"What's next?" A simple question we have all asked ourselves countless times. I suppose it is an open enough question not to be considered a waste on daily tasks and lives. On a larger scale, it is a deep question regarding the direction in which we intend to direct our lives. Personally, I either havent figured out the "next" in terms of my ultimate life direction, or I am just too nearsighted to look beyond the next year or so. That being said, once I set my mind in a direction, I am dedicated and cannot focus on much other completing a chosen task.
As I gazed out at the Pacific Ocean on the rocky, seaweedy beach of Cape Alava, Washington, after hiking a few miles through the rainforest, and biking more than just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean over 45 days, I asked myself that very same question, 'Whats next?' How could I top the feeling of accomplishment of riding solo, unguided and unsupported across the country? I don't need to top the feeling, but I would like to be able to match it, and to do that, my adventures now need to operate on a higher level. Although it had been a trip I had always thought might be awesome, Tour Divide had seemed out of reach, prior to my trip across the country. After my first big tour, the unrealistic seemed more realistic, so I have chosen to race Tour Divide as my next goal.
By the time I am getting around to writing this, I have had my sights set on this goal for several months. My theory on training had to change a bit for this ride. While I consider myself an avid bicyclist and racer, I have always made sure to keep the focus on fun, and prior to Tour Divide, I tried to avoid the word "training." I don't train for local races, or fun rides, I just ride. Riding my bike is about having fun. 'Training' is an extremely useful term in that it sounds important and therefore is a good, socially accepted excuse for spending countless hours in the woods, on my bike. Winter '13-14 may have started out with lacking snow depths, but right from the beginning cold temps set in. Last fall I decided to get myself a fat bike, his name is Url, and we spend a lot of time together in the bitter weather this past winter. While I rarely regret the decision to go ride, I must say that much below 20 deg F, it is damn cold on a bike, and hard to find motivation to go ride. This is where Tour Divide transformed riding into training. I have spent many hours in the harsh Vermont winter temps fending off frostbite to log some winter training miles. When I just couldn't bare the cold, and still needed to keep my legs spinning, I would chock up my roadie in the trainer and do intervals to commercial breaks while watching crappy cable TV.
It pretty easy to say that a professional athlete has a dreamlike job, and a piece of cake lifestyle. I used to think this. I wouldn't knock it, given the chance, but to perform on that level, in any sport, the training hours required are beyond those of a full time job. Trying to balance a physically demanding full time job, attempting to keep some kind of social life, and train to be competitive for professional level ultra-endurance riding, doesn't leave much time lying around. I have made it a point, especially in the last few weeks to get at least one 5+ hour ride in a week. All the 1-3 hour rides I've been entertaining myself with all winter have definitely helped, but there is simple no replacement for long rides, with 8-10 hours in saddle. I hope that warmer weather will get me re-motivated in that direction. I plan to be in the saddle for 12-14+ hours daily along Tour Divide, with a personal goal of 18 days, hopefully no more than 22, weather pending.