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

 

 

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