There was nothing hurried about this morning. As part of my "Brush Mountain Lodge experience" we had asked for breakfast at 7:30am, much to Kirsten's relief. I think she gets a few too many 4am departures and having gentlemans hours was a nice change.
She whipped up a huge stack of blueberry pancakes for Tom and I. Far more than we could devour (I downed 5) and we washed these down with coffee and orange juice. The leftover pancakes were rolled in foil and inserted in my frame bag for later in the day.
Kirsten presented Tom and I with freshly washed kit as well. It felt soo good to slide into clean kit and I am sure we were much more pleasant for others to be around as well!
Tom was on the phone to his wife so I signed the guest book with some lame comment (not my strong suit) and said my goodbyes and tried to express my gratitude to our lovely host, Kirsten, who sent me on my way with another HUGE hug. Happy Days!
I stopped just up the valley to take in the scenery and catch my breath. It was all uphill again this morning and there was a killer pass at almost 10 000ft. But for now I was feeling pretttty goood.
Clean shaven..and well....just clean!!
There had been huge amounts of rainfall in Colorado in the month preceding the race so it was looking lush and green.
The climb took me into groves of Aspens which for some reason make me feel good. There is just something about these trees that make you go "wow" and relaxes the soul.
I went from "wow" to "ow" pretty quickly though as I climbed the watershed divide some 15 miles before Clark. Maybe I should have held onto that bear spray for a bit longer as it was looking like bear country again?
It was purely hike-a-bike for me this morning as the mountain reared up quite steeply to it's summit.
The views out to the east were quite nice.
But the descent off the mountain down toward Clark was anything but nice. It was steep and ROUGH. I had to pick my way through washouts and rocks. In hindsight this was exactly what New Mexico roads were going to be like-little did I know it.
After the pounding that my arms took on the descent I was glad to get onto some silky smooth dirt roads that led to the little town of Clark and more importantly, it's store! Here I met Bill Peshka sitting outside enjoying a cold drink on this hot morning. The store itself was super busy and I just bought a cold Starbucks Frappacino to wash down my leftover pancakes.
The road from Clark to Steamboat was sealed and I flew along here at 30+km/h. Clearly, I was well rested for a change and it showed.
I followed the bike trail into Steamboat as it criss-crossed the Yampa river.
It goes right by Orange Peel bikes where I stopped to get some work done. I needed a new chain, a new rear Maxxis Ikon, a re-wrap of my right aerobar grip and the Stans topping up both ends. Patrick D was there, sorting through his gear while the mechanics worked on his bike. I was a bit surprised to see him as he left Brush Mtn at about 4am but he explained that he was getting a full drivetrain replacement plus a new frame bag as his old one had a busted zipper from the mud on day one. I reminded him about soaping the zip when it gets muddy to stop it busting as I am sure it saved mine on day one.
I grabbed some lunch and looked at the map while my bike was worked on. An hour turned into nearly two before they were done as they said they needed to replace my rear shifter inner cable. I was dubious of the work as they hadn't replaced the outer as well. My doubts would be justified just a day or so later.
I picked up my sun sleeves and the next series of ACA maps from the Steamboat post office and was mightily relieved they were there. Even though I had the gps track and my route notes, there is just so much information on the ACA maps.
Leaving Steamboat I bought a few more drinks as it was now hot and quite humid. Very much like Brisbane weather. The trail wrapped around Stagecoach Reservoir and I stopped at the boat ramp to wash my feet and legs off, cooling down in the process.
What I didn't realise until too late was how little resupply there was going to be in Colorado. I sort of figured that in this well populated area there would be gas stations and small stores but the ACA route seems to pride itself on missing any form of resupply! I had enough food for today but it would be getting slim by the morning, meaning I would need to push on a bit tonight to position myself for the morning.
Looking at the map as I rode I could see that I would need to climb Lynx Pass at 8937ft to get to Radium. While there wasn't anything at Radium, it was only about 20 miles (32km) from Kremmling, a 2-mile-off-route town. What I didn't really notice was how many up and down pinches there were between myself and Radium.
I worked my way along, all the while climbing toward Lynx Pass. I topped up my bottle from the cleanest bit of Morrisson Creek. None of the creeks looked very pristine around here (being cattle country) so I took no risk by popping an Aquatab into the bottle.
Finally cresting Lynx Pass I was very tempted to stop at Lynx Pass campground but I would be leaving myself a long ride to breakfast in the morning so I continued, guessing on about 2 more hours of light yet, even though it was getting a bit dark.
So began the saga of dropping down a steep descent, then climbing a steep pinch only to do it again. I found, to my growing anger, that the mechanic at the bike shop had adjusted my brake levers out from the bars "to give me more lever before they hit the bars" even though I had not asked him to do this and had ridden the bike 2523km (1568mi) the way it was. It was now a real stretch to reach the brake levers and when I did, the brakes came on instantly! Grrr. On my bike, when descending or riding technical stuff, you ride in "the drops" and yes, while it felt like the levers came in a long way when you were on the hoods, they were perfect when you were in the drops. I adjusted the pads out to compensate until I would have more time to look for the lever adjustment in the daylight tomorrow. Bloody hell, it is hard to find a good mechanic who listens and I paid a lot of money for that service! Double grrr.
I was now in "getting it done" mode and rode like I was in a race. Racing sunset to get to Radium that is. I had to cross Rock Creek and seeing no dry crossing, charged through. Almost right away I thought "thats not a good idea so close to dark" but it was too late, my feet were soaked and I felt my achilles tighten up and go squeaky (yes, my achilles, not anything else!) for the next few kilometres.
The whole saga of climb/descend, climb/descend repeated itself many times and in the dark became even more frustrating. The map said "Radium, at the end of a long, steep descent" so at the top of each descent I wondered if this would be it.
On one of the descents I crossed a small, fast flowing creek and began another steep climb in the dark. I stopped and looked back into the blackness toward where I could hear the water flowing loudly. Screw this, I am never going to get to Radium at this rate. My legs are simply empty with nothing more to give today.
So I rolled the 100 metres back down to the creek and found a small flat area right next to the road, beside the creek. I decide that as I have not seen a car all afternoon along here I will risk camping right on the roadside. Setting up my tent in double quick time I filled my bottle from the creek so that the Aquatab has time to do it's thing then shoved some beef jerky in my mouth, followed by a huge blueberry muffin that I bought at the Wholefoods Store next to Orange Peel bikes. Sleep grabs me almost right away. As someone once said, there is no insomnia on the divide....
Looking at the days stats you might assume that I was a bit disappointed with today's effort. Only 168km and 2250m climbing is a bit light on. However, I wanted to take a few hours to enjoy Brush Mountain Lodge as it was one of my "carrots". It was just a shame that it fell on the same day as I needed to go to a bike shop. The only real bike shop until Salida, some 3 days down the trail. The one hour that turned into two hours at Orange Peel bikes? That is just the way it rolls I guess but I haven't wasted one hour like that anywhere else in the last 12 days of this race. Sure, I have stopped because I was tired or injured (achilles) but I have not lost my self discipline when in town yet. I am proud of the fact that I have actually stayed that focussed.
Now, to retain that focus........