Tour Divide: The Final Push

Home Stretch.

However, I had no alarm clock of any sort so naturally, waking up at 1am didn’t happen. I went to bed while it was still light out, and when I awoke, the sky was a beautiful early morning glow. Damnit! I had made so much progress, but people had caught up with me. Sara Jansen and Miles had made their way into Pie Town that night. I checked the cafe that wouldn’t open for another few hours and went back to the toaster House for another frozen pizza, soda, and poptarts. Breakfast of champions! There was a pie in the refrigerator for those who did not make it into town during open hours. Sara and Miles quickly made a chunk of it disappear. I ended up riding out of town with them that morning. My pace was ever so slightly faster, I’ll blame a full night’s sleep, so we leap frogged a bit that day. On one of many fast rough descents I pinch flatted my balding rear 32c tire. I was able to boot and tube it before Miles put too much time on me and right after Sara passed me I was back on my bike. I saw some more North Bounders and at about mile 40 topped off our water and hosed down at a church on the side of the road with Miles. I had heard about that church in a few blogs, and from other riders. It always felt good to reach something that people talked about. It was almost like a checkpoint, or an emergency bailout location where you could be easily found. I knew I had a tracker, but I never thought about people actually watching my progress. Everything is so vast, and it can make you feel so alone. After cooling down and grabbing a PB&J at the church, Miles and I chased down Sara who did not stop. However we quickly caught her as she was having trouble with her allergies. I set off alone. A few hills and valleys later I started to need to get down to race weight. I was sure I had put enough time on Miles and after a particularly rough descent, I couldn’t wait any longer. I pulled to the side of the rocky, dusty road, under a stunted pine tree. I made a throne from the rocks in the shade and went about my business right on the side of the road. Right as I cleaned up and got my bibs back on, a mom driving a minivan full of kids came around the corner. Perfect timing. I got back on my bike, and rode away. I would see Miles from time to time that day, but we didn’t really ride together. The Garmin showed 108 degrees at one point. (It wasn’t that hot but it was getting close) We rode into Gila National Forest and started to see more trees. The temperature dropped dramatically as a storm rolled in ahead of us and wet the ground. Progress was rough, on roads that I wasn’t sure when the last time they had actually been used. As the day wore on there was one particularly slippery mud section where I had my front tire tracking on one side of the road, and my rear tire was sliding on the other. Full on drifting on a fully loaded cyclocross bike. For the purposes of this recount, I’m going to say that it was completely intentional. Riding through the Gila, I rode over the last few Continental Divide passes of the Tour and saw the CDT a few times. Fire crews were doing some controlled burns so the air was a little smokey. Fortunately, the wind from the cold, oncoming storm cleared up the air. I came upon a large herd of twenty or so elk on the road with thunder rumbling in the not so distance. I chased them down the road for close to a mile before they jumped off into the grassland. I rode into the storm that had been brewing and the rain felt good for a while, but then it started getting cold. The temperature differences in one day were impressive. At one point in the rain, Miles caught up with me, but then he took a break and I kept moving. Eventually the clouds cleared and I continued on rarely used roads and winding shallow grassland valleys. There were cliffs with bird nests burrowed into the sedimentary surfaces. I passed Beaverhead Ranch and came up to the Beaverhead Work Camp. Miles was hot on my heels and showed up minutes after me. We found a place to fill our water at mile 100 for the day. Eventually Sara, Mirko, Gabes, and Morgan showed up. I was frustrated with myself. If I hadn’t had slept in, I would be hours ahead instead of right with all the riders I had worked so hard to pass and put time on. We all were examining our dwindling food supply with 80 miles to go before the nearest food stop. It was going to be a rough 80 miles. I had 3 PB&Js left, along with a few breakfast fruit bars. Things were looking grim. A few firemen from the work camp came over to talk to us. They told us that they wanted to be as badass as us one day. We were trying to figure out the best course of action. Spending the night there meant that we would be running lower on food and have to do the whole next day on whatever we had left in our bags. Or, we could push on and push for 80 miles until we could get food. That is when the firefighters decided to be awesome. They offered us their extra food. They told us they weren’t going to eat it all and they didn’t want it to go to waste. We were saved. There was a chicken pasta stroganoff dish, salad, fruit, PB&Js, burgers, breakfast burritos, rolls with butter, lemonade, and all the water and soda that we wanted. I stuffed myself with as much stroganoff as I could and filled every crevice on my bike with breakfast burritos and PB&Js.

Sara and Mirko camped out at Beaverhead that night. Morgan, Gabes, Miles, and I headed out into the evening. We immediately encountered some steep climbs, steep descents and just plain relentless climbing. The roads were rough, but not too terrible. Again Miles splintered off and rode on his own. I was faster up the climbs than Gabes and Morgan mostly because I didn’t have a choice. My lowest gear forced me to work hard or walk when things got steep and I wasn’t about to walk. I was also trying to go fast enough to charge my Garmin. Slow climbs are not good for charging things. At about 2ish in the morning we stopped on top of a pass for a quick pit stop. I sat against a pine tree to eat a PB&J. Morgan and Gabes agreed to take a quick break as well. 2ish hours later, I woke up with half the PB&J in my hand, laying on a comfy bed of pine needles, helmet still on. The other two had set alarms and we were back on our bikes before the morning started to glow. We descended close to 2000 feet and I had to keep moving to keep my light running. We stopped for breakfast at the base of the alternate route for the 2015 Divide that followed the actual Continental Divide Trail for a few miles. We climbed, hiked, climbed some more, and traveled close to 3 miles in an hour. The going was slow, the route wasn’t clear in a few places, and it would have been tricky on an unloaded full suspension 29er. Our bikes made it especially difficult. Our fatigue going into it also might have had something to do with how difficult it was. Rocks were sharp, brush was close to overgrown along the trail, trees were down, and our bikes were heavy. Eventually we emerged low on food but off the singletrack. I wish we weren’t so exhausted so we could appreciate it more. We were thankful that we had done it during daylight hours. It would have been downright treacherous to attempt it at night. Once back on dirt roads we quickly made our way towards pavement and Silver City. On our way we decided a 4wheeler trail would have been more fun if we were more agile. We made our way onto pavement and listened to our rubber whistling on the pavement as we got as aero as possible. We were in Silver City by noon. We found a shady diner connected to a hotel. They did not have milkshakes. Instead we ordered our usual 3 plates per person and ate everything. The wait was longer than I would have liked. Morgan checked the race map and Miles had been in town traveling at 18 mph 40 minutes earlier. We had no idea where he was. This added a sense of urgency for me. I stopped in at a gas station for the last resupply of the Tour Divide. I reapplied sunscreen, filled my water, bought some donuts, bought as much caffeine as I could and headed out of town with Gabes. It was a mere 123 miles to the End. Morgan went to look for a pair of sunglasses. Still in town, a bridge that we were suppose to cross on our route was closed for construction and we asked a local how to get around. We made a slight, but necessary detour and were back on route in a few minutes. I was pressing the pace and soon Gabes was a speck in the distance behind me. I turned onto the last dirt road with a strong pace as the caffeine hit. I was flying through the desert on some relatively good dirt roads. I felt good. If I kept moving there would be enough of a breeze so that I could keep cool…ish. I spied the Separ gas station off in the distance and I started picking up my pace because I thought I was getting closer. I was a fool. I greatly misjudged the distance and was tired and overheated when I finally got to the station. I went in, cooled down, went back outside, poured water on myself, went back inside and refilled my water. I grabbed another Starbucks cold mocha and headed out. I didn’t want Gabes or Morgan catching me and I didn’t know if Miles was somehow ahead of me. I pushed on along the frontage road and came to the end of the dirt on the Tour Divide route. The mile marker on the side of the road read 70 miles to Antelope Wells. I could see the next mile marker in the distance. Only 70 miles to go. 50 to go, going strong, eating while riding, and in a tri tuck. 40 miles to go, Hachita, a ghost town. Closed,there were only boarded up storefronts where I thought I might have access to food. I choked down some more donuts, a fruit breakfast bar from Pie Town, took a pit stop, and then saw a guy with 2 riders in his car. They had just finished and the driver was taking them back to his place to they could figure out how to get home. Apparently that’s something that nobody thinks about. He told me that my friends were waiting at the border in a white truck with a dutch oven full of food. He also said that Gabes and Morgan were already hours behind me according to the tracker. I was surprised. I couldn’t wait… to ride the longest 40 miles of my life. As I rode South, I watched rumbling lightning storms dance around me, dumping torrential downpours everywhere but where I was. I watched the sunset get obscured by a large storm and everything started getting darker. The wind was impossible to judge. I was getting blown all over the road. I was getting blown up to 20mph and down to 4 and from one side to the other. There was no traffic, you could see for miles in the light from all the constant lightning. I was inclined to ride without my headlight and just ride by lightning light. Before that night, I had never truly been scared by weather. I had a whole new respect for it. I was the tallest thing around aside from the nearby mountains that the storms seemed to gather around. My progress was slowing at a dramatic pace. I could see the end of the GPS route on my Garmin. I stopped looking at it. It just made it feel further away. I was starting to bonk pretty hard with 25 miles to go. I calculated how long it would be at my current pace to get to the border. An hour later, I made the same calculation and came up with the same time. Damnit! I felt like stopping and taking a nap but I knew I couldn’t because Gabes and Morgan would catch me. After riding so hard for so long I couldn’t let that happen. I had to remind myself that it didn’t matter how slow i was as long as I was moving forward. I wasn’t just bonking, I was completely physically and mentally exhausted. I tried eating more food and that wasn’t doing anything. At mile marker 17 I saw two lights up in the distance and thought it was a border patrol car. As the lights got closer I saw that it was in fact, my dad and Greg riding down the road. I unintentionally blinded them with my headlight trying to figure out what they were. They turned around and I started telling them stories from the trip as we rode towards the border. At 10 miles to go I had to stop on the side of the road. I had nothing left. I was at mile 294 since I got off a mattress in Pie Town. I almost passed out standing over my bike. I wouldn’t let myself get off, or else I wouldn’t get back on. Food was 10 miles away. Greg rode off to get a camera and get ready at the border. I grabbed the last of my food and drank as much water as I dared. It was about 65 degrees, windy, and the lightning was dying away. I clipped back in and continued. At mile 7 I saw the glow of the border crossing hidden by a hill. At mile 5 to go, I saw the lights. I had to finish strong. I couldn’t hobble across the border at 3 mph. I couldn’t finish and say I didn’t given it my all. I found a box of matches I never knew I had and I burnt them all at once. I built up speed, I dropped my dad, my legs were on fire, my chest was burning, and I was digging as deep as I could. I was amazing myself. I didn’t know where it was coming from. I flew past Greg and I heard him yell something, but the blood thumping in my ears and the wind were too loud to hear him. I dug myself deeper and deeper going as fast as I could, occasionally looking up to make sure I was still on the road. One of those times I saw the 1 mile marker. I pushed harder. I looked up and saw my truck, the sign, and the rest of the station. I was emotional. I was out of everything. I glided to the US Customs and Border Patrol sign. I had been dreaming about this moment for weeks. So many times I thought I’d never see it. I finished strong. I was there, at the border of Mexico, and my bike and legs had brought me there. I laid my bike down and myself down with my head on the curb. The next thing I knew my dad was calling me. He said I wasn’t done yet. The gates to the Border were left unlocked so I could go all the way into Mexico. My dad offered me a hand up but I wasn’t done racing. I hadn’t crossed the border yet. I got up myself, got on my bike, and rode through the gates, across the massive cattle guards, under the big steel gates, and across the border. Now I was done. I completed an entire, final, ACA map 6, front and back in one effort. I rode my bike from Banff Canada, to Mexico with a final stretch of 304 miles, 14.4k feet of climbing.

 

I had this to say on the matter:

Tour Divide 2015. Complete. Placed 37 out of 143 Grand Depart starting riders. Total time: 21 days, 16 hours, 37 minutes. The Boone worked great! I might be the first official racer to complete the race on a cyclocross bike. It’s rough, but doable in a competitive time. I got to ride with some seriously impressive people and I will never forget this experience. When I get a chance I’ll be collecting photos and posting everything up. I’m exhausted, I’ve lost a little bit of weight, and I’m actually glad not to be riding a bike today. Canada is beautiful, Montana will take your breath away, Idaho will make you work, Wyoming will tease you with the Tetons and swipe away the happiness in your life with the Basin, ColoRADo will make you fall in love, and New Mexico will just try to hurt you. I’m so happy to be done, but even more to have completed it. I’ll be writing more when I get a chance. Thank you everyone for the support. I’ll update y’all on New Mexico another time. I’m about to run off for a nice big breakfast.

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