Tour Divide 2012

Just like everyone else that has ridden in the Tour Divide, or any long self supported race, I was stressed out to the max trying to get everything ready in time.  Whether it’s dialing your gear, getting together enough finances or finding the time to train.  Put those three tasks together along with all the other responsibilities of life and you got yourself some major stress.  But, when the race/ride begins all the stress is overshadowed by the joy of beginning a new adventure, and no matter how bad things get sometimes we all usually come back happy and wanting more.

For this years Tour Divide (TDR), I began training at the beginning of April right before the AZ 300.  I had only 3 days on the bike before I went to ride the AZTR.  I had a great time, made a bunch of new friends and finished what I left off one year prior.  I hope to come back this october for the AZ 750.  Once back from the Az 300 I rested a couple days and my training went into overdrive with the Prescott Monstercross just 4 days later.  Once I was finished with school I was able to train more and put all focus toward getting everything prepared for the Tour Divide, I was super psyched.  I was riding 25 hours or ~350 miles/week and getting in shape quickly.  Most my rides focused more on fitness and speed rather than putting a bunch of  long rides, I guess long is a relative term…  A daily ride consisted of around 80 miles (~8000 feet climbing) with mixed riding of long sections of FR and some single track all above 7000 feet.  After a solid 1 1/2 months of training, eating lots of healthy food and doing everything to keep my body from falling apart I began to taper everything off 2 weeks before the TDR.

I was out on my last training ride doing a loop around the peaks and having a good time.  My ride came to an end with a broken spoke on my rear wheel.  I didn’t want to mess up my nice racing wheel so I got a ride back to my truck from my girlfriend Alicia and went to my bike shop. I replaced the spoke and got some extras for the TDR, Single Track bikes always lets me use their tools, super cool guys.  Right before taking my bike off the stand I saw 3 long cracks on the chain stay of the frame.  I said “fuck” a little too loud but no one except Paul (employee at Single Track) paid any attention.  I went into panic mode, 4 days before leaving for the TDR I had a worthless bike.  Even if Trek could get me a new one in time I didn’t want it (Trek Superfly).  I didn’t want a bike that could potentially crack in the middle of a 3000 mile race, I think anyone would agree.

Immediately my stress level went through the roof.  Trek couldn’t get me a new frame in time anyway and I didn’t want a new Superfly carbon bike.  At this point I didn’t know if I was going to get everything together in time. I had the money for a new frame but that would leave me totally broke going into the TDR.  Before the race even started I was already out it seemed.  I thought of everything I could to make it happen.  I ended up taking out a title loan on my paid off truck.  I made an investment in a bike that would actually last me more than 3 months and bought the Salsa El Mariachi Ti.  It was quickly overnighted to my house.

My problems weren’t over.  The headset for the El Mariachi was proving to be a hard one to find.  I called over 100 bike shops looking for the ZS 44mm headset.  I had numerous people trying to help me find one in time.  I even called Cane Creek directly and they were out of stock.  I called back again the next day and they had gotten one in stock.  I was so relieved and once again, thought my troubles were over.  I paid for overnight shipping with saturday early AM delivery.  Saturday morning came and went, and no package.  4 hours to departure.  I drove around phoenix going to every bike shop I could think of.  In the mean time I had three other Tour Divide riders looking for me.  3 hours before departure.  I went to the Slippery Pig bike shop and told them I had a flight in 3 hours and that this had to happen quick.  The owner, a very nice guy, looked through all the headsets and was able to find one that worked.  The headset was for a strait steerer tube, I have a tapered steerer tube. I bought a new carbon fork that would work with the headset. On a side note, anyone considering the TDR, I highly recommend a rigid carbon fork.  So we got everything together and I was out the door.

2 hours before departure.  I drove from Camelback to Glendale going over 90 mph the whole way.  Not quite sure how I didn’t get a speeding ticket, I guess luck was on my side for once.  I called Alicia and told her to have everything ready to go.  We quickly throw everything in the car and I pack my bike in the box in literally 15 minutes.  I remember my mom telling me to slow down while driving her car to the airport, so I went faster.  We ran through the airport, passed everyone at checkin, ran through security, ran to the gate and made our flight with 10 minutes to spare.  We had a really good flight that went direct all the way to Calgary, Canada.  I remember leaving at sunset in Phoenix, flying in the dark and then arriving in Calgary where there was still a glimpse of sunlight visible in the horizon.  It was like we were chasing the sun.

We spent about 5 days in Canmore and Banff before the start of the race and had a great time riding the trails and hanging out with some of the locals that work at Rebound Cycle in Canmore, all really cool guys.  The shop was decked out with a kegerator and espresso machine where I drank free coffee and beer.  Not sure how they manage to still get stuff done and drink beer all day, must be a Canadian thing I guess. Vacation time came and went quickly and and I soon found myself at the YWCA with all the other racers.

We all took group photos and away we went.  I have never felt so much relief and stress vanish so quickly.  A feeling all riders can relate to.  All I had to do was ride my bike 3000 miles and enjoy spectacular views, no problem.  The first 60 miles out of Banff were incredible.  The barren peaks with looming storm clouds, valleys of lush green forrest and dark blue glacial lakes were unreal.  Things quickly changed on Elk pass and the large pacific storm closed in for the next 2 days.  Even though it was cold, wet and dreary I enjoyed the suffering and had a great time.  I called it a day in Elkford and camped out for the night.

Me, Max Morris, and another rider left Elkford @ 4am.  The last I saw Max was in Sparwood eating breakfast. I was going at a slower pace that day due to knee pain.  I wasn’t used to the new bike and I only had time for a quick bike fit, both of which were contributing to a little knee pain.  Knee pain would take on a whole new meaning on Flathead pass.  After walking through the 5 miles or so of snow I began descending down the pass.  The road in some places was more of a creek than a road.  In some sections there was riding through a foot of running water and it was difficult to see the bottom.  In hindsight I should have just walked through the creek, I was already soaked to the bone and cold anyway.

One second I was on the bike, the next I was on the ground.  My front tire went out from under me, it washed out on a loose rock.  I tried to unclip in time to put my foot down but instead my lower right leg was pinned below my frame and all of my weight leveraged onto it tearing my bones out of their socket.  It happened so quickly that there was noting I could really do.  Right after I wrecked I hadn’t yet realized what happened until I tried to stand up.  I couldn’t move my right leg, it laid there limp from the knee down, it also had no feeling.  My Tibia and Fibula were both detached from the knee.  My first thought was to press my 911 button, so I got out my SPOT device.  I never pressed it, mainly because I didn’t want to quit, nor did I have money to pay for an expensive extraction.  Instead I proceeded to put my knee back in its place, which I learned how to do as an EMT a few years back.  In the process of doing so I passed out 3 times due to the pain, a solid 10/10.  I used my bike for traction to get my knee back in place, took some super strong pain killers and got back on the bike where I continued to ride.  All of this happened in a matter of about 10 minutes.  Trying to remember the pain is impossible.  I think my mind has blocked out that feeling since and I really cannot grasp how it actually felt but I know it was pretty bad.

Minutes after beginning to ride again I caught up to another rider that had passed me earlier, I forget his name but he was having some lunch or something.  Everything is kind of a blur for the rest of the day and only bits and pieces I remember.  I was walking very slowly and I told him what happened.  I asked him to ride with me, I was worried it might come back out of socket due to the ease of which it went back in.  For about 15 miles or so we rode together, occasionally I let out a loud scream from the pain, but I was able to keep up for a little longer.  At one point I stopped because it was so bad, I was crying in extreme pain and crying because I didn’t want to quit.  At the same time I was balling my eyes out 2 other riders caught up to me.  It took me a couple minutes to get my composure back so that I could talk.  I told them what happened, and that I was going to finish the race.  Obviously I was mentally delusional, high on pain killers and not thinking clearly.  I rode with them for a mile or two then told them to continue on.  The pain killers were making me really drowsy so I laid on the ground for about 10 minutes or more, not really sure.  To give you an idea of the pain I experienced, I had taken two 60 mg Oxycottin pills, 40 mg of prednisone and was still experiencing a 6/10.

I caught up to them at Butts Cabin.  They expressed their concern for me, but I was eager to continue.  It was around 4 pm. I left Butts cabin and made it another 20+ miles to another random cabin where there were other racers camping out.  I don’t remember who was there, or how many of them were in the cabin. Except for Rich Wolf, who stayed a little longer the next morning.  I slept in till 10 am before continuing.  Rich would call me throughout the route to check on me and ask how I was doing, he was concerned for my safety I believe.

Getting back on the bike that morning was one of the worst experiences of my life, I dealt with excruciating pain for 10 miles. At this point I was not on any pain killers.  I decided not to take any afraid that I would fall asleep for another 14 hours so I settled for some NSAID’s.  I got off the bike numerous times because I couldn’t pedal.  Then the level of pain slightly subsided and I was able to ride at a decent pace.  I passed a couple riders going up over Galton pass just before Rooseville, MT.  My goal was to try and make it to an urgent care facility ASAP, the closest one was in Whitefish, 100 miles away.   While on my way that night to Whitefish I was followed by a black bear going up Whitefish pass.  I found a camping bathroom right off the road and quickly went in, the bear would hang out almost all night scratching at the door.  This was highly annoying, but I was so exhausted I fell asleep anyway.  I was woken up the next morning by Prentiss Campbell, he saw the restroom on his way by and found me sleeping there and I think he was bummed that he couldn’t use the restroom.  That day I made the next two passes and rolled into Whitefish.  I went to urgent care the next morning in Whitefish and had it checked out, surprisingly I had no tears or damage on the right knee.  Unfortunately both of them were flared up and swollen. I had developed tendonitis in both knees.  My left knee especially mainly because I was either compensating or only pedaling with the left leg for the 150 miles to Whitefish.

I rode the next 40 miles to Ferndale that day and had to stop. I knew that I was going to need a couple days off,  so I posted up in Big Fork, just off route, where I got a hotel.  I slept, ate food, and iced my knees for 2 days.  The first day back I got to ride with three kids from Big Fork, MT.  They were riding 3 days on the GDMBR for fun, so it was nice to have some company.  I made it to Holland lake that day and camped out for the night.  The first day back was the hardest day that I had on the TDR, I actually quit the race because the knee pain was so bad.  I took a 2 hour nap, got back up and continued to ride to make it to the highway where I was going to bail.  The knee pain once again somewhat subsided so the ride was still on.  The next day my knees felt great and I made it all the way to Lincoln and stayed at the 3 bears motel.  Another rider was also staying there, her name was Michelle.  Michelle and I, along with the owners of the Motel all went out for a big breakfast the next morning.  After that we went back to the Motel where I slept another 5 hours, it was pouring rain and I didn’t feel like riding in it so it seem like a good time to sleep.  I took off at 4 pm that day and got into Helena around midnight.  The descent from the pass into Helena was awesome.

The next day I could barely move, I went to the Safeway down the street to get another pain medication prescription.  I left Helena around 2.. By the time I got the the HAB section on the pass before Butte, my knees had reached a new level of pain.  Right then I knew it was over, I knew that I couldn’t continue to ride on pain killers.  I was hopping that my knees would slowly get better to where I could gradually increase my mileage to catch up to the pack, but that didn’t happen.  It was a terrible moment, I still didn’t want to quit, but I knew it was over.  I rode into Boulder and went to the only place open in the whole town…the bar.  I bought a beer and the lady working the bar got me a ride from her friend into Butte.

I am now looking forward to riding again next year.  I had a great time and amazing experience.  Thanks to everyone that supported me in making the race happen.  I couldn’t have done it without you.  Especially my fiancé Alicia.

Hope to be back next year.

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2 thoughts on “Tour Divide 2012

  1. Hey E. Thank you for taking the time to detail the events if your adventure. I didn’t know the circumstances of your knee injury… but now I do. It makes no difference to the outcome, but us motherly types want the details of “what happened?” I’m just thankful you’re fine and looking for the next challenge.

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