Many lessons were learned from TABR15

failtoplan

In the aftermath of TABR15, I did  very little licking my wounds. I think I got all that out during the race and the day I spent alone in the Super 8 in Cañon City waiting on Jeneen to pick me up. Instead, I went straight to planning for another shot. You see, I believe that I didn’t fail, I just found one way to do it wrong. I have resolved to make 2016 a victorious and satisfying year in the saddle.

As for events, my calendar will look very similar to last year. The cornerstone will be TABR16 in June. I also have unfinished business with Trans Iowa V12 in April. Outside of those, I am sure I will do the OT100MTB in October or November as well as a smattering of gravel and road centuries.

With my main focus on TABR, I have done a lot of thinking on what went wrong and what went right. In the right column, I learned an absolute ton. I have to give myself a break and admit it was my first multi-day endurance racing event. I had a goal of reaching Coburg on the first day and met that goal. My bike did everything I asked of it- no issues there really. A few of the things that went wrong are as follows:

  • I was underprepared physically– I came into the race way too heavy (235lbs) and was pretty out of shape cycling-wise. I did have a few centuries under my belt and one double, but my riding through the spring wasn’t consistent. Many of the racers that do these events will tell you that the training isn’t as much about going out and doing monster miles as it is being familiar with your equipment and consistent in your riding.
  • I was underprepared with my equipment– Not only did I not get out to use my kit beforehand, but I had just finished putting it together in the week before I left for Oregon. I relied on conversations via Facebook with other racers and my touring/backpacking experience to guide me in what to take. In the end, I was able to survive with what I brought, but far from thrive. The biggest issue was my sleep system. I took my tarp and hammock with a thin foam sleeping pad and 45F quilt. This setup works great bikepacking, backpacking or touring, but lacks some versatility for racing, in my opinion. I had some folks tell me that they didn’t think the hammock was a good choice, but I was sold on the idea of superior comfort. If I had gotten my kit together earlier and gotten out to use it, I might have realized my mistake before I left.
  • I was underprepared with my game plan– When I toured the Trans Am in 2011, I started with grand plans, laying out where I would stay, and places to stop, only to find out that everything changed on a daily basis. A chat with a local here, a stop to see the sites there. Before you know it, all plans are out the window and you do everything in the moment and on the fly. By the time I got half way through that tour, I would do everything impromptu- meals, places to stay. Everything was spontaneous. I came into TABR thinking that this would be the same way. It can be if you want to tour quickly. With that lack of focus, racing is a disaster. Like I mentioned, I met my goal the first day, but after that, I didn’t have a goal other than the end. Once you are tired and start to wear down, a lack of plan will lead to low motivation, emotional decisions and lots of stops.
  • I was underprepared financially– This was the killer. I could’ve dealt with all the other things, but without enough money set aside, there is only so much you can do. I thought that I could stretch things and make it work. You can if you are experienced or have a plan to follow. I had neither and spent too much too fast with a budget that was too small to begin with.

So what am I going to do, you ask? Make changes! I Have a financial plan that will insure I have the funds to complete the race. I began getting myself in physical shape almost immediately after getting home last June. From the beginning of July through October, I lost almost 50lbs. I did fall off the dietary wagon during the holidays and I have some work to do to get back to my “fighting weight”, but I have it under control. I made adjustments to my kit that will allow me better latitude in choosing where I will sleep. I also have a specific strategy and goals to keep me on track during the race. I already feel more prepared for the race than I did last year.

This year’s race is a completely different ballgame. Armed with what I learned from last year’s failed attempt, I have made changes to my approach that, barring injury or equipment failure, I believe will allow me to not only finish, but finish well. In the mean time, I have lots of work to do!

TABR15- Day 14- Guffey, CO to Cañon City, CO

Post offices. Not made for sleeping really, but what a Godsend when you need it. I woke to the sound of the alarm on my phone. It was 6:30AM and although the sun had come up, it was still cold. Too cold for me. Scott was packing up and getting ready to hit the road. I told him I would wait. Temps were still really low, as low as they had been just hours before, and I didn’t want to go through that experience again. He finished packing and left. I went back to sleep.

An hour later, my alarm went off. I reluctantly got up and packed my things. Once outside, I realized that it was going to be a rough ride down to Cañon City, even with the extra hour I had taken. Just get it over with. Down the road I went.

The mile back to the route was just shocking to me. Everything from the night before came back in a rush. I made the turn back onto the route and set my mind on the next turn about 23 miles ahead onto Hwy 50. The road was almost completely downhill so there was no chance to warm up by cycling. The sun would do the job. Eventually.

At one point, I checked my phone and noticed a bit of service. I had a text from Scott. He was hoping that I was well and said he had found a good place for breakfast, right after the turn onto 50. I stopped and replied, saying I was on my way. I was really hungry and looking forward to a good meal.

The farther I went, the warmer it got and by the time I reached the left turn onto 50, I was no longer freezing, just a bit chilly. I made my way up toward the restaurant Scott had mentioned and before I could turn in the lot, I had a flat. Bugger. Frustrated, cold and hungry, I said screw it and just went inside for breakfast. I would attend to it later.

Scott was gone, making hay and putting the miles down. I sat down, ordered coffee and breakfast, then called my wife. I told her about the past 24 hours. It had been a whirlwind, but I just couldn’t focus on the good at the time. I was pretty low mentally. As we chatted, I asked if she could give me a rundown of where we stood with finances. I had some savings and a credit card that I had been using, but I had hardly a clue how much I had spent.

Her answers were like hammer blows. The balances were low. I sat at the table with my head in my hands, staring into my coffee cup. “Ok, well, how much have I spent so far in total?” It should have been easy math, but my brain was fried. As she tallied, I waited, praying the overall picture was not as bleak as I thought. She gave me the figures and did a bit of math. I had been spending at a rate per day that was much higher than I had planned on. Add in the fact that I was behind what I expected as far as mileage was concerned and you had a perfect storm of failure. With what it was costing me per day, I had zero chance of being able to finish. I had 5 days worth left and I was at mile 2056 of 4406. I didn’t even have enough to be able to continue on and make it home (I live in Farmington, MO, which is along the route.)

I was crushed. I told Jeneen I would mull it over and call her back later. There was nothing where I was at and I would need to get to some sort of civilization if I was going to make an exit from the race. With 8 miles to Cañon City, I would call her from there after I thought on things. I finished my breakfast and headed outside to fix my flat.

Once back on the road, I just ambled along. Admittedly, I cried a bit. Emotions were flaring. I had come so far and was proud of that, but the very last thing I wanted to do was quit. As I rode, I gained peace. The answer was simple- I would pull from the race. The simple fact was I had 2 options. Option 1- I could carry on, deplete all of my families reserves and go into debt to finish. This option would also mean that I would be returning home at least a week past when I told my employer I would be back, leading to loss of income as well. Option 2- I could bow out in Cañon City and go home. I would stop the financial bleeding and regroup for the 2016 race. There was no real choice. Being a husband and a father, I had to go home.

I made my way down to Cañon City and checked into a hotel. I called Jeneen and explained my decision to her. We then started discussing how to get me home. After a bit of discussion, we decided that she would drive out and pick me up. Being a weekend, she was off of work and free so she sorted everything quickly and left right away. I sat in the hotel room throughout the day and ruminated on everything. I texted Nathan Jones to let him know I was out. Texted Scott with the same info. I also called into MTBCast and made my withdrawal report. All those things made it very real. I got Dominoes delivered to the room, ate and slept.

 

What an incomplete way to end this tale, but I think it is appropriate. The adventure was incomplete. I have had a lot of time to think on it all and I realize that my failure was in planning and preparing. TABR15 was a great adventure and so many things about it will live on in my mind forever. Of course, right now, I am knee deep in TABR16 prep and although writing this has been a bit of a drag as I dig up all the bad, it has also been rather cathartic to purge it all. For 2016 I have a plan. Not all will go according to it, I am sure, but one thing is for certain- I will give everything I have to finish and reach my goals. Oh, and one other thing is certain. You’ll get to read about it. 🙂

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Photo credit:  Joseph Boquiren

TABR15- Day 13- Kremmling, CO to Guffey, CO

Scott and I had shared a room at the Super 8 in Kremmling. After getting in pretty late, we slept a little late and had the continental breakfast by 8:15AM. After checking out, we went back across the street to the gas station for supplies, then hit the road.

I was pretty excited about the day. After 12 days of temperature ups and downs in the mountains, today would be the day that we left the Rockies and made our way to the plains. With 160 miles to Cañon City, we shouldn’t have an issue getting there.

Out of town and down the highway, we came across road construction. It wasn’t the first stretch of dirt/gravel along the route, but I remember it being pretty chunky. Soon we were through it and came across the turn to go around Green Mountain Reservoir. I love that stretch of quite road. It is a nice respite from the busy main highway.

Back on the main road and headed toward Silverthorne, I found my stride and was rolling. Very soon Scott was nowhere to be seen behind me. I recognized that I was pushing a bit and wanted to make sure I had plenty to climb Hoosier Pass, so I backed it down a notch or two. Before long, I found the city limits and a gas station to stop at. I figured Scott would be right along soon, which he was. We then headed out in search of the post office.

With the impending summit of Hoosier Pass just down the road past Breckenridge, we would be getting out of the mountains and thus getting away from the cold temps. The prior year, I had watched Facebook and seen how most of the riders sent all their cold weather gear home in Pueblo. All along, I had planned that if I got to Silverthorne early in the day, I would send my cold gear back there, loosing several pounds of weight nearly 200 miles before others intended to send their stuff home. I had the idea that this would be a pretty good advantage.

To the post office we went and I sent it all. Coat, gloves, sock hat, balaclava, leg warmers, shoe covers- everything went, plus a few miscellaneous things like maps that I was done with and so on. If I remember right, the package weighed nearly 3 pounds. I was ecstatic! This would make me fly! The only clothing I kept was my base layer shirt and my rain jacket. I did hold on to my sleeping quilt. Good thing.

On through Silverthorne and down the trails around Dillon Reservoir we went. Then the trails to Breckenridge. By the time we got to Breck, I was famished. I also needed to find a bike shop and get a new tire- my back one was shot. Scott had a pedal problem and needed the shop as well. We found a shop and took care of our business. It seemed to take quite awhile, but we got it done. Being mid June, Breck was bustling with tourists. We needed to eat, but I really wanted to just go. I wanted to make sure I put some space between me and upper elevations before it got too late (read: cold). We found a burger joint on the main drag, Downstairs at Eric’s, that a friend of mine had raved about before.

The restaurant was fine. I ate well, but found myself frustrated with the service. I am sure it was just me and my desire to get moving. Soon enough we were done and leaving, but the day was slipping away from me. It was now 4:00PM.

As we left town, we found a gas station for supplies. That is code for candy bars, soda, gatorade, beef jerky, peanut butter crackers. Namely anything you can shove in your pockets or bags. We got ready to leave and it hit me- I needed to hit the john. Scott took off and I went inside to heed the call. After doctoring up my bum, I left and started climbing, looking for Scott. I found him quick, just a mile or so up the road. He had stopped again to adjust his gear. We settled in riding together, headed over Hoosier.

The climb up from Breck is only about 10 miles. It is a steady, easy grade for the first 6-7 miles, then it turns up for the last 3 or so, gaining roughly 2000′ in total. Compounding that is the fact that Breck is at about 9600′ to begin with, so the climb to the top takes your breathe. At 11542′, Hoosier is up there.

I soon found myself in a groove and started to pull away from Scott. I had started the climb in a similar gearing to his so that I could try to keep pace with him. I was amped up though and just kept making ground. I wanted to make this last climb of the Rockies count so I kept on the throttle. My legs and lungs burned, but I was determined. Head phones in and jamming to some hoppin tunes, I used what Scott had taught me about finding a rhythm and sticking to it to cruise on up the climb. I never slowed down or put a foot down. When I made the last turn and saw the summit, I roared out loud like a beast!!!!! I felt so accomplished in that moment. It was certainly a highlight of the trip.

Shortly Scott came around the corner and I cheered him on and videoed him as he rode up the final pitch. We shared high fives and smiles, then got some great photos.

TABR setupTABR setupWe didn’t stay long at the top and began our descent. I was all conflicted. On one hand, we had just  summited the highest pass on the Trans Am. What a cool thing! On the other, I had no cold gear and we were 90 miles from Cañon City. If the winds were favorable and we stayed on it, we could cover that distance in about 5-6 hours. If things didn’t go as planned, it could be longer. Either way, it was after 5:00PM and we needed to stop for some food at some point. It would be a late night. Hopefully the temps would hold up after dark.

We screamed down to Alma and stopped at a shop in town. We grabbed some food, filled bottles and asked the keeper about the bar & grill in Hartsel, about 30 miles down the road. We thought that would be a good spot to grab some food, not a midpoint, but about as close as we could find on the map. She called them and verified that they would leave the grill on so we could eat when we got there. Nice!

We started busting it down the road, headed for Hartsel. We flew through Fairplay and at the turn just outside of town toward Hartsel, the wind picked up. Unfortunately, NOT a tailwind. Another demoralizing headwind blew and blew. The inclination of the road was trending downhill, but we were pedaling for all we had, just as if we were climbing. The source of the wind, a storm that was pushing over the ridge from the west, looked to make things difficult for us in more ways than just the wind. All we could do was hustle and hope to stay dry.

We rolled into Hartsel about 7:45PM, just as it started to sprinkle. There isn’t much there, but the first thing we saw was a gas station. We stopped in and grabbed supplies for what was obviously going to be a very long night ahead. Then we went down the road a bit to the bar & grill to grab some food.

The Hartsel bar seemed like the kind of place that could be a bit seedy. Locals sat around a couple tables, sipping their beers. Not much goes on in the little town, so we were fodder for people watching. The young man behind the bar was also the cook and knew what we wanted right away. He got us cokes and took our orders, then went to the back to get things cooking.

Food showed up and we ate. Soon another cyclist came in. He was a northbound Tour Divide guy. The divide crosses the Trans Am here and he was doing the same as us- loading up on food and waiting out the storm. We chatted a bit and got his story. I hate to say it, but I don’t remember much of what he said. I was too wound up thinking of the 60 miles ahead added to the impending rain and dropping temps outside.

Soon enough, Adam showed up too. He had stayed in the saddle and closed the gap on us, only to be in the same predicament. He ordered food and drink. We all sat together and chatted, discussing the radar and what to do. In the end, we decided that since we didn’t have cold gear, or at least some of us didn’t, we would hole up for a few hours and wait out the storm. The radar showed that if we left right then, we would get hammered just south of town a ways. The Divide racer went his way, Scott, myself and Adam headed to the post office to pull a Mike Hall.

Mike Hall is a very accomplished endurance racer who, among many other races, won the inaugural TABR in 2014. One of his tricks was to carry light gear and sleep inside when possible, however, not always in a hotel. Mike is known to have slept in vault toilets in bear country (because they are secure. You can lock yourself in) and quite a few times he has been found in US post offices. They are always open and seem to be fairly secure.

The three of us found the modern facility all lit up, open and deserted. We brought our bikes in, leaned them against the walls and proceed to crash out in our sleeping gear on the floor. It wasn’t exactly comfortable and certainly brighter than I preferred under the ample fluorescents, but we weren’t wet or cold. We laid down about 9:30 and set our alarms for 2 hours.

I didn’t sleep well at all. My sleeping system was flawed from the get go on this trip and I was just not able to find a way to sleep much on the concrete floor with my 1/4″ foam pad. I got a little bit of rest and woke before my alarm went off. One of the other alarms went off and the three of us got up, packed up and headed out into the cold night. I put on all I had- my base layer and my ultralight rain jacket. Fingers crossed.

It didn’t take long to realize what we had in store. Now near midnight and still at a fairly high elevation (8864′), it was cold. My guess is upper 30’s. I had hoped that I would warm up as I rode, but the route was heading downhill. Every once in awhile there would be a little incline, but not enough to warm up with. I was freezing. I stopped at one point to put a spare pair of socks on my hands. I then took a rag I had, cut it in half and shoved a half down in each of the socks to act as some insulation. Back on the road, I quickly found that it wasn’t going to work. Scott had stopped with me and Adam had ridden on. Each of us just wanted to get down.

Fifteen miles out of Hartsel, Scott and I stopped along the side of the road and got out our sleeping stuff- he his bag and me my quilt. I needed to try to get warm. It didn’t work. My 45 degree quilt just wasn’t enough to make a difference in temps that were headed toward the freezing mark. I would not get any colder with it around me per se, but I couldn’t warm up. Frustrated, we took off again, hoping to tough it out. After about 6 miles, I was shivering and couldn’t feel my hands. We stopped again and I tried to warm up with the quilt, once more to no avail. My mind started having thoughts of what was going to happen. How cold was I? Was hypothermia a potential risk? I didn’t want to over-dramatize the situation, but I wanted to be real. This wasn’t good.

A check of the map showed that we were still 40 miles from Cañon City. Another look and I noticed the little burg of Guffey, just 7 miles away. Although a mile off route, we decided to head there, realizing that there was a high probability that we wouldn’t find anything available at 2:30 in the morning. I felt like I needed to take the chance and see if I could find shelter.

Back on the bikes again and downhill toward who knew what. It only took a second for the cold to go through me. Shivering and aching from it, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to hold onto the bars and crash. As the minutes and miles ticked away, I was barely surviving. Finally we saw the sign- Guffey 1 mile. We turned up the road that direction. It was a long mile! Eventually, we saw a few lights ahead. Rolling into the little one-horse town at 2:30AM, it seemed like no one lived there. No signs of any shelter at all.

Then, there it was- US Post Office. Hallelujah! I was never so excited to see a bunch of metal boxes in my life. We quickly got inside and found that is was nice and warm. Like manna from heaven. Just like we had at Hartsel, we strung out our sleeping gear on the floor and tried to sleep. This time, sleep found me. Not great sleep, but sleep, none the less. 130 miles was all we made on the day. Highs and lows were had, both in reality and figuratively. It was nice to be past Hoosier, but the reality was I was now another 70 miles behind. What to do, what to do.

TABR15- Day 12- Rawlins, WY to Kremmling, CO

6:30AM- My alarm went off and I’m was up, getting dressed and packing my things. After a great night of sleep, I was feeling pretty good. I hit a gas station on the way out of Rawlins for some supplies and breakfast. The last two days I had caught Scott late in the day. My plan was to make up that ground earlier. Time to make hay.

As I rode out of town, I checked Trackleaders on my phone. Scott was bedded down in Saratoga after having gotten there a little after 2:00AM. Adam showed bedded down in Sinclair, just a few miles ahead. His tracker showed he went down about 11:15PM. I was on the move before both. Good.

I rolled through Sinclair and saw a city park where I expected to find Adam. No Adam. I didn’t look too hard. Just glancing around as I rode by. Maybe he was out of view somewhere. No matter. It looked like I was back in front of him. Get going!

I left Sinclair and started the section of I-80 on the route. It is only about 15 miles of interstate shoulder, but still not much fun. Lots of debris to dodge and 80 MPH traffic a few feet away. It’s a must though as it is the route. I made quick work of it and was happy to see it end.

Back on two lane roads and headed south toward Saratoga, I was warmed up well and feeling good, ready to put in a good day. Just a couple miles up the road, I started a climb and had my head down, chugging along. I looked up to see a cyclist not far in front of me stopped along the road. As I neared him, I realized it was Adam! He was fine, just readjusting some things, but looked surprised to see me. As I passed, he got moving. I went on and kept the hammer down, leaving him fairly quickly. I never asked, but I assume he just wasn’t feeling it that morning.

I made Saratoga and stopped at a gas station for some grub and to refill bottles. Gas station pizza and ice cream with a chocolate milk chaser was on the menu. It did all I needed it to do. I checked Trackleaders and saw Scott was about 20 miles ahead. I figured I could make that up pretty quick. Looking back at Adam’s, I realized that I had been mistaken earlier when I thought he was bedded down. It hadn’t updated on my phone. He had actually gotten up and left a few minutes before I got up. Strange how the trackers and the system work sometimes. Certainly not an exact science.

Down the road I went, into more rollers as I went through Southern Wyoming. Although it is a bit bleak and arid looking, it has its own beauty.

I grabbed food and drink in Riverside, just 20 miles down the road. I knew it would be the last stop before Walden, CO some 50+ miles ahead, and quite a bit of climbing along the way. Scott was still 20 miles ahead of me. I had made no ground on him.

The climbs south and east of Riverside didn’t feel quite as difficult as I remembered them to be in 2011. My legs were feeling strong and I had slept well. I cruised on ahead and was nearing the Colorado state line. All at once, it hit me. Very near the border, I bonked.

I’m usually good about having some sort of food with me and have never really hit bottom with a calorie deficit before. It happened quickly and unfortunately all I had left to eat was a stick of beef jerky. It was food, but it would take way too long for my body to process it. I needed some carbs bad. Nothing I could do, I ate the jerky and lumbered along. My legs that had felt awesome all day went to jelly. No power. Nothing. As I tried to eat my jerky, I met a car that was taking pictures of me. If I had been in a better state, I might have realized it was the serial dot watcher Olaf Sorenson. He was a very long way away from his home in the Pacific Northwest, but had taken vacation to come out and see the racers in their element. I wish I would’ve said a proper hello. All I did was give a wave and continue moseying along.

I kept moving, albeit very slow. I crossed into Colorado and made my way the remaining 25 miles to Walden. I was famished and beat. I pulled into a gas station and found Scott there. He was happy to see me, as usual. I don’t think that guy ever gets down. He had eaten at a restaurant up the street and had just bought supplies for the ride ahead there at the station. He asked if I wanted to ride along with him, but I explained that I bonked out and needed to eat. He rolled out saying he would soft pedal and see me later. I told him I would do my best to catch up after I ate. I grabbed a chocolate milk and chugged it, then headed up the street to find real food.

The restaurant that Scott had eaten at was where I went. It was one of the places I had been to in 2011 as well. A monster cheeseburger with fries and coke helped. I ate dessert too. Once I finished, I went back to the gas station and supplied up. I actually bought too much. I didn’t want to run out again! I was feeling much better after having eaten and was ready to go chase down my little single speed buddy.

I headed south out of Walden. The first 30 miles were through the valley and a pretty easy ride. I rolled along well, keeping the pace up. As I started out of the valley, climbing up toward 9621′ Willow Creek pass, I naturally slowed, only to find out that the mosquitos were atrocious! Now being 150 miles into the day and having spent myself so completely earlier, my legs weren’t strong enough to keep my speed fast enough to stay away from the beasts. It was a long 5 miles or so to the top.

Reaching the top of Willow Creek Pass, I didn’t stay long. I slowed for a second, hoping to get a pick of the Continental Divide crossing, but the mosquitos swarmed and I bailed down the pass. Not worth loosing any more blood for it!

As I descended, the day was waining. I fully expected to see Scott any time. He might climb just a tad faster than me, but the flat areas and descents were where I made up ground. Around each turn I watched with no sign. The miles ticked off and I was concerned that I missed him somehow. Maybe he got off the side of the road somewhere and was behind me?

I kept moving and knew I was nearing the turn onto Hwy 40. It was now dusk and I had my lights on. There had been several stretches of open road where I could see quite a ways in front of me and I hadn’t seen any lights, so I figured I had either missed Scott or he was way in front. I was disappointed either way. I descended that last hill down to 40 and as I turned right, there he was on the side of the road. Sitting down, he was making a wardrobe change, adding a layer for the night chill. I did the same and we headed south together toward Hot Sulphur Springs.

Just a mile or so down the road, I had a flat. I made fairly quick work of it, but the time lost would come back to bite me.

We rolled into Hot Sulphur Springs a bit late- around 10PM. It’s a small town anyway, but the few shops that were there were closed. The last hope was a gas station with lights on, but when we pulled up, the door was locked. We were just minutes too late. The attendant was inside, but just doing after-hours chores. I was so thankful that I over bought at the station in Walden!

With a little less than 20 miles to go to Kremmling, we set out in the dark. We chatted as we rode. I explained how cool of a ride it was through that part in daylight. You descend into a canyon that has a river in the bottom with a railroad along side it. Great views can be had, but all we saw was black. The company was great though.

Chilled and tired, we arrived in Kremmling about 11:30PM. We both were tired and ready to rest, but needed to eat. We found a 24 hour gas station there and went in for the typical delicacies. I had a Bomb burrito the size of my head, chocolate milk and a bunch of other junk. It hit the spot, despite the lack of nutritional value. We checked out the ACA map for places to stay in town and ended up just going next door to the Super 8. Once again, we shared a room, however this time there were two beds. By the time I showered and rinsed my kit, then hit the sack, it was after midnight.

The mileage for the day was right at 200. It had been a great day overall. I had bridged up to Scott and met my mileage goal. I just wanted to keep that momentum going and make it out of the mountains the next day. Just one more day to the plains. There, with my gears, I would probably leave Scott and his single speed behind. I didn’t know what to think about that. Bittersweet I guess. I would worry about it when I got there. In the present, I needed to sleep.

TABR15- Day 11- Lander, WY to Rawlins, WY

After the debacle that was the day before, I decided to gather my wits and focus on the task at hand. I made a Lander-exit strategy and maximized my sleep to fit it. After having used my spare cleat in West Yellowstone, I now needed to find a new one. The earliest a bike shop opened in town was 10AM, so I slept until 9:00, then walked across the lot to a diner attached to the hotel for breakfast.

I ordered something like “the cowboy breakfast” which included my usual fare- pancakes. When I asked how many came in an order, the waitress said two. I thought about it and decided to stick with that as there were eggs, sausage, hash browns and toast with it. When my order came, I was amazed! The plate was a platter and the “pancakes” were hanging off every edge! I told her that I was glad I didn’t order 3 like I wanted to. Her response was, “I wouldn’t have let you order three.” LOL!

I ate until I was nearly ill, drank more coffee than 3 men should, payed my bill and waddled out. Stuffed to the gills, I was certainly not hungry that morning!

I gathered my things, lubed my chain, aired my tires and made my way to the bike shop right as they opened. In luck, they had my cleats. I bought a pair and stuffed them in my pack. Down the street a block was a gas station. I went inside and got supplies for the day- eats and drinks for along the way.

When I rolled out of Lander, I felt prepared and ready to take on the day. It was 10:30- late for sure, but there was no stress to speak of. Time to win the day!

About 10 miles out of Lander, the highway makes a turn to the east and exactly at that point, I turned into a nasty headwind. The kind of headwind that demoralizes you and makes you feel like you are going backwards with every pedal stroke. For 35 miles or so, the wind blew and I was hating it.

When I got to Sweetwater Station, which is little more than a rest area in the middle of nowhere, the wind flipped on it’s ear and started blowing from behind. Sweet joy! The next 20 miles went by in less than an hour.

Jeffery City came into view. A mining ghost town, there is just almost nothing there. The local bar is one of the few things open anymore, but they serve food, so most cyclists stop. I had a bad reaction to Taco Tuesday there in 2011. You can read about that here. 🙂

I went inside the bar and ordered my usual cheeseburger and fries. I washed them down with a couple Mt Dews and chatted with the barkeep. I wasn’t there long. I didn’t want to waste that fantastic tail wind and I was hoping to catch Scott before the day was done.

When I went outside, I saddled up and started to ride out. The parking lot was graveled and had a couple monster water puddles in it. For some dumb reason, I decided to ride through one and instantly knew it was a mistake. Unlike the hard pack that the rest of the lot was, in the puddle was thick mud. I managed to make it through it without having to put a foot down, but once I came out and rode across the remaining gravel to the road, the mud on my tires picked up rocks and jammed my rim brakes full. I made it to the road shoulder and started cleaning everything out so I could move.

As I cleaned, I noticed a rider coming up. It was Adam Kazilsky! He had been slowly making up the gap and had finally caught me. We chatted a minute and he headed into the bar & grill for some grub. Frustrated that I had wasted the time acting like a kid in the mud puddle and a bit flustered that I had been caught by someone, I hit the road with fervor…and a tail wind.

The wind pushed. I pushed. The sum was a great average speed. I flew right along and reached Muddy Gap pretty quick. I stopped at the gas station there, doctored my bum, filled bottles and resupplied. I checked Trackleaders and saw that Adam was on the move again, headed my way. Scott was nearly to Rawlins. I wouldn’t catch him unless he stopped for a bit. I didn’t dally too long and headed back out.

Before long, I dropped into the Great Divide Basin, named so because precipitation that falls there goes neither to the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans. It stays there. Granted, there is very little rainfall there at all. If there was any one place that I did not remember fondly along my 2011 tour it was this place. The weather is tricky in the basin- sometimes it rains, sometimes it is super hot, usually the wind blows hard. To add insult to injury, the 2 lane road is a major thoroughfare for regional semi traffic and the speed limit is 65 MPH, making riding in the lane unfavorable. You would think that you could just ride the ample shoulder instead, but it is pock marked with big cracks and potholes everywhere. There is also a rumble strip right next to the white line, gobbling up almost all of the remaining good real estate.

When you add it all up, in 2011 I rode on a strip of pavement just to the right of the rumble strip that was about 3″ wide. Just 12″ to my left was speeding truck traffic that was unfriendly and the wind was blowing really hard from the left. Each time a truck would go by, the wind effectively stopped for a second, then returned as soon as the truck was gone, nearly blowing me over every time. It was a miserable ride.

Not looking forward to the next bit, I dropped into the basin and just put the hammer down. I figured there was no sense staying there any longer than I had to. Fortunately, the traffic was lighter than my previous experience and after a few miles, I came upon new pavement! Wyoming had finally given me something to cheer about! The remainder of my ride across the basin was easy and I was relieved. The only thing left to do was climb  out at the end.

The climb out of the basin is a proper one. To make it more of a challenge, it has several false summits. I knew this and didn’t let it bother me. Along the way I texted Scott. He was in Rawlins at McDonald’s. I told him I would be right there. I cruised right along and soon was heading down hill toward Rawlins. Feeling pretty good, I was flying. Then I flatted. Flats on downhills suck, if for no other reason than they make you stop, killing the buzz.

After the repair, I cruised into Rawlins and found the golden arches. When I pulled up, I saw the familiar sight of the single speed outside. I had caught him!

Inside it was handshakes and backslaps. Then lots of food and coke while we told our stories. He had a miserable experience in the rain overnight and had more than once wished he hadn’t went on from Lander. He had tried to bivy up along side the road, but it wasn’t a good spot. He said he had eventually slept in the rest area floor at Sweetwater Station, cold, wet and leary of people that came in through the night. I told him about my day and was glad that I had stayed in Lander. Scott had a bivy and could bed down mostly anywhere. With my hammock, I needed trees to hang in and they were in extremely short supply around those parts. When rain came, I had no shelter without trees. I would’ve been truly miserable had I went on.

Scott was looking at his map and had that look in his eye. He planned on pushing further to Saratoga, about 50 miles away. A quick look at the weather showed a good chance of storms again. I wasn’t having any of it. I planned to get a room in a hotel just down the street.

Straight away, Adam came in. We all exchanged our stories again, and then went on to plans. Adam had a bivy and a great streak of no hotels going that he didn’t plan to break. He would ride on as well. Around 9:00PM, Scott left, I went to my hotel and we left Adam at the McDonald’s eating his supper.

At the hotel, I washed my kit, got a shower and called Jeneen. With 135 miles on the day, I was well below the mileage I wanted, but because of my choice of sleep system, I was limited. Of course I could have just rode on through the night and the rain, but I thought that sleep was best. I would make hay another day. Thankful again to be warm, clean, fed and dry, I crawled in bed and slept.

TABR15- Day 10- Hatchet Resort to Lander, WY

After getting in bed at the Hatchet Resort at 11:30PM the night before, my 4:30AM alarm was not welcome. I had a monster pass to climb, so I got moving anyway. I bundled up, carried my bike back down the rickety stairs, dropped the key in the after hours box and started cycling down the road. Scott was right there as well. We hit the road by 4:50.

Right away we were climbing, headed toward Togwotee Pass. Scott seemed to be feeling pretty good and enjoying himself. I felt like crap. I was cold, hungry and tired. That’s a bad combo for endurance racing, folks.

I just couldn’t seem to get in a rhythm on the climb. My head wasn’t in it, my legs were rubber and it just wasn’t working. Scott rode on ahead toward Togwotee Mountain Lodge where I planned to get some breakfast.

After what seemed like an eternity, but was actually only an hour and a half, I reached the lodge. In that 1.5 hours, I had only covered 9 miles. It certainly had been some climbing, but I had nothing to give. I needed a break, some warmth and some food.

Scott and I walked into the lodge to find the restaurant wasn’t open. It was 6:30 and they wouldn’t open until 7:00. Scott didn’t want to wait and grabbed a cup of complimentary coffee, a couple candy bars and a drink from the cooler, paid at the register and was ready to leave. I was like an old donkey- not moving.

Cold, tired and hungry, there was no way I was going back out to finish climbing the pass. Scott was rearing to go and it just annoyed me. I wanted to race my own race! After he prodded me a bit, trying to encourage me to go, I snarled at him a little. He finally relented and decided to go on. He said that he wanted to get the pass over with and planned to stop at Lava Lodge for a bite, about 20 miles or so down the other side. We said our goodbyes and he left. He mentioned Lava Lodge again as he left, expecting that I would catch him.

I sat there waiting for the dining hall to open. I was shivering and couldn’t get warm. I was inside and the lodge was room temperature, but I couldn’t get warm. My mind was racing, thinking bad thoughts and just wanting to break down, but I didn’t want to look like a fool. Finally they opened the dining room and I found a seat at a table along the wall with an outlet right behind it. I plugged up my phone, ordered coffee and a big breakfast. When I got my food and started eating, I began to warm up a bit.

As I ate, the room began to fill up with folks who were staying at the lodge. They were mostly retirees and their spouses who looked to be fairing well in their lives. Although they probably didn’t even notice me, I felt like every eye was watching me, wondered why they let riffraff like me in such a nice place. I kept my head down and finished my food. I was warmer and no longer hungry, but still very tired and my mental state was failing. It didn’t help that while I ate, I had used the lodge’s wifi to check weather. There was a big storm rolling in and it didn’t look good.

I finished eating, gathered my things and reluctantly walked outside to my bike. I DID NOT want to get back on at all. I was ready to just throw in the towel right there. Looking out to the west, I saw a very angry looking dark sky. It scared me and I didn’t know what to do. Scott would be expecting me. I needed to move, not just because of him expecting me, but because of me. I needed to race. I just didn’t feel like I could do it. I felt my eyes welling up and then I saw a woman walking down the porch toward me. I gathered myself, took a deep breath and smiled in my best attempt to be cordial. She smiled back and I opened the door for her.

As she walked in, the young woman that had been working the front desk came out. I made mention of the ugly sky, the coming storm and my fear of being caught in bad weather climbing the pass. I asked if there was anywhere I could hole up until the storm blew over. She mentioned the Fireside Room and said that I could roll my bike around to the back, go in the back door and wait it out. I could have kissed her right there. Thankful for the hospitality, I did what she had said and went around back.

I put my bike under a shelter where they keep firewood and went inside to find a cozy little recessed den area with big leather couches next to a monster fireplace. The fire was warm and there was no one around. I plugged my phone up, stripped out of my outer layers and got comfortable on the leather couch. At that point, I broke and the tears started flowing. “What in the world am I doing? How am I going to do this?” I was miserable and just wanted to go home. As I got warm by the fire, I got comfortable and fell asleep.

Looking back now, I see that my state at that point of the race was an accumulation of exertion, lack of rest and disappointment for not being where I had wanted to be. The long days in the saddle and lack of sleep were going to be there. Can’t help that. The stress I was putting on myself was the tipping factor. I was constantly thinking about the miles. When I set out on the race, my goal was to make the trip in 21 days. That would mean a bit over 200 miles per day. Covering 1440 miles in the previous nine days left me with an average of about 160 miles. I was more than 2 days (440 miles) behind already and had no way to catch back up. I knew I only had so much money and so much time to be able to finish. I needed to start riding 200 mile days and I needed to do it everyday in order to have a chance at finishing. Already, it wasn’t looking good.

I awoke at a start, wondering how long I had been asleep and how many of the well-to-do people from the lodge had walked by and saw this apparent homeless person lying on the couch asleep by the fire. A check of my phone showed it was nearing 10AM and I had been there too long. I checked the radar and saw that the storm hadn’t amounted to as much as I thought it would and I felt I had stayed for little reason. On the bright side, I had gotten some much needed rest and was feeling a bit better. A little more resolved anyway. I went to the restroom, cleaned and doctored my bum, then gathered my things and prepared to leave. I went back up to the front and thanked the young desk clerk. She probably had no idea just how much that private break and nap by the fire meant.

Back on the road and it was right back to climbing. Along the way, I got a bit of cell service and received a text from a friend back home. In what he intended to be a joking kind of way, he said something to the effect of “What are you doing sleepy head?!?! Scott is getting away from you!!!” He was watching the blue dots on Trackleaders and had the cheap seats. From his vantage point, I was sitting still while Scott rode on. He had no clue about anything else other than I wasn’t moving. I was instantly furious. “How dare he say something like that to me! He doesn’t have a clue what its like to be out here busting my hind end, exhausted and cold!” I didn’t reply, thankfully. I used my anger as fuel and kept climbing.

It rained on me off and on, but nothing too bad and eventually I reached the pass. There was a bit of snow here and there that had fell from the storm and I felt like I shouldn’t linger. The sky still looked rough and like it could dump at any moment. I took a quick photo and headed down the other side of the pass, taking it easy in the slushy spots.

Soon enough I was at Lava Lodge and stopped in for a coffee to warm up a bit. I asked about Scott and the clerk didn’t have much to say. A quiet chap, he just said that Scott had been there awhile back. I drank my coffee, connected to their wifi and sent Scott a text with a very short version of my Togwotee stay and an apology for acting the way I had. I went outside, mounted up and rode on, beginning to feel better about myself and the ride.

I rolled into Dubois about 1:30PM and was looking to eat. I found the same diner that I had eaten at in 2011 and parked my bike outside. Inside it was a big burger plate and fries with lots of coke. I gobbled it down like nothing. While I ate, it started raining outside and I texted my wife, complaining about all that had happened and my friend who was ribbing me. She did what she always does and calmed me down. He didn’t mean any harm by it and I was going to be fine. She is such a peach.

Before I made it back outside, the rain had stopped. It had been cold rain and the air was dank. I saddled up and rode on through town. Before I left town, I made a stop by a little motel. Not to stay, but rather to right a wrong, albeit unintentional.

In 2012, my wife and I had taken the kids on a vacation out west, seeing the sites. We had stayed at the little motel and rather enjoyed it. The owner is a man near our age who had taken the business over from his parents. He was a super nice guy. We needed to do some laundry and needed coins for the machines. He gave me a roll of quarters and we stood and chatted for near a half hour. I went on, did my laundry, went to bed and left the next day. Along the way the next day, I found the $10 bill that I was supposed to have given him in my coat pocket. We were miles and miles away, so I wasn’t going to turn around, but planned to mail it to him when we got home. Once home, I forgot about it. As I had approached Dubois, I thought, “I’m gonna make this right.” Unfortunately he wasn’t there, but I was able to leave the money in an envelope with the desk clerk. The story brightened her day when I told her and with that, I felt much better. Funny how little things turn your mood.

Back on the road, I rolled on. My legs were back around, my mood was better, I was full and had an open road before me. Good times! I hammered on, enjoying the views and reveling in the better mood. Before I knew it, I reached Crowheart and stopped at the little station there for supplies. I sat outside and ate for a bit, then hit the road again, eyes on Lander.

On ahead, through Fort Washakie and heading toward Lander, I got a text from Scott. He was in Lander and at the Gannett Grill, getting ready to eat. “They have food, wifi and plugins! The trifecta!!” I said I was on my way and put the hammer down further.

I rolled up to the Gannett Grill right about 8:45PM and went inside. I found Scott with a great big smile on his face. He was very happy to see me and that made me happy. What a great dude. We ate and talked about the day. I told him all about my low point and the rest of my tale of getting my head screwed back on straight as the day went on. I felt good. I was back.

Scott had a fire in his eyes that I recognized from the day before. He wanted to go on and ride into the night. No way man! I told him I was staying in Lander. I had my eye on a cheapo motel up the road and there was no convincing me. He said, “are you sure?” I confirmed. He smiled and relented. Ride your own race. 🙂

After dinner, we went outside and began preparing to leave- he to the south and myself back north a few blocks to the motel. There was a touring rig there, with a vibrant young lady named Megan. She was traveling the Trans Am, touring the opposite direction and was going to be staying with a Warmshowers host in town. She wanted to know all about our bikepacking rigs. We all shared Facebook information so we could follow each other later and went our separate ways. That’s the way it is when you travel by bike. You met cool folks, chat a minute, connect and move on. It’s really awesome.

I rode back north a few blocks to the Maverick Motel. As I rode, it began to rain steady. I found the motel and checked in. It was a cheap room, but all I needed. A quick shower and I laid down. It was 10:30 and it had been a rough day. I had only ridden 130 miles, but I had learned some things about myself. I had a fleeting thought that I wished I had carried on like Scott, but I felt like sleep was the best thing I could do. As I listened to the rain falling outside, I thought of Scott and hoped he was ok. Happy to be in a warm bed, sleep found me once again.

 

TABR15- Day 9- West Yellowstone to Hatchet Resort

I woke up groggy to the sound of my alarm. It was late (about 10AM), but after the near 200 miles the day before that ended after 3AM, I was still tired. Scott and I kitted-up, packed our things and headed over for the continental breakfast. It wasn’t much, but better than nothing. We rolled out by 10:30 and started making our way through the crowded streets of bustling West Yellowstone.

I had a broken cleat that I had attempted to remove in our room, but in the end I stripped one of the allen head bolts out and couldn’t get the stupid thing off. I had put the other two bolts back in and was looking for a bike shop. Funny coincidence- this EXACT same thing happened to me on my 2011 tour…in West Yellowstone. Back in 2011, I went to Free Heel & Wheel, a cool little bike shop/cross country ski shop on the main drag out of town toward the park. They let me borrow tools to fix it myself, which was greatly appreciated. With that experience in mind, I made my way to Free Heel & Wheel to do the same again. Scott went across the street to a Mobil station to grab some supplies for the day.

I went in the bike shop and they were busy. Good! I explained my plight and the owner said I could borrow their work area and tools. As they handled their customers, I was left alone to handle my own issues. After removing the two good bolts, I grabbed the same pair of huge channel lock pliers that I had used 4 years before and tried to twist the broken cleat off with its stripped bolt. This worked in 2011, but not this time. What now? They had a cordless drill under the bench, so I went to town and began drilling out the stripped bolt. The owner came back between customers and sees me, one shoe off, that shoe upside down on the bench and me leaning on his drill like I’m going to run a hole through my shoe. He just shook his head and went on. 🙂

Quickly enough, the bolt head was gone and the cleat was free. I grabbed the pliers, twisted the headless bolt that was now free out of my shoe and proceeded to put my good cleat on. I made quick work of the whole thing and was done before Scott could make it back over from the gas station. I offered the shop some money for the use of their space, but they refused. Very nice folks!

I jetted across the way and into the gas station, quickly grabbed some supplies for the day and we rolled out. The traffic was all wadded up. Long lines of cars and SUV’s standing still, waiting in line to go through the gates to Yellowstone. Scott and I went around the traffic and made our way to the front. We paid our fee to enter the park and took off. It was right around 11AM. It had been a productive hour or so!

Riding through Yellowstone was beautiful, but terrible. The scenery is out of this world. Just amazing. However the traffic sucked! I mentioned to Scott several times that I didn’t understand why so many people come from all over the world ON VACATION to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and see the wonders that Yellowstone offers, only to rush around in a big hurry once they get there with no consideration for anyone or anything. The narrow roads coupled with lots of traffic made cycling a chore and a bit scary at times. Cycling there in June was exponentially worse than September as I had done in 2011.

We rolled through the geothermic area of the park and neared the main attraction- Old Faithful. Neither of us were interested in sitting around and waiting for the old girl to go, but it was now near 1:30 and we wanted to eat. After putzing around at several of the buildings, we finally found a simple restaurant. It was packed so we asked to grab a couple burgers to go. No can do- they don’t do carry out. You are required to wait your turn for an empty seat, then wait for your meal like a normal human. Well, that just wasn’t going to work. We rode off and headed across the lot to a gas station where we grabbed some grub. We said screw it and sat down outside on the pavement to eat. The breeze had been cool all day and sitting on the blacktop with the sun shining was nice.

After eating, it was back at it and down the road. There is a lot of climbing in Yellowstone and we crossed the Continental Divide a total of three times before we left the park. All that climbing was a challenge so before we crossed the divide for the third time, we stopped in Grant Village to refill our water bottles. At this point it was 4:30. Yellowstone is just so big.

Back on the road, we climbed the last pass in the park, up and over the divide again. There was a big payoff though as it was almost all downhill out of the park. We left Yellowstone behind and in my opinion, it was good riddance. I look forward to one day going to that park when there isn’t much traffic.

Cruising on south, we came across Flagg Ranch. For Tour Divide racers, Flagg is an oasis. For me, it is just a really expensive place to stop between two beautiful national parks. I had stayed there in 2011. I had been stuck with nowhere to stay and a night that was going to be too cold for the gear I had with me. I ended up paying north of $150 for a room with no TV and no wifi. Just a shower and a bed. This time I wasn’t staying, but after some discussion, Scott and I decided to eat at their restaurant. He had remembered it fondly from racing the Divide and I was looking for a good meal. You see, it was my birthday. 43 years young and racing the Trans Am- yeah, that deserved a good meal.

We went in and ordered. I had a pretty good buffalo burger, fires and a beer. For desert it was a big piece of chocolate cake. Fantastic! As we ate, we chatted and charged phones. They had wifi in the restaurant, but it was spotty at best. We did the best we could to catch up on Facebook posts and whatnot. Then it was back to the road.

Quickly we were into Grand Tetons National Park and right away, Gavaskar rode up to us. The three of us rode along Jackson Lake taking in the view. With the sun setting behind the Tetons, it was gorgeous. We rode along taking it all in. The sun goes down late that far north in the summer and right as the last light of day was going behind the mountains, we reached the gas station at the turn off to Colter Bay. It was 9:45 and the attendant was closing up for the night. The discussions began.

Gavaskar was beat and was looking for a place to stay. He was once again hoping that we would all go in together and get a room in Colter Bay. I wanted to go on a bit and had my eye on Hatchet Resort, an old motel about 20 miles up the road. Scott was looking to keep moving and go over Togwotee Pass and on toward Dubois, about 70 miles away. The issue I had with going on toward Dubois was the temps. We would be climbing Togwotee (9658′) at night and it was already chilly. Up on the pass it would be down right frigid. All this was discussed while we grabbed supplies and ate. Meanwhile, the attendant was getting antsy because she wanted to close up and go home. She called the Hatchet for me and confirmed that there was a hostel style room (private bedroom with bath down the hall) for $60. Once I knew that was confirmed, I was ready to roll. I just didn’t want to be stuck out in the cold. I went ahead and reserved the room and was told that the office would be closed, but my key would be in an envelope on the door. Pretty cool.

Gavaskar was headed into Colter Bay so we said our goodbyes. Scott and I took off into the dark and cool night. Having reached the gas station at sundown and thinking about all kinds of other stuff, I hadn’t thought to put my cold gear on and quickly I was freezing. I stopped to suit up a bit and Scott rode on. As I stood along the side of the road getting dressed, two bikes came flying bye in succession and I heard a “what’s up” from both of them. I had no clue who it was! I hurried up and got back on the bike, found another gear or two and took off in chase. I caught up to them right as they caught Scott.

It was Justin Chadwick and Bradford Smith! The last time I had seen them was at Lochsa Lodge, right before the climb up Lolo pass in Idaho. They had started the race with lower mileage days and were really finding their stride. They had every intention of going over Togwotee and Scott liked the idea. I was kinda feeling like the odd man out, but was pretty much dead set on staying at the Hatchet. What would we do?

The four of us rode along together in the cold, talking and cutting up a bit. Brad and Justin were pushing the pace and I was feeling it. They were just stronger than me and it was getting in my head. It seemed like a long 20 miles, but we finally saw the Hatchet come into view.

I was relieved. I just wanted to get off the bike, get warm, get some sleep and tackle the monster that is Togwotee in the morning. Scott still wasn’t sure and didn’t make up his mind until we got to the driveway turn in for the Hatchet. He said he would stay with me. I still don’t know why he chose to do that, but at the time, I took comfort that I wouldn’t be alone the following day. We said our goodbyes and watched as Brad and Justin rode off into the night. I’ll admit I was a bit worried for them. Togwotee can be a real bugger of a pass and it sometimes has strange weather. In 2014, the TABR riders that were mid pack got snowed on there pretty good there. I took solace in that I would have a warm bed.

I went over to the office door, grabbed the envelope with the key and headed off in search of the room. Around behind one of the buildings which looked like a regular house was a very narrow, steep and rickety staircase that led up to a hall where I found the room. It was a trick carrying the loaded bike up those narrow steps in the dark. Once inside, we found the room and it’s one queen size bed. Scott offered to take the floor, but I didn’t think that was right. We vowed to never tell anyone (sorry Scott!) and pretty much marked out the centerline of the bed as a no go zone. I went down the hall and got a quick shower and got in bed. It had been a long day in the saddle with lots of climbing, but we didn’t cover near as much ground as we would have liked- just a little over 100 miles. I was feeling some mental strain from not doing what I had intended to do and being torn between riding with Scott or on my own. Added to that, my body was exhausted. I was asleep quicker than I could ever imagined.