I distinctly remember when the Tour Divide idea was first hatched 14 months ago. Matthew Lee had emailed me asking if I was planning on lining up in 2011 and I briefly contemplated whether I could swing both a Tour Divide and Colorado Trail Race in one summer. Rationality quickly took over, but plans for a 2012 Tour Divide were solidified. As of today, I am 14 days out from the start.
Whenever the subject of the race comes up, the inevitable question is: Are you ready?
Such a loaded question, I’m still not sure how to answer it. How could one possibly be ready for 2,751 miles of racing, that is unless you’re Matthew Lee and you’ve ridden the route countless times and know every sleeping spot, water spigot, and placed to get a warm meal. But seeing that I’m not, I’ve been busy preparing myself for the blind run the best I can.
From a training standpoint, I feel like I’ve done all the ‘work’ that can be done to be ready for this thing. I’m feeling fairly confident that the only way I can screw up my fitness between now and the start is by contracting a viral case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) which runs rampant in the Gunnison Valley and showing up to the start line tired. But I’m going to keep washing my hands on a regular basis and keep reminding myself that I have all summer to do all the rides that I’m itching to do around here.
So instead of riding all the singletrack that has opened up months ahead of time around here, I swallowed whatever pride I had and put aerobars on my bike. I have to say, there is nothing more humiliating, especially in this valley, than riding down a dirt road, or even the highway, on a mountain bike with aerobars. Every time a car passed me on a ride, I hoped it wouldn’t be someone I knew. But in picking the brains of those who’ve come before me, apparently aerobars are crucial, so I’ve embraced my former inner time trialist and hope that no one is laughing at me…too much. To get used to the bike setup, I’ve done a handful of long ‘anti-shred’ rides with my bike fully loaded to make sure that gear doesn’t rattle off. These rides have, all in all, been fairly enjoyable and I’ve developed some faith in my ability to ride long straight roads without completely losing my mind.
By doing rides fully loaded, it forces me to have my gear picked out ahead of time, something that I’m not historically well known for. While my gear list was 90% finalized weeks ago, it still takes time and effort to put it together for I generally don’t have a baggie with spare derailleur and brake cables, chainring bolts, cleat bolts, zip ties, Velcro straps, etc. all put together and while it’s quick and easy to do in theory, there’s always a piece or two missing. It also forces me to think about my organization, another not-so-strong point of mine (unless I’m filling out an application for a job interview, in which case I’m very organized, detail oriented, and a self-starter). In the past, I’ve been able to shove 80% of my gear and food on my bike and then have my easily accessible gear (rain jacket, tools, a bit of water, etc) in a pack. But with very little hike-a-bike on the Divide, I only want to have weight on my back for the water-scarce sections of the Great Basin in Wyoming and the sun scorched desert of New Mexico. So that means that my daily water and clothing that I want to be able to take on and off during the day need to find a home on my bike. This is easier said than done.
When I first started thinking about my Tour Divide gear list, I brushed it off as simple: I’d take what I’d take on the Colorado Trail with some heavier rain gear. But then the devil snuck into the details. With something short(er) like the Colorado Trail Race, it’s easy to look at the weather forecast and make clothing decisions. In a race that stretches across more climate zones than I can count, I feel like I need to be ready for anything from days of solid rain to scorching desert heat. I’ve spent hours agonizing over what second pair of gloves to bring, my neoprene ones that will keep my hands warm in a downpour with mild-ish temperatures, or my warmer gloves that will keep my digits warm down into the 30’s. Or should I bring both, in addition to my daytime mountain bike gloves? Leg warmers or knee warmers? One pair of chamois or two? Gritting my teeth and making it through five days of racing is one thing, three weeks is an entirely different beast.
I guess in the end, if I don’t have something, I probably won’t really need it. I won’t be comfortable or well rested after the first eight hours regardless, so maybe all this pondering, stressing, and second guessing is all moot. I’d like to think that as long as I have the basic gear, a bike with two wheels that rolls, then really what this race will come down to will be the ability to keep on rolling. As Eddie Clark said after following the race from behind a camera lens: It’s not a race of seconds, it’s a race of attrition. My guess is that while I’m spread out under the clear (hopefully) Wyoming sky in the middle of the Great Basin looking at the stars a final time before passing out, I’ll laugh at the fact that I’ve spent a significant amount of time pondering if I should take my Buff or an actual hat.
Am I ready? Sure. Something’s going to happen.