“The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray”. That is the story of my attempt to race Ironman Copenhagen. Rather than being out there pounding the pavement, I ended up watching the race since I didn’t have a bicycle, in spite of the efforts of myself and a number of Danish triathletes. In the end, it was not meant to be. It just gives me an excuse to come back another year—with my own bike—and do what must be one of the fastest, and best supported Ironman races anywhere.
Category Archives: Other
The ‘official’ Tour Divide web site has been down and so with the race starting in five weeks I thought it would be good to make sure the ‘rules’ were readily available. So I pulled them out of ‘web.archive.org’ (thanks for the tip Justin!) and have combined the rules and the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ to a single page. Was good to refresh my memory on some of the more esoteric aspects of what really are a simple set of rules. They come down to: do this race alone, with no outside help, and be honest about it…
There have been a few posts of late on the 2013 TDR race forum at Bikepacking.net on GPS tracking for the race. I thought I would share what I am going to be using for 2013 through a more detailed blog post. Some context: I’m a Civil Engineer and one thing we are trained to do is risk mitigation and to have redundancy. So understand that as you read what follows.
One of my former staff was getting married in Wanaka and the wedding invitation was the perfect excuse to head to Central Otago with my mountain bike and experience some of the trails.
Queenstown Lake from Mountain Bike Park
I was sitting in the US Airways Lounge at Washington National Airport. I noticed the fellow across from me was wearing some high end Nike running shoes with a Garmin footpad unit. On his arm was a Garmin Forerunner 410 watch. All signs of a serious runner. When he put down his tablet I saw he was wearing a shirt from the ‘Beach to Battleship’ iron distance triathlon. As we chatted he said he was off to Maine for a race, but it was “only a marathon”. How typical of the distorted view of reality that we can get of triathletes. It made me think of the comment in the video below that it says a lot about the sport when we call a 1 hour race a sprint …
My wife Lis says that triathletes (especially Ironman finishers) are a ‘tribe’. Not sure if I agree, but there is definitely a culture of triathletes and, as the video shows, we do have peculiarities. So while I may be a member of the tribe, at least I don’t have a tattoo so my membership is not so public!
By the way… This video is one of a series of videos by WTC available on their You Tube ‘Ironman’ channel. Check them out here. They provide fascinating insight into the thoughts of professional triathletes on the sport on topics such as pressure, fear, strength and dreams.
Besides having the best weather in New Zealand, Nelson is a fantastic place to ride your bike – be it road of mountain. From my wife’s Bed & Breakfast I can turn left and have a great 50 km road time trial course, or turn right and ride the Moutere hills, or Takaka hill. There are also some great mountain biking routes and this weekend I was fortunate to ride two of them: the Kaiterere Mountain Bike Park and a helicopter bike trip to Coppermine Saddle on the Dun trail in the Richmond Range behind Nelson.
I had three days in New Zealand between Canada and heading up to the Pacific Islands on mission. Unfortunately I was a bachelor as my wife Lis was still in Canada. I arrived in Nelson on a bright clear Friday morning and after dropping my bags off did what any jet lagged traveller would do after 20+ hours of flying—grabbed my mountain bike and went for a ride at Rabbit Island.
If you are interested in the Tour Divide there are some excellent books available giving you the flavour of the race, and the experiences riders have.
The best perspective is from the three volumes of the ‘Cordillera’ which are available from www.Lulu.com. They are a collection of stories from different riders ranging from duffers like myself to serious athletes. The most amazing story is the finding of the bikes of Mike and Dan Moe in the Arctic. An added advantage to getting these excellent books are that part of the funds go towards a college education fund set up for the daughter of Dave Blumenthol who died while racing a few years ago.
Paul Howard’s book ‘Eat Sleep Ride’ is a well written story with self-deprecating British humour which means that he doesn’t take the race too seriously and makes the ride thoroughly enjoyable. Some readers (particularly Americans) seemed not to appreciate his style. Pity.
Jill Homer has a quite different style and also an amazing story. Who on earth would consider tackling the Tour Divide after getting frostbite in their feet? Only someone particular hardy like Jill.
Finally, there is the documentary film ‘Ride the Divide’. This has done more than anything to popularize the race. Absolutely brilliant.
While my focus of late has been on trying to get ready for Ironman Brazil on 28 May, I’m also planning on being in Banff for the Tour Divide (TD) race on June 8. I know that trying a 4,718 km self-supported mountain bike race less than two weeks after an Ironman is not optimum, but I don’t want to miss the Grand Depart. I’ve agreed with my wife Lis that I’ll see how I feel after Brazil and, subject to my not blowing myself up there, I will head to Banff. I’ve already got my gear in Toronto waiting for me…
I need to get the TD out of my system after last year’s fiasco. My first DNF (‘did not finish’) ever in a race. Next year is our 25th wedding anniversary and Lis doesn’t want me still obsessed with the TD (she’s thinking hiking in Switzerland – together!).
When asked about the attraction of the TD, besides the obvious challenge of attempting the world’s toughest bike race, I need a good holiday. Riding my bike for 3+ weeks of through nature is just the sort of decompression I need from the lifestyle of the overtravelled World Banker (170 days of mission travel in the last year). Of course it isn’t all easy, otherwise it would not be the TD. I was checking out the TD forum on www.bikepacking.net and found the following description of some of the challenges:
– The climbs can be really, really long (Indiana Pass for example is a 25-mile climb)
– Some of the climbs are steep. Most aren’t, but some are.
– There’s a lot of washboard
– There are sections that can be under snow. In 2011, we had two 5-mile+ sections of deep snow. No way you ride a bike in that, you have to push. And it ain’t flat.
– You probably will see snow on the ground, but you may also see snow falling from the sky. It happened to me in late June just north of Breckenridge, CO.
– There are sections with peanut-butter like mud. You may have to push your bike. Or carry it. For miles!
– 2 deserts and 1 wilderness section with no or little services. (Wyoming high desert: 140 miles without anything – Gila Wilderness: 175 miles with one Coke machine (may or may not work) – Chihuahuan Desert between Silver City and AW: few services, very, very hot weather)
– Days with lots of wind
– Thunder, lightning, hail! In Wyoming, that can be for several days.
– Cold weather, extremely hot weather.
– Rain. Sometimes lots of it. For days!
– Grizzlies, black bears, wolves, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, scorpions….
– Mosquitoes. You stop a couple of minutes in some parts of Montana and they eat you alive. Forget being eaten by grizzlies, you have a much better chance of being eaten by mosquitoes!
– Dogs. They can be anywhere on the route, but particularly in the south. They can run with you for half a mile. I try to kick them while still pedaling…
– Altitude (once you reach the middle of Colorado, you’re gonna be above 7,000 ft most of the rest of the way, with summits at 12,000 ft.
– Did I mention lots of washboard? Or climbing?
One thing you can count on: when you get to any kind of difficulty, there will likely be miles and miles of it. For example, you don’t just get a mile or two of washboarded road, and then it gets better. You get 40 ****ing miles of it.
Sounds like a great holiday to me. Hope I’m up to it after Brazil! And that I’ll be able to transition back to my mountain bike very quickly 🙂
There is a brilliant magazine article at Outside Magazine on Ironman Kona. I love the way they observe … “the event is filled with unlikely apostles: mothers of young children, three-limbed amputees, octogenarians, all ticking Kona off their otherwise divergent bucket lists because of a fascination for what’s difficult. Because marathons have been ruined by people who think it’s fine to walk. Because life is too easy and Everest is too far away.”
The author is very observant: “The Ironman, in his elected habitat, is not hard to spot: he has a visor, shaved legs, no body fat, compression socks, very little clothing, maybe a tattoo of the World Triathlon Corporation’s copyright-protected M-dot logo. The Ironwoman—though in the vernacular, she too is an Ironman—is not a cougar, exactly, more like a cobra: ripped, sinewy, focused, sometimes hissing, “We can do whatever you need to do, honey, after my bike is racked.” Most arrive nearly a week early to acclimate and bask, turning Alii Drive into Burning Man for Type A++ folks, the ultimate active vacation for people who like their daily workouts detailed (3 hr bike, including 6×12 min @ 95+ RPM, HR zone 3), each training session captured, quantified, uploaded, and analyzed, all the better to achieve.”
Give it a read. Highly recommended to anyone interested in, or knowing someone doing, an Ironman race …