According to my GPS I had another 8 hours until I got back to Togwotee Lodge (track). That is the last time I saw Mo … back at the start of the race. But now I was out in the middle of nowhere in a snow storm. I had been warned that if I took a certain turn onto the 35 mile course I was “on my own” and that no one would come to my rescue. And now there was a legand, one that has won Tour Divide and Idatasport Invitational, in front of me. I followed Jay Petervary’s every move learning how to race across snow.
The first 2 hours of the 2012 Togwotee Classic I was being schooled by everyone. In that time I learned some valuable lessons. And with everything I learned it was my turn to work a little for the cause. I pedaled ahead of Jay to take a turn into the fierce headwind down the South Fork Spread Creek drainage. I quickly realized that it was a lot tougher to lead into the wind and waited for the inevitable to happen. Jay would just roll by and drop me.
Up to this point I was wondering what the hell I was thinking, trying to be a snow bike racer. At the start I was stopped about a half dozen times to let air out of my tires. Everyone was riding their bikes and I was running. WTF? Lesson number one was learned pretty fast. As low as you can go with tire pressure. I notice instant improvement but the damage had been done and Jay was no where in sight. I lumbered along and tried to fake it but it was obvious I was a greenhorn.
Lesson number two soon came out of necessity rather then watching one of my heroes do it correctly. I wanted to be a student of Jay P but found him to fast to follow. My problem … couldn’t stay on my bike. No traction. So when the trail turned downhill for a moment I risked my life and let it rip. Soon enough I had the leader in sight again but my tank was getting empty from all the effort. One other rider Adam Leifelman used my wheel to gap up with me and we had exchanged comments on how fast Jay was going. My contribution was that I needed to loose some weight and that I as to fat to be a snow bike racer. He just laughed and agreed. How was Jay riding everything we had to push?
As we bombed into the valley we were now in control of the event and pulling away ever so slowly. A great turning point for me is when jay started pushing the hills and I was able to catch up finally. It was time to learn and I mimicked all his movements. How he used the trail markers to navigate instead of the most recent snowmobile track. His ever so light pedal stroke to stay on top of the fluff and keep the precious momentum going. And now I had learned enough and was feeling like a big part of the race. Even leading for now. I was in heaven. Then the consistant Carbo Rocket intake started to pay dividends and I found a little more speed. An hour passed and no Jay powering by. I stopped breathing heavily and tried looked back along this huge plateau. Nothing!
I couldn’t see him anywhere. My heart started pounding with that warm fluttery excitement that you get when you finally learn you are doing well. Out in front. I jumped back on and collected my thoughts. I needed to stay calm and not blow up. There was 15 miles to go and this was no time for excitement. I went into business mode which took me over numerous hills and valleys … each time looking back for the inevitable Jay to come powering by. But that did not come. I counted down the miles and connected on the CD trail. 10 miles from the finish. I saw snowmobilers stopped and cheering me on. Someone took my photo. I kept it as strong as I could through numerous crashes. Could this really be happening I wondered. Could I get back to the lodge before Jay?
Then I saw them. Two figures standing in the highway in front of Togwotee Lodge. It was Mo and Dave. I fished the loop. My first snow bike race. I held my bike over my head and celibrated my best effort of the year so far. And the best part … it didnt take me 8 hours to get back. I ended the loop in just a second under 7 hours.