Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tour Divide: Ups and Downs

Looking through the lens of the 5 months since my Tour Divide attempt this summer it's easy to omit some parts such as shivering in the cold, yelling into the wind, and sleeping in the snow but what remains is a pretty cool adventure that for some reason I have put off writing about.

In Banff at the start line I was bursting with anticipation and nervous energy over the adventure ahead. I have wanted to toe the line for a good number of years and this year the stars had aligned and I was actually there.


Leaving the Banff I knew I was sitting on some pretty decent fitness however there was no way to escape the fact that I hadn't ridden a bike all winter. Living at 9,000 feet and working at a ski resort doesn't provide a whole lot of opportunity for riding in the winter. However, I ski toured my brains out all winter and crossed my fingers that come spring when I suddenly rode 30 hours a week my legs would remember how to pedal. 


After a spring in Grand Junction I felt I was as ready as I could be and my bags were packed. 


Although the Divide is something you can never really feel fully prepared for. You just do what you can and then one day it's time to start. 


The first few days of the race went well and I was feeling strong. I was also aware that I had a long road ahead and I was pacing myself pretty conservatively knowing that a slower start could yield big dividends down the road.


There was some amazing country in the Canadian Rockies and I was fortunate enough to see plenty of wildlife and amazing views. 


For no particular reason I often found myself riding alone which affords plenty of reflection time and self talk. 


As can sometimes happen when you're alone, a tad cold, tired, and in foreign places at night, demons can sneak in. 


I have always felt that if a person has demons to contend with they will surface in a long bike race. Everything from 24 hour races, to tours, to multi-day races are fertile grounds for those negative thoughts to creep in and take over.


I managed them pretty well and was really enjoying my time out there seeing new landscapes and sleeping in completely random places under the stars. 


A friend once told me: "all that matters is that at the end of the day your desire to go forward is greater than your desire to go back" and I really did want to continue each and every day. 


 As the days ticked by I could feel my body start to adapt and push out some of the fatigue.


My already fairly dialed system was getting more efficient every day. 


Even when I slept in a Forest Service bathroom lean to in the rain and snow I was pretty happy, which proves the point that all you really need is some food and a roof over your head. 


Some days the wind was my greatest enemy and left me miles from anybody else, screaming into the wind gusts that repeatedly tried to rip my sail of a bike off the road and blow my jacket into the next state every time I tried to put it on or take it off.


However, after every negative or tough moment something would happen to snap me out of a negative head space. It could be meeting a random hunter on a 4 wheeler who couldn't believe people rode bikes where I was and then promptly offering me a swig of the whiskey in his pocket or a sudden tailwind blowing me down the road or a stunning sunset that left my jaw on the ground. 

 
The road ahead of me was still long, but the miles were starting to add up and with all the love and support I had received from those closest to me both leading up to the trip as well as in care packages that followed me along the route I was really out chasing a goal I have dreamed of for so long.  


 Whenever I started to feel down I would simply need to glance down at a pin on my handlebars that said "LOVE".


I loved being out there, I loved chasing the horizon, I loved pushing myself and seeing things and feeling things that few will ever understand. 


 I promised myself that I would not return the same person that started in Banff and even though my eyes were often tired, my belly was often hungry, and my body was fatigued a change was happening.


 However, my journey was cut short by a sudden illness that essentially stopped me in my tracks.


Not long after snapping the picture above I went from riding along to being curled up in my sleeping bag along the side of the road puking my guts out. Complete body shutdown. Thankfully I was able to thumb a ride out from a local jeeper and then was able to make contact with a pretty girl who I had met a month or so prior to arrange a ride back to civilization. I was nursed back to health by pedialite and it would take a few days before I could stomach a real meal. 

My adventure was over so suddenly and without warning which is perhaps why I have put off writing about it. Will I return to race the spine of the continent again?  I don't know. For several months I didn't think so, however thoughts of giving it another shot have started to creep back into my head. The Divide really is one of those things that gets under your skin. It's an experience that one can never understand until you're out there in it. As I become more and more removed from the uncomfortable parts of the race what remains are memories of such magnitude that no pretty picture or flowery words can begin to convey. 

So thank you to everyone who both helped me prepare and who gave me encouraging words and thoughts while I was out there.  It really was an adventure of a lifetime and what matters in the end is the person who gets spit out the other end.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Andrew,

It was great reading this! I followed you everyday and now to see it in words is incredible. Thanks for the write up!

Paul Jacobson