Friday 1 July 2011

Post Race Thoughts.

I've just finished writing up my race and posting my photos. I may even post up a full gear list at some point.

It's 10 days since I dropped out and the people I was racing with are just now starting to reach the Mexican border. I'm thrilled they made it, sad I didn't. Still feeling my sore right knee and having twinges from both achilles.

It's bugging me that I had to quit, I rode 1040 miles. I wanted to ride a lot more than that.
I've never quit a race before...

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Day 11 - all done at $20

I made it to Jackson, WY. Teton Pass was the finisher, my left achilles isn't supposed to make noises when I move it.
Currently in Fort Collins, CO after skipping through the rest of WY in some newfangled invention called a motorcar which allows the occupants to travel hundreds of miles in hours not days!

Full recap with photos and video of the 5 states and 1000+ miles I did manage when I make it home.

Post Race Recap
Driggs ID to Fort Collins CO - 504 miles (44 on my bike)

There was a bike path running from Driggs to Victor, nice and smooth, pretty much zero gradient. I was doing about 12mph. I should have been doing about 18mph.

I was determined to make it out of Idaho.

Three and a half hours after leaving Driggs I made the top of the pass. I'd walked a lot of it, mostly on tip toes because of my achilles. I was struggling but I made it over the pass.

After a few miles of 10% grades on the way up, I had the same to enjoy on the way down. Overtaking a big truck while I was doing nearly 50mph with a strong side wind was...err interesting.

I reached the town of Wilson and collapsed onto the grass outside the bagel shop to consider my options. I'd been popping aleve and icing when I could but it wasn't working. I'd never had achilles problems before and the fact I could feel and hear my left achilles when I moved my foot concerned me. I didn't want to risk serious injury which would stop me racing or stop me riding once I made it home. With the Basin coming up and no working Spot satellite tracker, I didn't want to get stranded and require rescue. I decided it was time to withdraw from the race and rescue myself.

After some food at the bagel shop and the use of their wifi to book a hire car I turned off route and headed towards Jackson Hole airport to collect my car. I chose the dirt road option to the airport as it seemed more appropriate to end that way than taking the highway. Plus I finally got to take in some of the Tetons.

Some buffalo too.

I collected my car at the airport, it was probably over a year since I'd last driven. 7 and a half hours later I got out of that Toyota in Fort Collins my dream of reaching NM gone, but happy with the decision I'd made.

Sunday 19 June 2011

Day 10 - Tetons...

...or lack there of.
They've been covered with clouds all day so no good view of them. I'm currently sheltering from what I hope is a passing shower in Tetonia.

Edit: currently eating in Driggs, trying to decide whether our not to go over Teton Pass today or tomorrow.

Post Race Recap
Big Springs to Driggs ID - 78 miles.

My knees and both achilles weren't happy the next morning. The left achilles wasn't moving smoothly at all.

Straight out of Big Springs the route joined a rail trail. Rail trails can be tarmac, gravel or just dirt. Any of those would have been nice. This one was 40 miles of rutted volcanic soil. This meant you had to stand and pedal the whole way to Marysville, where again the route was on a snow detour. At that point normally it turned East on Ashton-Flagg Ranch Rd and crossed the Tetons to their Eastern side. But lingering heavy snow on that pass and two others before Pinedale meant extensive re-routes were in use and the route stayed West of the Tetons before crossing Teton Pass.

The descent to Warm River was the highlight of the day.

I'd wanted to see the Tetons for several years. The best views are traditionally on their Eastern side where I wasn't going. Now I was stuck on a rutted rail trail. It didn't improve much on the other side of Marysville, more rail trail which was only really used for snowmobiles in the winter, so lots of sections required standing pedalling. I bumped into a few riders during the day, but pedalled along on my own.

Coming past what was marked on the map as the town of Felt, I think I hit my highest heart rate ever on a bicycle. Two dogs off in the distance took an interest to me as I got close to pass them. I've been chased by dogs before the TD, I'd been chased by dogs on the TD. But the one dog which I think was a Boxer was one mean SOB and it let me know in all possible terms it didn't want me there. I shifted into a high gear and made all haste to not be there. My gps track seems to show I doubled my speed to 22mph for a quarter mile at that point, it felt faster with that dog bearing down on me.

The Tetons seemed to be hiding from me. It didn't matter than the route narratives said I should be seeing them, cloud and rain seemed to be blocking my views.

I reached Tetonia and while checking the map the heavens opened. I took shelter and the photo posted at the top. I still had snacks and water so once the rain eased I moved on towards Driggs.

A pizzeria in Driggs had my name all over it. I rested up weary legged with my left achilles letting me know what it thought about the ride.

I just didn't want to ride the 30 miles over the 8400ft pass.

Day 9 - Idahooooooooooooo

Montana is done, it didn't play nice though. 5 hours of rain to see me across the border through Red Rock Pass. So much rain I couldn't even get the camera out for the border crossing.
A tough 11 hour day, annoying to not even have y'all able to watch my blue dot wind it's way.
I did snap a photo earlier in the day to show just how desolate the valley that I did 60 miles in was. (home to the red rock national wildlife refuge)
I'm currently near Big Springs ID, optimistically hoping for Jackson, WY tomorrow. All this rain might ruin that plan though.

Post Race Recap
Lima MT to Big Springs ID - 86miles

86 hard fought miles they were too. It was a long and desolate valley riding East from Lima. The photo below shows the kind of view I had to look at for about 8 hours. As I narrated in the small video I shot at the same time as the photo, no trees, no cows to talk to, just a powerline in the middle of no where and a "raggedy ass dirt road".

In the morning there were dark clouds all around me, I got hit by the odd quick shower, no sustained rain though. That changed as I got to the Eastern end of the valley, past the Red Rock Lakes. The rain started and the wind picked up strong enough to move me about on the road when it gusted. Coming from the South it was great to have the tail wind for the two shortest miles of the day, before I turned into it again and began the climb towards the pass. Some long slow miserable miles got me to the top, but it was raining so hard I just couldn't stop to take a photo.

Some slightly easier miles on tarmac followed before the route turned off onto forest road 455. It looked flooded and muddy as soon as I turned onto it, dirt roads don't react well to downpours when they're already surrounded by waterlogged ground. At the time I cursed the fact I'd had to turn off a tarmac road which would have taken me to the same place. I wound my way along the dirt road which was almost a stream in places. But heading along some sections I was actually enjoying the riding, particulary the descent. I might have been riding in rain for the previous 5 hours, but it was a fun road to be on after the monotony of the road I'd been on all day. I reached HWY 20 and started looking for a motel and food. I had no desire to camp in the rain if I could avoid it.

Then as I stood very soggy outside the only restaurant I discovered the racers from two days previous from Polaris were inside. I joined their table and ordered. The waitress trying to convince me that the two meals I wanted was a lot of food...ha! I think I'd eaten the spaggetti and meatballs before she'd even walked away from the table.

The petrol station had a well stocked store and cabins for rent, so stocked up on snacks for the next day, food for breakfast and a Ben and Jerrys for my desert I settled into my very cosy cabin for the night. The heat cranked up and all my gear spread about to dry.

Friday 17 June 2011

Day 8 - cont

Made it to Lima.

New satellite tracker got sent to Steamboat, will be a few days before I catch up with it :(

Post Race Recap
Polaris to Lima MT - 101 Miles

Leaving after breakfast the other riders who had stayed at the Grasshopper Inn were out ahead of me, but I was riding on my own again. Thankfully the early morning rain didn't turn the roads to slop so I was able to make progress at my new reduced pace. Not much to look at, just a 25 mile climb to the top of Sheep Creek Divide. Pausing in the afternoon to take photos at the Old Bannack Road sign.

After cresting the divide it put me into another valley with mountains to the side and in front of me. I couldn't work out how the route made its escape. But then I slowly wound my way into a narrow pretty canyon, made over thousands of years by Big Sheep Creek.

I rolled into Lima around 7:30 and decided that I'd done enough riding for the day. The motel was fully booked so I paid for a camping spot and went to investigate the nearby Jens Cafe for something to eat. Running into Bob Anderson while I was there. A big fat steak later and I retired back to the campsite. I pitched up next to two cyclists touring the Divide, Bob decided to camp there too.

Being completely shattered I'd bought some sleeping pills from the petrol station. I don't normally take any medication and normally avoid painkillers. Now I had the choice of Aleve to help the knees and achilles or the sleeping pills.

A campsite next to an Interstate doesn't work too well.
I also had to get up several times in the night to pee.
The sleeping pills didn't seem to work.

Bob, if you ever read this I'm sorry if I disturbed your sleep. You were gone in the morning so I never got the chance to apologise.

Day 8

I think my tracker is dead so I'll have to see what the rental company does.

For those watching my blue dot, today I'm trying to get from Polaris MT, to Lima. It's raining, the roads are clay based and impassable when wet.

Could be in for a long day.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Day 7 - lost the groove

The problem with the long good days is you get into the town late and struggle to find good food.
Didn't manage to eat properly last night, the food disagreed with me,slept badly, then my food this morning just wasn't working. A climb which should have taken 3 ish hours was a 5 1/2 hour battle against my body, sub-freezing temperatures and snow at the high altitude.
I called it a day and checked into an inn. My spot tracker is playing up so I've not been on top of that mountain since last night.

Post Race Recap

After a rough night I left Wise River riding with Lance. After not enough sleep or food it didn't take long before he'd dropped me. The climb took forever. Several times I considered snoozing at the side of the road. I just didn't have any energy and my food I did have wasn't working to give me any. All I wanted to do was sleep.

I eventually crested the climb and started to descend towards Polaris. First I tried stopping at Elkhorn Hot Springs, hoping to get food and a room. When that didn't work out I continued downhill and thankfully found the Grasshopper Inn. I ate lunch, and tried to sleep. Late afternoon, early evening a group of riders caught up among them JP Evans, Ray Porter, Martin Wimpenny.

Day 6 - back in the groove

Knees felt good today, lots of big climbs including a decent from over 7800ft after sunset.
Hoping the legs feel as good tomorrow.

Post Race Recap
Helena to Wise River MT - 123 miles

I rolled out of Helena at 4:30AM, feeling good again after left over pizza for breakfast and some sleep. Lights blinking as I made my way up Grizzly Gulch Dr in the dark. The plan was to make it through 4 big climbs, the last being Fleecer Ridge with it's steep descent through the sage brush waiting on the other side.

The first climb wasn't too bad, the second heading towards the ghost town of Comet was like climbing a wall for the last mile of the ascent. The photo doesn't even show the steep section..

Ghost mining town of Comet.

I was rolling along nicely and decided to skip stopping in Basin and head straight through to Butte. While stopped for a quick change in clothing layers I was caught by Lance Griffin and Vance McMurry. I'd bumped into them a couple of times in the previous days but now we rode into Butte together.
Vance heads into "Tunnel Number 9" between Basin and Butte.

My plan was for a quick bike service at the Outdoorsman and some lunch. The Outdoorsman goes out of its way to help TD racers, run by Rob Leipheimer, brother of pro-cyclist Levi, he personally made my drivetrain look like new and offered to help with anything that the racers passing through might need.

I grabbed lunch with Lance and Vance, headed back to the bike shop to collect my bike and decided to get back down to things with two more climbs to do. The first was a small 7320ft continental divide crossing.

The next was up to 7800ft to make it over Fleecer Ridge. As I approached the mountain it was 6:30PM, meaning roughly 3 hours to get up and over.

2 hours later in the fading daylight I still wasn't at the summit of my climb.

30 minutes later I was up over the top and looking down the steep descent. Not wanting to damage myself or bike with a silly crash I'll admit I walked most of the steep slope.

I rolled into Wise River after 10PM, a tiny town with just a mercantile, bar/motel. The bar was closed but luckily I ran into some locals who said I might be able to get the barmaids attention if I banged on the window. I did and she graciously made me some sandwiches and booked me into a room for the night. Lance appearing sometime later too.

I hardly slept. The sandwich made my stomach churn all night.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Day 5 - eurgh

My bad right knee has been bothering me for a couple of days, then breakfast this morning seemed to steal my get up and go. So by the time I reached Helena I decided to make it a short day and hope some rest lets me catch back up with the group I've been racing with. A tough ask so we'll see.
Better to get the rest and get the swelling down so I can continue riding.

Post Race Recap
Lincoln to Helena MT - 60 miles

I'd hardly been sleeping the first few nights and the night in Lincoln was no exception. I also didn't eat enough with that late arrival into town. Breakfast was a breakfast burrito from the petrol station eaten when riding got underway.

It disagreed with me.

I had no energy on the pedals and quickly lost touch with Derek. Most people are out there riding their own race pace, but it had been good to have someone so evenly matched. We'd back and forth through the day on the climbs and descents, but now he was gone up the road. As it turns out I wouldn't catch him again, despite a big effort the next day to catch up with the group.

I laboured up to the summit of Stemple Pass and was very happy to see a toilet block basically in the middle of no where. I said goodbye to the burrito.

After enjoying the view...

...I then had a very nice descent, before the next climb.

With some cows for company.

Before dropping out onto the road for a few miles into Helena.

I rolled through town fried just looking for somewhere to eat. In the end I think I ate at the bar and grill adjoining the Holiday Inn. I don't think my 5 day essence was appreciated out on the patio. I did enjoy the two big entrees I ate though.

I decided to make it a short day, eat lots and to get some sleep. With a plan of leaving early the next day to try and make up some lost ground. I basically stuffed my face, iced my knees/achilles and finally got a few hours sleep.

Day 4 - wading through the floods

With beer at the end of it

Post Race Recap
Swan Lake MT to Lincoln MT - 142 miles.

The full Richmond Peak traverse had been dropped because of snow, but the shorter version still had plenty of the traditional carry your bike over downed trees.

I was riding back and forth with Derek B still, but stopped to snap a photo of one of the warning signs. I'd been passing them for quite a while. I heard noises off to my right in the woods and could see Derek up ahead stopping and moving to the right. He'd found the bear trap with carcass hanging inside and was stopping to take a photo. As I rode passed quickly I advised him about the noise. The planned stop for a Hostess Cherry Pie was delayed until the trap was some distance behind.

Not sure exactly where Devon took this one, appears to be somewhere North of Seeley with the signpost in the background pointing to Clearwater Lake:

But this one was in Seeley Lake trying to post my snowshoes back home. After help in boxing and taping at the outdoor/autoparts store I headed to the post office only to find it had closed at 4PM while I ate a very late lunch. I headed back tot he autoparts store and gave the man who had helped the me the very expensive set of snowshoes that by then I just wanted rid of.

I think somewhere South of Seeley Lake towards Ovando.

Arriving late in Ovando the mercantile was closed. But a warning sign on the door for Tour Divide riders advised of a re-route to the re-route because of flooding on the Ovando/Helmville road. It said to head out of town but turn on Dry Creek Rd towards the highway. GPS showed no Dry Creek Rd, just a Dry Gulch Rd. But the Mayor of Ovando was outside the Mercantile and assured the small group of riders that we'd find Dry Creek Rd just outside of town. I set off riding with Dan Simas, Caroline Soong and Derek Bentley. We never did find Dry Creek Rd, as it was Dry Gulch we should have been looking for, but the four of us had a great time riding through the flooded sections instead of the extended ride down HWY 200.

The day finished with 16miles on HWY 200 into Lincoln at 10PM. My legs felt great and I basically time trialled the road. My GPS track shows me averaging 17mph for that uphill 16 miles.

Food was just about obtained at a local bar (photo up top) with some kind hospitality again shown by the locals. With a nearby motel providing rest for the night. Unfortunately this is where things started to unravel for me race wise.

Sunday 12 June 2011

Day 3

Post Race Recap
Dickey Lake MT to Swan Lake, MT and the Laughing Horse Lodge - 112 miles.

After riding for most of the previous days afternoon with Derek B, today was spent trudging through the snow with him and Caroline S. Bumping into Jake K and Dejay B repeatedly again (who both seemed to continually go off course logging free bonus miles). Before finally ending up at the Laughing Horse Lodge. Derek took some convincing about the 5 mile detour at the end of the day. But oh my word was it worth it.

The day began with a climb of a few miles before hitting the snow. This was amusing at first. A chance to use the snow shoes which had been a last minute purchase for me. I'd never been snow shoeing before.

The novelty wore off after a while. 5 1/2+hours later I hated snow shoeing and just wanted a chance to pedal my bike again.

Finally clearing the snow gave a good view and finally a chance to descend down to Whitefish for some lunch.

While doing about 30mph I hopped over a water bar. Upon landing I watched my camera case eject from my aerobars into the foliage at the side of the road. I skidded to a halt trying to gauge where it had gone into the bushes. After a quick 5 minute search I then began a more methodical grid search. The only problem was, the edge of the road dropped into a steep ravine with a fast flowing stream at the bottom. I slowly worked side to side and down the face of the bank. Occasionally a rider would come by and seeing an abandoned bike at the side of the road would worry and shout asking if I was okay.

20 minutes later I finally found the camera, still in its case, just a couple of feet from the fast flowing stream, 20 feet below the road, eek.

I caught up for a BBQ lunch in Whitefish with the usual suspects of Derek, Caroline, Dejay and Jake (there may have been others, apologies if so).

Crossing the Flathead River in Columbia Falls. So close to bursting its bank, glad to not be riding near it upstream in the Flathead Valley.

Derek, probably somewhere between Columbia Falls and Swan River, where the shops were closed when we arrived. Being late on a Sunday and in the middle of no where has its disadvantages.

A plan was hatched to ride fast to Ferndale, hoping the store was still open for resupply, clear the second big climb of the day then head off route to Swan River with hopes of food and board.

The diversion off to Swan River added on a few miles, I was riding with just Derek at this point. He had reluctantly agreed to the off course mileage. We rolled into Swan River, late on a Sunday things weren't looking good. But then checking against services outlined on the map and checking with a local we found the Laughing Horse Lodge. Rolling up to the front the restaurant was closed. I'd phoned earlier in the day but the answerphone message just stated rooms were available for the previous day. A chalkboard of rooms said to head around back and check yourself in. Around into a courtyard of small cabins and then we heard a voice.
"Cabin 7 for the two beds"
"Would you like some food?"
"How about a beer?"
Kathleen, our newly found host then cooked us both a fantastic dinner, plied us with beer and promised a hearty breakfast in the morning. I can't recommend them enough.

Saturday 11 June 2011

Day 2 - wet, wet, wet

Currently eating in Eureka

Post Race Recap
Elkford, BC to Dickey Lake in MT - 140 miles.

Unfortunately due to the huge amounts of snow in the Flathead River Valley we would be missing out on that part of the ride. Instead of turning toward the mountains at Fernie we would be doing the road alternative..eugh.

~110 miles after waking up I was at the American border, the crossing being the buildings on the left. It had been raining hard for a while at this point with some concerning moments when pedaling out in the open with lightning dropping within half a mile of me when I was the tallest object. Annoyingly the waterproof trousers aggravated my right knee, which has long term damage to it.

Over the border and into Eureka for some food. Rumours spread among the riders that the roads above Stryker held a 5hour+ snow hike. After food in Eureka, pushing on for a few hours towards Dickey Lake would put me close to the rumoured snow hike up above Stryker.

I don't think I've slept in many worse places, but at least it was dry and lockable so no bear concerns. Caroline and Derek took the other two, others rolling in later that evening camped nearby.