The bike has had a very big influence on sculpting who I am today. I have learned so much from living a cycling lifestyle. My greatest learning experiences come from the many self-supported long distance rides I have attempted/finished in my adventure cycling career. I enjoy learning about gear and how to use it, different tricks and techniques for long distance cycling, but learning about myself as well as others through the sport is something that I really enjoy.
Certain tricks and techniques have worked for me through the years and others have not. We change and so does technology. I often think I have something figured out in the way of gear, nutrition, sleep, physical ability, and mental strength but there is always more to learn. I am willing to try something different or take a new approach even on things that have worked just fine for me in the past. Learning by experience and trial and error is just who I am.
This year was no different than the rest. I learned a lot. That being said I am often reminded and re-learn some of the same things every year, and other things I just build upon. Making the decision to do an individual time trial on the Tour Divide this year (with a record setting goal) two months before my actual departure date was a real challenge.
Years ago I was listening to a presentation given by Chris Carmichael, and I learned that in order to reach a goal, you must confidently be able to admit that goal out loud to yourself and others no matter how afraid or shy you are. It really hit home and is the only thing I remember from that speech. For some reason I walked away from that maybe not able to explain it in words as much as I felt what was truly meant by it. To me it translates to a level of confidence and commitment that plays a huge psychological roll. Those were terms I had come to this year. I admitted that as nervous as I was and knowing how hard it was going to be, I was determined to break the Tour Divide record (and I did). My preparation time leading up to my departure was more thinking about my ride than actually riding my bike or playing with gear. After 18 years of long distance racing, this level of confidence is just starting to mature but as always in this sport, there is always more to learn.
I have so much support from the people that surround me. Being surrounded by people that truly believe in my own goals and encourage me is reassurance that my thinking is not too out of reach. One might say your close friends or the people that you know are not going to say your goals are out of reach or that you cannot do something. But its when I have conversations with random others that I do not even know regarding my adventures and they somehow feel my energy, look to me, and tell me I can do it, that I find the confidence to go for it. This is something that happened many times in the two months of preparing for the Tour Divide.
It was an immense help with my mental preparation. I am constantly floored by the people that surround me. Two examples are a last minute ride to the start in Banff, and a pick up from the finish from friends that I had not known for very long. My friends, co-workers, acquaintances,
and my wife do not seem to question my adventures anymore. Instead, they encourage me to go for it. I have made many new friends this year, and I have never felt so much good energy and support. It is truly soul-boosting, amazing stuff. I have a hard time saying that I achieved my goal, because it actually has included everyone around me.
During my Tour Divide this year, I had a few equipment changes as well as a change in my diet and sleep strategies that were a learning experience. The Salsa Fargo was a new bike for me this year and I learned it is the tool for the job. I questioned the drop bars at first, and now, I LOVE them. My hands have never been in such good shape after so long a ride, and I credit the multiple hand positions. I don't mind the extra power and aerodynamics of being in the drops either. The titanium frame was an amazing feeling and as often heard, so smooth and silky.
A simple upgrade to a Montbell 40-degree sleeping bag over a quilt made for more comfortable nights. In the past, I used this bag on other long rides but I stopped using it the past few years thinking that going lighter was better. It was a reminder that some things are well worth the few extra ounces.
I have never eaten so well on a ride. Instead of living on piles of candy bars and quick sugar calories, I switched to a real food diet. I ate many sandwiches, cheeseburgers, burritos, french fries, and dairy products, and it felt GREAT! I ultimately was able to ride later into the evening than ever before, and I did not need as much sleep.
My sleep strategy before I started was to get four hours a night. I contemplated this until I started riding figuring I would decide night by night. I had many three-hour nights, two sleepless nights and a couple of over-sleeping nights, that led to four-plus hour rests. I do not think I ever had a five-hour night’s sleep though.
Sleep is super interesting to me. In the old days of adventure racing it meant basically not getting any sleep for five days time. I have learned a lot from that and backed off that strategy for many years, but wanted to revisit it again this time around.
I truly crave endurance riding. It is about how far can I go with the experience and knowledge I already have, apply it to the next ride, and hopefully come back having learned even more.
The bottom line is I am looking to grow. I am always open to learning more, especially about myself. I am not afraid to make mistakes. I love to gamble and am constantly seeking that breaking point. I tell myself to try harder, push the limits, and experiment how far I really can go. Here's to learning! Cheers!