Monday, July 03, 2006

The race

If you were interested in following me, you really should check out the race updates. It is truly amazing what those guys are doing. Check out the official race site here, and the updates can be found here.

A good way to read the updates is in conjunction with the map summaries (link here). That gives you an idea of where these guys are at when they're calling in.

What's coming

Since this is the end there won't be any more updates. But I do plan on posting some pics, and I may type up parts of my notebook to give a day to day account. I think that probably will be a whole lot more useful for folks using this to plan their own trips. So, check back sometime. This isn't over just yet.

What it takes to make a fixie guy quit

So the two guys I talked to on fixies (fixed gear bikes) dropped out of the race. Before they did, though, they set a whole new standard of for what is considered suffering on the Divide.

First, here's what makes a fixie painful, for those who aren't familiar. A normal bike has two important things that distinguish it from a fixie: gears and a freewheel.

The obvious one is the gears, which allow you to stay within your power range through different terrain and get leverage on the big hills. The second is the freewheel, which allows the wheel to spin when the rider stops pedaling. Fixies have neither -- they are a direct drive where the crank turns with the wheel.

On the Divide, this means two things. First, uphills are rough on the legs and knees because the rider doesn't have leverage on the hill. But the most painful thing is the lack of the freewheel. Without it, the rider has to sit on the seat and pedal like crazy on the downhills, which are usually rough, washboarded, and rocky. So the bum takes a tremendous beating on those stretches.

So here's what happened to the first guy: he got saddle sores from the bumps and a seam in his shorts. But he kept going. The sores got infected, and the pain got so bad he had to keep stopping to throw up. But he kept going. Then finally he had to ditch the bike suddenly to puke, and broke part of his fork off. That finally ended the trip.

The second guy's trip ended with just as much pain, but not in such varied areas. Basically, he rode until it felt like his sit bones were crushed, then finally gave up when he couldn't get back on the bike any more.

I give tremendous credit to those guys for doing what they did. They're tougher than I'll ever be. But I still really don't understand why they do it. The route is tough enough as it is -- riding it on a fixie seems sort of like filling up your tires with water instead of air to say you rode the Divide with 10 pound tires, or shooting yourself in the foot before you ride to say you rode the Divide with a hole in your foot. But I guess cycling is all about self-inflicted pain -- after all, you can get everywhere on the route without your bike. But the fixie thing really is a whole different level.

the final rundown -- Roosville, MT

That's right -- Roosville, MT. Word.

Looks like things have worked out mostly as planned. I finished up yesterday, stayed in Eureka last night, and now I'm in Whitefish waiting for the train. I will be heading back to Minneapolis tomorrow morning.

This last week in Montana was absolutely stellar. The climate here reminds me quite a bit of Juneau, AK -- very wet with dense vegetation along the sides of the trail, and the 3000-4000 foot mountains all around. Really amazing stuff.

Since Butte I've been doing 70-80 mile days, but it was tough to keep up that pace through this stuff. The climbing has been a lot like New Mexico (rough, steep 2000 footers) and it takes a long time to get through that stuff. So I spent a lot of 10 hour plus days in the saddle.

I officially ended yesterday, but the day before really felt like the end. I did two big climbs on gravel and camped near the top of the second one. When I rolled in I saw two other guys on bikes, so I stopped and said hello. Turned out they were from Australia, and had just finished their first day out going N --> S. It was funny to run into someone in that spot -- knowing everything they were about to deal with from here on out. It felt right somehow, like I'd come full circle.

It feels strange to be done, and I'm not sure if it has really hit me yet. Tomorrow I'll get on the train, and after that I'll have a fridge, an oven, a bed to sleep in, a shower, a vehicle to cart me around, a dry place to be when it rains, easy communication with whoever, and the list goes on. If there's one thing I take away here, it has to be not to take those things for granted.

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