Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Ask Better Questions

No one drifts to their desired destination. The process of creating a meaningful life requires two things: intention; and focused energy applied in the direction of our intention, otherwise known as focused attention.

How do we get started in determining our intention? Sometimes it helps to ask better questions. What do I mean by “better” questions? In moments when we become aware that we’re adrift in our own life, it’s tempting to ask unhelpful questions, like “Why is this happening to me?” Or “What’s wrong with me?” Or “Why is so-and-so doing so well, but I can’t seem to get ahead?” Or “Why do I even exist?”

At times like that, it can be helpful to shift our focus to different kinds of questions: questions that help us evaluate where we are, where we want to go, and how to get from here to there.

Ready? Here’s a sample.

How do I show up in life? Do people light up when I enter a room? Or when I leave it? How aware am I of the way I engage with others? With the way I speak? Behave? If the way I do things is as important as the things I do, how am I doing? Am I even aware that the way I show up in life - in relation to other people and in relation to myself - is a choice? Do I need to shift the way I show up? What are small things I can do to that end?

Am I moving forward in my life & purpose? Am I connecting & contributing? Am I living out my role as a creative contributor? Or am I merely existing as a consumer? Isolated in escapism? Am I engaging my life? Or am I trying to escape it? Do I need to shift? How can I shift from escapism to engagement?

Am I stuck? Am I coasting? Am I cycling in stasis, repeating patterns from the past? Am I hoping things will get better? Or am I making them better? What actions am I taking to produce the results I want? Am I willing to make the leap if it means moving towards my goals?

How do I approach my problems? With doom & gloom? With paralyzing anxiety? With resignation that they’ll never get better? Or with a sense of optimism that my thoughts, words and actions can make a difference?

What does an optimally functional & effective life look like? How about marriage? Vocation? Spiritual life? Relationships with friends & extended family? On a scale of 1-10, how “optimally functional & effective” would I rate all these areas? How can I move the needle in these areas of my life? In all areas of my life?

Where do I actively focus my attention? Where do I passively allow my attention to drift? If our neurology is shaped and built in response to the way we focus our attention, what kind of brain am I building?

What about inputs & influences? What books am I reading? Who am I surrounding myself with? If we become the books we read and the people we associate with, who am I becoming? Do I need to cut ties with anyone? Do I need to seek out wise counsel or better friends? Do I need to read better books?

When it comes down to it, the way we show up in life is a choice: we can make the leap, put in the work, take the actions necessary to move our lives forward, and live life in crescendo, knowing that the best is yet to come; or we can play it safe, assume the role of the victim, stay stuck in past patterns, and drift into entropy, resigning ourselves to the “fact” that the best days of our lives are behind us.

The choice is ours.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

I'm Under The Bus And I Can't Get Up

When it comes to initiating positive change in our own lives, why do things get hard?

Often when we’re trying to make positive changes in our life, there comes a point when we get stuck. We have a plan, we know the steps, we know what we're supposed to do. We start strong, we're on track for a day, a week, a month... but somewhere along the way we lose focus, we lose sight of the big picture, we start to drift.

Has this happened to you? It's certainly happened to me. Why is this?

Now, we could be talking about any kind of change: professional development, financial or relational changes, spiritual or personal development, education- whatever. For the sake of this discussion we'll keep it in the realm of physical health - 'cause that's how I help people - making changes to our health by attaining and maintaining a healthy weight. We start strong, but at some point we get stuck and it feels like were banging our head against a wall. We wake up with good intentions, but by mid afternoon the mojo is gone and the coffee in the break room just ain’t gonna cut it, so we go for the next best thing, which might be our coworkers bagel or a slice of pumpkin roll that our cubicle mate's better half made because "it’s the holidays!" Then, about a minute after the last bite goes down the hatch, we come to our senses and go "Whyyyy? I had such good intentions! Why do I end up under the bus every day at 3 PM?"

Been there? Yep, me too.

So what’s missing?

A lot of times what’s missing is a set of clearly defined goals. But more than that, what’s missing is the reason(s) behind those goals, the "why" behind the "what."

What does this mean?

I'll use myself as an example. If I say I want to lose weight, that’s OK but it’s not very clear - it denotes direction but not a destination. So I refine it, say I want to lose 40 pounds. OK, better, but now ask why: Why do I want to lose 40 pounds? Because my doctor said I should? My wife said I should? My kids, my friends, my life insurance agent said I should? Man everywhere I go I got people shoulding all over me! And these people may be well intentioned, but they are all external to myself. I know from experience that when the motivating factors are extrinsic - outside myself - it’s not going to work, or at least it’s not going to work for very long.

So what do I do?

I need to get crystal clear on my goals, and my reasons - not someone else’s reasons - my reasons why those goals matter. Once I have my goals, my reasons, and the reasons for those reasons, then executing the plan, following a program, creating positive change, becomes natural expression of my intrinsic motivation.

And there’s a simple way to keep these intrinsic motivations is front and center. Ready for this?

Write it down, and post it somewhere you can see it. "That's it?" That's it.

Let me illustrate. My background is in architecture and construction. At every project, inside every job trailer, the contractor has a plan center, which consists of a rack of drawings, and a table to roll them out and look at them so he can see the big picture, drill down on the details, and check overall progress. During the course of a project, the contractor consults the plans on a regular basis - daily; hourly; minutely if necessary - in order to keep the project on track and on schedule, so that at the end of each phase of the project everybody - the owner, the architect, the contractor - can verify that the project has been created in accordance with the plans.

In contrast, can you imagine a construction project where the Contractor looked at the drawings once at the beginning of the project, then rolled them up and shoved them in the corner, thinking "I got this." Yikes!

For the purposes of personal development, of creating health, creating positive changes in our lives, let’s create a Plan Center. Once we have everything written down - our crystal-clear goals, and our reasons why those goals matter - post them in your Plan Center. Keep it concise - one page, no more: this is what I want, and these are the reasons why I want it. Maybe your Plan Center is your bathroom mirror, maybe it’s a cork board at your office, or the wallpaper on your laptop, or the photo on your smart phone. Maybe you have copies of it in all those places. The key is to keep it someplace you can see it and consult it every day. This is not set-it-and-forget-it, that’s not how people work.




Make it your morning meditation, your mid afternoon mantra. Do whatever you need to do to keep it top of mind. And let it be a living, breathing document, subject to ongoing refinement. As you progress, you're going to learn things you don't know now. That's a good thing, it's called being a human being. Incorporate this stuff into your plan: edit, revise, update, retool, reprint, and repost. Keep it where you can see it.

If you don't... Well, I'm not gonna say that you won't succeed, but I'e been there, and when the "why" is unclear or undefined or it gets hazy, success can be elusive. And when we don't get the results we want, when our goals go unfulfilled, when our hopes and expectations go unmet, it's easy to fall into the thought trap of "oh well, I guess it's not for me."

Believe me, I've spent years there. It's a lie.

Change is possible, lasting, positive change. You just have change the way you think about how you think about it. Which is where I am now.

If you can get your hands around this, if you can anchor your motivation and tie it to your actions, you can achieve whatever you want. Impossible becomes Possible.

If you're trying to initiate positive change in your life with regard to your health, weight, and fitness, if you're interested in any of this and you have questions, if you have goals but you feel like you're stuck in a rut - please reach out! Find me on Facebook (there's a link here somewhere), shoot me a friend request and PM me, or email me at DavidJamesPhillips[at] Let's start a conversation, see if we can awaken your intrinsic motivation, and get you headed toward positive change in your life.


David Phillips

Friday, December 2, 2016

Don't Go Alone

Seems like a lot of times when we set out on our health journey, there’s a certain amount of shame that comes along for the ride. Ever feel that way? I know I have.

I can’t remember how many times I showed up at work, boldly declaring that “Today is Day One!” At first my coworkers applauded my efforts, but after hearing me repeat my proclamation over and over, they eventually went into ‘smile-&-nod’ mode. To me it felt like their smiles were concealing thoughts like “How long will he last this time?” or “I’ll believe it when I see it.” After awhile I stopped making bold proclamations, deciding instead to cover up my struggle and go it alone. I mean, this is America right? Home of the rugged individualist! This’ll totally work! But it didn’t. Instead, I found myself in a state of confused isolation.

In reality, people in our lives probably want to see us succeed, but feel powerless to help or offer encouragement. I mean, weight is a pretty personal thing in our culture, and you don't want to hurt someone’s feelings by saying something inappropriate, right? So they remain politely quiet, but we misinterpret their silence as a kind of judgement. And we soldier on alone.

This is a dangerous place to be. How dangerous?

Did you know that the UN has condemned the use of solitary confinement as a means of punishment? Do you know why? Because they consider it a form of torture. Studies have been done that show that some lasting mental damage can be caused after as little as a few days of social isolation.

Now, if all that is true, why on earth do we tend to isolate ourselves when we’re going through something as challenging as changing the trajectory of our weight, our health, and ultimately our life? Wouldn’t it make more sense to attempt something like this with the support of other people? And what if you could do it with other people who are likeminded, and maybe even going through the same things you’re going through?

It’s made a difference in my life. Knowing that there are people looking out for me makes a difference. Knowing that there are people I’m also looking out for makes a difference. Knowing that we’re all in this thing together? Makes all the difference in the world.

It’s one of the things I love about our program, this emphasis on healthy community. Simply put, we are confronting reality, tackling our individual weight issues, and creating health.

And we’re doing it together.

Are you about to start a new chapter in your story? The part of your story where you confront reality, take on your weight issue, and create health in your life? Are you about to do it alone?

Don't do it! Our healthy community has made a lasting difference in the lives of thousands of people.

And it can make a difference for you too.

Reach out! Email me at DavidJamesPhillips[at], and see if our community is a fit for you.


Monday, July 18, 2016

2016 Tour Divide Recap

"Everyone has a plan 'til they get punched in the mouth." -Mike Tyson

I thought I was ready.

I thought I had trained well. I thought I was well equipped, well provisioned. I thought I had it all planned out, with resupply stops and mileage goals for a 21-day finish all mapped out. 

I thought wrong.


I flew to Calgary where I have family who picked me up at the airport, fed me, put me up, and drove me to Banff the day before the race. They, like myself, are bike nerds, and have every imaginable bike tool in their garage, so it was the perfect place to open the bike box and build the beast. So far so good. I checked into the Y, caught the tail end of Crazy Larry's pre-race Q&A, and caught up with Josh Waters, who had introduced himself at the airport in Phoenix. Quality man. We walked over to Atmosphere to procure bear spray (Pro tip: tell them Crazy Larry sent you - they just might give you a discount.), then headed back to the Y. As I prepared my bike bags and checked my kit, I discovered that my down jacket was missing. I called my wife, who confirmed that my down jacket - which I had purchased for this race - was indeed hanging safely in my closet. Sigh. With the forecast calling for rain and misery, I didn't want to leave Banff without one. What to do?

Day 1 Plan: Banff to Sparwood (+/- mile 140)

Day 1 Reality: Banff to Boulton Creek Trading Post (+/- mile 60). 

Race day, and I still needed a down jacket. So I stood with the crowd for the group photo, rolled out to the trailhead en masse, waited for everyone to go through, then headed back into town. Shops opened at 10:00, so by the time I found a suitable replacement and got my act together, it was 11:00 before I was on course. By that time it was raining, and it continued to rain the whole day. With the late start, I figured I'd only make it to Elkford before dark. However, when I arrived at Boulton Creek Trading Post eight hours later, I couldn't stop shivering, even after a microwave sandwich and a cuppa hot chocolate. Frustrated and freezing, I decided to call it a day, and headed down to the Lower Lakes Campground for the night. (Pro tip: When it starts to rain, bust out the rain gear. I passed a lot of people who waited too long to stop; by the time they put their rain gear on, they were soaked through and at risk of hypothermia. Conversely, when it stops raining, shed the rain gear as soon as you can, before you wet through from the inside.) I pitched my tent in the drizzling rain and crawled into my sleeping bag. Sleep would prove elusive, however. It'd been a while since I'd been honest-to-goodness tent-camping, and I had the hardest time falling asleep. This would prove to be a recurring problem: Most nights, I just lay there with my eyes closed, wishing for sleep that would not come.

In the back of my mind I knew I had fallen well short of my goal - barely half way to Elkfork? Less than half way to Sparwood?! - but I stuffed those thoughts down deep and rationalized my decision to call it a day. I'm managing expectations, I told myself. But I was also faintly aware that I was at risk of setting the tone for the rest of the tour, of settling for lower mileage when things got tough. I stuffed those thoughts too.

Highlight: John, one of the other riders I encountered at Boulton, decided he'd had enough too, and we rode together to the Lower Lakes campground. As we meandered down the drive to the campground, I saw a sign on the right side of the road that explained the campsite registration procedure. Not wanting to stop, I focused on the sign as I zipped past, only vaguely aware of the open field on the opposite side of the road. When I got to the bottom of the drive, John was no longer behind me. Where did he go? A minute later he appeared, coasting down to where I had stopped. "I thought I lost you," I called out. "I was watching the grizzly bear!" he responded. Apparently as I was was focused on the sign, a griz in the field on the opposite side of the road was focused on me. I had no idea. The campground steward came to check on us as we pitched camp, and John asked about the bear. "Don't worry about the bear!" he reassured us. A few minutes later, we heard bear bangers cracking in the distance as the steward ran Mr. Griz off. We had no further run-ins, so I can only assume the steward was successful. And that was as close as I ever came to a bear sighting.

Day 2 Plan: Sparwood to Eureka (+/- mile 260)

Day 2 Reality: Boulton Creek to Sparwood (+/- mile 140)

I woke up soaking wet (it rained through the night), broke camp and hit the trail. Everything was soaked. The day started cold and windy, then warm and sunny, then cold and windy again, sometimes all within a few minutes. I saw no bears, but I did spot a moose (huge animal - no rack, but unmistakable in profile) along the climb to Elk Pass. It took its sweet time eyeing me before lumbering off into the bush, and I thought it best to let it have its way. I stopped in Elkford to resupply and spray the muck off the bike (The owner at FasGas actually drove to the store and brought the hose out of the backroom for me. Talk about service!). I baked in the sunlight on the climb out of Elkford, then froze in the wind on the descent into Sparwood. Even though it was early (not yet 7 p.m. according to Trackleaders), I decided to call it a night at the hotel. I went shopping for resupply, ordered pizza (Funky!), then pitched my tent in the room (it was wet through) and hung up my soggy clothes, hoping everything would be dry by morning.

Wait, Sparwood? By now I'd lost an entire day, but the allure of a warm, dry hotel room, and the prospect of actual food drew me in. Besides, bear country. No matter, I thought- you're just a day off your original plan. Just kick it into gear tomorrow, and make up some distance. Or settle for a 22 day finish. You got this.

Highlight: Around mile 70 there's a BC Forest Service Recreation Site, which includes a cabin with cots and woodstove. First come first served. This place is in the middle of nowhere - except that it's listed on the ACA Canada map and is right on the trail. Well, a local nature lover (Rob was his name) decided to drive to the middle of nowhere for a weekend of solitude. He arrived at the cabin on Thursday June 9th. On Friday, about mid-morning, the Tour Divide peleton started pouring through, many of them stopping to warm up and dry out. Half a dozen riders even crashed his party and camped in (or near) the cabin that night. By the time I stopped at the cabin on Saturday morning to dry out, Rob's patience was wearing thin. He was kind, but you could tell he was not having the peace and quiet he had hoped to find that weekend. Thanks for being a good sport Rob.

Day 3 Plan: Eureka to Bigfork (+/- mile 400)

Day 3 Reality: Sparwood to Wigwam (+/- mile 230)

I woke up to discover that although my tent had aired out, my clothes were not dry. None of them. I took my bundle of damp kit downstairs and asked if I could throw it in the dryer, only to be told that it was against hotel policy. On the way back to the room, I commandeered a luggage cart, hung all my stuff from the top bar, parked the whole mess in front of the heater, and cranked it all the way up. Half an hour later, I could at least get my clothes on. Late start - out the door by 7:15. Easy rolling start with miles of pavement. I broke the headlamp mount off my fork while hoisting my bike over the Jersey barrier to get onto Corbin road. (Pro tip: Bring extra zip-ties! Also, the Google Maps satellite images are out of date and the GPS track is misleading, but I'm guessing there's probably a legit entrance from the highway onto Corbin Road a little further east.) By the time I got to Corbin, TD riders Rick May and Ian Ford had caught up with me. We leap-frogged our way over Flathead pass, taking turns leading down the rocky (!) descent and through the water crossings. (Pro tip: Keep your hubs and bottom bracket out of the water, or risk having to replace your bearings down the road.) By the time I made it to Butts Cabin, Rick and Ian had left me behind. The weather was perfect, and I had a spectacular grind up Cabin Pass, followed by a lively descent down to the Wigwam Recreation Site. Rick and Ian were there already, considering their options - do we stay or do we go? Rick, who had toured the route three times previously, knew what was to come (Wall + Galton), and recommended staying for the night. As the sun appeared to be setting, it was not a hard sell. We pitched camp, and hit the sack.

Corbin Road, on the way to Flathead Pass
By now, I had managed stuffed my expectations so proficiently, I almost couldn't hear them as they badgered me to press on, reminding me that it doesn't actually get dark up here for a couple more hours. Besides, since I had assumed I would be in hotels the first several nights, I failed to pack a rope with which to hang a food bag, and Rick let me double up with his. (Pro tip: bring a rope and bag for your food, and learn how to hang it properly. There were a couple of Euro-tourists at Wigwam who insisted on hanging their food bag right next to their tent - not the way to do it people.) Besides, strength in numbers at the campsite, I rationalized. Besides, fatigue. Stuff stuff stuff.

Highlight: Right after Butts Cabin, I happened on a campground where someone had put a big jug of water next to the road with a sign "welcome riders" or some such. I took it as providence, and refilled my water bladder. Also, when I arrived at Wigwam, Rick was feeding dates to a doe from his hand. It probably doesn't bode well for the deer (domesticated), but it was cool to see up close.

Day 4 Plan: Bigfork to Ovando (+/- mile 530)

Day 4 Reality: Wigwam to Red Meadow Lake (+/- mile 330)

I set off early, and made it to the base of the Wall around 9:00. The Wall has to be bad for Matt Lee's karma this time of year. Seriously, all those curses being called down on him every June? Ouch. I grunted my way slowly and carefully up the muddy, rooty path. No room for error here. I thought of the two riders I passed on Day 1 who were pulling loaded Bob trailers, and prayed that they scratched before they made it this far. Next was on to Galton Pass, which was brutal going up and brutal coming down. No smooth descents in Canada. I thought for sure I was burning my brake pads down to the metal as I picked my way down down the mountain. When I saw the manicured pastures on the valley floor, I almost cried. Pavement! Roosville! Montana! I resupplied at Subway in Eureka, then stopped at the laundromat to dry things out for a few minutes. On to Grave Creek Road and up to Whitefish Divide. I made it to Tuchuck by 7:00-ish, but wanting to make up for lost time (and still no rope for a food bag), I pushed on, hoping at the very least to make Upper Whitefish Lake. I hit the North Fork Flathead River valley just before sunset. The sunlight was streaming horizontally through the trees, dappling the road in front of me. And the aromatic from the trees made the whole valley smell like Christmas cookies. Spectacular. I made the Red Meadow turn just before dark, and started up. By now my right knee was starting to ache, limiting the amount of power I could put down. With a handful of miles left to Red Meadow Pass, I could no longer stay on the bike, and walked the last hour and a half. I arrived at Red Meadow Lake before midnight, discovering half a dozen other riders already set up for the night. Fatigued, I gladly joined them. (Pro tip: Red Meadow Lake has a food locker - no bear bag required - but if you can make Red Meadow Lake, it's just a hop and a skip to the pass, and then it's less than half an hour down to Upper Whitefish Lake. It's not a huge distance, but I wish I'd had a better sense of it that night and pressed on.)

Galton Pass
By now I was realizing that my 21-day plan was completely unrealistic. I had just finished my biggest day on a bike ever - which was still far short of my daily mileage goal - and was completely wiped out. In all honesty, I was going into a mental/emotional tailspin, unable to conceive of a plan or goal other than the ones I had set before I arrived in Banff. I've read advice from others about managing expectations, and thought I had prepared myself mentally for the possibility of losing time here and there. But as my plan started to unravel, I started to have a very difficult time reconciling myself to the truth of my situation: my plan was trashed. Now what?

Highlight: Beautiful weather all day long, all the way up to camp. I learned later that people following as close as the next morning had snow on Whitefish and hail on Red Meadow. Take your good days when you can get 'em!

Day 5 Plan: Ovando to Helena (mile 640)

Day 5 Reality: Red Meadow to Whitefish

Cold morning. It started off clear, but clouded over quick, and before I made the north end of Whitefish Lake it was raining. The pain in my right knee had now escalated from throbbing to stabbing. When you're cold and wet and in pain, it doesn't take long for weariness and panic to come knocking. I was elated to finally make it to Glacier Cyclery, then next door to Loula's, where the Lemon-Stuffed French Toast is sure to turn your morning right side up again. Back at Glacier, I was delighted to run into Josh Waters again, but was heartbroken to learn that he needed to pull the plug on his tour and was heading home. I decided to take a rest day, and booked a hotel. I also needed to replace some of my kit, which was not performing as I'd hoped, so I made the rounds to the local outdoor shops to see what was on offer. Back at the hotel, I ordered pizza from Jersey Boys, and went to bed early.

Red Meadow Lake at dawn
Highlight: The people of Whitefish. No kidding, from the moment I met Vanessa and Tyler at Glacier, through all my shopping at the Toggery, the White Room, and Sportsman - heck, even Safeway - everyone was kind and considerate and willing to refer me to their competitors in town if they didn't have what I needed. First class! Oh, and the Cowgirl Coffee shacks! In Whitefish you're never more than about a hundred paces from high quality caffeine, and the folks that staff the shacks are super.

Day 6 Plan: Helena to Wise River (mile 770)

Day 6 Reality: Whitefish to Swan Lake (mile 420)

By now, I was having misgivings about my knee's ability to hold it together. As such, I decided to do "half days" - roughly 60 miles per day - for the next few days to see if my knee could recover so I could carry on. I got up early to resupply, pick up new kit, and ship old stuff home. By the time I hit the road, it was already 11:00. It was another beautiful day as I made my way east from Whitefish to Columbia Falls, then south toward Swan River. I made it to the Echo Lake Cafe just after closing time at 3:00, but as I sat out front consulting my map and eating cold pizza, the owner stuck her head out the front door and asked if there was anything I needed. I was good on fuel and water, so I used the restroom and headed off. As I climbed up the hill on the west side of Swan Lake, Dave Schreiner caught up with me, and we walked the rest of the way up to the top of the hill, chatting all the way. We bombed the descent, and made the T-intersection at the bottom of the hill around 7:00. I was heading east toward Swan Lake Trading Post, but Dave was determined to make Holland Lake that night, and continued south. I made Swan Lake Trading Post and Campground where I inquired about the tent sites. As Joe the proprietor showed me around, he looked up and said "Ya know, it's supposed to rain tonight. C'mere." He led me around to the far side of the pond where they had three 2-man yurts set up. Upgrade! Sure enough, sometime after midnight, it started to rain. So nice to sleep dry.

Highlight: Between Whitefish and Columbia Falls, I had the chance to pedal alongside Dieter Borsutzky. We had actually crossed paths briefly on the connector between Elkford and Sparwood, and talked about where our journeys had taken us since then. Then he said to me "To my mind, there are two ways to do this kind of thing. Either you push-push-push as hard as you can, and need to take rest days to try to recover; or you soft-pedal and just, you know, keep going." Sage advice. I wish I had taken it.

Day 7 Plan: Wise River to Lima (mile 910)

Day 7 Reality: Swan Lake to Holland Lake Lodge (mile 480)

Rain. Joe made me a hearty egg & cheese breakfast sandwich (McSwan!) at the Trading Post before I set out. The segment from Swan Lake to Holland Lake looks deceptively easy on the ACA profiles, but in reality it seems like you're always climbing. By now, not only the knee was in pain, but also my left ankle, presumably from all the hike-a-bike. (Pro tip: Incorporate jogging/hiking/trail running into your training regimen. You'll be pushing your bike up hills more than you ever thought possible.) The rain stopped with a few miles to go, but between the pain and the wet and the mud and the cold, weariness was creeping in and thoughts of despair were at the door. I checked into the Holland Lake Lodge and called my wife. Knowing how much I'd done to prepare for this (and how much she'd sacrificed so I could chase this dream), she checked and double-checked (and triple-checked) with me to make sure my mind was made up - I was done. I know you're not supposed to quit at night, you're supposed to sleep on it and all that, but with my legs betraying me, I didn't feel it prudent to continue on to Richmond Peak and the high country that lay beyond. Downstairs I discovered that Dave Schreiner was still at the Lodge, so we had dinner together with another NoBo tourist named Chris. It was delightful. (Pro tip: Don't quit at night. Sleep on it. Then, take it a step further - get up the next morning, pack your bike as if you're going to press on, and take one more step. If after all that you decide to pull the plug, then do it. But not before.)

Highlight: Finding Dave Schreiner still at the Lodge lifted my spirit. Good company, good man.

Day 8 Plan: Lima to- seriously, why bother

Day 8 Reality: Scratched at Holland Lake Lodge

Holland Lake
I had an early breakfast at the Lodge bar with Dave Schreiner, then headed out to the lawn by the lake to snap some photos of him before he headed off to take on Richmond Peak. Back inside the Lodge, a couple who had overheard Dave and I at breakfast offered to drive me to Missoula (highlight!). In town I was too early to check into my hotel, so I rode my bike to the UPS Store, where it took me the better part of an hour to knock down my trusty steed and stuff it into a bike box.

And that was that.

So what happened?

How in the world did I fall so far short of my goals, and end up so wracked at the end of it?  I've mulled this over again and again, played "coulda, shoulda, woulda" over and over. There are a bunch of things I did poorly - major gaps in my training program, fuel and hydration management, and personal care (i.e. saddle sore prevention) among them - but I think the biggest thing for me was lack of experience. Early this year, I consulted a coach who reviewed the training plan I had assembled on my own. Coach suggested that the 10-hour, 12-hour, and 14-hour rides I had planned late in my training program were excessive. "Training isn't racing" Coach said, indicating that such long rides would over-stress the body, making adequate recovery difficult or impossible in the midst of heavy training. I think that for a seasoned racer, this is probably good advice, since the seasoned racer already has a deep well of experience to draw from when the going gets tough. However, for me - not a seasoned racer - those long training rides were more for developing the mental grit necessary to carry on when fatigue sets in. If I could do it over...

There were also kit failures that detracted from the ride. First, the ultralight backpack I started with was simply too light; I replaced it with an Osprey hydration pack with plenty of room for gear and food. Next, the Ibex merino Shak Classic mid-layer, once wet, would NOT dry out in a timely manner; I replaced it with a Patagonia R1 hoodie. Last, gloves! The DeFeet Charcoal ET wool gloves coupled with the Aerostitch Triple Digit waterproof/breathable shells did not work, as they wetted out within an hour of the onset of rain on Day 1. I replaced them with neoprene rafting gloves from Sportsman in Whitefish. The wetsuit gloves work - kinda. When the pace picks up and the gloves are wet inside and out, airflow across the outside of the gloves sucks the heat out of your fingers through the neoprene. Better than what I started with, but I am still in search of an adequate cold/wet glove solution. (One of the guys at Sportsman suggested keeping the wool liner + waterproof/breathable shell combo, but adding a waterproof glove, such as a dishwashing or surgical glove, next to the skin. Apparently this is something that mountaineers will do to prevent wetting out from the inside, which - if the shell is doing its job - is likely what was compromising my wool insulation layer. I was never brave enough to actually try this out, but it sounds promising, if a little counter-intuitive.) If you have a glove solution that works for you, post it in the comments. I'd love to hear it.

What went right?

On the upside, there were things that performed as well as - or better than - I'd hoped.  My customized Salsa Fargo was a champ; the Gevenalle GX shifters worked perfectly through training and on the trail; custom wheels (Velocity Blunt 35 rims; Hadely rear hub; Schmidt SON 28 15 front hub; 36 spoke 3-cross build by Peter White Cycles) have been bomb-proof over 5,000 miles of riding and racing, and Specialized Fast Trak tires roll fast over any kind of terrain. The Schmidt Edelux II light is adequate for road surfaces (though it does not illuminate overhead obstacles, low-hanging branches, etc.), and works with the SON hub down to walking pace. Handy for hiking uphill in the dark. Much of my kit was by Ground Effect, and almost without exception it exceeded expectations. Custom orthotics by the Sole Man AZ were awesome. Scott Abbey made it possible for me to ride more than 30 miles without searing pain in my left foot. Feet are no longer an issue for me. The Gore over-socks I borrowed from my friend Steve were a last-minute lifesaver. Coupled with DeFeet Woolie Boolie socks, my feet may have been damp from time to time, but they were never cold. My sleep system worked exactly as I needed it to: Tarptent Moment DW, Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Mat, and Zpacks 20 degree bag. The tent is not the smallest/lightest available, but with two stakes and one pole, it's super-simple to set up in the dark after a long day in the saddle. Relevate Designs handlebar harness and Terrapin holster coupled with Sea to Summit eVac dry sacks proved to be a great combination. I heard about lots of folks having GPS issues, but my Garmin eTrex 30x turned on and did its thing faithfully every day. My Sinewave Revolution and Limefuel Blast (previous generation) cache battery worked well, powering my iPhone and my GPS. And even though my ride didn't end the way I had hoped, at the end of the day I'm in the best shape of my life, and able to continue training for the next adventure.

Lessons learned

I picked this up at the airport
in Missoula. I highly
recommend it.
The Tour Divide is a tough teacher. I'm still learning lessons from my time out there. Set realistic goals and ride a realistic pace. Dieter's words about pacing still echo, and while I still think it's important to set goals, those goals should be anchored in your actual riding experience, whether that experience comes during racing or training. Ask yourself which is more important: finishing the course, or riding beyond your experience in order to put down a "competitive" time at the risk of possible injury? It was naive of me to think that my daily race mileage goals could be so much higher than my actual riding experience. That's the big lesson, but there are many others. Diversify your training. Run. Hike. Train for hike-a-bike. You'll be doing a lot of it. And practice everything. Practice until you don't have to think about it. Practice fueling and hydration. Be disciplined about it. Everything - body, soul, spirit - deteriorates when you're low on food or water. By the time you're hungry or thirsty, you're already behind. Know how your filtration and/or purification systems work. Know how to unwrap a Clif bar while riding the bike. Practice self-care of your nethers (read: saddle sore prevention), and be disciplined about that too. Practice setting up camp, then practice breaking down. It took me an embarrassingly long time to break camp in the mornings. Practice sleeping outside. For real. You're taxing your body more and getting less rest than you're used to, so you'd better be able to get some solid sleep in the few hours you have each night. Take supplements to help you sleep if you need to. Bring antibiotics to fend off opportunistic infections. Lots of riders scratched this year due to chest colds and the like. Above all, manage your expectations. Things will not go the way you think they will. And all that time on the turbo-trainer does nothing to prepare you for when things go sideways. Sometimes the toughest gap to bridge is the gap between expectations and reality. The better you get at bridging that gap, the more likely you are to succeed.

Take lots of pictures. Shoot lots of videos. Introduce yourself to others. Ask people's names. Don't be shy. Take pictures of them. Take pictures with them. It's astonishing how the brief encounters I had with people on the trail are the most vivid highlights of my trip. But the memories, the passes and the people, start to fade quick. Those pictures and videos will help to crystalize them for you. And know that no matter how quick or slow you go, whether you go the distance or pull the plug early like I did, it's going to go by way too soon. You did all the planning and training - for a year or more! - and suddenly it's over and you're back at home, watching dots on Trackleaders, typing up a ride report, and wondering how it's all over so quick. Savor every minute, no matter what that minute brings you.

Will I attempt the Tour Divide again? Yes, I think I will, for a few reasons. First, it would be a shame to have learned as much as I have and not get out there and try it again. Second, it gives me a broader goal to shoot for with regard to my overall health and fitness. I like that. (Plus, it gives me a somewhat legitimate excuse to obsess about bikes, which I've always loved.) Last of all is a lesson I learned at the Wall. When I posted the photo of the Wall on Facebook, I noted that "Things like the Wall are just thrown in to spice things up. I may forget which mountain pass is which, but I will never forget the Wall." In a broader sense, adventures like this, should we choose to pursue them, afford us opportunities to add something unique to our lives. When I'm 80, I won't care (or likely remember) the time I spent in an office or mowing my lawn. I will never forget the Tour Divide.

By the way, Dieter Borsutzky arrived at Antelope Wells earlier this evening. Chapeau, sir.

Check out more photos from my journey here.



Friday, June 3, 2016

From Dream to Reality

One week.

In one week, I'll be in Banff, Alberta, lining up to race the 2016 Tour Divide.

All the training is behind me now.  My last long ride was last weekend.  My last weight training session was Wednesday.  My last threshold workout on the trainer was yesterday.

The last of the shopping is done.  I made my last trip to my LBS yesterday (brake pads and tire sealant), and when I got home, UPS had delivered my last last-minute purchases (a replacement Craft ultralight mesh vest and a Veleau tube).

All that's left is to tear the bike down, replace all the worn parts, check my pack list, squeeze everything into a box, and show up at the airport.

"After" photo by John Schilling. Thanks John!
To say I'm distracted is an understatement.

And yet there was a time when none of this would have been remotely possible.

I've been dreaming about the Tour Divide since I read about it in 2008, but as recently as 2012 I was so out of shape that I got winded riding the short loop at McDowell Mountain Park.  It's three miles, and I had to stop three times because I thought my lungs were going to explode.  I was also seriously overweight, with a BMI teetering on obesity.  Tour Divide was little more than a pipe dream.

Then my wife clued me in to Take Shape For Life - she's a TSFL Certified Health Coach - and I started to get serious about getting the weight back into a healthy range.  Over time I worked on my overall fitness, until voilá - I was finally in a place physically, mentally, and emotionally, where I could seriously think about doing this thing.

Now I'm a health coach too.  Together, my wife and I help others pursue optimal health, so they can turn their dreams into reality.  Maybe ultra-endurance cycling isn't your thing, but whatever it is you dream about - whatever is on your "wouldn't it be cool if I could do that..." list - we can help.

It's never too late to be what you might have been.  -George Eliot

It's true.  I'm living proof.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Last Hurdle

Today I went and had my knee checked out by Dr. Michael Lee in Phoenix.  My knee does this clicking thing, and I wanted to be sure there wasn't structural damage in the joint before I try to ride my bike 2,700+ miles.  Dr. Lee was recommended by several people, so I scheduled an appointment.

The med tech shot some x-rays, and I was ushered into an exam room with posters displaying what can only be described as exploded views of various joints in the human body.  I stared at the knee poster for about 40 minutes, wondering which of the ligaments was dragging across which of the bones to produce the clicking sensation.  Is it the iliotibial band?  The fibular cruciate ligament?  The tibial tuberosity?  Who the heck is naming these body parts anyway?

Dr. Lee came in.  Very upbeat.  He said that from the x-rays, my knees look great.  Then he examined the knee, bending it every which way, squeezing and pinching, to see if there were any pain points.  None.  He said there was some minor inflammation, but that at this point he wouldn't even recommend an injection.  "Just take some anti-inflammatories with you."  Vitamin I (ibuprofen) and I are friends already, so I had no objections.

So- Thumbs up!  Green light!  All systems go!

That was the last possible thing that may have stopped me from boarding the plane to Calgary next week.  All that's left now is to get my hair cut, pack my bike in a box, and hitch a ride to the airport.

See y'all in Banff!


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tour Divide Tracker is Live!

The Tour Divide tracking map is live!  Check it out (and preview the course) at

Race day is still two weeks out, so not a lot of action out there yet.  In the days leading up to the Grand Depart, you'll start to see little blue & pink dots populate the map, converging on Banff, Alberta, Canada.  I'll be in the mix (look for DP), starting in Banff and racing southbound (sobo in TD parlance).  There will also be a smaller number of dots converging on the south end of the route - those represent the racers who are racing northbound (nobo).

You'll likely see other dot colors as the race progresses.  Yellow dots are for those challenging the course purely as an individual time trial (ITT), which means they're racing, but they're not participating in the Grand Depart on June 10.  You'll see yellow dots on the map all summer long. White dots are for those who choose to tour rather than race the route.  Has to do with pacing.  Want to stop and smell the flowers, and check social media at every available hot spot?  You're probably not racing; white dot for you.  Orange dots are for those who have deviated from the course - intentionally or otherwise - and have not gone back to the point of departure before continuing forward on the route.  That's a violation of the rules; orange dot for you.

This is as close to live coverage as you're going to get for this event.  I've been watching dots on maps for years now, and I'll warn you - it's addictive.

Who knows - maybe you'll end up being a dot on a map someday.

We should all be so lucky.