Alaska UltraSport Entry 3: Rainy Pass - Bison Camp

Day 3 (48 – 72 hours)
On top of the pass I look around at the view and it was breathtaking.  The sharp peaks and the range of mountains where I was heading down Rainy was something out of a photograph.  I took some pictures felt great and tried hard to shove the pain of my knees out of my mind.  I didn’t want to admit that this may be a problem and a strange tightness started creeping into my calf and achilles.  I looked behind me throughout the day to make sure no one was gaining on me.  I didn’t see a soul and wanted to keep it that way.  I started following the bike tracks down the pass, it looked like some were walking.  The snow was too soft to even bike downhill, though I tried unsuccessfully.  I took a few nice falls.  The parts I was able to ride I had to pedal downhill.  The descent into the Dalzell gorge was fine and the afternoon sun warmed things up enough to take a couple of layers off. I felt too hot. The lower I descended the firmer the trail became until I was actually able to ride! The river was well packed and I was heading toward Rohn. The GPS said 10 miles. As the afternoon turned into evening the sun dissappeared it was noticeably colder. The side of the pass starts the interior which is usually much drier and colder. Eventually, my freeing 10 mph riding ended when the trail stopped and became soft recently churned up knee deep snow machine trail.  It was a slog. I noticed a smoldering fire and stomped area off the trail where someone must have bivied.

My knees were hurting especially on the up slopes and after each side step going up I had to rest the knee before swinging my other leg up. I was afraid my anchored leg would give out.  As I rested a few times to give them a break suddenly Brij was behind me. Darn it. I wanted to be ahead but felt so slow.  We walked together throughout the Dalzell. It was creepy in the darkness in the narrow gorge and steep cliffs that I couldn't quite see and slim ice bridges that cracked under the strain of my bike as I crossed them. We tacked back and forth across the river and I almost slipped down the side of one if Brij didn’t warn me to watch it. 

Pretty soon we came upon some trailbreakers having a hell of a time with three snow machines, two guys and a lady. One was yelling a lot and did not seem particularly happy. We passed them but then they passed me and the lady got stuck on a ridge.  Brij was ahead while I got caught behind the machines. As the folks were trying to free the machines I waited a while and became overwhelmingly tired and cold and just wanted to get going. I started zoning out and pretty soon Dario, an Italian rider, caught up to me.  Bummer again. We waited again and I should have offered to help but was too tired to say anything.  Instead the overly animated trailbreaker yelled obscenities at us. I felt a little hostile towards him but knew I should have offered help beforehand so we conceded and got the machine un-stuck. The next 4 miles to the Tatanina river were excruciatingly long but I could ride again! I pulled into Rohn, the temps felt around -15 to -20 and the waiting had chilled me a bit.  The small checkpoint was cramped full of eight racers sleeping.  Jasper the checker was outstanding offering me coffee, hot chocolate and noodles.  The warmth felt so good inside. The log book showed the leaders arrived at 8pm and it was now 11:30pm.  I slept well after inhaling some food and my clothes hung up to dry.  I woke up at 3am and left by 4am. The wind picked up leaving Rohn as I rode onto the river ice. It was free of snow so the trail markers were a little hard to find but I followed some tracks to the river edge where it went into the trees after a couple of miles. The trail was hard and fast through some thick trees, I was cruising! I caught up with Jacques and his partner then led for a while. I was finally riding and my knee good enough. I cruised for a few miles when I noticed my rear stuff sack was missing. I had to back track. Eventually I ran into Dario who had picked it up. I thanked him and then raced ahead and the temps were cold and the snow thinned out to where the ground was visible.  This went for a fast 20 miles to the farewell lakes and on to the burn.  The burn was really a burn.  I turned around in time to see Rocky pass me. His skinny tire bike must have ate up the country on this section.  The hills were a killer and I was feeling my knees hard but I just ignored it (stupid). 

I had to stop to rest my knees and tried to boil coffee.  It felt better but I lost time and Jeff Oatley with his riding partner caught up to me.  Arround 1 pm, the half way mark to Nickolai was a little wall tent called Bison camp.  There were a bunch of racers in there drying out.  It felt good and very warm.  I dried out, boiled some water and ate some food.  This marked the end of the third day.