... Ok, maybe not exactly but that's what Whitefish has felt like since I rolled into town Sunday evening.
Whitefish is a crossroads of The Great Divide Route as well as The Northern Tier Route. The Tour Divide started last Friday so between all of those riders rolling through and Northern Tier riders that seem to roll through on a very regular basis I have been hanging out with other cyclists most of the time since I've been here.
Tour Divide riders all seem to be doing well but the reports of the snow on the route do not seem too promising... and it sounds like it gets much worse after Whitefish.
In some ways I'm kind of okay with the snow situation. I think it will help me not get too caught up in trying to race too much in the first week. I want to put in a very solid effort on this ride but I am not in any way going out there aiming for any specific time. I know it's a very cliche thing to say but more than anything I want to have fun and I want to finish. If I'm able to do both of these things in a pretty quick time then great, but if it stops being fun my first remedy will be to slow down and see if that helps. Pushing my bike through miles of snow in the first week might go a long way in helping me not get too caught up thinking about how fast I might be able to finish and instead just focus more on the task at hand at the moment.
I spent a good part of my day yesterday swapping out various new parts on my bike: chain, cassette, chainrings, brake pads, cables, housing, pedals, and saddle. I'm spending quite a lot of extra money by replacing lots of things that aren't fully worn out but I feel a lot better about starting this ride with as small chance as possible of mechanical failure.
I also made most of my final decisions on which stuff I will be carrying with me to start the race and I shipped two packages of things home this morning. I'm really glad that I ended up deciding to ride the 850 miles up here to the start. It really gave me a chance to work with my gear and find out exactly what stuff I needed and what stuff I didn't need. And luckily I was able to cover so much ground in my first 5 days out of Salt Lake City that I've had plenty of time to taper and be fresh for the race.
I feel so strong right now physically. I've ridden about 20 miles around town since Sunday afternoon, running errands and getting back and forth from camp/hotel, and I feel so fresh and strong. I would feel pretty confident in saying that I'm in the best cycling shape of my life, which is of course where one almost certainly needs to be to ride this race.
I'm still very realistic in knowing that my chances of making it to Mexico are less than my chances of not making it but I do feel a higher level of confidence about this whole thing than I have felt at any point up to now. For the first time I almost feel like I can at least conceive of what I'm about to get myself into. Chances are though by sometime on Friday afternoon when I hit the first snow covered pass I'll be back to feeling like I'm way in over my head. Good stuff. It might sound a little odd but that "way in over my head" feeling almost always ends up being my favorite part of races, but it's going to be a lot harder dealing with feelings like this in a race that will take so long. Should be a great learning experience out there.
Thanks for the kind words I've received from so many of you that have been following along on my journey to this point. It'll be nice knowing that I've got people following online as this thing unfolds. Hopefully in about a month I'll get to post a full race report that includes a ride all the way to Mexico!