Tour Divide Training Update

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Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” – T.S. Eliott

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15 days until I fly to Banff.  17 days until the start of the 2019 Tour Divide!  Time has gone by so FAST.  It feels like there is so much to do still and not nearly enough time to get it all done.  Since the last update I’ve worked on getting my bike dialed in and myself dialed in.  

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In March I started getting my gear inventoried and situated on my Niner.  I wasn’t happy with how my Revelate Designs Sweetroll handlebar bag interfered with my brakes and cables, so I installed a Salsa Anything Cradle to move it away a few inches.  Unfortunately I’m still working on figuring out how to ensure it stays seated in the cradle.  It keeps dropping down.  I think I’m close, but I have a feeling I’ll be doing some on the fly adjustments during the ride.  In 2016 I had my tent strapped to the Sweetroll.  I originally planned to do that again, but decided to strap it to my seat bag instead.  I’m also bringing a 1lb ultralight camping chair so I don’t have to sit on the ground.  My knees can’t take that strain anymore, the chair has been awesome on my test rides.

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In late March I did my first shake down ride in my old stomping grounds in Mesa.  Rode through Usery Park out to Bulldog Canyon to Butcher Jones by Saguaro Lake.  The sweetroll dropping down was quite frustrating, so I rode back to Leonard Zito’s house, then went over to Home Depot to see if I could figure out a solution.  I bought some velcro to put on my bag and on the Anything Cradle and bought some double sided velco to use instead of the Salsa straps that kept coming loose. 

Back out on the trail for more test riding and still having a problem with that bag dropping down.  Leonard and Blake joined me for some riding around some new trails at Hawes, then back over to Bulldog where we camped for the night.  Unfortunately we camped near one of the entrances and a big group showed up to party so we didn’t get much sleep between the loud music and ATVs/Trucks screaming through the night.

 

Leonard and Blake headed home in the morning before I broke down my camp.  Then I rode a bit more through Usery.  My goal wasn’t distance, just to figure out what I needed to work on.  The handlebar bag is my biggest issue.  I had also swapped my cassette to an 11×42 that needed a hanger extension on the derailleur and that came loose once.  My original cassette was 11×38.  The extra teeth on the granny gear make a huge difference.  I’ll be able to ride up a lot more of the passes on the Tour Divide with that 42 tooth granny gear than I could in 2016.

 

At the beginning of April I rode El Tour de Mesa on the road bike.  I’d been mostly riding my Trek Farly fat bike on the single track in the forest near my house, but I was feeling pretty strong so I decided to shoot for a Platinum finishing time which is under 2 hours 45 minutes to complete the 100k course (60ish miles).  I rode most of it with Mike Roscoe, an Uphill Into The Wind teammate.  We hit our Platinum goal finishing in 2 hours 34 minutes.  I came in 106th place.  There was only a 5 second gap between 76th place and 119th place.  Guess I should have sprinted at the end!  Not too bad for an old fat guy.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves — Sir Edmund Hillary

In mid-April, I did my first real shakedown bikepacking trip taking the single track near my house over to Forest Route 300, then riding that across the Mogollon Rim then up to Blue Ridge Reservoir.  My original goal was to go all the way to Mormon Lake, but I hit some really hard headwind and side wind along the Mogollon Rim that took that goal out of my reach for a 3 day weekend ride.  I also decided to take part of the Arizona Trail back to FR300.  You really need suspension for the AZT.  The section I rode was super rocky and I had to walk my bike through quite a bit of it.  The section I did also dropped down to a river and back up, super steep on both sides.  Very scenic though!

Shout out to Stoka! Best Keto friendly bars. I’m usually well stocked with these on my long rides.

 

At the beginning of May I switched back to my road bike for some distance and climbing with back to back century plus rides over the weekend.  123 miles on Saturday with 7500 feet of climbing, the 117 miles with 6500 feet of climbing on Sunday.  Both rides took about 7.5 hours and felt pretty good.  It was pretty windy in the afternoon both days which made for some great training.  Also went up to the Sunrise Ski Park turn off at 9500 feet elevation for some good altitude training both days.

 

In Mid-May, I participated in the inaugural Pinyons and Pines bikepacking race in Flagstaff.  The course is essentially a 280 mile figure 8 centered in Flagstaff.  I felt pretty good when the race started and thought I was making pretty good time through the single track outside of Flagstaff heading for Sedona. 

But somewhere on Casner mountain my ride went south.  There was a fairly steep descent with some loose rock and I chose the wrong line and came up on a step that was deeper than I was expecting.  I should have let off the brakes and tried to hop it, instead, I hit the brakes as I was going down that step and wound up going over the bars and over the edge of the cliff.  I dropped maybe 10 feet or so and got hung up in some bushes.  Glad they were there!  I lost both of my lights, although at the time I thought I had only lost one and couldn’t find it.  Burped a tire too, so had to refill it with air.  My aerobars were completely knocked out of place and a bar end came off (I found that), but otherwise no damage.

 

There’s no glory in climbing a mountain if all you want to do is to get to the top. It’s experiencing the climb itself – in all its moments of revelation, heartbreak, and fatigue – that has to be the goal. –Karyn Kusama

But the crash also knocked me off my game.  I started to be much more cautious and was walking obstacles I normally would have ridden.  The course follows a number of technical single track trails around Sedona.  On my Tour Divide loaded, full rigid Niner, I wound up taking a LOT of time getting through that, especially with the hit to my confidence earlier in the day.  I also ran out of water, so stopped at a house that was just off of one of the trails and used a hose (with permission) to refill my camelbak.  It was late afternoon / early evening by the time I got to a Chipotle for a late lunch/early dinner.  I looked to see if there was a hardware store close by that might sell a replacement flashlight, but everything closes at 6pm and it was already 5:45 when I looked so no chance of getting replacement lighting to ride up Schnebly Hill.

 

Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing. – Barry Finlay

I rode part of Schnebly until it started getting dark, then started to hike-a-bike.  I don’t think I was even half way up when I started the walk to the top, but just kept making forward progress and stopped around 9pm about 4 miles from I-17 to setup camp.  The next morning as I was breaking down camp, I noticed my right arm was bothering me.  I had noticed that I wasn’t able to straighten my arm due to elbow pain in Sedona, but this pain was in my wrist and forearm and my wrist was definitely swollen.  Not good.  I sent a note to the organizer letting him know I was only planning to finish the first loop, then started riding and discovered I couldn’t use my right thumb to shift or my right fingers to pull the rear brake lever.  I rode for about two miles and realized this wasn’t safe and continuing would be stupid, so I called my buddy Dave to see if he could come pick me up so I could head over to Urgent Care to have the arm looked at.  I also sent another note to the organizer to let him know I was officially out.

They didn’t have an x-ray machine at the Urgent Care in Flagstaff and couldn’t tell if I broke something or just badly sprained something, so they put a splint on and told me to visit an orthopedic specialist to get x-rays as soon as possible. I had a quick lunch on my way out of town headed home.  On Monday I spent the morning at an Orthopedic clinic in Lakeside getting the arm x-rayed.  There is a bone spur on my elbow, but they said that isn’t really anything to worry about.  Nothing was broken, but I strained the tendons and ligaments in my wrist and thumb.  The lower joint in my thumb is also not healthy, one side of the joint has a larger gap than the other side, so the thumb was knocked out of place.  They put me in a thumb and wrist stabilizing brace with instructions to wear it for 4-6 weeks.  The Tour Divide was 4 weeks out.  Damn.

 

Prior to the Pinyons and Pines, I was steadily increasing my weekly mileage, riding for an hour in the morning, doing a 3-5 mile walk with my dog at lunch, then going for another hour+ ride in the evening.  I had plans to do long rides the following two weekends, then start tapering off for the big event.  But when I got on my rollers on Tuesday, I found I couldn’t hold my handlebars with my right hand and wound up riding no hands.  This past weekend I was still confined to my rollers, but found I could rest the right side of my palm on the bars without pain.  Progress, but still confined to my rollers, so I rode for a bit over an hour each day.

Since my right thumb is whacked and I doubt it will be ready in time for the Tour Divide, I decided to divert some of the money we had saved to allow me to stay in hotels during the Tour Divide to upgrade my drivetrain to Shimano XTR DI2 electronic shifting (Ok, maybe a bit more than we had saved…DI2 isn’t cheap!).  The beauty of DI2 is that it still allows a 2×11 gear setup but with computer controlled synchronized shifting so you only need one shifter to control the front and rear chain position.  Mike Godwin at Cycle Mania was able to figure out everything I would need and expedited an order.  The shifter will be on the left side of the handlebars, so I won’t need to use my right hand at all to shift.  Perfect!  Hoping to get the bike back this week and be healed enough to see how it works.  I don’t like making such a big change this close to the ride, but given how my thumb still feels, it’s the right decision.  We’ll see how I feel about it after a week or two of camping on the Tour Divide! LOL.

 

I had also ordered a new Garmin Edge 830 computer with Garmin’s power pack.  The Edge 830 has some new features, but the key feature is “Climb Pro” which shows the avg percent grade remaining and distance remaining on climbs along a route.  I spent a lot of mental cycles in 2016 trying to figure that out myself on the long climbs.  Having my computer just tell me will be awesome!  The problem is that Garmin still hasn’t shipped the new computer.  I have no idea if I’ll get it in time for the ride, so I maybe using my current Edge 820.  Crossing my fingers that it shows up with enough time for me to figure out the new features.  It even has a bike alarm that connects to your phone via bluetooth so if you go into a convenience store, you can set it and if the bike moves while you are inside, it will alert you.  Nice.

So… I felt like I was doing the right things to prepare leading up to Pinyons and Pines, but the accident has completely thrown my training plans out the window.  This late in the game, there isn’t much I can do to significantly alter how well I’m prepared anyway.  I know I’m WAY, WAY more prepared for the hike-a-bike that I’m sure caused the injury in 2016.  I also know I have more power and am going into the race lighter than I was in 2016.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to get out on some longer gravel rides this weekend, but I’m not going to risk making my hand any worse than it is so I may wind up stuck on my rollers again.  15 days out isn’t too early to start tapering for this kind of ride.  Remember, if you want to go fast, you have to go slow.  At least that’s what I keep telling myself while dripping sweat on my rollers!

“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so… get on your way!” -Dr. Seuss

 

 

    Tour Divide 2019 Update

    “Wilderness is a necessity… there must be places for human beings to satisfy their souls…” — John Muir

    Today is the Winter Solstice! Most hopeful Tour Divide riders know today is the day to officially send your email to tourdivide@gmail.com with your letter of intent for the coming year’s unofficial Grand Depart! Here is what I sent this morning:

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    Greetings 2019 Tour Divide!

    I am ALL IN for the 2019 Tour Divide and will once again toe the line in Banff on June 14, 2019 to challenge myself on the Divide.  In 2016 I failed in my rookie attempt coming down with a bad case of tendonitis several days outside of Helena.  Unfortunately that year I flew out of Helena in an immobilizing boot with much greater knowledge about the Divide and how one needs to train for such an epic ride! 

    I am mentally and physically prepared to not just RIDE the Divide, but also to tackle the many hike-a-bike sections (something I was completely unprepared for in 2016).  I apologize in advance to any who hear the eclectic music coming from the mini Bluetooth speaker I will be using through areas where the bear population is high (in 2016 my thumb got a bit tired of ringing my handlebar bell).

    My goal is simple:  to finish without injury.  I will not fool myself with too much pre-planning on distance or lodging, I know the Divide will quickly destroy those delusions.  I plan to ride as far as I can each day which will vary considerably based on weather, terrain and my own physical and mental limitations. I look forward to finding quiet spots off the trail to pitch my tent and enjoy the beauty of the wilderness when I am ready to stop for the day and enjoy some of the comforts of the towns we pass through, especially the hot meals!

    See everyone in June! 

    Mike Enfield

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    5 months 24 days until the start of the 2019 Tour Divide!  It is time for an update on my training and overall readiness.  There are four major areas I’m working on:

    • Recovery from 2016 injury (tendonitis in left leg)
    • Weight management (hit an all time high somewhere between 270 and 280 pounds in 2017…ouch)
    • Endurance / overall fitness
    • Logistics

    INJURY:  I honestly believe the injury I sustained in 2016 was a direct result of lack of cross training and poor shoe choice.  So, for the past 15 months I’ve been doing a lot of hiking and walking to build up some muscle memory for walking in my legs.  I usually go on a 3-5 mile hike with my dog at lunch, occasionally walk on my tread mill desk for an hour or so in the afternoon at 1.5-2.5mph and go with my wife to the gym in the evening for half an hour on an elliptical machine and half an hour on a treadmill at 3-4 mph with the incline set at 6-10%.  I’ve been building up to 12,000 – 20,000 steps per day.  The tendonitis and plantar fasciitis in my left leg/foot appears to be completely healed.  I haven’t had any pain in several months.  This is great news!

    WEIGHT:  I mentioned before that I really let myself go after the 2016 Tour Divide.  I sat on the couch and pretty much super-sized myself reaching a peak somewhere between 270 and 280 pounds, the most I have ever weighed by far. It is amazing how fast weight goes on and how slowly it comes off, especially as you get older.  And it didn’t help that I didn’t change my eating habits from when I was training/riding every day to when I was sitting on the couch super-sizing myself every day. 

    In December 2017 I decided to try a Keto diet.  Keto is a moderate-high fat, moderate Protein, low carb diet.  I made great progress from December to June, dropping about 50 pounds on the diet, but took a step backwards in July between a week long vacation and some business travel the other three weeks of the month and put about 9 pounds back on.  Way, way too much beer and wine during vacation and at work social events. 

    In August I doubled down on weight management.  I signed up to ride the Tour de Tucson in November to give myself a reason to get back on my bike.  I also signed up for a local gym and scheduled sessions twice a week with a trainer for some high intensity workouts and decided to abstain from alcohol except for a few events (like my niece’s wedding and Thanksgiving) all while still maintaining my 12k-20k daily step goal.  The weight is coming off again and I’m now down under 210.  I set the AZ cross state record when I weighed 205, so this is great progress.  My goal is to get down to 185 for the Tour Divide. 5 months 24 days should be enough to drop that remaining 25 pounds if I stay focused.  I certainly feel better in my clothes and the diet really isn’t that hard to stick with.  Nothing quite like a nice steak smothered with butter sautéed mushrooms!  I’ve also found a really good Chicken and Sausage jambalaya recipe that uses cauliflower rice.  So good.  My wife loves the keto muffins I make (her favorites are lemon poppyseed, pumpkin spice and orange cranberry).

    ENDURANCE /FITNESS:  With the decision to ride El Tour de Tucson, I’ve been back on my road bike most days.  Before the temperature dropped into the teens in the morning, I would be on my bike from about 6AM to about 7:30AM on weekdays, putting in 20-30 miles a day during the week and still maintaining my step goal.  Now that it’s frigid in the morning, I’ve been riding my rollers for 30-40 minutes before work.  My riding legs are coming back fast and I was able to complete my first century of the year at the beginning of September, riding from Show Low to Springerville and back (102 miles with 6k feet of cumulative climbing in about 7:30 total time, 6:44 moving time … started in the rain and wound up with three flats).  My sustained power is off by about 40 watts, but improving steadily.

    In Early September I did back to back 50 mile rides with about 3k feet of climbing each.  Definitely started to feel good on my bikes again.  In late September I did another century with a big loop to Springerville, but going over the mountain (hitting 9500′ at the top) on my way back to Show Low. There is a 20 mile 2-3% sustained climb (with a few sharper grades) outside of Springerville to get to the top of the mountain.  That tested my climbing legs for sure and I really enjoyed the ~35 mile descent back to Show Low afterwards!

    In October and early November I did some 85 mile loops on the road bike going from Show Low to White River to HonDah back to Show Low.  Good climbs along that route and beautiful scenery. 

    Just before Thanksgiving I rode El Tour de Tucson and finished in 5:08:20, just off a “platinum” pace.  My goal was not platinum, so I was bundled up at the start with quite a bit of cold weather clothes.  I stopped about 30 miles into the ride to use a port-a-potty, shed the cold weather clothes and get my bottles filled.  I stopped again at about the 70 mile mark to fill bottles again.  I realized at that second stop that I was close to a platinum pace, but I was no longer riding with platinum level riders, so I spent a lot of time on my own bridging between groups.  But El Tour de Tucson proved my legs are back!

    My plan is to continue with my daily step goal and put in a lot more base miles (or roller miles) on my road bike between now and January (with the occasional mountain bike ride thrown in).  In January I’ll transition to more mountain biking on a loaded bike and continue my 15k-20k daily step goal.  I’m probably risking some over-training, but I’ll take that risk to be more prepared than I was in 2016.  I know what to expect this time around!

    In the Spring I’ll start doing some weekend bikepacking trips. I’ve already started looking at progressively harder routes that should give me some realistic Tour Divide days on the bike.  But overall, I’m pleased with my progress and expect to be significantly more prepared physically than I was in 2016.

    LOGISTICS:  I would say I’m ahead of schedule in terms of Logistics.  I have both my flight and hotel in Banff booked and paid for.  I just need to schedule the shuttle from Calgary to Banff (waiting for the discount code to become active).  My wife and I have also been squirrelling away some money to help fund a month on the bike. 

    There are a few things I’d like to change about my bikepacking setup to correct some issues I had in 2016.  I’ve purchased a Salsa “Anything” cradle for my “sweetroll” handlebar bag to move it away from my brakes to hopefully avoid the interference I’ve had before.  I’m also considering a lighter sleeping bag.  I tend to be hot when I sleep and wind up throwing the sleeping bag off.  Plus a lighter sleeping bag should pack a bit smaller.  I’ll probably also look for another air mattress that doesn’t take quite so much air.  And I bought a small Bluetooth speaker to stream some music through some of the more secluded areas where the bear population is high.  The only other thing I’m really debating is whether or not to invest in a generator hub wheel for power.  Power was definitely an issue in 2016, but I’m not sure the $1000+ cost for the setup I would want is worth it considering that I don’t plan to spend a significant amount of time riding in the dark.  Otherwise, I’m pretty happy with my setup and won’t be changing too much else.  Of course that could change in the spring when I start doing some shake down trips.

    June 14th is going to get here faster than I can imagine, but I believe I’m on track and doing the right things to ensure I will finish the 2019 Tour Divide injury free!  I wonder what unexpected things life will throw at me between now and the start? Hmm…

      2019 Tour Divide – Declaration of Intent!

      2019 will be the year of redemption! I will once again toe the line in Banff to ride the Divide!

      A year and a half to prepare. Will it be enough? I returned from the 2016 Tour Divide broken and disappointed. I was having such a good time on the ride only to have my body fail me. I have to admit it has taken a long time to heal and get motivated again. The tendonitis in my left leg took a while to heal, but really I sat on the couch and became lazy and fat. Seriously.

      As I watched the dots during the 2017 run, an idea formed in my head around how to get back. Bold moves would be required. I knew I didn’t train properly for the 2016 run, mainly because I had no idea how to train for this kind of event. Sure, I was on my bike everyday and did the occasional multi-day bikepacking trip, but I did almost no hiking and no real altitude training. It was enough for me to enjoy the ride until tendonitis set in. Why did I get tendonitis? Age? Lack of hiking during training? Poor shoe choice? Poor nutrition? Who knows, but it killed my ride.

      So what to do differently should I decide to try again? Definitely more hiking. Better shoes. Lots of training at altitude… hmmmm… bear with me while I ramble a bit…

      During the 2017 Tour Divide, Annette and I were in the process of selling our home in Mesa. It was in a gated community and living there just didn’t meet our expectations (and with 2 kids in college, we really got tired of the expense). After selling, we had originally intended on renting a place in Mesa for a year while we looked for our ‘ideal’ home. Unfortunately it was taking way longer than we expected to unload the place.

      We owned a vacation home in Show Low, AZ for about 5 years, but sold it when cash flow got tight after our daughter started college. We loved our time in Show Low. We mostly hung out at the ‘chalet’ but I did get the occasional mountain bike ride in. I’ve also done several brevets on the road bike in the area. I had even ridden my road bike from Mesa to Show Low.

      So the idea that popped into my head was that Show Low would be ideal training ground for my next Tour Divide attempt. It sits at over 6000 feet with mountains reaching 10,000 feet close by. The temp rarely gets over 100 degrees, so training in the summer wouldn’t be as hard. 100s of miles of mountain bike single and double track just outside of town. My brother and sister-in-law live there. Ideal.

      I mostly work from home with my job. I do have a desk at my customer’s offices and would go in a couple times a week, but really just to check in with people, not because the job requires it to actually do work. So I didn’t see an issue with making the move for my job. So I floated the idea of moving to Show Low past Annette. She was immediately on-board with the idea! Yes! In fact, she was so on-board with the idea that she gave her notice at the elementary school in Mesa and lined up a teaching position at an elementary school in Show Low … before we had the house sold in Mesa or had found a new home in Show Low. Pressure was suddenly on to make the move (and let my boss know).

      So I scheduled a 1:1 with my boss to discuss it (remember at this point Annette had already lined up a new job…this move WAS happening). My boss talked to his boss and they were ok with it as long as I was able to visit my customer in Scottsdale a couple times a month and my customer was ok with it. My customer was not ok with it. Dunno why, but the job became iffy. I let my boss know the move was happening either way and mentally prepared myself to do some remote-based job hunting (check http://remote.com if you are interested in working from home).

      Annette and I are very similar in terms of what we like in a home. We spent a day with a realtor looking at a short list of homes that I had come up with from researching on Zillow. One house stood out from the others. And when we looked at it, we knew we had found our next (and hopefully last) home. It sits right at 6500 feet. Natural, low maintenance landscaping and exterior. Great kitchen and a lot of room in general. Done. Luckily we received an accepted an offer on our house in Mesa within a few weeks of making the offer on the house in Show Low.

      The house is perfectly situated for easy forest access which is right at the end of the street. I’ve explored a good portion of the forest and have found some great little 3.3 mile loops along game trails/single track that I walk daily during my lunch break.

      Unfortunately the tendonitis in my left leg turned into Plantar Fasciitis. You would not believe the amount of pain in your heal and bottom of your foot unless you have experienced this yourself. The pain is worse the longer you are idle. I could do the 3+ mile walk with some discomfort, but no real pain. But if I sat for any extended time, Pain would flare as soon as I put weight on that foot. It has taken a REALLY long time for the pain level to come down.

      I optimistically thought 2018 would be the year to try the Tour Divide again, but I’ve gained a lot of weight and there’s no way I’ll be able to lose it and train for the Divide (not to mention getting through some unexpected expenses). I’ve been doing that 3+ mile walk damn near every day since we made the move to Show Low in August, but my weight hadn’t come down at all. If anything it has gone up. So I’ve also decided I need to change my diet and have done quite a bit of research. I’ve dieted before, but the weight keeps coming back. I wanted to try something different. The answer? Keto. Keto is a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet. The idea is to teach your body to burn fat for energy instead of glucose (sugar). I’ve been on the Keto diet for about 2 weeks and have been super impressed with the results so far and not just around weight loss (I didn’t step on a scale prior to starting so I have no idea how much weight has come off so far).

      I was in tight size 40 work pants and was close to needing size 42. I went to Scottsdale yesterday and those size 40’s are now loose. Can’t get into 38’s yet, but I can tell I’m headed in that direction. I’ve been wearing a Garmin Vivoactive3 to bed and my “deep” sleep has increased from about an hour and a half a night to over 3 hours a night. I also wasn’t able to sleep on my back without getting really congested. The congestion is gone. And I’m not nearly as gassy as I was. The diet really isn’t that hard to stay on, but when you see fast results it makes it easier for sure!

      We’ve been in Show Low for several months and my customer has accepted that I work remote now. I still visit them a couple times a month (which also allows me to make a couple Costco runs), but the job feels secure again.

      Now I need to break the news to them (and my boss) that in June 2019 I’ll be taking a month off to Ride the Divide!

        2016 Tour Divide – Final Thoughts

        It’s been several months now since I returned from the Divide. I get constant reminders of the Divide from the Facebook group as people upload their stories, questions and plans for their next attempts. And I just received the awesome 2016 Tour Divide Participant Jersey that Bill Littmann created which was a good reminder that I promised a post on what worked and what didn’t. 

        First what didn’t work:

        At the top of this list is my memory. Maybe it’s an age thing, but there were several things that I just plain forgot about which impacted my enjoyment of the event. First, I didn’t remember everything that I packed. Most importantly, my neck warmer which is critical for preventing hypothermia and staying comfortable in cold weather. That first day I suffered in the cold, wet conditions. If you’ve never used a neck warmer when riding in cold weather, give it a try. It makes such a huge difference. You can pick one up at any ski shop. I think it was around day 3 that I remembered I had it with me. I’ve used a neck warmer for long brevets many times. It’s probably my favorite cold weather item and I forgot I had one with me.

        The second thing I forgot was my secondary GPS tool, an iPhone app called Gaia GPS. I had pre-downloaded detailed maps for the tour divide, so cell service was not needed to see where I was. I was using my Garmin Edge 810 as my primary navigation tool. The problem with the Edge was that on occasion it didn’t have enough detail to determine the proper turn to take. There were several times during the first week where I went the wrong way and had to back track. I think it was somewhere in Montana where I hit a spot that had three options in front of me and I remembered that I had Gaia available. Sure enough, when I zoomed in, all three options showed on the map and I knew exactly which path to take. Checking my secondary GPS could have saved me a lot of time that first week.

         

        Other things that didn’t work… my Garmin Edge 810. Not just the insufficient detail when zooming in on the map, but with all the rain, the charging port became corroded and it became very difficult to charge. No chance of getting it to charge while riding on the bike (which is something I’ve done many, many times), so I wound up ending my daily rides when I would get the warning that my 810 was about to die. This issue was probably creeping up over a much longer period of time (I’ve had that 810 for years), it’s just unfortunate that the failure happened during the Divide ride. I’ve since upgraded to the Garmin Edge 820, I hope it stands up to as much abuse as my 810 withstood.


        Charging cords… yeah, both my cell phone charging cord and my Edge 810 charging cord had issues. Too many bends? I dunno what happened to them, but keeping things charged had become a problem for me. I know cords have a rating for the number of times they can be bent before they are expected to fail. Like my Edge, these cords were also probably close to end of life. I should have just bought new charging cords before the ride. I was able to find a replacement cord for my iPhone at a gas station in Lincoln, MT but the 810 uses an older mini-USB connector that just isn’t sold at convenience stores anymore (at least that I could find), so I had a double issue with the charging port and the cord for my 810. It was extremely finicky about taking a charge. 

        My shoes. I used tennis-shoe style mountain bike shoes because I expected to do a lot of walking. Which I did. But the shoes I have really are not intended for the amount of walking I did and the front of the tread is now gone. Just gone. I never noticed during the ride, but in hindsight I have to wonder if the condition of my shoes contributed to the injury I sustained. Invest in high quality shoes that can stand up to miles of hiking.

         

        My Big Agnes Double Z air mattress. It was a comfortable enough mattress, but required a lot of air to fill and it had multiple leaks the first night. Luckily I brought my air mattress repair kit, but I used all the patches I had for that first repair. It did hold up the rest of the trip, but it looked and felt like the punctures came from the internal support structure (there were some sharp edges that I could feel in the mattress). To help avoid re-puncturing it, I didn’t roll it as tightly as I had it at the beginning, so it was packed a bit larger, but stayed inflated.

        My Revelate Designs “Sweetroll” handlebar bag. Yeah, it kept everything dry, so from that standpoint it was great. But keeping it from drooping onto my front wheel was an issue. I used some cord with a couple adjustable clips to pull it tight against my aerobars, but sometimes that would come loose and I’d have to stop to fix things. And when it was full I had problems with the ends interfering with my brake levers (including a couple times when it actually pushed a brake lever in). I wound up using a strap to pull the two ends together towards the front and away from my brakes. This worked, but was a real pain when I needed to get into the Sweetroll for something. I kept things I needed frequently in my handlebar bag (cold weather items like my arm warmers, leg warmers, full finger gloves, jackets, etc and other items like my water purification filter, stove, …) so I opened and closed it several times a day. Using that strap just slowed everything down. 

        My “Find Me Spot” personal satellite locator. Notice the theme of problems with battery powered devices? My Spot died several times during the ride. It’s supposed to last about 5 days on fresh batteries, but with the super cloudy conditions and riding through sections of dense trees, I didn’t get close to that and didn’t even think about checking the charge and it died just before the last descent before leaving Canada. I discovered it wasn’t working on the US side. I had brought some rechargeable NiMH batteries, but those only lasted a day before dying the. Wouldn’t even last a full day on an overnight charge so I gave up on them rather quickly and went back to Lithium batteries. I think I was getting maybe 3-4 days out of new Lithium batteries, but there are several areas where my Spot wasn’t sending and I didn’t know. I think the Spot allows you to charge while in use, so I may try using those NiMH rechargeable batteries again, but keeping it connected to an external battery pack at all times. I dunno… This is where a dyno-hub would have come in really handy… 

        Things that worked:

        My full rigid Niner Air9 RDO. What a great bike! I never had a mechanical issue even with days of terrible weather. I was pretty good about keeping my chain lubed, but even discounting the drive train, everything else on the bike held up. Reading through some of the ride reports from other people, I was surprised by the number of people who had issues with their brakes. Having a brake problem would be crazy scary on some of the descents. I did replace my brake pads just prior to the ride and got a full checkup from Mike Cox at Curbside Cyclery in Ahwatukee, AZ (highly recommend Mike for all of your cycling needs). Mike gave me a few spare parts to take along, but I never had to use any of it. Make sure your bike is in tip top condition prior to the ride. I passed at least two people with broken chains on the first day!  That would have really sucked!

        My Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 tent. This is a super light weight tent that is pretty quick to set up. It’s actually a 2 person tent, so I had plenty of space for the gear I wanted to keep dry at night. Everything I wanted to stay dry stayed dry which is impressive given the amount of rain we had (so I guess this also implies my ultra-light weight dry bags worked too, got them at REI, don’t remember the brands). 

        My Evernew Ti micro-stove. This thing rocked. It’s an alcohol fuel stove that gets water boiling in a matter of minutes. I did use an aluminum wind screen around it which probably helped with heat retention. I had nice hot coffee when I woke in the morning and hot meals for dinner. And let me tell you, with that cold, wet weather having hot meals was fantastic.

        My Revelate Designs Terrapin Seat “Holster” and drybag. I kept all of my night time stuff in this. Sleeping bag, air mattress, change of clothes, medications, that sort of stuff. Everything stayed dry. It was easy to take off and empty in my tent. Just a very convenient design.

        My “Fred bar”. This is a short aluminum bar that mounts on the top of the headset just above your handlebars and is used to mount accessories, like aerobars. It was designed specifically for the Tour Divide. It raises the height of the aerobars and makes them very comfortable for long distance. I also used this bar to mount my Revelate Designs mountain feedbags. It was the perfect height to keep those bags out of the way. BTW, those mountain feedbags also go in the “Things that worked” category. So convenient, I’m still using one on my Niner today to hold my phone when riding.

        This little tiny $1 LED headlamp from Walmart. I used that thing every night. It wasn’t super bright, but was enough for everything I needed. 

        Katadyn Hiker Pro Microfilter. This thing worked great. The water tasted good and it filled my bladders quickly. It’s a bit larger in size, but I’d prefer a larger size and have confidence that I’m getting good clean water to drink. 

        Things I’d do differently:

         Water management. I drink a lot when I ride and was afraid of running out of water, so I carried a 2.5L water bladder in a frame bag and a 3L water bladder in a camelback. I didn’t need so much water and wound up carrying a lot of extra water weight for nothing. There were probably going to be a couple sections later in the ride where I’d need both, but for the most part, there were enough fast running streams to keep my 3L Camelback full. I think I’d carry the 2.5L bladder again, but wouldn’t fill it until I knew I was in an area where water would be sparse.

        Set an alarm. Several days I overslept. By a lot. Who knows how much farther I would have gotten had I gotten up earlier in the morning.

        Bring a noise maker. I have one of those little “I’m going to pass you” bells on my handlebars. There were several areas on high passes that were just a bit freaky, especially when riding past some very large piles of fresh bear scat. So you can see me slowly riding through an area where there are dense trees on either side of the trail with my thumb constantly hitting that bell. “Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding,…” I really didn’t want any wildlife surprises. Part of me wondered if ringing that bell to make bears scarce was also just calling wolves or cougars to let them know I was there for dinner. I don’t normally listen to music when riding, but a micro speaker to stream some music through those sections would have been nice. Although the bell worked. I didn’t have any wildlife encounters. I did see one bear from a distance, but that’s how I’d like to see a bear. 

        Incorporate a LOT of hiking into my training prior to the Divide. I really didn’t anticipate how much I would be off my bike hiking up steep grades. The problem with my Achilles was probably a direct result of a lack of cross training for hiking. And maybe my choice of shoes. But mostly lack of adequate training. This one could be tough to fix, at least where I live now. You need a nice long, steep hill to practice your hike-a-bike. You aren’t going to be hiking on flat terrain or descents, so finding a good long hill to emulate the experience is key. Maybe hiking up Usery Pass a few times… 

        Some final thoughts…

        I know the Tour Divide “Grand Depart” is intended to be a race and I thought I’d be racing when I went into it. But at some point I realized I really don’t want to race the Divide. I remember being a bit upset when my status changed from “racer” to “tourist” after spending a day holed up in Eureka, MT fighting a fever. The racers ride through a good portion of the night, but there is so much incredible scenery that you will miss riding at night. I also believe, rightly or wrongly, your chances of adverse wildlife encounters is higher at night or early morning. And quite honestly, I enjoyed setting up my camp and relaxing in the evening or stopping at a hotel, then going and having a nice meal at a local restaurant.  I enjoyed my slower pace plain and simple.

        Don’t get me wrong though. Leaving with the Grand Depart is the way to go. You meet really great people that become good friends, but a good portion of those people won’t be racing the divide. Some because they never really intended to and some because they realized, like me, that it’s much more enjoyable to tour the divide than to race it and you will catch others who were hampered by physical or mechanical problems.  Amazing the variety of people who attempt this ride. 

        Canada is an absolutely amazing country for mountain biking. If you get a chance to mountain bike there, take it! Montana is also beautiful, but it crushed me physically.

        And the key question… would I do it again? Not in 2017 for sure.  I’m just getting my life back into a “normal” cadence. And not as a race. 2018 is quite a way off still, but you really need a full year to train right for this event. I have to be honest, I didn’t ride my bikes when I got back from the divide (road or mountain). I mostly sat on the couch and super-sized myself eating way more than I should have with almost no exercise for several months. It’s taken some time to get my motivation back, but I have started to get out again for short rides on a regular basis. I think about the divide often and what I missed by not finishing. I’ve never been someone to leave a goal unfinished, so who knows? The Divide gets into your head and it’s hard not to think about doing it again, especially after enough time passes that you don’t remember the pain…And there was most definitely pain!

          DNF! Tour Divide Rookie Attempt Days 7-11 (DNF)

          I had laid all my clothes out to dry before going to bed, and that worked well. But I looked out the window to see more rain. It looked cold. A quick weather check showed that I could expect a cold rain most of the day. So I packed my bike and pulled on all my wet, cold weather gear. One critical item I had completely forgotten about on the frigid first day was my neck warmer. It’s amazing how much warmer your whole body is when you have a neck warmer on.


          My cheat sheet showed quite a bit of pavement, so I expected to make pretty good time.  109 miles to Holland Lake, but based on my daily mileage so far, I figured that would be out of my reach.  As expected, the ride out of Whitefish was cold and wet.  The mountains were mostly shrouded in clouds, but when they cleared, I could see the snow line had come down and was only a 1000 feet or so above me.  I stopped for lunch (and to warm up)at a restaurant in Ferndale (about 40 miles from Whitefish).

          I admit to sitting and drinking hot coffee for a half hour or so after finishing my meal. I was hoping the weather would clear, but I left in the rain.  A few miles out of Ferndale the weather let up and the temperature started coming back up. I stopped to shed some cold weather clothes and decided to hike-a-bike for a bit up a rideable climb just to get a break from the saddle.  It was still cloudy, but the clouds were lifting.


          Shortly after starting to walk my bike I felt a weird pain in my left ankle. It wasn’t a pop or sharp pain, just fine one step and “hey, that kinda hurt” the next step. It wasn’t super painful and became a dull ache. Ok, that’s not good, but it wasn’t bad and didn’t really bother me when I was riding.

          It was still over 65 miles to Holland lake with a big pass to get over, so my goal was to get over the pass and find a spot to camp.  My preferred camping spots are at lower elevation in secluded areas. It took quite a while to get to the top of that pass with some more sections of hike-a-bike, then a super fast descent.  I found a nice spot off of a closed side road to setup camp.  I got lucky because it started to rain again just after finishing setting up my camp.


          Day 8 I woke up with a pretty tender Achilles in my left ankle.  It seemed to loosen up as I broke down camp, so I didn’t really worry about it too much.

          There was a really nice section of single track going up the next pass with just amazing scenery at the top.


          Swan Lake was 5 miles off-route, but there was a lodge with a restaurant, so I decided that would be worth the detour. When I got there I discovered the restaurant is only open at certain times, but even if I had gotten there when it was supposed to be open, they were getting ready for a big wedding, so the restaurant wasn’t going to be open anyway. So I rode over to the day use area, sat at a table and had a cold lunch from my stores.


          With my Achilles bothering me, I wasn’t making very good time.  I found myself doing more hike-a-bike on the climbs.  There was another big climb before Seeley Lake and I realized with the amount of hike-a-bike, I likely wouldn’t make it all the way.  But that section was incredibly scenic with some more really nice single track.


          I found another nice secluded spot off a closed side road to setup camp.  That night I was suddenly woken by a sharp pain in my ankle. That was weird, but it only happened once and I slept the rest of the night.

          Day 9 I woke to more rain. Luckily I had a cell signal, so I pulled up my weather app and saw that it was a relatively small rain cell, so I stayed in my tent until it passed. Of course I had laid out my clothes before going to bed hoping that it would all dry and now everything was soaked again!

          Seeley Lake was a bit off-route, but I decided to go into town to re-supply at a grocery store and get a good breakfast.  Of course the grocery store was on the opposite side of town!  Once I was back on the route I hit a freshly graded section of forest road. You would think fresh grading would be nice, but it’s actually very hard.  There is a lot of loose gravel and sections of deep gravel/sand. You have to take corners very carefully.  That was a long section!  It also got pretty warm and I found myself stopping in shade. My Achilles was really tender, so I texted Mike Cox and Coach Jeff Lockwood to see if they had any advice on how to handle it.  Mike suggested I ask Jeff (already done). Coach replied: “Checked with doc lock (Jacqui). When not riding ice it and range of motion to tolerance. Before riding try to get cramers icy hot. Rub it on the tendon and the use a round tube like a seat post or pvc pipe and rub from heel to knee. Do this 10 min. Twice a day. Ice it a couple of times in the evening. Only ice for 10 min at a time. Good luck”

          Hmmmm… No ice handy, but there were a lot of streams with snow run-off.  So I stopped at the next stream, took my shoe and sock off and soaked it in ice cold water. Man, that felt good and my ankle felt better! Although it was probably just a bit frozen!


          Mentally, I was still in it. Loving the scenery and enjoying the ride, albeit with some pain in my ankle.  I was walking a lot more. When I tried to climb, my ankle would flare up, so I was now walking sections that I normally would have ridden up.  I got through that pass and looked back to see black clouds over the area I had just ridden through. Lucked out there!


          After that pass, I hit a flatter area with a few rolling hills on the way to Ovando.  I stopped at both stores in Ovando to see if they had any Icy Hot, but no luck.  The restaurant in town was closed, but Trixie’s on the edge of town was open, so I headed over there for a burger and beer.  A huge group of motorcyclists pulled in just after I got my meal, so it got pretty busy and took a while to get my check. The Trixie burger was awesome (2 beef patties with a slice of ham between them and cheese).

          When I left, the wind had picked up and I could see that rain headed my way. But the scenery was beautiful high country plains.


          My goal was to get to Lincoln for the night which was only about 40 miles from Ovando with about 3000 feet of climbing.  With the hike-a-bike and stops to chill my ankle, that took way longer than I thought it would.  I got to Lincoln just as the sun was setting. The first hotel I stopped at was sold out. Rather than ride through town, I called all the other hotels and they were all sold out. I don’t know what was going on there, but there must have been some kind of event.  Lincoln was interesting. There was deer everywhere!


          There was a camp ground at the opposite end of town, so I rode over there and set up camp.  The guy next to me had a nice camp fire going and he invited me over to share the warmth. We chatted for a bit, but it was getting late, so I went to bed about 11:30.  Then I slept in the next morning.

          After breaking down camp, I found a grocery store and got some Icy Hot, then found a restaurant for breakfast.  I also stopped at a gas station convenience store to get a new iPhone charging cable because my short cable wasn’t working any more. I was also having issues with my Garmin charging cable, but they didn’t have a mini-USB cable.

          My day 10 goal was to get to Helena which was only 60 miles, but had 3 passes with 5500 feet of climbing.  I rode right past the start of the first climb and had to backtrack a mile or so. That pass was insane. It started with a 12-18% grade that went for miles.  My Achilles really started to act up and I started to get sharp pains if I tried to ride while climbing, so I pretty much walked all the climbs and stopped at every opportunity to chill my ankle.


          There was quite a bit of old mining equipment and remains of buildings along that route. Makes you wonder how the old timers moved that much steel!


          For the first time near to top of that first climb I noticed the Continental Divide trail show up on my Garmin.


          The scenery was still amazing, it was just slow going. Near the top of the first pass I met a lady who was hiking the divide. We chatted for a bit until we got to the top of the pass, then she went left and I went right.

          She had warned me there were some rolling hills before the descent on the other side, but it really wasn’t bad. But at one point there were trails in three directions and I couldn’t tell from my Garmin which Inwas supposed to take, so I pulled up the Gaia app on my iPhone, zoomed in and could clearly see the right trail! D’oh! Why didn’t I use Gaia every other time I had a question about direction? It was clearly more detailed!

          On the second pass I finally got cell reception and decided to call Annette to talk about my ankle.  I was considering stopping for the night before Helena.  But after talking to Annette I decided to push on to Helena and get a hotel room for two nights, so I could take a rest day and stop by an urgent care to have my Achilles checked.

          I then proceeded to ride right past the turn for the third pass. I was on a bit of a descent, so I didn’t notice I was off-route for about 3.5 miles (7 miles added with the return to the route). Sigh.


          After getting back on-route I stopped to rest and eat. A truck came down and stopped to check if I was ok.  He said Helena was still a good 20 miles from where I was which scared me, so after he left I pulled up a map on my phone and found it was still a good 12 miles to the first hotel with quite a long climb in front of me. So I started another hike-a-bike to the top. It took quite a while and the sun was setting when I got to the top. Luckily it was almost all descent down to the pavement and into Helena.  When I got to the outskirts I saw a billboard that said the Quality Inn had laundry facilities, so that became my destination.

          I got there well after dark and got a room for two nights.  I fell asleep pretty quickly after taking a shower.

          Day 11 was spent traveling around Helena. It was a couple miles to the urgent care, so I called a taxi. I tried Uber and Lyft, but there aren’t any in Helena. And apparently only one taxi.  It took about 30 minutes after calling for the taxi to show. An old Prius with every service light lit (check engine, oil, low tire…). Yeah, that felt safe! LOL.  

          The wait wasn’t too long at urgent care. The doctor thought there might be a small tear and recommended I see an Orthepedic specialist. He put my ankle in a boot to immobilize it.


          He said it may take a few days to get an appointment, but the Orthepedic clinic was around the corner, so I walked over and found they had a “fast care” clinic, so I checked in there for another wait.

          The Orthepedic doc felt my ankle, had me walk and said it wasn’t a tear, but was tendonitis. She said she could prescribe a steroid or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. The steroid would impact my immune system and increase the chance of catching a cold. I told her I had a fever in Eureka, so non-steroidal it was! She set the prescription to be picked up at a Costco near my hotel. She also said it normally takes 3-4 weeks to heal and told me to ice it and stay off of it until Saturday at the earliest. Crap. It was Monday. She also told me to get some better insoles for my cycling shoes.  I called Annette to give her the news and talk about what to do. 

          I still wanted to continue, but didn’t want to risk serious injury and really didn’t want to walk up all the passes, after all I was there to RIDE the Divide, not hike it.  We decided to give it a couple days to see if there was any improvement.

          I called the taxi again for a ride to Costco. I got there before the prescription was ready, so had lunch and waited. After getting the prescription filled, I walked over to a Sportsman’s warehouse for new insoles then stopped at a convenience store at a gas station for some beverages for my hotel room then stopped by the front desk to extend my stay.

          The next two days were pretty uneventful and pretty boring. Unfortunately I wasn’t noticing any improvement in my ankle. Even if there was minor improvement, I would have re-aggravated it as soon as I started to use it again, so I pulled the plug on my ride.

          Now I needed to figure out how to get me and my bike home. I was only a mile or so from the airport so I scheduled a flight home and reserved a car. The hotel manager was nice enough to give me a lift to the airport so I could pick up the car (VERY nice of him!). Then I drove over to a bike shop and got a box for my bike. I also stopped at a K-Mart for another box to pack my gear. It was actually much easier to get everything I needed than I expected.

          And that was my ride. I’ll do another post with some of my thoughts about the ride, training and lessons learned.

            DNF! Tour Divide Rookie Attempt Days 4-6

            Day 4 started great! I slept a bit long, but woke refreshed and with partly cloudy skies. A couple riders went by as I was breaking down my camp before getting back on to climbing.  This sections was closed to motorized vehicles, so the trail kind of alternated between nice double track and overgrown single track.  When the trail got tight, I’d ring my bike bell to let the bears know I was coming.  Although at on point as I was ringing my bell … Ding, ding, ding … I had to wonder if I was just calling wolves and Cougars for breakfast!

            There was another section of single track that included the infamous “wall”.  Of course, once again I rode right past the turn that was again marked with stacked rocks.  Some of this single track was too technical for me, so I walked some of it. It was relatively flat to the wall, but there was a lot of roots, rocks and dips.

            Partly cloudy sky in the morning

            nice double track!

            Yep! Missed this turn! oops

            Single track headed to the “wall”

            With the reflection, I couldn’t get a good pic of my Garmin which showed the US border


            The wall was insane. I didn’t get a great picture of it, but it’s almost vertical. Had to be at least a 70% grade. You push your bike above your head while scrambling up roots and steps in the mud. Push a few feet, lock the brakes and step up to your bike and repeat. It’s not too long, maybe a 100 feet or so, but took quite a bit of time to get up. There was a river running at the bottom. Very scenic, but holy cow, that was hard!  There was a stream running across the trail shortly after the top, so I stopped and refilled my water bladder.

            There was quite a long climb after getting back on the forest road, but near the top I noticed the US border starting to show up on my Garmin! I was getting close! Of course the road took had a switchback and moved away from the border for a while, then moved parallel to it.  It was pretty brisk at the top, so I put a jacket on near the top and for a nice long descent.  It really warmed up and got into the mid 80’s so I stopped when I got to the pavement at the bottom to shed my jacket and arm and leg warmers.

            It was only a few miles from there to the border in Roosville.  The wind had kicked up some, but with the pavement I still made pretty good time.  The border patrol agent was following the race told me the leaders were already in Butte. Wow.

            US Border crossing in Roosville

            Montana!


            After crossing the border I proceeded to ride right past my turn. It was a couple miles before I noticed that my Garmin showed me off-route. The turn was just passed the border, so I headed back and noticed a picnic table in the parking lot of one of the duty-free stores. So I pulled over there and called Annette to let her know I was back in the good ole U.S. Of A.

            That headwind got harder on the way to Eureka. I was pretty drained when I got to the Subway for a late lunch.  There were a couple other riders there who had decided to spend the night in Eureka. The weather was expected to turn bad again with the possibility of snow and high wind.  I sat in the Subway for a while re-hydrating and made the decision to stay for the night as well. The gas station/subway also had a motel, so I got a room, took a shower then stuffed my dirty clothes in a trash bag and walked about a mile to a laundry-mat.  On my walk back to the hotel, I could see the storm coming. It was still windy, but there were black clouds above the mountains. It started sprinkling before I got back to the hotel, then started to just pour.

            I hung out in my room watching TV until there was a break in the weather then walked down to the grocery store to stock up on food so I’d be ready to head out in the morning.  I was a bit congested when I went to bed, but didn’t feel too bad. Unfortunately when I got up in the morning, I was shaking with the chills. I called Annette and decide to spend the day in bed to break a fever. So day 5 was spent in a hotel. The gas station convenience store had some NyQuil and that put me out for the day.  I slept a lot and started to get the sweats in the afternoon.  I was hoping that meant I was breaking the fever. That storm was as bad as expected and there was fresh snow on the mountains.

            The view from my room in Eureka


            Day 6 I felt a lot better.  I went next door to the Subway to get a sub to eat for lunch, packed my bike and headed out.  It was a bit brisk, but partly cloudy and calm.  Annette texted me to wish me a Happy Anniversay. Wow time was flying! I texted her back, but really wanted to see her on our 25th Anniversary, so I decided to push to Whitefish to get another hotel room. Whitefish is 91 miles with 6100 feet of climbing from Eureka, so the farthest distance and most climbing I would do on one day during the ride.


            There was a lot of climbing, but the grades of the climbs topped out at about 6%, so I was able to ride pretty much the whole day. I started catching some other riders and it was good to see people on the trail.

            At one point I came upon a historic cabin that was owned by the forest service. Nobody was using it, so I pulled in and sat on the porch to eat my sandwich.


            This was a great day on the bike. The weather was pleasant, the climbs weren’t too hard and I made great time.  I pulled into Whitefish in the early evening. I was keeping my phone on airplane mode to conserve battery, but turned it on when I got into town to find a hotel. Right after turning off airplane mode, it rang. My dad was calling to check in on me.  After talking to him, I pulled up the trackleaders web page to see if there was anyone else in town and where they were staying. All the hotels were a mile or so off route, so I rode over to one and checked in.  After showering, I face timed with Annette on our Anniversary. Well worth the effort to get there!

            I walked over to a pizza place for dinner and a beer before calling it a night.  I was still feeling good and having a great time.  Canada is nice, but it was great being back in the US!

            To be continued…

              DNF! Tour Divide Rookie attempt… Days 1-3

              Well, I’ve been home for a couple weeks and decided it’s time to update the blog.  The Tour Divide is an amazingly scenic, hard, hard ride. I challenged myself like I have never done before, but only wound up riding for about 8 days, averaging 10 hours on the mountain bike and about 80 miles a day.  For perspective, the winner, Matt Hall, averaged just under 200 miles a day and set a new record by finishing in under 14 days! To do that, he was on his bike way, way more than me and only got a couple hours of sleep a day. Wow.

              Day one was a day to test your resolve. I had attended a pre-race meeting given by crazy Larry Melnick.  Larry talked about how to handle bear and cougar encounters, but harped on how to handle hypothermia.  It was a beautiful day in Banff and I have to admit thinking we wouldn’t have a problem with that this year. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

              People lining up their bikes just beforbthe “Grand Depart”

              All loaded up and ready to go!


              Rain was expected for the day and it was a bit brisk at the start. The main group would be taking a small loop from the YWCA to the start, but I decided to leave after them and let the crowd thin out a bit before getting on the trail, so I took the time to put my arm and leg warmers on and headed over to the start about 20 minutes after everyone else.

              This is the start of the Tour Divide. what a nicely maintained trail!

              The rain hadn’t started yet and temps were still relatively comfortable

              We went over a number of very cool wooden bridges like this one

              And the rain begins and temps plummet

              This was a very cool, long wooden bridge that crossed a very marshy area.

              Incredible views!

              50 miles in and the temp drops into the 30’s. I wasn’t ready for that!


              The start was great! I was making pretty good time and started catching some riders who started with the Grand Depart. Then the rain started, mostly as a drizzle with occasional showers. I stopped and put on my rain jacket at one point. The rain was causing some mechanical problems for other riders. Several people had flat tires and two people broke chains. My Niner had no issues.

              As the day progressed, the temperature kept dropping. At one point I stopped to eat for about 20 minutes. Man, that was a mistake! My core temperature dropped and I started to get the shakes which was a sure sign that I needed to get moving!  It took quite a while to warm back up!  

              I had neoprene full finger gloves, but they were soaked and the wind was coming through. My hands and feet were frozen when I pulled into the Bolton Trading Post at mile 60. They didn’t have a restaurant, but did have a convenince store, so I bought a couple cans to soup to cook in the microwave.  While I was eating my soup I noticed another rider pull on some rubber dish washing gloves. Brilliant! The rubber would stop the wind chill! So I bought a pair myself and also got a couple shopping bags to put over my socks. Holy cow, those saved my ride! 


              With no wind chill my hands and feet warmed right up.  There was a long descent after the trading post, so I was really happy to be relatively warm again. Unfortunately I sped right by a turn and added a mile or two to the route.

              I was hoping to go 110 miles to Elkford, but it had been one heck of a hard day, so I decided to find a secluded spot and set up camp when it started to get dark around 10pm.  Luckily there was a break in the rain when I set up camp.

              My new camp stove. This thing rocks!

              Really can’t beat this kind of view!

              Well rested!


              I slept in a bit and took my time having breakfast and breaking down my camp.  It took a bit longer than I expected to get into Elkford, so I was glad I stopped for the night where I did. I passed a moose and her calf which was cool.  The rain also stayed away until after Elkford.  In Elkford I stopped at a grocery store for a few supplies, then stopped at a gas station that had a restaurant in it. Unfortunately the restaurant was closed, so I got some stuff from the convenience store for lunch.

              A moose with her calf in the distance. They moved into the woods when I got closer.

              Lunch in Elkford


              There is a long climb on pavement going out of Elkford. I walked quite a bit of that. Near the top, we turned into some double track that was really nice, but once again I missed a turn and added a few extra miles to the route. The turn was easy to miss. It was a sharp single track climb that was marked with some stacked rocks.  Honestly, it was more like a goat trail because it was pretty overgrown.  I walked quite a bit of that section and got lost once. There were some orange ribbons tied to a number of trees, so I assumed those were trail markers. Nope. I could see on my Garmin that the trail was going in the opposite direction a couple times and had to turn back.

              That rain is coming my way

              See those stacked rocks? That marks the turn onto a singlr track section

              Can’t really tell from this photo, but the entrance to this single track was pretty steep!

              Nice.


              It’s only 30 miles from Elkford to Sparwood, but with getting lost and missing turns, it took me longer than it should have.  I stopped at an A&W for a late lunch/early dinner and discovered Poutine, my new favorite way to have fries (covered in gravy and cheese curds).

              That’s a BIG dump truck!

              Poutine! YUM


              The weather was looking bad and I knew there was a very significant climb in front of me. I had also worked through a pretty strong head wind getting into Sparwood. I had only gone about 60 miles, but I decided to call it a day in Sparwood. So I got a room at a hotel that I shared with a fellow Tour Divide rider (Christian from Toronto). The shower felt great!  I also used the tub to find a leak in my sleeping pad that was very annoying on the first night.  Christian got up pretty early and headed out right at sunrise, but I slept in a bit and left around 8am.

              The decision to stay the night was a good one. The weather cleared up and that headwind became a tail wind. I made pretty good time.  I planned to stay at the Wigwam camp ground, about 83 miles from Sparwood. There was a long section of pavement heading out of Sparwood that also helped with making good time.

              The mattress pad had two holes in it!


              After turning off the pavement, there was some nice forest road to the top of a pass, but the other side was pretty eroded and actually became a stream. I walked through the first section, that water was COLD! So I tried riding the next section, hit a rock with my front wheel that immediately stopped me and threw me over my handlebars! Luckily I landed on my feet, turned and grabbed my bike before it fully submerged. I would have liked to have caught that on video!

              ​​
              ​​

              I caught a few other riders after the stream and we kind of leap frogged each other throughout the day. I knew there was a cabin somewhere along this section that was available to riders, so I planned to stop there for lunch and hopefully use an outhouse.  I came up on a cabin that didn’t have any cars in front of it, so I thought that might be it and noticed a welcome outhouse in the woods.  After using the facility, I was getting my bike ready when another rider pulled up and said the cabin was still a few miles ahead. Oops, hope whoever owned that cabin didn’t mind me using their outhouse!

              ​​

              There was a super long, fast, fun descent down to the Wigwam River.  I missed a turn that had a sign that said it was closed to vehicles, but I noticed fairly quickly that I was moving farther and farther off-route. Turns out that section was closed to motorized vehicles, bicycles are ok. I never noticed a camp ground before starting the climb away from the river. I didn’t want to get too high up before making camp, so I pulled off on a fairly wide section and setup camp with about 88 miles down for the day.


              I was still feeling pretty good at this point. Amazing scenery, fantastic trails, some bad weather, but over all I was really enjoying the ride! 

              To be continued…

                Less than a day to the Grand Depart!

                I tried to sleep in this morning, but with sunrise at 5:30am, my room got bright and I was up before 7 (that’s before 6 AZ time).  Today was prep day. Get my bags packed and go for a test ride.


                I took my time organizing my gear, but I’m sure I’ll be making changes as the ride goes on.  Frame bag was the easiest to pack because it has the least amount of stuff in it, mostly a water bladder. I adjusted my aero bars moving them a bit farther out. My shoulders were too compressed the way I originally had them.  That moved my Feedbags to the inside which gives my knees a bit more space if I’m riding out of the saddle.


                The Sweetroll on my handlebars was also fairly easy to load. I moved my tent outside of the Sweetroll so I could bring a change of riding clothes when the first set gets really rank. We’ll see how long I last before I have to use that set.  When I got to my seat bag I found out that I left the compression straps for my sleeping bag at home! No way that sleeping bag fits when it isn’t highly compressed! Added that to the list of stuff I needed for the ride.

                After getting the bike mostly setup, I headed into town to stop at an outdoor shop for a couple last minute items (compression sack, matches, denatured alcohol to use as fuel for my stove).  The shop didn’t open until 10am, so I walked through town to find someplace that served omelettes for breakfast. That made for perfect timing to get back to the outdoor shop when it opened.  They had everything I needed except for the denatured alcohol, so I walked over to a hardware store to look in their paint section. No luck. A quick search online revealed that denatured alcohol is hard, if not impossible to find in Canada. The hardware store had a small camping section where I found methyl hydrate which can be used as a substitute (although it is more toxic, so you have to be more careful with it).


                After the hardware store I headed over to a Safeway grocery store (who knew Safeway is in Canada??) to get water for my water bladders, a couple advocados (cause I like them) and a couple oranges.  Got to have a few fresh items to go with all the processed foods I’ll be eating!


                Kind of a long walk back to the hotel carrying all that, but I was able to finish packing before noon changed into my cycling clothes and headed out for a test ride. Banff is incredibly scenic! One of the most scenic rides I’ve done. I took a bike path out of town for a few miles just to make sure everything was secure and my bike was functioning properly.  Fantastic views of the mountains and I even passed a beaver dam. Very cool!


                I made my way back through town to find the starting point of the Tour Divide.  It starts just past a pretty impressive looking hotel.  I rode a mile or so down the route just to get a sneak peek. Man I hope the whole trail is this nice!


                We have a riders meeting later this evening then the rides starts in waves tomorrow morning at 8am.  I will not be leaving at 8am, that time is for the fast guys.  I’ll probably leave closer to 9 or maybe even 10 to allow the trail to clear a bit.  I’ll be taking it slow and easy, but expect to ride until around 10pm tomorrow or 12 to 13 hours on the bike. Good times!

                  Tour Divide Pre-Ride

                  Arrived in Canada! The trip was pretty uneventful. I was a bit anxious about my bike and gear getting here with me, but no problems! The TSA didn’t even inspect my boxes (something else I was concerned with just because I know how I packed everything.  My bike weighed in at 19 pounds (excluding seat post, saddle and pedals) but packed in a card board bike box with all the tubes wrapped in plastic. The other box with all my gear and food weighed in at 40.5 pounds. 

                  So, with water I’m probably looking at 60 pounds-ish.  Bit heavy, but I know I have everything I need.

                  The customs line was short so I had plenty of time to get to the Banff Airporter shuttle.  I met up with three other TD riders while we were waiting for out oversized bike boxes at baggage claim.  Leaving the airport the area kind of reminded me of Kansas with big rolling hills, but as we moved to the other side of town, it was more like the front range around Denver with mountains in the distance. The drive to Banff was quite scenic.


                  They had a large space near check-in at the hotel to un-box your bike and put it back together, so I did that after checking in.  I still need to pack and put on my bike bags, but I’ll do that in the morning.

                  Sunrise in Banff is 5:30am, sunset is at 10pm, but it doesn’t really start to get dark until after 11pm.  So I went into town for a late dinner (venison sausage).  The picture below is the view from my room at 9:30pm.


                  Tomorrow morning I’ll finish setting up my bike and packing my bags. Then I’ll ride through town and get the obligatory picture of my bike next to the “Welcome to Banff” sign. I need to hit Safeway and an outdoor shop to get the last minute things that I couldn’t travel with (like denatured alcohol for my stove).  Great trip so far!

                    Tour D’what??

                    In 1998 the Adventure Cycling Assiciation published the world’s longest off off-pavement cycling route called the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.  The Tour Divide is an unsupported, unsanctioned race that mainly follows the GDMBR route and begins with a “Grand Depart” the second Friday every June.  The route starts in Banff, Canada and primarily follows long dirt roads, jeep trails, some single track and the occasional bit of pavement through the provences of Alberta and British Columbia in Canada before crossing the US border and passing through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico to get to the finish at Antelope Wells on the Mexican border.  It covers approximately 2,750 miles with over 200,000 feet of cumulative ascent (like climbing Mount Everest from sea level 7 times).  Details on the Tour Divide can be found at http://tourdivide.org


                    I first heard about the Tour Divide when a friend rode it several years ago. You are required to use a Spot personal satellite locator with real time tracking enabled to show where you are at on the course. So I was able to follow my friends progress on this epic course and knew I’d have to do it some day. Definitely a bucket list item!

                    I’ve done a lot of ultra distance road cycling, but had never done any long distance mountain biking, so this would be a new experience for me.  Leonard Zito has the same event on his bucket list and we have been talking about when would be a good time to do it. We tentatively planned to do it in 2016. Preparing for this type of event requires a lot of time, effort and commitment.  And you have to be able to get a full month off of work!

                    Both Leonard and I changed jobs in 2015 which unfortunately pushed Leonard’s timing for the ride out, but I still wanted to do it. So I started focusing on the training to make it happen.  The job I had didn’t pan out, so I found myself in a position where I needed to make a decision to find another job and try to negotiate a month off right after starting, putting off the Divide or waiting to find a new job until after the Divide.  I was almost at the point of pushing the ride out when my wonderful wife Annette told me I should do it. Luckily we’re in a financial position where I can take a few months off of work. 

                    Training for the divide has had a huge positive impact on my health and well-being. Riding the Divide is going to be good for me in a very real physical sense.  So the decision has been made. I’ll be looking for a new job sometime in mid to late July. In the meantime, I’ll be on my bike.

                    My original goal for completion was 25 days (averaging just over 100 miles a day).  But I no longer have a time restriction on me like I would have if I was taking vacation time. So I plan to be more flexible about the time.  People who know me will laugh, but my plan is to take the first week slow, keeping my heart rate below 145 and preferably in the 120-135 range.  I don’t want to start this ride too hard. I really don’t want to be part of the 50% failures!


                    I’ll be riding a 2015 Niner Air 9 RDO, full rigid (no suspension at all) loaded with Revelate Designs bike packs.  I have a Sweetroll handlebar bag that will contain my stove, cold weather gear, a change of clothes, my tent poles and tent ground cover. Strapped to that is a “Pocket” that will have some food and quick access items like sunscreen, bug spray, first aid kit, etc. My tent is strapped between the pocket and Sweetroll. I also have a pair of Feedbags. One will have quick energy food (bars, gels, gummies). The other will have two 11,000 mah portable power units with short charging cables for my Garmin, cell phone and for recharging the portable power units.

                    On the frame I have a frame bag that I bought from someone who rode an Air 9 RDO on last year’s Tour Divide (is it good luck to have something on your bike that has already gone the distance?).  The frame bag will have 2.5 liters of water. It will also have a pump, cassette cleaning tool, chain oil and a few miscellaneous other items.  On the top tube is a “gas tank” that will hold my wallet and cell phone, a micro fiber cloth to clean my glasses, and other miscellaneous stuff.  Under the seat is a Jerry can that will have spare batteries, tire repair tools and plugs, a multi-tool and whatever else I can pack into it.

                    In the back I have a Terrapin dry bag holster with dry bag. It will contain my sleeping bag and pad, a change of everyday clothes, and anything else I don’t want to risk getting wet. The idea when it’s raining is to get my tent setup and unpack the drybag in the dry tent.


                    I’ll also be wearing a camelbak Mule with a 3 liter water bladder. The camelbak will also be my pantry and hold the majority of my food.

                    I learned on my ride across the Mogollon Rim to strap a gallon water jug to the front of my bike which would give me a total of over 9 liters of water for the long stretches between water points (I sweat a lot, so I tend to drink a lot).

                    The ride starts on June 10th and I head to Banff on Wednesday the 8th. You can follow my progress on the Track Leaders website. Rain is in the forecast this week. I’m looking forward to amazing scenery and an absolutely epic ride! Journey On and Live Your Adventure! 👊👍😊