2014 Tour Divide; the Heartbreak after the Storm…. Just keep Pedaling, Just Keep Pedaling…..

The twinkling of multiple alarms shake me from my tiny broken world of sleep. Somewhere there exists peace and tranquility yet it is not found inside my precious little bivie. There is only drive, no neutral, no reverse, only forward movement and progress, painful dedicated progress. Just enough time spent laying down to recharge the batteries and keep the eyes open and maybe not quite even enough for that. Inside a battle rages for what is the right thing to do. My mind, the whip, tries to make rational decisions on what is most efficient and in the end fastest way to proceed. My emotions run the gamut from wanting to lay down in the road and give up crying, to riding all night, every night and taking this mother by storm. My body, the horse, protests every action proposed, seeking only sleep, rest, recovery. So far it seems that none are winning on this sinking ship.
As I cruise on South, making my way through lonely Idaho and Wyoming there is plenty of time to ponder my state of being, my place in this mad race and the hard reality of watching my goals slip between my swollen fingers. Despite riding long long days, barely sleeping, falling asleep on the bike, crushing myself through days of storms, huge climbs and watching my legs swell like balloons from the effort, I am forced to admit that I am not making 200 miles a day. Not even close. A 14ish day finish is sliding away from me every time I fail to push harder, every time I hit snooze on the alarm, each time I sit down in town to eat the food I have dreamt of for the past 100 or so miles.
Luckily the weather has become lovely, the air is clean and fresh, the landscape changes from one glorious picturesque painting to another everyday, sometimes a few times each day. The sunsets on Union Pass and in the Divide Basin leave me filled with joy, wonder and perspective, simply breathtaking, incredibly special. I am reminded of how small I am, how small and unimportant my mileage goals are and how privileged I am to be taking part in this mad dash down the spine of our continent. I keep hearing advice my mom gave me before I left for Canada, “live in the moment, in the now”. That sagely string of words suddenly rang true for me, enjoy what is here, directly in front of your wheels, surrounding you on all sides, breath deeply of that air, remind yourself it really is the journey that counts, every pedal stroke, every minute, every mile.

Despite these high points my nagging brain constantly confronts me, reminding me of those lofty goals I set out to live up to. Easy to say it is all good, that you are doing the best you can, much more difficult to swallow that bitter pill. For days and days I torture myself with reasons why I am not strong enough, holes in the actuation of my plan big enough to drive through. I determine that I simply am over the hill as far as this level of bikepack racing goes and it is time to move on. Everyday I struggle with the desire to push harder and to just take it easy and enjoy the ride. Usually the mornings are filled with self doubt and slow movement, the afternoons I rally the troops(my legs) and fly along the course feeling like anything is possible. Day after day of this give and take becomes a brutal roller coaster ride, one so rough it is hard to not break down and start screaming.
This backdrop of emotional, physical and mental struggle stays with me all the way through Wyoming and Colorado. I hit incredible highs, like hammering all the way from Rawlins to the Brush Mountain Lodge Oasis and finding a wonderful Solstice party going on when I arrive, freaking awesome! Then there are the collapse and crawl on your belly lows, the very next morning I struggle to ride and have to walk on every climb, have to stop a thousand times on the way into Steamboat, once for a gushing nosebleed on the side of the highway that leaves me wondering what is going wrong with me, what am I doing to my poor body? Then upon arriving in Steamboat feeling like a zombie only to have a host of locals waiting there to cheer my sorry ass on, damn people are nice!!! Having to admit that my body is rejecting the gas station fare I have little choice in eating all day long and yet still barely making it between towns with enough food and never figuring out exactly why?

Golden Spoke with Big Dave, Brush Mountain Oasis

Golden Spoke with Big Dave, Brush Mountain Oasis

Marshall Pass, photo by Koz

Marshall Pass, photo by Koz

riding outside of Doyleville, Colorado, photo by Matt Burt

riding outside of Doyleville, Colorado, photo by Matt Burt

To top it off I am riding alone, every hour of everyday. There are few distractions from my thoughts, tirades, emotions, perhaps this is one reason I linger in towns a bit too long, to get a break from my own internal conversation. Even as slow down and give myself a small boost by sleeping 4-5 hours a night instead of 2-3. I simply do not stop quilting myself for not working harder to chase down the record. Through a haze of exhaustion I still cling to my dreams of being superhuman, I really thought I could do it, I really really did. Sure the weather was tough for the first 5 days, sure I could have paced myself better as well and maybe I would be faster if there was another racer to actually race. It all sounds like excuses for simply reaching too high and being too human and weak to pull myself up there.

All along through out the ebbs and flows, the ups and downs I keep pedaling. There are some real low down weak moments when dropping out sounds to good to pass up at least to my body and emotional side, but seriously the mind knows that ain’t gonna happen. To get to Mexico you’ve got to pedal, pedal all day, part of the night and a bit of the morning. Failing to hit my mileage goals is heartbreaking, it bothers me still, but damn it I still know how to pedal my bicycle.
Just Keep Pedaling, Just Keep Pedaling, You Will Get There If You Just Keep Pedaling….

25 thoughts on “2014 Tour Divide; the Heartbreak after the Storm…. Just keep Pedaling, Just Keep Pedaling…..

  1. Fantastic writing Jefe! Enjoying the hell out of it especially because of the wonderful storyline it’s providing for all those hours spent checking and watching your blue dot! Very honest and inspirational stuff!

    • Thanks Tyson,
      it was a gut wrenching experience physically, but also emotionally and mentally as well. Glad to have you reading and enjoying it, one more episode to come maybe tomorrow….
      thanks again for reading!

  2. Jefe, what an incredible ride. Thanks for pushing so hard. Let’s all push beyond comfort and get just a little bit further down the road!

  3. Had I been in Steamboat a few days sooner I would have cheered your sorry ass on too. While there I saw a handful of Tour Dividers, recognizable by the packs and rode-hard-and-put-up-wet look. Knowing what you all were enduring gave me chills (good chills). I cheered words of encouragement to each one. In the meantime, you were beating feet through New Mexico. Who knew following the progress of a blue dot on a map could be so intriguing.

  4. I appreciate the fact that you’re sharing your story. It’s funny how our brains fill in the gaps when we don’t have all the information we need. From the comfort of my home in sunny Arizona, I noted your progress down the map a few times a day, I saw that you were hundreds of miles ahead of your closest pursuers, and I thought everything was great. I had visions of blue skies above you as you churned out the miles during the day, and camping at night under the stars. I realized that you were putting in some long days, but I naively allowed myself to think that your only hardship was the maximum amount of time you spent in the saddle and the minimum amount of sleep you were getting at night. I know better. I routinely get my ass kicked while only 30 minutes into an hour long trail ride, and I have the same mental battles of wondering what the hell I’m doing out there. I remember those times from my road bike days as well. I’m not trying to compare myself to you by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s nice to be able to identify with great riders such as yourself in some small way. I know how to push myself, but my definition of pushing myself and yours seem to be two vastly different things. I am in awe of people like you. I can’t imagine what drives you to such high levels of performance. I have spent my 53 years on this earth working my ass off just to be incredibly average in just about everything that I do. Being able to ride at your level is something that I can’t even imagine. Keep the posts coming Jefe. I have made a few comments so far and I appreciate your replies. They mean more to me than you know.

    • Mike,
      We are all human, to me that means we are all susceptible to pain, weakness, self pity, but we can all also do more than we think we can, it is what motivates me to keep doing these sorts of things, finding those limits. We can identify with each other because it is the same sort of feeling when you get your ass kicked no matter the circumstance. I get my ass kicked on short rides too, I am human, I am not always feeling great and mountain biking and cycling are tough past times that require a pretty sound level of fitness. I feel that I am pretty darn average in many ways, I am a bike mechanic for a living, I have a simple life with dogs, friends, work, bikes and even drinking beer. I happen to have found something I am good at, that is suffering long hard days in the saddle, I maybe moving away from this chapter in my life as well and that will be hard for it truly is one of the few things I am perhaps better than average at. It will interesting to see how my life evolves from here. I appreciate you reading my blog, it means so much to me, really does, and I love getting responses cause it means folks are actually reading my heart felt words and that means the world to me, so thank you!

      • I’m sure your wheels are already turning, no pun intended. I certainly know the feeling of getting older and knowing when it’s time to hang some things up. I’ve had to rethink the way I workout and ride about 8 years ago, and it is still evolving. Perhaps you should write a book, or teach and train others who want to do what you have done. There’s a lot of information out there about bikepacking, but there doesn’t seem to be anything that cuts through all the crap and tells you what you really want need to know ~ especially when it comes to gear. There might be some opportunity for you to fill that void.

    • Exactly! Most of work our asses off only to be incredibly average. I acknowledge it all of the time, especially living in Colorado where there are so many athletic/competitive/outdoorsy types. I am painfully average.

  5. Jefe,
    I hope you can fathom, in some small way, how inspirational your accomplishments are to us mere mortal riders out here. From following you and reading your blog I, in turn, am motivated to set bigger goals for myself – both on and off the bike. You have a gift for words as well my friend. Congratulations on an awe-inspiring performance!!!

    • Thanks Brian,
      You could use no kinder words, thanks. Makes me so happy to have inspired someone set bigger goals, to get outside, etc. There have been many times in my life when others have inspired me to get out there and it has made my life much much better and richer as a result. Very stoked to return the favor for someone else. Thanks so much for reading and getting out there, keep it up, it is always worth it!!!

  6. Jefe..your writing is so raw…so open. Thanks for taking the time to to share with us…( the ride and ,the emotions) . Can’t wait to have a coffee, and talk.

  7. I couldn’t agree more with everyone’s comments. Watching your dot many times a day was an awe inspiring addiction. Reading your story helps put it all into perspective. Thanks to you I will be doing the Tour Divide next year. My goals will be more modest than yours, but I expect my challenges will be very similar. I look forward to spending time simply living in the moment and pushing myself in ways I never dreamed possible.

    • Thanks Troy,
      Hope you don’t curse me out next year! I think the challenges are very similar for most, it is a hard ride, even harder as you ramp up the pace. It really is a truly life changing and magical experience in many ways and how much fun it is depends mostly on your own attitude and how well you roll with the gut wrenching punches that will be delivered! I was too focused on speed much of the time and not on the experience, so it kicked my little arse all over. Still it was a good experience and even when it was totally flooring me, I don’t think I would have traded it for anything else. Good luck in your training and preparation, it is never too soon to start! Hit me if you have questions, be happy to help.

  8. It’s not often that someone is willing to expose their tender underbelly like you have Jefe. This requires a level of objectivity which is difficult for any of us to hold. Competitive juices are hard to quell. At 53, each day I wonder what is left in the tank and, more to the point, how big the tank has become. In the meantime, as you know, the past is gone, the future is not here and so right now, I’ll oil my chain and head out for some more smiles per hour. Cheers

  9. Jefe your ride has been awesome!! You haven´t beat the record of the race but… the conditions of the first 5 days (wet and cold) were very bad and dangerous, for hypothermia… For that, I think it´s very important your description of the conditions. to appreciate your ride! As Einstein said: The time is relative, jeje. I think that we pay too much attention to the time and I think that we have to evaluate this race as a whole, taking into account all the parameters and difficulties.
    In your previous post you say that you feel in the first 5 days, like: Divide 5 Jefe 0. Me instead, when I knew the weather, I saw photos and videos I thought just the opposite: Jefe 5 Divide 0. You are a really ironman Jefe! My dream was to race the Tour Divide and after watching the race and reading you, I´m thinking to start to prepare it for the next year or 2016. Thank you!!
    P.D: Sorry of my poor English, a fan from the Basque Country.

    • Unai,
      Thanks for the good thoughts. I am pretty happy with things now that it is all set and done, but while out there it was much harder to come to terms with it, it bugged me every minute of every day. But it is true what you and Einstein say about time and it applies to chasing records for sure. Every year, every day is different and we need to let things flow accordingly.
      I still feel it was the Divide that won, I am changed, tired and cooked, while it is still out there ready to kick a bunch more ass!
      Your english is just fine, no worries, good luck preparing and hit me with questions, I am happy to help!
      Thanks For Reading, makes my day!

  10. Jefe, great writing and an incredible feat! Congratulations man! Many have already written my sentiment, but you really are inspiring! The other day in a race (a short one), when I was hurting trying to catch the next guy, all I could think was how it was nothing compared to what you had been doing on the CTD, which helped me push myself through tired legs and keep climbing. It was an unexpected source of motivation! You’re “pushing limits” mantra has lit something under my ass, and I thank you for it! Yesterday was my longest day in the saddle yet, then went for a moonlight backpack just to see what I had in me for a day. Gotta find the limits to push em’.
    Many cheers, thanks for sharing!

    • Many Cheers to you Mitch!
      Way to rally, glad I could light a match for ya. Keep on reaching, riding and taking it all in.
      Thanks for sharing your story, makes me proud, stoked and inspired as well!!!
      Thanks for reading

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s