minutes before me and I promised to catch up. And that I did, after freaking out he went the wrong way, right in the middle of the MitTower climb.
Norman & I just topped out on MitTower and posted a cp Marcy Pic – 2:09 am via twitter
I twittered our check point arrival and posted a Marcy photo as Norman caught up to me at the top. We had a short moment discussion on “what the hell we were doing” and started our decent to the Blackfoot River. The downhill was chilly and I stopped a couple times in fear that Norman was involved in a mishap. But he always popped around the next corner shivering violently. I could tell he was getting cold and his figures were becoming a problem. Soon enough we reached the valley floor where it was way colder then expected.
It was so cold the river was giving off fog which made all the trees and landmarks a ghostly white. The ride to the swinging bridge was very eerie but soon enough we did indeed arrived. We were all frosted over ourselves.
Norm and I at swinging bridge – 3:10 am via twitter
It wasn’t long before we were approaching Turah and in doing so a car started to pass us. I figured it was either a drunk driver coming home from the bar at 4 am or Lydia and Alden. I got over as far as I could and prayed. As the vehicle passed I saw Alden’s gleaming face. He was totally stoked to ride.
And so we meat our compatriots for the last two legs of the RMVQ. The band of riders prepared and I downed about 4 Lara bars and a bunch of Jerky. Carbo Rocket was still keeping me going but I was ravished and needed something solid … and … YUMMY.
The climb from Turah is brutal. It climbs consistently for 3000 vertical feet except near the top where it kicks up for good measure. I was glad to have company because last year I got to the top and passed out until a cold breeze woke me up. The toll started weighing heavy on Norman.
“I am falling asleep while biking”, he gasped as he bent over his handlebars.
It wasn’t long though before we were all riding again and I was the first to reach the top. I had a moment until they reached me so I wet forth in posting a Marcy photo and tried to tweet/post.
Can see dawn now. on 5 corners pass waiting for Alden, Lydia, & Norman to summit. Hour or two from Deer Creek. – 6:29 am via twitter
While I did finally manage to get something sent off via cell phone it wasn’t as smooth as one would think. Three times I fell asleep while typing the message out. Thankfully my companions of the night showed up and I came back to life.
The rest of the journey over to Pattee Canyon involved logging roads near Miller Peak. It was cold so we stayed together for the simple warmth of our company and friendship. Soon the day light filtered out the darkness and our spirits lifted. Once again we started chatting as the anticipation of sunrise seeped into our consciousness like a good cup of morning coffee. Lydia pedaled by me signing some tune. These guys were doing great.
“This is what it looked like when I was going up Blue Mountain yesterday … about this time … um … was that me”, Norman seemed to be caught in a parallel world that many of us 24 hour racers know so well.
We stood at the top of the Sam Braxton Trail enjoying the sunrise. I had been messaging the aid station people that we were arriving early.
My text messages were getting a little hard to read. But I am sure everyone understood. We were approaching the end of a long 24 hour ride. But we had one more leg to do. As I approached the last aid station a lone figure appeared in the empty lot. I jumped off my bike and threw my arms around her. It was a good feeling, probably the best of the ride.
Then the others arrived. Julie … Ed … Laurie all trickled out of a car and gave everyone congratulation hugs. It was a good scene. Mo served me up some more food and explained that we arrived so early she didn’t have time to stop for coffees or anything else. Julie did manage to grab some joe but most importantly out fashioned Lydia as the best dressed rider of the event. There is no way to explain the outfit … had to be there … it was awesome.
What is commonly known as the Thursday Night Ride crew did the last leg with me. Norman, Lydia, Alden, Ed, Julie, and Laurie all stood with me on University Mountain to post the last Marcy photo. Then it was all downhill from there. Icing on the cake as you will, or the RMVQ’s version of Champs Elysées. There was the congratulatory meet up at the base of MoZ and the finish just as previous years. And of course the breakfast at the Uptown Café. All good stuff.
The end went down as it always does in years past but this year it was new. This year no one finished the RMVQ but it was successful in many ways. Mostly though, I found the courage to stop the madness before it consumed me. I am not riding solo any more, I have others in my life.
Maybe the RMVQ will never be finished again. Maybe … but I cant wait for next year. Sheep Mountain and I have a score to settle.