Going up Rawlins Pass is when I really began feeling the effects of altitude and proceeded to do much more hike-a-bike than I would’ve preferred considering its rideable surface and steady, mostly mellow gradient. As the sun set, I put on several layers including my down jacket and wool gloves. Nearing the top, I was surprised to be doing some hiking through the snow—a far cry from the Arkansas summer I had just left behind. The descent was something I’ll never forget, even if seen just from the small light bubble of my tactical light attached to my bike. Chunk galore, more snow, streams of run-off straight down the road, old wooden bridges with serious exposure, and a few bits of picking my bike up over massive rocks. I got rattled to the bone and had to stop to shake my hands out several times. By the time I got to the bottom I desperately wanted a nap and mental reset but pushed over one more horrendous climb and descent before getting to Central City around 3:45 a.m.—roughly mile 225. I chose a stealth bivy spot near a government building in town next to a bush and put on all the layers I had. Before choosing my alarm time, I checked Trackleaders again and was pleased to see Anton was also in town sleeping. He had a few hours already in the “bank” so I justified 2 hours to stay within arm's reach.
The next day was an emotional roller coaster. The views were always incredible, but the heat was getting pretty serious. I saw everyone on vacation mode for the 4th of July weekend swimming in rivers, drinking beers, and lounging around in the shade. Stopping sounded so appealing but the lure of chasing an athlete like Anton was the carrot I needed. The Pike-San Isabel National Forest was my low-point of the ride and where I began to question my motives for the race. Albeit absolutely beautiful, this section was extremely exposed to the sun and had so many long, drawn-out climbs that I found myself walking constantly. I was out of water for hours was convinced that the next real town I’d arrive at I would get a motel for the night and just “tour” the rest of the route. It’s a slippery slope when you start justifying slowing down.
Alas, I got to Lake George at Mile 330 and missed the time window for the resupply. I stood outside at a loss, questioning my next move. After about 5 minutes I was surprised to see the owner come out of the store and chat with me for a bit. He gave me an expired package of Oreos and half a water jug that Anton graciously left behind. Before I knew it I was on my way; the kindness of another human was all I needed in that moment—too many hours in my own head, doubting myself. No motel stop, we’re still racing and have ground to make up.