I had just completed my first bikepacking race with the Stagecoach 400 and I was hooked: I would be in Banff in 2016. However, I needed another stepping stone until then and after looking at the calendar for another race, I settled on the Caldera 500: not too far and not too long. Or so I thought… Fast forward 6 months and many many hours of training. I finally made it to Mammoth Lakes and was checking in into the Alpenhof Lodge. After finishing during the night at 2am ans sleeping in the trunk of my car after the Stagecoach because all hotels were closed, I had decided to plan things a little better this time: the lodge is close to the finish line, open 24/7 and had low occupancy on both Monday and Tuesday when I would be back. Oh, delusion! I do a quick appearance at the pre-race meetup, meet with my executioner Alan and go for a last gear check ride on what I thought were the first two miles of the race… I took my last supper at the lodge and went to bed early.After a good meal and packing up tons of food and water for the long stretch to Bridgeport, I got back on the bike and ran into Blake who told me about his decision to stop here. The climb into the Tablelands started as the sun slowly set. I made it to the other side and at 10pm I set camp on the side of the trail where I slept for a solid 4 hours. At 2am, I started going up what seemed to be an endless climb. As usual more hiking than biking. I made it to the top at dawn and the downhill was pretty fun. I ran into hunters packing home and they offered me water and bananas. The place looked like bear heaven, and they confirmed that they had seen some. I continued the descent which quickly became a roller coaster. I flew by the junction without an opportunity to reconsider my decision. I would rather go 250 more miles than go back up this climb. Once in the basin and after topping off my water (with the hope of not having to drink it) by a parking lot, I started the 18 mile stretch to the start of the climb to Bodie. I could finally ride at a normal pace and it felt great. Unfortunately, I got into sandy territory at the bottom of the climb to Bodie at 1pm, the hottest time of the day. I pretty much walked all the way up, going from one tree shade to the next. It was so hot that I forgot to eat along the way and totally bonked by the time I made it to Bodie. The descent to Bridgeport started with a steady climb on a forest road and my legs completely gave up. One more time, some hunters stopped by to chat and offered me something to eat more exciting than the fig cakes I had been carrying since Bishop. My legs slowly recovered and I sort of enjoyed the descent to Bridgeport. When I got there, I couldn’t find a reason to keep going. I was going to DNF but I took the wise decision to not pull the trigger until I slept in a bed and ate A LOT. I entered a sports bar – the only place still open – and ordered one cheese pizza, one cheeseburger, one hamburger and two cheese sandwiches. All with fries. Please. I checked into a motel, ate the pizza and burger, took a shower, washed my bib and jersey, preped all my stuff for the next day and hit the sack. My mind was back into it at this point.The descent to Walker was long and offered a very different scenery than the climb. Much greener. I made it to Walker at 3:30pm, are a lot and refilled. I got back on the road right away hoping to make it to the next summit by sunset which did not happen. After a surreal encounter with a regiment of US Marines doing a night training in the forest I made it to the Leavitt Meadows Campground at 12am and decided to sleep for a few hours. I didn’t even change clothes and fell asleep right away.