When we left Spokane on Wednesday morning, I had yet to settle on which bike I would be riding, let alone pack my gear, go for a shake down ride, or familiarize myself with the course. I had only used my fancy new Garmin Edge, once since I bought it several weeks ago. For the CTR, I had been dialed and every move had been planned out and tested beforehand. I realized in the van, on the way to Boise (while experimenting with packing gear onto my new gravel bike) that I had forgotten to pack a sleeping ground pad. I requested an emergency stop at Walmart. I still needed to get race food anyhow.
Feelings of inadequacy washed over me as I listened to Jess describe her training rides and discuss the course and the other riders. I felt utterly clueless and scattered.
My pre-race anxiety was barely in check. I felt like I would be lucky to finish and I hoped I didn't disappoint myself. I didn't post to social media about the race until I was nearly halfway through my first day (partly because I just didn't have any time, but also because I wasn't sure I wanted anyone to know I was racing).
I rode with some inspiring people and I had to choke back tears at some of their stories. Bikepacking introduces me to the very best people. I felt like I was home, surrounded by family.
The first day involved a decent amount of climbing, but was deceptively mellow gravel without a whole lot of techy terrain. I knew that things would get a little spicier and I looked forward to a more punishing route on the days to come. I planned to sleep just before Ketchum and then pedal into town for a hot coffee before heading out. I slept in a nice park inside an outhouse that was relatively clean and big enough for me and my bike and several friendly spiders. I had never slept in an outhouse before, but it seemed like a smart shelter (there were sprinklers in the town park), and I had heard of more experienced bikepackers sleeping inside outhouses in bad weather. It was quite cold, and any shelter was welcome.
I finally arrived at Galena lodge and I ordered a cubano and 2 Don bars to go. I started the climb to Titus Lake and Galena summit thinking about the warnings from other riders that it would be a tricky hike-a-bike. I resigned myself to having to push my way to the top. Surprisingly it was mostly rideable and the views were incredible. I was elated. The altitude didn't seem to bother me too much (no doubt thanks to the prior week spent in Colorado). The rolling singletrack back to the highway was super fun! Then an aid station appeared and I was handed Red Vines, fresh grapes and the biggest cookie ever! Apparently there was an organized cycling event on the highway, and the friendly crew said they had way more yummies than they needed for their racers.
Just before midnight I ran out of steam as we were passing a cheery looking national forest bathroom at Stanley Lake. It was super clean and warm inside and I decided to call it a night.
The full moon finally set and the sun slowly came up. It was about 10am when I finally took off my down jacket. Russ expressed reservations about pushing up Scott Mountain in the heat of the day and planned to take a swim in Deadwood Reservoir and then have a bit of a siesta at the beach. This sounded lovely to me, but I also wanted to keep moving.
Shortly after my nap I was contemplating filtering some water out of a muddy trickle of a stream when Doug and Louie came up behind me. They were moving at quite a pace and seemed to know a good bit about the route. Doug recommended getting water somewhere further up the mountain. I decided to try to hang with them for as long as I could. Scott Mountain is the climb that never ends. It was discouraging with all of it's false summits and I started to really appreciate that my Garmin was keeping me informed of the sad fact that I wasn't even close to the top yet. Hours later (I have no idea how many), we made it to the top. Doug seemed to not have stopped and I managed to summit before Louie, so I took the opportunity to scarf down the last piece of my leftover pizza. Louie confirmed with me that Doug had already started the descent, and I fell in behind him. Louie seemed to have no fear and he hauled down the dirt road with little regard for the sharp, exposed corners and frequent ATVs and pickup trucks hiding behind every blind corner. Eventually we caught and passed Doug and the descent continued. I could smell my brake pads frying in the heat, but I couldn't help but fly down the road as fast as I could stand to go. When we got to the bottom, the air was about 30 degrees warmer than it had been up above. I checked the thermometer on my Garmin and confirmed that it was 90 degrees outside. We mashed on the pedals on the hot highway pavement for the last 10 miles to Garden City before crawling into the air conditioned gas station and drinking icy sodas and toasted Subway sandwiches.
We spent about an hour eating and resting with our feet up. Trackleaders showed that I had about a three hour lead on Laura Heiner- the next woman in the field. I filled up my water bottles with soda and ice water and we took off into the evening heat. Somehow we were in shade within 5 minutes and the temperatures quickly began to drop.
We entered the section of trail called Mordor after dark and had the joy of intermittent hike-a-bike and overgrown, rutted 4x4 roads with confusing intersections. I was glad I had the company of Louie and Doug, but eventually I found myself feeling uncoordinated and sluggish and I decided to sleep. It was about midnight or so. I set an alarm for 3 hours and I fell into oblivion quickly. I heard one bike pass me, but I quickly fell back asleep until my alarm went off. That pile of pine needles was so comfy after 2 nights in outhouses.
I anxiously jumped around to stay warm and filled my other water bottle at the fire station, but not before I managed to turn on the fire house spigot and cover poor Sam in a shower of icy water. Luckily he didn't seem to hold it against me and my eyes filled with tears as we all 3 burst out laughing.
We were a variety pack aboard our mismatched bikes; Nick rode a full rigid gravel grinder that he had named Jessica. Sam had christened his hardtail plus bike Gonzo, and I was of course on my full suspension 29er, Jerry the Joplin. Despite the unusual assortment of rigs, we were quite evenly paced and the going was steady.
From Placerville we climbed out of the cold and into the sunrise on the backside of Bogus Basin ski area. We were treated to a breathtaking array of colors in the sky and some enticingly fun and rocky terrain. The climb seemed to stretch on for longer than it needed to, but eventually we started dropping down into the foothills of Boise. I was worried that I would have no ability to descend as my front brake pads were completely fried from the descent down Scott the previous evening. I had not had the wherewithal to pack a spare set of brake pads in my haste to get to the start 3 days earlier. Surprisingly, the brakes did okay (except for that nails on a chalkboard feeling of metal on metal) and I had fun soaring down the mountain into Boise. We didn't see any other riders and at some point it became apparent that I was likely to be the first female to finish.
There was a large street fair and a marathon going on in downtown Boise on Sunday morning and I was surprised to see people cheering us into the finish. The three of us posed for pictures together, than ate a hearty breakfast and shared lots of laughs together.
We were blessed with perfect conditions during the race that aided in my ability to push myself. As usual, I was surrounded by so many amazing, kind and strong humans that gave me more strength than I could have mustered on my own.
3:04:35 (1st female)
- 5 kamikaze snakes
- 2 nighttime frogs
- 3 sets of glowing eyes (deer or elk I think)
- countless spiders
- 12 friendly dogs and 1 not-as-friendly dog
- an assortment of chipmunks and squirrels, one of which was kamikaze
- Something like 420 or so (I still haven't completely figured out that fancy Garmin).
Food I ate:
- 5 warm meals (fried pickles + chef salad, grilled cheese, cubano sandwich, supreme pizza and Subway sandwich),
- lots of fig bars
- Kind bars
- jerky and wheat thins
Number of times I got lost:
- Really not at all, but I did have to backtrack about 4-5 times because of a minor missed turn.
Would I do it again? ABSOLUTELY!!!!!