Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tour Divide 2012. Days 11 and 12. Changes in Lattitude and Guest post by Phil and Paul

Day 11 Changes in latitude, changes in attitude.

Route Day 11
I awoke before sunrise feeling just a little guilty about not finding Eszter the night before and maybe wanting some company as I hadn’t talked to anyone in quite some time while riding. I sat up and watched the sun slowly rise over the mountains. I wasn’t in a huge hurry as I thought Eszter might come over the hill sometime soon. I had camped on a high point near Middlewood Hill south of Rawlings, WY. Finally, I pulled my feet out of my sleeping bag. My socks were still on over the tape I had wrapped around my ankles in Butte. My legs had swollen over the last week and I couldn’t get my socks off so I just left them on. Many days as I started riding I could feel my shoes tighten as my feet swelled more. My posterior, as stated before, didn’t have open sores but was sore like it was bruised. My ankles and bum were particularly sore when we hit long stretches of rough road. My rear, legs and ankles also hurt considerably when I pedaled without resistance. For example, if I came up over a hill in a low gear and then coming down the other side if I didn’t shift to a gear where I could push against the pedals with resistance my ass, legs and ankles would protest with sharp pains. My ankles also hurt when trying to stand up to get my stuff packed.Waaaahhh...

My insulin regime was working well enough to keep me moving fast and keeping my blood sugar in a reasonable range of between 100 and 200. I had a 2 or maybe 3 nights on the entire ride where I would have high sugars during the night and morning—250-300 or so. It would quickly drop as I started the day. I think there were a couple of reasons for this. I had started out taking 5-10 units of long acting insulin at night and 10-5 in the morning depending on how high my sugar was at bedtime. I noticed that when I change my activities my body reacts and changes. When I first start training hard, like at the start of biking season, I have a hard time keeping my sugar high the next few days. As my body adapts I can eat less and take more insulin. So as my body adapted to riding all day, it wasn’t needing so much sugar at night. And I needed to take more insulin  at night. I had taken less the first few weeks to avoid lows while sleeping. Another possibility was that I may have eaten a sugary bar too close to bedtime and I hadn’t had enough time to “work it off” so it just went into my blood. 

I took care of business in camp and got on the bike wondering if Eszter had passed me in the early morning. Hmm no tracks. I must be ahead of her still. Eszter has a personality that if you don’t know her can put some people off and endear others. She doesn’t say much and can be taken differently by different people. She had said something that seemed really out of place while we were at the motel in Canmore. As we were getting ready to ride out to Banff, while walking down the hall all of a sudden she burst out loudly, “Someone is having really loud sex in that room.” Josh and I looked at each other and ran to see if we could hear. Nope, Eszter was too loud. We had a good laugh. Josh and I both said at the same time later that when you find out one way or the other that a girl is a screamer that you see her in a different light……

The road dropped and climbed across sage and grass covered hills covered with cows and pronghorn everywhere. Now many people don’t realize that the pronghorn are probably more dangerous than the grizzly but they just can’t see very well (Read this in the voice of the guy in the Dodge Ram truck commercials). Now as I’ve described before, these animals will race along beside you and then cut in front to the other side of the road. Little do most people know that these funny creatures are nearsighted and what they are really trying to do is turn INTO you. Then at their great rate of speed and head down they would stick their prong horns right into you and flip you over their heads. They can do this from simple physics. The 60 mph rate and a 100lb weight gives them the following;
(60miles/hr)*(5280ft/1mile)*(1hr/3600s)*100lbs = 8800 ft*lb/s of force which is equivalent to a charging elephant.*

Luckily for me they can’t judge the distance from their poor eyesight and lack of depth perception from having eyes on the sides of their heads.

As I traveled south in latitude, these menacing beasts would thin and I would not see many more along with the once plentiful snowshoe hares and white tail deer. My skin was drying considerable after leaving the rain and snow of the north. Now my lips were beginning to crack. My nose was also plugged with dried snot and it would not and could not be removed.

The cows also had a completely different attitude to those of the Wyoming basin. As you pass a cow, it will sit very still and as you get close, it will jump and turn. Sometimes it will run along the road or in the road for quite some time. The Wyoming cows jump quite violently like you are going to brand them. These cows now might just stand up and walk a little ways. I stopped at one point and the cows actually walked up to me like I was a long lost friend.

The road dropped and climbed and finally hit a section of paved highway. I passed the “Sandstone Work Center” and continued. Another problem with heading into the south (and especially this year) was that there is not as much water and towns are a long ways apart. I eventually ran out of water as I approached Slater and the turn off to the Brush Mountain Lodge and food and water. A north bound rider passed me in a few miles before and had told me of the great food ahead. I felt like a little kid asking “How much farther is it?” as I slowly climbed the road along a slowly flowing stream and kept looking at the map and my GPS far too often. I eventually decided to get some water from the stream and treat it with some chlorine tablets. Nasty tasting! Finally I got to the lodge where once again Eddie "the photographer" Clark was hanging out with Matt Lee (of the Ride the Divide documentary fame) and his wife and two kids. It was wonderful eating and hanging out (for way too long). I mentioned that I ran out of water and Matt said, “You didn’t get water at the work center?” Mental note--always stop at the work centers for water. After a couple of hours, Eszter showed up. We hung out for a while and I finally got going and started climbing the next big hill.
The road eventually dropped to the store at Clark. I grabbed some ice cream from some kids and got some different food. They had lots of Honey Stinger waffles for a change of pace and I bought a roll of Ritz crackers and a tub of humus for dinner. I also got my usual, Chocolate milk, orange juice, and Frappuccino  drink and gulped them down. The road now followed a nice valley with open grass. About 12 miles, I had to pee. I promptly started back down the highway and missed the small detour on the route. After a few miles, I looked at the GPS. Dope! Back to the dirt road that climbed a hill as it paralleled the highway and rode on to Steamboat. As I came into town and road along the bike path, I caught up to Becky, a pal that had moved there from Gunnison. She was riding the divide section through Colorado to train for the Colorado Trail race. We rode together for a while as the sun went down. After a while, she got tired and I kept going. I, however, started losing steam as I climbed towards Lynx pass and had to stop. I found a wonderfully soft bed of bark under a large pine tree and lay down with no pad and went to sleep. A short day with only about 131 miles, too much time goofing at Brush Mt Lodge!

Shifferly behind me somewhere had to stop at Steamboat with bruised feet. He has had some bad luck with the Tour Divide these last two years and I was sad to see him have to stop. On the drive up we decided his trail name was "Tiny Dancer" as it was his favorite song. So here it is for Josh who does more bike packing than anyone I know....

*I may be completely full of beans here. Fuzzy math as the politicians call it. 

Day 12 Guest post by Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwood!

Day 12 Route

Day 12 Guest post by Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwood!!

Remarkably today I had some friends call some friends and believe it or not we got Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwen of the Tour de France fame to do a guest post from the studio for this day. Enjoy.

Phil Ligget
Paul Sherwen
Phil: Well here we are on the side of the road south of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. And just let me tell you that it is just a spectacular area. 

Paul: Yes Phil, this is the home of Howelsen Hill where in 1914, Carl Howelsen built a ski jump. Today's Olympic tradition continues. 

Phil: Paul, I thought I told you not to talk so much? Common! Yes, now to recap after our 30 minute commercial break, Jarral Ryter, and let me tell you he is something else!, fell asleep under a large tree sometime in the night. He is currently behind six riders with one dropping in Steamboat and passing Eszter-the woman powerhouse yesterday. So he is in seventh place behind the great names of Serge, Adam, and Ollie to name a few. And if he can keep up his pace, he may just be able to catch a few of them.

Paul: Yes, Phil, he is remarkable. He--

Phil: Yes he is. And let me tell you he has that mountain bike background and can really descend with the best of them so he will surely make up time in the general classification. Let’s take a short commercial break…

Commercial; “What does Lance say about the Tour Divide and Jarral, a diabetic, riding it, 5 hour special tonight instead of race coverage….”

Phil: And were back and the main peloton has put on a blistering pace. Jarral has made it to Radium and is waiting for a train to pass at the Colorado River. This is just spectacular country. There is a shot from above of the huge canyon; riders must drop into and cross the Colorado River and then climb back out of. And let me tell you, it is warm down there. The river flows nearly to the Gulf of Mexico after going through the Grand Canyon. And he has crossed the river and is looking for water at a campground.

Paul: I don’t think he’s going to find any, Phil. Campgrounds don’t have water much anymore.

Phil: And right you are. It looks like he is asking some rafters if there is any water spigots. And look, they are shaking their heads but pointing to a large blue jug in their truck. Lucky to get water here Paul. And now he is on his way up a long climb. After the summit, he will come close to the town Kremling where he could resupply. Kremling has had some controversy with its fight with International Falls, MN as being designated the “icebox” of the lower forty eight states of the United States. Everybody knows Gunnison, Colorado holds that title.

Paul: And now with that long climb ahead of him he must be glad that he found some water.

Phil: It is indeed a long climb and it is a HOT climb. Now let’s take a short break to see what Lance had for breakfast this morning.

Commercial; “What does Lance say about the Paleo diet, 5 hour special tonight instead of race coverage….”

Phil: And we’re back. Jarral is climbing like a man possessed. He has climbed to the turn off to Kremling. But you have to wonder if he will pass up this short detour or try to make some time up. And yes it looks like he is going to resupply in Silverthorn on the I70 corridor and pass by Kremling in another 50 odd miles. Just look at his face. He is pure determination. If he does need food and water, his domestics on his team will likely resupply from the team car.

Paul: Phil, there are no domestics or team cars in the Tour Divide. Let’s take a short break.

Commercial break for 15 minutes.

Phil: Here we are with Jarral nearing Ute Pass. And look at Jarral’s eyes. He looks like he is cracking! They are rolling back in his head. He needs to get past the road work where they are grading and spraying magnesium chloride solution on the roads. This is common here as it packs the roads into a cement like surface. He needs to regroup before he heads up the final climb to the top of Ute pass. Oh wait he is laying down at the end of the construction. Is he, yes he’s taking a nap! He has CRACKED! He is down, but let’s see if he can recover.

Commercial break for 25 minutes.

Paul: And he is up. He’s up and pedaling. A little wobbly.

Phil: Yes when you crack you have just pushed too hard. Possibly he didn’t eat enough and or needs more water. He is really struggling over Ute Pass. But he knows if he can get over this and not let the peloton gain on him he has a long descent and then a paved road to Silverthorn. 

Phil: And now it looks like Jarral is still suffering on the road to Silverthorn. Look he is in the river! He is pouring water on his head while he stands in the river! And now it looks like he is going to fill his water from the river.

Paul: Yes he will undoubtedly treat this water.

Phil: And he is really suffering as he is finally coming to a gas station. Here he comes out. Look at him! Have you ever seen anything like that? Both hands full of food and he’s shoving it in faster than I’ve ever seen someone eat. He is really stuffing his face.

Paul: And now just look at the shot from the air of the surrounding area. The trees have just been decimated by the bark beetle. Nearly every tree is dead. 

Phil: Yes, they are. One spark and the whole place will burn. Quite the droughts they have had this year and over the past ten years. Now he must be overwhelmed as he has been riding by himself and now there are cars and people everywhere. 

Paul: And he is now on a narrow bike path for 17 miles to the resort town of Breckenridge. 

Phil: Indeed this path is crowded with recreational road cyclists and grandmas and parents with strollers. It is indeed a sad state for a cyclist to have to ride 17 miles of bike path in this congested city. Let’s take a short break and we’ll be right back.

Commercial, Another 20 minute commercial break featuring the Lance episode described previously.

Phil: And we’re back. The main rider in the field, Jarral Ryter, has been climbing the Col de Como-Boreas pass with exceptional speed as we see the sun setting over the majestic Colorado mountains. He really seems to have recovered from his difficulties earlier and has dug deep and really pushed hard to put some distance in. 

Coming down the other side he will have to contend with a single track trail that at night can be tricky with a multitude of rocks. But other than that, it should be fast as he is a very good at descending and has an excellent mountain biking background.

And now it looks like he is at the bottom and he is going right past the Como hotel and is going to camp next to the road several miles past. This is remarkable as he could have had a nice place to stay as the light was on.

This is indeed a tremendous occasion, this Tour Divide , let’s see if we can catch up with Jarral for a post stage interview.

Jarral, how do you feel about your stage win and how did it feel?

Jarral: Today's stage was a hard stage and very hot as I came to Ute Pass. I was really suffering and had run out of water and then I bonked. I rallied on the bike path and had some ice cream and a triple shot mocha latte in Breck that started me up again. I felt good coming up Boreas Pass and put the hammer down. The single track section was tough at night with packs on but I got through it. I was having some interesting visions as lights seem to come on and follow me as I got close to the town of Como. Very unnerving. I finally had enough and found a nice spot by an old ranch under some trees and went to sleep. For the day I rode about 140 miles. We'll see how tomorrow goes. We've still got another 1000 miles or so to go in the rugged mountains of southern Colorado and New Mexico followed by the heat of southern New Mexico.

Phil: Well, thanks for tuning in and we'll be back tomorrow for a 5 hour special on Lance. Did he or didn't he maybe possibly use performance enhancing substances?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tour Divide 2012, Day 9 and 10. Set Sail Gary! Full speed ahead! and The world goes down the drain in the Basin

Day 9 and 10 Elevation profile

Day 9. Set Sail Gary! Full speed ahead!

I am a man. I am a man who does silly things. I like to race on skis in the back country in the middle of the night. I leave my wife and kids for a month to ride my bike across America and some of Canada. I am also a man with diabetes. I don't like to talk about it constantly. I don't like to let it affect how I live. It is just a part of me. It isn't me. It is something I have to worry about yes.
Diabetes is like riding and finishing the Tour Divide. You can't stop. You have to keep going. There aren't any excuses.You either deal with it or you crash or pass out. You deal with it or you go blind. You have bad days. You have good days. You have a day with good results and for no real reason you have bad results. It is all on you. No one else can do it for you. You hopefully have people that help you prepare and can help in an emergency. It is a bitch but it isn't me and I have it. It doesn't have me.

Day 9 route
I had the song below stuck my head for quite awhile about this time during the race. Maybe because it is about looking for America, parts of the trip seeming like a dream, buying some pies in a gas station, moon rising over fields, getting lost, taking 4 days to get somewhere, playing games with your mind, falling asleep and.... OR maybe it is just because it got stuck in my head and I couldn't quite remember the words and it was literally driving me crazy. We may never know......

Today I would, for sure, catch Eszter. No more goofing around! Of course, I couldn't get going at the ridiculous hour of 3am that I knew Eszter about 15 miles down the road was getting up at so I left the lodge at 5:30ish and headed up the final little climb up Togwotee pass. It was cold out but beautiful. Elk in the meadows. Elk running across in front of me. Sun coming up on the mountains.  Then I turned onto a little side road to the lake where Eszter was staying. I saw a good sized black bear sitting in a field eating grass and what not. I gave it a "ding ding." It looked up and sniffed looking around. But I guess since I didn't go "Braaaaaaaap Braaaaaap!" it didn't care and went back to eating. I forgot to mention that while I hadn't seen any bruins up to the day before, I had seen amazing amounts of bear scat, feces, poo. Large piles every 100 meters or so (meters as it was in Canada mainly).
The route shortly returned to the highway and dropped fast to the turn to Union Pass. The climb was typical of the Divide, and the top of the pass wasn't really a "top" but ups and downs for 20 miles or so. It was very nice country. I ran into the couple that runs the "bike shop" in Delta--No help if I needed it when I got there. Finally, the road descended towards Cora. At about 2:30 and 90 miles later, I hit the pavement and stopped at the "Place Cafe." I had a coke and asked if they had seen other riders. They said Eszter had been in around noon and had a coke. She's cruising along apparently. I had my Western State College Jersey on,  and we started talking about all the people in the area that had gone to Western. One guy said his boys were at Mesa-I think his ex moved there or something. That was all I could figure as to why they would go there..... I left with a favorable tail wind so I gave the order to Mr. Fisher (Gary for short at this point) to set sail and full speed ahead! We made good time and pulled into Pinedale (one of the few towns with a "big" store). I bought some lemonade from some kids and asked where to eat that was fast. They said the Sugar Shack was not really very good and expensive but the super market had lots of food and there was a deli across the street. So I headed down the road. I pondered getting more Stans sealant in the hardware store with a supposed bike shop inside but decided they just couldn't have tubeless sealant and it would be a waste of time. Down the street I saw a coffee shack! YES! Closed! Damn! I went on to the supermarket and was once again completely overwhelmed. It took me an hour to find anything. I finally came out with a deli sandwich, some candy bars, energy bars, snack crackers, some sushi rolls and what not. I ate the sandwich and sushi on the sidewalk in front of the store. I then decided to try the smaller deli across the street. I grabbed more food quickly as it was smaller and used the facilities. As a side note, I was getting into those snack crackers with cheese or peanut butter in them already in little packages of 4 or 6.
Gary and I once again sailed at full speed with favorable tailwinds for another 20 miles on pavement and then hit dirt. We climbed about 1000 feet to some really great scenery. I was surprised how nice this area was. Wind River mountains to the north, more hills to the south. Many Greater Sage-Grouse were on the road and flew a little ways when I passed. These are related to the Lesser Sage-Grouse or as we refer to them in Gunnison, the Gunnison Sage-Grouse. We don't like them to think less of themselves. One grouse flew into a breeze, and I think he really wanted to be an eagle or was named Icarus. He would catch the wind and make a few flaps and drop and flap as hard as he could and catch some more wind. I watched him for some time as I climbed. I've never seen a grouse fly so long. Good luck buddy you can DO IT!!!

Along the way a drunk guy in a semi permanent RV out in the bush called out and said he had extra beer. So, of course, I rode over and chatted.  He wouldn't give me any extra beer, but said if I was in Denver to look him up. He said his name a couple of times with his bloodshot eyes and shook my hand so hard I think he was trying to break it. He also hadn't seen E. I really was checking to make sure he didn't have her bound and gagged.... The sun started to go down, and it was the most remarkable sunset of the tour. I lamented the loss of the camera. I made a mental note, "Check out this section sometime when I have more time."
I finally hit Hwy 28. Nice and dark. No shoulder really. And cars going FAST! I passed a rest area and pondered stopping there but there were some odd fellows out front trying to get their 1960's era RV started. Eszter later told me she stayed there. So I did pass her I just didn't know it. I wanted to try and hit South Pass City. Unfortunately, as I turned off the highway towards South Pass City, I got sleepy/dreamy and had to pull over. I was irritated that I hadn't caught Eszter..... I went to sleep with a very cool wind blowing over me about 11:15 but would rue the morning for not staying at the rest area. I had ridden 190 miles for the day.

Day 10 The world goes down the drain in the Basin

Day 10. The Basin

I woke up early, and  got dressed, and hopped on the bike. It was chilly out. Then, and I blame the sushi rolls, my stomach started to do back flips. Once again I ripped off three layers and the bib shorts. Only not quite fast enough. Lucky thing I still had a spare pair of shorts and the shower wipes. So, after that debacle, I started riding and there in the morning light, Eszter's tracks! I now know she had just gotten up earlier, and I could have stayed ahead, but at the time it was like a thorn in my side. I quickly dropped to South Pass City-an old gold mining town that now is a historic town. It did have a great little place where divide hikers had camped and a great bathroom with running water. I cleaned up some more and headed up a hill and then back down to Atlantic City. There isn't much here, and of course the store/restaurant wasn't open for another hour or so. So off I went out of town up a steep hill and into the more blustery, lackluster brother of the day before. The road was a bit bumpy.

About 20 miles out of Atlantic City, I began to see strange images. I stopped to put my jacket into my seat bag. Out of the sage I thought I saw Jesus riding towards me on a funky bike. Or it could have been Jim Morrison but there were no naked Indians. As the image got closer,  he did indeed have a beard and long hair. And we all know Jesus and Jim had those. He said, "They call me Cjell Money." He was very friendly if not just a ghost.

Somewhere along here or maybe the day before, I hit a cattle drive led by 4 young cowboys. Cattle drives in Colorado are a mellow affair. The cows walking along and the wranglers and dogs directing stragglers in the right direction. This drive was like something from the Ghost Riders in the Sky. The cows were herded into a tight ball of a squirming mass of flesh.
If a calf or cow got out of the twisting herd, a cowboy ran full tilt to the straggler and ran her full speed back into the churning mass of cows. One cowboy saw me and said, "Shorty, make a path for that guy" He got an evil grin on his face and at a full run turned his horse sideways and started to run the horse sideways into the cows. The cows jumped and turned in every direction over and under each other. He then left, and I rode through the thinning herd of cows running in a panic at the sight of my 29" wheels.

As the day went on the wind picked up.  This was good on sections where the road went with it. Unfortunately, the road didn't always go with the wind which really was quite often. The wind simply picked me up a few times and threw me off the road. Eventually I hit a paved road with cracks every few feet for miles. Thump Thump......, Thump Thump......, Thump Thump......, Thump Thump......, Thump Thump......, Thump Thump......, Thump Thump......, Thump Thump......, Thump Thump......, Thump Thump......, Thump Thump......, Thump Thump......, Thump Thump......, Thump Thump......, Thump Thump......, Thump Thump......, Thump Thump......, Thump Thump.......... Jefe had warned me of this. I was happy to reach the road, however. I was also happy for the general downhill nature of the road and the nice tailwind. I was not happy to realize that I still had 40 miles to Rawlins, and I didn't have much water. I ran out of water just as the last of my soul had been ripped out of me by the wind as I turned on highway 287 and started climbing a steep hill and received a good stiff side/head wind. Let's just say the last 16 miles to Rawlins were a low point. I hobbled into Rawlins and pulled into the City Market. And who do I see eating a piece of fried chicken with her bike in the entry way? Eszter! She was all smiles and was happy to see me (I think). We talked for a bit, and I said I would camp with her. I think the real reason I wanted to catch her was that I wanted someone to talk to for a while, and she is funny. She gave me an idea where she was camping and listed all the things that she had gotten to eat. I walked in, and with glazed eyes and got everything she had mentioned (except dried mangoes--where the heck do they keep those??). I am worthless in these large stores. It still took me four times longer than her I'm sure. She did tell me a funny story about the asking how the guys ahead of us looked to a check out lady. The checker went on and on apparently about how "good" they looked with the tight shorts etc etc. I can't repeat it here as this is a family oriented blog. I did notice after that many women "helping" me and talking to me a lot when stores.... Not that I looked "all that."

Ester had left a while before I got going, and I had also talked to a couple of TD tourists about the road conditions and Serge hurting in the wind for a while. I left Rawlins with the sun going down and began climbing with a nice side wind. I started to feel better and better as I climbed. I hit a major construction zone where once there had been pavement and now was a huge mess albeit with a nice hard packed surface. The sun had now set, and I had no idea where Eszter was. I kept an eye out and kept going. I saw my first of many creepy memorials here. People started some time ago putting crosses up for people who had crashed and died. A Latin influence I think. Now they went a step beyond the standard cross with glowing LED lights that come on and off or dim and brighten. And later by Steamboat Springs one with a Halloween aspect and crazy faces. 
I climbed the steep road that went straight up the hills, sometimes going back and forth to put in my own switchbacks. I reached Middlewood Hill pass and shortly after stopped and found a nice place between some sage out of the wind mostly and watched the stars as I went to sleep. I had put in 174 miles on this fine day and may have met Jesus, and he didn't help me.

Bonus to my blog, "How to order from a deli when riding the Divide". 

Make your intentions known clearly and look them straight in the eye. They will not think you really meant to say you wanted two of EVERYTHING. I would repeat myself and it still wouldn't sink in to their heads how much I wanted....

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tour Divide 2012. Day 7 and 8. Kiwis are coming! And if you go fast enough you don't feel the bumps.

Elevation Profile

Day 7. The Kiwis are coming!

Well before the race I came across a blog by one Ollie Whalley. A friend from Christchuch NZ sent a link to a guy's blog who had done the New Zealand Brevet. Brevet is what they call these long rides like the tour Divide. But I think they are officially not races--you have to sleep 4 hrs etc.. So I was poking around different sites and came across Ollie's. I saw his cool Helter Skelter rain pants and ordered them from They were a bit spendy but from my mother's visits to see my sister and family in Christchurch it sounded like it rained there a little bit so they would know rain pants.  Here are my Helter Skelters- knee length rain pants. Shipped air mail from Christchurch New Zealand for $5! They really did work well being light and easy to pack with good room for movement, warmth and keeping important parts dry! So thanks Ollie! 
My rain knickers
The reason I bring Ollie up, is that today would be my first day of Ollie stories. People here and there would tell me something that Ollie did or said. But before we get into that I have been obsessing about the way we live on the same planet but on opposite sides of the world and how our dialect is so different! Here are a few "funny" (to me anyway) things they say that I found while reading Kiwi blogs.

Don't know exactly what they were eating but here is the Kiwi description.
"Maggi Soup, cheesy one-pot pasta and steamed pud never tastes so good as when capping off a big day."

"Steel roads" are mentioned a lot. I think these are gravel?
"Push bikes" (bicycles) vs motor bike

Here are a few from Ollies blog that had some very interesting terms and style.

"As a rule, I am staunchly dismissive of the offensive naffness of saddle bags..."
"......long relatively un-technical trails that fill the bulk of the Brevet’s chubby body."
"....... a buzzing family campground with an early morning visit from a V8 driving bogan the only downer on a sweet and sheltered camping spot."
" left my face and body layered with a putty of beech and mud that meant my attempts for service at the bakery would be met with a hearty West Coast ‘piss off’."

I was a bit jealous of Ollie as he had done a couple of brevets already in the NZ summer (I had one 70 mi race, the Growler, under my belt that Ollie had come over for also.) and was accustomed to riding in the rain and dry as NZ seems to have both conditions at different times and places on the islands. And yes Ollie and Craig Stappler had taken off in the rain on day 2 while most everyone else was hunkered down in the motel.  So at this point they were about a day ahead of me. However they were killing it and I don't think I could've hung on a good day so awesome job dudes!

When we last left our hero, me not Ollie, he had bonked with low blood sugar late in the night at the top of a pass at Crystal Park above Elkhorn Hot Springs and had slept on a pull out off the highway. Apparently there are great places to stay just a few miles down the pass if I hadn't dallied so long at Wise River or bonked.... I woke up and tried to shake the frost off of my bivy sack and sleeping bag from condensation. If you want to sleep in warmer locations, go to the BOTTOM of the pass! I put on all my clothes and started down the pass. There are at least 4 lodges and some campgrounds as you come down! I noticed that my swollen legs weren't quite as swollen but my right eye had fluid around it as it had the day before but not as bad. As I came down in the below freezing morning air, a guy named Russ hopped out his truck and took the picture of me below.

Coming down the pass in the collldddd.
He motioned for me to stop and said he ran the High Country lodge that wasn't listed on the ACA maps this year but was on the addendum. I didn't read that. He is a huge fan of the Tour Divide and was taking pictures of most all the riders so far. He said that they were serving breakfast if I wanted some and pointed me to the lodge down the road. As I was leaving, Kurt and Caroline, on Babe the Big Blue Tandem, pulled up and he got a picture of them.

I hung out in the beautiful lodge and ate some great breakfast made by his wife and her mother (for too long again). He told me of Ollie and Craig that had eaten the day before. Ollie told him a story of New Zealand sheep shearing where the sheep had gotten so fat with wool that they had to roll him down to get it cut. I'm pretty sure I heard the same story from other friends from NZ but he really liked it. He had pictures of them and Eszter from the night before. Eszter stayed at another lodge and couldn't eat breakfast as she was leaving so early. Among other things we talked was the diabetes and that he has type 2 and about his mother in law (91yrs old and looking good!) whose father had been from Mancos where I grew up. I grabbed a sandwich, with my secret weapon enclosed for the road and he took my picture.
At High Country Lodge
I started down the paved highway and my ankles felt much better with the tape job and European pain killers as long as I didn't hit large bumps or try to push really hard on hills. At this point my leg soreness was also subsiding. My butt was getting sore, however-not open sores but more of a bruising feel. As a side note, the aerobars are very good for times like this as you can relieve hand pressure and get a different angle for sits bones. Also when doing such a ride cleanliness will get you a long way. At least with saddle sores and rashes and the like. Get the shower wipes!
I must have passed the "town" of Polaris that was on the map (with a post office) but have no recollection of it. The road was fast with 30 some miles of pavement and then good dirt roads. I was feeling good and moving fast. It felt good! After about 38 miles I saw the Tandem in the distance. I was hoping at first that it was Eszter as today I decided that I was going to catch her. I spooked Babe the Big Blue Tandem as they thought I was ahead of them. They expected to catch me as on a tandem the flats and downhill are advantageous on the tandem and were surprised to see me pass. I passed them and blasted up over Medicine Lodge-Sheep Creek Pass. I ate my sandwich at the top and then cruised into Lima (pronounced like lima bean). I got my first gas station burrito (named "Big Bomber" of the like) and a ton of other stuff. I had taken to drinking a chocolate milk, orange juice, and maybe a Starbucks Frappachino at the stops. I also tried some jerky and yogurt. 
The road out of Lima started off OK. On ACA map's elevation profile it also "looks" flat. It grew gradually rougher and rougher and contained many rollers not seen on the map so it actually was painful to ride with accumulated elevation gain and irritating my ankles and butt. There were, however, many birds to see along the lakes here. Cranes, swans, swallows, killdeer.... There were also many very old abandoned farm houses with cemeteries along here. Must have been an experience to be here 50? 100? years ago. I saw Eddie the photographer along here somewhere and he asked if I was going to go over Red Rock pass. It made me think.... "Hmm, I bet Eszter is going to go over and camp or hotel it on the other side I'd better get a move on. The bumpy road was making my legs and arse really hurt. At about 150 miles at the "town" of Lakeview by Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge a bug flew in my eye an caused my eye to hurt quite a bit and my vision was very blurry. I think it is a defense mechanism that bug juice really irritates our eyes. A bit of a low point for sure. There was very nice looking campground soon after Lakeview and I pondered it as the sun was getting low and my spirits were diminishing. But NO I was GOING to catch Eszter as every now and then I would catch her tracks! So over the next 500 ft climb of Red Rock pass I went in the dark. I saw a bright light coming behind me and I had convinced myself that it was the Big Blue Tandem. Somehow they had put on a surge and were catching me. No just a truck..... Coming down the other side, the Big Bomber burrito began to make itself known as all of a sudden I had to take off three layers-jersey, long sleeve jersey and warm jacket to get my bib shorts off and relieve my self in the cold night air. I then got going again for a mile or so and apparently only half of the big bomber had passed and I was forced to stop again just as I saw an RV park with bathrooms! But no! A security code to get in! So off to the other side of the road again! At this point I had gone about 195 miles and this had made my movement too slow to be sustainable so I threw my bivy in a level spot in the grass on the side of the road and went to sleep next to the RV park. I hadn't caught Eszter. Damn that girl is tough! I later found out she had snuck into an RV park room with bathrooms for a very comfortable sleep not far down the road.

Day 8. If you go fast enough, you can't feel the bumps

Day 8 Map
I woke again with some frost on my bag and got going before the RVers awoke around 5:30am. I quickly dropped down more and hit a funky little rough road cut off that seems to be the way of the Tour Divide. If there is a rough road or pass better take it versus a shorter smoother route. But hey this is a mountain bike route after all! The paved road hit a junction with a gas station. Many gas stations seemed to have small "cafes" in them along the route. You go to the back and grab food, pay for it at the front and then go to the tables in the back and eat it. This one was almost the same as Bodes in Abiquiu but with hot English muffin egg bacon sandwiches instead of breakfast buritos. So I stopped and ate several and some fresh pastries and doughnuts and stocked up on bars and random food items. My bad food of choice now was Cheetos. Lots of salt and calories! As I came out to get something off my bike, a random blue dot stalker wanted picture so I obliged. I, of course, spent way too much time here. How was I going to catch Eszter doing such things? Today I decided I wouldn't goof around and I would catch her!
So off I went. The route turned down a famous Tour Divide section of old railroad grade. The railroad took people to Yellowstone back in the day. The tracks had unfortunately been set in loose volcanic gravel. This turned the path into huge wash boards and loose sandy volcanic rock. The ACA maps say the loose sand is the problem. It isn't. It is the washboards. I thought I had found a new torture technique to be used for Gitmo (I would later find some worse trail) instead of water boarding. It would be called "washboarding." Make the person ride this trail until they gave it up or made something good up. ATVs are booming these days with people hauling huge truckloads of them and then driving 10 in a row breathing dust and exhaust. This trail was no different with many tracks on the RR grade or with new trails made next to it going back and forth making banked turns across the trail.
Example of ATV squad.
Finally the trail got better and followed a beautiful river and a nice campground. I hit the highway towards the Tetons. I climbed a large hill and my eyelids wouldn't stay open so I decided it was power nap time. I laid the bike down on a pullout next to a potato field took out my bivy and sleeping bag to dry off from the night condensation in the sun and took a good nap. I packed up and hit the dirt road to the Tetons. A sign said, "road closed ahead to park closed for season." Hmm what? Must be some snow or something. Maybe a landslide. I was a bit worried and freaked out that I would get up there 30 miles and have to backtrack and find a way around the park. But then I thought that surely Matt Lee would have told us of a reroute as this would have been known. And I could see Eszter's tracks here and there. Finally I reached some snow fields as I descended towards Flag Ranch Resort (a large motel and campground now). Someone had driven through the first few patches. Then there in the road an RV was stuck in a snow field. The driver was madly trying to dig it out with a little camp shovel while a ranger watched. I stopped for a second and the mosquitoes nearly ate me alive. Every square inch of exposed skin was covered with mosquitoes. I left chuckling as another ranger vehicle nearly ran me down coming to help.
I stopped at the store at Flag ranch and got some food. I was told that Eszter was there a couple hours earlier. Damn! 
I turned on the highway with narrow shoulder towards the Tetons. I saw more cars in five minutes than I saw for the past week. A bit of a shock. I came up over the hill and cars were stopped on the shoulders and a few people were aimlessly walking around some down the middle of the road. Must be a deer or something. I made it by without being run over.
Riding along Jackson Lake
I always liked Teton National Park more than Yellowstone. The peaks are spectacular and it seems less crowded. I had climbed Mt Owen which is the peak just to the right of the Grand Teton way back with a friend on the way back from climbing by Banff and Jasper. Anne and I had also backpacked here. It brought back some cool memories.
I decided I needed some more food so I pulled off where it looked like there would be a store. Big mistake. I went to the Jackson Lake lodge. Or I should say huge parking lot with very expensive lodge. The stores only sold expensive silly things. The restaurant was also very fancy. I asked a guy at the desk if there was a store with food. He pointed at a place that had some gum or something. Frustrated I left and headed back down the highway thinking I would pick up more food somewhere else.
I rode out of this amazing valley and up Buffalo Valley road that parallels the highway and meets up a few miles before Togwotee Pass. As I climbed the last steep section, I saw a young bull moose and then a young grizzly bear walked over little hill as I climbed up. I gave my little bell a ding ding. He or she looked up, saw me and with a look of HOLY CRAP!! A HUMAN!!! ran away as fast as possible. The sun set and I climbed the final steep pitch to a lodge as the dirt road hits the highway. Just as the restaurant closed I got a couple of hamburgers and fries. I was cold and hadn't taken a shower in a week so I decided to crash here. It wasn't very late now-around 10:30 but I could put in a long day tomorrow. I had rode about 140 miles. I grabbed some candy bars from the hotel desk as they had them for sale. As I ate the hamburgers, I checked out a computer they had available. There was Eszter just a few miles down the road at either a lodge or a campground. Darn if I hadn't just paid for the motel I would've kept going! I found out later she stayed next to some cowboys' camper scared a bear would get her. Good thing she didn't know that I saw a bear just around the corner....

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tour Divide 2012, Day 5 and 6. It doesn't hurt so much if you pedal like a duck.

Day 5.  It doesn't hurt so much if you pedal like a duck.

Adam and I had camped beside the narrow road and we didn't get up super early. My ankles had started to ache the day before from all the hiking in the snow and the running down the muddy road when my brakes went out. This morning they really started to hurt. My right Achilles tendon was very stiff and it took quite a while before it "loosened" up. My left ankle hurt at the front left side and the Achilles was sore but not as bad as the right. As I got up, I told Adam that I would meet up with him in Lincoln. He was pedaling fast and I didn't want to be a baby... As I pedaled, my ankles slowly began to hurt on the outsides. Both ankles' pain seemed to be increasing with the pain moving in a counter clockwise fashion.

After experimenting, I noticed that if I stuck out my knees like a duck and pushed on the outer sides of my feet the pain in the outer sides of my ankles wasn't quite as bad. I tried holding my ankles at different extensions to see if my Achilles would mellow out. I had a lot of climbing which irritated my ankles. Rough roads also caused them to hurt more. I had no choice but to slow down and try to make it over all the passes we had in store. Also you can see in the video below that my face, especially around my eyes had swelled in the night along with my lower legs. I didn't know if it was my diet, exertion or ? that was causing it but hoping it would go away. It did subside about halfway through Montana.

This section of Montana really was challenging with pass after pass. Luckily there wasn't any snow to walk through--just a little on Huckleberry Pass that was avoidable. I pulled into Lincoln after Huckleberry Pass and saw Adam. He just bought a bad gas station burrito. I decided to get some real food and let my ankles relax across the street. I don't know what the deal is in Montana but there are casinos everywhere. This place said casino but they actually served food. While they were making my omelet and pancakes, I ran down to the little store and bought a bunch of food.
Breakfast in Lincoln-Blue Dot in map above

I ate way too much and left town with a full belly which isn't easy to ride with. My neck also started to get sore in its normal spot as we climbed the next climb but luckily that seemed to go away and not come back. I put my head down as I began to climb Stemple Pass. Unfortunately I didn't look at the map closely enough or my GPS and missed the turn to the steeper, rougher pass that we were supposed to go up. After a few miles of steep climbing, I looked at the GPS, cursed loudly and turned around and rode back down to the correct road. That is the Tour Divide rider's worst fear--taking a wrong turn and putting in unwanted miles-especially extra climbing!
This "road" was very steep and seemed to go on forever. Finally the road descended turning steep and rocky. My camera , mounted on my aerobars on a particular rough section, flipped off bouncing down through the rock scratching the housing lens and the bolt to hold in on was lost. I would now have to carry the camera in my pocket without a case. Not good for me or the camera. So after this, I don't have many pictures :(
At the bottom I was having a hard time motivating and felt very tired so I stopped and put my feet up on a fence and take a 15min power nap.
As I traveled on the back roads along the continental divide, I saw more and more old homesteads slowly decaying back to earth as I went. I couldn't help but think who used to live here, if they lived there and eventually moved on or they couldn't make it and left. Sometimes there was a cemetery next to a group of houses.
I climbed the next pass and there was Eddie Clark photographing the race. Priest pass came next after not much climbing. Mercifully the road was a fast downhill to highway 12 which was also a coast to Helena. My first Blue dot stalker found me here. A kid in a car drove by and yelled out the window that they were watching the race and that we were doing awesome. I don't know if he drove out there just to see me or not but... It was warm in Helena and I instantly began to look for a good place for food. I stopped at a coffee shack and got a smoothie (She gave me a little extra in another cup) and an iced americano.  I rode holding three cups into downtown. I asked around and found a burrito place downtown. It reminded me of the Teocalli Tamale in Crested Butte. I would later try to convince Eszter to open one in Gunnison so I could eat burritos close to home but I don't think she was hip on the idea. I hung out far too long and started talking to a guy that used to live in CB for a couple of years. He missed it sorely. He had also seen Shifferly all bandaged up and saying he was dropping out. He apparently never got his back brake fixed and had crashed coming down Priest Pass. Team Gunnison/Crested Butte was down to two. I actually found out later that Josh got his bike working but succumbed to his injuries in Steamboat. 
I called Anne to see how they were all doing. I had passed most everyone except Eszter and the other the guys that were farther ahead and they would be hard to catch. Josh was out probably, Eric Lobeck from Steamboat bailed from sore Achilles I found out. Eszter was my little rabbit and now I started to try and catch her. She is sneaky, however, and frightfully hard to catch. She doesn't stop long and was riding long days. I finally got ready to go and a huge storm came over the mountains so I laid down in an adjoining building and put my feet up on the wall.
After the storm passed, I left town climbing up the next pass. However, after a few miles I began to feel lethargic like my blood sugar was dropping. I checked it and sure enough it was. This would happen more than once. If I actually ate a meal and took some fast acting insulin and then rode, the insulin would be absorbed too fast. I ate some food and rode slowly. It seemed that my blood sugar wouldn't go up so I ate more. Finally after 30 or 40 minutes, it was back up where I could go faster. The road dropped and then climbed again up to a nice lake and campground. I, of course, completely missed the main road and rode into the campground for a mile or so. DOPE! Two wrong turns in a day. It was starting to get dark as I continued to climb. It was noticeable now that the sun was setting sooner than a few days earlier. We were going south! In Banff, the sun set at 10:30pm. Now it was around 9:30pm.
The route turned onto a just plain crappy ATV track. Wet, rocky, rooty. And it was now dark and my lights just weren't working well. I suffered through this and about 3/4 of the way to a real road a stick flipped up into my derailleur. It made the classic sound and feel of a possible bent hanger. Sure enough my chain started skipping and if in my big cog, it would slip off into my spokes (to remove it I had to remove the back wheel and pull as hard as I could to get the chain out.) OK just had to finesse it through. Don't pedal too hard and break the chain. Don't shift into the easy gear and break a spoke from the chain falling off. It couldn't get worse....then it started to rain. I hit a wet road and promptly turned the wrong way. I turned around and got going down toward the very small town of Basin in the rain.  I finally just got too tired to go anymore and found a few nice big trees that would shelter me some from the rain. I set up my little tarp over my bivy. I woke up the next morning with a nice puddle on one side of the tarp but otherwise dry. I estimated I rode around 130 mi this day with a lot of climbing and very sore ankles.

Day 6. That's Levi's Brother, Ya Know! Or Drunk cowboys saying, "Look at you, you are in such freakin'good shape."

The day started with very sore ankles and a wet camp. I was again having a hard time getting up and going early. I quickly hit Basin and soon after I saw some tracks coming out of some trees. Eszter! I figured she had left early but how early? The road parallels the freeway and climbs slightly with a steep climb. There was also some head wind. Normally this section would be no big deal but my ankles were really bothering me and the wet sandy roads sucked the energy out of me. I finally hit the steep downhill on the freeway to Butte. I came into town and stopped at the Outdoorsman bike shop, home of Levi's brother. They asked what I need to get fixed. I being half out of it said, "errrr ehhhh hmmmm doesn't shift". I failed to say I need a hose to clean it off, the brakes rub terribly, and I think I bent my derailleur hanger and the front derailleur doesn't shift down. Levi's brother starting going on about how we needed to keep our bikes clean and that the handlebar bag was pushing too much on my cables and I heard "drive side up when laying the bike down" a few times. I just stared blankly. I left to get some tape for my ankles, food and mail my GoPro and some clothing that was proving worthless home. I came back and sure enough the other mechanic got the derailleur hanger straightened out. The mechanic was a retired AP chemistry teacher with pre-type 2 diabetes and was doing a ride to Alaska to benefit diabetes. I asked Levi's brother when Eszter came in and he said a long time ago. Hmm I got there at 10:30am. I wonder when they opened. They had a computer so I checked where everyone was. I also checked on the possible serial killer Chris from the Mad city that we had picked up on the side of the road in the rainstorm to see if any racers went missing in his general vicinity--none had.
I met Guenther Glettler from Ragnitz, Austria doing the TD. My parents actually helped him out in Canada as they drove back. He had to bail as his girlfriend was in an accident. He gave me some great European pain killers. He said, "They are good" like he meant it in his Germanic accent and you can't argue with that. I had ran out of my vitamin I so I took the whole box. He also had food that I split with Kurt and Caroline on the tandem team who showed up later. Kurt helped me tape my Achilles. The Outdoorsman was great--just joking around about Levi's brother, Rob. I also met Levi's mom. I spent way too much time here leaving at 2:00pm, OUCH. I left and, of course, the road climbed immediately.
In Tour Divide lore, Fleecer Ridge ahead of me was discussed often. You climb a very steep climb and then turn down Fleecer Ridge. It is a really steep section that goes straight downhill. I didn't crash but almost felt as if I might go over the handle bars a few times as it was so steep. I hit the main road and some houses. Someone had their front door open cooking bacon. Don't they know this is Grizzly country or even worse Tour Divide country. It smelled so good I nearly had to go steal some grizzly style. I soon hit the town of Wise River and I ate at the cafe with a guy touring to Idaho. Once again I spent way too much time here as well. I bought some candy bars from the bar next door and went out to my bike. A drunk local cowboy type followed me out. He wanted to check out my bike and ask how I got in such good shape--nothing like walking around in bike shorts constantly! He kept saying something like, "You are in such good shape. Look at you. How do you get so fit?" I was getting a little worried that this might be some sort of "Broke Back Mountain" thing (not that there's anything wrong with that) but he was just very adamant that I was so fit and couldn't believe that we were riding so far. So I left hoping I was wasn't being followed on the empty road and started up the next paved pass towards Polaris. The sun began to drop and so did I. I neared the top of the pass at around 11pm and bonked hard. Not wanting to descend in the cold and this state I just grabbed my bivy, sleeping bag and a candy bar and went to sleep.... Even with so much time taken off I still rode around 120 mi. I actually purposely rode a slower to give my ankles a rest. They did feel much better with Guenther's meds and the athletic tape going up the back of my calves. Next stop Wyoming!

Tune in next time when, Jarral says, "If you go fast enough, you can't feel the bumps." Will he catch the elusive Eszter? Will his ankles give out?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Tour Divide 2012, Day 3/4 Back to Canada and back south. Day 3 and 4

Day 3. Did your kids cry when you left?

When we last left our hero, Serge the Canadian from Fernie had left (with most of the other contenders) at 3 am. I was losing my marbles thinking that this race was a bit screwed. So I got up in the morning, packed up and went out the door to the highway and tried to catch a ride to Fernie that I had heard was a lot like Crested Butte. Good ski area and a lot of mountain biking. So after not too long, I got a ride from a guy from Fernie and sure enough he knew a bike shop was open. He even called on the way and let them know I was coming. The border crossing was not as fast as the last two times. I was called in and interrogated for quite a while as to where I lived, what I was doing, etc, etc. I guess you look suspicious if you come through often. After about another hour, we arrived in Fernie and I put my bike on the rack and a great mechanic got right on it. I went over to one of two coffee shops and had some coffee, breakfast burrito and read the paper. After about an hour, I went back and the bike was nearly done. The brake pistons freshly lubed, new pads, new oil and a rotor. Another guy came in that had caught a ride from Corbin, the coal mine where I was yesterday, and his bike died. I didn't envy what he had in front of him.
Hitchhiking (OK I still had to cross the road but a bunch of cars were coming...)
The same guy offered to take me back and I offered to buy his gas. We got back to the border and sure enough we were "randomly" picked to be searched. We saw many Tour Divide riders coming through including the three Italians that had helped me notice my SPOT tracker coming off.
The truck we were riding in didn't have much in it and the border guard was mystified by my bike packs but it took a while. He didn't find my stash luckily (JOKING) and after an excruciating delay I was at the motel where I fished a half of a Subway sandwich that I forgot out of the maid's trash as she just cleaned my fridge where I forgot it. It was close to 1:30pm. Not bad considering. I now had a functioning bike. The only issue was the mechanic had set the brakes really close together so I had to deal with rubbing brake pads for most of the rest of the tour.....  I have to give a huge THANK YOU to the generosity and helpfulness of the people of Fernie which really is a cool ski/bike town!!

On the road again!

Day 3 Map

Day 3 and 4 elevation profile.

The road up Whitefish Divide out of Eureka was a beautiful paved road. I passed many TD riders like they were standing still and even a mother turkey with some chicks.
A picture someone took and put on the TD website.
It eventually turned to dirt and then to avalanche debris. The avalanche run outs were steep but short. I quickly made it over these on the steep slopes and narrow road. This area apparently also has a plethora of grizzly bears. I rang my little bike bell on all blind corners. Ding Ding. Ding Ding.

I cruised along at a fast clip thinking of all time I had blown. I passed more people and then David Goldberg. David is one of those Tour Divide legends. Shifferly had talked about him a bunch and we had had dinner with him the night before the race in Banff. He looks like he belongs in a Rockie movie. His house was close to a huge fire in Fort Collins and his shoes were new due to a problem with his old buckles so he didn't know if he could go on. I looked after the race and it looked like he had finished. Nice! We then began to climb up to Red Meadow Lake. I hit snow and the top is a long flat road that was covered by snow and then I hiked down the other side and low and behold a truck from Texas stuck. What were they thinking? I had just hiked many miles through deep snow....
What were they thinking?
Finally the road cleared out and it was a cruiser to Whitefish. Along the way my GPS route disappeared and I couldn't get the file to load. I really didn't want to follow the maps as it would be slower with more risk of wrong turns and take more brain power especially in the night. I needed a computer bad to download the file again. I finally saw a roadie along Whitefish lake coming into Whitefish. I jumped on the peddles and rode with him and his friend for a while. I asked if there were any coffee shops or the like with public computers on Sunday nights...... Not likely but..... He said no but I could just use his computer. We talked and it turned out he used to race with a friend of mine from Gunnison who started Mt Flyer Magazine. He even lived just a couple of blocks off of the route. His wife made me a green smoothie. So good. I hadn't eaten green things in a while. He made me an espresso.  She gave me some left over black beans and rice. Brilliant. His daughter was very curious about me and we talked about my boy that was her age and my girl that was her brother's age. She asked if they cried when I left. Her parents were a bit embarrassed and changed the subject quickly. I didn't say that they didn't. They knew I would come back. Anne, on the other hand, had cried. Quite a few times.
We talked about why I was doing the ride, to promote living with diabetes for children and adults, and the mom said, "Are you the diabetic guy doing the race? My coworker was reading an interview." She said something that sounded an awful lot like my letter of intent that I sent in but it could have been Tony Cervati who was going to try the race again maybe but he usually writes differently that that. 
They offered me a bed and shower but I declined saying that I had to get on the road so I could see the kids sooner (and it was against the rules). I did want to get on the road to make up time.

Some great people in Whitefish
I rode down the road a ways and noticed at a store that I had dropped my sunglasses and money in their front yard. So that was a big waste of time as I had to retrieve them. I got my money and the store was closed so I had to go to another down the road and off route in Columbia Falls. Rookie mistakes! I finally got going again and around 2:30am I found an old school house and slept on the porch. Sweet. The day was short but I ended up putting in around 125 mi.

Day 4. 

Day 4 Map
I woke up very early and hit the road. The day started off with smooth roads with some light rain. Then a pretty good climb up a hill by Swan Lake.

Finally I pulled up to Holland Lake. There was a lodge here and I decided to take a break and get a burger. Very nice lake and lodge. I do remember not thinking clearly from my lack of sleep and giving the guy a terrible tip for the burger. Sorry!

The road climbs steeply and eventually we run into what else but snow. The snow fields were gnarly as there was a bit of a cliff and steep slope you had to traverse. Then a very steep descent to the lower grade road. This pass finally pushed me over the edge and my ankles began to really hurt the next day. Adam Jensen from Missoula caught me here. He also had a mechanical and had to fix it in Whitefish. He was funny and it was nice to talk to someone. He was a dentist that worked pulling teeth of homeless guys. I told him I almost didn't bring a toothbrush due to weight and he almost flipped out. "That's the worse thing you could do! Eating candy bars all day and then not brushing!!" We also discussed that every muscle in our legs was sore and if you touched your leg it hurt. We rode past Seeley Lake turn off and through Ovando as it was all closed up. We ended up camping close to the bottom of Huckleberry Pass just before Lincoln MT. I rode about 155 miles. Too bad Day 2 and 3 were so short....
Stay tuned! Will they make it out of Montana? Will they Survive the wicked ground squirrels of Wyoming?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tour Divide Out of Banff into the Wild.

Some Background

The Tour Divide. 

If you want to just read my ride details scroll down......

What is it? 

The Tour Divide is a self supported* time trial from Banff Canada to the border with Mexico at Antelope Wells. It is 2745mi assuming you don't make wrong turns or go into town looking for pizza. There are so many climbs it boggles your mind. It is mainly dirt roads of varying quality with maybe 10-15 miles of single track trails and maybe 300 miles of pavement connectors.
You can go south as most people do now or go north. You can go anytime you want. Most people start on the second Friday of June. This gives everyone the same (similar?) weather and long days. I like this option personally. Most everyone now wears a SPOT tracker that allows spectators on the internet to track their favorite riders and place bets accordingly. You ride as long as you can, eat when you can, and sleep when you can-there are no set stopping points or rest days like a grand road bike tour.

*You have to carry all you will need, buy it along the way or mail supplies to a post office. Simple right?

Das Routen Ya!

What is it really?

I think the Tour Divide is really a test of yourself. Not only how well you can ride a bike day after day for absurdly long distances each day, but how well mentally prepared you are. How can you handle a sudden catastrophe**? How well can you stand riding by yourself with no one to interact with day after day for absurdly long distances each day. The following song was stuck in my head for quite a while for example. I was having a hard time remembering how many women were involved and if they added up to seven. Maybe my own wheels drove me crazy.....

How good are you at defecating in the woods? When it's below freezing? How good are you at eating just about anything and a lot of it? Can you sleep in the woods? How about when it is raining? Below freezing? Can you wash your bike shorts in random locations such as a stream or bathroom and put them on day after day? How about not taking your socks off for a couple of weeks because your ankles have swollen too much to take them off?

How good are you at getting a blood sample from a finger prick and testing it on your meter at all hours in all conditions? How good are you at estimating how much insulin you should give yourself before you go to sleep so that you will wake up in the morning. How good are you at eating enough to cover the insulin you took? How good are you at keeping your insulin and meter at the correct temperatures?***

There is so much more than the the 2745mi and 200,000' of climbing so commonly used to describe the race.

**rain storm, snow storm, mechanical problems big/small, mud that impedes movement, snow, icy rivers, wild animals, rednecks, getting to a "town" to find the only store closed or that there is no store, running out of food and or water, reservation dogs, casita dogs, not getting a cup of joe, getting to Pie Town and getting no pie, heat, cold, physical problems (saddle sores, sore knees, achilles tendons, neck, sunburn, etc..)

***OK maybe these don't apply to you. Maybe they do?

The Film Crew

Kyan and his friends filmed at the end and beginning of the race. I carried a GoPro camera but after it fell off my bike, the lens on the case was scratched and the batteries were drained it wasn't useful (sorry Kyan!) and was mailed home. They arranged to have me filmed as I rode down the the road by the Tetons and in Del Norte with as much interaction as I had with other photographers such as Eddie Clark, who I saw several times. This kind of filming was very frustrating for the team. But like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states the more you know what a rider is doing the less he is part of an individual challenge. We'll see how it comes out... He also interviewed everyone he met along the way.

Riding the Tour Divide with Diabetes

As I must have written before, my pancreas has stopped making insulin. When you eat food, it is eventually broken down into glucose, one of many simple sugars. Insulin is the key that lets the glucose into my body's cells from the blood. Once in the cell, the mitochondria can produce energy for me to do things like ride my bike.
If I don't take insulin or not enough for the amount of food I eat, sugar builds up in my blood and can't get into my cells. This makes me feel tired and generally not good if it is high for a long time. If I don't take insulin, the glucose actually is a poison to my body so my kidneys try to expel it with great amounts of water. Then I get thirsty and have to pee constantly. These are classic symptoms of diabetes. If this isn't treated well for extended periods, it causes poor circulation in places with small blood vessels. This causes neuropathy (painful sensations or a loss of feeling). The poor circulation causes you to lose toes, feet or legs. You can go blind from your small blood vessels in you eyes becoming damaged. You can lose the ability to make whoopie (at least for guys).
If I take insulin and don't eat enough to balance it or I exercise to soon after taking the insulin and my food hasn't had a chance to digest, it "forces" the sugar in my blood into the cells. This leaves little for things like the brain. I can then have a hard time thinking or I just will feel very weak. Most athletes have "bonked." This is what has happened. Their sugar levels in the blood have dropped leaving them deleted. In the extreme cases, you can lose consciousness and not wake up at all, which is never a good thing.
So how do I do an event like this? The first thing is to do many shorter events and test my self and see how I react. Then I can have a baseline of what might happen most of the time. Your body never reacts the same all the time so you have to expect variables. After trial and error when I am pushing myself at a moderate to difficult pace, I can use long acting Lantus insulin to cover food I eat (small amounts every hour). Other riders would eat about 200-250 calories an hour. I did this also. Sometimes this doesn't work. For example if the riding is easier I may be taking in more calories than I need so I have to take more insulin or eat less. Other times later in the race I ate more than I should just because I was getting hungrier and the insulin wasn't enough to cover it. Exercise greatly increases the ease in which the insulin can get the sugar into my cells so I also don't need to take as much insulin.
I didn't want to have too low of sugar in my blood, especially at night, so I would take less Lantus at night and supplement it with more in the morning. I would take Humulog, fast acting insulin, with meals or if my sugar was high.

Common misconceptions. 

  1. Type 1 diabetes is caused by eating a lot of sugar; I didn't like sweets much as a kid.
  2. I can't eat sugar; I can eat it. I ate a lot of it on the race. I just have to increase my insulin for every calorie I take in or ride harder.
  3. I can cure my diabetes with diet, herbs, crystals, etc; There isn't a cure (yet).
  4. I need insulin to increase the sugar in my blood; Read above.

The Ride Day 1

The 102 or so riders left the YWCA in Banff and headed for the trail head at 8 am. Banff is really a cool town but full of tourists from all over the world many with loads of money and many with no money. Many of these people couldn't survive a day without a motel and tour bus. So as soon as we hit the trail, you go from a Disneyland to a wild wilderness in a mere minute or two. I was a the back of the pack and soon easily rode past most of the pack. Then my SPOT fell off and was hanging by my safety tether. Three Italian guys let me know by saying "Spot, spot, and pointing." I don't think they understood any English. So much of the pack, including Eszter, passed me again. I yelled encouragement, "Olay" "GO GO!!" We only had 2745 miles to go.... I caught back up and Eszter said something about me being "very funny." I loved the variability of this pack. One guy on a Surly fat tire winter bike, the Italian couple that had been polishing their bikes, and all the different set ups people had. There were some younger and some older riders.

The trail had some good climbs as we left Banff. I soon had left most of the pack and was riding by myself seeing an occasional rider. This country is just killer. The mountains are very rugged and jut up steeply from the valley floors. I came around a corner and I heard a huge splash as a moose jumped across a small pond right next to the road. Something to get the heart pumping as I climbed a steep hill soon after. The moose seemingly stalking me up the hill in the trees. Hitting Kananaskis country you ride a bike path in a campground with awesome views that would be a great place to take the family.
Elevation profile days 1 and 2.
Day 1
Along Spray Lake

Along Smith Dorrien Spray road

I passed the store here without stopping. I had lots of food. Then we turned and began climbing Elk pass. This quickly turned to hiking in snow. Shortly into the hike, I caught Josh Shifferly who was hiking with Serge from Fernie and Kurt Sandiforth. As we reached the top of the climb, it began to rain. We hiked down the other side and finally could ride on the wet road in the rain. A fine mud, most likely glacial flour, began to coat the bikes and everything.
Elk pass where you could ride for a minute-Brake pad killing mud!
The rain lasted for quite a while until we dropped in elevation toward Elkford at 109mi. At this point I was riding with Josh and we were thinking, if this rain continues we may have to stop and get warmed up. Luckily it did stop and we were able to get dried out a little. We stopped in Elkford and got some food at a small pizza joint. We continued onto Sparwood and then up the road to the coal mining town of Corbin. We got there around 10 pm and a train was very slowly moving across the road to fill with coal. There was a sign down the road with a detour around the train but we had ridden around 160 mi and we weren't sure if this would constitute an "off route" detour. At the train was Steamboat native Eric Lobeck. We decided to go camp in some trees on the side of the road. We had everything almost set up and we saw some lights coming up the road. It was Eszter. "Hey Eszter, we're camping down here!" we yelled and she joined us. We went to sleep with the sounds of a slow moving train banging along and visions of grizzlies.....

Day 2.
I heard Eszter's bear bells jingling early in the morning as she tried to sneak ahead of us. She is smart and has a crazy ability to ride a bike all day. Tough. Gotta watch out for her! I yelled at the top of my lungs, "She's trying to sneak ahead of us! Wake up!!!" OK I thought it...... We all got up. I was moving a little slower and my blood sugar was a little low at 50 something. Nothing to worry about  but I needed some time to get full energy. I had some granola that Anne had made in my pack. It was getting wet but I ate a bunch and some bars (candy or energy I don't remember). Everyone else left and I got going after another 20 minutes.

Day 2 Map
The road went past an old town that people may still live in sometimes maybe and quickly began to climb and was soon covered with snow. This road looked to have extensive snowmobile traffic in the winter so it was packed well and therefore didn't melt fast. I quickly caught Eszter and Josh. We later caught Serge who had camped on the other side of the tracks. As we finally reached the top we hiked down the other side and then through icy streams and finally we got to rideable road. It was wet with huge puddles.
Eszter Horanyi heading up Flathead Pass

We had some clear roads with large, medium and small puddles to try to go around.

We hiked through snow over Cabin pass and finally to a turn-off for a single track connector to the Galton pass. At this point my front brake pads gave out. I slowly with my frozen hands got out a spare pare of pads. And very slowly got my allen wrench out. It took a while to get the new pads in with fingers that I could barely move or feel. All the small parts of the brakes were very hard to hold. I noticed that one pad that I had taken out was completely gone and the other was only halfway gone. The mud from  the day before had caused my hydraulic pistons to become jammed and move asymmetrically. I tried to adjust the gap in the pads to it wouldn't rub so much and my brake cable pops off of my SRAM XO brakes and oil comes out everywhere. I quickly put it back together but to no avail. No front brakes. Note to self: if you have to ride with brakes that are rubbing badly, don't mess with the adjustment. Oh yeah it's raining/snowing the whole time and my feet have been frozen all day. I still had back brakes so life was good. So I headed up the single track connector. It was so wet it was more like a muddy slog and then climb up a steep muddy embankment. Finally I hit the pass and began to hike in more snow for several miles.

Is this a ski trip? The top of Galton Pass with 7 in of pow pow. 
As I descended the pass, you could actually ride/ski in the fresh powder in spots. Finally I hit the clear road and it became very steep down to the highway and the border. It was snowing all of this time. All of a sudden my back brake completely compresses and I hear screeching and smell smoke like a semi coming down Monarch Pass. Oh CRAP! Once again my pistons are asymmetrical. One pad is almost completely gone, disappeared. The other still OK. My rotor significantly scraped up. I took it apart and no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get the pistons to spread back apart. It was a very steep road and no way to coast down. I tried all the methods you did when you were kid with feet on the the tires... Just to wet and steep. The good news was that it stopped snowing. The bad news was it began raining.
Hmmmm. So what else to do? Hike or run the 6-7 miles down? I began doing both. Not good in SIDI bike shoes. I  would stop every now and then and try to spread my pads. Nothing doing! After running/walking for some time, Josh and Eszter came by. Josh says, "I only have front brakes! The Flathead kicked my ass!" Eszter just looked straight ahead and rode by. I could tell she was in a bad place.

I finally made it to the highway. I was able to ride here as there weren't  many big hills without a run out. I got to the border and had to run in to the grass on the sides to stop. It was still raining. I pulled up under the shelter where they check you out. The patrol agent looked at me like he didn't want anything to do with me. I slowly pulled out my passport with frozen fingers and handed it to him. He took between the tips of his index finger and thumb like it was a dead rat and quickly gave it back and let me through. I would be back and it wouldn't be this easy. I rode the rest 12 miles or so to Eureka MT in the rain and the motel/gas/Subway. I ran into Josh who said he and Eszter were sharing a room and Serge and I could pair up. I found him and took a long shower and tried to dry out my clothes. It was a short day. Only a little over a hundred miles and it was still light out. Most everyone stayed at the motel other than the eventual first and second place finishers. Impressive to head out in that weather.
Serge seemed like a pro. He had gotten a hair dryer and showed me how to use a towel to wring out water from my clothes. I guess he rides in the rain a lot so he knows...
I started to freak out. Both brakes unworkable. Tomorrow was Sunday. According to the rules you couldn't go forward on the route to Whitefish and as far as I could tell there weren't any bike shops open on Sunday. So what else could I do? I had crazy dreams and saw Serge leaving at 3am. I woke to and the only option I had - to hitchhike to Fernie. Serge had said it was a huge mountain biking mecca and there were tons of people around from there taking pictures of riders and cheering him on and writing his name on the roads so maybe I could get a ride.... Tune in next time to find out!