Wake up, wake up. I try to will myself to wake up. I stayed up late to stay out of the heat of the sun. I have to get up now to make sure it wasn’t all for nothing. I’m laying in a tent that smells like two grown men are smashed in a solo tent and haven’t showered in days. I’m starving, and I have to get up and move. I’ve only been sleeping a few hours. GET UP! I wake up the Rev and break down camp. I’m eating like a monster as I break down camp. I feel like an idiot as I realize that I didn’t consider how much extra food it takes to eat before going to bed and eat breakfast after a few hours of sleep. This is going to be rough. I have hours of pedaling to go, so I better get moving.
As we slowly get moving again, I can’t get rid of the hunger. The sun slowly breaks the horizon and I can already tell it is going to be hot. Really hot. An hour passes quickly and we stop to eat, but I’m almost out of food. We’re getting closer to a gravel road and will be out of the loose soil of the back country desert. As we hit the road I realize I have run out of water. Half of the guys that we passed during the night have already caught us. I’m down to one Gatorade and one bag of almonds. I’ve still got fifty miles to go.
I have two choices; stay still and wait for it to get hotter and my hunger to get worse, or tough it out, pedal and get to the next town. I would rather die trying than die laying down like a coward. I plan to drink one fifth of the Gatorade and eat one fifth of the almonds every hour. The gravel road is flat in comparison to a lot of the riding that we have already done but the rolling hills are still climbing and descending hundreds of feet per hour of pedaling, if not closer to a thousand.
One hour down, four to go. I open the bag of almonds and they fly all over the road. I want to sit down and stop. I won’t. I cannot give up. I pick up all of the almonds I can find and count them one by one. I put one fifth of them in my hand and try to eat them slowly. This is going to hurt. As I drink one fifth of the Gatorade, I can already feel my energy getting low and my legs getting stiff, but I still climb back on the bike. Two hours down and three to go. One more small portion of almonds and Gatorade. I’m starting to feel sick and I have to stand to pedal the hills. The rest of the guys we passed in the night are flying by us, but I have nothing left for effort to try and keep up with them. I’m getting dizzy and expending any effort is hard as hell. Three hours down and two to go. I eat the almonds and it might as well have been nothing.
All I want to do is lay down and push the rescue button on my SPOT tracker. I have to move! The sun is getting blazing hot and every minute I am out here it gets hotter. Four hours down. My pace is almost nothing and I’m riding one of my easiest gears. I have to move! Five hours down. I finish my almonds and Gatorade. I have almost ten miles to go. The lack of food and water has consumed all of my energy. Every time I climb uphill I feel like I’m going to pass out. I have to make it. I’m running on fumes as I start to pass oil field workers. I am going to live. If I have to, I will beg for help. I dream about all of the guys with their coolers full of lunch and cold drinks.
I hit pavement and see the town. I’m going to make it. I pass a Subway at the Love’s gas station but it’s packed and I need food now. I pass under the interstate and hit the other side of town. There is a Mexican restaurant. I lean my bike against the building and go in to eat.
When the waitress comes around I take the menu, order the top two meals on the list, coffee, soda and water. It seems like an eternity before she returns with the soda. I drink it all in one go, and she brings me another. This one goes down slower. I feel the sugar hit my system and immediately feel more alive. When the food comes out, I finish it without breathing. She comes back around and asks if I want the check. Nope. I want the menu! I order another breakfast. When the third meal comes out, I enjoy this one. I sip my coffee and enjoy the fact that I will not die today. I pay my bill and head outside to find shade and nap. I need this food to catch up to my weak body. I find a nice tree with shade, under which it feels 50 degrees cooler. I pull out my rain jacket and use it as a pillow. Sleep comes easy.
I wake up and my back and legs are on fire. Am I getting a sunburn? I quickly assess my surroundings, but I’m still in the shade. What in the world is this? Then it hits me; I am covered in fire ants! I quickly get up and brush off all that I can find. A man can’t even nap in peace during this race. I head to the gas station to resupply and fill my water. When I get there, the gang of racers are all there. For some reason Will is there. So is Brian and the gang. He should be a half day ahead of me! Jeremiah Johnson is there. He found his legs again and is back racing! I load up, see the Rev and we leave town together.
As we are head out of town we see Nick sitting on the side of the road trying to fix his tire. He throws something off the bridge, but I have no idea what. We pedal for an hour in the heat and decide to take a break in the shade. The only shade that is available is next to a large dumpster. It’s sitting in the sun in the desert so you can picture the smell. I sit down next to it anyway. After a few minutes we are back at it. Ride, sweat, climb.
We’re starting to leave the desert. It’s still sandy but the climbs are starting to get bigger. Storms are rolling in. This is normal and I am used to it by now. I’m not happy about it, but I am used to it. The pedaling continues. I have heard that seven miles past the Colorado/Wyoming border is the greatest place on earth, Brush Mountain. I have to make it there.
As the sun goes down, the Rev and I roll into a small town. There is a lady outside unloading her RV. They list camping in this spot and I am really tired. She tells us that she used to host free camping but no longer does; we can sleep there no problem but there are no longer any services like water or electricity. Better to keep moving. I know very well what it feels like to run out of food. She offers to fill our water and I kindly accept. It looks like we’re about fifteen miles out. It is now 9pm. An hour and a half and we should be there. Two hours tops.
We swing onto a paved road and jam. A few miles up the road we hook a right onto the road that takes us all the way to the lodge. A mile or two up the road and a truck stops us. These country boys are drunk! They ask us if we have guns for all of the mountain lions. Nah, we’re good. We keep pedaling up. It has been an hour and is pitch black now. How far have we made it? 4 miles.
4 miles? Shit. I am exhausted. I start pedaling again. All I want to do is lay down and sleep. All the Rev wants is a chocolate milkshake Another hour goes by. Another 4 or 5 miles. I’m beat. I want sleep. Food deprivation has ruined my efforts today. Something is missing. My mind is foggy and I am trying to place it. I have my bike. I have all my bags. What is it?
IT’S MY SPOT TRACKER! I dropped it again. I get off my bike and yell until my throat hurts. This is it! I’m going to quit this race! I am dropping. There is no chance in hell that I can ride back and scan the desert for my tracker. I grab my bike by the frame with both hands and I am dragging it over to the edge of the mountain side to throw it off! Just at that time a truck rolls up and asks if we’re okay. He just came from hanging out at the lodge and is headed home. I tell him that I’m dropping because I lost my tracker. He tells me to hold tight and that Kirsten will figure it out. He heads back for his bigger truck and I sit on the side of the road and try not to cry. I’ve pedaled for weeks and now it’s all over. But when the man gets back, he tells me it will all get sorted out. I catch a ride the last few miles to the lodge and Kirsten is there waiting for us.
As soon as I get out of the truck I can tell she’s wondering why there are two of us. She watches the race tracker almost 24 hours a day so that she can have food and drinks ready for everyone as soon as they get there. She doesn’t even let me tell her what happens; she just gives my one of the biggest hugs I’ve ever had in my life and tells me that whatever the issue is, we can get it sorted out. I then tell her my story as she makes burgers for me and the Rev. She says it won’t be a problem. Her and Matthew Lee, the race director, are old friends,and she can vouch for me riding there and not cheating. In the morning her friend that works at the lodge will give me a ride to find my tracker and it will all work out. I just need to hold tight. I eat my dinner and set my tent up in the back yard. As I lay down I think to myself that whatever happens I will have to accept the outcome. If Matthew says I’m getting scratched from the race, I will just finish it on my own. I have came too far to quit. I almost died this morning for this race, and I am not quitting now. I will die with my shield or on it. Relentless forward motion. I am not doing this for the online status of finisher. I am doing this to see how far I can push myself. I close my eyes and think of Alex. I hope no one is disappointed in me.
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