Earlier this year, I had the idea of attempting the Tour Divide. The job wasn’t working out, so I decided to leave at the end of March. The notion was to to split my time between freelance web development work and preparing for the TD. As it were, a few friends and past co-workers were also dissatisfied with their employment situations, so we banded together to form a web development business.
So far it has worked out quite well – flexible hours and the ability for work from home have allowed me to ride as much as necessary. The training bottleneck is motivation and boredom rather than time.
As I left my job and considered the TD, I realized two months is not a lot of time for preparation. It was a low-mileage winter for me, so my legs needed waking up. Of course, there are other aspects of preparation beyond physical – mental, logistic, and equipment.
Physical prep is my first priority. Having toured the Great Divide and bikepacked half of the Colorado Trail, I’m relatively familiar with the logistic and equipment needs (and at least half-informed with the mental stress). I set a deadline of early May to see how strong I could become – to see whether averaging 100 dirt miles per day is possible. That deadline is a week away now and I’m still on the fence.
Am I strong enough?
The human brain can rationalize anything. That’s where I’m at and it’s making my final decision, to race or not, very difficult.
One on hand, I completed the Great Divide in 2010 over 50-some days having trained at 500 ft., never on dirt or with any climbing, on a hybrid/commuter bike without a proper granny gear, with an exorbitant amount of equipment. I’m much more prepared now.
On the other hand, I struggled day after day until my en-route training kicked in. I averaged half the daily distance I want to achieve during the TD and had the luxury of a rest/half day every five or so days. Not having rest days or long evenings to recover will deplete the body.
Then again, now I live at 5,400 ft. My normal, for-fun rides are on mixed single and double track up to 7,000 ft. with 2,000-4,000 ft of climbing. I have access to 3,000 ft. unrelenting climbs a few miles from my front door. By mid-May, I’ll be able to grind gravel at 10,000+ ft. Training in tougher road/elevation conditions than the average mile of TD must count for something, right?
Having ridden the route before (NoBo, unfortunately), I generally know what to expect. I have a notion of what services are available in certain towns and a very good memory of turns, landmarks, and road conditions. All of this reduce the anxiety that a rookie rider will have before leaving Atlantic City, Cuba, or Pie Town into the subsequent remote stretches. How much is this worth if my legs aren’t conditioned properly?
This month I’ve ridden 25-50 miles daily. My biggest rides were consecutive 75-mile days with 5,500 ft vertical each, on a mix of single/double track, gravel, and a splash of asphalt. It took 6.5 hours of riding over 8.5 elapsed hours. The soreness from the first day didn’t affect my performance on the second day, so that was comforting. Those days were ridden without bikepacking gear and after a full night’s sleep in a proper bed. Not too bad considering I was dormant most winter and walked to work rather than commuting by bike.
It’s still a long shot from consecutive centuries with gear in inclement weather while sleep deprived. Is it enough to be sure I can get that strong in the next five weeks? I have to answer that soon.