Riding with Chris Plesko for something like 12 days, and with Joe Meiser for half that time, was fantastic. Great company like that helps the motivation, mindset, and morale more than I could ever have imagined. One of the toughest parts of the race for me was leaving Chris behind outside of Kremmling. My eyes are tearing up now remembering that evening. At that point we had different goals on our minds - Chris seemed pretty spent from a tough couple days of riding, and I was trying to get to the Salida post office before closing the following day. I knew I had to push on, and he knew it was best for him to get a good meal and sleep. So we parted ways and I struggled through some tough emotions for the rest of the night. The toll an endeavor like this takes on your body is phenomenal, but the effect it has on your mind is infinitely greater. Though Chris and I were never far apart since Kremmling, that was the last I saw of him. I crossed paths with Jay and Tracey numerous times during the remainder of the race, and I was always excited to see them and share stories, even if it only lasted a few minutes.
The people I met along the way in small towns, remote lodges, and rural gas stations were also incredible. Some knew about the race and were expecting me, while others had no idea anyone would ever try to race a bike all the way down the Rockies. But their encouragement and support always provided an unexpected boost, and all the individuals that went out of their way to prepare my meal a little faster, fix my bike a little sooner, or simply offered to help in any way they could was truly heart-warming.
As for the GDMBR course - absolutely spectacular. I love techy singletrack, but I also love stitching together rides through remote countryside using roads less traveled, and that's just what the Adventure Cycling Association did with the GDMBR. I commend them on this route, and the new Flathead section in southern Canada is a great, though very burly, addition. The scenery kept me distracted from the otherwise monotonous pedaling for hour after hour, day after day, and the abundant wildlife provided flashes of excitement at the most unexpected times.
The finish of the race stands out in my mind more than anything right now, though. I was anticipating all sorts of mixed emotions. A thousand miles from the end I started to think about the prospects of actually making it to Antelope Wells, and I'd almost start to cry. Leaving Silver City, those emotions came back stronger than ever, finally starting to realize what I was just about to accomplish. But at the same time, I knew Jay and Tracey were not too far behind on the tandem, and the last 125 miles were ideally-suited for them to gain big ground on me. So I started a carefully-paced time-trial effort to try to stay ahead of them. I had a good gap of at least an hour by Separ, and from there it's only 65 of pavement and a few miles of dirt to the border. I fought a strong, frustrating headwind for a few hours, but as a strong storm blew up behind me, I watched a dust cloud race south toward me. Two minutes later my speed rocketed from 12 to 30 mph, and I was worried about being blown off the road. This wind kept up for the last 40 miles as the storm grew larger and more frightening, and my effort increased more and more as the lightning became more and more frequent. Instead of dwelling on the events of the past few weeks, I was in an adrenaline-fueled, fearful run from this thing. Maggie was waiting at the finish, and I arrived more than an hour earlier than expected, and we spent the an hour sitting in the back of the car watching the lightning show that stayed just a few miles north of the border. It was not quite the ending I was expecting, but it was the end, never the less, and I was very, very relieved to have completed the Tour Divide.
And I have to once again thank all the people that made this possible for me - friends, family, and sponsors. Your support for something like this means more than you probably realize. Additionally, thanks to everyone who donated to my World Bicycle Relief fund raising effort and helped me reach my goal!
That's all for now. I'll put up some photos at some point in the next few days hopefully. I feel like there's so much to tell about the past few weeks, but it's going to be a challenge to get everything into words and coherent narratives. I'll see what I can do, because it sounds like many of you are curious about what it's really like to do a race like this. To put it simply for now, it was the hardest thing I've ever done.
More to come...