Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tour Divide 2015 - Letter Of Intent

Two questions invariably come up when someone decides to take on the Tour Divide.
  1. Why (!) are you doing this?
  2. How are you gonna pull it off?
Hopefully I can answer some of the 'how' questions later on in this blog.  Maybe someone out there will find it helpful.  I'm no expert, but I've always enjoyed gleaning information and inspiration from the blogs of others as they've made their preparations.

But why?...  The question lingers.  I'm not even sure I can answer it.

I can still recall when I first learned about the Tour Divide.  It happened in 2008, but I remember it like it was last week.  The place, the noise, the light...

That summer, my wife and I were lodging in the Ronald McDonald House in Palo Alto, where our son had received a kidney transplant a couple months earlier.  It was an emotionally turbulent season for us, to say the least, and I was feeling pretty raw.  I had wandered down to the public dining room for a snack when I saw it: a beat-up copy of Outside Magazine with the audacious claim "The World's Toughest Bike Race Is Not in France" on the cover.  Being a bit of a bike nerd at heart (albeit a lapsed one), I couldn't help myself.  

Right away I was hooked.  Here they were, these young guys like Jay Petervary and Matthew Lee (along with the article's author Jon Billman) and a handful of others, and they're going to follow the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico.  On mountain bikes.

Say whaaa?

Further, they were going to do it unsupported.  That means no chase vehicles with food or coaches or spare parts.  No fans cheering roadside.  No nutritionists, no mechanics, no massage at the end of each day.  If they wanted something during the course of the race, they had to carry it themselves, or hope they could buy it en route.

Crazy.  And irresistible.

Now at the time, I wasn't in shape to participate in a bike race around the block, let alone one over 2700 miles long.  Years at a sedentary desk job had resulted in a BMI teetering on obesity, and the cardiovascular capacity of a piano bench.  Heck, I didn't even own a mountain bike, and I could barely ride my road bike five miles without having to stop to catch my breath.  Yeah, sad.  When I thought about the Tour Divide, and the kind of shape I'd need to be in to show up at the starting line without getting funny looks - you know, the sympathetic, chuckling "what is this guy thinking?" kinda looks...  Well, the disparity between the shape I was in then and the shape I knew I'd need to be in to survive seemed insurmountable.

I believed - for me at least - that the Tour Divide was impossible.

Beliefs are powerful things.  Henry Ford said "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right."  Beliefs guide the decisions we make and the steps we take whether we realize it or not.  Actively or passively, we align our actions with our beliefs, and I had allowed the trajectory of my life to cement the belief in my mind that I would never be able to do something as grand and ambitious as the Tour Divide.

But I couldn't stop thinking about it.  Each year, I'd watch the blue dots on Trackleaders and listen to the racer call-ins at MTBCast, and my soul would yearn for adventure.  2010 saw the release of a movie called Ride The Divide, which provided all kinds of fodder for my adventure fantasy.  (Oh, and speaking of adventure fodder, this video by the Adventure Cycling Association is pretty awesome too.)  But at the end of the day, that's all it was for me - a fantasy.

Then in 2012, the tides of life began to change for our family.  I retired from my day job, which allowed me to start riding and training in earnest; further, our son's health continued to improve, and my wife Stacy and I were able to focus on creating health in our own lives.  We shifted from passive to active mode, and as we did, our beliefs started to change along with our bodies.  Last April, Stacy ran the Paris Marathon.  Yes, in France.  Which is a major accomplishment when you consider where she started on her journey toward health.  

Today we're in the best shape or our lives, and getting better every day.

So I'm training and gearing up.  I'm poring over maps and talking to those who have gone before.  And I'm having a blast doing it.  Next summer when I show up at the Spray River Trailhead, I might even look like I belong there.

Why am I doing this?  Because I finally believe it is possible.

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