Why is it that, when you feel on top of your game, injuries occur? In last week’s blog, I was thoroughly enjoying getting into the groove of the Tour Divide mountain bike race, from western Canada to southernmost New Mexico. Being part of this underground (read: unsupported) race and trying to ride at least 100-120 miles a day, something was bound to go wrong.
Best Laid Plans
But I wasn’t thinking about that. It seemed as though nothing was going wrong. I was just a short distance from the border of Idaho and Wyoming and on track to finish under my target time. The weather was treating me well and my legs and energy levels were still sustaining a good high level. All the race veterans told me that once we got out of Montana there would still be plenty of challenges, but that the grade would lessen and we’d be able to cover more miles per day. I was psyched! And then it happened…
Dealing With the Unexpected
Very late and already 110 miles into the day, I stood up out of the saddle to rest my tired bum. I felt a twinge on the back of my heel and my heart sank. This wasn’t a sore knee, a blister, or some annoyance that I could take care of. My Achilles tendon was hurting, and riding 1,900 miles in the next two weeks sure wasn’t going to help the situation. I made camp, slammed a bunch of ibuprofen, and thought about what my options were.
Once I had a chance to rest and think clearly, I realized that finishing the race was not in the cards. Unfortunately my first attempt at the Tour Divide didn’t go as planned, but I learned a lot and can’t wait to apply it to another try in the future.
My first lesson was that, in trying to push myself every day with no rest days for 25 days, I needed to be adamant about focusing on self-preservation. Those 2,745 miles add up to a really long way, and it became apparent to me that setting a steady pace was the key to success.
Ironically, this was the hardest thing I’d ever attempted, and I had to remind myself not to push too hard. While sitting on my bike 14-16 hours a day I had plenty of time to ponder, and I learned to always be thinking about what would need to be addressed once I made it to the next town. My mind was on a constant loop: drink water, eat diner food, get granola bars, lube chain, check bike, get water, check maps, repeat, repeat, repeat.
Secondly, it’s all about time spent in the saddle. Don’t get sucked into the siren songs of every little town. Get in, grab what you need, double check that you have everything, and roll out of town. I learned that, as long as I was able to get up early enough and start riding, the miles would eventually fall away.
Reflecting Back… and Looking Ahead
Even though the trip ended prematurely, the overall experience was spectacular. Waking up every morning before dawn to a cold, beautiful sunrise and then riding all day along remote country roads and trails hugging the Great Divide felt surreal at times.
Adding in the fact that the Tour Divide is a race and I was trying to push myself to ride the entire span of the American Rockies, as fast as possible, only made the ride feel even more amazing. I’m now totally hooked and can’t wait to come back with more experience and passion for another attempt.
Mike Dicken, Bike and Ski Technician, Jans Park Avenue