Epic and humbling. My mind is abuzz with lessons learned and a fresh reminder of what life can be. First things first, I did not complete the 400 miles. There is no way to lessen the embarassment caused by my preparation falling so far short of the challenge. The Appalachian Mountains are unmoved and impassive. They hide nothing and accept no challenge. The shame is that I, a supposedly sentient being, was surprised by an obstacle that should not have been surprising. It has been in its present location for over 400 million years. Simply put, I was not prepared and I have no excuse. Why is this so important? Because this kind of gulf between expectation and reality with regard to an event like the Tour Divide could be disastrous. Clearly, I have some work to do on the mental side.
Now on to what I learned from this weekend.
1. Do not attempt this again unless I am 100 percent. Considering that I did not train hills and I was too heavy, a healthy me had a razor thin margin of error. Perhaps my heart would still have sounded like a trip-hammer in my ears on the steeper sections of the climbs if I were virus-free, but I doubt it.
2. Do not take equipment without testing it first. My sleep system was a farce. I had no confidence that it would work at all. Consequently, when it came time to consider sleeping options on Friday night, I did not seriously entertain the idea of pitching my tarp and sleeping outside. File this under the heading "train like you race."
3. Don't eat things you haven't eaten during training. My mental focus began falling apart after a stop at Subway Friday afternoon. I ordered two BMTs which I always top with vinegar and oil. I get the feeling it was the vinegar but I can't be sure. All I know is that I was nauseous for the next six hours. Almost all training rides leading up to the AML included Subway, but I would have turkey or chicken breast. I don't know why I changed, and the details aren't particularly relevant. What I do know is I have to train as I will race.
4. Think small or stated in New Age-speak, "be in the now". I have been working on this but I still have work to do. My brain has a tendency to want to jump ahead on the route. This is bad because my body hasn't covered the distance to catch up with my mind, and one of two things will happen without intervention. One possibility is that I will grow increasingly frustrated as my head thinks I am moving too slow. The other possibility is that my body will try to keep up with my mind, and I will burn out.
5. Know the route. I missed a bakery. REALLY?! Without a well-placed campground I certainly would have run out of water, and who wouldn't benefit from some warm, flaky confection. MMMmmmmm...
As for the ride itself, the 40 hours from the time I left Blacksburg until I returned will take up a lot of space in my memory. Similar to the way eight weeks of Basic Training hold more space in the banks of my mind than some entire years, this ride had so many noteworthy moments and lessons to teach I will be reflecting and recounting them for a long time. I think this blog post has reached a reasonable size so I will write up the trip report and post it separately.