The best day
|Me, Katie Monaco, and Lael Wilcox in Banff. It was great to hang out with these ladies before the race. |
I've been meaning to ask Katie how long she wore those flip-flops.
Geez, I was starting to sound like a curmudgeon.
"I'm going to need to do some serious preparation," I said to Beat. "Maybe I should ride the Tour Divide again."
"I just need one more hug," I whimpered to Keith. "I feel so scared all of the sudden."
Keith indulged me for the ninety seconds it took to start at the very back of the pack. And just like that, I felt better.
"This is the most amazing thing ever," I announced to the others as I downed the sickly sweet brown water. I microwaved a frozen mystery meat sandwich and purchased a large bag of nuts, a block of cheese, some energy bars, some chips, and one bag of candy. The specifics of calories may not matter too much, but I was determined to get more protein this time around.
Most of the other riders at the convenience store seemed reluctant to leave town, and there was talk of sharing rooms at the only hotel in Elkford. I had no interest in calling it a day. I felt like I was finally warming up, and was surprised when my legs balked on the climb out of the valley. "I guess I do have a hundred miles on them," I thought. Elliot caught up to me at the Josephine Falls trail, and we fumbled around for a bit, trying to discern the correct route from a maze of fading logging roads and deer trails winding through clear-cut forests. After descending a faint singeltrack, we landed in a morass of the worst death mud. Elliot and I plowed forward in good humor. "I just lubed my chain!" Elliot exclaimed with indignation, and I laughed. After a few hundred feet my bike locked up completely, but when I tried to pick it up, I couldn't because it was at least thirty pounds heavier than before.
"Argh," I'm so weak, I grumbled. I picked up a stick to scrape mud from the frame and continued shoving the locked-up wheels through sludge.
Daylight faded completely as we dropped off the muddy logging roads onto the gradual paved descent into Sparwood. Alice caught us at the highway and I soon fell off the back. I suppose that's embarrassing, as Alice was on a singlespeed, but I expected that most everyone was a faster rider than me. The road into Sparwood was choked with cars leaving some kind of Friday night event, and I was annoyed by all the traffic. I had everything I needed, so at the turnoff to town I just continued straight and quickly put the chaos behind me.
I didn't have a plan for the next stretch, but already figured I'd just ride until 1 a.m. and then set an alarm for 5 a.m. As I pedaled along the highway, shivering set in again. I amended my plan to stop shortly after the turnoff to Corbin Road, so I could crawl into my sleeping bag and get warm. Ten miles past Sparwood, I rode down a steep path and found a nice, secluded spot next to the river. Clouds had cleared out entirely, and the sky was splattered with stars. As I unrolled my bivy and tried to remember the steps to this bedtime routine, I noticed that the puddles surrounding my campsite were already glazed with ice.
"It's going to be a cold night," I thought. This realization should have made me uneasy — I was already cold, my clothes were still wet, and I was relying on a seven-year-old sleeping bag that was never rated for temperatures below freezing. My bear spray was gone and just a few minutes earlier I heard coyotes yipping. But all I felt was an encompassing sense of tranquility. I'd been on the move for 16 hours and traveled 150 miles through the Canadian Rockies, and I found what I came here to find — peace. My moving tunnel of peace.
I crawled into my sleeping bag, still shivering, and hoped I'd warm up soon. Having finally stopped long enough to relax, I realized that my throat was quite sore. Also, my lungs had a strange, scratchy feeling with I breathed.
"Damn, I hope I'm not catching a cold," I thought. But I wasn't too worried. I don't get sick all that often. Beat will catch a cold that will take him out for a week, and I'll catch the same virus, get a runny nose for a day, and move on. Little cold viruses had nothing on the challenges I was going to face in the coming weeks, and I knew it, because I'd been here before. I shrugged off my sore throat, curled into a ball, and shivered myself to sleep.