Posted on February 27th, 2012 5 comments
I can scarcely believe that Tour Divide v2012 is a mere four(ish) months away! It doesn’t feel like it should be so close, at least not for me. This time last year, I’d been training pretty hard for a couple months already (these mild South Texas winters sure are nice), but little did I know that I was speeding towards a grudging withdrawal due to neck/back issues. For the 2010 race, I had trained for damn near two years before the big day, as I morphed from flatlander couch cushion into “last place hopeful.” But this year, I haven’t done squat!
I’m in a frustratingly slow treatment process that has me methodically testing out my neck/back on weekends to see if it will hold up under longer mileage. I’m still hoping against hope that the treatment will see me notching hundys again by April. This past Saturday was encouraging, as I was able to ride 50 flat miles with “only some” neck/back pain. “Only some” pain is a definite improvement over what I was having a mere two months ago, which was “a sonofabitchin’ lot.” Hey, it’s progress! I’m bumping up to 70ish miles this Saturday, and if all goes well, I’ll set my sights on the Red River Riot on April 7.
As for training updates, that’s pretty much all I got. I just wanted to post something positive. Thanks to everyone who has emailed me with kind comments and questions. I hope I’ll see meet of you in this year’s race. I’m still leaning towards a northbound start this year if the Chainring Gods are willing.
OK, now I just want to throw a few miscellaneous items your way. For those who haven’t heard, the guys who brought you Ride The Divide are about to lay another instant classic on you. Reveal the Path is coming at you this spring, and it is looking fantastic. Check it out or perish!!
Hey, are you hoping to see a grizzly or two when you race the TD? I never did see one in 2010…I only a saw couple of black bears, a couple of moose, and various other non-grizzled entities. But last year, after I withdrew from the race a month before Grand Depart, the wife and I went ahead and used our tickets to Canada and had the best vacation of our lives. Driving and hiking through the most beautiful country we’d ever seen, from Banff up into east British Columbia, we saw grizzlies galore! Here’s a little clip of us racing a grizz down spectacular Icefield Parkway. (Best. Drive. Ever. Do It!)
Do you like Bear Grylls? I love the guy. About four years ago, I was trying to promote a (now defunct) web site called MyBaseCamp, and I ”starred” in a Man vs. Wild spoof to try and draw in hits. It was my first acting role ever. It was also my last acting role ever. Ha. We shot this in the Colorado Rockies as my best buds and I celebrated my bachelor party with four days of sweet backpacking. When MyBaseCamp became too much of a liability, I abandoned it, but the video remains out on YouTube. So for your viewing pleasure, click this link.
Posted on January 18th, 2012 2 comments
Well, it’s a brand new year, and as I am fond of saying, it’s time to flush your failures down the Toilet of Yesteryear and take on new challenges or, perhaps, revisit old ones. For me, that means competing in (and this time, finishing) the Tour Divide. For those that are new to this blog and my quest, I had to withdraw my 2011 bid due to painful neck/back issues, and then I watched longingly as a posse of fellow Texans become the first Lone Star Staters (in the history of the universe, mind you) to complete the race. In fact, a record number of riders reached the southern and northern termini in 2011, and I have been remiss in congratulating them publicly on this blog. Totally unforgivable. So without further doodoo…
Congratulations to all 2011 Tour Divider finishers, but especially to my compadres, aka the “Terrible Texans!” Sheila Reiter, Sheila Torres-Blank, Ray Porter, JP Evans, and Steve Moore…you guys rocked it out there, and I had a great time tracking you, listening to your call-ins, and living the race through you. You accomplished a magnificent feat and forged a lifetime of memories that I know you will hold dear. Some of you told me before the race that my blog had inspired you…well sirs and madams, I am the one who is inspired now. You are my heroes! And to the Terrible Texans who didn’t make it to the finish…dudes! We have unfinished business! We want to be heroes too!
Whether I can take another crack at the TD this year is yet to be known. I STILL have the aforementioned neck/back issues, and that will be the ultimate deciding factor. The cause of the pain remained a mystery for many months as I ping-ponged among an endless parade of un-thorough doctors who, after eliminating all of the run-of-the-mill causes, simply ejaculated an obvious misdiagnosis and sent me away, caring not for my protests. I was left wondering if I would ever find real help. It was extremely frustrating. But I finally found a guy who discovered the probable issue, and within minutes, I might add. That was just a couple weeks ago. He has me on a treatment plan and, more importantly, he has given me hope. In many ways, I feel like I now have a chance to get a huge part of my life back. My riding life… My Tour Divide life!!
And so, I am going to try like hell to line up in June 2012. If I’m feeling it a few months from now, I’ll “pop the question” to my two bosses. The one at home and the one at the office. All signs point to a northbound attempt this year, though admittedly, the forecast is hazy.
And so this blog shall live on, for my quest lives on. And by the gods, so shall it live until I roll into that 2,745th mile. With me as always will be my trusty training buddy Pat Smith, as well as a new Terrible Texan, Eric Wilson, who I suspect will be the impetus for the greatest jokes that I will ever concoct. The guy is a balls-first wildman of outlandish energy, and he will be training for the TD with me, assuming I fix my neck/back. I can hardly wait to see what I get to write about with this character by my side!
Posted on May 19th, 2011 5 comments
A wise fictional count once said, “Get some rest. If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.” Then he methodically tortured a poor chap whose only crime was loving too much. Well, and pirating too much. And looting. Some pillaging, I reckon. Oh, and murder. There was lots of murder. But mainly it was the love.
Such is the story of me having to withdraw from this year’s edition of the Tour Divide. I loved it too much, and I trained so hard for it that I tortured a years old spinal injury, making it progressively worse until it was so painful that I wanted to pillage and murder. Instead of that, I decided to “get some rest” and, more importantly, to seek actual medical attention as opposed to continuing my own personal treatment method, which is basically to “just rub some dirt on it.”
Why I just crafted my notice of withdrawal by butchering a scene from “The Princess Bride” is beyond me. But withdraw, I must, due to this injury and a couple of other ailments which have kept me from any serious saddle time for the last 6 weeks. If I were to magically have the time and money to run through a battery of aggressive treatments, perhaps I could be well enough to race by June 10th, but there would be no guarantees that the intense pain wouldn’t return during the race, where continued treatment would be non-existent. Also I wouldn’t be in prime race shape since I’ve had to lay off the training. It’s just not a recipe for a great race.
And so I will step aside and let this field of bravehearts seek their own tales of epic glory without me. And epic it will surely be! Word is that the snow fields are deep and plentiful this year due to an unusually long and wet winter. So much so that there is talk of foregoing the majestic Flathead section of the route, as conditions there could be highly deteriorated. If this winds up being the case, I will feel so bad for these guys and gals, because it would mean they’d miss out on (IMO) the most beautiful portion of the race. None of the above makes me regret having to withdraw…I would be truly disappointed if I knew I’d be bypassing the Flathead. Hopefully next year it will not even be an issue.
Yes! My plan is to compete next year! Whether or not it happens is a matter for Fate. All I know is I will heal myself and prepare as if I’ll be all up in it. For now, I will switch to fan mode and get my favorite easy chair ready….it’s TD junkie time for me! I’m actually pretty excited about it, and I’m especially looking forward to watching and listening to my fellow Texans.
My heartfelt gratitude goes out to everyone who has commented or emailed me with their encouragement and sympathy. Thanks for being a supportive reader, and if you are riding this year, GOOD LUCK my friend! You are about to embark on a long grind and a great experience, and I’ll be watching! To those looking at 2012…I will see you in Banff next year!
Posted on May 13th, 2011 No comments
The second volume of the Cordillera is out and is available for purchase right now! Editor and all-around great dude Eric Bruntjen heard your thirsty cries for a second dose of ultra-human kickassery and has delivered yet again. This sophmore edition features MORE action! MORE mystery! MORE tales of true adventure! SAME awesomeness! Or so I assume with 100% confidence, as I have not gotten my grubby hands on it yet. (Godspeed men and women of the postal service!) Hey, the clicky was 8 sentences ago…what are you still doing here?! You want this book….you need this book! And best of all, the proceeds from your purchase will go towards the college fund of Linnaea Blumenthal, daughter of our bikepacking brother, Dave Blumenthal, who lost his life on the Divide last year. A noble cause, a magnificent collection….do you need another reason? Get yours today!
Posted on May 3rd, 2011 4 comments
Sigh. Here it goes.
With just over a month until it’s time to leave for Banff, my Tour Divide bid is unraveling before my eyes.
In my piece “Epic Evolution” in The Cordillera vol I, I coined a term that describes the ungodly number of things that must “go right” in order for a Tour Divide hopeful to even make it to the start line. That term is “The Unshackling.” It represents the sometimes monumental struggle of finding LOTS of time away from work, family, finances, societal responsibilities, and the “gotchas” of everyday life which, collectively, define the reality that you’ve built for yourself over years and years and years. You are woven into the fabric of your own life, and it’s only when you try to leave it for a little while that you realize just how strongly embedded you are.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have realized that I forgot to include injuries and physical ailments under the umbrella of The Unshackling. If you want to endure for 2700+ miles, your bones/joints/muscles/digestive system, etc, had better be healthy. Pre-existing conditions must be dealt with, and bodily injuries must be treated and eradicated long before race time.
Well, two such conditions have “blessed” me in recent weeks. I won’t go into them here…I’m not going to be the guy who bores you into oblivion with a detailed battery of all his hurts and afflictions. Let’s just say that they are both of a nature that (barring some sort of miracle) I’m not going to beat anytime soon. Racing the TD with either of them still hanging around would be painful and, potentially, even perilous.
I’m not counting myself out yet. I do have a chance. Slim, but a chance. As hard as I’ve been working and training for this race, I want to afford myself every opportunity to make a miraculous recovery. I will continue to prepare for the TD, see a lot of doctors, control what I can, and hope for the best. If, in a couple weeks or so, I have not dramatically improved, I’ll withdraw my name from the Start List and go into fan mode. Lots of good Texans to cheer for this year.
Until I make that decision, the blog will most likely be pretty silent. Fellow TD’ers, I hope you are getting in your long multi-days, nailing down your route research, and configuring your final final final gear lists! I still hope to see you there!
Posted on April 15th, 2011 3 comments
I know what you’re thinking. It’s written all over your face. Don’t ask me how I can see your face right now…you DON’T want to know. Also, why you would let someone write all over your face, I can’t begin to imagine. Were you the first one to fall asleep at a party? And if so, why was I not invited?
So anyway…what was I saying? Oh yeah. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Hey Ton, when are you going to talk about your wheelset, and who do you like to win American idol? I can’t believe they voted Pia off! When I saw that, I nearly took a Pia in my pants!”
I hear you. On the wheeleset, I mean. I don’t watch American Idol, so I can’t really comment on how I think James Durbin is going to win. And sorry to tell you, friend, but that Pia joke was only slightly funny for about half a second.
Now, down to business! I received my new Stans Arch 29er wheelset this week and performed the tubeless installation a couple nights ago. This being my first tubeless experience, I had spent a lot of time reading up on all the problems I might encounter during installation. I read about how it may be tough to inflate the tire and that an air compressor was needed, and about how I may need additional rim tape, and about pourous sidewalls and how some tires just won’t seal no matter what. Loads of stuff. So I went into the installation expecting problems.
It was all for nothing. I followed the instructions on notubes.com and the whole procedure was as easy as pie. The bead popped into place using only my hand pump, I didn’t have to pump furiously at all, and what miniscule leaks there were sealed up very quickly. I took ‘em out for a 20 mile maiden ride last night, and they were as smooth as silk.
If you’re wondering why I went with the Arch rims over the lighter 355’s, it’s mainly for peace of mind. For me, the extra support of the Arch is worth a few more grams.
My tires are the “new” WTB Nanos with the aramid bead. Nano(raptors) have been the de facto tire choice for the Tour Divide for years …I saw no reason be an outlaw. The toughest thing about installing these tires on to the Arch wheels was popping one side of the tire off the wheel so I could pour in the sealant. That sucker did NOT want to lever off. I can’t imagine what it would take to blow the seal on these babies.
I’m not mega-happy about going with the Stans 330 hubs. I would have preferred DT Swiss or even Hope hubs, but at some point you have to draw the line on all the crazy spending.
So anyway, I wrote this little mini-review to help anyone else who is considering undergoing the tubeless experience for the first time. Methinks you could do much worse than to go with Stans and Nanos. Also, ”The Tubeless Experience” would be a pretty cool name for a rock band. (thanks Dave Barry!)
This weekend, Pat and I are heading to Huntsville where I’m going to test out the new get-up on 30 miles of singletrack + 90 miles of paved/dirt road ridin’. For the first time in months, I’ll be riding with no TD kit! Partly because I deserve a “reward” ride on the new wheels after months of lugging my entire gear kit around, and partly because next weekend is the Red River Riot, a 130 mile race near the Texas/Oklahoma border. I need to get used to my kitless weight this weekend so I don’t freak myself out during the Riot with my newfound speeds of blinding fury. After that race, I’ll true the wheels and hang ‘em up until the TD, as I don’t want to wear the tread on the Nanos anymore than I have to. Besides, the extra rolling resistance on my old wheelset makes for good trainin’!
For the month, I’m shooting for 800 miles of riding, which would easily be my best monthly total ever, and 550 miles of that will be with full kit. If you don’t know why I keep mentioning that on this blog, it’s because going full TD kit makes a huge difference. The miles are tougher with the extra weight, and your knees take more of a pounding. Like I mentioned in my Lessons Learned page, if you’re a TD hopeful, you should be training with extra weight to become accustomed to the added grind. Ignore at your own peril!
That’s all I got for now…look for my Red River Riot report after next weekend!
Posted on April 12th, 2011 2 comments
It drives us. It enables our adventures. It fuels our obsessions. Gear is Life.
We must have it. We must use it. We must read reviews about it, post questions in forums about it, and save up money to get it, much to the chagrin of our spouses, who are the unfortunate victims of our costly inattentions.
Gear: give it to us.
The most visited page on this Tour Divide blog is (surprisingly) my Big Bend page, which isn’t so much about the Tour Divide. After that, however, it’s my gear list page. Fans and riders (especially rookies) of the Tour Divide are supremely interested in the gear lists of other riders, and for good reason. You’re gonna be alone and self dependant in the remote wilds of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route…you better have what you need. There’s a kind of romantic fascination in that thought. Non-bikepackers are astonished when I tell them I’m carrying everything I need to affect my survival and assured mobility for (hopefully) 2700+ miles. “What are you taking with you!?” they ask incredulously. “Are you gonna have a tent? What about water and food? What if your bike breaks down? What about protection!?”
I love the protection question. It affords me the opportunity to make groan-inducing jokes about either condoms or my “deadly fists of fury,” both of which I insist are highly effective protective devices. But eventually I tell them the real answer, which is “a bear bell and maybe a whistle,” and I am often rewarded with priceless looks of horror.
But enough of that! You want to know about my gear choices/configuration for the 2011 Tour Divide, and I aim to fulfill your gear-lust. So first off:
Gear I Carried Last Year That Won’t Make the Cut This Year, In No Particular Order!
- ACA Maps – Comforting to have, but all of them together form a brick of paper with little real value other than the elevation profiles and services info. I’m extracting and condensing this info into a few sheets of paper.
- Toe Warmers – I carried several packs of them last year and only used one, and that one didn’t work. The thing is, your feet pretty much stay wet on the route, probably through Colorado, rendering these ineffective while riding. And I didn’t need them at night in my goose down sleeping bag, so they get the axe, and I live with cold, wet feet while riding.
- MSR Dromedary Bag – Took it last year with the Great Basin in mind, and it turned out to be unnecessary weight. If I make it to the Basin this year, I’ll know my water sources ahead of time and I’ll shove some extra water bottles in my jersey and/or frame bag.
- One Water Bottle – I had two water bottles mounted to my forks last year using TwoFish bottle cages and extra zip ties and Velcro ties. The setup just plain bothered me…I was always fiddling with the ties and repositioning the holders because they’d slide around the forks and junk. And I really only ever used them for purifying water with my Steripen and then dumping it into my Camelbak. So I keep one bottle which will mount to my frame and ditch the other bottle and holder.
- My Backpack!! – Oh baby, this is a biggie. I’ve eliminated enough gear to be able to reapportion all my remaining stuff, enabling a free-wheelin’, rump-saving backpackless configuration. I didn’t feel comfortable even thinking about this as a rookie. This year…loosey goosey, baby… loosey goosey.
- Sirius Cold Weather Gloves – Touted as windproof, coldproof, and waterproof. Bah! I take “Sirius” issue with these claims. They are not even close to any of the above. I had tested a few pairs of gloves before these, and none of them kept the nasty stuff out to any great degree. So I thought I would just “live” with these. If only I’d known about the Gordini gloves which I will carry this year.
- Seal Skinz Chillblocker Waterproof Socks – Great idea, but they just didn’t work for me. Heavy, cumbersome, no warmer than thick wool socks, and not waterproof. When you’re tromping through snowmelt and/or its raining on you all day long, water eventually gets in, either from the top or right through the material, rendering these useless. I threw them away in Ovando.
- Pearl Izumi Therma Fleece Tights – Last year I’d thought to use these as my sleepwear as well as cold riding pants. But I was constantly pulling them up while riding, and they are heavier and bulkier than just separate leg warmers. Going with the leg warmers this year.
- Showers Pass Rain Pants – They worked, but they were heavy, bulky, and tight. My quads are extremely large and sexy…much too sexy for these pants. They wound up ripping in the groin and down the inseam. This year I’m going with a cheapo pair of rain pants and just may wind up chucking those.
- Nanopuff Down Jacket – This one still surprises me a little but it’s the right call. This lightweight marvel is quite compact and kept me very warm. Too warm. I put in on over my base layer and jersey two separate mornings in 30-something degree weather, and a few miles later, I felt like I was in a sauna. My torso was on friggin’ fire. It’s just too much. I didn’t use it after that. Even when I rode through the snowstorm on Huckleberry Pass, it was just unnecessary. My Showers Pass rain jacket over my base layer kept me plenty warm.
New Gear I Will Carry!
- Secondary GPS – See #5 above. Thanks to Pat Smith for letting me borrow his for backup.
- Sea to Summit 5 Liter Kitchen Sink – If there was one thing I couldn’t stand about last year’s race, it was myself. You know…the stench. Inhaling my own putrescence all day long for days on end wreaked havoc on my psyche. And trying to locate Laundromats in the cities, let alone spending a couple hours there laundering your stank threads, is not a speedy option. This compact, magical piece of gear will allow me to launder my clothes and wash my body/hair in the wilds, thus erasing that overwhelming desire to spend way too much time seeking hotel showers and Laundromats. It lets me stay human, conveniently.
- Dr. Bonner’s Pure Castile Soap 2 oz – used with the above.
- Bib Shorts – Yeah, I’ve had enough of the sagging shorts experience. Time to go full monty. I’ve just been dreading that little strip tease you have to do when you need to excrete.
- Alpine Design Rain pants – Lightweight cheapos that I may just wind up throwing away
- Epic Design Fuel Cell – Thanks to Pat Smith once again for letting me borrow it
- Gordini AquaBloc Elite Gloves – Thick and warm, even in freezing temperatures. Wish I’d have had these last year instead of the CRAPPY Sirius gloves.
My full gear list will be updated shortly. I am still tinkering with a few things, but the freedom of backpacklessness is an extraordinary gift to myself. It has really helped to take the pressure off my rump.
In addition to the new gear, I’ve steadily amassed new components for my Orbea over the last half year…a whole new drive train, a new Stans wheelset, new seat and seat post, etc. I’ll publish full specs soon.
Next up on the agenda, another multiday this coming weekend and then my rematch with the Red River Riot up neat the Texas/Oklahoma border. Should be a blast! I’m hoping to get about 800 miles of riding in for the month, with about 80% of that being fully loaded with TD kit.
Posted on March 23rd, 2011 4 comments
Dang…less than three measly months to go before the TD and I’m just now getting around to my first real training post for 2011. I’ve let my gajillions of faithful readers down. What would Charlie Sheen say? I bet it would be something along the lines of:
“I’m tired of losing all my gold into the fucking ether-sphere of fucking stupidity. My thing is fucking gold and platinum and diamonds and every other precious fucking gem that falls out of fucking losers buttholes.”
Thanks Charlie. That is my absolute favorite quote from your crazy ass. Well the truth is that even though I haven’t been posting much, I’ve sure been training as much as a full time job and family will let me. However, since this is my second time around the block, I seem to have lost that former desire to detail every training excursion while taking loads of pictures to document them. I mean, I’m a big bad Veteran now, so I suppose things that seemed monumental to me before no longer seem worthy of detailed, individual analysis. Or maybe I’m just type-lazy.
Whateva the case, I’m just gonna kinda mash together everything I’ve done, training-wise, up to this point. My next post will detail my changes in gear/components. If you’re a starry-eyed Tour Divide noob reading my site for the first time, and you’re wondering how you might build yourself up from a bacon-jacket wearing couch fixture to Tour Divide competitor, read my 2010 training posts, for I was once a top model for Bacon Wear Unlimited.
If you don’t already know, I live in a town called Deer Park just southeast of Houston, TX. It’s FLAT. No, dude, I don’t mean that the climbs are short and/or not very steep. I mean there ARE no climbs. At all. It’s FLAAAATT. You can stand anywhere you want and still see things 20 miles away with the naked eye. That is, if the smog is not irradiating your eye holes that day. This is the worst environment you could ever train in for a race like the TD. Besides being ultra-flat, it’s also eye-wateringly polluted, searingly hot, heavily humid, and chock full of obese, angry drivers. It is a steamy cesspool of land that I like to call The Armpit of America (Florida is the arm). And I live here. Are you weeping for me yet?
As much as I’d love to get away from here for some “real” TD training, I simply don’t have the vacation time to travel somewhere “good” and get in hundreds of miles of elevation riding. Just like last year, I must save every bit of vacation time for the actual race. So what’s a fella to do?
The Texas Hill Country is my answer. I make the 3+ hour drive out there on weekends anytime I get the chance so I can take advantage of the rolling terrain. It’s not much in the way of elevation, but at least there is some decent climbing, clean air, and lots of lonely country roads. And WIND. Holy hell, is there ever wind!
A quick word about Texas wind: it hates me. It loathes even the imperceptible recesses of my soul. When I ride North, it blows from the South. When I turn back South, it blows from the North. Yep, it spontaneously changes direction based on MY heading, defying the laws of nature specifically to pulverize my sanity. And if you think I’m kidding, then you have not peer-reviewed my highly scientific analyses of the situation, whereby clumps of grass and loogies are hurled into the air and their flight patterns are observed and cursed at. Doesn’t matter where in Texas I’m riding…Austin, Houston, Dallas, Big Bend…the wind cares not. It is always in my face, and its ferocity increases when I’m least in the mood for it. Check out the video below…it’s from a recent trip to the country east of Austin when the winds were blowing at 30 mph all damn day:
That was a fine day indeed. I was woken up that morning at 4:30 AM by a rain storm that should not have existed, according to various meteorologists. Based on their stellar predictions, I hadn’t set up a rain cover over my bivy, and I got soaked real quick. So I got up and began riding, only to be assaulted by relentless headwinds, which persisted all day long. And there I was, pushing against it with all my might, because I’m trying to get faster. After 103 miles of that, I was toast. Just absolute toast.
And that brings me to my main topic of the day: gettin’ faster! That has been my focus since late last year, and I’ve had mixed results. Before TD 2010, my training was focused more on endurance than speed. Back then I just wanted to make it for the long haul in one piece. But then I raced the TD and found that, physically, I held up extremely well. I felt that I had more to give. I felt that, assuming I could lose some gear weight and some body weight, I could push a little harder and move a little faster. So that’s exactly what my training has focused on.
During my 100+ miles rides in the Hill Country, I’ve been pushing harder, taking fewer breaks, and eating less food (because I suck at eating while riding). The results…yeah I’ve definitely increased my speed, routinely finishing my hundys 1-2 hours faster than last year. But I feel much more fatigued afterwards, too. The legs and knees are crying for a day or two afterwards. As it stands now, I couldn’t imagine keeping a pace like that for multiple days. Hopefully, if I keep ballin’ out, it will get easier and easier. If not…screw it! I’ll just race TD 2011 at a much more enjoyable pace for longer hours per day. Hell, I can barely sleep out there anyway.
So here’s a good week’s training for me right now. It’s not ideal, but it’s pretty much the best I can muster up with a full time job and family to consider:
12:00 PM – Spin cycle for 40 minutes during lunch break
6:00 PM – 25-30 mile ride, full TD kit
12:00 PM – Spin cycle for 40 minutes during lunch break
6:00 PM – 25-30 mile ride, full TD kit
12:00 PM – high intensity weight training for 40 minutes during lunch break; upper body
12:00 PM – Spin cycle for 40 minutes during lunch break
6:00 PM – 25-30 mile ride, full TD kit
8:00 PM - drive 3 hours out to the Hill Country and bivy up
5:00 AM – Begin 100+ mile ride, drive back home when finished
Sometimes I will substitute a 6-ish mile run for a ride so I can spend time with the wife. And sometimes I get lazy and don’t do shit. Such a day is usually accompanied by an entire Meat Lovers Pizza forcing its way down my unwilling throat.
My buddy and former TD aspirant Pat Smith accompanies me on some of my Hill Country ventures. What I love about his company is that 1) he’s a funny guy and a cool friend and 2) he makes me feel like Flash Gordon on wheels. Ha! Thanks Pat! I know you’re just pretending that I’m way faster than you to boost my confidence! One thing Pat doesn’t know yet (but will after reading this) is that I am grooming him for 2012…we will be riding a tandem. We’ll be known as “The Tony & Pat Experience.” Or, for short, “The TP Experience.” Heh. Heh heh.
One last thing I want to mention is the “staggering” number of Texans signed up for this year’s race. I was honestly a little shocked to see so many of them appear on the Start List, because, well, Texans in the TD has been a rarity up to this point. I mean, hell, this ain’t Colorado. Here’s all of us:
Cadet Bryant (V) – Big Springs, TX
JP Evans (R) – McKinney, TX
Yours Truly (V) – Deer Park, TX
Vance McMurray (R) – Austin, TX
Ray Porter (V) – Dallas, TX
Dale Shadley (R) – San Antonio, TX
Steve Moore (R) – Wimberly, TX (South to North)
Shelia Reitner (R) – Austin, TX (not on Start List yet)
Sheila Torres-Blank (R) – Austin, TX (not a typo..there are two Shelias are not on the Start List yet!)
Sandra Musgrave (R) – Austin (not on Start List yet)
And I know of at least two more dudes who may yet sign up. Hey, I’m beginning to think my forthcoming title of “First Texan to Finish the Tour Divide” is in serious jeopardy! There are some folks on this list who are “The Real Deal”…I’m gonna have to up my game to even have a sliver of a chance! Some of us are meeting in Austin at the end of April for pre-TD note comparison…I’m lookin’ forward to an exciting exchange of ideas. If you’re one of the folks on the list who hasn’t heard about this meeting, email me! tony at gdrquest dot com.
In my next post, which I am really looking forward to, I will be introducing you to my new and improved BACKPACKLESS configuration. Yeah, buddy…I’ve eliminated some gear and achieved my own personal Holy Grail of bikepacking setups. You’ll be amazed at what you see! (Not really…I suspect you’ll just be “interested,” not “amazed.” I’ve been conditioned by capitalist media, what can I say) See you soon!
Posted on March 8th, 2011 2 comments
What a difference a year makes.
More accurately, what a difference racing the Tour Divide makes. From dreaming about it for years to actually participating in it in 2010 has completely changed my outlook for my 2011 bid. Gone is the “starstruck” effect it had on me during my two year build up from noob to racer. Gone is the obsession over gear choices. Gone is the nervousness and anxiety about whether or not I will be “ready” for an undertaking of this magnitude.
This year, there is a “V” for veteran next to my name on the Start List. Although I don’t feel like I fully earned it, my attitude towards the TD this time around certainly feels more veteran-ish. There is a calmness governing my preparations and my training. A feeling of realism has replaced my almost childlike excitement. And there is resolve: just a very strong determination and focus to “do it right” this time. This can be evidenced by my Letter of Intent. Last year, my LOI was a long-winded joke fest, easily the lengthiest submission on the list. This year, it’s two sentences. I’d post them here but I honestly don’t even remember them, and the TD web site is not displaying the LOI’s for some reason. My letter says something along the lines of “Vengeance is mine. Let’s do this.”
That being said, I’m still as happy as a clam to be pursuing the most awesome race in the world once again. Why we look upon clams as the Bastion of Happiness, I’ll never know. I mean, they can’t even have sex. And with all that water in their mouths all the time, I reckon it’s pretty difficult to drink beer, too. What are your thoughts?
Ha! Did you think my second bid for the TD would make me less corny?!
Yes, I’m happy to be working towards a magnificent goal once again, and I am anxious to avenge my disappointing drop from last year. I tell ya, that feeling you get when you’re coming home, knowing that the race is still going on…it’s brutal. Getting home and watching the race on the Leaderboard, listening to call-ins from guys you’d been speaking with in person just a few days ago…even brutaller. (Yes, brutaller is a word now) Having to quit the race after spending almost two years in training and spending a small fortune in the process….brutalzilla. Yep. I said BRUTALZILLA.
But that’s all in the past. A few months ago, I began working on my number one goal for this year, and that is: getting faster. I placed getting faster in italics because words look speedier in when they slant to the right. The first thing I did to get faster is to peel the Orbea decal off my frame and replace it with an Orbea decal. I instantly gained 2 mph, and I wasn’t even riding the bike. Does that blow your mind?
Seriously, I have identified my “areas of improvement” after my 2010 experience, and I’ve begun working on them. Here are my macro goals for this year’s TD:
- Get faster. I’d like to stay with (or at least close to) the main pack this year. Secretly I want to beat the main pack, but I won’t hold my breath. Also I guess that’s not a secret anymore. Anyway, I want to pick up my average speed and maximize my daylight hours by taking fewer/shorter breaks, especially in towns. This means harder training among other things (see #3). I also need to avoid a group mentality and be strong enough to move on alone. I’d actually gone into 2010 with most of the above strategy but I wasn’t disciplined enough to make it stick. I have to remember: it’s a race….race it.
- Get tougher. Against harsh elements, and against my own brain. A combination of those things did me in last year. If you’ve read my 2010 story, you know I developed a phobia mid-race. Gotta correct these shortcomings.
- Get lighter. Drop some gear weight and some body weight. The gear weight is easy…I’ve already identified some stuff that isn’t making the cut this year (to be detailed in an upcoming post). The body weight is tougher. I’ve been a pocket-sized linebacker my whole life, and my upper body just refuses to lose mass in any meaningful quantity, even with the training and a clean diet. I think I’m destined for the dreaded calorie count, as well as near-abandonment of weight resistance training (except for core)….I really want to come in about 15 pounds lighter this year. Should work wonders for the speed.
- Take a new vital piece of gear…..a Snuggie. Wife’s orders. She saw the picture of me riding through a snowstorm on Huckleberry Pass last year and she didn’t like it one bit.
Ha! Kidding on that last one. Or am I? (yes)
As for my reasons for attempting this thing again…they haven’t changed much. I still long for wide open beauty, I still yearn for peaceful solitude, and I still want to embark on the most adventurous competition of my life. I suppose you can add vengeance to the list. In a world where an average joe like me has meager opportunity to accomplish something great and memorable, the Tour Divide looms large. It speaks to me. It says, “Be awesome. Do what few can. Ride me.” And I respond, “Did you get that from my wife?”
As I write this, the 2011 Start List has swelled to an unprecedented 74 entries for the classic north to south route, and unlike last year, I won’t be the only Texan in this hare-brained race! Veteran Ray Porter from Dallas is back in as well as a handful of other Lone Star Staters. I’ve been in contact with several others who may yet sign up, too, including a certain superhuman from Odessa, if he can be bothered to stop running 120+ mile ultra endurance marathons for a few weeks. My point is that this year, I will have some friendly competition for the coveted title of First Texan to Finish the Tour Divide. To that I can only say…. YEEEHAW!!
Ok, so it’s time for me to start writing about my training again. I’ve been at it since late last year, and I’ve got a lot of posts building in my mental database. I’m sure my sometimes-training partner Pat Smith is wondering where his mentions are. (Here’s the first one, dude!) Look for some new stuff soon!
Posted on February 25th, 2011 9 comments
My 2010 Tour Divide, though short lived, was still an experience like no other. From the time I began training until the day I dropped, it was a phenomenal ride, full of equal parts grueling hardship and ever-remembered beauty. Although I still yearn for a finish (and by God I will have it this year), I feel that I have learned some valuable lessons in how to approach the race this time around. Because I am not your typical TD racer, I do not assume that these lessons will be of great use to the endurance die-hards that the TD attracts, BUT if you’re a rookie, and especially if you’re a flatlander and/or a relative noob like I was, then perhaps you will find this helpful. By far, the best advice for green horns is probably from Marshal Bird, so be sure to give him a read.
- Train with extra weight. In my opinion, this is a biggie. The gear/food/water you will be carrying on the Tour Divide makes a huge difference. Load your bike up with stuff wherever you can put it until you get your bikepacking bags…stick a dumbbell in your backpack, whatever. Load up and ride with it every time you go out. Become accustomed to it, build those muscles, let your knees adjust to the added grind. In my case, I also supplemented with weight training in the gym…squats and leg raises went a long way for me and kind of gave me a jump start towards building my endurance.
- Climb your ass off. I know this one should be obvious, but I state it here mainly for fellow flatlanders. You’ve heard how many feet of climbing there are on the GDMBR, right? Yeah, people aren’t whistling Dixie when they throw that number out. The climbing n.e.v.e.r. e.n.d.s. Spend as much of your training time as possible climbing…the steeper the better (lots of steep stuff in Canada and Montana). In my opinion, if you become a great climber, the distance portion of your training/race sort of takes care of itself.
- Train in bad weather. When cold, rainy days move in over the divide, things can get miserable really quick. Spend as much time as you can in crappy weather and become friends with it. Get to the point where you don’t fight it. Accept that you will be wet and cold, and that your only way out is to ride. Use this training time to nail down your rain/cold weather gear.
- Don’t neglect your upper body. You will be pushing/pulling your bike and gear over snowy passes and up monstrosities like the Flathead Wall. Conditioning your torso with circuit/core work and building some endurance upstairs will help you through these times. You will also be losing a lot of upper body weight during the race, so it may not hurt to have a little extra going in.
- Don’t settle. My biggest mistake, by far, was settling: allowing myself to stop riding for some reason when I could have moved on. Avoid the temptations of the city or the comforts of wilderness use cabins or opting for group camaraderie if you still have plenty of juice and/or daylight left. Because if you settle regularly, before you know it, you’ll have a bunch of sub-par mileage days behind you and you’ll be in or near last place. (I raise my hand sheepishly)
- Consider using a GPS as your main nav tool. You may hear people say that a GPS is non-essential…if you can read basic cues, you will not need one. The amount of people getting lost on the route says otherwise. And not just rookies, either. Look back at 2009, when the veteran elite Petervary tandem team went off course 30 miles before realizing their mistake and backtracked, eating a 60 mile penalty that could have been avoided. Listen, you will never hear anyone complain that the cues are too specific! Some of them are vague or even flat out wrong. Why waste an hour or two per day trying to figure out where to go and/or backtracking multiple times a day when all you really have to do is look down once in a while at a purple line on your GPS screen? I don’t get it. I’ll take the small weight penalty, the peace of mind, and the accuracy of my GPS and Scott Morris’ split track, and I’ll use the cues as backup (or even better, a backup GPS and ditch the cues and maps). I might add that the distinguished bikepacking statesman Marshal Bird champions this approach.
- I’m slow. No way around it. Therefore, the lesson I learned is that I better start earlier and ride later if I want to compete for a decent finish time. This may mean leaving your buddies and/or a warm place to sleep for the night. Don’t dawdle in towns, or anywhere else for that matter. Take care of your business and go. Just remember the ol’ fable about the tortoise and the hare!
- For the love of God, be careful out there. You probably know about the tragedy that befell Dave Blumenthal this past year. And if you read my story, you know about Bob Moczynski’s accident. Pete Basinger was hit by a vehicle head on in 2009. And I can’t tell you how many…let’s say “safety concerns”…I witnessed during the race. Keep your wits about you at all times and don’t take chances. If you’re falling asleep on your bike, don’t be a hero…just bivy up and get a fresh start tomorrow. Vehicles DO appear once in a while on some of these remote roads…I made it a point to ride as if there was a car or a bear about to come around every blind corner I encountered. There was a time when I was very glad I did that. Just be safety conscience at all times.
So those are some major things I can think of. There’s always lots of little stuff to think about…that’ll get sprinkled into my training posts. Speaking of which…time to move on to those now. I been slackin’ on the writing!