Well, it's officially less than 12 hours until I head out with the Tour Divide with the hope of pedaling along 2,700 miles of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Canada to Mexico. It's an impossible concept to swallow right now, so I hope to find the strength to bite it off in small but consistent chunks.
I met a few of the people who will be riding the route, but most of the Tour Divide racers are still strangers to me. I hope to become better acquainted in the next week or two. The fellow crazies and their stories are one of the main reasons I'm here now, along with the scenery, the challenge, the flow and the opportunity to do something for myself. I'm in this for the experience. That's probably obvious to most who read my blog, but if you're waiting to get caught up in the forward-drive "race" of it all, don't expect miracles from me. :-)
A bike mechanic in town graciously gave my bike one last once-over and everything's good to go. It's not ultralight, but it's comfortable and strong, and the things I'm taking keep me comfy and happy. I feel good about it, and anything I get sick of hauling I can always throw away later.
Against the advice of most fast GDR and Tour Divide veterans, my race strategy is to have no strategy. I have a few tentative goals for the first couple nights, but my plan is to be completely flexible. If I push myself to hit rigid goals, I'm going to end up pushing too hard and will likely end up frustrated and burnt out. If I only make it 30 miles one day because I got a few dozen flats or hid from a hail storm, so be it. I plan to start out at a really mellow pace and, after a few days, make adjustments once I start getting "in shape." I plan to eat as much as I can put down and recover every night with lots of sleep. If I can stay healthy, there will be plenty of time later in the race to go fast if the old body and mind will allow.
I don't feel like I'm going into this with a strong race mentality, but that may crop up later if things go well. There appear to be three other women in the Tour Divide besides me. One is riding a fixie; another is riding tandem with her husband; the third is on gears (she's super nice. I met her tonight.) But in this race, which is technically an "individual time trial" event, the main competition is the record. The women's record from border to border (about 2,500 miles) is 21 days, 23 hours, 47 minutes, set by Trish Stevenson in 2005. The women's record for the full route is 28 days, 16 hours and 40 minutes, set by Jenn Hopkins in 2008. Both records are certainly a possibility if things go well (the border-to-border record would have to go really well.) But it's certainly a tasty carrot to reach for. (However, I'm not even going to glance that way until at least the first week is comfortably behind me, so it's pretty unlikely I'll reach it.)
I plan to update my blog occasionally along the trail via my Peek. Coverage has been good so far, and as Elden the Fat Cyclist mentioned to me recently, I'll never be able tell my story if I can't remember most of it. So the on-trail blogging will be my way of taking notes. But there are plenty of other ways to follow the race:
Tour Divide homepage: http://tourdivide.org/
My individual tracking page: http://tourdivide.org/leaderboard/2009/individual?name=Jill%20Homer
Racer call-in reports: http://mtbcast.com/wordpress/
My individual call-in page: http://mtbcast.com/wordpress/?page_id=743
Bikepacking forum, where there's sure to be spectator chatter: http://www.bikepacking.net/forum/index.php/board,2.0.html.
Thanks for reading. By grace go I into the Great Divide.