Friday, February 19, 2016

Tour Divide Version 2.5

Synopsis of my 2014 Tour Divide run:  DNF, broken leg, torn muscle, infected wound, bears who wanted my chicken strips, power sapping wet/muddy roads. grin and bear it mentality and more rain than Seattle in December.

2014 Rain
Synopsis of my 2015 Tour Divide run:  First place, course record, free pie, sunshine every day, singing elk, smooth buff roads (well sort of), miles by smiles and less rain than Death Valley in July.

2015 Free Pie!  Yeah Salsa Bikes!
Two totally opposite runs down the Divide for me.  Should be happy with that right?  Should be able to pack my bags head out on long tours and smile from here to eternity based on what I had been able to achieve through hard work and perseverance.  Pat myself on the back and ride off into the sunset.  A fellow should be good to go on a result like that.

Day 1 2015
Then what the hell am I doing signing up for this race again?  The conditions and my luck in 2015 were about as prime as any rider can dream of.  The conditions and my luck in 2014 were like a bad comical tragedy.  I've used a certain word more than once to describe my 2014 ride.  Horrid.  The weather was horrid, I felt horrid, the food I put in my body was horrid.  Quitting was indeed horrid.

Of course despite everything in 2014 I was truly happy.  I had a blast!  My 2015 run, there is video evidence in the last 100 miles of the Tour Divide on Facebook somewhere of me being "super happy!"  I had worked so hard to get back out for another shot at the race in 2015 that I could have been dead last place and my reaction would have been exactly the same.  Super Happy!  A theme from my 2015 run was being happy on the bike and smiling.  That is true.  I was happy.  Yes, it hurt a whole heck of a lot and I shed some tears too but man oh man was I happy.  As I mentioned in one of the online interviews post-race it was like being a kid with a really cool bike, a credit card and carte blanche in the candy aisle.  It's a whole lot of fun!

Pie Town Magic
The Divide is so much more than a bike race.  Or at least it is to most of us who never, or only very secretly dare, dream of winning.  Most of us enter the Divide with the knowledge, which seems like fact, that we will not place first in this race.  Heck, most of us have no clue what we are doing out there.  Many of us have no idea how our bodies will react to such an ultra-distance event.  Most of us are just out there to challenge ourselves over the course.  We all have our reasons.

Children at Play
So what are my reasons for wanting to return in 2016?  No clue.  Some of my friends tell me, "Well you are the defending champion, you have to race."  I'm not sure that in a race like the Divide there is such a thing as a "defending" champion.  We all survive the course.  None of us conquer it.  None of us "own" this race.  It's a monster!  Statistically, there is about a 60% completion rate for the racers.  Let's just say 50% as it sounds more impressive.  So all of us that toe the line for the Grand Depart have a fifty-fifty chance of finishing.  Indeed, my own stats from the two years I've lined up match these numbers.  One DNF, one finish.  Why play the odds?

I keep coming back to one simple reason.  Simplicity itself.  After dropping out in 2014 and before starting in 2015 I wrote my account from my 2014 run.  I ended that story with a statement.  "I yearn for the simple life again."  The Divide is so complex, so vast, so encompassing that it requires simplicity to understand it and to finish it.  The less we take, the faster we go.  The times I was having the most fun were the times I was going the fastest.  Riding your bike is easy.  Everything else is hard.

Perhaps I'll just be taking the easy, simple path this June.  I'll just go ride my bike.  I'll be a kid on a really cool bike with a credit card, stars overhead and miles and miles of the unknown before me.  A great story ready to unfold.  It doesn't matter the placing.  I know, many people wonder why race if you aren't concerned with first place.  It's simple and if the simplicity of it escapes you then I urge you to take on some grand, crazy personal challenge.  I believe that most of us that dream of the Divide are simply that.  Dreamers.  However, as I can fully attest, dreams can come true.  It's simple, you just keep chasing them.  If you don't catch them you can have a whole lot of fun trying.