Tour Divide 2013: Redemption
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…