I haven't yet been home for a week and to be honest, much of that time has been unbelievable. Before I even stepped foot in the door I got a call from 9News and gave my first real TV interview a day later. It's a bit surreal to see yourself on television being introduced by one of your wife's favorite anchormen. Keep your eyes peeled to the Outside Online blog as well, I gave another interview that should show up there at some point.
Of course the whole event was a bit surreal. Sure I knew what I was signing up for, I had even attempted it last year, dropping out in good old Lima, Montana, homesick and not having fun. But despite my smooth preparation, excellent training and having everything go pretty darn well the first few nights were almost sleepless. It's hard to put words to the feeling of actually racing across the country, even conservatively. After 2768 miles I rolled up to the border, pretty much still speechless. But this time, there was a whole lot of fun wrapped up in all those miles.
And while no one could help me out on the trail, in no way could I say that I raced alone. My amazing wife was my emotional rock. Compared to a year ago I did much better dealing with being away from home. But there were still several moments were I was just willing her to pick up the phone on the other end for a few moments of "home" before shoving off towards another tiny town.
When you're racing for the better part of 3 weeks and thousands of miles, the weather is bound to play a role, yet the Divide always seems to find a way to up the ante. Almost right off the bat our rain gear got a workout and the rain never let up until the finish. I think I spent 3 days out of 19 without being stormed on with one of those being the last day. And that isn't even counting the day Kurt and I time trialed across the Great Divide basin and felt rain from a storm dozens of miles away due to such crazy wind! And even with a low snow winter, we still had some hiking to do. Luckily with some experience, I led the charge for Kurt, Joe and I over Red Meadow Pass and Richmond Peak and it wasn't nearly as bad as last year. Unfortunately while the snow wasn't as bad as 2008, the mud was far worse. On the section of the course between Polaris and Lima, Montana our group got slammed and temporarily separated. Luckily Joe, Kurt and I regrouped after the Bannack Bench road and fought the Medicine-Sheep Creek Divide together with a evening stopover at the ranch house of a very nice woman who thankfully had not only a room to rent but also a hose. Sadly the next day the three amigos became two when Joe had a catastrophic mud induced bike failure.
Weather isn't all bad, it can make for some amazing pictures! This is Kurt climbing through a rain shower to Red Rock Pass out of Montana and it's one of my favorites of the whole trip. That evening we were also treated to some of the brightest and closest rainbows I've ever seen and right at sunset to boot. Usually pictures of the horrendous weather never pop up because you're too sick of it and focused on getting somewhere sheltered to risk stopping and digging out the camera. I'm happy that I have at least a few to share later on as I blog more in depth.
Now that I'm done I'm wondering how the recovery will go. I feel really lucky to have no illness or no major injuries. My Achilles hurt from day 1 this year but luckily it was only really bad on the day we pushed over the Lava Mountain Trail outside Helena and it got gradually better throughout the ride. I probably only took four 200mg Advils and one 600mg one in 3 weeks. I did my best to eat all that I could out there with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups going down my throat at an alarming rate. With sections of the route where Kurt and I went 300 miles or more without a hot meal and riding 140+ miles a day, some weight loss is inevitable and I probably dropped 10 lbs or so. Right now I swing between feeling pretty good and pretty exhausted. A couple days ago Marni and I went for an easy road bike ride and I had my first road crash in years! I guess I'm so used to riding my loaded 29er that an unloaded road bike felt a little twitchy. I crossed up wheels and unwilling to take Marni down I braked hard and ended up in the weeds next to the road only a mile from home. Lucky again to walk away with no injuries. Then yesterday Marni and I lazily climbed in Eldo which today left me wiped. Guess I have a little more recovery time to go!
The Tour Divide was an amazing experience and I have a lot more unprocessed thoughts. For now I just have to thank everyone that I can, hopefully not forgetting anyone. First, thanks again to my wife Marni who supported me from near and far, drove around Colorado to see me for only a few hours total and both dropped me off in Banff and was waiting at the border in Antelope Wells to drive my spent bike and body home. Thanks to Joe Meiser and Kurt Refsnider with whom I spent many miles on the course. Though we all eventually split up for different reasons, riding with you guys was some of the most fun I've ever had on and off a bike. Thanks to Erik, Brady, Salvagetti, my mother and father in law and everyone else who made sure one very important drop box of bike parts, clothes and supplies made it to Absolute Bikes in Salida before I arrived. Thanks to my parents for being there, on call, when Marni couldn't be by the phone and for just giving me their love and support when I needed it. Orange Peel in Steamboat and Absolute Bikes in Salida are two of the best shops in the world and the way they take care of Divide racers is unbelievable. With their help and minimal trail side maintenance my bike ran flawlessly for the entire race with ZERO flats. Amazing (go tubeless...)! Brush Mountain Lodge and Skyline Lodge are amazing places as well and I highly recommend anyone traveling neat Steamboat and Platoro stop in. Last but not least, thanks to Matt Lee, Kevin Montgomery, Scott Morris and Joe Polk for putting on the Tour Divide and all the coverage surrounding it!
Being out racing the Divide feels selfish and demands serious focus. There is zero downtime. You are focused on eating, drinking, sleeping and riding. When I'd even be able to call Marni I needed to know the weather, where certain other people were and any other beta she'd been able to figure out from call ins or our split charts from the last two years. I often forgot to even ask her how her last few days had been but she took it all in stride. For those that are curious, I won't be back in Banff next year but perhaps someday I'll return to race and/or tour the route.
I will say the time I've spent preparing and being out there and what Marni and I both have sacrificed to make it happen is worth it. To all those who watched, commented and have sent emails and Facebook messages, a sincere and honest thank you.Now I need another nap!