This bike section was the toughest for many reasons, but primarily because we lost Fletcher for a while. Heat, exhaustion, lack of proper water/nutrition, etc took over his body. We had to drastically slow our pace, take an extra nap, and make our route decisions based on what would be easiest for Fletcher and for the team to take care of him. At appropriately named Hell Hole and with the guidance from our buddy, race staff, Paul, we chose to alter our course away from a 10 hour hike a bike up 3000ft (one that Team Bones had been lost all night on) and opted for a much much longer but paved route. My guess is that this route was at least 40 miles out of the way, but indeed paved. We cruised down in elevation 2000-3000 feet before starting a massive climb to the entrance of the Rubicon Jeep trails. This road was creepy! Never before have I seen such clean, perfectly paved roads in the middle of nowhere that had zero road kill and zero animal noises at all. We had been warned that mountain lion activity was strong in this area, so I spent a majority of the climb chanting “here, kitty kitty.” At 2:30 am, just after we woke from a 1.5hr sleep, we learned of the purpose of those creepy roads. Logging trucks begin their day at crazy hours and those trucks make some noise. Naaaaaahhh nan a nana will ever be imprinted on my brain. And oh yeah, they move fast. One almost got me as I couldn’t get over to the right side of the road fast enough. Anyway, the climb continued with Julian towing Fletcher the majority of the way until sunrise. At this point we had realized that our planned 24-30 hour bike section was going to be more like 45-50 hours, so we didn’t have enough food. Julian and I worked hard then to buy food from local logging workers and campers at the Rubicon trail. Well worth the effort as we were rewarded with a pound of turkey, loaf of bread, granola bars, grapes, watermelon, etc. We had a breakfast feast and then set off, on foot, pushing our bikes up the Rubicon. This jeep trail system was tough, especially in bike shoes, and as the day pressed on, the heat rose and we barely creeped our way up to TA 5 on the Pacific Rim trail just before sunset. We had started this bike over 2 days ago…holy crap.
Now here’s a good time to shout out to the race volunteers and medical staff…they were amazing!! At this point we really looked forward to their bright shiny faces, words of encouragement, and medical attention. Never before have I done an AR where the volunteers outnumbered the racers and were ready to take care of your every need. I had assistance getting a bath in a bucket, fast food delivered to me, and foot/hand/etc care. We were cheered on extensively even when we left the TA and weren’t sure what direction to head. They hugged and kissed us (Olof and Fletcher more than anyone) and cleaned up our trash. The race was epic and amazing in so many ways, and the volunteers were tops!
Good bye bikes forever, onto foot. Pacific Rim trail while sleep deprived, not a good idea. Don’t get sleep monsters when you have 100ft plus drops inches from your right foot. We napped 2 hours on the trail 12-2am, woke up frozen, and climbed as fast as we could to warm up. Fletcher had returned to himself for the most part and had taken over nav, but we continued to monitor him and carry a lot of his weight. At times this caused some tension as Fletcher felt he was being babied, but to Julian and Olof, we needed to do whatever it took to keep him healthy. Just before sunrise, we arrived at a gas station off the trail. COFFEE!!! Oh, magical coffee and hot burritos. Everyone fuel up and let’s get going. To me these transitions were really slow, and if in the future we’re in a close fight for placement, I’d recommend not making these stops. The warm bathrooms and difficulty in making food decisions added a lot of time to the clock. Lucky for us, we weren’t close to second place, and 4th place we had learned was hours behind. In any case, we just needed to keep moving. Olof and Fletcher had a little issue about an hour later over a route choice, and trekking poles went flying. The nice part of that though was Fletcher’s anger added a boost to his march, and he took off up that mountain. 30 plus miles later, the guys had kissed and made up and we were approaching the end of our trek/start of final paddle. Hey guys, “we are going to be done with this mother f@#$J%I race TODAY!!!”
We stopped by Taco Bell in North Lake before the final transition to boat, and then slowly made our way onto Lake Tahoe. The winds had picked up and the sun would be setting in a few hours. I thought the plan was to eat up, bundle up, and drink a hell of a lot of caffeine to make it to the finish. I had brought music loaded on an old i-phone and a splash resistant blue tooth speaker (best decision ever) for Julian and I. We were happy and singing when Julian noticed some “issues” in the other boat. OMG guys…we’re so close to finishing??!! Olof and Fletcher weren’t as stable in their sit on top kayak with the waves capping pretty big, so they had a hard time adjusting clothing and eating. They seemed to be yelling at each other also. Ugh. At one point the choice to turn around and go back to shore was brought up. I’m pretty sure I would have jumped out and swam the lake to the damn finish if the guys had opted for that. Instead, we made a slightly dramatic stop on some rocks so that the guys could load up on food and layers before dark hit. Can we please finish now??!! Music back on, questions going back and forth between boats, and splash tactics to stay awake. Olof and Fletcher learned that they both know every word to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” which was one of the funniest acts I’ve ever seen. Whatever it takes to get us to the finish. The lights on the far shore seemed to take forever to get to, but alas, at 12:15 am on August 28th, 8.5 days after we stared, we finished. We all collapsed on the beach (after washing the pee out of my wetsuit…hey, it was 7 hours in that kayak), and then frozenly shuffled our way up to the state line and Hard Rock Hotel for the best AR finish ever.
To everyone that organized and helped with the race, thank you for the most epic race ever. Part of my heart was left on that course (as well as my toes), and I will never forget the memories created during those 8 days. To my team, you guys are amazing and I’m pretty sure I would not have had as many laughs and cries without you. We worked so well together and always had each other’s backs. Julian, you are such an incredible leader. Your ability to take care of the weakest link, motivate us all, and come up with conversation that kept us mentally rolling for over a week is amazing. Olof, thank you for being so tough and racing through your sickness. As Julian said, you are a fearless warrior. Fletcher, your laugh is infectious and your ability to roll with the punches and rebound from bonking is pretty unique. And last, to my family, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to fulfill this dream. I know you sacrificed a lot to let me go and you put up with a lot from me as I go through my post-race depression/recovery.
Cheers to us all,