The 32 cyclists were escorted through the three turns out of town. I'm sure all 17,000 Douglasonians were sound asleep as we snaked through 10th Street to Pan American (the Mexican border is less than a mile south of our start), and then on to Route 80 West. The escort was way more ceremonial than safety-necessary.
I was probably half-way back in the pack so had a most glorious view. Oh, how I wish I had a digital capture. Imagine, if you can, a string of tiny, red, blinking tail lights serpentining through the twists of the night road, climbing, climbing to summit Mule Pass. Each rider had two or three tail lights so the the red twinkles were doubled to tripled. Above, above a sea of stars and planets sparkled in their wonder.
The temperature was cool, but not cold. I didn't even need long fingered gloves! I was actually relaxed and enjoying the serenity of the night and the pleasure of the ride. About 2:30 I began to watch the approaching rear headlights wondering which would be my crew. Rider numbers were affixed boldly on the back and passenger side of the rear window of the crew vehicle for easy identification. I was rider number 7. At 2:45 my crew caught up with me for the first time. We exchanged pleasantries; they held back; I rode ahead, just as planned. And so we advanced up Mule Pass. At about mile 17 I drank my first bottle. Feeling fine. A little further up the road a rider had a flat just as my crew was passing so they were able to provide headlights for the rider to repair his flat and protect him with their vehicle from approaching bike and car traffic.
About 6 miles from the summit I caught #22, Linda. It was fun to have company in the dark. The road was brighter, barking dogs were less scary, and spirits were lighter. I have to concentrate on severe climbs, too low a gear makes the bike too wobbly, a little higher gear and my quads catch fire. I called out to Linda, "How far to the summit?" No answer. "Linda, are you back there?" No answer. Cast a quick glance in my rear view mirror. Linda was no where to be seen. I had summarily overtaken Linda on the climb. Hmm. I was breathing hard, feeling the altitude for real. No way for us mid west flatlanders to altitude train.
Finally reached the summit, 27 miles into the ride, where there is a parking lot. About 10 crew vehicles were awaiting their riders. Bryan steadied the bike as I got off. I felt absolutely terrible--dizzy, shakey, nauseated, weak. I tried to drink and there would be none of that. Food of any kind was even more abhorrent. Was this just altitude? If so, it should pass, but I would certainly need to feel better before beginning the descent or I'd wobble into a crash for sure.
I didn't have to pee, but I thought I should give it a try to see how that system was working. The results were not good--only 3 ounces of dark, tea colored urine. A decision needed to be made.