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  1. #1
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    Humble Tour Divide Question

    I ride about eighty miles a week on single track. I'd like to race the Divide in 2014. I'm 49. I have the time, the money, and the bikes.

    I would need to do it in less than 25 days. Can it be done? I really can't ride much more because of work. I could probably increase to 100 miles a week with longer gravel rides on days off.

    Can it be done. I know how to camp light.

  2. #2
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    I have never done the divide, perhaps those who have are better to add their opinions.

    Respectfully and without sounding facetious at all, would you train for a marathon by running 1 mile per week?

    Sub 25 days would put you at 110 miles per day after day after day after day...for 25 consecutive days. More in one day than you would ride in an entire week during training. On probably 4-6 hours of sleep on the ground each night with sub optimal nutrition to aid in your 'recovery'.

    Without the appropriate base and build (both mental and physical) you would simply be setting yourself up for an early exit due to injury, fatigue, lack of motivation, boredom....etc. It's quite a risk to put yourself and potentially others into. I'm not trying to detract your effort, just adding an objective and realistic opinion.

    Can it be done? only you truly know the answer to that question.

    Tour Divide 2013
    44 pages and counting to this years event.

  3. #3
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    From what I understand about the GDR, is that on average, you should be able to go about 125 - 150 miles per day (this is guess-work btw.. I've heard that one day you go 50 miles, the next day might be 200 miles, day after, 86 miles, etc.. So 150 on average seems above reasonable, which is reasonable for racing :P).

    If you break down the math, at 150 miles / day - avg:

    Time riding per day: 18 hours / day
    Sleep: 4 hours / day
    "Day Prep" : 2 hours / day <-- eating, setting up camp, misc stuff
    Average speed: 8.34 MPH
    Time to complete: 16.67 days

    From what I've read about the route / training up for it, is that you need to be able to do consistent, daily century runs, go into work the next morning, get off, do another century, etc.. and not feel the burn in the legs / able to work fine.

    Even more importantly, is to train yourself mentally, as I'm sure you're aware of.. the route is quite boring when you're racing, and not taking in the sites.

    If at some point I get into a life position were I can do the race, then my training regime would be:

    120 miles per day
    10% single track, 30% flat dirt, 30% gravel, 30% road

    If you have any military buddies that know any drill sergeants, then check to see if they can put you through a fast-track, week long, "basic training" session.. to build your mental strength & endurance, if you need that.

  4. #4
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    I think what gets overlooked is the mental aspect of these races. Your mind will give up long before your body is done and the only way to train it is to simulate the kinds of stress you would experience racing the GDR.

    - hunger [low blood sugar depression]
    - sleep deprivation
    - physical exhaustion
    - pain from injury or comfort issues
    - loneliness
    - uncertainty [nav errors, bike problems, resupply problems, etc..]

    Of course these all hit you at once racing the GDR.

    From Salsa Blog interview with Jay P:

    Kid: When it comes down to an ITT of the Tour Divide Route, break these four items into percentages of importance: Training, Gear Choices, Mental Toughness, and Luck

    JayP: Training...25% - You will be training the whole time and gain fitness down the road. You don't want to be peaking at the start but towards the middle...


    Gear Choices...15% - I always think back to the days of Shackleton or the Buffalo Soldiers. The gear they had, or lack of gear, did not seem to stop them.

    Mental Toughness...50% - If your head is not into it your body will not be either. I like to use the term "strong mind" instead of "mental toughness".


    Luck...10% - As a karma type of guy...one makes their own luck. I also look to answer this as never looking for good luck, just not wanting bad luck. Our own lines and decisions will ultimately feed us the outcome or experience. We are responsible for our own adventure and we do control it, no matter the weather or luck.


    I would enter some of the shorter multi-day mountain bike races. That will give you a sense of what the experience of the GDR will be like. It will help train your mind and give you valuable experience to draw from a low point on the GDR. If you don't enjoy the shorter races it also saves you from the expense and lost vacation time of a GDR race that doesn't turn out the way you had thought it would.
    Safe riding,

    Vik
    www.vikapproved.com

  5. #5
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    You need to think about your motivation and goals for an event like this. Is it really your goal to finish TD in 25 days or less? Are you prepared to do anything to finish? Like ride in pain, ride through rain, ride when motivation/energy is low, ride after fixing bike without your normal tools at home, etc. etc.

    More importantly, can you ride alone? Will you be tough enough to handle the stress of being alone or will you need to "partner up" with others to motivate you to continue? IMO one must be very tough mentally to complete TD, and one of the key components is a self-supported mentality. This journey has to internalized, if you are looking for your 15 minutes of fame this is not the race to start with (Trans Iowa or some other gravel grinder would be a better choice).

    I know I can ride a long trail alone. Almost as well as in the race when being pushed/pulled by others. I prefer alone in the race to minimize the effects of highs and lows.

    So to train for TD in my concept of toughness and self-supported mindset one must not worry so much about training miles but what happens in those miles. Overnight bivy in bad weather when you feel drained. Check. Overnight bivy sandwiched by 100 mile efforts all by yourself, sleeping way away from a town. Check. Ride at 2am till 8 am before work who cares about the miles but make yourself HARD to any conditions/time of day/weather/etc. Check. Ride after work until 2am and sleep with minimal gear in a forest service bathroom like its a motel. Check. Wear dirty clothes and ride a dirty bike with day riders who look like models on demo bikes. Check.

    All of the above things will happen in TD, plus many other less than ideal scenarios that will leave you mentally and physically drained. For days on end.

    What will you do when you want to quit? Will you react properly in a fight or flight situation? Its so hard to train for the moment you want to bail. Everyone feels this in a bikepacking race. I felt it in this years AZT750 more than once. Probably 10 times at least. So in TD IMO you may have the deal with the quit monster many times. Are you ready? Do you quit stuff that is hard in everyday life when you have a full belly and slept in a bed and have plenty of energy reserves? Or do you slog it out in everyday life? Most of us are too easy on ourselves in day to day situations. That sets us up to quit the Tour Divide.

    True story from the AZT750. Ross Cairns had a super fast time in the 300 and quit the 750 in Apache Junction basically with the leaders or ahead of them. So did Aaron Boatman. Ross mentioned in his post race recap that he wished he would have given himself some more time to evaluate his decision to quit. Basically the next day he wondered why he left the course. That is how hard these races are. Leaders even quit and dont know why the next day!!

    Good luck OP. TD is the adventure of a lifetime live in the moment every minute out there.

    Edit- Vik posted while I was typing or I would have just said "ditto". Excellent thoughts there Vik.

  6. #6
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    It can be done...

    Back in 2010, The Diesel averaged ~3 hours of sleep a night and experienced a few major mechanicals that severely limited his movement for some of the ride. Here's a thread about it Tracking The Diesel Competitor Forums

    He started training < 3 months before the race... everyone is different in that regard.

    Of the local races I participated in with him, I can say: he was never the fastest but over the long haul, he'd tear into a lot of riders with power/endurance (hence; The Diesel!).

  7. #7
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    Thanks for your replies. It's a big undertaking and I'm giving it some serious thought. From a training point of view I might have to just wing it. Because of work and family obligations there is only so many miles I can realistically ride every month. I'm in fairly good shape and after 30 years of running and four years of mountain-biking have never had an orthopedic problem of any kind...might put that to the test, of course.

    From a mental point of view it's going to be tough. I survived residency training for four years and eight years in the Marine Infantry but I confess to fear being cold above all things and I look at pictures of Divide racers hiking through snowy passes with alarm. Do some riders carry extra gear, accepting the weight penalty for a little bit of creature comforts when camping?

  8. #8
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    Reading Be Brave Be Strong and Eat Sleep Ride will you help to put the race into perspective. I would imagine that the level of fitness you have is enough, the bigger fish to fry is the mental side of things.

    As far as creature comforts, I personally find that the more you bikepack the less you want to take. It really is more about the riding then it is about being able to have warm tea and eggs for breakfast. The more I go the less I want to take. On a race like the TD, I would really only want what I need to survive and nothing more.

  9. #9
    A guy on a bike Moderator
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    Seems to me that some longer training days would be a good idea.

    Only you will know if you have the mental commitment, physical conditioning, etc. to get something like this done. And you likely won't really know until you actually get out there and try.

    So, plan carefully, get some more miles under your belt--and get out there! If you fail, then you can learn from the experience and try again.

  10. #10
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    Riding a shorter multi-day bikepacking event is a smart move to see if riding TD is in the cards. It will help you get your mind in the game and let you test out your equipment and eating strategy.

    Either it will be valuable experience for the TD or it will tell you that the TD is a waste of time/$$ at this point.

    Regardless of which way it goes the investment in the shorter event will pay off.
    Safe riding,

    Vik
    www.vikapproved.com

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by dream4est View Post

    True story from the AZT750. Ross Cairns had a super fast time in the 300 and quit the 750 in Apache Junction basically with the leaders or ahead of them. So did Aaron Boatman. Ross mentioned in his post race recap that he wished he would have given himself some more time to evaluate his decision to quit. Basically the next day he wondered why he left the course. That is how hard these races are. Leaders even quit and dont know why the next day!!
    Yep, I was never in a good head space for the 750 and was often shocked at how good the legs felt. I had the fitness, not the headspace for this one. Other times it has been the other way around.

    To get through TD, you have to have them both at the same time.

  12. #12
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    I did the Tour Divide Last summer. 28 days and change but old at 59. No way is someone going to put in 150 mile to 200 mile days on the TD training 100 miles a week. That is for the well trained rider. That is Ollie or JP mileage. My max day was 138 miles.
    Can you do it? Perhaps but give your self 30 plus days to do it and enjoy the ride. If you are a genetic freak and can ride yourself into shape then you can go faster. Let us know how it goes and good luck! Go to bikepacking.net to get more info. Lots of discussion going on there.

  13. #13
    psycho cyclo addict
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    More food for thought- a detailed account of the 2011 TD.

    The hardest bike race in the world is not in France - MORE Forums

    Average mileage per day: 114.08
    Total time wheels turning: 257 hours+ or 11:00 hours a day
    Total time riding, including breaks: 347 hours+ or 14:85 a day

    Most mileage: 172 miles
    9 days over 130 miles
    8 days under 100 miles
    Shortest day: 48 miles

  14. #14
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    Ok....did a sixty mile ride on roads, rail-trail, and some single track. I ripped my derailleur off the frame at mile 45 or so, managed to break chain after 30 minutes of futzing around because I couldn't get the quick link apart not having brought my quick-link pliers, and connected the chain to convert to single-speed with a salvaged pin. At mile 56 the chain ruptured but not before jerking the wheel out of the dropouts and breaking the quick release axle. I got a little heat exhaustion walking it back to the car and I learned the following lessons:

    1. Bring the right tools. The chain is pretty important and real chain tool (not the kind that come on multi-tools) and a link plier would have made a half hour job a two-minute job and left me with a decent and functional single-speed with my choice of gear ratios that I could have easily ridden another fifteen miles. Multi-tools basically suck and an assortment of loose allen and torx keys would probably make more sense. Also, the cheap pliers I carried bent and broke when I tried to cut a cable. I think a high-quality Leatherman or something like it would be worth the extra weight.

    Also, a tool roll or something to lay out the tools so they don't get misplaced makes a lot of sense. The middle of nowhere is not the place to lose something you need.

    2. I got heat exhaustion because although I stopped at a small general store only eight miles from the end of the ride for a chocolate milk, I neglected to top off my water bottles when I could have done so easily. I was too lazy and eight miles is nothing...unless you're walking it. I think if I ever ride the Divide or any epic distances I will top off everything whenever I can.

    3. It's hard to eat when you're on the move and hot and a little dehydrated. I forced myself to stop and eat a Cliff Bar and drink every 12-15 miles and I didn't "bonk" like i have done on similar but shorter rides.

    4. Padding. I don't wear padded shorts because I mostly ride single track and don't spend the entire time in the saddle. Good Lord. I would be in trouble after a couple of days in unpadded shorts.

    5. Even though I have light waterproof socks I convinced myself I wouldn't need them and unavoidably soaked my shoes and socks at around mile ten, riding the next fifty miles with wet feet. Not miserable but I could sense that a couple of days of that might be a ride-ending problem. I learned in the infantry to take care of my feet and I need to re-learn this.

    From a recovery point of view it was no problem. Rode my normal single track the next day. The only really sore muscles I had were the ones involved in hiking, something i don't do too much of anymore.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ailuropoda View Post
    Ok....did a sixty mile ride on roads, rail-trail, and some single track...
    Well, it looks like you've entered the learning curve. Keep at it, and you'll ready for bigger things in no time!

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ailuropoda View Post
    Ok....did a sixty mile ride on roads, rail-trail, and some single track. I ripped my derailleur off the frame at mile 45 or so, managed to break chain after 30 minutes of futzing around because I couldn't get the quick link apart not having brought my quick-link pliers, and connected the chain to convert to single-speed with a salvaged pin. At mile 56 the chain ruptured but not before jerking the wheel out of the dropouts and breaking the quick release axle. I got a little heat exhaustion walking it back to the car and I learned the following lessons:
    Wow, looks like a string of bad luck there! Its alot better though to have it happen while training rather than at the race.

    1. Bring the right tools. The chain is pretty important and real chain tool (not the kind that come on multi-tools) and a link plier would have made a half hour job a two-minute job and left me with a decent and functional single-speed with my choice of gear ratios that I could have easily ridden another fifteen miles. Multi-tools basically suck and an assortment of loose allen and torx keys would probably make more sense. Also, the cheap pliers I carried bent and broke when I tried to cut a cable. I think a high-quality Leatherman or something like it would be worth the extra weight.

    Also, a tool roll or something to lay out the tools so they don't get misplaced makes a lot of sense. The middle of nowhere is not the place to lose something you need.
    I have a bike multi-tool, topeak survival gear box, and a leatherman. It's all fairly small; the loose tools I have in my framebag, the gear box mounts to the seat post.

    2. I got heat exhaustion because although I stopped at a small general store only eight miles from the end of the ride for a chocolate milk, I neglected to top off my water bottles when I could have done so easily. I was too lazy and eight miles is nothing...unless you're walking it. I think if I ever ride the Divide or any epic distances I will top off everything whenever I can.
    From everything I've read, the riders that finish know how much water they need to intake for X miles. They top off just a bit more than that. Glad you learned the lesson early; being out of water in the desert with no one around will very quickly result in loss of life.

    3. It's hard to eat when you're on the move and hot and a little dehydrated. I forced myself to stop and eat a Cliff Bar and drink every 12-15 miles and I didn't "bonk" like i have done on similar but shorter rides.
    Again, I'm NOT speaking from experience, but I think for any long duration adventure race would need to have a strict routine that is followed, day in, day out. Maybe someone with more experience than I can chime in on this?

    4. Padding. I don't wear padded shorts because I mostly ride single track and don't spend the entire time in the saddle. Good Lord. I would be in trouble after a couple of days in unpadded shorts.
    Went to the LBS yesterday; looked at a touring / cross-country saddle. It would be a bit heavier than padded shorts, however, It would be less gear that I would need to haul (my rain pants convert to shorts).

    5. Even though I have light waterproof socks I convinced myself I wouldn't need them and unavoidably soaked my shoes and socks at around mile ten, riding the next fifty miles with wet feet. Not miserable but I could sense that a couple of days of that might be a ride-ending problem. I learned in the infantry to take care of my feet and I need to re-learn this.
    A couple pairs of Under Armor wicking socks, or 1 pair of these and a pair of gortex socks from what I've been hearing. The UA socks that I have do a good job of keeping the feet dry while they're wet. At least I know this one from experience

    From a recovery point of view it was no problem. Rode my normal single track the next day. The only really sore muscles I had were the ones involved in hiking, something i don't do too much of anymore.
    nicely done sir!

  17. #17
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    Part of the reason I still prefer 9-speed- quick link removal/replacement is no problem bare handed and the drivetrain is tolerant of less than ideal situations where proper adjustment many not be an option due to damaged components, etc.

    Being able to improvise is important too because you may not have the proper tool(s) or part(s) available for days.

    For some, more padding works better... like 2 pairs of padded cycling shorts instead of one when/if your rump is killing you.

    I've never been one to force myself to eat though I do drink small quantities of water more often than when I feel thirsty. From numerous all day rides and endurance races, I think I have a reasonably good handle on timing eat & drink far enough in advance to avoid bonking (haven't experienced severe cramping either thus far).

    Two biggest fears would be running out of water in the middle of nowhere (particularly in the South where it gets very hot) or big animal/pack of smaller ones lookin for a lean, smelly 'n dirty meal.

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