Friday, January 31, 2014

NaKeD On ThE DiVidE part 5: SolRaK CRoSSeS the DiVidE nOt OnCE BuT ThRiCe

Day one was mostly sunny in the morning, cold and miserable by days end.
Day two was sunny all day, but a LONG PUSH to the border.
Day three I almost died.
Day four was recovering and riding
Day five ended with cold and misery and I almost died.

This is Divide racing in JUNE.  Who's Idea was it to pick such a horrible month.  I mean why not go in August when its not so wet in MonFreaKINGTANA .....

Once again, it looked like a gear bomb had gone off in my room.  I was up and busy working, adjusting to the challenges of the conditions.  I wrapped all the stuff I need to stay dry in plastic, knowing full well that rain could come at any minute.

I spent the morning, 2 hours exactly, trying to fix my fading brakes.  Had no luck, if I put in new pads and rotated the fronts to the rear everything was rubbing.  NOTHING I was doing was going to fix it, and the only solution was to put it all back the way it was and push on, hoping that the shops in Helena could get it fixed.  So yes, today I was heading up and over 4 major peaks, with fading breaks.  Ahhhh the magic of racing the divide.

As soon as I finished packing and opened the door, it was cold and raining outside.  It was like it never stopped from the night before.  UGH..

If I wasnt racing I would have stayed there another night.  But thats not what HTFU is about, so I rolled out, stopping to get espresso on the way out of town.  LOVE that stuff.

It wasnt bad, when you wear a ton of gear, so I kept riding, goal was a repair in Helena.  Next thing I know, I get passed by the Australians.  Apparently they had made it to Lincoln as well.  O well.   I kept going, finally hitting the first Continental divide crossing and for the first time in the race, bearing down into my lowest gears to make the climb. The road was cut into the side of the mountain and there was barely 8 feet of surface across.  I could see the muddy tracks.  As I climbed higher, the hail started falling, and when I finished one, the other started, higher and higher I climbed, until I actually emerged from the storm and started my descent, and it was a fun one.  I was flying,  having fun, hitting one of those sections where you could push the big ring and just go fast for miles and miles.  Eventually I pass some guys, do a creek crossing, stop to check something and notice my spot FELL OFF.  WTF, REALLY??????

After cursing for a bit, I decided I had to back track to try and find it.  The worst part was that I had the black and grey spot 2 and the whole area was dark soil and granite rocks, might as well be a Boa in the everglades.... I passed the guys I saw going backwards, and not even a mile down the road I found it Hooray, a bit of good luck to offset the 100% shitty luck I was having.

I attached it to my rear pack this time not using the leather case, but using the actually built in holes in the back door with the remaining zip ties I had.

It wasn't long before I passed the two guys again, and we pretty much did that back and forth, till I crested the third crossing and lost them.  Eventually I crested the fourth and knowing I was close to HELENA was exhilarating.  The weather had let up and I was flying so fast that when I approached the final cattle guard I bunny hopped the whole thing!

On pavement I was straight dropping hammers and before long I saw a pizza hut and pulled right in.  I ordered a large thin crust meat lovers pizza and huge order of their bread.  I must of drank about 7 sodas, and even packed a couple of slices to go.  While I ate it poured.  I saw the two guys pass by, but then saw that they stopped in town.  I was determined to leave HELENA that night since I had missed the shop opportunity.  I went to Starbucks to fuel up for the long push into the night, but they were closed.  I noticed a storm was rolling in so I stayed right there waiting for it to pass.

Eventually it did, I thought about staying in town, but decided to climb to the top of the next pass and camp up there so I could go downhill the next morning.  Kevin Greten had told me there was a cabin up there that I could sleep on the porch.  Well there was about 100 cabins and they all looked occupied.  After reviewing the elevation sheet I figured I was close enough to the top and set up my tent.  Another day was in the books and another late push had been completed.

So far, the divide had its moments of Fun, But not much sun, and not much room for mistakes.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

NaKeD On ThE DiVidE part 4: SolRaK AlmOsT DiEs On HiS WaY to LiNcoLn

Good sleep is to be relished.

That night I had a heavenly rest.  I was uncomfortable.  Itchy legs from the hundreds of mosquito's that attacked me while I set up my tent.  Horrible pain in my personal area.  Horrible limp leg.  BUT even with all that I still slept great.

In Fact I may have even had a good chance to sleep in, but my Camp Mates, changed that.  I wish I could remember his name.  I want to say it was Dave.  And he wore a Kit that said Schneider Electric??? Hard to remember now, next time I will make notes.....  It was him, for the sake of the story we will call him Dave, and Selle (don't remember his real name), the younger guy, both from Colorado.  I chose to call him Selle cause he was one of the other people I noticed used a Selle Anatomica Saddle like me.

It was funny the night before while finishing up my meal at the LODGE, I asked Selle if he wanted to split a room.  He pretty much told me he was broke, and I completely understood.  I kinda hated how necessary a room feels when your soaking wet and the temps start dropping, like almost every night I had been spending on the Divide.  I was determined to figure out how to avoid the cycle, but it had not happened yet.

Well we all camped together.  I had my fancy tent.  Dave had a bivy, and Selle... Well Selle had a blue tarp thing.....

I would of probably slept late... But somewhere around 4 in the morning, Dave was packing up.  And all I could hear was Zippers.  I wondered how many zippers did his stuff actually have.  Both Selle and I got up together.  2 hours later.   Selle headed to the lodge and I got on route.  Next up was Richmond peak.  Supposedly from what I had read from the trail book.  Near the top it turned narrow and became some real buff hell raising singletrack.  So I was happy to be alive and I was working my butt up that mountain.

While I finished packing, I had seen Dave leave two hours before and then the two pairs of travelers rolled by, the Australians and the older guys, both who I had mentioned before, where not very friendly.

They had about an hour gap and I honestly didn't expect to see them again.  But low and behold after the unexpected gnar section in the middle of the mountain, I caught and passed the Australians and the other guys.

I came up behind one of them and rang the bell, and he, with much grump in his voice, Said, "what does that mean"... To which I, responded with a smile and a wave, "It means good morning".

None of them responded as I pedaled away, except for the Vegan Australian.  He could climb.  And he was keeping time, and me, not liking being shadowed, I intentionally dropped back and let him take the front, eventually passing him again before the top.  Once at the top, I started layering for the downhill and eating some more food and enjoying the GLORIOUS view.

While I was doing that, they all caught back up, all together again, one big peloton of weird vibes.  They kept going, and eventually at the very peak, I passed them all including DAVE from Colorado.

Richmond peak was gnar gnar extreme with water bars every 300 feet.  I spent the next 30 minutes doing HUGE FULLY LOADED airs and Surfing the GRAVEL on the high speed corners and switch backs.  It was ECSTASY.

I had noticed while riding the Divide that I could understand how someone could do the route so fast.  Once you get over certain big features the ground descends every so slightly and rolls ever so perfectly for miles and miles so that you can literally surf the land by pushing your big ring and small cogs in the back.... It was BLISSFULL Heaven on a bike.

After a Long Lonely ride, I stopped for a chilly, breezy road side lunch.  I was noticing I had missed the turn to seely lake.  Which was fine, my pack strategy had evolved.  If a restock was not on route, then I would not restock there and I would plan accordingly.  Seely Lake was off route.  BUT, I did miss the turn, I kinda wanted to be aware of it...  I also realized that Ovando was close and there were only five minor peaks to roll over to get there.  My spidey sense was telling me a storm was coming, I could feel it.  So I got moving and not before long I was rolling into the NOTHING really there town of Ovando.  On the way I had got in the self spoken joke of calling in HOVANDO.  When your all alone out there, you talk to yourself.  Out loud even, but no one can hear you.

When I got into town, there were two stores.  One on one side of the street.  One on the other.... Didnt know which one to go into....

Then it happened...... Something that's only happened to me twice in my race career.....  a Random stranger speaks my name....... Duh Karlos, Spot Trackers...

I get invited in, I get a hammer nutrition race swag bag like you would at any XC race in America and drink espresso and stock up.  It was a nice warm respite from the cold breeze outside.  I'm there ten minutes, and look who shows up, DAVE.  He actually gets dressed and pedals right into the storm that had started while we were inside.

 map 1 section A and here are the numbers. 250 miles. 26 hours ride time. 8.6 total avg. 9.6 moving avg. 
I was getting ready to leave.  Putting on everything I had, preparing to battle the storm.  When a hummingbird, flew right in front of my face and hovered there.  I took it as a good sign.  The lady inside had told me that all the other Florida riders had come through.  I had five in front of me and I had made up my mind that I was gonna be at least the fastest Florida finisher.  The closest was The Krafts, so the chase was on.  I rode out into the storm too.  Passing Dave early.  Then I passed some giant tall man on a bike.  Then I started climbing Huckleberry pass.

I was not playing with these passes folks.  I was teasing the Colorado guy at the store.  Telling him she would be ashamed that a guy from Florida caught him when he had a 2 HOUR HEAD START.  I also asked him how many zippers does his gear have for goodness sakes....  Anyhow, I was not playing and had not climbed a pass yet in the small ring.  In Fact, it wasn't till divide crossing number 1 that I broke down and used the granny, that 36 x 36 proved to suit me well  for beasting up the mountain.

Eventually the rain got worst.  I crested the pass and I could see the Krafts tracks.  I was close.  But I had bigger problems at the moment. My feet were completely numb.  My hands screaming in pain, and it was cold and windy and raining.  I decided that the situation had gotten dire.  That I was in real potential danger in these conditions of Hypothermia.  So I made the call that the only way to survive this situation, was to go fast.  The only solution to get me out of this weather and to warmth that was available in Lincoln was SPEED>>>>>>>

And I went fast.  I remember hitting a cattle guard and momentarily gliding left for a bit before straightening out.  Max speed 42 mph.  I was tucked in Aero on the dowhnills, I was committed, the whole nine.  Nothing but stand up and work, till I got to Lincoln.  I rolled into the first place and got a cabin for 50$.

I actually got to Lincoln 5 minutes after the Krafts.  It took a hot shower and 40 minutes under the blankets before I stopped shivering.  Thinking about it now makes me shiver.

The room was once again in the aftermath of my rolling gear bomb.  But I fished out some dry clothes, got dinner and went to bed.  There were lots of problems I had to resolve.  My sleeping bag had gotten wet in that torrential downpour and my brakes were not working well, I was losing appropriate lever feel.  It just seemed like there was no lack of adversity for me on the divide.....

I slept warm that night.  The Krafts.  They left Lincoln and pushed on.  Wow, we are racing.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

NaKeD On ThE DiVidE part 3: SolRaK RideS FrOm WhiTeFiSh To HoLLaNd

My room was littered with clothes and gear.  All over the extra bed, hanging near the AC vents, hoping to dry it all.

It was by far the Hardest two days I have ever spent on a route.  Fearing death and starvation, still feeling the discomfort in my throat, but determined to push on.

I had soaked all my clothes in the tub to clean it.  It was brown and murky after a good soak, but came clean after awhile.  In retrospect I would use a washing machine and a dryer to save time.  In between doing laundry, eating slowly and elevating my leg I was taking mental inventory of my woes.

Ankle, swollen, tender and painful, check.

Horrible rash like I have never had before, check.

That next morning I left at Day Break as planned. Early I could ride moderately without too much pain and discomfort. But , right around hour 2, it would become an issue.  I didn't want to take any more Ibuprofen, so I was on a one Excedrin a day.

I left Whitefish, with an empty stomach, hoping to score food in the next town.

When I got to Columbia Falls, I remember thinking that I should have just ridden here last night, it was the fastest 10 miles I had done on the route, all pavement and bike path.

I stopped at the first sight of the word Espresso, but the gentleman was closed.  We chatted for a minute, but he didn't open for another hour and I was in that silly Racer Boi mode so I pushed on.

When I got to the T intersection I saw a Divide Ride Bike leaning against another place advertising breakfast and Espresso.

The place was called Montana Coffee Traders.  They made me a big breakfast and I had two large four shot Espressos with coconut milk.  I forget the Other Riders name but I believe they had given him the Nick Name BEARDO.  He must of been in Racer Boi mode as well, cause he left before me.  I was kinda stoked to chase a carrot, so I calmly finished my drinks and food and then shopped for gourmet Dark Chocolate.

I left there KEYED up on the prospect of making some fast Road miles and chasing the rabbit.  I kept expecting to come around the corner and see the rider, but instead, it was miles of undulating riding similar to what you would ride in Clermont Florida.  Eventually I came up on a construction zone and rolled over some tar that they were using to fix the gaps in the road.  I could here a thump thump  on my tire from where the tar got packed in and picked up a patch of dirt and rocks.  I ignored it, racer boi doesn't stop for some silly shit like that.

I got to a little restaurant where there were about 6 ride the divide bikes.
The riders inside I had seen briefly at the start.  I was excited, but to be honest, they didn't look too happy to see me and none of them where very friendly at all.   I guess being a nice Indian is of no importance.  After a brief Search for Water I pushed on knowing full well I would have to go a mile off route to Swan River to get some batteries and a few small things.

I got in the habit that when I left the route, I would turn off my GPS so I could keep an accurate mileage tally against my elevation profile. It was helpful for me to know how far I had to go before starting the delicious downhill on the other side so I felt that information was more important then keeping an accurate tally of every mile I had ridden on the ride.

When I found the grocery mart I caught up to BEARDO and he was way more talkative and we spent time laughing and talking about our pains and aches.  I left, got back on route and then caught, two riders.  They were younger guys, it was HOT, I had taken everything off and was riding Florida style.  I caught the other guy but he actually responded and after holding him off for a long while, I let him pass me and I stayed back. Not long after I crested the peak where he was waiting for his friend and two other riders, older guys.  These were all the guys I had seen at the restaurant, and they were not too friendly there, and they were not too friendly here.  I rolled past them and started the downhill.

I was flying.  Killing the downhill, then the unexpected happened.  As I was cooking a left handed gravel road switch back, my rear tire lost traction and before I could regain control I was in a high speed nose wheelie heading into the brush line.

I went head over end, and had me a good old fashion crash, scraping up my arm, twisting my seat post and ergon grip and breaking my GPS mount.  It took me all of 3 minutes to make all the repairs and SCREAM LIKE A MAD MAN in ANGER about crashing.  Seems that Tar I picked up on the road, packed in my knobs creating a bald spot.  I sat there for a few minutes scraping the tire when the two younger guys passed me.  I immediately got back on caught and passed them.

The next section proved to be a little difficult.  It reminded me of Riding in the Forest back home.  Sandy, undulating and endless.  The weather was hot, but I had a good roll and the big ring was propelling me in a good flow and it was miles and miles of 18+ mph pace.  Eventually I needed water.  I saw a hobo camp site by a river and stopped to ice my foot in the cold river and filter and eat lunch.  The two older guys showed up and joined me for a bit.  The two younger guys rolled past and got a good lead on me.

Something happened after that.  The route undulations got bigger.  I passed a pair of riders that where having a very dysfunctional time.  One guy recognized me much better then I did him and immediately conversed with me.  I passed on by and kept climbing and his friend from Colorado easily kept time with me.  Up and down, the rain came.  I passed a guy getting dressed I chose to just go with a jacket.  Eventually exiting on pavement where I caught another guy and we rode to Lake Holland Lodge.

There is so much I would of done different at Lake Holland.  I would of camped in a Montana Hilton instead of setting up my tent.....

But, I went inside.  The younger guys had kept their gap from me and got there just a few minutes before me.  Inside I saw my friend Paul Vaughn who had a big gap on me up to that point, but now had FUBARD his knee.  Eliminated from this years challenge.

I found out the younger guys were Australian and I asked if for a money chip in If I could sleep on the floor.  They politely told me they didn't need the money, and after dinner, I put on wet clothes and made camp with Two other Colorado Riders, one younger - one older.

The food at Lake Holland was Gourmet and overpriced.  I was not impressed by their lack of generosity, but I guess thats the price you pay to eat a warm meal in the middle of BFE.

The mosquito's were horrible.  You would think the cold weather would kill them off, but NO, they could care less.

I got in my tent, laying on my wet clothes, hoping to get some sleep and amazingly enough I did.


NaKeD On ThE DiVidE part 2:SoLraK RidEs FroM Banff Canada to Whitefish Montana

After much mental digestion its time to share the gritty details of my last ride on the divide.

This post here will catch you up from DAys 1 - 3.

It was a good chance to share a good story and get some extra exposure for one of my true loves, writing.