We're having a great deal of rain. This summer we're getting monsoons like India gets monsoons. The rain often starts around noon in the high country, and it tends to be hard rain for a long time--sometimes until nightfall.
I've been antsy to do a big ride. The Leadville Trail 100 MTB race is less than two weeks away. Soon it will be too late to do a big training ride. And I don't like seeing the summer slip past without a few more Big Danged Rides™.
So I hatched a plan. Sunday evening (the 29th) I watched a DVD with friends. Then I went to the tPOD and loaded up my Camelbak. I snapped the NiteRider onto my handlebar, guzzled a Red Bull, and then left at midnight.
There was a huge moon. The official full moon was Monday night, but it was plenty big. The air was cool and moist, with patches of mist drifting around. My lamp made weeds and evergreens covered with dew reflect fluorescent light. I rode through the deserted night up to Marshall Pass.
I reached Marshall at around 3:45 AM and then headed north on the Monarch Crest Trail. I encountered quite a few drifts of sleet from the prior evening's storm. Several times I was startled by what seemed to be the headlight of someone coming up behind me only to turn around and see the huge moon shining at me.
I got to the top of the Agate Creek Trail at around 4:45. I adjusted my brakes and then headed on down. The drifts of sleet and frequent puddles and muddy patches kept me throttled back. I didn't like the idea of getting hurt so far from another human being.
Agate Creek Trail at dawn
The trip down Agate was pretty intense. All the roots were incredibly slippery, the crossings were running deep, and the light was really unusual. I had a setting moon, pre-dawn twilight, and of course the blue-ish white light coming from my HID NiteRider. And of course I had not slept for nearly 24 hours. It's hard to describe just how messy it was. There has been so much rain. Mud splattered all over me and the bike.
Oh, and it was beautiful.
I staggered out of Agate Creek at around 7:30 AM. Down Highway 50 to the White Pine road and the bottom of the Old Monarch Pass road. I started my ascent of Old Monarch around 8 AM.
Getting up to Old Monarch made me suffer. I was trying to keep from bonking, so I was hitting the water and Hammer HEED pretty hard. About halfway up I realized that I was running low. I should have gone down into Sargents to refill. I had to start rationing my intake, and it was not a good time to be holding any calories or fluid back from my body. I had HammerGel, but without enough water to digest it I would suffer dehydration. So I just plugged along trying to maintain my pace.
When I got to Monarch it was 10:20. I went into the bathroom and spent quite a while filling my Camelbak and mixing up hammer for my two water bottles. By the time I hit the Monarch Crest trailhead it was 10:45. Ominous dark-bottomed clouds were building, and I was running late for crossing the Continental Divide Ridge over to Marshall Pass.
I hardly stopped. Being on pretty singletrack, having plenty to eat, and wanting to avoid the storms breathed life into me. There was still some sleet on the trail near the very south end, even after more than 7 hours since my last trip through.
I started a figure eight after I got to Marshall around 12:15. I headed on south from Marshall to the top of Silver Creek. Those dark clouds were getting darker, and I started being spattered by light rain. I kept the hammer down, but the effort was starting to get thin. I was almost 13 hours into the ride. I had planned to do the Rainbow Trail, but between weather, my waning energy level, and a bent chain link discovered during a lubing session, I started doubting that I would be doing that.
I descended the Silver Creek Trail quickly but safely. Then I splashed my dirty bike through the flooded trail sections and hit the road on down. I rolled my tired ass all the way back to the tPOD arriving at around 3 PM. Ready to eat.