Friday, June 28, 2013


I'm home and getting better each day. Thanks for the many calls and expressions of concern- I'm doing fine and recovering quickly. My biggest frustration is sleeping. It's uncomfortable on my hip and lower back and ribs, so each morning takes time to loosen up again. By mid-morning I'm getting around just fine. I use a cane when I need it and my mild pain meds are only needed in the morning as I loosen up.


It's important to note that two separate crashes took their toll. The first occurred about 70 miles into the race on day one, when a mud hole ate my front wheel and took me over the bars. My ribs ached in front and my breathing was more difficult from that crash, but I chalked it up to experience and figured it would get better. What didn't occur to me was that my difficulty coughing or breathing deeply was most likely the result of a collapsed lung. I couldn't lift my bike and lying down was painful. The same hole ate quite a few riders. It was a moment of bad luck.


But I wasn't going to stop if I could carry on. So onward I went.


The second crash did me in. It happened after midnight about twenty yards over the top of a long gravel road climb. My front tire had a slow leak of some kind and wasn't completely flat but it was low enough to cause a crash when I tested my brakes. I fell on my right side, as noted in my earlier entries.


I've had a week to think about my TD13 experience and what it means. It didn't end the way that I or anyone who knows me expected. This is only the third race I've scratched from in 25 years across many different kinds of events. Hopefully I can relate my perspective here and help myself come to grips with it in the process. I wish I was still out there.

It's important to emphasize that the risk was no surprise and that obviously I don't feel like my race was a success. But the experience was a success because I'm growing from it and I'm done second-guessing my choices. It was a race and I treated it like one, with choices driven by many factors. I had some bad luck at the wrong moments.


We hear and say that we grow more from failure than success. I believe it's failure that enables us to grow into ultimate success- I doubt that anyone good at anything ever got there without a serious struggle and moments of doubt.


In reflecting on why the Tour Divide matters to me, that idea rings true- that we prepare ourselves for the real tests in life through a series of smaller ones. You don't show up to your first real battle untested, yet magically ready for victory. It's hard to imagine your way to success, even though a positive self-image is crucial. Stress is a part of the growing process. TD, for me, wasn't the real test. It's just a bike race. I've got no idea what the 'real' test might be, but I believe that this experience taught me things that will come in handy whenever it comes. It won't be a bike race, but what I've learned racing bikes translates to other aspects of life. Discipline, organization, consistency, focus, perspective, and commitment are each involved. The simple answer is a love of adventure and an innate self-knowledge. But it's not that simple.


When was the last time you faced your fears head-on? That's what the TD was for me. Being alone in the woods was a fear, although I was able to moderate that by riding with others whenever I wanted company. You wake up day after day, in a place you found in the dark, riding into unknown territory, through weather changes and dots on the map that turn into tiny buildings. You do the homework you can, but at some point you saddle up and move out, putting faith in your self-knowledge and ability to stay ahead of whatever comes. There is fear in that.


Which is really the test- whether you can stay ahead of whatever comes. Whether you can handle the situation when everything goes wrong.


Because sometimes it does. As 'Frosty' in the movie "Chasing Mavericks" points out, sometimes your limits push back.


And that's where the learning begins. The key is building enough of a safety net with your experience to minimize the risk that whatever goes wrong lies beyond your potential to handle it. Which means you need a base of experience to know where to draw your lines. You have to set limits and follow them. That doesn't mean you can avoid any risk whatsoever. It means you manage the risk so that it doesn't manage you.


You can do the TD without any real experience- many have. But in doing so you have to adopt a different mindset and strategy, more like a bike tourist than a racer. I truly admire those who've done that and finished. I wasn't there to tour, even as I also wasn't there to try for a course record. I wanted to go fast, but within rules I'd laid out for myself. I wanted to test myself and grow.


A race like TD is more about yourself than anyone else. You can't ride anyone else's pace. Each rider has their own processes for managing risks and challenges. You have to be methodical and your approach has to be consistent. It can't be influenced by others, unless the changes you make are immediate and don't leave out important things you'd do on your own. You learn a lot and adapt during these events, but your core approach must remain sound and intact.


My race reminded me of that reality every time I decided to ride with others. At some point, you have to get comfortable with the idea that you would ride alone for a while, just so you can do whatever you need to do to succeed. I ride at a faster pace than most but allow myself to stop and deal with little things before they become big things. I ensure my daily rest is sufficient, which for me means about 7 hours of sleep on average.


Those details matter in TD. The fastest racers have their kit so sorted that stops are minimal. It takes them thousands of hours to refine to that level. The fastest racers train themselves to operate on minimal sleep, sometimes 2-3 hours a day for days on end. That takes time to develop and it also requires certain genetic traits that not everyone has or want to test.


What I learned this year at TD was that my basic strategy was working well for me. Besides a little more luck, I needed the confidence to stick to it and the focus to not miss details like tire pressure checks before every long descent. It only took one, which happened to be the third major climb that day, and the only one at night. What saved me from greater injury was that I always check my brakes early on each descent. At night, you lack the visual cues of day. I didn't account for that when it mattered.


We tend to define ourselves through a narrow lens of experience, all too often limiting our expectations to previous experience. When our lens is so narrowly focused it diminishes our potential. Potential by definition is that which hasn't yet been tapped. It's hard to measure unless you have some sort of scale. Science provides scales for all sorts of potential. We don't have scales for the combination of physical and mental potential.


So we define them for ourselves.


It's true that after my final crash, I had to fix my bike and ride it 20 miles to a decent campsite. Ian McNabb and I agreed that getting off the mountain was key to having a chance to continue after some rest. I had no intention of scratching. He took his time down the mountain so I could follow safely. It was easily the most difficult physical event of my life, but only one thing occurred to me- it had to be done. Being heroic or tough was the furthest from my mind. Getting to Lima or someplace near it was my sole focus. I will admit that it was important to me that my effort honored those I was there to pay my respects to- our wounded warriors. That drove me onward. Those true heroes regularly endure far more than my meager challenges.


And as I process my experience, it occurs to me that I am barely scratching the surface of their typical experience. My small few days in the hospital reminded me that life is full of challenges and our attitude toward them shapes what we take from them. It is important to focus on the positive.


I was fortunate to be exposed to our Wounded Warrior programs in previous jobs. One thing that always struck me was the overwhelming positive attitude so many of them possess. You feel it in their presence.


Admiral Mike Mullen has been one of my personal mentors and heroes over the years. He spoke an important truth - that our Wounded Warriors may have had their lives altered forever, but they still have dreams. Often, their dreams are new ones shaped by new perspective. We should do whatever we can to help- out of gratitude for their willing sacrifice.


I have been lucky to live a life blessed by the fulfillment of many dreams. There is reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead.


Including my return to slay the Tour Divide dragon one day. I am already planning for it.


I hope that my experience encourages you to chase your own dreams in the knowledge that nothing worth doing comes easily. Plan well. Prepare well. Face your fears. Expect the unexpected. And when it comes, stay calm, do the next right thing, and count your blessings. Go for it!


Thanks for reading. And find a wounded warrior program to express your gratitude for the truly selfless sacrifices they've made on our behalf. is a good place to start.


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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Headed out from Helena

Going great!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Out of the hospital

Navenka arrived in Butte last night and I checked out of St James Hospital today. 

Tomorrow the doc will remove my chest vent as my lung is restored. It's obvious now that something was wrong since the first crash, although the second had its own marks to make. 

I feel pretty good overall, I'm walking a
bit slower than usual for now but each day I feel better.  My right side has various scuffs and bruises up and down. 

The chest vent is an odd experience. I have a small tube coming out of the top of my ribs to allow the air that's not supposed to be in my chest cavity to escape. It has a small one-way valve leading to a bigger tube then a bag for what turned out to be very minimal fluid drainage. 

I call the bag my camelback, that's kind of what it looks like. It's strapped to my ankle for now. I had a good laugh in a certain giant chain store today as I fit right in wearing sweats with my new cane and tubes hanging out. 

The cane is a very temporary feature. I couldn't find a top hat to match. Bummer. 

I can't say enough for all the well wishes via Facebook and every other means. It's important to know that I see this as a valuable life experience along the way; not finishing wasn't my plan or goal, but that just means I get to apply what I've learned in doing it again which I definitely will.  This is about far more than just riding a bike for a ridiculously long time. 

I met some amazing people out there and made new friends. It's the kind of event where the competition finds more to like about each other and celebrate about each other- which is the major reason I moved away from some other sports that aren't that way. 

Today is the first time I've looked at the blue dots tracking everyone. It's a completely different perspective on the race especially seeing the people you were riding with doing well. I'm not feeling sad or sorry for myself, I feel lucky this experience turned out as it did. 

It feels odd but not sad for me. 

A whole slug of riders shared their experience and miles with me, and made the miles pass more easily- Chris Bennett, Sean Putnam, Peter Maindonald, Max Morris, Eric Foster, Nick Hutton, Ron Babington, and others come to mind. 

Two deserve special mention- Evan Deutsch, an MD whom I met before the race is one. We saw each other several times along the way and provided mutual support. I didn't want to make my day one issues obvious and expected them to clear, so that Evan and I could plod along together. Turns out otherwise as we know now. Evan is killing it using the strategy we both aimed for and I couldn't be happier to see him roll on. 

Ian McNab deserves thanks beyond words. We spent the better part of rep days riding together, bringing different strengths to the table. Our goal on day 7 was Butte to Lima which was a big and unexpected move that would shake up our standings.  Ian ensured my safety getting off that mountain and I am forever grateful for it. 

Turns out that Ian lives a short distance from where my wife grew up in the UK. How crazy is that?  She gave me the mission to meet him and I'd say we competed that one. Ian brings a special perspective and experience to the TD, having spent many years as a mountain guide in Antarctica. We worked together both during the ride and especially during my crisis moments. It's always good having someone along in a pinch, with the perspective and experience to help keep focus on what matters. 

Ian, you won't read this for a whole but I'm beyond grateful for our time together and what you did for me.  We are friends for life in my book.  Press on amigo!!

Doug Parker and his son and friend whose names escape me at present also deserve my deep gratitude.  I told the story about how these fly fishermen just happened to pull up when I needed help,
and both Doug and I later shared our beliefs that it wasn't accidental that we met.  I asked for help, and Doug felt the sudden need to pull into an out of the way turnout on a very remote dirt road. I have tears in my eyes as I type this on my impossibly small phone screen. 

There were quite a few other Angels warming over me the last few days. The Hospital staff in Dillon, MT made my first-ever patient experience very positive. Soon-to-be MD Nikki Mills and Dr Phillips along with the nursing staff whose names escape memory did wonders for me in my darkest moments.  They provide far more than just medical care. And we shared laughs too. 

I hope my bike is still safe and out of your way. We'll pick it up tomorrow. 

I couldn't convince them to let me borrow a wheelchair for a couple thousand miles. Seemed like a great idea at the time. 

I also had my first ambulance ride. I think Kathy and Ron were the best ever and hope that my special gift of a slightly beat up but unused can of bear spray was appreciated. Somehow, it seemed Montana appropriate.  Kathy looked excited about it but I think some of that was just having a patient willing and able to have a little fun on a long ride. 

The staff at St James Hospital in Butte were equally fantastic. I got a taste of their ebb and flow and grew to appreciate their work even more.  In particular, the nursing staff and nurses assistants, Jerri and Laura made my stay a totally positive experience. It was amazing watching them care for patients. 

It would be easy to feel sad about not finishing. Allowing that would diminish the value of the entire experience. That doesn't mean I feel great or like I won. I feel better prepared for the next challenge and for my return.  I had a spot of bad luck this year. That's racing. 

Those who are still out there have my deepest admiration. It is obvious to me how hard the TD truly is now. Your drive toward the finish has my highest hopes and I wish each of you Godspeed in your quest. 

I had some great advice about this race from previous finishers. The best of it all was that finishing must be the only goal. At no time until I got into Doug's truck did anything but finishing even cross my mind. But I know my body, and I know when my luck has been pushed far enough. I knew that riding off that mountain in the dark was an important life experience, a miracle of its own, and when I couldn't walk or lift a leg over my bike a few hours later it was clear that for this year, I'd done all I could.  I did cry quite a bit but I'm way past that now.  My wife Navenka made a huge difference in my attitude- she always supported me and definitely brought joy and peace when she arrived in Butte.  My parents were also huge factors along with my brother. 

I've already made my list of what I'll do different next time. 

The first is something I can't talk about yet because I'll spoil my opportunity. 

Thanks again for so much. None of us expected what turned out, but I'm better for it and hope that my experience helps you take the steps toward your next adventure. Each journey begins in small steps. Don't fear risk- manage it.  My brake check at low speed saved me from a much worse result. 

Someone asked me why I'd do this when I could relax with a beer on the porch instead. 

I told him that I'd like having a story to tell over that beer. 

And now I do. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sometimes you're the windshield

And sometimes you're the bug...

My TD ended today with a small series of events that could have turned a lot worse. 

Overall, I'm okay just not physically ready to complete the race after another crash late last night that was caused by an unusual front flat tire. It occurred just after cresting a 30-mile, near-8000 foot peak climb; my bet is that the tire slowly bled off enough air so that when I got aboard and rolling over the top, I did my usual brake check at maybe 15 mph. 

I think a small rock impact at the same moment broke the low pressure sealed bead and an instant front flat pretty much destroys directional control. 

Down I went. 

The results were my next challenge. My rear derailleur hanger broke as designed and the front tire obviously needed attention. A few other broken bits littered the ground. 

This was above the snowline after midnight and it was very cold. 

My body situation was unclear but obvious that I'd created some problems in my right side. My right hip got stiff and I had road rash in various places. 

My right front rib issues oddly disappeared but instead I had some new aches in my ribs and back. Strange. 

The first order of business was getting off the mountain. Tuns out my riding companion that day spent 5 years as a mountain guide in Antarctica. 

You can't make this stuff up. 

So we got my kit together and decided that we had to press on down the mountain. There are no houses for many miles on that road. It was after midnight so no one was likely coming our way. 

Got a tube into the front wheel, and I overcame the struggle to replace a stubborn rear derailleur hanger.   Got the chain back together as I'd expected to have to convert to single speed when the rear hanger was troublesome. 

This took at least an hour maybe 90 minutes. By that time my hip got stiffer and we for pretty cold as we weren't moving enough. 

But I knew I had to ride about 20 miles down to the nearest campsite and below the snowline.  Sometimes you just get on with it because you have to. 

The second miracle was that I made it and my light did too. It evaded damage in the crash.  

I set up my tent outside a forest service campsite outhouse and bedded down about 4:30 right at first light. Slept until about 7:30 then two trucks pulled right up to our sleep sites outside the outhouse. No questions or anything about our obviously odd situation.  They left. So it goes. 

The plan was to get into Lima MT for breakfast and a chance to reassess. 

It was obvious that plan wasn't going to work when I could barely walk and couldn't throw either leg over my bike saddle to ride. 

Miracle three appeared as three men rolled up in a truck from Washington state on a fly fishing trip. I waved at them and said 'I'm hurt and need help.'

Without hesitation they got me and my bike into their truck and took over. We made instant friends and they spent the day waiting to help a guy they'd never seen before. 

Who says there are no good people left?

We arrived at Barrett Hospital in Dillon and a swarm of awesome professionals took care of me. 

This is my first time ever as a patient. X-rays and a CT scan revealed a few issues. 

My right lung was collapsed- maybe from the crash on day one?  That could explain a few things. I broke two ribs and fractured my pelvis in three places. 

And I shredded some expensive gear doing it. 

So I'm here for a couple days on a new adventure - maybe I can set a new record for eating the most hospital food ever. 

They'll feed me after I get to the bigger hospital in Butte. 

Hey that's backward on the course- I don't have to drop yet!

Don't worry - I'm only kidding. 

But I did get 900 miles on one lung- just think, with two I could be in Colorado already!

This has still been one of the most amazing adventures of my life. It tested and taught me a lot- about things I hadn't expected. I have many more stories to share and will soon. 

Don't be sad for me- I just got the chance to do something really awesome and I had a ball doing it.  

Well, except for that biking down the mountain part. That was pretty hard- maybe the hardest thing I've ever done. 

I'll be back. 

I'll update my healing progress as this unfolds. Thank you for the positive energy and support. I felt it.  It helped. 

I never did see a bear. 


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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Polaris MT

Eating a fantastic meal at the High Country Lodge in Polaris then pushing on!  The Lodge is amazing-

Riding with Ian and Eric. Rough headwinds all day and a cold bivvy last night before Fleecer Ridge. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

So far so good

Greetings from Eureka Montana!  The race has been the time of my life even with a few challenges mixed in. 

Had a hard time finding my legs on day one as my stomach was nervous but was happy to make my minimum goal of Sparwood and ahead of schedule too. Weather was changeable if you didn't like it then ride a half mile for something new...  All in all a good day.  144 miles with route finding and about 6000 vertical feet total. 

Here's a panorama of Spray lake in light rain. 

What's not to like about a day starting next to the largest truck in the world?

That thing ROLLS!

Long day today, harder than yesterday with more vertical but 10 fewer miles at about 130. I'm playing out strategy of finishing with longer miles to come as my body adapts. 

We spent a lot of time crossing creeks or just riding down the spring thaw...  We rode this one about a mile. Some crossings were knee-deep but still rideable. 

Yes that's our route.  About a foot of water moving over a rock bed. 

Saw Billy Rice today!  What a machine. Here's a pic of us near Cabin Pass. 

I felt stronger today and tested myself on the late, hard and very long climb over Galton Pass. It's no joke. 

The joke was on us with the hands-down hardest steepest section I've ever pushed a bike up. NO ONE on earth could ride this 200 vertical foot mud wall. Crazy. But fun.  Check out this tiny section. No kidding- you physically push your bike up the wall while scrambling for traction. Nuts. 

The guy ten feet behind him is too low to see. This went on for about 20 minutes. Then the real climb began up 2000 more feet. 

Eddie in the photo is from Quantico VA. He's nearly deaf and had a major mechanical issue with his drive side crank arm separating from the spindle. He's praying to make Whitefish tomorrow for a bike shop on Monday. That's how this race goes. 

I've had two issues to mention. 

Yesterday at mile 68 I went over the bars into a mud hole as we descended along a power line. I saw the guy who was right behind me tonight and he said it looked scary. I couldn't tell I just saw mud.  At least three other people did the same thing in the same spot probably more I just haven't heard.

So my right side ribs took a shot but it reminded me of youngster year boxing at Navy. The coach said the only way to an A was to draw blood. I did OK.   

My ribs were sore yesterday and better today until the mud wall. Tomorrow is a new day. 

The crazy one was today. Riding along a dirt road- I'll leave rough out because that would be repetitious.

Riding down the Grizzly Highway and next thing you know my left leg isn't helping any more. I look down and there's my left crank arm hanging from my show. 

This being a family show, that's the arm the your pedal connects to. Important unless you only have one leg. 

Seems the carefully torqued bolts vibrated loose. That's what tools are for. 

Fixed and rolled onward. I saw many other issues out there but the rules limit rider assistance which is hard for me.  People were having a hard time today and that will increase daily. 

Got a warm reception at the border since my only items from Canada were empty food wrappers and mud. It's pretty common around here and hard to identify country of origin. 

Loaded up on gas station food for tomorrow and aiming for another longish day if all goes well. I'm finding my groove and sticking to the plan- although I didn't really plan beyond today.  I'm not telling. 

The goal is to finish as fast as I can. So each day I will do as many miles as make sense for various factors- food being a huge one. I talked myself out of an extra 20 miles tonight but soon that won't work. The field will thin over the coming days and my aim is to remain moving forward.  And hopefully up my daily miles too. 

Relentless forward progress. 

I'm loving every minute of this. 

Ask me next week...

Next update in a couple days. 

Thanks for the support. 

Check out and help them out!

Ride on- d2g


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tomorrow- we ride!!

Game time 8 AM MDT tomorrow.  The conditions this year are definitely better than last year for snow. We will see how rain factors in soon enough. 

Had a nice social with the racers tonight at a local watering hole. Nicely done. Met some great guys from all over the world. Starting to see who has what kind of aspirations for their daily mileage. It's all theory at this point. Tomorrow is a whole new deal...

My goal for the next two days are to stay safe and make it to Eureka MT Saturday. That means a bigger day tomorrow. If I make Sparwood BC by about 9 PM, that's good. If I make it to Corbin that's ideal.   That's 140-160 miles.  It stays light past 10 PM right now. Nice. Dawn at 4 AM. Cool. 

I've only ridden that far in 24 hour races. The difference here is the course. Or so I tell myself. 

Talking with riders it seems my preparations are very solid. My only concern is the weight of my rig. My strategy is to be more comfortable and push through weather that will stop the SUL guys. I also have enough food to not stop tomorrow- a restaurant stop takes longer than the extra weight costs in the early days. Later it's a different deal as we get stronger but also more tired. 

People have spent time checking out my rig and the vets have marked me so I guess I'd better own it...  But I will ride my own race.  The breaks in the field will be clear by Sunday. 

Sleeping pills tonight, early breakfast of fruit shakes and granola, as much as I can stand, then roll out about 7:15!

I had spaghetti for dinner then a couple hours later a giant chocolate cake and two scoops of ice cream, one for each kid. Don't tell Navenka...

So you know my plan. For now. 

Funny thing about plans. They change as the situation unfolds...

Enjoy the show. Thanks for the positive energy. I can feel it. Keep it coming. 

I had tears in my eyes riding into Banff this morning. 

It's real. 

Almost ready!

Banff is even nicer than I remembered it. We passed through in November 1998 on our way from Hawaii to DC. Seems like another lifetime how things have changed.  Tourists from around the World here, and it seems like young Aussies have a lock on the hotel and restaurant jobs. 

Today is the final cut for gear and I will mail home the stuff I decide can live without. 

Set up my tent before my final pack organization. It's a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 and it weighs under 2 lbs when I leave out the bits I don't need.  The aluminum poles are half its total weight.  I have a 32 degree down bag weighing 19 oz.  Space is as big a challenge as weight. 

Very important for things to be easily found and organized. It's difficult fitting everything into my rig.  Everyone has the same challenge, even the guys going SUL- super ultra light.  

The bike seems ready and I feel ready. I'm eating lots but keeping it mostly healthy.  Another weight issue on the bike is food and water. You want enough to keep you fed and hydrated but extra weight slows you down so it's a balance. 

Have a couple unique items in my kit- vitamins with amino acids, glutamine, and these Juice Plus caps that Navenka recommended via an MD friend who is a health nut like us. They help and I feel better every day I take them. 

The other items are sports tape for ankles and joints and a tiny foam roller and tennis ball to work the junk out from the muscles and loosen up the fascia daily. They aid recovery and keep me feeling good. I can't overstate their value!  But they are hard to stow in my rig.  A big challenge is swelling ankles and legs which I'm hoping to minimize. 

Short ride again today to verify the final packup, a couple more minor errands, and an informal race gathering tonight before we start tomorrow.  Keeping it early.  There's a local guy called Crazy Larry who organizes the dinner and spends days talking with racers on camera getting their stories and bringing people together. His Mom is sick with cancer in Windsor but she told him to do this anyway.  He's a great guy-  I got a picture of his interview with Evan see if you can guess who is who?

Funny thing- is the start at 7, 8, or...?  No one seems to really know. We will find out tonight I guess.  Looks like rain the next few days but that's part of the deal and bad weather separates the men and boys...

I guess we'll see where I get sorted on that account. 

Almost time to get 'er done!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I'm here so I guess I have to do this

Made it to Banff yesterday just fine. Meeting racers at every turn. Some truly dedicated riders turning out for this but the atmosphere is exactly as I'd hoped- helpful, optimistic and mutually supportive.  Wish that was true in more places these days. 

With an event like TD, the pecking order sorts itself quickly. Those willing to endure the most will survive, and those able to make the most of their situation  will come out ahead. 

My race strategy is coming together as a balance between pace and risk. Hotel stops give better rest but slow the pace with comfort and gravitational pull. 

A racer today said it best - towns are for eating. You ride until you're done for that day then sleep wherever that is. 

I will adopt that strategy with a couple tweaks. I want to race as fast as I can with reasonable risk and that means I have to step outside my comfort zone. 

We had a grizzly in the hotel grounds this morning. Up here, it's a celebrity moment. Back home- different story. 

Funny how your experience shapes your perspective. 

Lots more to tell. Rode about 35 miles on the course today with Evan Deutsch, an MD from Portland. Instant friends. I talked him into a Garmin GPS instead of just paper maps and we stood in a store transferring files from my unit into his.  That alone will save him at least an hour a day plus whatever he'd lose being off-course without it. 

Got my overnight box from Navenka today. Another story. Quite the drama our last 24 hours before I left. She is a keeper let me tell you. 

A couple pics from the ride today. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tour Divide Rules and History

Here's the story on this crazy race: Tour Divide Race Website (Right click on the link then select new tab...)

A source of true inspiration

Our inspiring heroes motivate me and you should support them through The Warrior Foundation: WarriorFoundation

Chat about the race at

Right click, then open new tab-- Bikepacking TD13 Discussion

Listen to rider call-ins!

Right click, then open new tab-- is the site where you can see us race!

Right click, then open new tab for the real page: Trackleaders TD13

The Calm Before the Storm - Tour Divide 2013

Monday  morning, cup of coffee in hand, organizing my thoughts.

Today is my last day of preparation before departing early in the morning for Calgary, then a shuttle to Banff, where I have a couple days to reassemble my kit, meet racers, and make those final nervous adjustments before the Grand Depart on Friday the 14th.

It's hard to describe how much effort and organization this event requires - I'd been studying it for years, but when you commit your focus changes and the real question emerge.  Finalizing your equipment list is harder than it looks, even when you've done a number of shorter self-supported events.  Here, it's all about shaving ounces while retaining enough margin to keep moving, have shelter, stay warm in the cold, and not overheat in the sun.  I read somewhere that this is the most expensive free race in the World.  That is no joke.

The typical race blog includes all the major items but excludes the little things that add up in both weight and utility on the trail.  Remember Paul Harvey?  He needs to weigh in on this...

I'm sure I'll be mailing a few things home when the weather warms enough, just to shave a little more weight when it makes sense.  Today, I'll be reviewing my medical and parts stocks for what must be the tenth time, looking to shave one more pound from the gear, although it's hard finding anything near that much to save.  Items like lithium batteries, brake pads, vitamins, band-aids, blister pads, water purification tablets, matches, patches, duct tape, para cord, toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, space blanket...  each of these weighs nearly nothing on its own yet combine to add both space and weight to your kit.

You'll never pick up a 3 oz object with the same perspective after preparing for this race.

Organizing everything is another challenge.  It's hard finding things when you're tired and it's all jammed into your bags.  Organizing it into some kind of logical system is my approach, based on function and how often I'll need it, and how urgently I might need it when I do.  My bike is segmented into seven basic compartments - handlebars (rain gear and clothing), seat pack (tent, sleep system), upper frame bag (water, maps, quick access items), lower frame bag (spares, emergency supplies), food bags (3), jersey pockets, and main tool pouch.  Space is very limited, and weight adds up fast.

My approach is to be very methodical about using things and returning them to the same place - we'll see how long that holds together in the race.

To put the trade-offs in perspective, I chose to carry an ultra-light tent, because even though I don't mind sleeping in a bivvy on the ground, a tent offers shelter from a storm.  My tent, a Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1, is under 2 lbs in my pack, but it uses up valuable space that I might otherwise use for food.  Which means I had to come up with another way to carry over 4000 calories of food on the longest stretches without services.  Which adds a few more ounces even with my semi-clever solution.

You'll never look at a gas station the same way after preparing for this race - I can now tell you the calorie density of quite a few gas station food items.  Calories per pound are key - Some of them even have added vitamins!  I wonder how much those weigh?

Why does the weight matter so much?  It's only a pound??!!

Well, there's a web page called that can help.  I used it to do some analysis, and found that over a 6 mile climb, shaving one pound saves about a minute - roughly a hundred yards at the same effort.  Not much really, but this is a race.

There are over 200 thousand feet of climbing in TD - a 6-mile climb is pretty average, and over days and miles the savings add up.  The daily average is about 10,000 feet of climbing.  It's a balancing act between efficiency and sufficiency - you want to do just enough to get you to your daily mileage without falling short and losing time because you saved 3 ounces and left something behind.  The key is minimizing accumulated fatigue, and not wasting energy by having to go somewhere because you need something you don't have.

Then there's the bike.  It's another huge undertaking - to prepare well, you go through every single bolt, bearing, cable, hydraulic hose, and gear, ensuring everything is fresh, properly torqued, and undamaged.  One of my TD mentors, Terry Brannick, raced in 2012, and had a pedal bearing fail mid-race.  He had to ride basically one-legged for 250 miles to get new pedals.  Those kinds of stories are part of the race, and it's probably fair to say that every TD racer has them - failed brakes, bottom brackets, seatposts, saddle rails, broken derailleur cables, broken frames, wheels, failed hubs, torn sidewalls, lost shoe cleats, delaminated shoe soles, broken chains, derailleur hangers...  the list goes on and on.

So I went through every part of my bike the past couple weeks, refreshing crucial items, cleaning everything to like-new or better, installing new sealed shift cables, bleeding brakes, new brake pads, teflon tape to bottom bracket threads, new chain, loctite on chainring bolts, adding gel grip tape over my Ergon grips, adding a Thudbuster post, replacing my RockShox with a rigid carbon fork (saved 2 lbs, removed failure-prone parts), new tires, new bearings in my friend Greg's rear wheel hub...

Wait a minute - new bearings in someone else's rear hub?  My first mechanical and the race hasn't even started!

I have Easton Haven wheels and they have been great, except for one thing, the rear hub bearings, for which Easton engineered a fix.  After several discussions by telephone, the Easton support team decided that my rear hub was compatible with the bearing update, and sent me the kit.  My rear hubs have been fine, and I keep tabs on bearing adjustments, so I didn't think much about it - I figured it could be part of my final preps.


When I took apart the hub to really check it out, one of the four bearings was getting rough, pointing toward failure at some inopportune moment - good thing I had the upgrade kit!

Except it wasn't compatible with my hub.

Which is why my close friend Greg saved my sanity and offered his wheels.  So I upgraded his hub (his are two years newer than mine), added my cassette and tires, and I'm race-ready after replacing all the cables and whatnot described above.

I wish it was that simple.

Jobs are always easier when you have the right tools.  In fact, the right tools are what make jobs possible.

I didn't have a 12mm Allen wrench - and I'll bet you don't either.  Most bike shops probably don't have them, and you have to special order them from Sears.  Home Depot?  Nope.  Auto Parts stores?  Fugettaboutit.

My best friend and wife, Navenka, saved the day - she found a bike shop that had one in their mechanic's kit, and convinced them to sell it to her.  I think they dug her British accent.

It took all day to do a job that Easton's video shows in six minutes.

So what's left to do?

I have some final map work to do, reviewing course notes and comparing blogs with map locations for insights into the details that maps don't really show.  It's really just nervous energy waiting to be translated into kinetic energy hoping to produce more efficient forward motion...

Because at this point, there's not much left but getting there, getting to the start, and getting going.

If you've read this far, I would imagine you'll be watching my blue dot on - and I'll offer a couple thoughts on that.  If I'm not moving, I'm either sleeping, eating, or figuring out which way to go.

If there's a serious problem, help is always close enough, and the word will get out.  So chalk up what you see to the normal friction of a long event - everyone makes mistakes, misses turns (even with GPS), and has to overcome problems that require extra energy.  It's part of the adventure, and an important element of the challenge.

I have two simple phrases that will guide me:

Keep Going.

Relentless Forward Motion.

Thanks for reading.  I'll post some photos later.