Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Thoughts on Geoff's GDR

A picture of the Canadian crew in Carcross, Yukon. I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for showing Alex and me such a great time this past weekend. We rode and raced with mountain bikers from Whitehorse, Victoria, Vancouver and Edmonton, and I've never before felt so comfortable so quickly with a group of people. Thanks especially to Anthony and Sierra for putting me up, yet again, and feeding me home-grown vegetables, yet again. I so owe you guys big time.

I haven't had too many chances to talk to Geoff since he left the Great Divide route. The first time I heard from him was in Kremmling, Colo., after he cut off on the highway to save some time. I thought there might still be a chance to talk him into pedaling back to where he left the route so he could stay in the race. Selfishly, I wanted him to continue. I just couldn't fathom that he was as broken down as he said he was - if only because he had sounded so strong so recently. But after hearing his voice, I knew it was really, truly over. Not because he sounded weak, but because he sounded strong. I knew he had made the choice to stop with a clear head and conscience.

But it was inevitable that he'd begin to second guess himself the very next moment. I can totally relate. I've never finished a race and actually been completely happy with my performance. I instantly recognize my mistakes, my missteps, my moments of weakness. So today Geoff is back in Salt Lake and wishing he was still riding the Divide. "Basically, I quit because I was tired," he told me. A deep and prevailing tired, but only tired just the same. It began from the early days of the race when he couldn't sleep while he was stopped. Then he had a hard time finding good food, or sometimes even food he was even willing to eat. The climbing was everything he'd expected and more. Then he pushed himself until he could barely make the pedals turn. He gave himself a day to rest, but one day wasn't enough. When I pointed out he probably could have afforded several days of rest, he said, "Yeah. But then where would I be?" Not at the front of the race. And, really, that's where Geoff likes to be.

I'm not saying Geoff quit because he wasn't going to win. Actually, quitting a race for that reason is not like him at all. What is like Geoff is to quit a race because it stopped being fun. While he was crossing Montana and Wyoming, he was having a great time - riding his bike all day, eating big meals, chatting up the locals. When he rode, he rode hard, but he took plenty of time out to absorb the experience. In fact, most of the people he talked to who knew about the GDR didn't even believe Geoff when he said he was the second-place racer. They had just watched John Nobile go through - the image of efficiency, John usually rushed in an out of every stop, grabbing a sandwich to go, sleeping for only a few hours, hurrying out the door without saying a word. Geoff, they told him, looked too relaxed.

"I'm convinced that's what you need to do to break the record," Geoff said of John's approach. "You have to focus and be on task all day, every day. But I was never going to do it that way. It wouldn't even be fun."

So when Geoff hit his big wall, I imagine all he could see was an endless number of days without fun. Geoff is not the type of person to race for glory, and even if he was, there is so little glory in being a finisher of the Great Divide Race that if you're not doing it for yourself, I can't fathom how it would even be possible to finish. It's too hard. It's so hard, I think, that even if the Great Divide Race did offer fame and a sizable prize, the only difference you'd see is a much larger DNF list. There are few who want to do a race like this. Fewer still who can.

I believe Geoff can. "The evil curse of these stupid races is that he'll be thinking about coming back within a few days," Pete told me. This may be true. Geoff's preparations before the GDR were almost laughably minimal. Now he's armed with more knowledge and experience than most rookies could ever dream of. Eventually he'll tell the story of his race, and I can't wait to hear it. Because I know it's going to contain plenty of "next time"s.

As for me, I was pleased to discover that I don't require any more recovery time after the 24 Hours of Light. I still feel some aversion to the idea of riding my bike, probably brought on by my first saddle sores in two years, but I set out today for a hike up Mount Jumbo. I was pleasantly surprised when my leg muscles fired up to full strength without hesitation, and up we marched. Annoyingly, the snow line was only a few hundred feet higher than it was three weeks ago. And it was 75 degrees today! Melt already!

I don't have any concrete plans for the rest of the summer. I'd like to ride the Golden Circle again, either as a slower tour than last year, or else essentially "racing" it as a fast-touring time trial. I haven't decided. I'd also like to enter this year's Soggy Bottom 100, which I believe is in early September. Since I finished this race in 2006, just surviving it would not be enough. I would want to really improve on my time. But I'm not sure I have the mental stamina or desire to train for a fast singletrack hundie right now. Especially with next year's Ultrasport already floating through my dreams. A good 2009 race would require I take it really casual for the next few months, hike a lot, and amp the biking back up in the fall. Time will tell. I plan to enjoy the decision-making process.


  1. Geoff's accomplishment is amazing in my book. I hope he is not too hard himself.

    Once again, great pics!

  2. ride to nome this year!

  3. By Ultrasport, do you mean the Iditarod?

  4. All good riders are always hard on themselves...that's one of the driving forces that inspires them to ride daily and through painful weather and painful...pain. I hope Geoff doesn't regret too much since what he did accomplish is exceptional. It's just another step he took toward perhaps finishing next year.

  5. you have to be pretty crazy to attempt this race... but to attempt it a second time you have to be entirely crazy. given another year or two and i'm sure i'll be completely crazy.

  6. Finding our limits is what it's all about. It's great to be able to walk away without an injury and know there will be a next time.... now you'll both have to do the GDR together- next time.

  7. Something like the GDR takes a drive to finish the challenge. I can only imagine there's a lot more time of just pushing toward the goal than actually enjoying it.

    My friend is trying to talk me into doing it next year. It's not that I don't want to but it would mean pushing back unfinished business at RAAM.

    I've talked to a local that finished GDR last year. He really things GDR is easier than RAAM because you don't have such tight time cut-offs. You can take a day or 2 off if you need to. I think mentally GDR would be harder because you don't have crew there to push you on during tough times.

  8. I gets back to the whole mental aspect... also if you can ajust your goals and be happy w them...

    Its a whole nother league when you start wanting to "race" vs Tour somthing this long...

    Also being alone is something a think alot of folks have a hard time with inculing myself...

  9. I like what you said about the "fun" side of Geoff. Too often one doesn't allow oneself to enjoy the "fun" in life and I, personally, believe that is extremely important. There are too many things one "must" do that are not and can not be fun. If one has a choice and the fun is not there, then one must go where the fun is. Oops, sorry I was climbing on that soapbox and didn't mean to do that. Hurray for Geoff for looking for the fun.
    Take care and make it a fun day!
    Mellan :)


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