Overall I was not feeling too bad physically. My Achilles tendons were still seriously inflamed and showing no signs of improvement, but I refused to let that slow my pace. There were other obvious problem spots, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome. So onward I went, refusing to fall victim to thoughts of giving up that had already caused other riders to drop out. “No way, this place really sucks, but it too will pass,” I told myself confidently. My dream would not die here, not today.

Dry desert landscape slowly disappeared turning into beautiful sub alpine terrain as we approached Steamboat Springs. The beauty of Steamboat’s surrounding mountains stood in sharp contrast to the seemingly endless miles of barren wasteland that now lay behind me. Surprisingly enough, I was happy to be here, even though I now had to attack 3 major climbs in a row. In the Tour de France, these climbs would not be ranked receiving the “UC” or uncategorized identification meaning these climbs can hurt. “I don’t care, just keep me out of that desert,” I thought to myself. Back home I live in the mountains so this type of abuse was all too familiar. It was approaching 6:00 pm as we rolled into lovely Steamboat and I had been riding for about 12 hours now. This was the start point for the second prime, Steamboat to Leadville, 117 miles with 10,000 feet of vertical. Truly a challenge to any rider, especially considering this prime hits you 1200 miles into the race. My original plan was to try to take this one. I had hoped I would arrive at Steamboat rested enough to challenge Fasching’s time. As was the case however, rested, I was not. The desert with its 125 miles of headwind had drained me of any extra energy reserves I had hoped to retain. I wasn’t going to sleep yet though as I did not want to waste any time trying to sleep before I was ready. We decided that the prime was insignificant in the big picture and that the most prudent approach would be to continue on and sleep in Wolcott. As we said goodbye to Steamboat Springs the broad valley floor provided some of the most beautiful scenery to date. Gentle rolling hills covered with lush green grasses escorted me to Rabbit Ears pass where I found a hotographer obviously interested in capturing this RAAM rookie’s ride on film. Before too long we discovered this was my coach, John Hughes up from Boulder to collect photos for the upcoming RAAM issue of his Ultra Cycling Magazine. I paused for a few minutes to talk with John, as I had never personally met him. All of our correspondence had been limited to e-mail and the occasional telephone conversation. I listed off a few of my concerns and pains out to my coach only to receive a somewhat harsh, but brutally honest reply. “This is RAAM, you didn’t think you were going to get through it without pain did you?” “No,” I replied hesitantly. “Then get back on your bike and stop whining about it.”

It took me a few miles of riding to come to grips with this blunt, but very factual synopsis of my current situation. But those words would prove invaluable later in the race. Whenever the pain would become so intense that it could no longer be ignored, I would recall John’s words and realize that pain and RAAM, like Siamese Twins, are inseparable partners.

By nightfall we found ourselves entertained by a brilliant lightning storm on the first of the three remaining climbs leading to the continental divide. Bright flashes lit up the sky in one of mother natures most impressive displays this rider had ever witnessed. The first hill was a steady climb that I was once again happy to be ascending in the cool of the night. As I approached the summit I was absolutely exhausted. Every stroke of my pedals was providing minimal forward progress in my 39-25 low gear combination. I realized then that Wolcott was not the night’s destination.

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