Olivia and I are watching the West Wing and although I have seen the whole series four times this is her first. Its been fun the re-watch one of my favorite shows while also planning for my next adventure. So... What's Next!
The Arizona Trail race was epic but it was just the kick off to a summer of pain, devotion, sacrifice, and lifelong dreams. If you are new to my story or just need a reminder I will be racing the Tour Divide starting on June 14th. It’s going to hurt oh so good.
I do have an advantage in this race that I didn’t have when I raced the Arizona Trail Race though, I’ve done it before. Way back in 2016 I raced the Tour Divide and completed the 2,715 mile race in 22 days. For my first ever bikepacking race I was over the moon. Looking back on those formative three weeks three years ago I have grown a lot and I have much more experience going forward. Now I know not to eat sushi in Montana and not to try to ride on a flat tire. You can learn a lot from getting sick in the middle of nowhere and nearly crashing into a cow.
Anyways I am very excited to get another shot at this race and to put up a good time. The goal for this race is to finish it in 16-18 days. This times will be a challenge but one I am more then up for. I would also love to finish in the top 10 as well!
The Tour Divide is a polar opposite race from the Arizona Trail Race (AZT). It features many more paved sections, more gravel roads then single track and plentiful food and water resupply points. What the AZT has in technical trails the Tour Divide makes up in sheer distance. The AZT beat me up with its technical and rough trails while the Tour Divide will beat me up with its 100+ mile days. 750 miles vs. 2,715. The AZT and Tour Divide are like apple and oranges. Both are ultra bikepacking races but they are totally different beasts.
I feel like I am in great shape and the recovery from the AZT is going really well! I will begin doing bigger training rides in the coming days after I get my bike rebuilt from the minor surgeries it needed after the AZT.
The Giant Anthem I am using has had the front brakes bled, the chain replaced and in the coming days will need to get new tires, have its shocks rebuilt and new pivot bearings. It will be a lot of work and cost a bit but this bike needs it in order to be up to the task of taking on the Tour Divide.
As far as the rest of my gear goes it all held up very well! Kind of… my shoes are totally destroyed and I will need to either rock an old pair or get new ones. The decision between having enough money to get food for the race and having new shoes is an easy choice for me. The older shoes are tested and broken in and will make it through the race with some love!
Time to get back to rebuilding this beat up bike!
I am at a loss of words. The fact that I finished the Arizona Trail Race 12 days ago blows me away. My right hand is still numb from nerve damage and I am still having nightmares of falling in the Grand Canyon but other than that I have recovered much faster than I thought I would! But, before I dive into the nitty gritty of life post-race I want to thank those who made the Arizona Trail Race possible and supported me through the hellish 11 days in Arizona. I received financial sponsorship, gear sponsorship, emotional support and logistical support in one form or another from the following amazing people.
Down Wind Sports
Bernard and Betty Gonda
Barb and Barney McGinley
Upper Peninsula Supply Co.
Seeing the names of those who helped kick start my Bikepacking Triple Crown record attempt makes me so unbelievably grateful that I have people in my life who believe in me and are willing to make huge sacrifices in order for me to accomplish my goals. It's something that I don't take lightly and these names were all on the front of my mind during the hardest points of the Arizona Trail. Now I am sure you want to hear about the race and I am so eager to tell you about it!
There is an infinite amount of stories I can share with you, like how I threw up from altitude on a warm up trip right before the race or how I got upwards of 15 bloody noses during the first part of the race. These stories will eventually come out but I wanted to share with y'all my summary of the race along with some pictures before the details slip my memory and I get too wrapped up in the next race to reflect.
The race started at the Mexican border just outside of Coronado National Monument. It was surreal to camp less than a mile away from the border fence. The meadow we started in was unbelievably gorgeous and the fact that a barbed wire fence cut through it was deeply upsetting. Anyways... I camped with a few other racers the night before the start and we shared stories and nervously asked about gear choice, hoping someone would approve of our decision less than 12 hours before we start a 750 mile race.
Day 1: The Race started at 7 a.m. and it was already very warm by the time we got going (the heat was the theme for the first few days). I realized very quickly that this was going to be much harder than the Tour Divide. There wasn’t one thing that lead to this conclusion but more of a combination of the heat, remoteness, lack of resources, and brutal trail conditions. The Arizona Trail is a hiking trail first then a biking trail and as a result the trail was extremely rough and steep in numerous sections. I was walking up and down gullies so much on the first day that I felt like I was in a speed walking competition. Did I mention the heat yet? Holy Cow! I was frying. This Michigan boy came from a place where it was no warmer than 40 degrees for 6 months and now he was racing in 90+. Needless to say the first day didn’t go as planned. I rolled into Patagonia, Arizona around 4 p.m. and fueled up on sandwiches and Gatorades before riding the smooth highway back to the trail. That night I made it to Kentucky Camp, some 70 ish miles into the race, and passed out. It was midnight when I fell asleep, that’s 70 ish miles in 17 hours. Ouch.
Day 2: I left Kentucky Camp as the sun rose. I felt good about the day and was very optimistic. The trail was still kicking my ass but, I had a better idea of where I wanted to end up that night. My goals were already being adjusted which was very frustrating but a good learning opportunity. The day brought intense heat and rough trails but I was learning how to deal with it. Frequent breaks and lots of sunscreen. I got to ride through Saguaro National Park and see the massive cactuses that spotted the landscape. These are the days I forget about the race for a few moments and just wonder at the beauty of the landscape I am suffering in. It takes the edge of a bit. I camped that night on the side of a National Forest road at mile 145 of the race route. Another respectable day but, I was still behind my goal and that was wearing on me mentally. The fact that I was woken every hour by ATVs also wore me out mentally that night.
Day 3: Leaving the Tucson area I was greeted with gorgeous views and fast flowing trails and climbs I could actually ride! That was until I reached the few ridges right before Mt. Lemon. Numerous switch backs and brutally steep sections of trail slowed me down but gave me a few passing glimpse of Gila lizards and vultures waiting to see me fall over. At the base of Mt. Lemon I realized how little water I had left. I have been on numerous trips and should have known better then to pass up the creek some 5 miles earlier but, I get dumb on these bike trips and decided a litter and a half would be plenty for a huge ass road climb and long hike- a-bikes. I was so painfully wrong. After using some iodine to "clean" a small water bottle worth of water I attacked the climb and was sweating gallons almost instantly. The heat was devastating and climbing a paved road on a full loaded mountain bike is painfully slow. After 8 miles of climbing with little to no water I finally got a break at a ranger station near the top of the climb and got recharged for the attack to Summerhaven. I had some vicious hike-a-bikes into the small town of Summerhaven but after getting some food at the very expensive grocery store and charging bike lights in the public bathroom with fellow racer Daniel Dunn I attacked the famed Oracle ridge just after the sun set. This ride was so overgrown with vegetation it was amazing and frustrating at the same time. The downhills were terrifying as you are on a ridge with huge drops and massive rocks in your way. I spent most of the evening walking as the trail was too steep to ride in many sections or to technical for night riding. It may be a race but it’s not worth getting evacuated for. I camped at mile 192 and felt great about accomplishing the ridge till I realized I had only gone 50 ish miles in a day. This was way slower then I wanted to go. But I was at my physical and metal limit so I had to swallow that pill and keep pushing.
Day 4: I rode into the town of Oracle and resupplied at a Circle K before entering one of the more remote sections of the race. I wouldn’t be seeing a resupply opportunity for some 80 miles. Lucky for me and the other racers and thru- hikers there are water resupply points along the trail that include jugs of water and some small candies that are provided by local trail volunteers. A serious life saver in the heat. The trail was still kicking my ass with lots of steep climbs and steeper descents I was getting a workout to say the least. I did notice my legs starting to get used to the heat and climbing a lot better though witch was a welcomed relief. I was still taking lots of breaks from the heat and that slowed me down a bit. I had an amazing sunset decent towards the ridges before the Gila river and had the biggest grin on my face as I ate some food in a dried up river bed with Mike Haas, after I pulled the cactus from his head... That night we did a huge push over Tortilla Mountains and I hit the wall hard. I was nearly out of food and mentally faltering. You can say you are mentally tough all you want but it isn’t till you find yourself needing to push past your perceived limits to push your bike up another 8 switchbacks before you really know. That night up on the top of this mountain I broke. I had never felt so mentally low before on a bike race. I managed to get to the trail head and laid on my sleeping pad contemplating quitting the race. It was day 4 and I had only traveled 257 miles. What the hell was I doing out here?
Day 5: I woke up pissed at myself. I felt like I had tricked myself into thinking I was an elite bikepacker. I thought I could do this race in 8 days. How am I so far behind? Did I not train well enough? Am I mentally weak? What’s wrong? I rode to the Gila River and called both Olivia and my Mom to tell them that I think I am done with the race. It wasn’t my year I told them and that I couldn’t push my mind or body any harder. I knew I could keep going deep inside but mentally I was over getting my ass kicked in a race I wasn’t even in contention to win let alone set my goal time. Looking back I wish I hadn’t called and instead just kept moving but in a moment like that you can’t look back and judge yourself when you are comfortably sitting at home typing away. To their credit both Olivia and my Mom talked me into sticking with the race and riding into the nearest town, some 7 miles of course, to recharge and take a few hours to get my head straight. I owe it to them that I continued and eventually finished the race. They took time out of work and school to comfort me while I wrestled with the hardest race in my life. I am so thankful for them and still upset with myself for causing them unnecessary stress and anguish as I suffered thousands of miles away. Ultra racing is so damn selfish. After recharging I attacked the Gila River Canyons and hiked out of the Alamo Canyon. This was a gorgeous sunset hike that I want to return to so badly. It was absolutely stunning. I think it was the trails reward for me staying in the race. I took a hard night time crash right before Picketpost Trailhead. And had to walk 4 miles to the trail head because I was so shaky and beat up. I ran into a fellow racer, Glen, and he gave me a much needed moral boost with his British accent and we rode into the town of superior where we both ate a Circle k pizza and he let me take a shower in his hotel room and use my sleeping pad on the floor of his room. It was the universe letting me know I needed to finish the damn thing.
Day 6: Leaving Superior it was very apparent that my cassette was coming loose. My chain sounded awful and it could barely shift. Luckily I had some easier miles into the outskirts of Phoenix and was able to ride to a bike shop to get it re tightened. It was a 16 mile round trip detour to the nearest shop but I didn’t have the tool to tighten it and it was border line un-rideable. After getting all sorted I jumped back on the trail and got to ride through a huge thunderstorm on some rough trails. After a nice stint on some smooth pavement I got to ride past some stunning reservoirs and grab a burger with Mike Haas in tortilla flats right before the restaurant shut down for the night. He knew another racer was behind him so he ordered a burger before the kitchen closed! What a guy! I then rode with Mike, Glen, and Daniel for a bit before we all rode at our own pace. I pushed all the way to Theodore Roosevelt Lake and camped on an abandoned road right next to the lake. It was the first day I didn’t beat myself up at night for not being at my goal pace. At this point a lot of people had quit and I was just happy to be pushing myself to my limit while also staying in the race.
Day 7: My goal at this point was to be in the Grand Canyon but that sure as hell wasn't happening yet but, I was at piece with that and knew that all I could do was push myself as hard as I could. This change in attitude made the rest of the race much more enjoyable. Leaving my lake side camping spot I flew through some highway miles and dirt roads with some steep climbs thrown in before landing in the town of Payson. In Payson I resupplied and ate a meal at sonic wayyyy to fast and proceeded to feel very sick and took an hour long nap on a bench along the side of the 4 lane road cutting through town. It was a great nap. After recovering from my stupid binge eating episode I proceeded to ride some rough double track and cut through some private property that allows access for Arizona Trail Users. There were so many no trespassing signs that I thought if I made one wrong turn I would be caught in a trap and never seen from again! Then I had a wicked hike-a-bike as the sun started to set. These hike-a-bikes were getting a bit annoying and more brutal. Lifting your bike up and over huge rocks and massive logs sure testes your mental and physical strength! I finally arrived at the trailhead right outside of Pine and resupplied on water at the public drop and camped one mile from the trailhead. It was a lower mileage day again but at mile 453 I was ticking the miles away! It also seems like I took two photos this day to! Guess I was enjoying the trail too much.
Day 8: Leaving the trailhead early in the morning I began to attack the challenging Highline trail. This trail was beautiful and full of extremely steep descents and climbs with rough trails. Seems like a theme. The highline trail went on forever with the view of the Mogollon Ridge to the north the whole time. This ridge is huge and with every pedal stroke I got closer to the point when I had to crest it. Eventually that point came and it was as hard as I thought it would be. But once I reached the top it was like I was in a whole new world. There were suddenly huge pine trees and a whole different ecosystem. The desert wasn’t behind me but I was beginning to enter the high desert. I cruised through some forest roads and was feeling incredibly good. I was in a new terrain and the road was somewhat smoother! I started the Happy Jack section of the trail and got beat up by the boulder ridden trails. I did this at night for a bit till I couldn’t hold the handle bars anymore and decided to pass out on the side of the trail.
Day 9: Leaving my camping spot I bumbled along the Happy Jack section till I finally got a relief and hit some relatively smoother trail by Mormon Lake. This is when the volcano rocks and baby head rocks along the trail started to get larger and closer to pedal height. I think I struck my pedal, shoe, or crank every 5 seconds! It was incredibly hard riding but I was making great time and feeling good. Until I pedal struck a rock at such force that the resulting crash lead me to believe that I may have broken my arm and foot! A few minutes of swearing and I was soon on my way to Flagstaff. I was extremely hungry when I finally got to a jimmy johns and proceeded to shove my face with real food. I had been living off of cliff bars for a few days so it was a huge joy to get real food. I also ran into Dana Ernst and got a much needed moral boost. After not riding with anyone for a few days at that point it felt great to talk to someone who understood how hard the trail was. After resupplying at the whole food and getting a new headlamp and batteries at the REI I hit the trail with the idea of doing a night push to the Grand Canyon. I was feeling great for the first 10-15 miles before I got very tired and started to fall asleep on the paved reroute on the trail. It wasn't an ideal bivy spot but I pulled over and pulled out the sleeping gear and passed out behind a log. Tomorrow I would get to the Canyon.
Day 10: Leaving my cozy log side sleeping spot I attacked the road with renewed energy. Some paved roads and dirt trails revealed the gorgeous snow packed mountains and aspen groves. The trail then turned to rougher two track with huge vista views of the vacant land between flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. This is where I felt at home. Remote roads and long desert views make my soul happy. I passed lots of thru hikers and felt so happy to be out here suffering. The trail got a bit rougher the closer I got to the canyon but the views were breath taking. It’s pretty damn incredible the power water and wind has on a landscape. After passing a view prescribed burn zones I arrived at Tusayan to resupply and get re-energized before the Grand Canyon. After getting lots of food and recharging my batteries I rode the smooth bike path into the park and found a camp side a quarter of a mile away from the south rim trail head. I disassembled my bike and strapped it to my pack before passing out for a few hours. The wind coming off the canyon was unbelievable and exciting as I drifted off to sleep.
Day 11: I know I will sound like a snob but I figured the Grand Canyon wouldn’t be that amazing. There was something about the hype around it that I didn’t get despite never once seeing it. Little did I know that I was about to be blown away. I entered the canyon at around 5 in the morning. The sun was just starting to rise and the early morning runners and hikers were quickly passing me. It was unsettling and awe-inspiring to see there little headlights bounce down the trail. It was a cool sight but I started to notice just how deep this scar in the Earth was! Many hikers stopped me and asked to take a photo with them or ask what the hell I was doing. I am sure I looked like a fool. The pack wasn’t comfortable and hiking down 5 thousand feet is not fun with a 45 pound bike on your back. The hike down took around 5 hours and it felt like it. I was pretty gassed at the bottom and very nervous for the much harder hike out. Luckily some nice hikers gave me some oranges and gave me a much needed moral boost. Running into fellow racer Andrew Stauffer at the bottom was also a great moral boost. We recharged at the little ranch at the bottom of the canyon, Phantom Ranch, by eating copies amounts of Oreos and drinking what felt like gallons of lemonade. The heat was almost unbearable for me and I knew that I had to keep moving if I wanted to get out of the canyon before it was too dark. Leaving the Canyon I felt like crap. My shoes were falling apart, the pack was extremely uncomfortable and I was exhausted. I knew this would be the deepest I would ever have to push myself. I did just that though. I put my head down and kept taking in one pain full step at a time. The trekking poles I brought helped a lot and the fact that it was starting to get cooler helped me move a lot faster. The North rim was in full bloom and the springs coming off the canyon walls were incredibly loud and beautiful. Eventually the sun started to set but I was still many hours from the north rim. It is around 7000' foot difference between the bottom of the Canyon and the top of the north rim. I tuned on my headlamp and kept trudging along cause that’s all you can do. The North Rim access was still closed meaning no trail work had been done yet so rock slides and down trees were aplenty. I am glad I was exhausted enough to not notice the massive drop offs as I crawled over rock slides a few inches from the edge. I have had many nightmares since the race in which I do fall off, it was that scary. The worst was when I would have to walk under waterfalls formed by the springs. My worn out shoes had little to no grip left and I could feel the meal cleats sliding on the slick sandstone. The worst moment was when I stopped for a quick snack only to check my GPS and see that I was a mile of course. I nearly vomited out of fear and disbelief. How in the hell did I get lost? I instantly started backtracking to try to find where I made this wrong turn. I was so worked that I didn’t think about the fact that GPS Signals are basically garbage in Canyons till I had already walked a quarter of a mile down the trail. With my brain finally on right I pushed onwards. I eventually started to see snow and the temperature dropped dramatically as I reached 9000'. The final switch backs went on for ages but I suddenly found myself in an empty parking lot some 22 miles from where I had started that morning. The time was 11:40 p.m. I had been in the canyon for 18 hours. I was so exhausted I quickly found a semi flat spot by a large pine tree and proceeded to pass out in my Bivy instantly. Three to six foot snow packs were all around me as my body tried desperately to recover from the hell I had just put it through.
Day 12: I slept for three hours before I awoke to another racer exiting the canyon and talking with another racer at a volume I would only describe as a 5 year old screaming on a playground. I could only laugh as I packed up my gear and rebuilt my bike at 3 in the morning. I was only 75 miles away from the finish! It was very cold and I could feel the rain coming in so I got my layers on being sure to leave a few tucked away to stay dry in case it got too wet. I began riding hard and fast. I felt surprisingly good but had little power in the legs. My calf’s were garbage and had no leveraging force. The snow drifts were surprisingly huge as I eft the rim and it was getting windier as the rain clouds drew nearer. Finally the rain started and it was painfully hard and cold. It was 50 degrees and the rain was going sideways. It sure felt like a fitting way to wrap up the hardest mountain bike race in the world. I knew I had to keep riding hard to keep my body temperature up and stay safe. The road to the rim was still closed so I had to jump a few fences. There isn’t any shelter on the road as well so there was no place to hide from the elements. I finally started to get power in the legs and pushed hard to Jacobs Lake where there was a small cafe and store. I quickly ordered two huge cups of coffee and ate a huge pastry. I was cold and wet but a warm fire got me re-energized and excited for the finally 30 ish miles of the race! After warming up a bit and getting semi-dry I got back on the bike and pushed on towards the trail. At this point the snow was all gone but the rain was still spitting. The final 30 miles were fast and downwards trending but the trail was still technical and tricky. I had a few stupid spills that made me shake my head and laugh. I can’t hurt myself this close to the finish! The final miles of any huge race fly by and the sense of relief makes you forget any pain. The last mile was full of switch backs as I approached the Utah border and they took a bit of focus and were kind of tricky. But of course the last mile would be hard! It’s the Arizona Trail Race! I rode into the Stateline Campground and teared up. I had just pushed myself harder than I had ever done before and I had never been prouder then I was at that moment. I took a few photos and then found refuge from the rain under a small pavilion. I called Olivia and my Mom and enjoyed the scope of what I had done. I had just ridden 750 miles in 11 days on some of the hardest and most technical trails in the world. After siting and relaxing for a bit Andrew rolled into the finish and we both laughed about how stupidly hard this race was. A bit later my good family friend Nick George came by and picked me up and that was it, the race was done. I love the fact that the finish was so unceremonious it’s very fitting and felt right. Nick and I drove through the canyon lands of Arizona and the flat lands of New Mexico before arriving in Albuquerque at midnight. The next afternoon I was in my truck driving back to Michigan. Looking back on the race it was the hardest "thing" I had ever done but was the most rewarding by a longshot.
Thank you again to all of those who made this race happen! It was the toughest race I had ever done and it was a great kickoff for the Tour Divide and Colorado Trail Race. If you still want to help me reach my goal of completing the Bikepacking Triple Crown please consider sponsoring me through this sight and if you know of any businesses who would want to sponsor me please let me know! I am still sore but I feel great about knocking out the Tour Divide in 16-18 days!!
In one week I start the Arizona Trail Race. I can't believe how quickly it came. It feels like I just dreamed up this idea yesterday and have been working on it for 23 years at the same time.
Tomorrow I will take the train to Belen, New Mexico to start a few day bike ride to warm up the legs and get used to desert riding again. It will be nice to ride for a bit before the racing actually starts!
I feel like I am in a good mental space and physically very ready. These races take any control that you feel like you have a toss it aside. The races don't test who is the fastest biker but who can roll with the punches the best. No one will have an issue free race and the winner is the one who handled them the best and consistently performing despite the weather and other circumstances. I will be that person for the 2019 Arizona Trail Race.
When the race starts on the 18th I will be tracked online along with 74 other riders! I will post the link all over the website for you to follow along!
Currently, I am relaxing in Placitas, New Mexico after driving from Michigan yesterday. The drive was long and the wind made the mpg take a dive. I don't know what I would have done if it wasn't for those people who have become sponsors! The sponsor page will be live through August for all three races! Any help is greatly appreciated!
The trail will be hard but the experience is so worth it!
I used to scoff at those that listened to music while riding. “Come on folks, enjoy the sounds of nature, like that 18 wheeler buzzing you. Isn’t it beautiful?”
I am a very defensive cyclist and hearing the sound of the multi-ton death machines flying around me provide a sense of comfort. It’s a false sense of comfort but a comfort none the less. Recently I reluctantly tried out this crazy idea of listening to a podcast while riding. I only used one earbud and I hate to say it but… it was very enjoyable.
Malcolm Gladwell’s new podcast “Broken Record” was on the queue for my ride and I re-listened to an amazing interview with Rick Rubin about Tom Petty’s album “wildflowers”. The ride seemed to go by faster and was much more enjoyable. When you spend so many hours and days by yourself you start to go a bit mad.
I did the whole Tour Divide in 2016 without music and by the end of it I was talking to myself for weeks after the race and was socially “off”. Anyways listening to the podcast and watching the miles click by I began to think about what my top ten songs would be for the Arizona Trail Race. I will obviously be listening to more than ten songs, but these ten songs will probably play the most and have some sort of important meaning to me to get me through the rough patches.
1. Wild – May Erlewine
This was my go-to song to listen to while driving the back-roads of the San Juan Islands. I was missing Olivia and she had bought me this album for me to listen to on the drive from Marquette to Washington. It’s very sentimental as well as calming. Perfect for dusty trails in the wild of Arizona.
2. Time to Move On – Tom Petty
“What lies ahead I have no way of knowing”. Some of the best songwriting ever is present in this Tom Petty classic. I don’t know what this race will hold but it’s time to get going!
3. Lovers in a dangerous time – Barenaked ladies
Barenaked Ladies were constantly playing in all of my childhood memories. They fill me with a sense of nostalgia and strength from past memories and people who have helped me get to this point. This song has a sexy cello hook that is perfect to spin along to.
4. DNA. – Kendrick Lamar
What can I say, the man won a damn Pulitzer Prize! The song has a deep and somber message but it helps me get in a fighter mindset and push hard.
5. Quiet Dog – Mos Def
Classic beats and throwbacks to the rap of the ’70s mixed with pump up lyrics and a high paced tempo for powering up the climbs and flying on the flats.
6. To the Dogs or Whoever – Josh Ritter
My Dad loved this song and it’s got a great kick drum. Josh Ritter writes pump up songs that somehow calm you at the same time. Can’t wait to ride into the setting song while jamming to this song.
7. Shame – The Avett Brothers
The chores get faster and faster, distracting me from the burning in my legs. I don’t feel shame but I feel anxious about past decisions and this song frees me of those feelings during the most important races of my life.
8. Wide open spaces – Dixie Chicks
This is hands down the best song to scream sing to. I will be in some wid open spaces and you know damn well I will be singing some Dixie Chicks to the coyotes.
9. Cowboy Man – Lyle Lovett
Lyle Lovett is perhaps my favorite singer ever. Just like the Barenaked ladies I remember hearing his voice constantly as a kid. The fast beat and fun storytelling Lyle infuses into his music keeps the spirit high and the wheels a turning.
10. Lonely Boy – The Black Keys
The black keys were the first big concert that I had ever been to and damn they were good. This song has always been a favorite and its fitting considering I will be a lonely boy during these races!
Honorable Mention. Take this heart of gold – Mandolin Orange
Honestly, this song makes me a bit sad but it is so beautiful it helps distract from the physical pain and allows me to get lost in the outstanding lyrics and somber vocals.
Well, those are my top ten songs to ride to. Now it’s time to plug in and ride all day!
What are your favorite tunes to jam out to when working out?
It’s times like these when reflection and intentional mindfulness is most important and valuable. For those of you who may not know Olivia and I got engaged last week! It was a beautiful proposal and the past week has been the happiest of my life!
With an engagement, the final preparation before the Arizona Trail Race, moving into a new apartment, supporting Olivia through her last semester through college, and getting settled into my new job there has been a hell of a lot going on and a lot more coming up in the next few weeks and months. I always knew it would be incredibly busy but now that the craziness is in full swing it’s hard not to get overwhelmed by everything!
The stress of upcoming bills, a huge race, and just the day to day stressors can be paralyzing but through intentional mindfulness and reflection, I have been feeling the most in control than at any other point in my life. I am fairly sure that this new found control and healthy mindset comes from my past experiences and having 24/7 support from Olivia. I have been through rough patches before and I have always emerged stronger and more capable. This knowledge allows me to keep my head up high and dive into the craziness that is life right now.
As far as the Arizona Trail goes I am incredibly ready. It has been nearly a year and a half of preparation and training and I can't wait to show the work that has been done. It's still hard to believe that the race is occurring in less than a month now. It has become such an abstract race in my mind. When I officially signed up for the GPS tracking a few days ago I was shaking. In my mind, I still had a few months to train and prepare but here I was signing up to be tracked every 5 minutes over a 750-mile race through Arizona.
I feel confident that I will finish the race in a little over 7 days but I am still nervous. I have never hiked through the Grand Canyon and from what I have heard it will be a challenge to say the least. But I do know how to walk so all I will have to do is put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. At the end of the day whether it be in life or hiking through the Grand Canyon all you can do is put one foot in front of the other.
I will be driving out to New Mexico on April 7th and do a few days of bikepacking though the land of enchantment before heading to the start of the race in the middle of nowhere Arizona. I can already feel the dry air and warm sun. I am so excited.
Tomorrow (3/25/19) I plan on doing a 100-130 miles ride with the current bikepacking set up to test out the new dynamo hub and I’ll take lots of photos to share with all.
If you want to become a sponsor and support my record attempt there are a few links on the website where you can sponsor me for as little as $5! Every bit counts and I am so grateful to those who have already donated.
Keep on rambling!
So, what’s the plan Stan? It’s a month and a half till the Arizona trail race kicks off, are you ready? Are you strong enough? Do you have all the gear? Do you envision yourself winning the race?
This is the conversation I have had with myself every morning. For the past year and a half, I wake up the same questions, echoing through my head. I can't decide if it’s good or bad. On one hand it helps me stay focused and ask myself important questions but on the other hand, it's exhausting and creates an unhealthy type of anxiety, an anxiety that doesn't spur action but instead instills polarizing fear.
But after a year and a half I can say that I am ready. I feel like the pieces have fallen together for the first race of the Bikepacking Triple Crown. I know where I need to be mentally for this race and I am nearly there. My mind feels calm and my body feels as ready as it can be.
Well my body feels 80% there if I am honest but, I know myself and my mind can trick my body when I am in the right mental space. This ain't my first rodeo.
110 miles a day is the goal. This would get me to the Utah border in 7 days, right on track for breaking the Bikepacking Triple Crown Record. I will be sleeping for a few hours each day and riding through many of the nights, and I can't wait!
The plan is to drive the 1,716 miles out to Las Cruces, New Mexico from Marquette on April 10th or 11th. This will give me a few days of training and fine-tuning in Las Cruces before heading to the middle of freaking nowhere Arizona on the 18th for the start of the race!
Las Cruces has unbelievable trails and open land access to get the system totally set and get used to desert riding again. I also have family down there that will make the final preparations that much more relaxing.
The race starts the 18th and when I finish the 25th (Knock on wood) the other side of my family will be there to pick me up and take me to Placitas, New Mexico. I will probably take a day to reset before taking New Mexico’s commuter train the “Rail Runner” (such a cool name) to Belen where I will jump on to a bikepacking route dubbed the New Mexico Off-road Runner (mapped by Cass Gilbert on Bikepacking.com)
This 340ish mile jaunt will take me back to my truck in Las Cruces from which I will sprint back to Marquette to move into Olivia’s and mine new apartment, watch Olivia graduate, and work as a bike mechanic at Downwind Sports. It’s going to be a busy kick off for the summer!
But wait, why the hell am I doing an additional 300 miles after the 750 mile Arizona Trail Race?! Well with all of the racing this summer it will be paramount that I keep riding between the races. I need all the miles I can get and a nice spin to Las Cruces will get the legs cooled down a bit before the two day drive back home.
Of course if I need to be back a bit earlier I will just get a ride somehow down to Las Cruces and get back earlier. It will be a logistical challenge no matter what but I am ready for it!
Also who the hell knows if this plan will pan out? I may end up riding the 260 miles from Las Cruces to the start as a warm up!
I am always accepting sponsors and supporters for the monumental efforts I am about to take on this summer and I can't thank those who have already helped enough.
This blog has been a great outlet and such a joy to work on. Thanks for following along!
Keep on rambling.
I am a huge fan of podcasts. I think it's because they remind me of the sports talk radio my dad and I used to listen to. It's fun to listen to stories and learn new things while also being able to go about my day. Anyways one of my new favorites is “Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend”. It's basically Conan O'Brien talking to friends, acquaintances, and other famous people about their lives and their relationship with Conan. Sure at times, it's a little vain, but it's fun to learn from Conan and his guests.
His most recent episode features Stephen Colbert, a personal hero of mine. Colbert is so incredibly down to earth and they had an amazing conversation about growing up in Catholic families, getting started in comedy, and the concept of “Magical Thinking".
Colbert lost two brothers and his dad in a plane crash when he was 10. Conan suffered from anxiety and self-imposed struggles for most of his life. The point is both of these men suffered immensely but only partially due to outside influences. They punished themselves in an attempt to make the pain and suffering from the outside go away. This topic hit me like a freight train. I was at work when I heard this part of the show and it's fair to say I couldn't hold back the tears while sitting in a shack at the top of a ski hill.
I wasn't raised in a Catholic family but the idea of suffering in order to gain enlightenment was ever present. My Dad grew up Catholic and although he was openly against the church for many reasons the teachings of suffering and self-imposed misery as an attempt at enlightenment was still present in my upbringing. I don't think this was a bad thing or a good thing, it's just something that shaped me.
When my dad got sick my self-imposed suffering enveloped me. I would find new ways to push myself to my breaking point in an attempt to find some breakthrough that would reverse the feelings I was being bombarded with. This self-inflicted suffering led to me completing the Tour Divide in 2016 and becoming a better cyclist while in the meantime losing many friends, falling deeper into depression, and losing track of what I actually wanted to do with my life.
Colbert and Conan describe closing themselves in hot closets to see how long they can handle it or working for 24 hours straight in order to feel that discomfort. They called this “Magical Thinking” in the podcast. This is the idea that by suffering you are hoping it will result in something positive. I am extremely guilty of this every day and the sad thing is that it works. Sure I don't need to suffer so much but every time I do I come out feeling a bit better. But similar to Colbert and Conan I recognize this as a twisted aspect of my life. Internal suffering is so foolish obviously enlightenment doesn't need to be found though misery but when you are experiencing profound suffering the self-inflicted cross-bearing is easy and pleasurable.
I have been going to therapy for a while now to help with grief and anxiety and the main issue that arises is why I am doing these races and choosing to suffer. I never really have a good answer. I chop it up to being very competitive or wanting to see how hard I can go. In reality, I think I am pursuing the Triple Crown in an attempt to find my cross to bear and release the pain felt from my dad's death. I know the Triple Crown won't give me that release but it might just a little and that's worth it. My therapist tries to convince me that the suffering can't helping me become mentally healthier and it won't lead to happiness in the end and 95% of me believe her. But 5% thinks “yea, but what the fuck do you know?” It's been my main roadblock when it comes to becoming mentally healthier. It's why I can't sit still while watching TV or reading a book. I need to be pushed. The suffering I put myself through is no longer a response and attempt at healing but is now a habitual activity that rears its ugly head on a daily bases.
Suffering has to happen in life. You need the darkness to see the light and I am not about to shut down misery or sadness when they are totally acceptable emotions. That being said I am going to be attempting to reform my habitual drive to make myself suffer. Meditation and forced relaxation will become my alternative to forced workouts and prolonged fasts.
It is hard to admit that you have been intentionally hurting yourself in an attempt to get better. It doesn't make sense and I feel like a fool when I think back on all of the stupid things I have down to find my cross to bear and reach enlightenment through suffering.
On my road ID I have the quote “pain is the purifier” it’s been my mantra since I was in middle school and it’s allowed me to work through tremendous tragedies and develop mental strength but it's been toxic for my overall mental health. I will keep the quote for the inspiration during my bike races and sporting endeavors but in “real life” it will be phased out.
Pain may lead to a new outlook and grow your mind and soul but it leads to darkness as well as self-destructive behaviors in an attempt to find more pain not already delivered to my life. Find the pain and suffering in day to day life, but don't go searching for more pain in an attempt to recreate the growth seen in external suffering. It will never be the same and any gain will be lost or the mental state will be weakened.
I ride for fun and I race for the thrill. This is my new reminder every day. Stay happy and light-hearted my friends. Life is hard but there is no need to make it harder in an attempt to get something more out of it.
Have you ever struggled with motivation? Have you ever lost the drive for a few minutes, hours, days or even weeks? I think we all have at some point or another. Doubt, inner fear, and outside influences are all around us when we pursue goals in life. The trick is to push on despite the doubts and fears. I have so many friends and acquaintances that have shelved dreams and passions despite being the strongest people I know due to those anxieties and doubts sucking away their motivation.
Motivation is a finicky thing, you can lose it and gain it back in such a short time. You can lose it from working day in and day out and burning out and then gain it back the same way by working your ass off again. I have found that I need to have the right balance of breaks and hard work in order to keep my motivation high. I have seen far too many of my cycling friends get burned out by riding and training 24/7 and not finding a balance of play and pain.
Between my grueling trainer sessions, weight lifting block, and XC skis I find solace in reading, blogging, knitting, drawing, and meditating. This balance has kept me motivated for the Triple Crown while also allowing me the time to recover and stay healthy mentally. It isn’t always easy. When you throw your self at something like the Triple Crown it demands so much of you and can take over your life if you aren’t careful.
The balance between training, staying healthy, being a great boyfriend to Olivia, saving up for the races, working two jobs, taking care of a 9-year-old cat, and trying to maintain a social life is the hardest thing I have ever done. I have been so incredibly lucky to have a very supportive family and I don't know where I would be if I didn't have Olivia in my life. The support I have and the balance I have found keep me motivated to be the best in every aspect of my life and that is something I don't take for granted.
Pursuing your passions is not easy but it's so worth it. When you have the chance of a lifetime to pursue your dreams its never going to be a cake walk. Life doesn't care what you want, it only cares about pushing you to your limit to see if you really want it. Find that middle ground and balance in life and things become simpler and more manageable. If anything you will be even more successful.
I struggle with the balance and motivation every day and I will continue to, but the mental strength and health I have been working towards for several years now always pulls me back to my middle ground and allows me to keep trudging towards my goals.
Keep pushing yourself and find your own balance.
The weather has been lousy as of late.
I hate talking about the weather but -30 is cold and I just want to be in the desert right now.
Luckily for me, the Arizona Trail Race is in two months!
Ok, that's that on the weather.
On another note, the thousand-plus bikes in my apartment are in utter disrepair. I would love to go into the details on each bike but that would be excessive… so I'll just focus on three.
The Trek 1200, Univega Alpine 500, and Giant Anthem 3 would be considered mid-range bicycles from there respected time, but at 30, 25, and 5 years old they are showing their years.
I am a firm believer that a well-maintained bicycle will last a lifetime and that new is almost never worth it. That being said I would be lying if I said I wasn't looking at new bikes 24/7, but I have 1,000 bikes so I don't need any more taking up space in my bedroom.
The Trek 1200 is a 30-year-old aluminum beauty who has been outfitted with a 10-speed microshift group set, Vuelta Zero Light wheels, and a carbon seat post. Oh but don't worry it still has 30-year old look pedals on it cause that makes sense. This bike is my main training whip and it shows it. The chain is gross, the tires are worn from the trainer and I think there is still dirt on it from the fall. If I was riding it outside right now maybe I would get it fixed up but as a training tool for a few hours a day, it's just fine! This summer I will be upgrading it but for now, it’s relegated to the stationary miles.
The Univega Alpine 500 is hilarious in every way. It’s been all around the country, has stickers, gorilla tape is covering some rust spots, and the bottom bracket is one hard ride away from saying “fuck it, I'm done”. That being said as a winter commuter and gross weather trainer it’s freaking awesome. In an attempt to “customize” the bike I threw on some SRAM grip shifts and a new rear cluster. It’s been super icy as of late so I haven't gotten it out much and as a result, I don't think the chain will move anymore and the brake pads are so hard they may actually speed me up instead of slowing me down. I plan on doing a massive rebuild this summer in an attempt to get it set for a ride from Alaska to Argentina that Olivia and I want to take in the next few years.
Now onto the Giant Anthem 3. Man oh Man do I love this bike! It’s taken me everywhere and been crashed hundreds of times but keeps on ticking. It breaks my heart that it’s in pieces right now but it’s for its own good. I am upgrading wheels, handlebars, and brakes and I am sure as hell not getting it covered in snow and ice so it’s relegated to the bike stand for the next month or so. There are some exciting changes for this bike coming soon that I can't wait to share with y'all.
Wish I had more time to tell you about my other 997 bikes, but I need to go ride an aluminum bike that's older than me for a few hours!
Solitude is what many seek in the Tour Divide. Just yourself, your bike, and 2,000 miles of dirt roads. This solitude is great until it isn't. When you start to miss the simple task of saying hi to a stranger or drinking a beer next to a fellow nomad it can drive you insane. The following towns were my favorite places I stopped at during the 2016 Tour Divide. These places provided great food, friendly conversations, and a welcomed break from the monotony of riding your bike from sunrise to sundown.
Saida, Colorado, USA
Located in Central Colorado between gorgeous mountain peaks, Salida is a welcomed stop for Tour Divide racers. This town of 5,000 people was in full bloom when I arrived on its busy streets in late June 2016. People recognized me from the Spot Tracker and offered me pizza and tips for where to sleep in the town for the night. I had some amazing green chili and heard great music! Can’t wait to go back.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado, USA
The ride into Steamboat was an ass kicker and I was still beaten up from the hell that was the Great Basin of Wyoming. Steamboat is gorgeous in late June and I ran into my riding partner Ricky at the local bike shop that was staying open late to save Tour Divide racers from our lack of bike maintenance. Ricky and I split a hotel room and had killer pizza. The scenery was beautiful and the people were kind, what more do you want.
Abiquiu, New Mexico, USA
Abiquiu holds a special place in my heart. In November of 2017, we scattered my Dad’s ashes in the Rio Chama just outside of town. During the Tour Divide, I rode into town with a deflating tire, little to no food and a need for conversations. I ran into some fellow racers, Russell from Texas and David from Spain. Russell ended up getting us all a room at the Abiquiu Inn and we ate like kings at the one restaurant in town. The next morning I had some amazing burritos in the local gas station and rode off into Georgia O'Keeffe land.
Atlantic City, Wyoming, USA
The Wild West still exists. In the middle of the Red Desert of Wyoming lies the sleepy town of Atlantic City. I rode into town as the sun was setting and literally walked through swinging bar doors to enter the towns only restaurant/ bar. The town has some amazing characters and I was able to stay in a small cabin for the night. It was a relaxing night before the hell that was the Great Basin. I hate the Great Basin.
I can't wait to make new memories this summer in new towns and revisit some of my favorite places that mean so much to me!