Here is one more excerpt from the book. This is from chapter twelve, "Savage Side."
I woke up draped in the silky sheets of a luxury bed, deeply sore.
General muscle and joint soreness is always accompanied by wide-ranging emotions. There is comforting soreness, the kind that comes in the midst of hard training, because it signals sought-after muscle growth. There is satisfying soreness, that post-race glow when a person knows they have met their goals and can finally rest. There is debilitating soreness, the kind that follows injuries, lapses in judgment or an insistence on pushing oneself too hard.
And then there is Divide soreness. Divide soreness is not so easily pinpointed, because it descends in waves over days and weeks. It starts as a sharp tinge in the larger muscles on day two or three. Then it slowly cuts into smaller fibers. Then it seeps into the blood, working its way into the recesses of long-forgotten and little-used regions of the body, such as pinky toes. Just when you find yourself wondering why your pinky toe hurts, soreness has found its way into your brain, casting a pain-soaked pall over even the simplest thoughts and decisions. Finally, Divide soreness needles through to the soul, full of bile and perpetual fatigue, convincing the unfortunate individual that Hell is not death’s purgatory but a state of being on Earth, and nothing will ever look or feel good ever again.
Of course, the mercy of Divide soreness is that it doesn’t last forever, and comes and goes frequently during the course of the same race, and even the same day. But, leaving Butte, I felt none of the euphoria I had experienced while descending into town. The city looked gray and bland in the light of day, a scattershot of concrete in a wide, barren basin.
“I checked the SPOT standings before we left town,” I said to John as we pedaled toward yet another wall of mountains. “I was actually surprised. We really are right in the middle of the pack, right in the thick of it. In fact, the leaders haven’t even left Montana yet, but I think Matt Lee will cross into Idaho today.”
“See, and you’re not even trying yet,” John said.
“Oh believe me, I’m trying,” I said. “It just doesn’t seem like it to you because you’re on a joy ride. You only notice how slow we’re going when you get cold.”
John had taken me up on my recommendation of Idaho Falls as a good place to leave the Divide, and decided to follow me to southern Montana, which meant we would be riding together for at least two more days. I was glad he hadn’t decided to abandon the race in Butte, but grumpy enough that morning that I really felt like asking him to press ahead so I could indulge in a few hours of tuned-out solitude. John, on the other hand, had slept great the night before and was able to slam down a huge breakfast even though he insisted on going to the grocery store rather than Denny’s, which had been my preference. I had only managed to consume a yogurt and a pound of strawberries before I started to feel ill, and the only thing competing with muscle soreness for my attention was a discouragingly low energy level.
John chatted amicably while I nodded and grunted. It was rude to acknowledge, but secretly I wished he would ride ahead so I could nurse my malaise. Near the top of the first pass of the day, a swift thunderstorm dropped over the mountains and John sprinted away from me. By the time the rain tapered off and I caught up to John on the other side of the pass, my sore muscles were finally starting to warm up and the Sour Patch Kids I had forced down my throat were kicking in. John pointed across a large valley bathed in sunlight but ringed by dark clouds.
“That mountain over there, the pointy one, that’s Fleecer Ridge,” he said. “Hard to believe, huh? That’s still nearly thirty miles from here.”
“So that’s Fleecer, eh?” I said. Fleecer was yet another notorious section of the Divide, a difficult-to-locate intersection with a treacherous, technical descent on the downside. The reputation of these places tended to fill me with a dread that was quickly replaced with glee upon arriving there. I found I preferred the somewhat ridiculous challenges presented by unrideable obstacle courses to the usual physical strain of simply riding long and hard. In fact, all of the places I had been warned about — Red Meadow Lake, Richmond Pass and Lava Mountain — were all the places I already regarded most fondly. At that point, I expected nothing less from Fleecer.
As John put on his warm jacket and leg warmers for the descent, I pulled a little wax-coated cheese wheel from my feedbag, unwrapped it and popped it in my mouth. As I chewed, the creamy cheese oozed down my throat and lined my stomach with the most incredible sense of health and well-being.
“Oh my God, John, you have to try these things,” I said as I fished another cheese wheel out of my bag and handed it to him. “I bought them at the store in Butte. They’re like pure happiness wrapped in a ball of wax.”
John laughed and popped it in his mouth. “Pretty good,” he said. “You need to remember these things. I’m serious. Make a mental note. When you find something that works for you, you don’t want to forget it.”
We dropped into the valley and crossed beneath the interstate. As we started climbing anew, I looked wistfully down the pavement as it snaked along the basin in a comforting, familiar way. “There’s the road of my childhood,” I said to John.
“Growing up in Salt Lake City, that was the road we used to get anywhere. When I was a surly teenager, I dreamed of moving to California and I-15 was my escape route. It feels so close. Now, if I headed south on I-15, it would take me home.”
“How far do you think it is to Salt Lake City?” John asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “That’s the weirdest thing about paying so much attention to these Divide maps. I could tell you the name of every stream we cross, every valley we pass through, exactly how far it is to the next notable cattle guard, but I have no idea where we are in relation to the rest of the world.”
“The Divide is an all-encompassing existence,” John agreed.
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