Sometimes I can get carried away. When I got back to riding my bike after mostly only working on them for seven years, I was so happy to be pedaling that I often overdid it. I discovered gravel racing and dirt road exploration and dived in whole hog. This led to me attempting the Tour Divide in 2013.
I arrived at the start line in Banff a bit worn out. I had tried to do too much too quickly. In June of that year I had only been back to riding for three years and for two and a half of those, I rode by feel, no really training. I enjoyed long, easy days on the flats but rarely included intensity in my riding routine. While I was far more fit and trim than when I left the pro mechanic gig in 2010, I wasn't physically or mentally ready for a race that big. After 1,200 miles, my knees were giving me serious fits and my mind was a mess. On the drive home from my bailout point of Dubois, Wyoming I nearly swore off the event as "not my thing" and considered touring portions of it.
Two years later, in July of 2015, I went back to Banff for a solo attempt on the route. I was far more relaxed and I had another two years of riding in my legs, this time with more structure and intensity. Going solo allowed me to stay in my own head instead of focusing on the performance of those around me. And for four days of big riding all went swimmingly. I was in the zone, enjoying the mileage and the solitude. I bumped into fellow travelers along the route and loved the interactions, however brief. Unfortunately an ankle problem surfaced, perhaps as a result of me preventatively taping of my Achilles. As I limped into Butte, Montana (almost literally) I was in good spirits, but knew that the likelihood of completing the route was slim. I sought help, got a massage, soaked, ate, drank and rested for 36 hours. Upon rising at 6am to head south, I almost fell when I put weight on my bad ankle. It was over. But I knew that I would be back.
After returning home, resting and getting regular therapy on my ankle, my motivation to return to Tour Divide quickly took hold. I decided to build slowly, take a year to race gravel, go on week-long bikepacking trips and spend more time strengthening my core, back, arms, shoulders, legs, wrists and ankles. Yoga has helped. Regular massage and carefully keeping tabs on my bike fit has allowed me to train harder than ever. I ride with less fear than ever before, fear of injury, of a knee or ankle going bad.
So next year, 2017, I'll be back. This time I'm planning on starting at Antelope Wells, New Mexico and heading north. The change will do me good and it will commit me to an airline ticket at the finish as opposed to a car pick-up in New Mexico. The slow build and the experience from my two previous attempts has me mentally ready. So Banff here I come, next year.