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Wow. It’s been a little over a month since it ended. The whole thing is a blur. A dream. 2,745 miles. 200,000′ of climbing. An amazing, never to be duplicated 22 Days, 6 Hours, 43 Minutes of my life. It’s amazing how much living can be crammed into such a short span of time. Tied for 17th place with 5 others (we chose to cross the finish line together) in a field that started with 165 riders. Not bad for “raoring“!
Modesty aside, I’m pretty damn proud of myself for finishing as a rookie on my first attempt. It’s icing on the cake that I finished within my secondary goal of 21-25 days. The people, places, hardships, day-to-day achievements, and all the “little things” are etched in my brain forever. I’m back in “civilian life” now – enjoying the fam, hustling in the bike shop, shooting Seal Team… starting to get the itch for the next one 🙂 – oh yeah, just ordered a unicycle… I’m hoping to teach myself at work and ride it around set…
I’m stoked that other than soreness on my rear end, damaged taste buds in my mouth, catching up on much needed sleep, and my body and mind struggling a little with metabolism change / post-ride food consuption, I feel GREAT!! A few sunburns, a little pealing on my ears, but hands and feet are fine (many riders struggle with numb fingers and toes for weeks or even months). I started the race at 154 lbs, and although I didn’t get a chance to weigh myself right after, I’m sure I lost 10-15lbs. I’m currently back to 159 lbs, crazy!! – the massive eating with slowed metabolism has been interesting. Now I’m home from vacation, eating “appropriately” and feel like my body is settling back into it’s “normal” routine.
Trackleaders shows that over 70 riders scratched. That’s almost a 50% attrition rate. Again, I feel blessed just to have completed this beast. Right after the finish, my family swooped me away to Crested Butte for recovery and 4th of July shenanigans. I haven’t had a chance to process the experience until now, and don’t feel like I’ll ever fully “process” or be able to convey the mental and physical journey. Slowly, I’ve been looking over photos, notes, and delving into thoughts that have been pushed to the back of my mind. So, here we go…
I’m not gonna bore you (or maybe I will ) or myself with a day to day recap, journal, etc – I’ll simply ramble off some thoughts and share some photos (in no particular order) that will help me remember that I really did achieve this goal (probably the hardest, most fulfilling physical/mental feat of my life) and make sure it doesn’t slip through the cracks of my brain, as my long term memory basically stinks.
#1 – PEOPLE:
I met amazing people on this journey. Other riders that I shared time with on the bike, and folks I met along the way. Out of 22 days, I spent around 9-10 with just me, myself, and I out there pedaling for 12-16 hours a day. So yeah, I was pretty stoked when I got to ride with others, and learn their stories. In general, the type of people that do these sorts of things are gonna be positive, inspirational, and pretty cool cats. It takes time, money, an adventurous spirit, and tenacity to do the Tour Divide – so TD riders tend to be intelligent, successful, and driven in their day to day lives. They share the “I can do anything I put my mind to” outlook at life – so hanging with these gentlemen (and women) was a fantastic bi-product of this individual/ self-supported event.
I met many so riders, but am deeply honored to share indelible memories with Renato, Dan, Riley, Mike, Chris, Craig, Mitch, Alexandra, Dennis, Jesse, Paul, and Matej. Sometimes a 3 hour, 3k climb can go by in the blink of eye with some good conversation. It’s amazing how so many “different” people from “different” parts of the world can all gather in Banff with one common goal that becomes a common thread that becomes a lifelong bond of brotherhood/sisterhood. The TD has this power, and it’s fantastic! I’m blessed to be part of the “TD Family” and for every moment shared with kindred spirits.
Trail angels seem to jump out at you just when you’re at your lowest and need the motivation. I don’t think they realize how important they actual are to us, but man, they are. Here are a few that really stand out to me, and I don’t want to forget: Barbara and John run a cyclist only lodging spot just below Stemple Pass. They gave us beer and food and fellowship, and would not accept money for anything. “Pay it forward” was all they asked. Well I’ll do my best. Kirsten at Brush Mountain Lodge – smiles and hugs and wood-fire pizza from “Vito” at the half-way point of the route. Adam in Pinedale for buying me a beer and reminding me to keep my eye on the prize. Tammy in Horca, for opening her cabin and her arms to us. Sylvia in Canyon Plaza just outside of El Rito. The mechanics from Absolute Bikes in Salida that we had dinner with and then allowed us to camp in their yard (sorry I forgot your names!!). The list goes on, but it’s the time spent with good people and good hearts that really keeps ya going and reminds you that there are good people in this world and it’s worth looking past the assholes and millenials and tailgaters to find and embrace the keepers in your life.
# 2 – PLACES:
Are you kidding me? Every day was filled with beauty beyond belief. Sure, a lot of them were also filled with rain, fog, and whiteout. But hey? Simply looking around at the majesty and soaking it in was mind-blowing at times. I’d constantly think to myself, WOW. This is so big! Mountains that go on forever. Endless views, that get better and better as I crest another false summit and another and another. Until finally you reach the top of the pass, zip up the wind vest, eat a half pb&j and glide down the other side. I can’t get over how “big” and diverse everything was.
From the 30 degree temps and snow-covered peaks in Canada and Montana to the 100 degree temps and desert of New Mexico, mother nature did not disappoint. Countless mountain passes and Continental Divide crossings with birds-eye vantage points. Seeing these sights, and doing what we did to get to those sights – that is the TD.
#3 – HIGHS AND LOWS:
Everyone always asks about your best and worst experiences on the route. Hard for me to say, but my “best” memories always seem to be late in the day, as the sun was setting. I always seemed to be descending some amazing mountain, with gorgeous views around sunset. Dropping from the sky on an endless ribbon of dirt over rolling hills shared with wild horses and elk… slowly seeing the faint lights of a quaint town coming into view as the last light of the day fades away. A hot meal and a motel coming shortly. Those are the memories that flood me now, and I’m sticking to it!
That is what kept me moving. How funny! Another example of how powerful the mind is… Since more often than not, my day actually ended with me exhausted, wet, and cold – camping off the side of the road – huddled into a damp, smelly sleeping bag, and scarfing down a snickers and sour patch kids for dinner. Only to wake up 4-5 hours later after a restless sleep. Throw on damp, stanky riding clothes, and start the cycle again. Ride for a couple hours, warm up the sore knees and achilles, fight off the “Why am I doing this? Why am I here? I’m over this crap, this sucks! I just want to go home to my warm bed and cuddle with my family” thoughts. The first couple of hours each day were always the hardest for me mentally. Once I got through the mornings, I was ok.
My darkest time was leaving Steamboat Springs, CO. It was June 22nd. My wife’s birthday. I started feeling so guilty for being out here, and not at home to celebrate with her and the family. I missed them so much and it got super hard to control the urge to quit that morning. I called home and I must’ve been a wreck. I will never forget that day. I got off the phone, and it took a few hours for me to finally get back in a decent space mentally. That was as close as I got to pulling the plug.
Anyone can be physically in shape, and have the best gear for dealing with Mother Nature. But harnessing the power of your thoughts is really all it comes down to in the end. For me, the whole route was a roller coaster of emotions and polarizing thoughts in my head. I cried almost daily. I’ve never been so emotional in my life. You have lots of time to think. Lots. All day and night. Thoughts. Putting a lasso around these thoughts and rangling in the most polar emotions is critical. So yeah, lots of highs and lots of lows. In the end they’re all part of the experience, and a confidence builder for life.
I know life is going to throw many more highs and lows at me, and the TD experience has proven that we can all deal with all the highs and lows and maximize the hand we’ve been dealt. I just want my kids to know they can conceive a goal and achieve a goal and appreciate every little blessing. Now, more than ever, I sure do.
I tried to journal for the first few days, than stopped because I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough at night. wish i had done it for the whole trip- here they are, unedited with iphone auto-typing and all… so I don’t forget…
Met Gary Meyer from bend Oregon at trailhead of spray lake trail/start line
Bought bear spray at Atmosphere with crazy Larry 20%off code
Pint of kolsh and buffalo chicken sandy at banff ave brewing before riders meeting at high rollers
Met some cats at the bar discussing buying bear spray- thought they were doin the td, but the banff marathon next weekend- when I told them I’m doing td they shit
Met up with Kevin – made plan for day 1 camp around mile 110 before climbing koko pass – don’t push too hard, ease into it
Grabbed salsa top cap – saw crazy Larry
Dinner at Greek joint with grumpy owner barpa bill banff expensive time to go!
Tube, sundcreen, rain pants, hat, tent poles- alll seen dropped on trail
New singletrack section is sick!
Sleeping under stars halfway up koko claims in just bivy with Barry Idaho magical – pushed a little more than I wanted but not too bad
Haven’t seen Kevin – resupply at boultpn creek awesome
Chick from Australia like a Jonathan singles bar trying every guy to share room in elk ford
Say a dude with a pizza box strapped to his backpack
Got woken up by rain on my bivy at 4am – got packed quick and started riding/hiking koko claim ouch! Got dumped on but got to the snowmobile warmup cabin at the top and thawed out/dried my clothes / met up with renato and dan and rode to Fernie. Pushed on to butts cabin and rode with Jesse from Montana on the descent to flathead river so beautiful
Pitched tent in front of butts already full with people
To eureka, cabin pass and galton pass knee hirting in am – scary- dropped saddle a little and took Advil
Wild horses coming down cabin pass were amazing- one albino
My birthday – stopped a little early got hotel – relaxed my leg/knee both passes had rain/sleet/Snow storms up high
Big day – eureka to Ferndale
Mellow passes- whitefish divide and red meadow pass which had 1 mike of hike a bike thru snow- muddy and snowing up top- pizza in whitefish from there to Ferndale- whitefish lake is gorgeous – thought about fundraiser slideshow for new trail construction – both brake pads are toasted- must change before next big pass – used squeegee at gas station to clean drivetrain. Rura neighborhoods – a guy putting golf on his front lawn, deer hangin out back at bed breakfast candlewyck Megan took care of me Thai curry chicken soup and pbj’s for the road
Day 5 fern dale to seeley lake
Such a cold start! Threw every piece of clothing I have on – over 9k climbing
Descent was so cold from swan lake!!! Fingers numb
Met first scratcher at holland lake- sad, and a reminder that it can happen to any of us- Martin from Czech Republic – hurting knee and Achilles
Listened to hunters playlist all day, waited at Holland lake for Canadian friends to do Richmond with. Not too bad- only 40 min of snow hike a bike – share room and laundry in seeley and huge dinner at the bar- the filling station
Didn’t see bear, but tales to others who rode through just after me and they saw 2! I was sketched and singing through one area and my spider senses went off
Day 6 seeley lake to Helena
Longest hardest day yet. 130 miles, 10k climbing – left at 7:15 wasn’t in bed til 1am – 4 passes wow
Met Barbara and John at cyclist only camping / cabin- Pay it forward
Ward- broken chainstay
Anthony- broken wheel
I got really emotional climbing stemple pass – took photo
Riding up high at last light, seeing train, descending priest pass in the dark and hobbling in to Helena delirious at midnight!!!
To do: Advil
Check chain for wear/b-screw
Tighten Fred Bar
Check all important nuts/bolts
Put black sock on right foot
Day 7 Helena to butte
A little easier day put still had a grinder of a climb to lava mountain and a long ascent from basin to butte- but the reveal of butte from the “butte” was magical – the steep switchback singletrack into town was also fantastic
Shard a room with Riley
Feeling pretty good- can’t wait to get out of Montana! Left butte earlier than Riley and made good time to wise river – all the views were amazing today, especially lookin down fleecer ridge !!
Good burger in wise river then climbed to polaris – it started raining so after eating some lasagna and getting a couple sandwiches to go, I pushed hard to bannack rd to get through before too soaked in rain- it’s known to become peanut butter and an instant hike a bike – it paid off- made it through – Agee Mike’s up the road, asked a lady Debbie if she new of any campsites up ahead and she offered me to camp in her cow pasture- done!
This adventure is amazing- the challenges and rewards are exactly what I was hoping for. Miss my family so much and I’ve been getting emotional and even crying sometimes. I can’t wait until we are reunited. They mean the world to me and a trip like this just magnifies those emotions. But hopefully in two weeks or so, it’ll all be worth the hugs inantelope Wells!!!
Greatest showman soundtrack 40 min long – last track was going home – got me up many climbs
The simple day to day life puts everything in perspective
The divide does change everyone
I was open to everything Mother Nature threw at me
Thunderstorm going into silver city – hill climb to keep core temp up and me from freezing
Straight to motel bath heater dominos order
Only ailments: ass, mouth, sunburn peeling
Mental is 80% of this adventure 10% physical 5%prep 5% luck
And finally, here are some more photos of the journey. Feel free to hit me with questions/comments – especially if you’re thinking about doing the TD – all I can say is, DO IT. Don’t put off life.