Best Ride Ever / Worst Ride Ever

A Note from Fatty: Saturday, I went on a nice long road ride with Kenny — you know, the fast guy. By itself, this is not strange. What is strange is that Kenny was riding with me instead of doing a race he had planned on.

That, my friends, is unprecedented.

Kenny told me the story of how he pre-rode the course. It’s an epic story, and not to be missed. So I bullied and begged him to write it up for my blog.

Enjoy, and be glad you weren’t there with him. I know I’m glad I wasn’t there.

Pre-Riding the Rim Ride Race
My best ride ever was my worst ride ever.

I love endurance mountain racing and I love Moab, so when I heard there was a new race starting in Moab this spring, I was very excited to go down and give it a shot. The race is called the Rim Ride. It’s unsupported, it’s free and it’s ride at your own risk. To me, this sounds really cool.

Most of the course I had done already. It seemed like the organizer had put every sick ride in Moab into one giant loop. A general description would be; start at Lions park, head north up the old highway bike path, hook up with bar M trail, then the Sovereign trail, cross over highway 191 to the Monitor Marimac and 7 mile trail, continue up the dead horse point road to the upper Gemini bridges trail, down to hidden canyon metal masher trail, back to Gemini bridges road loop around to the back side of the gold bar rim trail, then follow the golden spike trail to the portal, descend on the poison spider trail to the potash road and back to Lions park. It’s about 90 miles. I figured that I could complete it in about 8 or 9 hours.

Big Mistake.

I thought that I could do the ride with a camel back and two water bottles.

Another Big Mistake.

I’ve been riding a 34-18 on the single and I couldn’t recall a lot of climbing on this course. That gear should be fine.

Strike Three Big Mistake.

I asked a few buddies to come preride this course with me. When no one could, I was actually somewhat excited to tackle this adventure by myself. I took the back seats out of my FJ, threw in my blow-up mattress, a few camping supplies and headed out for Moab late Friday night for Kenny’s Big Adventure.

Earlier in the week I had a cracked tooth prepped for a crown and it was causing me some pain. I didn’t sleep all that well, so when my alarm went off at 6:00 to start the ride, I decided to give myself a little more sleep. After all, the ride should only take me 8 or 9 hours. I got up around 8, made myself some French pressed coffee and some instant oatmeal. I was on the bike by about 8:30 with my map, trail description, ipod, a sandwich in my camel back and a whole bunch of gels.

First Blood
I felt really good for the majority of this ride. At the beginning, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the trail was marked pretty well with blue tape at all the major intersections. I could occasionally feel my tooth throbbing with the beat of my heart, but it wasn’t painful. It was nice to have my mind off it. I wedged my front wheel into a technical drop and found myself flying over the handlebars and down the side hill into some nasty rocks.

I picked myself up pretty fast and gave myself a once over. I had a big gash on my knee, but it was only superficial. My hands were scratched up and a little bruised. I put some gloves on, thinking that I should have been wearing gloves in the first place. I made sure that my bike was fine and that I still had both water bottles and my bike computer intact. I remember thinking, “I can still take a pretty good fall for an old dude with osteoporosis.”

I started making pretty good progress. I passed some groups of riders that were stopped at some big climbs taking turns doing moves. Hey, I can do moves, but not today. Today is not for playing on moves. I waved politely and kept riding.

I had done the sovereign trail years ago, but I must not have done all of it. It was much bigger than I remember. By the time I crossed the 191 highway to the Monitor Marimac road, three hours had passed. Mmm, that was only 21 miles in three hours. Wow, I was only averaging about 7 miles an hour. This ride might take me a little longer than I thought. I’ll just pick it up a bit.

The road was good and I made up some time, but once I hit the 7 mile trail, it was really climby, technical and sandy. Rolling past the two giant rock formations named after the famous battleships was surreal. That’s about when my ipod quit, four hours is about all I can expect.

I descended down a large slick rock section called wipe out hill and found I was hiking more than riding the next 3 miles to the Canyonlands highway. By the time I got to the Gemini Bridges road, I was still feeling pretty good. I was having a lot of fun. I had done half the ride in about 5 ½ hours, but I’d used up about all of my water.

I stopped at the first camp site that I saw to bum some water. Not expecting any company the skinny old man from Washington in nothing but his red tighty briefs, seemed startled to see me. He was happy to give me water and commented that they don’t have any sand where he comes from. I only filled my camel back thanked him and took off. I was starting to think that I was going to cut it close to dark if I didn’t hurry.

Ominous Foreshadowing
The next couple of hours were splendid. The temperature was perfect. The trail was perfect. My bike was perfect. The views were more than perfect. As I was getting close to the Gold bar rim trail, I began to calculate the day light with miles left to ride. The sun was getting pretty low. My shadow seemed to be growing longer by the minute.

I was excited to be riding Gold bar. It was the most familiar trail I’d been on all day. I stopped and filled a water bottle from a guy who was setting up camp, by the big 4 ft drop. He asked if I had a pump. He needed some air in his tire. “You can’t do without water.” He said.

“Or air,” I said, as I started the first big climb of the evening.

I had done this trail at least ten times, but I never remember struggling up that first pitch. I had to get off the bike and hike a good part of it. That’s when it dawned on me. Man, I’m cooked. This would have been the perfect opportunity to bail on the ride.

I kept going. I was determined to finish the ride.

The Wall
I ate a gel, drank some water and got back on the bike. Hitting the wall is a great way to explain how I felt. One minute I was great. The next I had nothing left in the tank.

I was OK as long as the trail stayed level. As soon as it started to climb I would feel nauseated. I knew that I had to keep rolling or I would never get out before dark. By the time I reached the rim the sun was setting. It was so beautiful, but also nerve racking at the same time.

At this point I knew that I didn’t have enough time to drop down the Poison Spider Mesa trail. I had a new plan. The Portal Trail was a 3 mile descent down from the mesa to the Potash road.

The problem with this plan was people die on the portal trail. The trail is very exposed and dangerous. I had been down it many times, so at the very least I was familiar with the parts of the trail where people have died.

Dark
The problem I was having was I could hardly see the painted dots on the slick rock to follow the single track. If I lost those dots, I was for sure going to be stuck on top of the mesa overnight.

My predicament was becoming worse by the minute. At one point I lost the dots entirely. I put my bike down and ran in a circle with my head low to the ground. It took me a couple of precious minutes to find the trail and be back on my way. Finally things were beginning to look familiar. I had made it to the top of the portal trail.

I could look down off the mesa and see the lights of Moab. I could pinpoint almost exactly where my car was parked. It seemed so close. In daylight I could be there in about a half an hour.

In the state I was in, I was unsure that I would even make it to the car before morning.

At the top of the portal trail I took out my phone and checked if I had a signal and took note of the time. I had a signal and it was 8:30. I had now been on the bike for 12 hours straight. I considered calling my wife and letting her know of my situation, but I didn’t want to worry her. I figured that I had a signal and it was comforting to know that if things became worse that I would be able to contact someone.

The first part of the portal trail is a gradual descent with 500 ft cliffs off the left side. I could see surprisingly well at the beginning. I suppose that it was from the reflecting lights from the city of Moab. I rode up until I got to the signs that indicate how many people have died on this trail. I could only make out the square shapes of the signs as I clumsily hiked past, but I knew what the signs say: “Dismount your bike! 4 people have died on this section of trail.”

I would hike the rest of the way.

As I got further down the trail it became darker. I could no longer see anything more than a couple of feet in front of me. Every so often, I had to open my phone and use the LED screen to try and find the trail again.

I fell about 6 times, either tripping or slipping on the sand stone with my bike shoe cleats. One time, I stepped forward, the rock gave away and I tumbled face first down a four foot drop with my bike falling on top of me. I wasn’t hurt, but I just laid there for a couple minutes, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

I wanted to call someone and tell them to come get me, but I kept thinking of people watching the 5 o’clock news and hearing about the ill prepared idiot mountain biker who rode all day by himself, and had to be hauled out by the search and rescue.

I was not going to be that guy.

Well, actually I was that guy, but I got myself into this situation and I was going to do everything I could to get myself out.

My plan was working. I was making progress down the trail. I could see the lights of cars down on the potash road and they were getting closer. I figure it took me about an hour and a half to hike the three mile portal trail in the dark.

I had made it to the road, but I was still about 5 miles from my car. I was totally exhausted, completely dehydrated and starting to get the shakes. My plan was to thumb a ride, but there were no cars.

I spent 5 minutes getting on my arm warmers and another jersey and started pedaling. I just tried to keep my wheel on the white line. Those last miles, though very hard, seemed to roll by fairly fast. As I was crossing the Colorado River and approaching the Lions Park, where my car was, my phone rang. I knew it was my wife, but all I wanted to do was get to the car.

Finally, I was there. I drank as much as I could without feeling sick, crawled onto my air bed, called my wife and tried to explain myself. I laid there, shaking, for about an hour: half asleep, half awake.

Then I drove to a nearby spring, took a bath, drove back to the park and slept like a baby until 10 the next morning.

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