Category Archives: Bikepacking

Tour Divide Training January 2018

What?!  Tour Divide training?  Official Letter of Intent coming in the future, but yes, I am committed to racing the Tour Divide this year.  I even added myself to the official unofficial start list.  I’m going to start recording my training (physical and otherwise) to help organize my thoughts and keep myself accountable to making it to the start line.

Training Plan

When I trained for the TD in 2015 (but didn’t get to the start line) I just rode my bike a lot.  Long days in the mountains, hill repeats, etc all with my bikepacking gear.  I think what I did would have adequately prepared me to complete the race, had I shown up.  It wasn’t very efficient, though, and I have no idea how strong I was at the end of training compared to the beginning.

That is going to change this year.  I like plans, numbers, and measurable results.  I finally bought a power meter and dedicated trainer wheel for my Cutthroat – it was long overdue.  Armed with power data and a TrainerRoad subscription, I have one goal for now: increase my FTP as much as possible until Spring.  I would be very happy to be in the 275 to 300 watt range prior to the Grand Depart.

Here’s the high-level physical training plan:

  • Sweet Spot Base I (complete)
  • Jan 22 – Mar 3: Sweet Spot Base Phase II Mid Volume (in progress)
  • Mar 5 – April 28: Sustained Power Build Phase (doing increasingly many rides outdoors with gear)
  • May: More logistical rides (multi-day rides, set up/break camp in rain, specific elevation/mileage goals, night riding, etc.)

Progress So Far

Last November when I started training I took my first 20 minute FTP test and achieved a result of 220.  At 145 lbs that put me at 3.34 W/kg.  Pretty solid, I think, for having never trained with any structure beyond “I feel like riding today.  I’ll go…there!”

I started with TrainerRoad’ Sweet Spot Base Low Volume I, but found myself wanting a bit more work during the week.  Halfway through I switched to Mid Volume I to add an extra hard workout to weekends and a mid week low intensity endurance ride (this one I often skip, because BORING).

Near the of January I started Sweet Spot Base Phase II and took my second FTP test: 232 and 3.53 W/Kg.  Immediately after I finished I realized I could have gone bit harder.  My 5 minute splits were 237, 245, 245, 254.  I certainly suffered, but not nearly as much as during the first test.  I think upping my cadence from low 80s to mid-90s helped a ton as well – gotta burn fat and save that sugar!

As of the end of January I am in the middle of the second week of Sweet Spot Base Phase II.  It’s certainly type II fun, but I really enjoy being able to feel worked after 1-2 hours.  If I were doing 1-2 hour rides outside I wouldn’t get nearly the same quality of workout.

I really looked forward to my second FTP test and still feel the same way about my upcoming third test.  Being able to measure improvement is so motivating!  I hope to see even more improvement in my next FTP test than my second.  High 240’s would be great.  250+ would be a nice milestone to break, too.

What I’ve Learned

Learning about FTP, power zones, and pacing has been eye-opening.  Same with the instructions that display with TrainerRoad workouts.

I’ve been pedaling incorrectly this whole time!  Prior to TrainerRoad my natural cadence typically fell in the 80-85 range, probably lower on climbs.  What I didn’t know is that puts my fuel consumption further into the sugar side of the spectrum than ideal.  Spinning faster allows the body to burn more fats instead.  Spinning a cadence of 90+ now seems very natural.

In the past I thought there was value to doing long or hard rides with minimal food to train your body to do without it.  I now realize that improper nutrition gets in the way of training effectively.  I still think there is value to pushing through those discomforts on purpose occasionally, I see them as destructive session rather than constructive.  Rides like that might make you mentally tougher and unlock some “I made it through that, so I can get through this” attitude, but might not contribute to physical fitness effectively.

I also now understand the concept of power zones and their physiological tolls.  Most importantly right now: an all-day pace that an endurance rider can sustain is in the range of 60-75% of their FTP.  Obviously a person with a higher FTP can put out more power all day than another rider with a lower FTP.  Additionally, higher FTP means you can stay in your efficient zones for more time.  Take two riders with FTPs of 200 and 250.  Both can sustain 175 watts for a time, but it will be far more taxing on rider one.  175 watts falls on the high end of tempo whereas it is solid endurance zone for the stronger rider.  Short bursts into the 225 watt range would put rider one into anaerobic zones whereas rider two stays aerobic.

When I look back on the Great Divide, I realize how much fitness I lacked.  I was constantly miles behind the other guys and had to work hard to not be too slow.  I was likely riding well above my endurance pace, taxing my body more than if I rode consistently at my all-day pace.  I imagine that my fitness was in a state that so many of the climbs put me far into the red and robbed my of any semblance of sustainability.  Oh how I wish I had a power meter back then, so I could compare myself then and now and “forecast” future results.

Well, that’s it for now.  I gotta hop on the trainer and knock out a 3×16-minute over-under interval workout.


Darkness comes early in the evenings these days.  I’ve experienced bouts of bike-related nostalgia. With last season long gone, I’ve been thinking of the rides I did, the trips I didn’t do, and memorable trips of the past few years, and how it all began.


I started riding during the summer after my first year of college. I took my 07 Schwinn Sierra GSD on the bike paths that I had run during high school cross country and track.  Amazing how much more distance a bike can cover with less effort!  The bike came to college the next semester and I discovered Dayton, OH has miles and miles of amazing bike paths.


Biking was so much simpler for me back then.  “Pure” is a good way to think of it.  I didn’t have fancy gear and didn’t care about weight and component levels.  With a can of V8 juice, a sandwich bag of cereal, and two re-used gatorade bottles of water and I’d be good to go.  On a whim I’d bug out and explore the Ohio farmland and arrive home 50 unplanned miles later.

One weekend I chose to ride to the Indiana state line…just because – an 80 mile out and back.  Not even a mile after reaching the state line and turning around my tire was punctured by road debris.  I had a spare pump and patch kit, but lacked the knowledge of how to properly apply a patch.  After numerous failed attempts to get a patch to hold pressure, I started walking home.  After 10 miles of walking and chickening out on sticking a thumb out, I got through to a buddy who could drive me home.   How naive to go on such a ride with so little preparation.

A few weeks later, I rode to the Indiana line again,  but this time continued until I hit 50 miles.  That was my first century.  No special athlete food, no electrolyte mixes, no carbon road bike, and no aerodynamic spandex.

Almost every weekend I’d flip the bike upside down, strip its components, and clean/lube everything.  I cared so much for that crappy, heavy “comfort” bike.

Going Further

That winter, I developed the notion that it would be cool to bike from Ohio up and around Lake Michigan, then down to Chicago.  I acquired racks, panniers, and other touring gear and set off in August.  I carried a gigantically heavy tent, a supremely bulky fleece jacket, and not one piece of rain gear.  That didn’t matter – I wanted to transport myself from Dayton to Chicago via a decidedly indirect route.

At the time, I idolized Christopher McCandless and longed to run off and live in the woods.  I’d often be anti-society and say things to the tone of, “I generally don’t like people.”  During that bike tour, I had the pleasure of meeting so many friendly, helpful people.  The sentiment turned into seeing that people are generally good.

And Further

The following winter I learned about an Adventure Cycling bike route between Banff, Canada and the US-Mexico border.  Riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route was immediately added to my to-do list.

I bought some equipment for the ride – proper rain gear, a stove, a lighter tent, and warmer sleeping bag – and figured how to lash it all to the bike.  A few months and less than 500 miles of “training” later, I set off on the Great Divide.  It was quite a learning experience.

Spray Lake Res

Becoming A “Proper” Cyclist

While loitering in a bike shop in Jasper, Canada while my bike was being packed to ship home, I started looking at road bikes.  The bald tires and sub-20 pound package looked quite appealing compared to my dump truck of a bike.  Two months later in Dayton, OH I purchased a road bike.  Instantly, I was riding 4-5 mph faster with no extra effort!  I started valuing riding speed over exploration.  Instead of a 4-hour, 50 mile ride on random farm roads, I chose to ride the same 15-25 mile out-and-back to see how my time improved.  I became aware that components are sold at different levels.

The Great Divide comfort bike lived in the basement after getting the road bike, until one day I was invited on a proper mountain bike ride.  After riding an aggressive road bike, the Schwinn felt clunky, unresponsive, and slow.  I started to consider myself a proper cyclist now, and being seen on that bike was a bit embarrassing.  I never used it again.

Moving Up (in altitude)

After college, I moved to Colorado.  Riding the Great Divide made me realize I wanted to live in or very close to the mountains. After looking for jobs in towns close to the Great Divide and applied to a few in Colorado and Montana, I accepted one in Boulder, CO.  I bought a proper mountain bike and moved to Colorado.

My goal was to bike the entire Colorado Trail prior to starting my job.   I assumed that my strength from the previous year’s Great Divide trip would make the CO Trail easy.  Nope.  I packed my bike similar to the Great Divide, and tried to ride some climbs.  Talk about humble pie.  My legs weren’t strong enough, I lacked the technical skills, and racks/panniers were heavy and clumsy.  I settled for local overnight bikepacking trips instead.  Slowly I started acquiring bikepacking bags to make the bike more nimble.

Rollins Pass Top

Technology, Leveling Up

I acquired a Garmin Edge 500 in 2012 and soon discovered a website called Strava.  Now, instead of recording my ride distances/speeds in a spreadsheet, I could compete against myself and other riders on a segment-by-segment basis.  It is addictive.  Often before rides, I check my intended route to see where the segments start and end to plan efforts.  Sometimes I’ll even choose a route based on the weather conditions.  “Hey – with a moderate tailwind, I can set a new PR long, maybe even a top X spot on that long, slightly-inclined segment.”  I bet I’m not alone in doing this.

Not Done Yet!


Racing the Tour Divide has been on my radar for the past few years.  I half-assed trained for it in 2014 and gave it 95% effort in 2015.  I’m still not done with it.  I’m torn between racing and fast-touring the route.

2015-05-16 16.00.26

Pros: Race
Something about giving 100% effort for 20 – 25 days is very enticing.  It is a very pure way to find and push my physical and mental limits.  My life is in a very good place to support a training schedule and time off for the race.  I do contract web development work and have the ever-important “girlfriend sign-off” to race, so it’s completely in my hands.  My situation can change in the future.  I’d kick myself if I get a “normal” job next year, and no longer have the option to race.

Pros: Fast-Tour
The main roadblock that stopped me from racing in 2015 is feeling that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the route if making/breaking camp, pit stops, re-fueling is all rushed.  At a fast-touring pace, I could push myself to whatever distance I want, yet still take rest days or stop at interesting places.

The Tour Divide isn’t going anywhere.  The average racer age is early 40’s.  I have 15 years to get there.  Plenty of time to make it happen, if not this year or next.  Who knows…

Unfinished Business

After deciding not to start the 2015 Tour Divide, I wanted life to return to normal. I stripped the bike of all bikepacking gear, removed the now unnecessary aerobars, and gave it a good washing. Any remnants of bikepacking gear and training might cause me to re-think my decision not to race. It was time to ride hard and fast on narrow trails with an unladen bike.

I decided to keep the MRP Rock Solid rigid fork mounted rather than switch back to my 100mm Lefty.  I’ve heard that riding a rigid fork makes you a better rider – you have to pick lines more carefully rather than have your suspension smooth out your mistakes.  Plus, the Lefty fork needs to be re-built.  Even more work, I’d have to remove a Lefty => QR9 hub adapter that I installed, re-dish the wheel, and risk damaging the hub bearings.

Fast forward to October 2015 – riding the rigid fork was getting quite old.  My hands constantly hurt during when riding rocky singletrack.  I was seriously under-biked for many of the trails and crashed hard once because of it.  I decided I would re-install the Lefty for a more comfortable, controlled ride.

I put the bike on a repair stand and started cleaning the fork and headset prior to disassembly.  I couldn’t bring myself to swap out the fork, though.  It irked me that I had never was able to organize the cockpit for the Tour Divide.  I wanted to see if I could figure out a better configuration.  Instead of replacing the fork, I reinstalled aerobars and brought some bikepacking gear out of storage.

I’m in the process of figuring out a proper cockpit for the Tour Divide.  Partly for fun; Partly because 2016 is here and the Tour Divide Bug has started stirring in my brain.  Nothing is decided yet.

Tour Divide 2015 No-Show

Just like in 2014, I trained for the 2015 Tour Divide but decided not to race before the Grand Depart.

For the 2014 race, I started preparing very late.  I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get strong enough three months prior to the race.  The notion was to do what I could for training and decide in early May whether I’d race.  I wasn’t ready and so decided not to race.

2015-05-16 16.00.26

In 2015, I started training earlier and smarter.  From the beginning, I rode the bike fully loaded.  I rode wearing the clothes that I’d wear on the race.  I explored new roads up in the mountains so I wouldn’t get too bored with training.  In 2014, I gave myself an opportunity to quit and took it.  This year, I decided that I would race from the very beginning.  I bought a plane ticket to Calgary.

It wasn’t until late in May that I did my first training overnighter.  Until then, I told myself that camping was my strength (it certainly was in 2010 when I toured the Great Divide)…I should focus on my physical strength and gear selection.  It turns out that was just an excuse to cover up the real reason for avoiding overnight rides.

Camping is fun.  Even more fun when bikes are involved.  Why didn’t I use “training” as an excuse to camp out more often?  That should have been the first clue that I had reservations about racing.

When I finally went on that first overnighter, I faced new training issues: I had never packed the bike to carry an overnight’s worth of food!  I had always just carried snacks for ~6 hours and stopped at home or a store for meals/resupply.  I also had to find a place for a map case to hold either cues or the ACA maps.

It was a bit of a scramble, but I got the bike and supplies situated and headed out the door.  I was riding up to a reservoir up in the mountains – 18 miles and 3700 ft of climbing away:

The first thing I noticed as I climbed out of Boulder is how much heavier the bike felt.  Should I have been training with extra weight to simulate fuller loads of food/water?  After 10 miles of climbing was the first descent.  I noticed that the map case was flapping in the wind.  The only place/orientation where it would fit caused it to flap up like an air brake when going fast enough.  Obviously TD bikes are as aerodynamic as dump trucks, but over thousands of miles I think it would wear on my mind if the thing would flap around and block wind on every descent or in headwinds.

After months of feeling strong and prepared, I was losing confidence in my setup.

As I descended the final miles to the reservoir, I had a deep feeling of joy of having transported myself into the mountains by my own power.  This is what bikepacking is all about!  The sun had just set, so I ate the subway sandwich, gathered water for the next day, and set up camp for the night.  I didn’t have a set/break camp routine with this gear, so it took a while to get ready.  I wished it was still light so I could walk around the reservoir and explore a bit.  I wished I didn’t have a five o’clock alarm set for the morning.

I turned off the alarm in the morning and kept sleeping.  I would have liked to relax a bit before riding home, but I needed to break camp and eat with some haste.  The Tour Divide isn’t the time to linger.  An hour later, I had packed, eaten, and was riding home.

The ride home was very introspective.  I enjoyed the ride and the camping, but felt like I could have enjoyed the trip more if I didn’t have to rush.  The idea of riding hours into the night and waking before dawn didn’t appeal to me.  By the time I got home my outlook at racing the Tour Divide changed from excitement to dread.  The TD isn’t the right balance of challenge and enjoyment for me.

A few days later, I pulled the plug and decided not to race in 2015.

Oddly, for the first time in many years, I followed along as the racers traversed the continental divide.  In previous years I avoided following along – it had always made me sad that I wasn’t out there racing or touring.  Maybe this year I was content with the decision.


Notes for my future self: mistakes
Small details were left unsolved until too late: food choices/capacity, efficient camp setup and breakdown.
Never figured out the ideal cockpit setup: feed bag access, map case, light orientation, map case, bear spray location.
Training focused too much on strength, rather than the above logistics.
I trained my strength, not my weakness.  I focused on climbing when I should have done more long-distance, slower, “flatter” rides.

Tour Divide 2015: Letter of Intent

June 2015 Update: I decided to back out of the race two weeks prior to the start.  Do I regret it?  Yes and no.  I’ve written about it here: Tour Divide 2015: No-Show.  The LoI will stay up for posterity.

I caught the Great Divide bug back in 2010.  As a college student, I was fortunate enough to have time between semesters to ride the Great Divide that summer.  At the time, I expected my parents to be hesitant to the notion of me riding a bike from one border to the opposite.  I was supposed to be thinking of my future – getting job experience with a crappy internship or something.  Oh yeah, I’ll also be riding mostly through remote backcountry, sometimes days between resupply and water sources.  I imagined them going into “protection mode” (as most parents would) and try to convince me to rethink the trip.  What was I to do?

I wrote my parents a letter with my intentions of riding the GDMBR before I knew LOI’s were a practice.  It was my way of being stubborn and saying, “I’m not giving you a chance to convince me this is a bad idea.”

So here I am 5 years later, writing another Letter of Intent.  This time because I am going to race the Tour Divide.


I rode the Great Divide in 2010 starting as a complete rookie.  It was my first time riding on dirt for more than 10 miles…first time riding in the mountains…first time riding above 1,000 ft.  I was on a heavy commuter bike with so much gear…oh so much gear!  And I had only ridden a few hundred miles in the flat midwest as “training.”

But as the weeks went on, I had profound satisfaction knowing that I transported myself hundreds and thousands of miles over difficult terrain and through inclement conditions.

In Rawlins, WY I met Matthew Lee and many of the other Tour Divide racers soon after.  I envied their light loads, but not their long days.  They were the next level of hardcore!  Could I do such an event?

Every year since then, usually in the winter when riding days are short, I’d get nostalgic about the GDMBR and think, “Tour Divide this year?”  Well, now it is happening.

I want to climb the mountains, see the sights, descend the passes, overcome the weather, meet the friendly locals, and wake up in the middle of the night to a sky of stars.  I want to experience the highs and lows of the Divide again.  I want to see what I am capable of.

I expect I’ll suffer the same as before, but much faster this time.



2015-05-16 16.00.26

Tour Divide: Not This Year

I am not racing the Tour Divide this year.

I decided two weeks ago after a few self-test rides.  The plan was to ride at least 350 mountain bike miles over four rides – Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.  If I could not ride at least that much mileage, I resolved to pull the plug on this year’s race.  If I managed that distance, I would at least have an informed opinion about how I’d react physically and mentally, and make a decision accordingly.

Day 1 – Cold and Windy

I set an alarm for 6am, but lacked the motivation to get out of bed that early.  Not a good start to the day.  I began pedaling after 9am.  Conditions were less than ideal for a century.  Had this not been my training week, I would have postponed it a day.  The temperatures stayed cold and a consistent 30MPH+ wind made it feel worse.

As with most long rides, the first 30 miles went by easily.  I caught myself thinking, “I’m not even tired…I can continue this all day no problem.”  Then came 30 miles of grinding.  Riding was no longer fun, the wind sucked, I was either too cold or sweating depending on the section.  I just wanted to be done with the ride.  I had to remind myself that I have 5+ hours moving time left.  Slowly, the miles ticked away.

I ate my lunch as we often did on the Great Divide – plain food while sitting on the side of a road.  It wasn’t too relaxing with the unrelenting cold wind.  Soon I was off again.  The first pedal strokes reminding me that my legs already have a lot of miles in them.  More grinding.

When the odometer showed above 75 miles, my outlook changed.  I was nearing “impressive distance” territory, so there was a mental boost.  I started thinking, “this really isn’t that bad.  Maybe I can get 125 in today!”  That phase didn’t last too long, though.  The temperature started dropping and my motivation with it.  How many more loops until 100?  How many turns until 100?  By the time the odometer flipped, it was dark and my fingers and toes were numb from cold.  I headed home, ate, and put my feet up for the night.

Day 2

Windy again today, but comfortably warm.  It was pretty much a lot more of the same.  On the plus side, my legs didn’t feel sore at all from the century two days ago.  I had high-carb lunch, macaroni and cheese, which I attribute to helping me a lot later in the day.  So much that I opted to do some extra miles to bring the day’s total to 110.  I forgot to apply sunscreen and got some serious cycling tan/burn lines – halfway up my calf from tall socks, halfway up my forearms from pulled down arm warmers, among standard sleeve/thigh lines.

Day 3

Since I realized one rest day is all I need to (relatively) easily ride a century, I decided to make today’s ride more climby.  Plus, doing loops and loops was boring and weekend trail traffic would get annoying.  I did one loop south of Boulder to give the upper elevations time to warm, then turned toward the mountains.

I chose Magnolia Rd, a beast of an ascent, as my path to higher elevations.  It is known as the steepest paved road in the county – the first mile being 14%; first two being 12%.  It averages only 9% over 4.5 miles due to two minor flat/”down” sections.  With my 34t chainring, I was in the 48t granny gear most of the climb, but the cadence I kept wasn’t uncomfortably low.  Had I ridden Mag later in the day, it would be a different story.  I don’t understand how roadies can get up this climb with their gearing.

I reached the Peak to Peak and headed south to Rollinsville, then west on dirt.  After a gradual climb over 9 miles, I reached the Moffat Tunnel.  Unfortunately, the railroad-grade 4WD road that leads over Rollins Pass was snow covered from the beginning, so it’ll be at least a few weeks before the lakes will be accessible for short overnighters.

I retraced my path backward to the P2P and stopped for food in Nederland.  From there it would be a few short climbs before a long descent back to Boulder.  I got back home just in time to avoid a strong storm cell.

300+ miles with 20,000+ vertical over three days.  Not bad, but I knew the fourth day would be the real test.  How will I recover without a full rest day?

Day 4

Based on the original plan, I only had to ride 40 miles to get to 350.  Stacking long days up front when I can fully recover seems like cheating, so I upped today’s goal to a century.

I started again on the trails south of Boulder to warm up.  Doing magnolia again was in the back of my mind, but soon ruled out after some minor steep inclines.  I knew grinding in the granny gear for an hour was unobtainable.  So I did more and more loops on dirt single and double-track.  It wasn’t fun.  My legs felt dead from the previous day.  I was hot, dehydrated, and losing motivation quickly.

After this ride I needed to make a decision about racing.  I started thinking about it.  Can I see myself finalizing TD arrangements one month from now?  Can I imagine myself not getting ready for the TD?  Will I regret it?  Which will I regret more: starting and not finishing or waiting until another year?

The middle of a difficult ride is probably not the best time to make a decision, but I started leaning more and more toward not racing.  Once I figured that out, I turned around and got home at mile 60.  I knew that by turning around and not pushing on I was almost surely deciding not to race.

Decision Time
I sat a home and wrote down some random thoughts about racing vs not.  Most were rhetorical questions that didn’t help much.  In the end I decided not to race this year.

My motivation gave out after a single difficult day.
I couldn’t manage being this sore (and certainly more) for a whole month.
Averaging 100 miles/day means sometimes riding 75, sometimes 125.  I’d have to increase my training mileage even more!
I impressed myself with being able to consistently ride MTB centuries with one day of rest in between, but I did them without gear, with a shower and comfortable bed every night, proper nutrition, and near perfect weather.  True TD conditions would increase the mental and physical demands.

Final Thoughts
I enjoy competing against myself via setting PRs on Strava segments.  Ride fast and it’ll be over soon.  My 100 milers were long, but even then there is a finish line.  I could count down from 100 to 50 to 25 to 12 and eventually reach 0 and stop.  I am in (somewhat) in control of my pace and therefore can determine how long it will take.

The TD is a different game: I need to ride 16 hours per day.   Regardless of how fast or how far, I need to ride all day every day.  Did I hit 100 miles at 4pm?  Good…now go for another 6 hours before setting up camp.

I realize it’s probably my cognitive makeup.  If 100 miles takes 16 hours, the only difference is perspective.  “Ride 100 miles per day for 27 days” is easier to stomach than “ride all day, every day for 27 days.”  The TD seems to be an exercise of the latter.  A metaphor:  I am a web developer.  I like programming applications, being able to mark them as complete, and move to the next.  These are like century rides.  The Tour Divide seems closer to writing code for 16 hours per day on a project that has no end in sight.  How can I stay motivated if the goal is so far away?

Now I realize that for me a successful TD attempt starts with motivation.  Can I break it down into daily, achievable milestones?  I decided to train for the race out of opportunity.  My job sucked, so I could quit and train for the race.  I need to have Antelope Wells or Banff as a fundamental goal and commit earlier.

Maybe none of this makes sense and is just me trying to justify my decision.  Who knows…

Tour Divide Considerations

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?

Training To-Date
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.

Almost Rideable

2014-03-08 00.07.36


Almost there!  Lots of parts have arrived and been installed.

I’m really happy with my choice of wheels – Mavic Crossmax SLRs.  They are lightweight but seem very strong.  The low spoke count (20 each) had me worried, but up close they’re quite beefy.

Now I’m waiting on the XX1 freehub body so I can install the 10-42 cassette.  I laughed aloud when I first saw that cassette.  The 42-tooth ring is ridiculously giant.  Yet Sram’s X-Dome design keeps it lightweight – far lighter than my old 11-36 10-ring.  Instead of each ring fitting snug on the freehub, they are each only attached to the edge of the neighboring rings.  Like a dome, I guess.

Once the freehub comes in, I’ll mount the rear wheel and tune the derailleur.  Then I’m off to a bike shop to pick out an offset or straight seatpost.