|Antelope Wells or bust! Knocked the bastard off!|
The Tour Divide was a tremendous experience. The race itself was around 4500km with a 2 year buildup and some serious distance to cover to get to the start line. I completed the journey from Alexandra, NZ to Antelope Wells via the Continental Divide series of mapped roads and trails. I have the picture in front of the border stone to prove it!
For what it's worth I finished 8th. In a race where there are no official placings and there is such a range of attitudes to what the race is really all about or if it's even really a race at all to many - placings don't mean that much. If I'm honest though, I'm chuffed!
I set out with the same goal most Novices to this event have - I just wanted to finish it. I didn't want my body, my bike or my spirit to break. I did not want to get lost - or eaten! I just wanted to survive.
I went with a couple of other aspirations. I committed to racing 2014 after fellow Kiwi Ollie Whalley won back in 2012. As a start point I looked at the time of the 10th placed competitor and set out with the belief that 20 days was achievable given similar conditions. It gave me a start point anyway!
I have done a smattering of longer distance races. There have been a few 12hours as well as taking part in the 3 bike packing events we currently have on offer in NZ - Le Petite Brevet, The Kiwi Brevet and the Great Southern Brevet. the first is a hill-fest overnighter of somewhere around 250-300k. The second two are 11 or 1200k brevets both in the South Island of NZ. The Great Southern Brevet passes through my home town of Alexandra. The local area also provides me with many options for small group and solo bikepacking excursions.
As a Trainer I spend a lot of time exercising. Time to ride long is always hard to find but time to cross-train for me is part of my normal day!
I was confident that I had my bike, body and gear choices dialled in. Hell, there are always fitter people, and lighter bikes and setups but that's no replacement for hard won experience:-)
I was most interested in seeing what would happen to my body and particularly my spirit as the days wore on. I had never gone longer than 5 or 6 nights prior to the TD. the first one I did resulted in saddle sores and blisters on my heels that meant I could not be comfortable standing or sitting down!
I was particularly interested to see if I could sustain a sense of urgency for what I estimated to be around 20 days. This was my primary goal and I'm pleased to say that I did what it took to acheive this. It was the most defining part of my experience on the divide and I will strive to relay this as I recall my experiences in this blog.
Was it life changing? Hell - I don't know but the experiences were raw, powerful and intensely personal. I laughed, cried and occasionally did both at the same time. I lived in the moment on the divide and that is a powerful thing.