Thursday, June 19, 2008

24 Hours...

Until the start of the GDR. Apparently this is really going to happen.

I can't believe I'm actually here and am actually going to attempt this.

Can't wait to get started so I can stop stressing about last minute details.

Scroll down a few posts to find all the links to track the race progress over the next several weeks.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Epicenter Of The Cycle Touring World...

... 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!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tapering Is Hard To Do...

...Especially when you are living on your bike. My routine for the last 36 hours has been to pedal easy for about 10 miles and then stop for a break. Every 2nd or 3rd break I take a short nap. I haven't passed through a town since I entered Montana without stopping to look around. I have read every single historical plaque along the highway and overnight last night I was stopped for about 15 hours.

Despite this laid back pace though I'm still moving along ahead of schedule and trying my best not to cover too much mileage the rest of the day today and tomorrow.

I have to stop in Whitefish (which is about 80 miles from where I am now) for at least a day or two. I have a bunch of things being shipped to me there and that is where I'll do my final bike maintenance and make my final decisions on what I'll actually be carrying with me during the race. From Whitefish though it's only another 60 miles to the race start and I still have 6 days until that point.

Luckily the weather has turned nice again. Today is the warmest day since I left Salt Lake City. I suspect I'll be spending a lot of time in the next few days taking naps in the shade. Nothing wrong with this I suppose, except that it gives me too much time to get anxious about the race.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Moving Along

I'm in coasting mode now. I've got a week before the race start and I'm only 180 miles from the border. Considering that I rode 650 in the past week this is going to be really laid back for sure.

I did a really short day on Wednesday to let the worst of the storm pass through and then yesterday I rode almost 110 miles without hardly noticing that I was on the bike. That's a good place to be right now. Today I've covered about 50 miles and will start to look for a spot to camp for the night as soon as I get back on the road.

I ran into about 6 inches of new snow on top of Lost Trail Pass yesterday, luckily the plows had been out all morning clearing the roads so there was only a little bit of slush on the shoulders. Today the storm has broke and it's back to being windy with temperatures up near 70 degrees. It might get warm enough tomorrow that I can ride in shorts for the first time in almost 2 weeks.

That's all for now. I will post more from Whitefish in a few days. Including some actual thoughts about what I'm expecting to get out of this race.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

So Much To Say...

But I'm on a pretty short time leash here at the Salmon, Idaho library so I'll be brief.

I've covered over 500 miles in 5 days. I've been very pleased with how I've felt physically. The wind has been horrible and it's supposed to snow tonight and tomorrow. I thought this ride would be a good preparation for riding in the heat and sun. Hasn't happened that way. I've been wearing pants and long sleeves ever since I left Salt Lake City.

All in all it's been a great adventure so far. I've only felt like quitting twice so far, which isn't too bad for more than 500 miles... especially considering that I've had at least 5 completely blissful moments in which I felt like I was in the perfect place.

The Great Divide Race is going to be really hard but I feel like this ride up to the start is helping me work out a lot of the kinks and get used to "living" on my bike.

I sure am spending way too much money though. I'm eating like a horse. I seemingly can't pass by a cafe without stopping for a meal. Yesterday I ate 3 dinners. I've also spent two nights in hotels and now I'm probably going to stay in a hotel again tonight. Camping is fun and all, but when it's supposed to start snowing in a few hours and I'm in a town right now with multiple cheap motels it just seems silly to keep pedaling. Only problem is that it's supposed to be snowing/raining all day tomorrow as well and I have a 7,000 ft. pass to ride over at the Idaho/Montana border. That should be fun. I more or less have the clothing to ride in horrible weather but once I get soaking wet I'm going to want to get a hotel again tomorrow, using up more money that I don't have. I guess I should buy a lottery ticket or two. Well, I'm hungry again so I guess I'll go get dinner #1.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Time To Go

I leave later today to ride north. I'm hoping to get to Whitefish, Montana by about the 16th or 17th, hangout there for a few days and then ride up to the race start on the 19th. The race then starts at noon on the 20th.

I guess my ride actually started yesterday when I left my car at a friend's house about 45 miles from Salt Lake City and then rode back to town. Today though is when the real journey begins. When I load up everything I'll be carrying with me to live for about 5 weeks and hitting the road. To those that have done any bike touring you understand the liberating feeling of carrying all the stuff you will need on just your bicycle. Things instantly become so simple. You either have it with you or you don't and you find a way to make do with what you have.

At any rate, I'll likely post again before the 20th but here are a few links that can be used to track my progress over the next several weeks:

SPOT messenger will show my exact location everytime I push a button on a device I'll be carrying with me.

The GDR homepage should have various links with information as the race unfolds.

MTBcast will be having audio updates of racers phone call ins along the way.

The MTBR Endurance thread will almost certainly have discussion, analysis, photos, and other information as the race unfolds.

I guess that's all for now. I hope you all have as much fun in the next several weeks as I'm going to.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Shedding For Summer

I've had long hair for about 13 years.

Not so much anymore

Living on my bike for 5 weeks just seems to make more sense without hair.

A Swell Traverse And An Alpine Recovery

My playing around in the Utah desert in the name of training for a bike race is now sadly over. I'm in Salt Lake City attending to last details (there's an amazing amount of time off the bike that goes into being ready to ride the divide). In a couple days I'll be loading up my bike with my gear that I'll need to survive for the next 5+ weeks and beginning the ride north to the start of the race at the Montana / Canada border.

This past week was spent doing some more "training". It's fun training for something like the GDR because you don't have to get too specific about it. You just ride your bike a lot and play around with your gear to figure out what works best. I ended up riding about exactly 1,000 miles in May. Not quite as much mileage as I'd hoped for but considering that I took the first week of the month off (recovering from Miwok) and another 3 day stretch in the middle of the month off (river trip) that's not too bad. Almost all of this mileage was on dirt and a large portion of it was on technical trail and/or steep climbing where you don't exactly rack up the mileage too quickly.

My last good desert ride was this past Tuesday and Wednesday when I did an overnight ride from near Green River to near Torrey. My route was entirely on dirt and took me to some of the most remote areas of one of the most remote regions of this country. I basically traversed at an angle across the entire San Rafael Swell and then dropped into the northern portion of Capitol Reef National Park. I only had one reliable water supply (Muddy Creek) on the entire 150+ mile route so I had to start out with almost 2 gallons of water, and I carried about 11,000 calories of food at the start. It was nice to carry this much of a load because from here on out my kit will always be lighter than this. I was probably carrying over 20 pounds of just water and food! During most portions of the GDR I should be able to get away with half of that or less.

Here's some pictures from this ride:

After this ride I was ready for a little bit of cooler weather so I headed up into the Henry Mountains to relax for a couple days. I guess the term relax is somewhat relative as I did do a 13 mile run (with about 4,000 feet of climbing) and a very tough 20 mile ride (with about 7,000 feet of climbing) while I was up there. Mostly though I chilled out at a quiet campsite near a small creek in the shade. The weather was perfect and I only saw a few other people in the 60 or so hours that I was up there. I saw a lot more deer and buffalo than people.

Pictures from the Henry Mts.:

Also here's a few pictures from the previous week, the first one is riding with Meredith, Marni, Chris, and Dave the day after the KTR and the other ones are from the river trip I did just after that: