Christmas Touring

This year, with our families in various countries for Christmas, Seb and I decided it would be fun to get out and do some cycle touring, just the two of us. Much better idea than sitting at home getting fat eating too much food! So, on Christmas eve we caught a bus to Albury with a plan of riding home over the next week. Of course these things require a small amount of planning, as the cats had to take a holiday at the ‘cat hotel’.

There is something very satisfying about getting to a destination, ditching the bike box, rebuilding your bike and riding off on an adventure. Within 30 minutes we were on the road to Bright, Victoria. Being Christmas eve, the shops in Bright were apparently open until 10pm but nothing on Christmas. So even though it was a stinker of an afternoon, we pushed the pace a bit on the hot tar to make sure we made the supermarket. After a great big Italian feed and our bags stuffed to the brim with snacks, we were all set to go for the next day. We were staying at a friends house luckily, as the heavens opened and a torrential thunderstorm passed through the valley.

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Our plan for the next days consisted roughly of Bright, up Mount Hotham and over to Omeo, Pilot Wilderness, Thredbo, Jindabyne, then back over the main range through Cabramurra, Blue Waterholes and home via Brindabella. We were entirely flexible except to be home to collect the cats by the 30th December.

Mount Hotham was pretty darn hard in the 35+ degree heat on a fully loaded mountain bike, compared to the times I have raced my roadie up there! At the top we ate a Christmas lunch (melted cheese, jerky and chip wraps) in the searing heat with the march flies and headed off towards Omeo.

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The temperature soared to 38 degrees and we were pouring as much water over our heads as we were drinking! The flies were INSANE!!!!! We stopped at Victoria Falls campground for a quick swim and ate lunch in the shade while playing some afternoon cards. As it cooled a little we ventured back into the sun and made the final dash to Omeo. It was a ghost town, so we camped a little bit out of town to come back for the supermarket that opened at 6.30am boxing day!! Packaged pre-cooked rice, rice pudding and chocolate for Christmas dinner without the usual trimmings!

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Our third day we were on the tar again for a while, then eventually after Benambra the road turned to dirt. The heat was up and the vertical meters were also starting to tick over quickly. After lunch we turned off Limestone Road and onto the Australian Alps Walking Track towards Cowombat Flat in the Pilot Wilderness. Spectacular country. The road was slow going double track which didn’t get much vehicle use as the gate was now locked quite close to the beginning of Cowombat Flat Track.

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I started handing gear over to Seb as the pinches started to get the better of me. Cowomabt Flat is a big grassy plain where you cross the headwaters of the Murray River and soon after you go from Victoria back into New South Wales. By this time we had seen evidence of a LOT of horses: piles of poo as high as your knees on the firetrails and also very disturbed banks around all of the waterways. Just before our campsite that night we saw a few brumbies running off into the bush, and when we arrived at Tin Mine Hut there was a group of them just chilling out near the hut! We had to stand our ground and try to intimidate them a little so that we could get some water from the creek. That night when I went to pee in the early hours of the morning there were horses right near our tent!

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Day four promised more spectacular scenery, brumbies, and a lot more climbing. After having cramps all night and making a dash to sleep in the hut after it started pouring, I was feeling less than fresh. Seb was a champion and carried a whole lot more of my gear so I could at least try and enjoy the ride rather than turning it into a Christmas touring death march. We rolled into Thredbo looking pretty bedraggled and starving, the Christmas tourists were a bit perplexed by our smells and the amount of food we consumed at the bakery… and then at the kebab shop! We rode the Thredbo Valley Trail down to Jindabyne and got a room so we could shower and eat pizza. Luckily again we had a room when another insane arvo storm came through.

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I was pretty wrecked and we decided riding the main range back to Canberra was going to be more slow going double track and hills, and I was getting pretty over it! I made the call to ride to Merimbula and spend a few days chilling out at the beach. This meant a long push in the heat (180km) but it was on the tar mainly so it was ok. It was my biggest day since I finished Tour Divide in 2015. Eeek!

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We had a great relax and some coffee rides in Merimbula. Seb had a spin on his dad’s fatbike. Then we got a cheeky lift home with friends. It was great to get some scenic riding in, some serious sweat and some fun times. It was also super nice not to have a hard and fast schedule and to be flexible. It paid off in the end. All up about 580km with 9000m of climbing. Hottest day 38 degrees with most averaging about 33 degrees, so good heat and hills training. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all the Biking Bethany followers.

 

 

Adventure Beth

After a year long hiatus from cycling after Tour Divide in 2015, an opportunity to try something new presented itself. Adventure racing. The world championships of adventure racing was happening right on my backdoor step in Ulladulla, Australia.

Expedition length adventure racing is an adventure race course run over many days (typically 5-10 days) and consisting of many disciplines. The main disciplines are hiking, mountain biking and kayaking, however anything you could think of can be thrown in on top of that: orienteering, coasteering, roller-blading, caving, packrafting, abseiling, wheelbarrows, snowshoes, ziplining. It just depends on what opportunities are available in the area where the race is held. The legs are often not too challenging on their own, however string them together one after the other for days on end, and some serious sleep deprivation and exhaustion together with the complexities of keeping up with nutrition requirements and maintaining good team dynamics… this sounded crazy and hardcore enough to interest me immediately.

Many years ago when I first met Seb, he was a keen adventure racer and unbeknown to him at the time, he was referred to as the ‘Adventure Seb’ boyfriend in conversations I had with my mum and sister. He competed in the world championships when they were in Tasmania  in 2011 and I had been intrigued ever since. So here was  my chance to have a go at being ‘Adventure Beth’.

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Famous Adventure Seb

I joined up with three local guys from Canberra and we formed ‘Resultz Racing’ team. They were Michael Reed, Tony Leach and Ross Beatty. We had heaps of adventures together training up for the race. We did overnight trips with hiking and biking, day long hikes, paddling and pack rafting. It was fantastic to be training again for something, and this was really different training. It was great to feel a whole of body type strength from all the different aspects of physical activity. We unfortunately did not get to do any adventure racing together prior to the main event.

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We had some hiccups leading up to the event which disrupted training right when we should have been putting in the hard yards. Two team members came down with bad chest infections and went on antibiotics, and I got bitten by one of my cats which landed me in hospital with a staphylococcus aureus (Golden Staph) infection in my blood. This was serious enough to need two weeks 24 hour IV antibiotics, meaning I couldn’t train at all.

Needless to say, this is what team racing is all about: getting all four of us to the start healthy and ready to compete felt like half the challenge. But we made it and with big nervous smiles we toed the start line.

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Ready to rock and roll

I won’t go through the whole race report because it is epic in itself. There are a lot of stories to be told from racing constantly for 24 hours a day over a very challenging course. My teammate Michael wrote a great account here which details the whole of our race.

Some things stood out though to me, as things I will never forget:

  • Paddling into a storm at 12am, two kayaks tied together, waves pounding into our boat stopping us dead still every few meters. Looking out at the lights on the shore, knowing we were barely moving despite all the effort we were putting in.
  • Hike-a-bike like you have never experienced. Dragging bikes over and under trees and roots, lowering them down cliff faces all while clinging on for dear life because all this was happening on the edge of a cliff face.
  • Crossing a river in the dark hours of the night and nuding up so our clothes could stay dry, our head torches exposing flashes of bare bums and other private parts as teams crossed in front of us!
  • Having such excruciatingly painful feet that I got the medic to try and pop a blister which I thought I had on my foot. This turned out to not be a blister at all, and I was yelping at the pain of just getting stabbed by a pin numerous times drawing blood.

In the end my wrist decided that it belonged to Biking Bethany, not Adventure Beth, and there was to be NO MORE PADDLING! My right wrist had developed severe swelling the size of a lemon and was warm and inflamed. I couldn’t move it and the medic suggested I might have a fracture. And that was that, my race was over. I packed my gear up and jumped into a tent for the night, to be taken to hospital the next day. Teams can continue with three people but my team mates decided they had had enough and also pulled the pin. I ended up with no fracture, but severe tendonitis in my wrist. Intersection Syndrome apparently. The two tendons rub over each other with such friction that the sheaths inflame and swell. Mine was so inflamed when I moved my hand there was a chalky audible squeak of dry tendons.

I really loved the craziness of the race. Everything was just hard enough to feel like you were being tested. Would you break this time? What about now? The legs were long enough that you were completely ready to do the next thing, whatever it was. Get off those weary feet and onto the bike. Be done with the hike-a-bike and get into that kayak. We only lasted three days out on course, but the sleep deprivation was a real tricky bugger even in that amount of time. The hours between midnight and dawn were hard. While hiking on the second night the steps in front of me were rolling and merging into one flat piece of path and I was continually stumbling along like I was drunk. Cycling at night and just staring at the one light ahead on the ground was something I was used to but there was the odd slap of the face to reinvigorate myself. I rediscovered no-doze for the first time since Tour Divide, and it was just as fabulous as I remember.

I found the dynamics of racing with three other people very challenging. All the adventures I have ever done where you are so exhausted and not thinking clearly, I have been by myself. You can scold yourself, swear at yourself, sleep when you need, stop when you need. Having to accommodate the needs of three other people was hard and I think teams who race together often develop together as a real unit. Still, we had a great adventure and a sense of achievement for giving it a good hard crack was felt by all.

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Adventure racing makes you go craaaazzzyyyyy

So I’ve had some time off. Time to heal my TD wounds and time to try my hand at new things.  I liked the idea of Adventure Beth, but I am not sure if it liked me. One thing I am sure of though, is that it awakened the fire. I am so excited to be fit and ready for new challenges. There are adventures ahead, so watch this space cause Biking Bethany is back.

(photo) Update 4 – Tour Aotearoa 2016

Seb and Ollie had a big day yesterday up and over Haast Pass, still managed 300+ km while ‘taking it easy’. They camped out and rolled into Wanaka at 6am to eat bakery treats and keep rolling. They have just hit Queenstown and will be on the 2pm boat to Water Peak. Only 240km to go: estimated finish time 12pm tomorrow (10am Australian time)!

That’s it from me, Seb can write a blog post or two when he gets home!!

Go guys, stella effort.

 

 

Update 3 – Tour Aotearoa 2016

Had a quick chat to Seb today when he was in Ross, about 2112km into the event. Has been riding for around 7 days 8 hours and he sounded very chipper! All is going well. He and Ollie parted ways with Anja when she had a slightly longer stop in Nelson, her home town. Seb had some tube dramas and spent a chunk of time swapping new ones in and out and mending others, but all seems good now and he has a fair long road section ahead. If they keep on this pace they will finish before the allowed 10 days minimum, so it sounds like the next few days will be a bit more cruisy rather than sitting near the finish waiting… I wish my cruisy days were 300km!

The next 300km for the guys from Hari Hari has around 3500m climbing and will take them past the glacier townships of Fox and Franz Joseph and then up and over Haast Pass. The next 300km after that has around 2600m of climbing. Hope Seb gets to have an awesome Queenstown FERGBURGER before the boat across gorgeous Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak.

Anja is having some butt issues although it doesn’t seem to have slowed her down. Cracking pace. Nathan apparently got stung on the tongue by a bee (eeeek) and has a bit of a sore knee, feeling good other than that. He has regained some ground and is currently in Springs Junction about 280km behind the leaders. He has a fantastic road climb ahead of him up and over Rahu saddle (one of my favourite Kiwi Brevet sections) to Reefton. He then has the horrid Big River Track (my least favourite section). Think of a road with head sized river boulders followed by classic (and a tad sketchy) NZ hiking trail. Enjoy Nath, Seb confirmed that he enjoyed it as much as last time, which was not at all!

The field is really spread out now, with a lot of riders looking like they might still be on the North Island when the top riders finish. Sounds like weather up north is hampering efforts, making the Mountains to Sea/ Bridge to No Where section challenging. Keep thinking happy thoughts people, it will all be over too soon and you’ll wish you were back out there in the rain!

Here are some photos Seb sent through.

 

Update 2 – Tour Aotearoa 2016

Today (25th Feb) sees the front riders well into their 5th day of racing. All waves have started and riders are now spread out across the entire North island of New Zealand as people have settled into their individual rhythms and routines.

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Tour Aotearoa – Day 5

For the last few days a group of 6 riders had been out the front quite enjoying each others company. Seb as usual says he is just riding along chatting and loving it, but some others appear to be already burning the candle at both ends. Nathan Versey was riding with the group but required a chain lube top up in town, which unfortunately (unless he stopped for other reasons), meant he missed the boat the front guys were on.  Haven’t heard from him but looks like he is still riding strong!

Seb’s FB update read: “Tour Aotearoa going along fantastically. Today was wicked-up at 4am to finish off timber trail – proper NZ mtbing. Managed to make last jet boat and rolled 80km to Whanganui for a motel and shower which also means social media. Been very social for a change with a group of 6 – mainly due to boat pinch points. Around 1050km in now and aiming to make ferry to Picton Friday evening.

Photo point 10 was at the Bridge to Nowhere: originally built to connect the small settlement to the Whanganui River, Now abandoned, native bush has taken over leaving a bridge with nowhere to go. Very pretty!

Bridge to Nowhere

Bridge to Nowhere

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Being a tree? I presume this is photo point 8 – the geographical centre of the North Island.

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Anja and Ollie

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Not quite so rideable. Anja and Ollie.

Seb said parts of the timber-trail were pretty epic but there was a great downhill which made up for it. The jet boat from Mangapurua Landing along the Wanganui River to Pipiriki looked so cool! He posted a video here.

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Bike storage on the jet boat

Annoyingly when they woke this morning to leave, Ollie Whalley’s shoes had been stolen from out the front of the room. The others pushed on while he waited around for a store to open to buy some more. Who would want shoes that have just ridden over 1000km in 4 days!?!? They are famous person shoes I guess!

So at the moment Matty Graham, Seb Dunne, Anja McDonald, Steve Halligan are trying hard to make the Friday ferry from Wellington to the South Island.  Ollie will surely catch them up in time for the Friday evening ferry, otherwise it’s Saturday morning. I gotta say, big kudos to Anja, she is ripping this ride apart so far and keeping with the top boys. Go girl! Not sure where they will sleep tonight, but the riding looks pretty straight forward once they cross the Tararua Range.

Grey Galway and a group of a few others have just gotten off the speed boat and will push for Wanganui tonight I guess, this is where hard as nails Rob Davidson and Nathan Versey currently are.

Our buddies Dane Roberts and Lee Rice are going well since their start on the 23rd. Both have made it Auckland and it looks like Dane has pushed on ahead.

I am away camping and rogaining for the weekend so no internet or updates for me. Come Sunday night I am sure things will have started getting interesting. With only one boat section on the South Island they will be free to ride without such hard time constraints except for the 6 hour stoppages!

Update 1 – Tour Aotearoa 2016

As most might be aware, there is an awesome new event on the bikepacking calendar this year: Tour Aotearoa. It is a 3000 km brevet from Cape Reinga to Bluff (top to bottom) in New Zealand. It follows the route described in the 3rd edition of Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails and has been organised Jonathan Kennett.  The event is being run in 3 waves of start dates: 21st, 23rd and 24th February.

The event follows most of the usual bikepacking style rules: self-sufficiency, carry your own gear, no outside assistance. There are a few other unique additions to the rules: cannot finish in under 10 days or over 30 days, can ride in pairs (no drafting) and between 9am one day and 9am the next, every rider must spend at least one block of at least six hours not travelling. That is, the maximum time any rider may spend travelling along the course will be 18 hours (between each 9am-to-9am period). Plus mandatory photo points!

You can follow the spot tracking here: http://touraotearoa2016.maprogress.com/

And the event blog here: http://www.touraotearoa.nz/

We have a quite a number of riders from Australia who have headed over: Seb Dunne, Nathan Versey, Dane Roberts, Lee Rice, Steve Watson.  There are a few good friends of ours from New Zealand riding including Ollie Whalley, Rob Davidson, Scott & Jo Emmens and Margaret Leyland (riding in a pair as Peg & Kath).

Back here in Australia I am super busy with uni and work at the moment but I’ll try and do a general update of what I hear and find on out on the internet every couple of days!

Seb's photo point 1: Cape Reinga

Required photo point 1: Cape Reinga, the top of New Zealand

I spoke to Seb after his first day. Apparently a super tough day. The first section headed them straight out onto ‘Ninety Mile Beach’ for a hard slog the entire length of the beach on the sand with a great big southerly blowing hard into their faces. Oh, and it was HOT! Seb had some chest pain and breathing issues so stopped a bit early that night. After a good rest he was up early and caught back up to the small lead group to all catch the ferry together.

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Required photo point 2: Ninety Mile Beach

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On the ferry across Kaipara Harbour

After the ferry a small group waited out the rest of their 6 hr rest stop in order to ride through the night, avoiding the hectic aspects of riding through Auckland.

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Hobbits wearing lyrca?!

Apparently they made it through Auckland with no dramas. Seb says he is on track to catch the speed boat at the planned time to Pipiriki. He also said that all the timing deadlines with boats makes riding a bit more complicated than normal, especially trying to coordinate it with mandatory rest periods!

It seems like a group of a few riders have been staying pretty close at the pointy end: Matty Graham, Seb Dunne, Cliff Clermont, Anja McDonald, Steve Halligan. It appears (according to the trackers but who knows how accurate the trackers are real time) Ollie Whalley and Nathan Versey are a little bit behind that.

Wave 1 have now been riding for just over 2 days. Wave 2 started a few hours ago, wave three due to start tomorrow!

Keep enjoying the event unfold and watching those dots.

Tour Divide: New Mexico

Our first morning in New Mexico began with a dark climb up and over Brazos Ridge. Seb pointed out the spot where his fork broke, where he camped and had to hike out. It was remote and wild and I didn’t envy him having been stuck out there in a thunderstorm at all. We bumped into the kiwis (again). I was riding along enjoying the morning and then realised I was falling behind the guys. Then struggling. Then feeling a bit dizzy. What was wrong with me? I could see Seb cringing at the pace.

When I stopped and thought about it, I realised I was really really hungry. I’d only had half an old burger for dinner and a sugary fruit bun for breakfast. I had absolutely bonked for the first time on the divide. I was starting to make bad judgements, especially about food and water. My mouth was blistered from continually eating. From sugar. Gross muesli bars. If I never had to eat another another sweet and salty nut bar in my life I would be happy. But I had nothing else at the moment, so I stopped and reluctantly forced down nut bars and snickers. Seb caught me letting go of a few tears while muttering something about muesli bars. But the food worked and after an hour or so of easy riding I had managed to dig myself out of my bonk hole.

IMG_2239As we approached Vallecitos the thunderclouds were rolling in and starting to grumble. We rejoined the kiwis for the ride through town, hoping that a group of four would be safe to combat the aggressive dogs which live in the town. We slipped through unnoticed, but not by the storm. Large drops started hitting us and as we climbed higher into the forest, the air started to feel static. Seb and I kept pushing but eventually a huge front of hail came through followed by a downpour of rain. We took shelter under some trees and crouched next to each other grinning. It was a wild storm and nice to have someone to sit it out with. Unfortunately the rain turned the top of the pass and the entire downhill to sticky brown goop which covered and clogged everything. We washed our bikes at a ranger station and got aero for the downhill to Abiquiu.

IMG_2241We stopped at the Abiquiu Inn to see if there was a room for the evening but it was all booked out for a wedding. We were fortunate to meet Cricket Butler and Keith Brodsky sitting out front and they invited us to eat with them. It turned out they booked what appeared to be the last room available in the town. We shared some laughs and stories. They were riding North and meeting up with Dave Nice who I had bumped into in Del Norte. Such amazingly cool peoples, they got me smiling again and told us if me rode up less than 10km we’d be in the national park and would be able to camp and tackle the Polvadera Mesa fresh(er) in the morning. This sounded like a plan and so we headed off into the mountains again. We stopped earlier than I think Seb liked but I was spent. I hate riding into the night tired and would much rather get up at 3am and see dawn from the bike seat.

IMG_0809Polvadera Mesa was pretty evil. The start was tough going: sandy, slab rocks, bumpy. Maybe any other time it would be a rad climb, but not with the previous 16 days in the legs. It was dark, I was grumpy and it was pretty much like sucking big hairy balls. I winged and cried my way up the freaking long climb. I was dropping-my-basket and not enjoying any single part of the day so far. Then when we caught up to Marshal. That made me at least stop complaining out loud as I told myself to HTFU. 11269484_10153475049739459_4704379765928150408_oEventually, though, the sweet downhill came. We meandered through some spectacular countryside and as we got closer to town we passed through some sweet campgrounds full with people enjoying their Sunday.

IMG_2255It was getting HOT!

After a slight water-point miscalculation (ended up drinking from a cattle dam…. yuck), we rolled into Cuba on sticky tar under a scorching midday sun. I hadn’t eaten a full ‘bikepacking’ size meal since Del Norte, so all I could think about was McDonalds. As we rolled up there were lots of racer’s bikes lined up out the front. Seb ordered us a family pack (2 x burgers, 2 x chicken nuggets, 2 x large chips, 2 x thickshakes), and laughed at how gross that all sounded. We quickly realised we were going to need more, and ordered another family pack between the two of us…

mcdonaldsEveryone was debating about the best strategy: go now or wait until it cooled down a smidgen. Outside it was close to 40 degrees Celsius and we had a 125 mile stretch of tar across the desert to Grants. Everyone else left to give it a go, and we did too. I wet my buff and covered my face with it. Leg warmers on, arm protectors on. An hour later, riding in intense heat on the tar, my McDonalds got to me, stomach cramps!!

IMG_2259As we rode along the Navajo Route 9 through the canyon, the sky darkened and a huge electrical storm came in. We skirted the edge for hours and I started to get really worried. Knowing that our buddy JC had an incident with lightning a few years ago, I felt it was a bad idea to keep going, but there was literally nowhere else to go. It was a vast desert.

We rolled into Grants at midnight and got a room at the first accommodation at the Crossroads. A shower and bed was just what the doctor ordered after a big 180 mile day. I rinsed my disgusting stinky clothes and passed out, the alarm set for 5am.

The mission for the next day was Pie Town. It closed at 4pm (?) and we agreed we MUST get there! After a fantastic, hot, big breakfast was woofed down we rode through the beautiful El Malpais National Monument, an area of basalt formation made by volcanoes and lava.

IMG_2274 IMG_2278 It would have been nice to look around, apparently there are lava tubes, caving and other cool structures; but we were on a mission for PIE! The heat was back and we struggled into Pie Town desperate for some shelter from the sun, and some pie. At the Good Pie Cafe we presented our Salsa top caps and put the order in for two pieces of pie. I had lemon coconut followed by a yummy burger followed by blackberry pie. We had a great chat to the cafe owners and also Kathy, the Toaster House owner. Then we each got a solid burrito to take away and headed back into the sun.

IMG_2283Later that evening we munched on those burritos at the church by the highway, made famous in the Ride the Divide movie. We also restocked with water here – indeed a ‘god send’ of a spot. We bumped into Ryan Correy who was also on the search for water.

IMG_0822IMG_0823As we rode up towards  the canyon we passed an enormous herd of elk. We don’t have many animals back some in such huge groups. In the fading light, thunderstorms full of lightning ahead, gazing back across the grassy basin, listening to the eerie elk calls, I felt quite insignificant. Partway up the canyon, the walls closed in and darkness came, and so too did the rain. I wanted to stop, Seb wanted to continue. We stopped under some trees, had dinner, sleep and were back riding by 3:30am.

IMG_2289Day 18.

As we got to the top of the pass, all of a sudden I felt like I was riding through quicksand. Gross, all encompassing mud. We shouted and yelled at each other, Seb annoyed we hadn’t ridden through the night before. Shmeh! It turned out to be (just) possible to ride on the bumping sage brush type ‘grass’ on the side of the road, which he did for a looooong time until we intersected a more rideable road and were able to continue. This turned out to be our last ‘day’ on the divide, as we technically didn’t sleep now for about 30 hours. And this turned out to be the first of many dramas in our journey across the Gila Wilderness.

IMG_2291We entirely miscalculated the amount of food and water required for the huge stretch through to Pinos Altos / Silver City and the Gila was tough. It was spectacular country but hard riding. Hot, dusty, dry with constant undulations that wouldn’t allow you to get any respite or easy miles.

IMG_2294 IMG_2296We were both struggling big time. Seb says he saw a huge bear running fast through the trees, I never saw it. Maybe he just had the heat crazies? The CDT was a tricky little section made all the more trickier by me being afraid of heights, crap at singletrack and tired.  We got through faster than I had hoped though and in no time we were cruising the tar again towards Pinos Altos.

IMG_2298 IMG_2299 IMG_2300Then I spectacularly almost ruined my entire race trying to copy Seb’s mastery. Turns out he can turn off his red flasher on his rear seat stays by unclipping and using his foot; I on the other hand, cannot.  After sticking my foot in my rear wheel and almost breaking my toe, I got going again, amazed I hadn’t fallen off or broken any spokes. Very lucky. Very stupid.

At McDonalds in Silver City we decided to keep going. To be honest, my reasoning was simply that I didn’t want to have to wake up again and put on clammy, stinky knicks. I just wanted to keep going and get this thing done. The one thing that got me out of that chair was that if I kept going, I could beat Eszter’s old record. Of course Lael had already beaten it days before me, but it meant something I could push for to get me to the end. And so we went!

We had been riding since 3:30am that morning so it was fair that when dark settled in I got the sleepies. We weren’t far out of Silver City and had to pull off the side of the main highway and I slept for 15mins. Feeling refreshed we pushed on to the dirt turn off. Riding Separ Rd at night was a very cool experience. It was a perfect temperature, no wind, lots of stars. The riding was easy, fast. At around 1am we stopped for a 45min nap. No bivy or tent, just sleeping bags on the dirt. It was so good. I dragged myself off the ground and packed things slowly. Seb and I were riding a bit separate after this point. He was keen to get it done, I was showing obvious signs of exhaustion. He said he’d wait at the turn off of the final road. And there we met. We got aero and started the final countdown to the finish. As the sun rose it was a bizarre landscape. A few cactus, some distant mountains. This place was so incredibly different to the place we started from 19 days ago and I disliked it very much. I like trees and water and mountains.

IMG_2315 IMG_2319After sunrise I started to bonk incredibly. We were running out of food and I was running out of energy. At 19 miles to go I had eaten every last thing I had. I was doing about 7 miles per hour and getting slower. I had to sit down under the ‘shade’ of a salt bush twice. By now it was hot. I told Seb to go ahead and I’d see him at the finish. When he rode off I was crying at how crap that would be to finish together, but not together. I totally lost my shit! I felt sick to my stomach and considered calling it quits and trying for an ambulance or something. I spoke quietly and calmly to myself. Talked myself through every inch of about 10 miles. It was truly terrible. Eventually poor Seb appeared on the horizon and said he had to wait. What if I never made it to the finish??

Then something happened. Something kicked in and I swear it was pure adrenalin that got me to the finish. It was one of the most emotional moments in my life. Everyone says how they breezed into the finish. But for me, this was THE hardest part of the entire ride. Having ridden about 35hrs straight with a few nanna naps, it was terrible.We crossed the line, had obligatory border photos and then pretty much passed out in the shade with some of the other riders still there.

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Many many thanks to Doug from Wisconsin who collected us from the finish in a huge RV. Also thanks to for Lukas for the fun chats and companionship throughout the race and for your company for those few days after the race where we spent the time sleeping, swimming and showing off our tan lines in the middle of the dustbowl that is Lordsburg.

IMG_2326 IMG_2329This was the adventure of a lifetime. Maybe I have made it sound hard or horrible, maybe not. It was indeed that sometimes, and I asked myself plenty of times why I was doing it! But the best part is that I got through it. I saw amazing sights, met amazing and courageous people, witnessed firsthand my strengths and weaknesses. I can now say I rode my bike across America and that’s one hell of a story to tell the grand kids one day. IMG_2334Thanks for reading!