The high I received from the passing of two riders and knowing I was back in second place made the remaining miles to the summit all the more pleasurable, not to mention that on the other side I knew I would be reaching speeds in excess of 55 mph. We rolled on to Woodruff, Utah and Mountain View, Wyoming where I paused briefly to consume the better part of a large Super Supreme from a Pizza Hut located a little too close to the time station. The all-liquid diet consisting of Sustained Energy and Ensure Plus, although working adequately from a fueling perspective, left me desiring something with a bit more flavor and substance that I could actually chew. I worried that I had over done it, after all eating over half a pizza in a matter of minutes while exercising is hardly recommended, however my digestive tract functioned admirably as we continued on toward Manilla, Wyoming.

The route book provided all the detail a guy like me could ask for. A data freak from birth, I liked to know what’s coming up in order to prepare mentally, if it’s a 36-mile hill fine, as long as I know. It’s the unexpected that always knocked me for a loop. But in this case the book was clear.
The hills between Manilla and Vernal were steep, very steep, and long. It was with mixed emotions that I entered the Flaming Gorge Recreation area. I knew it would be one of the more scenic areas on the route and was looking forward to viewing its splendor. But I also knew that it would be unbearably hot, and we had already learned that heat and Allen don’t get along. In retrospect, it was fortunate that I tackled these big climbs at night as the heat would not be a factor and I would be unable to see just how enormous these hills were. It seemed like it took forever to ascend the windy switch backed road to the top. My aching feet were beginning to cry out for some reprieve and my throbbing Achilles tendons, which had been in pain since Oregon, were not improving. But hey, this is RAAM, it’s going to hurt a little, right?

Rob Kish had been slowly making up ground on me and I knew he was getting closer. as I reached the summit I noticed his RV parked off to the side. Obviously awaiting his arrival to provide him the much needed rest he deserved. Rob was riding his own race as well. He doesn’t ride fast, but what he lacks in speed he makes up for in consistency. Although my speeds were faster, he was on the bike more. I knew my plan from the start. “Don’t get off the bike for anything.” If you can spend 85% of your off bike time sleeping you’re doing it right.

As is the case with most rookies, we were falling short in this area. It’s just a thing you learn from experience, and Rob had that. This was his 17th RAAM and he had finished every one of them, a record that, in all likelihood, would never be outdone. But onward I went to Vernal where I would sleep for one cycle before tackling the dreaded Vernal, Utah to Craig, Colorado legs. Rob would just have to wait another day. My research had shown that this seemed to be the section of the course that would be one of the most demanding. Mile after mile of desolate wasteland claimed more riders than any other section on the course. And for reasons becoming easily evident. This place was like the moon, with bugs. Thousands if not millions of giant cricket like beetles covered the road for miles. Into headwinds, heat and isolation riders were force to travel. At just over a 1000 miles into the race this was also the time that it’s easy to start thinking “I’m not even halfway there yet,” the “Rockies are still ahead of me,” “this was a really stupid thing to do,” or the worst thought of all,” I just can’t make it.”

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