I came up with this seeming impossible idea while riding across the Great Basin Desert during the 2013 Tour Divide race. As I was riding along I was gazing off into the Wind Rivers Range admiring they’re beauty, they’re size and they’re mysterious pull I felt to explore them, I wondered about all the other mountain ranges in the world and how i could ever explore them all? Miles later I was riding with Jeff Mullen from New Hampshire and we were talking about adventure racing. Well somewhere in the miles I rode with Jeff in the basin I happened to come up with the idea of an adventure race from Pole to Pole.
If it ever comes to be it will be self supported. It will be navigated by map and compass(not sure how that’ll work near the poles) only with certain waypoints to reach along the way such as tall peaks, bottoms of canyons, monuments etc. So pick the quickest and most efficient means of travel between 2 points, that will be up to you. Means of travel will probably include cross country skiing, mountain biking, hiking/climbing, kayaking/sea kayaking for the ocean sections with no motorized travel. If there are any other obvious means of travel you think would be practical throw it at me. I know it sounds pretty rough, that’s the intention, and the logistics of planning such a race sound like a nightmare, but it’s possible.
I have been toying with the idea for the past year now, so I guess it’s in its early stages. I have begun to map out a route that would be possible for the North America section, but the Central American portion is where things get fuzzy. My knowledge of that region is limited to what I can find online, this is where those that have toured that region would be of great help. A couple friends of mine have expressed interest but they’re the only ones I had mentioned the idea to until now. How hard could it be to find 10 or so people that would come give it a shot, there’s plenty of nuts out there right?
Well it’s been a very long time since I have done any multi-day adventures. The military, my recent obsession with skydiving and trying to juggle all life’s other commitments has left little gaps of available time. Also, I must mention my new home in Georgia has hostile summers that make any activity outside completely miserable, so it’s no wonder I haven’t gotten out. But that’s all about to change, the weather is slowly turning and I can get outside to train without sweating an entire puddle on the ground.
So the race starts November 1st and covers 100 miles of eastern Alabama mountains on mainly single track, some jeep road and a few miles of pavement. Looks like it’s going to be a great course. Never done an ultramarathon of this length before so I am sure there will be some lessons learned. I can only imagine that my experience with multi-day mtn bike races will be an advantage. I’m looking for a strong finish with a decent time, nothing record breaking, just would like to cross the line. Looking at the last few years of the race times seem to be anywhere from 17-24 hours. I think I’ll be somewhere in the middle. Really looking forward to getting out there for the sufferfest and out of this tent I have been in for the last 8 days. Posted from my phone
Check out the link below if you’re interested in the race.
Many people told me that the Colorado Trail Race was going to be brutal. I think they meant physically because I had just completed the Tour Divide two week prior. Having never been on any of the Colorado Trail I really didn’t know what to expect, so I expected to worst. I imagined an entire trail that was barely rideable, with hundreds of miles of HAB, spending the afternoons dodging lightning bolts and getting pounded by hail and rain. I had heard the stories, but how bad could it be?
I looked on the positive side of things, at least there wasn’t a giant canyon in the middle of the damn ride right? The pain and suffering from the Arizona Trail was awesome looking back on it, and in a way I miss it, but I have been there, done that so its time for a new challenge, something harder.
There was certainly a mental progression, some sort of adaptation I went through after each race, no return to reality or the easy day to day grind, I stayed in full go mode. Instead of each ride becoming increasingly difficult due to the lack of recovery it became easier. By the time the Colorado Trail came around nothing would even phase me, the rough trail, endless climbs, calf muscle destruction, soreness, blisters or exhaustion. I’m not saying that I didn’t feel pain, I’m saying that I didn’t feel as though I suffered like I normally would have, or almost at all. In fact, the harder things became the more it fueled me, I wanted to suffer, I wanted to break myself down mentally, to reach a new level, but I couldn’t get there for some reason. It was the first time that I had ever experienced pure enjoyment out of feeling completely zonked. To force myself to push it I sent my entire sleeping kit home in Leadville. It would force me to only take a little nap here and there and to push almost 44 hours strait at the end and to be cold and miserable at times with no outlet of going to bed in a warm sleeping bag, but it’s what I wanted, to push my limits just a little bit further and to suffer.
One feeling accompanied by the increase in mental fortitude was my lack of emotion. There were very few euphoric moments, no intense feelings of happiness, and no feeling closure at the end of the race, “what is next, really?”. Maybe this is something that every other experienced ultra racer has experienced just from putting in the time? It was not as though this lack of emotion absorbed any enjoyment from my experience; I just enjoyed the experience in a different way. Instead of having those awesome moments where the weather is beautiful, riding excellent single track or watching an amazing sunset while riding I had my favorite moments when it was pouring rain, when I was at my worst, when I was suffering.
I feel as though I have just exhausted the sport and burned myself out. I need something more intense. Sure I can just go do more bikepacking races but to me it seems like its the same experience just different scenery. I think it’s time I go discover something else and come back to cycling when I miss it, time for a break.
I could go on and on about how bored I am now that I am back and what not, but if there is one thing I learned during the Triple Crown, most notably during the CTR, it’s that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to, it has given me the confidence I need to do literally “anything”. I’ve also found what truly makes me happy.
Anyways, I’m not doing a real trip report but I did have a great time and it was great to make some new friends out there. Checking out from the bike for awhile, everyone take care. I did post some pictures from the CTR though. They’re below.
Click the link to her blog below
Finish Time: 23 Days 11 Hours 50 Minutes and 36 Seconds-41st place with Mike Partheymuller “Who’s Counting right?”
For all the photos scroll to the bottom of entry
For the short version day by day account look just above the photo gallery
And here is the long version, because the Tour Divide is not short by any means.
As the last few weeks leading up to this years Tour Divide fly by an array of emotions come through me. The past year seems to have gone by slowly yet here we are nearing the beginning of something great once again. As I reminisce about last years Tour Divide experience; the stress leading up to the race, the disappointment on the second day dislocating my knee, unable to accept defeat and continuing despite torment and exhaustion for days pushing through knee pain no one dreams of experiencing, and finally admitting defeat. The past year certainly has offered plenty of time to reflect. With that said I am mentally prepared for whatever comes my way. This year is my chance for redemption.
Leading up to this years race was practically stress free. Unlike last year I have my bike all packed up in a box a day before I leave for Canada with everything in place. I am enjoying relaxing at my parents house the day before flying to Calgary. The flight was stress free and enjoyable. Walking off the plane into the Terminal in Calgary seems surreal as time between last years Tour Divide and now vanish, I’m in the moment.
I flew to Calgary with Robin Schwartz, he is also from Flagstaff. We both put our bikes together in the Airport lobby and after a few hours of organizing and cranking multi-tools we hopped on our bikes. Randomly wandered our way around Northern Calgary until we made it onto highway 1A that leads to Canmore/Banff.
Most people take the shuttle or drive to Banff, but riding from the airport makes for a better experience. There is great scenery along the way, it gives you a chance to make sure that everything on your bike is working properly and its an easy 100 mile shakedown ride to get the blood flowing in the legs again. What another 100 miles right? We have to ride 2745, no big deal.
We rolled into Cochrane, ate some fast food and found a nice place to bivy in a baseball field dugout. We got up that morning and met Jeff Mullen and Craig Stappler for some coffee and breakfast at the Starbucks. We talked for a few hours about bikes and sorts then Jeff and I rolled on. Robin headed back into Calgary to get a few last minute items to spruce up his bike setup.
Jeff Mullen and I made good time to Canmore and made a few little stops along the way. Safeway was the cheapest place to eat and even that can break the bank. In Canada I try to avoid restaurants or local stores because the exchange rate is not in my favor and everything is 2x the price, especially in the provincial park. I spent lots of time eating Subway in Banff, as well as the cafe in the YWCA. If you’re not worried about the money there are too many choices for places to eat and blow your money on in this tourist town, but hey, YOLO.
It was great to finally be back in Banff and see everyone roll into town on the days leading up to the GD.
I was hanging out at the YWCA that afternoon and there were only a few riders in town at the time, maybe 10. A guy named Bruce Gerould had an extra bed and offered to let me stay in his room for the nights leading up to the race. It was rainy and cold outside so why not right? I got to know Bruce and his friend Mark pretty well over the days leading up to the GD, they are both still out there and seem very determined to finish, looks like they’re gonna make it! Everyone knows Mark as the guy chain smoking cigars all day outside the Y. Who is this guy?
Spent the next few days socializing with everyone and hanging out at the YWCA, going for walks and taking afternoon naps. I felt sort of calm and relaxed leading up to the start, no anxiety, little emotion, just sort of somber. I knew what was to come, plenty of suffering, but I am ready.
Day one compared to last year was awesome. We had amazing Canadian weather. I felt great and was riding fast, a little too fast and I would pay for that later. But, being in the top ten the first 3 days was lots of fun and keeps you moving without stopping in towns to long. It keeps you in race mode. Next year if work allows I will come back to the Tour Divide well trained and shooting for less than 18 days.
When I left Lima that next morning and only getting 4 hours of sleep I knew that it was going to be a hard day. I ride 165 miles the prior day, and they were hard miles. So today I just planned to put lots of time in the saddle and not push it too hard. I rode with two guys that were touring the route for about 40 miles and enjoyed their company. I was having such a great day that I started considering heading back to Banff when I got to the Mexico border, definitely an impulsive feeling.
My achilles tendons were doing great that day and I was certainly enjoying my time on the divide. I got to Mack’s Inn AKA Island Park. Lots of tourist in the area here. I check the tracker for the first time since Butte and I see that Max Morris is only 30 miles ahead of me, I’ve been wanting to catch up to him. We’ve got a little rivalry going on, friendly of course. I leave Mack’s Inn and I’m determined to catch him tonight. Its late in the evening and there’s only a few more hours of sunlight so I put the hammer down. about 6 miles or so outside of town I make a few turns and eventually onto what is known as “Rails for Trails”.
My goal to catch Max tonight goes out the window when I have a look at the map, its 30 miles of whoops, washboards and deep volcanic cinders. This pissed off my achilles so bad that over the next few day it would almost end my race. I saw numerous bears on this section, albeit mostly black bears, but being followed by one will still freak you out when you’re alone. Ended up going off route (maybe a little too far) to sleep in a more secure place away from the bears. Rail’s for Trails section was certainly beautiful and full of wildlife but it was also the worst and hardest riding on the entire TD. If you plan to ride the divide one day just know this section is here, it sucks, I wasn’t mentally prepared and it got to my head.
After this section I soon arrived at the Togwotee Lodge. My achilles tendons were killing me from having to climb 15 miles out of the saddle (seat clamp post broke). I ordered a new one from a bike shop in Moose and had it delivered for 50 bucks 4 hours later. In the meantime I did some laundry and got a shower. It was really nice to have some clean clothes. I moved on up over the pass where I saw 4 grizzlies in a 5 mile span near Brooks Lake Lodge. I rode another 4 hours that night up part of Union Pass and camped at the Crooked Creek Lodge and waited for the cafe to open.
I ate breakfast but afterwards I was feeling extremely fatigued so they let me ice my achy joints and nap on their big leather couch. I awoke at 11 am and continued on despite not wanting to continue. I was mentally all over the place and my head was going to dark and weird places. I stopped numerous times on Union Pass in pain but told myself, “all you need to do is make it to Pinedale where you can get a big steak, some beer and a hotel room.”
Near the end of the gravel before the pavement into Pinedale I caught up to Jeff Mullen. I could not believe it, I thought I would never see this guy on route (we rode from Calgary to Banff). I was surprised to have caught anyone, I was riding very slow, or so I thought. It was a huge mental boost just to talk to someone. It had been 300 or more miles since I had ridden with anyone. Although I prefer to ride alone this was a time where I was grateful to see anyone. We rode into Pinedale together and battled 30-50mph headwinds for more than 30 miles. Pinedale was a huge mental boost as well as much needed rest for my tendons.
The next few days were great. Our luck changed and we had 30-50mph tailwinds all the way through the Great Basin desert.
The roads in the Great basin were bad for only about 20 miles. I had heard that they were much worse, so after the Basin was finished I said to myself “that was not so bad after all”, granted I did have a tailwind most of the way.
I left Rawlins already having ridden 110 miles that day with the goal of making it to Brush Mountain Lodge. Well I got to Aspen Alley and I was wasted. 50 mph headwinds and steep hills outside rawlins for 50 miles killed me. Jean Louise from France was camping there when I arrived, so I stayed there as well. The next morning we took pictures for each other.
Well, I got to Steamboat Springs later that afternoon. For me it was a 4 hour ride from BML, I hauled ass because I needed to make the post office by 5pm and it was noon when I left Brush Mtn. Lodge. I was so relaxed and enjoying hanging out there, but then a sense of urgency overcame me so I booked it over the pass.
I dropped a bunch of cash at the Orange Peel bike shop and did some eating at the bqq place next door. The next thing I did was check the Forums on Bikepacking.net. A few days early I had heard that there was some negative stuff going on, and it had to do with my sponsor. It got in my head, got me down, but not for long. Matthew Lee sent me a few messages and that’s when things began to turn around. I called a few friends and their support helped big time.
The next morning I took everything from the forum and used it as fuel to ride faster than ever.
I spent the entire night throwing up here. I also spent the next 100+ miles dry heaving and riding without any food. I just put my head down and pedaled as fast as possible.
I don’t have anymore pictures from Grants to the border mainly because I was focused on finishing. My last night on the TD was bittersweet, packing my sleeping gear the last morning was sad. I was going to miss being out there. I shed a few tears as I rode out of the Gila. I feeling of knowing it was over ran through my vein and powered me all the way to the end, I put away the demons that were in my dreams the past year. The last miles rolled by quickly. At the finish I just looked back to the north and tried to take it all in, but I seemed to forget it all, I was just in the moment. Crazy how fast time flies when you’re having fun.
A quick day by day account with call in links (Big thanks to Joe Polk for all the call ins)
MTBCast.com interview: http://mtbcast.com/site2/2013/05/09/mtbcast-episode-139/
Day 1: 165 miles-Damn I am not recovered from the Arizona Trail Race, went out too hard.
Day 2: 190 miles and 4 major passes-I am 32 hours ahead of last years pace here. Slept in a bathroom for 4 hours in a campground on the backside of Whitefish Divide.
Day 3: 207 miles-My longest day ever, Forest Baker passes me on the flats and is never to be seen again. Slept in another bathroom at Holland Lake, lots of wildlife seen today.
Day 4: 100 miles-Achillies begin to flare up, long mileage days are in short supply.
Day 5: 90 miles-Lost my phone bombing down Continental Divide crossing #2. Hitch hiked back and got it back, it was picked up by another rider. Achilles hurt more than ever, taped them up in Helena.
Day 6: 90 miles-Lava Mountain demoralized me once again (where I quit last year), extreme achilles and knee pain. Lots of ibuprofen. Stopped at Outdoorsman and had bike worked on, cleaned drivetrain and replaced broken shift cable. Camped 10 miles from Fleecer Ridge with Don and Ian, cold night but was warm.
Day 7: 165 miles-Fleecer Ridge was so much fun, seriously. 50 mph winds, 15 degree wind chill, and snow. Destroyed the Wise River Cafe. The Polaris Lodge was beautiful and had great food. Long push that night to Lima till 2 am.
Day 8: 110 miles-Nice mellow day…until I got to rails for trails. Goodbye Montana Hello Idaho. Rails for trails angered my healed achilles again. Followed by a bear. Went off route to sleep in another bathroom, cold night.
Day 9: 55 miles-My shortest day. Achilles reached new level of pain. Pulled into Flagg Ranch to see Max Morris’ bike parked outside, “what the hell is he doing here?” We are both hurting pretty bad, his knees are in worse shape than mine. I share a cabin with him.
Day 10: 85 miles-Max bails in the morning. Super bummed for him, we eat breakfast together and part ways. Mechanical, seat post clamp breaks so I order one from a bike shop in Moose to be delivered to me at the Togwotee Lodge. While I wait I shower, sit in the hot tub and do laundry for the first time. Part arrives and I ride another 40 miles to Crooked Creek Lodge on Union Pass.
Day 11: 80 miles-My hardest day mentally of the entire Tour Divide, I truly thought I was done. Achilles and knees are in so much pain, all I say to myself is just make it to Pinedale, get a hotel and a good meal and you’ll keep going the next morning. Haven’t ridden with anyone for 300 miles, solitude and getting lost in my head. 50 mph headwind all day.
Day 12: 150 miles-Huge tailwind give my achilles and knees a much needed recovery day, big mental boost. Ride 50 miles into the Basin. Also I reached my Tour Divide top speed of 56 mph coming down the hill into Atlantic City (Glad my tire didn’t blow!)
Day 13: 155 miles-Tailwinds through the basin and headwinds and heat from Rawlins to Aspen Alley. Camped at Aspen Alley so that I could get a picture in the moring.
Day 14: 90 miles-Stopped at Brush Mountain Lodge. Thanks for the hugs and great food Kristen! Shipped some items home in Steamboat, blew 300 at the Orange Peel bike shop. Major mental debacle, stayed in Steamboat till 12pm the next morning.
Listen to the first call in from Steamboat above…now listen to the one below. Big change in attitude in 8 hours.
Day 15: 110 miles-Pissed off at stuff on the forum but use it as fuel to ride from Steamboat to Ute Pass in under 8 hours (avg moving speed ~14mph!). If only I could do that 18 hours a day for 15 days.
Day 16: 80 miles-Most food eaten in one sitting on route (by anyone!) at the Mountain Lyon Cafe in Silverthorne. Here is what I ordered: 2 chicken fried steak and egg plates, 1 denver omelet plate and all plates came with sausage, toast and hash browns, 1 full order french toast, 1 full order biscuits and gravy, peach cobbler and ice cream, 3 orange juices, 5 cups coffee, 1 pitcher of water. Oh, almost forgot…I got a ruben to go that was eaten within 1 hour after leaving. All the servers there were so impressed (and disgusted) that they gave me my meal half off.
Stopped in Breck during a nasty storm. Stopped in Como for some food, thanks David for the free beer!
Day 17: 110 miles-Absolute bike stop in Salida for some food and parts. Ended day early in sergeants, did laundry and showered. Slept in and was rolling the next morning by 8.
Day 18: 130 miles-Start feeling competitive again today, push hard for the last half of the day and begin to climb Indian Pass.
Day 19: 60 miles-One of my favorite days on the Divide. The San Juan range is my favorite in Colorado. Get to the top of Indiana Pass (11,910) and get the urge to climb Grayback Mountain (12,600), why not? Jeff catches me again after my 2 hour hike detour. We both leave Platoro and are chased down the canyon by a wall of white water and hail. Pull over to an RV park to seek shelter just as it catches us, 2-3 inches of hail up to 1 inch in diameter. Food poisoning strikes me at 8 pm.
Day 20: 130 miles-Dry heaving and puking any food I eat. No food and only water taken in for 130 miles, put my head down and just pedaled for 12 hours.
Day 21: 195 miles-All pavement, smoke and heat. Caught the Fourth of July fireworks show coming into Grants.
Day 22: 100 miles-No pie in Pie Town. Major thunderstorms delayed me for 8 hours. Matthew Lee calls to tell me the Gila National Forest is now open :). I wake up to continue riding at midnight but its still pouring down rain.
Day 23: 170 miles-Ride hard all day and camp near end of CDT alternate.
Day 24: 140 miles-Major heat out of Silver City, drink 300 ounces in 55 miles. Refuge at the Interstate 10 convenience store, ice cream and more cold drinks. Mike Parthymuller catches me here, he can’t believe I was ahead of him because he took the re-route. His facial expression was priceless when he saw my bike.
We rode to last 70 miles together, being chased by dust storms and dodging lightning bolts then a sprint to the finish as the group of four appears in the distance. We finished together in 41st place. All the time on the divide seems to vanish. I’m already looking forward to next time, whenever that may be.
What I will do differently next time
1. I will do an ITT. Why? Well there are a few good reasons. In order for me to push my limits I need to be out there alone, not wrapped up in anyone else’s pace. The Grand Depart is great and I really enjoy socializing with all the guys and making new friends, but I need to run my own race. The Grand Depart is getting really big and with so many other riders out there at the same time its really hard for me to run my own ride at my own pace. I will start a few days after the GD, chasing dots keeps me motivated but not knowing my position keeps me honest for pushing my limits, not someone else’s.
2. I will have no cell phone. Don’t need to explain it, I want to be fully disconnected. In order to race the Divide at the pace I want there will be no time to call people or check the internet. I learned this year how checking the internet can be a bad idea.
3. I will come well-trained with my body prepared to ride >160 miles per day. This year I was completely off the couch. Completely off the couch for the Arizona Trail Race as well, 8 months off the bike actually because of last years TDR injury. I rode my bike 3 times between the Arizona Trail Race and the Tour Divide because I was busy with my last semester in school.
Big thanks to…
Finish Time: 10:11:15 3rd Place
So about 2 weeks before the race started I began scheming whether or not I might give the 750 a shot this year. It would be just a week out that I decided I was in. My new bike arrived just 2 days before the race, we put it together just 24 hours before the start, got me a bike fit down at Faster bike shop and zoomed off to sleep at the border.
The morning of was cold, even for a winter weather guy like me. The wind howled all night, anxiety and cold feet kept me awake most of the night. I hoped out of my sleeping bag early that morning and ran up and down the road a couple times to get the blood flowing. We drank drank some coffee, ate a small breakfast and socialized with those that were awake.
A little while later others appeared from the tall grasses with their bikes and started getting ready. Before we knew it 06:00 rolled around and we were off. I got a little bit of a late start though, I needed to attend to front shock as I forgot to account for the extra weight on my bike. Once I started riding all the stress and anxiety of making it down to the border in time vanished. Its the feeling I look forward to every time I start a race.
The cold quickly vanished as my body warmed up, but the sun was still behind the mountains so I kept my warm clothes on as long as I could. When I made it to the single track section to take me to Parker Lake trailhead I saw something move in the bushes, it was a mountain lion. The first one I had ever seen in person, it was HUGE and was only about 40 feet from me! It scared the shit out of me so I rode around a different way to get to the single track section while constantly looking behind me. Without incident I made it to Parker Lake trailhead where the other 300 riders were getting ready. I only spent a few minutes there messing with my bike then I was off.
I looked at my watch, it was 930. I figured it would be awhile till the 300 riders flew by me. Five minutes later Aaron Gully passed me running up one of the steep HAB sections in the Canillo’s, everyones favorite part of the race :). The first 30 miles always seems to be a mad dash, a sprint, as if the race is to Patagonia, so I make sure that I post a decent time without exerting too much energy.
Noting too exciting happened on the way to patagonia, just the occasional HAB through some sandy washes, plenty of cattle gates and the long awaited pavement section all the way to Sonoita.
The pavement section from Patagonia is a nice break from the HAB. I rode with a couple other guys, can’t remember what their names were but managed to get them close enough for a photo.
I left the Sonoita gas alone so that I could get my own pace going. I usually don’t enjoy the Canillo’s because its hard to get your own pace going when you are constantly being passed by those usually going too fast. There is some great riding near Kentucky Camp, especially when you reach it in the evening with the sun setting.
Looking back on where I rode from that day was a great feeling. I finally felt like I was on an adventure, a long awaited one. It had been 8 months since I had been on the bike, so just being there put goosebumps all over my body. It was one of those moments when you realize how much you love just getting way the hell out there for some good old suffering.
This year I pushed the first day pretty far, I made it all the way to Colossal Cave and arrived there at 2am. I had been hallucinating for the last 15 miles but I was determined to make it there. That was 20 hours of riding but my body felt great. I woke up with the sun around 6am and got going right away. It was great to wake up to some awesome single track, certainly one of my favorite sections on the entire race.
Although I enjoyed the single track the only thing on my mind was all the ice cream and coconut water (Eszter mentioned that coconut water is the shit in the Canillo’s-she was right) at the Rincon store. I think I spent around 90 dollars on food there, half of it was finished by the time I left, yes I eat a ton of food.
After leaving Oracle with a heavily weighted bike I began to have knee issues. My right knee that I had dislocated back in June began to flare up in severe pain. I pushed on to Freeman Road that night, this was one of the lowest moments in the race and that night I was almost sure that my knee was going to only get worse. I slept on it, woke up the next morning and it felt OK, so I decided to just suck it up and finish at least the 300. I got to the Gila River around 11am. Forest Baker was sitting under the big tree at the White House. It was almost 100 degrees outside, or so it felt and much to hot to venture out for the last 38 miles with 7600 feet of elevation gain.
Forest and I rolled into Superior feeling DEMOLISHED from the Gila section. I rode the last 38 miles with a snickers bar, one Gu and some cashews. We both ran out of water and we both felt pretty screwed up. But that was nothing that Circle K couldn’t fix. We both got a bunch of food, rolled over to the city park and crashed hard for a few hours. I woke up and Forest was already gone, so I dragged myself out of my bag, stumbled across the street for some mexican food and rehab.
My knees were still bothering me, so when I stopped at the Basha’s in Gold Canyon I called Aaron Ross, my bike fit guy at Faster for some help. I explained my tendonitis issues and he had me lower my seat 5mm’s. It helped my knee pain go away almost immediately and by the next day it was completely gone! It was the defining moment for me, right then I knew I was going to finish.
I rode all the way to Tonto Basin that night getting there around 1130. I decided to get a hotel that night, the first one of the route. I went into the office, which was open. The owner in the back was snoring really loud and it was impossible to wake him up. So I looked on the desk, found his guest sheet and picked a room that had vacant. The keys were just hanging up so I grabbed one and went to the room. I showered, iced my knees, ate lots of food and slept a full 8 hours. The next morning I turned the key in, paid and was on my way to Payson. The riding from Superior to Payson is the easiest on the entire route and quite enjoyable after getting the crap beat out of you on the 300.
I barely made it to the brewery in time for some food, I got there within 2 minutes of them closing the kitchen. With a 60 dollar bill, full stomach and food to go I left Pine and began the HAB from hell on the Highline Trail. Not sure how to describe to you how bad the first 8 miles are but picture me cursing at rocks, bushes and just the shity trail for hours. That basically sums it up.
I few ours later I caught up to Forest again. I was really excited to ride with someone, mainly because the riding sucked soooo bad, shared misery. Some clouds began to build, and the temperature began to drop. We pushed on up and over the rim, it was hard but it was really just a warmup for the Grand Canyon portage.
The riding once on top of the rim is faster but not fast by any means. It wanders down and out of small canyons and the trail is covered in baby heads and rough basalt. By the time I made it to the highway I was almost out of food. I decided to go off route to Clints Wells for some much needed resupply. I knew the store closed at 6pm so I rode my bike as fast as possible, just making it to the store with 2 minutes to spare. Both Forest and I camped in the Clints Wells CG bathrooms, there were two of them. I woke up at 3 am to leave for Mormon Lake and turned around after a mile. It was a frigid ~20 degrees outside so I came back to the bathroom and went back to sleep.
After getting back on route I left Forest and wished him luck. I didn’t think I was going to see him again, but we ended up bumping into each other again and again.
When I left Flagstaff that morning I thought it was 70 miles to the South Rim, well I think it was closer to 100. That was one long day, 16 hours or something with the last 8 hours out the the saddle cranking hard the whole time. I got a motel in Tucsayan, woke up the next morning and went to the general store was. I needed to buy a backpack and some straps because the post office was closed. But I had some great luck and there happened to be a postal worker in the back office. I quickly ran over to him and begged him to give me my pack, he did! I was super happy and left the store on a good high.
When I caught a glimpse of the canyon goosebumps covered my entire body. I was happy to finally be at the canyon, and ready to do some hiking. Getting to the canyon filled my body with joy an happiness that would last for about 2 miles or so into the canyon.
To say the least the canyon took its toll on me. It destroyed my calf muscles, I could barely walk after finishing the race. Here are a couple pictures of me at Cottonwood Campground, it really tells you how I feel about the hike at the moment.
I woke up to the sound of a faucet, well look who it is Forest Baker! I couldn’t believe he caught me lol. I slept a little longer and then noticed he was walking away. So I packed my stuff and took off, once I passed him I didn’t see him again. I got to the top of the rim, packed my things and rode the highway to Jacob Lake for a late lunch. I left there feeling super tired but overwhelmed with happiness. The last 25 miles were just as hard as every other mile in the race. I was cursing at cattle gates, cow prints molded into the trail and more crappy HAB. I was so done with the trail and I lost it a few times. I was sure that I was never going to come back and ride this stupid race ever again until…the last 3 miles of heaven. The last 3 miles were sort of a redemption of the trail. It was an amazing indescribable feeling those last miles. Something that I will never forget.
And even better, Alicia was there with lots of food and drinks. We had a nice ride back home to Flagstaff, and when I tried to get out the car I could not walk.
The Full Arizona Trail Race is a great adventure and for those willing to put up with the suffering for over a week, its well worth it all just for the sake of a personal challenge, the feeling of accomplishment, and all the other greatness that comes along with it. Being out there definitely changes you, it puts in perspective what is important in life. I have to give respect to that trail, its brutal and simply humbling. For those of you that give it a shot I hope you have a great time, experience some pain and suffering but most of all those moments of pure happiness you can’t get anywhere else.
I’ll be back again!
Big Thanks to those that helped get me there.
Below are some useful links if you want to follow the race. I must say I am a little nervous. I know its going to be a major sufferfest. Last year when I finished the AZ 300 I was really glad to be done and not riding another 450 miles. This year I have to. My goal is to finish between 8-10 days, I will not be pushing it super hard the first few days, but will be easing into it with 80-100 mile days. Once I hit the rim where there are cooler temps I will really start to push it hard and try to get in more than 100 miles per day
Some strategies I will be using for the AZTR 750 will be to find cool areas and shade to rest during the hottest parts of the day (or a gas station) in order to use my energy more efficiently when the temps aren’t so extreme, so more night riding. Current forecast show temps in the mid 90’s currently with minimal cloud cover. So this strategy will hopefully help me since I am not conditioned for temps over 85, I use significantly more energy during the heat (I live in Flagstaff, AZ). Unfortunately there will likely be plenty of riding time in the heat, but this is something I can deal with I am just not looking forward to it.
I will also try to get a minimum of 4 hours of sleep, but no more than 6 hrs although sometimes you gotta listen to your body. So therefore I will be riding more in spurts to where I can get away with only 4 hours at a time rather than pushing it for 20+ hours of riding and needing more sleep time, unless there is somewhere I need to be by a certain time like the post office at the South Rim. I think that riding a total of 16-20 hours at a time will be the right amount where I only need 4 hours. For me I also tend to cover larger distances when I ride at a faster pace for less time, then sleep a couple hours and push it some more. So if I can keep a faster pace this year and spend less time on the bike I will have more energy. When I ride at a moderate/slower pace but for many extra hours (esp. when its hot) I tend to need twice as much rest, which slows down my pace.
Looking forward to seeing everyone at the start. Happy Suffering!
Race discussion Forum
So just recently I began training again after a long R&R (about 8 months) from the bike. I am four weeks into my training (I know, not very long) and my legs feel stronger than they did this time last year. This time around I will be very cautious not to overtrain, to eat enough healthy food and to strategize better.
Because I recently landed a few sponsorships I will be doing more than just the Tour Divide this year. Thanks to my sponsors Standby Hydration Therapy (Title Sponsor), Red Truck Tees, Single Track Bikes, and Guru Cycles all of this is possible. Without them I would be limited to barely scraping by just to race the Tour Divide.
So now that I am committed I am spent my free time either riding my bike or thinking about riding my bike. There is a transition in mindset when I decide to commit to something like this.
At first there is excitement, stoke, you can’t wait to get out to the start. This lasts about 2-3 weeks for me, then I go into the zone.
Second I begin to focus in on my goals, my gear, and mentally preparing yourself by imagining scenarios of intense suffering, exhaustion and unhappiness and thinking about how you are going to deal with it, have a plan! Many riders train and train for these long races but they neglect to spend time preparing the mind, which is just if not more important. It certainly helps to come into the race with an open mind, anything can happen out there and mentally preparing yourself will help you react to each situation calmly and logically. Last year being mentally tough was what enabled me to continue day after day until my body could not physically last any longer. Just know that when it gets tough and you get to your lowest place it can only get better from there and if you need to pull over and take a nap, it does wonders.
Third comes anxiety and anticipation. I get butterflies in my stomach a couple days before the race and they don’t go away until it starts. This is a feeling that most of us get before such a race. Certainly there is excitement, stress, uncertainty and again, more anticipation. Usually it is pretty hard to make this feeling go away right before you take off for a 3000 mile bike race, who wouldn’t be nervous? But this feeling is something that I enjoy, its worth everything once you leave the start line, all that stress and anxiety is converted into pure joy and fun. There are definitely some endorphins running through your veins on the first day.
Fourth comes the execution, I get into a zone after 3-5 days into a race. The excitement from the beginning of the race has worn off and now you are in go mode. All you have to do now is keep your head strait until the finish line. During this stage in the race you will go through many different emotions and mental states. Sometimes you will be bored out of your mind, others times it like you are hypnotized and after 50 miles you don’t remember a thing about what you saw.
Last but not least comes the finish. From my experience it seems like a delayed gratification, it doesn’t really hit you or satisfy you right away. Usually I am too exhausted to even care that I finished, all I care about at this point is getting a ride to the nearest bed and passing out for 3 days strait. When I wake up I can enjoy the gratification of finishing.
This process goes on over and over again, it eventually wears me out. The combination of excitement, anticipation for months and wrecking your body for weeks seems to weigh on the mind after some time. What tires my brain out the most is the waiting game, the anticipation that builds within me before a big race is like a little kid excited to open christmas presents in the morning. But like I said the relief of starting the race keeps me coming back.
So for those of you that read this and know nothing about self-supported racing or what the Triple Crown is I will spell it out.
Triple Crown-Recognized as the three most classic and hardest mountain bike races in the world completed all in one season on these dates. In total this adds up to well over 1 month on the bike riding an average of over 100 miles per day.
1. April 19th-Arizona Trail Race
2. June 14th-Tour Divide Race
3. July 21st-Colorado Trail Race
Here are some photos from some of my training rides. As you can see I look really happy in some of the photos :).
So here is my diet that I have been following over the past few weeks in preparation for next years ultra races. So far so good, I am making some progress. I do deviate from the diet a little bit, but I substitute it with heathy food rather than fast food.
Progress so far
150 pounds, 8% BF, 12 pounds fat, 137.9 lean
151.5 pounds, 7.4% BF, 11.1 pounds fat, 140.4 lean
-Goal by end of week 6
152 pounds, 6.7% BF, 10 pounds fat, 142 lean
I haven’t done this just by following my current diet, I have also been doing weight training and some cardio two times a week.
So here is what I eat everyday (or try to)
Carbohydrates: 900 calories
Fat: 600 calories
Meal 1 (0700-0800)
6 egg whites, 2 yokes and a little cheese
1 cup cool quinoa
1/2 cup berries
Meal 2 (0900-1000)
40g whey protein powder
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup green veggies
Meal 3 (1200-1300)
Baked Salmon 6 oz
1 cup red potato
2 cups babyleaf salad/spinach
Meal 4 (1400-1500)
1 cup brown rice or quinoa
Workout (monday and wednesday)
40g whey protein
Meal 5 (1800-1900)
6 oz chicken breast
1 cup broccoli
1 sweet potato
+2 liters of water per day
So far so good, I may have to eventually increase the amount of calories that I eat on a daily basis once I start training more but for right now this is more than enough food to get me healthy and in shape again.
Just curious what others are doing with their diet for training this year? Are you changing anything? I could use some feedback on my diet.
It been awhile since I have written in my blog and there is good reason why. I haven’t been doing much in the way of fun, and more in the way of a school-work-eat-sleep lifestyle. A couple reasons why is one, I am still recovering from my Tour Divide injury, school has taken over my life, and I have bills to pay. Therefore the big trips have been off my list for about 4 months, although I have been able to fit in a couple days of mountain biking, climbing and camping. So needless to say for myself the past 4 months have been a real test for me. It seems like yesterday that I got back from the Tour Divide but it also feels like its been way to long since I have had a good adventure.
So in order to get back on the bike sooner than later I began addressing issues that have plagued me for the past 4 months. I have been dealing with chronic knee pain, shoulder weakness due to a small tear in the Supra Spinatus tendon and just feeling out of shape. So about a month ago I sold my El Mariachi Ti frame. I got rid of it for fit reasons, the frame was essentially too small for me. Now I am opting for a custom Ti frame that I was recently fit for, so that’s issue number one taken care of; having a proper fitting bike. Issue number two is a little harder to deal with. Back during the Tour Divide my knee dislocation came out ok when I had it checked for tears at the hospital in Montana. So I continued to ride, not knowing that I actually had a few small tears that the MRI didn’t reveal. After I gave up on the TDR and had enough rest back at home I started to ride again a few weeks later. I eventually had to stop riding because the knee pain came back. I had my knee checked out once more and my doctor found 2 small tears, one in the medial meniscus and the other on my patellar tendon. Luckily both tears did not require any surgery, but they did require I take a long time off the bike. So that’s just what I have been doing, for the most part.
About a month ago I made the decision to actually start some physical therapy, it was taking too long to heal at the time and I was anxious to get riding again. So now that I have spent the last month being sore I can finally start to see all the hard work from PT coming together. My knee pain right now is significantly less to non-existent and my shoulder is getting stronger each week. I am hoping to be back on the bike again sometime in January to start getting ready for this years Tour Divide.
So looking back on it all I have learned some important lessons. Taking care of my body and saving some for next time, and knowing that when things go wrong to not let your pride get in the way, sometimes it’s just better to come back next time because it will always be there. The past four months given me some humility when it comes to pushing things too far. It has certainly been difficult to sit around and do nothing, but it gave me a chance to look back on the last year and learn some lessons.