The 2nd year of Bones to Blue dished out a mix of good and bad luck.
Unfortunately, bikepackers are a group of hardworking people. Over a dozen riders were signed up for the group start, but, at the last minute, many couldn’t make due to work commitments. Where are the lazy hippies?
So a mixed crew of 7 riders left from Truckee. About half looked like they were out for a day ride with practically nothing on their bikes. It’s only 250 miles, right?
Air quality was looking bad leading up to the start due to large, multiple fires in California. Luckily, the smoke cleared in time and skies were clear and sunny everyday. It was, however, toasty on the first day, making it tough to stay cool and hydrated.
On Day 1, bad luck took out two riders. Luke’s GPS fell off his bike somewhere along the Donner Lake Rim Trail. He backtracked three times looking for it before bailing. Keith crashed on Hole in the Ground and hit his head/nose pretty badly. He pushed on, finishing the Bones loop in Truckee.
A third rider, Nelson, also pulled out in Truckee after finishing the Bones loop. Not sure why.
Of the remaining 4 riders, Paul had an insane goal of finishing in less than 40 hours, Blake’s goal was simply to finish (after DNF’ing last year), Forest was hoping to finish in 60 hours (similar to his performance last year), and Julie was gunning to finish in a quick 3.5 days, while still enjoying the route.
Paul put down a mind-blowing performance, crushing the route in 37 hours and 56 mins. He didn’t get any sleep, but REM wouldn’t be denied, and, on day 2, it caused him to hallucinate…like seeing a guy playing a piano below Tinker’s Knob. It’s was an amazing run and he set the new course record. It will be very tough to beat.
Blake “took it easy”, pulling back from his usual go for no sleep/go for broke approach, and finished in 59 hours and 40 mins. Having broken his collar bone at the beginning of summer, it was admirable that he even took on such a technical route. Great to see him come back and slay the beast.
Forest finished in 63 hours and 42 mins, a few hours behind his goal. His skimpy sleep kit was fine on night 1, but, on night 2, he woke up shivering near Armstrong pass. Overall, a good run, but he backed off a little from the previous year to enjoy the route more.
Julie executed a very consistent and fast performance, but, on day 2, fell behind the pace she had planned. However, things got a lot more fun when she transitioned her mindset to just tackling the the route as it came. She still met her goal and finished in 84 hours, setting the woman’s record for the new course (that includes Hole in the Ground).
The 2nd season of Bones to Blue was a success and the popularity of the route continues to grow with about 2x as many riders doing ITT’s compared to the group start. Plans for next year are already in the works…more single track, less pavement, and, maybe, a 4-day stage option with designated stops at campgrounds.
The inaugural group start went very smoothly (PHEW!). During the event, the temps would warm up in the morning and then turn into clouds and thunderstorms in the afternoon. On Day 2, in the late morning, we got to experience the partial solar eclipse. Some people got hit by rain, others pummeled by hail. And, unfortunately, a hiker was struck by lightening very near the route on Day 3.
To see a replay of the 2017 race (SPOT Tracker dots moving around the course), go to this archived page on Trackleaders and click the “play” button.
As expected, the field split into 3 groups:
1) No sleep/go for broke – Kurt, Isaac, and Blake packed very little on their bikes and set a blazing pace. They rode with or very near each other the entire race. They reached Incline Village on Day 1 before 9pm, but then pushed on into the night – no sleep. Blake dropped back from Isaac and Kurt late in the first night after Spooner Lake and, after putting himself through a brutal 24 hours, he pulled out at Fallen Leaf Lake. After stopping in Tahoma for a break, Isaac dropped behind Kurt. Kurt went on to set an amazing course record (38 hours, 15 minutes) and Isaac rolled in just 30 minutes later.
2) Some sleep, but pushing hard – Joe, Tony, Forest, Whit, and Matt all carried sleep kits, but were gunning to finish in less than 72 hours. Joe dropped the rest of this group early in the race and consistently moved quickly and efficiently throughout the course. He bagged around 4-5 hours of sleep per night, pretty much setting the bar for how fast you can do the route, while still getting some sleep (53 hours, 45 mins). Whit and Matt both experienced mechanical and stomach issues and they dropped behind Forest and Tony on Day 2. Tony was plagued with navigational issues and got off-track a dozen or more times. Tony and Forest rode together off and on throughout the course. On Day 3, Tony got an early start after being woken-up by rain. Meanwhile, Forest was sleeping comfortably in a roadside bathroom. Though he was feeling fried, Forest caught Tony at the very end of the race and they finished together. Whit rolled in about 5 hours later. And Matt came in an hour after that with a completely frozen bottom bracket.
3) Big miles, but smell the roses – Rich and Sharon probably had the most fun. Everyday, they rode 55+ miles of amazing singletrack, but stopped for plenty of breaks and photo opps. And, each night, they stopped at a reasonable hour to get some solid sleep. Bad timing put them under a massive hail storm near Armstrong pass, but they hunkered down until it passed. Their 4-day ride is a great template for how to really enjoy the route.
Lastly, Alice Drobna did an ITT about 2 weeks before the group start and set an impressive women’s and single speed record (66 hours, 18 mins). And that was despite stopping for lots of sleep on both nights. Luckily, she had cooler temperatures, but got hit with some heavy rain. After riding the route ourselves, we had a much better appreciation of how fast she was riding to finish so quickly, while getting lots of sleep.