Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tour Divide 2015: Cracking the Nut

Now that I'm in this thing, how am I gonna get it done?  The more I ponder the possibilities - and assuming I actually can get it done - the more the following three things come to the surface.

Go alone.  Learn.  Keep moving.

Go alone.

First, I'm going alone.  Technically, anyone who challenges the Tour Divide does so as an ITT - Individual Time Trial.  Man against the clock.  The rules say that "Divide racing may be challenged at any time."  They then go on to say "TD emphasis is on a second Friday in June (southbound) 'grand départ.'"  That's when most southbound Tour Divide challengers congregate in Banff (or, if nobo, in Antelope Wells) for the grand départ.

I will not be among them.  I'm not anti-social or anything, but I'm waiting until late July to fly to Banff and point my bike south.

There are a couple of reasons for this.  First is weather, which, on the Tour Divide is like a box of chocolates.  But after watching the GD racers get pounded by the elements for a week straight this year, I'm hedging my bets, and hoping things have dried out by the time I start my run.  Not sure what this will mean when I hit New Mexico during monsoon season, but unless I start in September, monsoon season is going to be hard to avoid anyway.

The second reason is my own weakness when it comes to riding with others.  By going solo, I can circumvent my own propensity to try to keep up with stronger racers.  Maybe you can ride with others and not fall into this trap, but for me, it seems like no matter how I try, if there's a carrot out there in front of me, I'm a-gonna go for it.  Long ride, short ride, doesn't matter.  I can't help myself.  I know it's a trap, and I fall into it every time.

"Dave, see that trap?"


"You sure?  That trap right in front of you?"

I see it.

"Really?  'Cause it looks like you're about to step into it."

I'm good, I got this.

"Okay, go!"

Smack!  I fall into the trap.  I've pushed too hard and blown myself up, and within a hour, all I want to do is lie down in the ditch and take a nap.  

Pacing.  Sticks and carrots.  Impulse control.  Guarding my reserves.

Still working on those.


In The Cordillera V5, one of the things that really stayed with me was Erick Armentrout's observation that "The first time you race the Divide you're not racing, you're learning.  When you come back you're racing."  Actually, this advice came from someone Erick met at the mercantile in Hartsel, Colorado.  In any case, it had the sound of wisdom, so this is the approach I'm taking on this, my rookie attempt.  Whether or not I ever return to "race" the Divide, well, we'll just have to wait and see about that.

When I talked about this approach with a friend, he coined the term "fast recon".  It's still racing, but I'm not out there to smash records or even approach the podium.  Frankly, I'd be thrilled with a qualified finish.  25 days is pretty much the outside limit of what is considered a competitive run for men, so that's my baseline.  There are so many variables out there, so many unknowns.  If I can shave a day or two off, great!  But this is my rookie run.  If I can make it to Antelope Wells in one piece, I'll take it.

Keep moving.

In the trailer for Ride The Divide, Matthew Lee gives away his secret to a successful run.  "Always need to keep moving, keep moving, keep moving.  Always."  I think that's the name of the game.  I don't necessarily need to move fast - unless there's a tailwind, or a descent, or both (score!) - but I do need to keep moving.  I think I remember one top-ten finisher saying "I don't ride faster than anyone else; I just sleep less."  Be smart about the time I take off the bike.  I mean, I'll take time to take pictures, smell the flowers and chat with the locals when opportunity presents itself.  But no lazing about in town when there's trail to be taken.

That's the strategy.  Preserve my capacities.  Learn all I can.  Always keep moving.  Finish.

And maybe someday I'll get to come back and really race this thing.


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