Saturday, August 22, 2015

Day 5, (mental break down commences)

Day 5, 3:30am-11:00pm, 130 miles

I had a good night sleeping under a huge pine tree right next to the trail.  I had picked a warm and dry location and by the 4th night I had a routine going.  Once I stopped I would take a quick glance at my ‘miles for the day’ on the GPS, reset the trip meter and shut it down.  Next I would shut off the Spot, maybe eat and drink a bit, take any meds and then go to work on body maintenance.  Brush teeth, wipe down with a wipe packet or two and then slip on my warm puffy jacket and then rain gear.  I always tried to time it so before I put on extra layers I had dried off a bit but had not yet cooled down to the point of being cold. The rain gear was part of my sleep system, it added a bit of warmth but also kept me protected from the inevitable condensation of my warm but 100% non-breathable Blizzard Emergency bivy bag . One I had all the essentials done I would unroll the Blizzard, fluff it up and inflate the sleeping pad that I kept rolled up inside.  If my timing was good I would still have some, but not to much, body heat going as I crawled into the bivy.  At this point my next major decision point was ‘leave on or take off’ my shoes.  Sometimes I would just leave them on, mostly if it was cold or I expected the morning to be cold.  I had extra pair of warm thick wool socks but I don’t think I used them one time.  All in all it would take me about 30 min to be double checking the alarm and closing the eyes for the last time....
Anyway it had been a good night under that ol tree and I woke up ready to get on to Helena.  I got a little cold on some of the down hills sections into Helena but all in all it was a pleasant ride with the sun coming up and all.  Once in Helena I re-supplied and at the same time was spot stalked by a inquisitive future TDR racer.  Next I then went looking for a place to buy myself a USB power pack.  Since my recharging system was not working I now needed a way to recharge ‘on-the-go’ my helmet light and if needed power my smartphone, IE: my back up GPS system.  This became my new power management strategy.  I would re-charge as much as I could when stopped for a meal or hotel but some days I would just buy another power pack.  Ha, after a while I was giving away depleted power packs. 
After Helena there is a long climb topped off with some fun double track.  On the long climb up to the double track my knees and Achilles were once again screaming in protest.  It was at this point, a few miles past Helena that I quit racing.  I transitioned into what I can only describe as a semi self-pity fest coupled with a vague, rather undefined plan to continue.  Two parts of my rather vague plan at continuing were first; don’t over medicate on pain pills and second; ice down every 20 or 30 miles in a stream.  Gurrr…..I knew each time I stopped to time ice down in a stream I would be giving up hard won time but felt it was the only way to continue. 
Needless to say this mode of operation began to drive me batty; soon I was constantly looking over my shoulder, waiting for the inevitable. …….  

After several ice it down stops, just before 7pm I finally rolled into Butte.  I resupplied at a great ‘we have almost everything’ convenience store (including a huge Ms Fields cookie ice cream sandwich) and was ready to leave when I discovered I had lost my chamois cream.  
It was to soon to break out my back up tube--so a quick detour to the local Walgreens had me back in business.
It was now 8:30, too early for a hotel, way too late to make Wise River. In a sort of lost state of mind I soft pedaled out of town and leisurely climbed up and past outlying homes and back into national forest lands. 

Around 10:30 and I was now thinking about a place to stop for the night.  Just up ahead I saw a set of car lights stop and then slowly start up again.  As they were approaching me the lights slowed down and I could tell they were going to stop next to me.  This was the first car in several hours and we were on a lonely forest service road, it was late and dark.  My instincts hit overdrive and I began to think this might be trouble of some type.  A pickup slowed and stopped with driver rolling down the window to talk.  I stopped and put my hand my hand over my helmet light so as not to blind the driver.  I could only see a dim silhouette of the driver and passenger in the dark, humm I wonder where this is going...... 
In a rather serious voice the driver’s first words to me were “are you from around here”.  I answered 'no' but said I was familiar with the area (true as this was my third time up this particular MT forest road).  The driver then informed me that just up ahead, up where I had seen his lights pause, that four wolves had crossed in front of him, apparently following some elk he had seen a bit further up the road.  Wow, I was a bit taken aback to think I was within ¼ mile of four hungry wolfs. 
Suddenly, sleeping under the stars lost all of its appeal.  I sort of remembered a trail head or campground of some type near were we were and verified with the driver, yes there was a block toilet house just up the hill.  I gave a thanks to the driver for his info and joked I would soon be sleeping in a Montana Hilton for the night.  He got a chuckle from my response and wished me luck.
Needless to say, just a couple miles up the road, I was quite happy to find said outhouse with its mostly clean floor and locking door.  
Looking back, day 5 was not that bad of a day but at the time all I could think was I was no longer in race mode, in many ways tomorrow would be the start of a different TDR.  Mentally the runaway slide to despondency had now truly begun and was building momentum. 
Bonus Section: Saddle Sores
Some of you may know that in 2010 TDR I suffered with appalling saddle sores.  To the point I was never going to do the TDR again unless I could resolve this problem.  As long as I have been biking I would always develop saddle sores on extended rides.  My particular problem revolved mostly around easily ingrown hairs. On a 2-5 day event it was a livable issue--but after 5 days would become almost intolerable.  
Knock on wood but I finally seem to have put this long term issue behind me.  Zero saddle sores during this TDR!!
So what did I do? 
First, in the run up to my 2014 TDR attempt I had some laser/permeant hair removal in two embarrassing but “strategic” locations.  I feel this is the main factor in eliminating my saddle sores. 
Second (after trying with mixed results going totally without a chamois) I switched to a ‘outer chamois” short design.  I recommend these to anyone looking for a different approach. I consider them to be a major factor in elimination of saddle sores.  They are not ‘perfect’ but the external chamois design really is a game changer imo.
Third for multi-day rides I have quit using the typical oil based chamois creams and now use a dimethicone based anti-friction cream.  This is quite amazing on the longer multi-day rides as it not only eliminates most heat from friction but also takes a lot longer (say about 2-4 days) for one’s riding shorts to become totally filthy.  In addition a little bit goes along ways.  I would apply it in the morning and then 2-3 times thru the day—and used less that two 1 oz tubes for the entire TDR.
Forth would have to be the saddle itself.  I am using a $35 dollar el-basic gel saddle from  performance Bike.
Nothing special about it except the width fits the up-right TDR position and it offers good flex/comfort on a hardtail.  The real key here is not the saddle itself but moving to a wider saddle to match the more up-right position I favor for multi-day races.


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