I wake up with the sunrise and I am ready to get back at it. I slept like a baby. I pack my gear and get on the bike. I have this terrible feeling in the tops of both of my patellas and my feet are hurting. They are on fire.
When I make it to the next town, I gobble up as much food as I can and get some Excedrin. When I am leaving town I swing by the bike shop to see if I can get some type of bag holder for the front of my bike to carry more food. No such luck. When I am leaving, I first meet Jeremiah Johnson. Not the wilderness man. This guy is one hurting unit. He smells like he might have recently sharted and then rubbed on a whole tube of Icy Hot. He tells me the first two days, he crushed the race, Yesterday he blew up and couldn’t pedal anymore so he just stopped in the town and crashed on someone’s porch. I feel bad when he says he is thinking about dropping. I need to keep moving though. I pop some painkillers and get back on the road.
Now that I have cell service I ring Alex and ride with her on speaker phone and chat. It feels nice being able to talk to her. The pain in my feet isn’t really letting up. After an hour or so they are in so much pain I cannot pedal. I stop on the side of the road and put my feet up on the bike for 5 minutes while I eat. This pattern will repeat. 55 minutes of riding until horrible pain, feet up, and eat. I am actually passing people. I must be catching up on the pace. Late in the afternoon I pass another rider climbing. He says that he cannot take this much longer and he is probably going to drop. That sucks. I will not quit. Relentless forward motion.
I run into two guys named Will and Nick. Will is from California and Nick is from England. Will’s buttcheeks are raw and on fire and Nick isn’t feeling like being alone so they are riding together. They drop me. As they climb off into the distance I stop and put my feet up and eat. I get to the crest of the mountain and am ready to descend down to the town that I will stay in for the night. There are some nice flowing switch backs and I am grooving. I swing out to the ride and get ready to rip into the left turn, when over the brush pile I see a huge grizzly. I slam the brakes shut, my butt cheeks slam shut and my mouth drops open. Before I left for the race I loved to tell people that I would get my camera out and take a video in case it eats me so they can make some money on it. The night before I was one hundred percent sure that I would uppercut a bear in the genitals and stand over it while it lays there in defeat. I did neither of those. The bear was 30 feet away. That is a long way. It is also really close for an angry bear. I get my bear spray out, which is guaranteed effective if the bear is within 10 feet. 10 feet is piss your pants close for a bear. So I stand there. My face is somewhere around armpit height on the bear. It is a damn monster. It growls. I stand there shaking. It paces back and forth. I stand there. It growls. I yell. It paces. I talk calm. It growls. I blow my whistle. It paces. This goes on for what seems like a month or two. It has been five minutes. The bear loses interest and trots off into the brush. I pedal like I am in a 60 second time trial. My legs are on fire. Every time I can catch my breath, I yell “HELLO” or “HEY BEAR”. I do not want to run into another bear. EVER. After an hour or so I catch up to Will and Nick checking maps on the road. I tell them the story and ask if I can ride with them. They say sure. It takes every fiber of my being to keep up with them but, I do. We get to a campground and try to decide what we are going to do. I know what I am doing. I find a Montana Hilton. If you do not know what that is, it is a concrete outhouse with a steel door. As the other two discuss tea and crumpets. I take myself shaking inside, lock the door, and set up my sleeping gear. I eat like a king by the light my headlamp and fall asleep.
Above is a picture of bunny I took for Alex. She loves them and I love her.
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