I was a little earlier then I had anticipated hittling that first aid station, but my elation was tempered by the fact that I'd anticpated them being at the campground up the road - not at the start of the Narrow Gauge Trail. So I really wasn't early. I made that a quick pit stop, just refilling my hydration bladder and putting my longsleeved jersey on. I knew it was going to get cold in a hurry as we climbed higher and higher into the mountains. Liz rolled in just as I was organizing to leave - it was still really close. I focused on the long road climb ahead, trying to to worry about racing yet. It was easy to do - between the near full moon illuminating the Chalk Cliffs and the rustling of animals in the bushes along the road there was plenty to distract me. I think I spent way too much time just looking around and staring at the terrain. So different in the dark then during the day. The road climb was long and steady and I was without good landmarks for how far I'd gone. I remembered sections from our ride from St Elmo to the divide last year, but it wasn't enough to have a solid bead. Every corner after the collapsed mine building I kept hoping for the Alpine Tunnel trail parking lot. It was dark, getting colder and I was alone. No lights around me, no signs of other riders. It didn't help that my right foot was going numb from the cold or that I was hearing large animals in the bushes. Not hallucinating - there was something big pacing along the road beside me for a while. Finally the runt off the road and into the double track. I could see lights below me in the valley, a line of bobbing stars among the mountains. Getting closer to the roof of the continent meant the first hike-a-bike was coming up. I was looking forward to the break from pedaling and hoping the feeling would come back to my foot when I started walking. The Alpine Tunnel hike-a-bike is short, but just enough a slap in the face. In and out of the trees, with lights dancing ahead of me. I started up the climb, keeping the pace brisk to stay warm. At the top, a short pause to look around - take in the stars and the moon and the dark mountains surrounding me. I debated throwing my rain coat on for the descent but opted not to. Not quite a mistake but close. After the short singletrack descent to the west side of the divide on more a goat trails thru the bushes, it was time for a long road descent. I was a little chilly as I dropped down towards the base of Tomichi Pass, regretting not putting on my jacket. But there was more climbing coming....
|Having a blast on the Starvation Creek descent|
Photo - Joy from the Salida Library
There was a small aid station right at the start of Rainbow Trail. I inhaled a handful of peach slices and some yummy fruit squeeze thing. The rice cakes looked delicious, but at that point I was finished with rice cakes. Refiled my water bottle again and started down the Rainbow. Ahh - Rainbow Trail. A trail of with two sides, with big rocks littering the trail at the start, swooping dives into creeks followed by nasty climbs that would be a kick in the ass any other day. Wide open trail in sage meadows and then a narrow line of singletrack painted against the hillside. Rainbow Trail - a treat under any circumstances. Even fatigued with over a 100 miles under my tires it was still blast. I knew I'd be walking the nasty climbs and didn't even try to ride them. I worked on my hustle, trying to push the tempo with my hiking breaks. I've only done Rainbow a few times, but felt comfortable and relaxed. Having fun and grinning - each climb meant I was closer to the road.