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Old 11-03-09, 09:56 AM
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Biker395 
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Ooops. Sorry. Got home late riding through the fog last night.

We're on to Kelso ... a mere 35 miles away.

Stage VI - Baker to Kelso



The Kelso climb is long … over 20 miles. And it can be hot, although that would not be a problem today … the winds that created all the winds were from a low pressure system that was keeping temperatures down. The road surface is also awful … truly awful … in spots, dangerously awful. I had never ridden this stage, but I had seen it from the van and had heard about it.

But on the plus side, I felt strong … very strong. And although I had saddle sores, they weren’t particularly painful, so long as I kept my rear end on the seat.

And I noticed something. It was about 4PM. I knew that Saralie had gotten to Baker at about noon, and finished the 508 right about midnight. Twelve Hours. That would mean that if I kept up the same pace, I would finish at 4AM. That might sound like a terrible thing to the casual reader, but let me remind you … that meant finishing THREE HOURS ahead of time.

Holy crap! Twelve hours before, I was pushing hard through Death Valley, getting blown all over creation. Twelve hours before, I had all but given up hope of finishing the 508 at all. Twelve hours. And now, unless I ran out of steam or some other disaster befell me, I had more than a good shot at finishing!

This realization had the most positive effect on both my demeanor and my riding. Up to now, I had disciplined myself into keeping my speed and effort down, lest I run out of steam prematurely, and struggle to regain it before the end of the ride. Bonking would be disasterous.

But now, I realized where I was. 380 miles into a 508 mile race, and I felt great! Even better, the wind would be a quartering tailwind much of the way up the pass in front of me. My spirits were buoyed, to say the least.

I let myself go. Screw holding back. I had gotten a whiff of the barn, and couldn’t help picking up the pace. I won’t say that I flew up the Baker-Kelso grade, but I made 12-13 MPH along most of it. Even though it was 20 miles, the 20 miles seemed to go quickly.

The road was chip seal ... not the best for riding on, but not the worst. But I knew it would worsen near the top.



At one point, I motioned for the van to come along side of me.

“I’m doing OK on time aren’t I?

“Yes. You’re doing great. Why do you ask?”

“Where did everyone go? It seems like I’m all alone out here.”

“You left them in the dust. You’re climbing fast. Are you feeling OK?”

“Fine. I feel really good, actually.”

They handed me a fresh water bottle and I continued upward. The road worsened as I went. At the bottom, its really just roughened chip seal, but it gets much worse as you ascend. Soon, the road becomes smooth asphalt with little stones poking out … the size of marbles. I remembered these from 2006. They weren’t cause for too much concern, though.

What was cause for concern were the … I dunno what to call them … canyons? in the road. I’ve never seen anything like them. Right where the auto tires would contact the road, were snaking potholes, perhaps 6 inches wide and several feet or more long. They were located right where an automobiles tires would be … in some cases the two canyons running lengthwise for tens of feet. A front wheel into these, and you’d be on the ground for sure. I steered around them, hoping that they were not there on the descent.

Near the top, I passed another rider. This was the Horned Lizard, only 19 years old, and a veteran of the Badwater Ultramarathon. He was attempting the Death Valley cup …doing both the same year.

Of course, I had to chat with him.

“Long climb, huh?”

“Sure is … Is there a top to this thing? Every time I come around a corner, I think I’m at the top, but it just seems to keep going.”

True enough. That’s why it’s best to pedal and discipline your mind away from such thoughts.

“I think we’re almost there. Another mile or two.”

I continued up the hill, and found that my speculation was accurate. The top wasn’t far. Not wanting to stop, I kept going and started the descent.

To my dismay, the road surface did not improve. The canyons were still there. I was thankful that I got to this point in daylight. I didn’t know and didn’t want to find out what it was like to hit those puppies at 30 MPH.

About half way down the road, I motioned for the van to stop.

“What’s wrong?”

“What time is it?”

They checked the clock.

“Six O’Clock.”

“I though it might be. I need to put on my headlight. I want to make sure I have it on when I get to the time station at the bottom. Might as well give me my jacket, too. It’s getting cool.”

“I think it’s OK to put it on at the bottom.”

“No, lets do it now. I can see fine, but I don’t want to be DQed over something like this.”

I snapped it on, turned it on, and continued down. At the bottom, there are some nasty railroad tracks. I negotiated those and rolled to a stop. I announced my totem.



“Skink.”

“Got it. Where’s your headlight?”

“Right here.”

“Well, I could hardly tell that it was on.”

Another volunteer explained the obvious.

“Of course not … it’s still light outside.”

The crew rolled in behind me. I told them later about my near miss of a DQ.
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