Category Archives: BikingBethany

IPWR: tales from the road

I write this post about the Indian Pacific Wheel Race (IPWR) with mixed emotions. The tragic end to the race overshadows an incredible experience and wonderful event which was taking shape with such momentum. Originally I was not going to write anything. After Mike Hall’s tragic death we have all banded together, taken some time to reflect and support each other. Some continued to ride the route, others not. Mike will always be in our hearts, with us each time we ride. I will never forget the passion for life and for cycling that Mike had and the way that he inspired us all to get out there and ride.

I am sure he would not want us to remember the IPWR in such a tragic way. It is a route right up there with the most challenging bikepacking routes in the world. We were racing it hard, in the true spirit of ultra-endurance cycling. I think we should share stories about the great race we were participating in and also not to be afraid to keep doing the things that we love and that challenge us.

For me, the IPWR was a ride that tore me in two different directions. Part of me loved exploring this spectacular country that I live in. It is so vast and I felt so tiny. The Nullarbor was like nothing I had imagined and I loved it. It was just that riding on the road, putting my life in the hands of hundreds of truck drivers and caravan enthusiasts, was exhausting.  More exhausting than the riding itself. I found myself longing for those lonely remote hills of Whitefish Divide in Montana, or the sweet wet forests of New Zealand.

Nonetheless, I had thirteen windy, rainy, freezing, sunny, boiling, boring and beautiful days on the road, full of kangaroo stench, desert dust and sea breeze. There were plenty of ups and downs but I’ll save you from a day by day, meal by meal account of the journey this time. Instead, I thought I would share just a few standout tales from the road.

The wind

I was lucky that before I started in Perth I received some sage advice: “Don’t expect a tail wind or you’ll be very disappointed and won’t enjoy a single second of it. Expect a head wind and that way you’ll be mentally prepared and pleasantly surprised by anything else”. Man, it was a headwind we got alright. From day two I experienced day upon day of relentless head winds. It made my mouth dry and my nose bleed. The air was so dry.  Saddle sores were worsened from pushing my body hard into an aero tuck position, looking for any advantage. The wind combined with the intermittent gusts from trucks passing was very mentally draining but there was really no alternative except giving up. That was not an option. Instead, I drew some deep breaths and smiled. This was what I was here for. To experience the real Australia.

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Beautiful nothingness

It was fantastic to have a few riders around so we could laugh about it. At one point I found myself having a time-out on the dusty road verge with Ben and Eion, looking at each others windswept faces and laughing at questions like “this is fun right?” Nearing Eucla and the WA/SA border, I had ridden about 80km in eight hours. F*ing demoralising! There were times when it felt like it was better to sit and wait it out but in the end it was better to just keep moving forward. The wind wasn’t going anywhere. The hardest moment for me was walking out of the Nullarbor Roadhouse in the hottest, most foul wind, to be greeted with a sign reading ‘Nullarbor Plain. Western end of the treeless plain’. Wow. This was one of the most iconic parts of Australia and I had chosen to ride my bike here. “Still beats working!!” I yelled into the wind, laughing. For some reason I kept smiling for hours after that. At sunset the Yalata Indigenous Protected Area was showing off red and oranges against green trees. What a magical place.

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Starting the true section of the Nullarbor Plain

Food glorious food

I am a vegetarian (try to be vegan where possible) and gluten free. I knew that this was going to be difficult and make moving quickly through towns much more complicated. Also if there was no options that fitted into these categories I was worried my guts would revolt if I assaulted it with meat, dairy and gluten all at once. I had slowly introduced dairy and gluten back in over a month. On day two I found myself shivering and wet eating a big-breakfast just to stay warm, and then meat sandwiches and sausage rolls that evening. The camera crew even got me explaining that shopping list on video. Each servo stop always began with necking a gatorate, coconut water and a chocolate milk.

Not even vegetarian lasted two days for me. I easily fell back into my favourite routine of potato chips, Snickers bars, sausage rolls and developed a hardcore hate for muesli bars and more muesli bars. What I did find hilarious was rolling into a roadhouse on day three and staring blankly up at the menu. The lady looked me up and down and then said “Let me guess… veggie burger?” I don’t know what place I was in in the race, maybe around 20th, but it became clear that there were definitely some ‘trendy hipster vegos’ up ahead of me, as the lady so politely put it!!

My guts got the better of me after the first few days of the junk food onslaught. At 2am in Balladonia I was all packed and ready to head out when I got the desperate urge to use the loos. My accommodation had no bathroom but the attendant had given me the code to the caravan park toilets. I ran over and punched it in. No luck. I tried the mens. No luck. Oh god. I attempted to run to the main service station toilets but that failed miserably. So there at 2am in the middle of nowhere, I crapped my pants. I spent the next hour washing my knicks, super worried of the implications this may have for my saddle sores. To make the morning even better, a few kilometres down the road my lights flickered across a sign reading ’90 Mile Straight. Australia’s longest straight road’. This race was getting real.

Sleeping, sometimes

The first night of the race I managed to score a room at the Carrabin Hotel. I’ll admit right now it was a total rip-off for one person but it was bliss to hear the rain falling outside while I was in my cosy room. The second night I rolled into Widgiemooltha after everything was shut, but managed to find the toilet block open and a nice warm laundry to bed down in. The floor was rock solid and freezing but I managed a few hours shut-eye.  The third night, after an epic day in the wind, I stayed in ‘backpacker style’ accommodation in Balladonia. Literally it was two adjoined shipping containers with doors into rooms (maybe 5m x 5m) which consisted of a bed and a space for my bike. No lights, but there were power points galore. Winner!

I bivvied just after the WA/SA border on night five, convinced that I could sleep for 4 hours and the wind would go away (it didn’t). While setting up camp with Joe Donnelly from the UK, he casually mentioned that he was REALLY worried about scorpions and that a truckie had told him they like to try and get in warm sleeping bags. I shrugged off the comment with an “I am an Australian and have never seen a scorpion”… only to turn around and have one sitting right next to my bivvy bag. EEEEEK! As it ran into a hole, Joe and I exchanged tired but worried looks. He wanted to camp down the road but I wasn’t moving. Here was no different to 1km down the road, we were in the middle of a huge desert. I fell asleep dreaming of evil biting things.

I found my sleep system ill-equip to handle bugs or rain. I had decided to go lighter than my tent I usually take, but the open top SOL escape bivvy just didn’t work for me unfortunately. Two nights I distinctly remember getting next to zero sleep, as mozzies landed on my face and I battled to wrap my head up in my emergency bag to get some peace. When you are setting your alarm for two – four hours sleep, getting no sleep in that time is stupid. I was getting really tired in the days and needing day-time naps to make up for my lack of sleep. So, I was always on the hunt for a good old toilet block.

It had been a while since I’d made a public toilet block my sleeping place of choice for the night. In Tour Divide it was mainly for protection from bears and other wildlife, but also for warmth. As it turns out, Seb and I slept in the exact same female toilet in Nundroo, only a few nights apart. When I asked why he had been in the ladies, he reminded me of Mike Hall’s wise words “the ladies are always cleaner!”

One night I completely don’t remember was in Murray Bridge. I rolled into town about 8pm and had some dinner. I had had a terrible day with excruciating knee pain and had spent many hours hobbling along crying. I decided a hotel room and shower was in order. I dragged my loaded bike up flights of stairs to stay at the Bridgeport Hotel. I washed myself and my clothes. Cranked the heater and pulled the three layers of blinds down. Set my alarm for five hours and quickly fell asleep. When I woke up I was shocked by the amount of traffic noise for what I though was 3am. I looked at my phone and it said 8am. I was so confused. The room was dark. I lifted the blinds to blaring sun and traffic. I had slept 10 hours. I was devastated. This was my first accidental sleep in a bikepacking ‘race’ and unfortunately, even though now it seems so trivial, was the undoing of my mental game and ultimately the beginnings of the end of my race. I was furious and rode a long hard day after that somehow believing I could make it up, but knowing I couldn’t.

The most memorable night for me was the next night in Millicent, SA. I rolled into town about 1am after a long day trying to ‘make up time’. I managed to find a luscious green park with a toilet block and covered picnic area with lights and power points. What a score! I set up my bivvy on the grass under a beautiful big tree and slipped into a lovely sleep. I was nearly four hours into my beauty nap when I was woken by a noise I knew all too well. SPRINKLERS! Huge sprinklers shooting water all over the park, me and my bike. Swearing loudly, nearly ripping my bivvy in half, with my knicks around my knees, I dragged my semi packed bike and sleeping gear over to the lit shelter and pulled my pants up. Good morning sunshine!

Ben, Boxes and my race to catch Stu

I had the privilege of meeting and riding with Ben Hirons and Eoin ‘Boxes’ Marshall. I started out leap frogging with Eoin on day two and three. We didn’t really chat much until I plonked myself at his table at the Balladonia Roadhouse “Hope you don’t mind if I sit down!?” We leap frogged for another few days until after Madura where we crashed outside the servo for a few winks. In the basin we caught up with Ben and a few others including Stu Edwards. From this point I had a little race going in my head with Stu. He moved at such a consistent pace and I was a little bit jealous of how fast he could transition through stops, while I would sit there and order half the menu.

It was clear that Ben and Eoin were good buddies, taking Instagrams of each other and telling jokes. I was a bit of a third wheel but they made it fun. After Ceduna we rode together for a few days. It felt like we were night-time bandits. We’d ride until 11pm, pop the NoDoze and go singing into the night on what the boys had coined ‘night shift’.

I’ll never forget the looks on their faces when I told them that the Kimba Roadhouse was run by an Indian family and there was vegetarian curry inside! Almost as good as the look on Ben’s face when we realised we found a 24hr vending machine ‘shop’ in Wilmington. I didn’t see them after this, I left to continue in the 41 degree heat and they were to wait it out and do another night-shift. Unfortunately soon after, Eoin was hit by a car and out of the race. Thanks for the company guys and I am so glad you are recovering Eoin!

I never got any closer to Stu after my accidental 10 hr sleep at Murray Bridge, but did end up catching him in Canberra to give him a hug and a brownie when he came through (after I pulled out).

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Night shift

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Halfway across Australia

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Ben and the Kimba big galah

March Flies

If the mosquitoes keeping me awake all night were not bad enough, the March flies surely made up for it during the days. I conclude that there must something about my blood that they seem to love. Something biting insects love more about me than everyone else. Eoin laughed at the cloud that was flying behind me. They were biting my legs, my ankles, my arse, my shoulders, my neck. After hours of yelping I was nearly reduced to panic attacks, yelling at them, pleading for no more arse biting, and slapping the painful bites. In Kyancutta I ran into a shop asking for insect repellent. They didn’t have any. When the lady saw the crushed look on my face, she went out the back and came back with a can of Mortein. “I can spray you with surface spray”?? I was desperate and said yes. I turned around in a circle while she sprayed, focusing a good burst of spray of my arse. As it turns out, Mortein firstly doesn’t stop March flies biting through clothing. Secondly, it irritated my sweaty skin and resulted in a nasty rash. Thirdly, lyrca appears to not be compatible with Mortein and my knicks where considerably saggy on my butt after this. I am sure they were probably see-through too but at least no one had the heart to tell me that!

The best dot watcher a girl could ask for

My phone had limited battery and I never actually had reception until I got to Port Augusta. Before the race I had spoken to my grandmother and said we were coming through Adelaide. It was going to be hard to have a meal together and I decided that I’d let the family sort out the dot watching, and hoped the stars would align for us to meet. And, as I was riding through Stirling, I heard a lady yell “Beth Beth”. There on the corner of the road was my nan. She had driven herself down to meet me. We shared hugs and stories and then a few selfies. What a highlight!

The Coorong

The Nullarbor was indeed my favourite part of the ride (that I completed) but a close second was the Coorong. I had heard the name before but had no idea what it was. I had not researched this part of the ride too closely and not looked at it on a map. Being a park ranger I have a passionate for nature, national parks and especially fauna. The bird life of the Coorong was spectacular and that was only from my bike seat, I didn’t go to any lookouts. At one point I noticed pelicans flying in Vs above me. They were heading towards a swirling pillar of other pelicans, rising high up into the sky. It was incredible, mesmerising like a dance, but completely silent. I stood and watched for ages. This was nature at its purest. It brought the biggest smile to face that lasted hours until I stopped and bought a peppermint magnum. That was also spectacular.

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Pelicans

My last day

My last day racing the IPWR was crazy. It started being woken up by sprinklers in Millicent at 3am in the morning. I had an easy and very pleasant ride through Mount Gambier, with rain showers on and off for most of the morning. I crossed the border into Victoria and had a roaring tailwind towards Portland.

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State number three

I knew there were storms around but somehow I managed to ride the tailwind through them. About 10km from Portland the route took an interesting turn. 90 degrees to the right, I was now travelling perpendicular to that fantastic tailwind. In the blink of an eye, the storm from hell opened up on me. It was so sudden I pulled off in some trees, failing to even get my rain gear out quick enough. The wind was buffeting me sideways and I could not ride. I could hardly walk. The rain was torrential and the temperature had dropped about 10 degrees. I was waiting for my bike to get blown sideways out of my hands. There was nowhere to hide. After 15 minutes I was wet to the core and freezing. I attempted to pull off into a driveway to sit on a house porch. I fell off in the loose gravel and hurt my shoulder which I have had numerous surgeries on. The resident, a lovely lady, didn’t quite grasp the concept of how cold I was until I pulled out my emergency bivvy. “Yeah its really gusting now, the wind farm up the corner will be cranking”. I nodded, not at all shocked to hear it was obviously a windy area. She headed off to get her son from school while I contemplated what to do.

Eventually I ate a can of HTFU and rode the 10km into town. I was so cold and wet I looked for a coin laundry to hang out in. With no luck and only getting colder I got a hotel room. I showered and ordered a pizza. The amazing staff found me a t-shirt while they laundered my clothes. Two hours later, the sun was shining. It was surreal. I didn’t want to waste my $70 hotel room but it was early in the arvo and I could’t stop thinking of my 10 hour sleep two nights before. I convinced myself to keep moving forward. Any forward movement is good movement. The hotel staff were very confused when I dropped the key back, having been there a total of only a few hours.

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The calm after the storm

Back on the road I felt happy with my choice. I’d try make Port Fairy or Warrnambool that night. Unfortunately the weather had other plans for me. About 9pm another storm hit and I found myself looking around for shelter. There was very little tree cover and I started to panic. For the umpteenth time I wished I had brought my tent instead of a bivvy. I was a bit frazzled and not making good choices. A house with lights on was close to the road and I took the chance. I ended up staying the night, having cups of tea by the fire, sharing the room with friendly farm cats and dogs. The welcoming family were so friendly and it was the night I needed. I knew I had sought outside assistance (against the rules) and technically my race was over. I sent Seb a message that I would pull out in Warrnambool and slept the most peaceful night.

In the morning with eggs on toast and warm tea in my belly, I rolled through to Warrnambool train station. I was happy with my decision to retire from the race. I was not getting what I wanted out of the ride anymore. I was unhappy and knowing I had 2000km left to ride made it even easier. If I was a few hundred kilometres from the end, maybe I might have made a difference choices, though I am not sure what I could have done differently to change how my race ended. That night I slept at the farm it poured and howled wind all night. I wouldn’t have safely made that night in a bivvy. Maybe I should have stayed in my hotel room? Maybe I should have pushed on in the storm. All after thoughts I guess.

A conclusion of sorts

The day after I retired from the race it was cancelled after Mike’s death. I spent an emotional day in the back of a car on my way back to Canberra trying to come to terms with everything. It was such a horrific way to end an amazing adventure. I have such fond memories of the days we spent in Fremantle, of the Nullarbor, the Coorong and the lifelong friends I have made. The locals along the route were ever so generous and friendly. The dot watchers and others who cheered us on along the way were so uplifting. They made the fear and exhaustion from the traffic worthwhile. Riding through Adelaide with friends and others I have never met, people just riding along chatting. It was humbling.

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I can’t wait for my next adventure. I am of the opinion that it will be on the dirt but I’ll look for inspiration and see where the road takes me. Thanks Mike for inspiring us to challenge ourselves and thanks Jesse for giving us the opportunity to take the challenge.

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Thanks to Troy Bailey for capturing the thing I tried to do most. SMILE!

Indian Pacific Wheel Race

I have been very slack and not provided any info on the latest adventure: the Indian Pacific Wheel Race! This will be an on-road bikepacking event on home soil, from the west coast to the east coast of Australia. The 5500km course will take in ocean views, desert, rolling wine country and travel through the mountainous Australian Alps. We will travel from Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra and then finish in Sydney. We’ll dip our rear wheels in the Indian Ocean and ride through to dip our front wheels in the Pacific Ocean!

Seb and I are both racing, and just like Tour Divide, we’ll have a kiss on the start line and wave goodbye! This time we’ll see each other again on the steps of the Opera House in Sydney. There will be a tracking website so everyone at home can watch on. There is a good chance that friends and family will be able to cheer us on the sidelines of the actual course, we will even ride through our hometown Canberra.

This year Seb is riding a titanium Curve Belgie Spirit and I am riding a carbon Trek Domane. I am running a Vision FSA rim on the rear but the rest of our rims are Nextie, both with disc brakes. Both of us have new thru-axle SP Dynamo hubs and Klite dynamo powered lights. We are both rocking a combination of bags including Bike Bag Dude, Wunderlust and Revelate Designs. This year I have tried to go lighter while still being safe. There is the real possibility of extreme heat, cold desert nights and even snow on the alps and I need to be prepared for it all. For this ride I won’t have my usual the single skin tent but rather a SOL escape bivvy, down sleeping bag, plus an emergency space blanket if needed. I’ve ditched the comfy Neoair Thermarest for a cut down car sunshade. I have the capacity for 6L of the water in a MSR dromedary bladder which could be needed across the desert, but makes me flexible to have a lot less when we get closer to regular towns. Hopefully these small changes will help with some zoooooommmm!

As we will both be racing, and possibly with not much phone reception to provide updates, all the links you will need to follow the race are here:

Enjoy dot watching!!

Ultra Endurance Thoughts

Often I have found myself struggling to explain to people why I do what I do. Why ultra endurance athletes do what they do. Why would you ride your bike 20 hours a day? Ride until you cry? Race across continents? Words often escape me and I end up with a cop out saying something along the lines of ‘why not’? For people who have not been exposed to such physical and mental challenges, it is very hard to explain to them. When I told my boss on Friday I was riding over the mountains to a nearby town and back on Saturday all he could really reply with was ‘you are crazy’.

Maybe, but just a little.

Today I stumbled across this short documentary film called Length of Sweden. Somehow it manages to put into words all the things I mean to say when someone asks me why. I have been to some spectacular places while participating in ultra endurance cycling, not just geographically, but mentally and spiritually. I can’t count the times I have sat down on the side of a road, teary eyed, convinced I was quitting. But each time, I have talked myself through it, reset the goal posts and got back on the bike. And with every obstacle overcome, I feel I am more mentally tough than ever before. The body is an amazing tool but the brain is such an incredibly  powerful driver.

“You can go completely fucking insane on your body just by fooling it and saying that you are going to be ok, it’s just going to hurt, but you’ll be fine. If the body would overrule all that, you would be screwed right away”.

So if you have 30 mins to sit down and watch what ultra endurance cycling means to me, I couldn’t say it better myself than this wee film does.

Length of Sweden – a documentary by Ertzui Films

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.

Tour Aotearoa - Day 5

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!

Tour Divide: Colorado Capers

Day 12 on the Divide started with a long climb from Savery and into Colorado. After crawling past Brush Mountain Lodge in the dawn light, we pushed on and towards the next pass and  Steamboat Springs. IMG_0792The aspens started to become more common in this area. It was quite spectacular to ride through large stands of white trunks with a huge green canopy overhead. Also fields of yellow and white flowers. I don’t know why I didn’t get any photos.  Maybe the fact that we were cruising around 3000m at the top of the pass and I was gasping for air! Here is one I found from the same area and is pretty much what it looked like.

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Photo: Jay Potts Photography

A very bumpy descent popped us out at Steamboat  Lake. We cruised along the tar to Clark and then through to Steamboat Springs. I stopped to grab an iced coffee and found Josh sitting next to the ice-cream stand with a bag of ice on his knees, looking in much pain. He was on the phone so I didn’t stop.

Closer to Steamboat Springs it seemed a popular cycling road. There were groups of cyclists and triathletes riding the undulating road into town and we got lots of cheers. In town it was tricky to follow the GPS track along the bikepath, weaving in and out of streets, but eventually it brought us right to Orange Peel Cycles. I could finally get someone to look at my fork which was a wobbly nightmare. While the bike was getting a once-over I kitted myself out with new gloves, white sun-protection arms (no more black arm warmers!!!) and a feed bag full of Pro Bars. I hadn’t had them before but they were a great change to sugary muesli bars and cliff bars. Organic, chia, matcha, all the yummy stuff and over 300 calories each. Yes! I also went around the corner to the organic deli and loaded up with bananas, handmade organic muffins and date logs. Heaven!

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Bike fixed and a ton full of great food on board I smiled my way out of town. The next section was around 80km of generally uphill. It was hot hot hot and I stopped at Lake Catamount to jump in the water, fully clothed! As Simon and I rolled out of town Dave Meissner caught up to us on his road bike. We had met him at Wamsutter truck stop where he was driving through and said hi at Subway where he saw our bikes and weary faces. He lives in Steamboat and was out for a ride to meet another friend who was racing this year. We chatted for ages, Dave had done TD in 2012. Must have been so hard to ride through his home town in the middle of the race!!

After Lynx Pass, Josh caught up to Simon and I again. This seemed to be a daily occurrence now. We rode long and steady, he rode fast but stopped longer. As we got down and crossed the Colorado River a guy drove up next to us and said the shop back across the river was open, he had seen us riding around looking for it. We popped back there and filled our bellies with ice-cream and gatorade then headed up and over the tarred pass towards Kremmling. Josh planned to stay in a motel he booked and we thought that would be a plan. I was a bit tired and didn’t realise how far off-route it was. By the time we were riding through town it was too late to bail, we were already committed. Simon and I found an $18 motel room (bargain!!), where we set our alarms for fours hours and easily crashed into a deep sleep. It was nice to have a shower, although four hours was definitely not enough time for my washed knicks to dry. In fact they were nearly still dripping. Gotta love soggy shorts at 3am in the morning.

In the morning we rode past a great little toilet block closer to Ute pass. In hindsight I should have kept riding to here, I had enough food but the lure of a bed sucked me in. TD is a learning experience, and I had already learned I was a sucker for a bed and a shower.

At the top of Ute Pass Simon’s tyre made a big HISS and started going down fast. Sealant was coming out and he was madly spinning it to make it seal. We rode a bit but it went down again. I kept going and said I might see him at a bike shop in Silverthorn, I needed brake pads.

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I got to the other side of Silverthorn but had struggled to find a bike shop on the route. I got yoghurt, strawberries, ham and cheese croissant and other delicious goodies and the Seven Eleven and kept moving. The crazy bike path express through the busy, posh and up market ski towns of Frisco and Breckenridge was way too much to handle and I rode as fast as I could to get out. Boreas Pass was lovely and as I was enjoying my peanut M&Ms  a new voice said hello. It was Marshal Bird. I had finally overtaken him as he admitted to stopping at too many cafes along the way through the last three towns. He rode just ahead down the Gold Dust Trail, through Como and into the horrendous headwind to Hartsel.

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I had dinner with two Northbound riders and headed out into the wind and rain, thinking I might make Salida. Simon pulled up just as I was leaving but he was staying there for the night. Again, in hindsight, I should have stayed. I was cold and as dark surrounded me I began to flip out. All I could think about was Josh’s warning: he had seen a few mountain lions in this section a few months prior when he was hiking his bike through mud. Great. Dark, cold sleepy and now might get eaten by a mountain lion.

It was close to midnight when I crashed to the ground, completely shocked and disorientated. I had fallen asleep and lost control in a big wheel rut. Lying on the dirt with pain in my wrist I started sobbing. Silly choice Beth. Silly.  Josh rode past not long after I had regathered myself. I wiped away the tears and thought I might be able to ride with him. He said he was going all the way to Salida and that we were close to the top off the pass so it would be all downhill. I was completely exhausted and decided that such a long downhill after midnight in the freezing cold was a very bad idea. I stayed at the top of the pass and rode down early the next morning.

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Photo: Eddie Clark Media

But tomorrow was another day. People say not to make big decisions night. Sleep it out. And it was true, the next day was fantastic. I got up early and rolled downhill to Salida. I had a HUGE breakfast next to Absolute Bikes, where my bike was getting a new rear rotor (apparently the old one was thinner than paper) and new brake pads. Josh and I chatted to Eddie Clark, who took some photos of us said he’d hope to catch us at the top of Marshall Pass. The tar climb up to the beginning of Marshall Pass was horrible. It was so hot the road was bubbling and popping. I wished I hadn’t stayed so long at breakfast. Over the top of Marshall Pass, Josh Marshal and I donned our rain coats and sped downhill, trying to outrun the huge thunderstorm brewing above us. We made it, just.

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Photo: Josh Daugherty

The thunderstorms were rolling past thick and fast. As fast as you could out run one the wind would change or the route would swing around and you were facing another black menacing cloud. I overtook Josh and Marshal having a dinner stop before we descended to the State Highway. I had ridden within my limits and was feeling good so I started pushing a little harder. Maybe I could make Del Norte tonight? The shape of a person appeared on the horizon. As I got closer and stopped to ask how they were I realised it was the Swiss rider Lukas Aufschlager. I hadn’t seen him since we had dinner together in Bigfork. He looked at me and said in a very surprised voice “YOU”RE GOING FAST”! He was fixing a flat so I continued on. I was thinking back to Eszter’s rides and said zzzzooooommm a few times aloud. I was feeling good. As the sun set partway up the Cochetopa Dome, it got cold. Eventually I was tired and knew I would not make it to Del Norte. Plus, nothing would be open even if I did make it.

Photo: Eddie Clark Media

Photo: Eddie Clark Media

I knew there was a campground partway down the hill after the summit, and I wanted that toilet block to keep warm. I could see Marshall’s light slowing getting closer and I knew he also liked staying in the toilet blocks. I wanted it, I needed it. I raced up the final part of the climb and over the top. By the time I reached the campground I was wrecked. I hadn’t eaten food or drunk water while speeding up the hill. About 20min later as I was setting up my sleeping gear on the toilet floor there was a knock on the door. Marshal. I offered to share the small warm space but he decided to put on all of his warm gear and sleep lower down the hill. I was smiling on the inside that I had made the effort to get here first.

Four hours later I was back on the bike, speeding down the mountain in the freezing inky darkness. I passed Marshal’s campsite towards the bottom. He would be up soon too. As the sun rose I could see Del Norte on the horizon so I decided to call my parents now that I finally had some reception. My phone was going crazy with messages. When I spoke to my parents they informed me that Seb was in fact IN Del Norte. I rang him straight away. Sure enough as I pulled up in town he was there to greet me. We had breakfast together and it was very surreal. I was wrecked from using too much energy the night before and not having any dinner. I was off with the fairies and even refused a coffee. If you know me, this is a big deal. I was so exhausted that I actually went and slept on someone’s front lawn while Seb watched over me. He was staying in town until he could fix his fork later that morning. He asked if it was OK to ride with me? It would be nice to have someone to ride with again. I missed riding with Simon and the uber-competitiveness between Josh and Marshal was rubbing off on me in a bad way.

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As I rode out of town towards Indianna Pass I was in a daze. It was strange riding away from Seb after not seeing him for 14 days. Over the top of the pass it started to pour with rain. I had two blood noses in a row and started to feel pretty dejected. Riding over the ridge to Platoro I got poured on. I sat in Skyline Lodge munching on a burger. Cold and wet I was at a very low point of my ride. I asked for a room, they didn’t have any. I asked them to ring around. No one had a room. I went to my bike to get my map to find somewhere to stay but all of a sudden it was sunny. That was all I needed to get me back on the bike. As I rolled along the valley smiling I laughed about how I had almost pulled out of the race but now it was spectacular weather and I was cruising again, nearly in New Mexico. The highs and lows of TD.

I wasn’t sure where Seb was but I decided to head up La Manga Pass and camp near the border. As I turned onto State Highway 17 and headed towards the pass, a woman called out loudly “Are you the Australian woman???” Kinda weird I thought, but answered yes. “Oh great, your husband is inside eating a burger!”. Seb walked out waving. This day was getting more and more surreal.

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He had had his fork  fixed and ridden part of the way there but decided he didn’t want to ride Indianna Pass AGAIN so had a lift to here. We decided it would be fun to ride to the border tonight and make our attack on New Mexico together. It was the end of my 15th day on the Divide and Seb and I were reunited.

I thought I was tired now. I thought I had done the hard yards and we’d roll to the border together. Oh no, New Mexico had some real treats lined up for us. I never really studied too much about the New Mexico section in my preparations. By the time I had gotten that far through the route notes I was often too flabergasted by the distance to even get there I paid little attention. Well, if you plan to do Tour Divide, here is my one piece of advice. Study new Mexico. Know it’s ins and outs. Be prepared. I wasn’t.

Tour Divide: Wide open space in Wyoming

Last blog Simon and I were in Idaho and had decided to skip Squirrel Ranch and continue on over the pass to Flagg Ranch. We arrived at Flagg Ranch, now in Wyoming, just as the front desk was closing around 10pm. The restaurant was closed and all they could offer was some muesli bars. The expensive cabin we got was a room with a bunk bed. There was no lights, no sheets or pillows. I hardly slept, I had so little food in my system I was shaking a bit. We decided it was worth staying until the breakfast opened at 7am so we could get some proper food, resupply our snacks and get a move on. A shame to miss the all-you-could-eat buffet opened at 7:30am but we needed to keep moving.IMG_0769The day started on the tar, heading alongside Jackson Lake with jaw-dropping views of the Grand Teton National Park. This is definitely on the list of places to come back and explore. It was early but already the tourists were out and about. After days on the gravel it made me a bit uncomfortable having huge RVs try and squeeze past and other impatient cars revving around us. The view made up for it but all too soon we turned East, heading towards Togwotee Pass.  After a pretty tree lined dirt climb up to Togwotee Mountain Lodge, we stopped for an icecream before heading back onto the tar for the climb. It was a gentle gradient and before we knew it the top came and went. I expected to go screaming down the other side on the road but instead, after a nearly missing the turn, we veered left towards Brooks Lake. The road was a little boggy but it was worth it, the views were some of the best of the entire Divide.IMG_0780IMG_0781

At Lava Mountain Lodge we stopped for a burger. Great place but we waited what seemed and age for our food. Enough time to charge my phone and get a message from Seb saying he was in Colorado having a blast and ‘just cruising’ now that he was ahead of record time. Ha! Here I was slogging my guts out and he was just cruising, nearly an entire state in front of me!IMG_0783

The alternate route, which deviates from the Warm Springs alternate towards Fish Lake Mountain, was another new addition to the route which was completely worth it. Instead of going over Union Pass we headed over the range further to the west. There was a bit of testing hike-a-bike but at the plateau at the top we were treated to views of mountain ranges in every direction. The afternoon sun was shining on the Grand Tetons far in the distance, proof that we had ridden a long way. The wind was picking up and at around 3000m it was getting cold. The Kiwis caught up and said they were off to at toilet block at one of the campgrounds along the Green River. That sounded like a plan to us! The maps suggested quite a few ‘unofficial’ campgrounds which meant that there were no toilets, just spots that were good to camp. We never found the one we were looking for and so camped besides a river with the cows, and awoke to frost covered bikes. Brrr!

The next morning we had a very cold ride into Pinedale for a much needed big breakfast. Mine was so big in fact, that even me AND the Kiwis couldn’t finish all the pancakes!

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I rode the day mostly within sight of Simon but alone with my thoughts. It was vast, wide open country, quite intimidating to be out there on a bike. Simon caught up and we rode together into South Pass City where we found no supplies and nothing open except a small tourist office which was closing. The man was very helpful and rang ahead to Atlantic City for us to book a cabin. South Pass City is an old ghost town, most people moved away after the mining boom ended. The man reminded us that there was not much at Atlantic City either. We needed food and water for the basin crossing and hoped that we could find what we needed.IMG_0788

The bar / restaurant next to our cabin was serving food and we were also able to resupply with a few things before Wamsutter. I was scared of the basin crossing, mostly of running out of water. After so many days of sunburn I was now wearing my arm warmers and full length leg warmers all day for protection. I did not want to be out in the basin wearing those and decided I needed to make a very early departure.

If you look at the map, you can see that the basin is the desert gap between the ‘green areas’ of Atlantic City and Savery, quite a big stretch of nothingness!

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By 2:30am Simon and I were riding out of Atlantic City. The basin crossing to Wamsutter was spectacular and nothing to be worried by that early in the day. We enjoyed a sunrise of magnificent oranges and reds and spend the first part of the morning riding through unique and beautiful desert flora.

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Unfortunately after an epic lunch at the Wamsutter 24hr truck stop, the rest of the day to Savery was pretty foul. It was very very hot, there were no trees, just oil mining rigs every few kilometer or so. I was chased by a savage white dog guarding some livestock and ran out of water at the base of a hot and exposed climb of nearly 20km. For anyone riding this section in the daylight hours, do not underestimate how much water you need and how tough this section is!

The downhill to Savery was a lovely reprieve. I wanted to continue on to Brush Mountain Lodge so much but I couldn’t face the climb. Day 11 had been 259km and that was enough for now. I had some packaged salmon, a bread roll, banana and a muffin for dinner. Surely not the same as Kirsten’s famous pancakes 😦

Simon, Josh and I camped in an open block in the middle of town. There was no shop or accommodation. We spoke to the woman who used to run the shop though it had since closed. She had two houses and it was time to sell up her Savery house. Apparently she had let ACA know many times that the shop was no longer operating, but it is still on the map. After a wash in the gurgling stream I fell asleep easily on the soft grass. Tomorrow morning we would cross the border into Colorado in the wee hours of the morning, and would pass Brush Mountain Lodge way too early to stop in. Next time through I’ll have to stop in to say hi to Kirsten!

Tour Divide: Montana Musings, Indifferent about Idaho

When studying for the Tour Divide (like a test!) I read books and blogs for as much information as I could get my hands on. I found there was a common saying about the North section: if you get through Montana, you’ll get through the Divide. Well Montana was tough, but I got through.

Day three started off with a nice climb up Whitefish Divide after Eureka. It was a bit frosty and cold but I was determined not to see a bear so I went about making my noise and playing my music loud. At the top I devoured some cold pizza for breakfast much to the delight of Brett Stepanik, who we met at the top.

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The three of us rode together for ages, enjoying the delightful forest and gradient towards Polebridge. As we turned up towards Red Meadow Pass I went to shift into my little chain ring: nothing. Stuck. I jumped off and felt the cable, it was loose. I couldn’t find anything snapped at the bottom end and guessed it had snapped in the shifter where I couldn’t see. Luckily it was a steady climb and I tapped away in my middle ring, only needing to walk once near the top. The boys didn’t wait but I hoped to catch up with them at the bike shop in Whitefish. A local highway patrol officer (and apparently a divide racer himself in previous years) stopped me to see if I knew where everything in town was and gave me impeccable directions to the bike shop. Glacier Cyclery was buzzing with TD riders when I arrived. Turned out that there was a huge rock jammed in my front derailleur and after some coercing it popped out and the problem was fixed. Silly!

With a sub in my belly from Columbia Falls, I headed off to see if I could catch the guys. As day three drew to a close, things started to go downhill. My feet were in agony and swelling incredibly. I undid all the buckles and straps but there was no relief. As I caught up to Doug we tried to decide where would be open for food. Why hadn’t we gone to the supermarket in Columbia Falls? It was an epic day tomorrow and nothing on route before then was open. Silly again. The promise of food and a proper bed beckoned me off-route and before I knew it I was munching on dinner in Bigfork. In the motel that night I spent a good hour with my legs in the air trying to reduce the swelling, while researching what had happened to Mary Metcalf-Collier from Ride the Divide movie to make her legs turn into sausages. Eventually I decided it was my poor decisions on day one which had led to dehydration and an imbalance of electrolytes. My body was trying to hold onto as much fluid as it could and it was pooling in my legs. This was my google-dr-diagnosis anyway. I drank plenty of fluids and got a great night sleep, hoping tomorrow was a better day.

And tomorrow was a better day! In fact, day four ended up being my favourite day on the divide. My shoes slipped painfully on but they fitted at least! I had to ride with all the straps and buckles undone, a small price to pay. The Swan Valley was a beautiful place. The sun was shining and I felt fantastic. IMG_0714IMG_0711

We saw Alice a few times that day: in the valley after the first pass and then in Seeley Lake where we stopped off route for some food and then again in Ovando. Richmond Peak was incredible. I must have stopped for about 50 photos, as we slowly worked our way higher and higher we were able to see further and further into the distance. It must have been such a change for people to experience it in the heat, as opposed to hiking bikes across avalanche debris with snow up to the tree tops. IMG_0726

I never said farewell to Doug, we just agreed that I wanted to get up earlier than he did in Ovando and I thought he would catch me up. After a terrible sleep in the teepee, I was up and moving by 3am and Doug never caught up to me. So thanks for your company over those first few days mate. It was nice to ride with someone who knew the route and also how to scare away the bears! I rode the next day by myself. After breakfast in Lincoln, the three passes of the day could not have been more different. Stemple Pass was just plain hard. It was steep and required a fair bit of walking, the scenery was also quite uninspiring. As I was hiking my bike up the top of the second pass I was getting a bit grumpy but then the wildflowers started. Reds, purples, yellows, whites.

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Lush green trees, vivid green grass and thousands of wildflowers.  I took a few photos but they couldn’t do it justice, it was magnificent and made me smile again. IMG_0737

I stopped at the top to breathe it all in. A wheezing came from behind and Lael appeared! We chatted briefly but she was visibly struggling to breath. It was great to finally meet her but a shame not to be able to talk! She mentioned she was going to head to a hospital in Helena which sounded like a good idea to me.

As I rolled into Helena I was instantly uneasy. Trucks, people, traffic and way too many food choices. I refueled at the last chance possible and, after much deliberation, decided that 3pm was too early to stop, even after such a big day. I rolled up another pass to Park Lake campground to stay in the toilet block. When I arrived there after a spectacular sunset climb I found Simon Cross set up with his tent next to the toilets. After me bragging how warm it was we ended up sharing the floor of the deluxe shitter and slept soundly knowing we were safe from mountain lions and bears.

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Eggs and french toast in Basin was divine after a cold morning slogging away over Lava Mountain. Unfortunately five minutes after leaving town my water bladder tube fell into my front wheel and I came to a grinding halt. Bewildered and lucky to have not had a crash, I had to cut the tube and take apart my front brake to prise out the melted plastic with my pocket knife. MacGyver Beth!

Until Wise River nothing really happened except spectacular scenery! I would love to go back one day and explore around Beaver Dam and Fleercer Ridge, just beautiful. I met Simon again in Wise River but he was staying the night and I wanted to push on. I ummed and ahhed in my usual fashion until Alice Drobna showed up. Her seat rail was broken and she ordered a new one to collect at Flagg Ranch, a long way to ride with a duct-taped seat! We had a hilarious and sneaky shower upstairs at the hotel and then continued up the road together to a first campground. It was a lovely evening and I didn’t want to stop but I definitely wanted the camping company. Had I only known that a few hours down the road was the High Country Lodge. After another night in the toilet block because I couldn’t get my tent pegs into the rock hard ground, I stopped in there at 7am the next morning to be greeted by Russ, who gave me a huge hug saying “’that was from Seb”! What an amazing place they have there. As I scoffed down breakfast he explained that Lael had just left and that the lunch sandwiches would be ready quick smart so I could get back on the road and chase her. Fantastic hospitality! Chase Lael I did, and we caught up again on and off all day as we headed towards Lima. She seemed in much better health and as I stopped in Lima for the night completely and utterly exhausted, she rode off into the distance and that was the last time we crossed paths.

In Lima it was great to have a private room for some stretching, naked lounging around and queen bed to myself. I slept like a baby. I was rooming next to the two NZ riders Greg Gallway and his friend Evan and Simon was also staying a few rooms down. We agreed that who ever was out the front of the motel at 3am would leave together, and at that horrid hour it was just Simon and I who rolled out under the cover of darkness.

IMG_0756Simon and I had such a blast riding together. We were similar speeds and just chatted and chatted, it was so easy to pass the hours. He had some great stories incredible adventures and also of his partner Solveiga’s TD ride the previous year. Before we knew it we were climbing the final miles of Montana, reaching Red Rock Pass with huge smiles. I MADE IT. I got through Montana! It had been a long hard slog and my knees had paid big time, but it was done and there were now only four states left.

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Idaho started in a beautiful way. A great downhill, a scenic cruise past Henry’s Lake and some fantastic single track taking us straight to the Subway at Sawtell. After that, Idaho had nothing much to offer except the promise of a visit to the Grand Tetons once we left the state. The rail-trail was an absolute mess. It was the weekend and the All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) were insane. They had turned the potentially awesome trail into gravel a foot deep and proceeded to whip around with little regard to poor cyclists attempting to ride through it. After 60km of unrelenting gravel and corrugations Simon and I were a bit delirious, joking about how the people in charge needed to go to Victoria in Australia and learn what a REAL rail-trail is. The worst part, even worse than the road surface of this section, was the fact that for most of it there was a perfectly good firetail running adjacent to the rail-trail. That was mean. Very mean.

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Arriving at Squirrel Ranch in the early evening, we convinced ourselves it was a good idea to continue on to Flagg Ranch. The owners at Squirrel obviously wanted us to stay, mentioning that there were bears on route to Flagg Ranch, which they believed was closed for good and didn’t know if we would find anyone there. After battling incessant swarms of mosquitos over the final pass, we rolled into Flagg Ranch about 10pm. It was a resort! It was insane! How could they not have know if this place was ‘open’. Hahaha we nearly fell for that one Squirrel Ranch! We grabbed a cabin and aimed to get some shut eye before the shop and breakfast opened at 7am.

Idaho lasted one afternoon and that was all I needed thank you very much. We were in Wyoming baby, time to go see the Grand Titties!

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Tour Divide: Alberta Adventures

How does a person sit down and write about a 2700 mile journey across America on a mountain bike, where the hours spent pedaling nearly equaled the total hours in each day? I always thought I understood the enormity of the adventure we were undertaking but it was always broken down into something smaller and easier to comprehend: two countries and six states, or the mountains and the desert, or even just the mileage between water and food resupply points.

The overwhelming number of memories which were created on the Divide are impossible for me to capture in words, or rather, it would be an incredibly long book of which I do not have the time to write. For me, racing the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route as part of Tour Divide was a very personal experience. It was both uplifting and grounding at the same time, with many highs and lows. At the finish I was certainly more mentally and emotionally fatigued than physically. It is amazing what our bodies can adapt to given enough time, but the mind is something different. Over and above all the physical abilities and challenges, the mind must be willing to press on.

Unlike all other adventures I have ever written about, at first I decided I was not going to write about Tour Divide. It felt private and I almost wanted to say that you need to get out there and try things like this for yourself. However, after returning home and sharing our adventure with family and friends, I realised that these great stories definitely need to be shared. I made some marvelous new friends on the Divide, discovered wild and wonderful places and persevered through to the end with a determination that I didn’t know I had. I am not usually a philosophical person but maybe it is true, maybe the Divide can change you? Maybe these next few blogs are more for me than you: unpacking memories and making sure I have notes for the future in case my memory fails me. I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures as much as I had making them!

Just as I did when preparing for Tour Divide, and as everyday and every hour passed on the route, I will need to break it down into more manageable chunks. Bite size pieces to enjoy!

Alberta

Having driven from Vancouver through places like Whistler, Lake Louise and the Icefield Parkway, by the time we got to Banff we were already blown away by the the majesty of the mountains. Compared to Australia… well you can’t really compare! I don’t think I could even name a ‘pass’ in Australia. Our mountains are more like hills that you drive over, not mountains that soar into the clouds which require a pass to sneak between a low point. More often than not, the pass was higher than even the highest point in our entire country. It was fair to say that by the time we got to Banff I thought we had seen it all. Oh how I was wrong!

Seb and I spent a few days exploring Banff, putting our bikes together and doing final preparations like confirming GPS routes and obtaining bear spray. There were dinners with newly made friends, test rides, nervous racers talking things out over pizza and eyeballing the bike setup of every rider which went past. After four days of what felt like a lifetime, slowly counting down to the grand depart, I couldn’t wait to get going. Seb and I said our goodbyes on the start line at the Banff YHA and after a fun group photo and a speech by Billy Rice, we were off! I was determined not to get caught up in the argy-bargy back of the pack but also not to blow myself apart in the first hour like Kiwi Brevet. I was soon at my own pace though, whizzing through lush and quiet forest and I was so happy. The sun was shining and I thought we couldn’t be luckier.

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The first day turned out to be incredibly hard but I can’t complain too much because we didn’t have to hike over snowy passes or have five days of rain like previous grand departs are famous for. It was hard in it’s own way though. Not too long after we left Banff the sun disappeared and was replaced my menacing clouds. They threatened for a while and then got on with it, dumping cold rain which soon turned to sleet and then snow over the top of the first pass. The rain soaked through the first few inches of the road and created mud that stuck to everything. I tried very hard to limit my shifting but eventually I could not even shift into the little chain ring without chainsuck that ground me to a halt every time. I stopped to empty 6L of water onto my bike from my water bladder each time I reached a stream and this seemed to make it possible to keep moving forwards at least. Riders stopped talking to each other as the rain set in and everything seemed a bit more miserable. I found myself walking a lot of hills which I couldn’t ride in my middle ring, to save my knees. On most of these occasions Alice Drobna and I exchanged conversation as she passed me. She kept reminding me that I wouldn’t be walking if I only had one gear and no derailleur to fail. I kept thinking “Yes I would, how do your knees survive on that single speed?!”

Eventually I rolled into Elkford and met up with a bunch of guys at the supermarket. I was ready to stop but Simon Cross confidently declared he was continuing and everyone kind of followed his lead. A group of six of us started off towards Sparwood together. It was great to have a few people to look for and navigate the new Josephine Falls ‘singletrack’ section in the disappearing daylight. Doug Wenger and I rode into Sparwood together and decided a motel was a good option to get dry. We pressure washed out bikes at the service station and devoured subway for dinner. After de-mudding clothes and body, at around midnight I crawled into bed and tried to come to terms with the enormity of the day. I remember thinking “wow, if the whole Divide is this tough, maybe I need to back off already!”

I had been bitterly cold for most of the day and my ¾ rain pants had left my feet sodden and frozen. I had given my booties and puff jacket to a friend the night before the start, telling myself this was going to be a warm year! I had envisaged my Sealskinz socks being enough but they were not in this weather. I knew in two days I would have the worst and most painful chilblains from today’s suffering. I had also not drunk enough water at all. I did not pee all day until I got to Sparwood. I was so cold that there was no way I was stopping to take off ALL my layers to get off my stupid bib knicks to pee. Unfortunately I wasn’t aware then but my actions on day one made the next few days very hard on my poor body.

But day two brought sunshine and spectacular scenery and we never looked back. From such a horrid day one, day two could not have been more opposite. In the morning my knees took a while to warm up but as I got into the swing of things I began smiling and enjoying the climb up Flathead Pass. I felt really great and passed a few riders who were obviously not yet as warmed up or chirpy as me yet. I bumped into Jill Homer as we approached the ‘river road’ coming down the other side of the pass. I met up again with Doug and we ended up riding together for the entire day through to Eureka. We laughed our way through the crazy hike-a-bike wall and were awestruck by the Flathead wilderness. I felt so little and insignificant in that enormous and untouched place. Starting up Galton Pass I never saw more fresh bear poo than that day. We saw one black bear up the road who quickly disappeared into the trees as we yelled “Hey BEAR BEAR”. I had seen my first and last bear for the trip!

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After laughing at the camera crew at the bottom of the Galton descent, saying I was the first chick (hadn’t they heard of Lael??), we zoomed through the US border control to enjoy pizza in Eureka and set up camp for the night in the town campground. I went to sleep listening to a strange mix of sounds including a gurgling river, obnoxious cars revving in and out of the 24hr service station and young drunk kids enjoying their Saturday night.

Goodbye Canada, hello Montana USA!

Tour Divide final update

Hullo! We are about to jump on a plane home tomorrow so thought I’d post a quick update since I realised that all the final updates are only on Facebook!

Seb and I managed to find each other after he got his bike fixed and I gave the OK for him to tag along (he didn’t want to ruin my headspace or anything of the likes). It was great to have company and after some of the highs and lows that the Gila threw at us it was really special to be able to cross the finish line together!

We finished in 19 days 2 hours and 37 mins… Or something like that! That meant I snuck in about an hour under the women’s record but that was neither here nor there, considering the amazing ride Lael Wilcox put in to finish in just over 17 days!!

Without a doubt the Tour Divide was the hardest but most rewarding and memorable challenge I have tackled yet. Upon finishing I swore NEVER EVER again… But today is a week after finishing and the day dreaming has already begun. Let’s forget about that for now 🙂

Will post up plenty of stories and pictures upon our return home. 

Thanks so much for following and for all your kind words and support. We had a blast! 
  
     

   

Day 9 TD Update

Seb and Beth are still riding strong and having a great time by all accounts!
Beth is sitting in 2nd place she is currently in Atlantic City and has ridden 1375 miles, 2212km, so she is roughly at the halfway point!! Found this photo on www.mountainflyermagazine.com

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Seb is sitting in 4th place and has ridden 2900km so past the halfway point. He is only about 50k behind the leader Jay Petervary, the top 6 men are in well in front of the current record.

EClark_150618_4278www.mountainflyermagazine.com

keep on pedallin guys you are doing awesomely!!!!!!!!!!

Tour Divide Update 4 days 20 hours in!!

Just some links and updates regarding Beth and Seb’s Tour Divide Epic Adventure!! Posting this at about 8pm 17/6 AUS Time.

Beth’s SPOT last updated 6hr ago (about 2pm AUS Time) so not sure if she is still in this spot for the night or if she’s gone forward but at that stage she had ridden 1100kms!!! That was about 30 miles behind Leal Wilcox the current leader but her SPOT updated only 5 mins, so Beth could well have past her. Hoping Beth gets to ride with her cos she seems like a cool chick that would be interesting to meet!  Another women Alice Drobna is riding very close if not, with Beth, don’t know much about her background.
Some photos from the start:
The-Tour-Divide-Race-Grand-Depart-in-Banff-36-1335x890 The-Tour-Divide-Race-Grand-Depart-in-Banff-37-1335x890

MTB CAST from Beth:
http://mtbcast.com/site2/category/td15/page/2/

Seb’s SPOT last updated 3 hr 46mins ago (about 4pm AUS Time)
He has ridden 944.03 miles, which is 1519.2km. That is epic! He is in 4th position and is at a town called Lima. Here are some posts from his facebook page over the last few days:

“Bit of bad news from my end….apart from general soreness you’d expect given the volume we’ve been doing, my right knee has become pretty painful today. Have been going backwards and struggling especially this afternoon but am hoping its just some referral pain from tight hammies and foot pain I’ve had last 2 days. Anyway am having a burger in Basin and hopefully soft pedal to Butte tonight and have more sensible day tomorrow. Go Beth!”

And then:
“Knee fortunately seems bit better after some r&r at a motel in butte last night. Made Lima tonight after a big of a long push. Idaho tomorrow!”
Seb Dunne Jun 14 02 Seb Dunne Jun 14 03 SEB1The two of them are riding strong and in good spirits. They have loads of people addicted checking their blue dots and wishing them a tonne of good vibes and support!!! GO BETH AND SEB!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tour Divide is here

Hi all, 

A quick hello from Banff, Canada before we start the race on Friday 8am! Seb and I have had a fantastic time road tripping from Vancouver to Banff. We have seen some incredible scenery and ridden some awesome trails including Vancouver, Whistler and Banff! 

Bikes are all set and both Seb and I went on a bit of a solo test ride today. Both saw bears and mountain goats, and I saw elk too! 

Here are all the links so you can follow us and the race as we ride North to South across America! 

Race tracking:

http://trackleaders.com/tourdivide15

Race chatter:

http://www.bikepacking.net/forum/ultra-racing/tour-divide-2015-race-discussion-thread/ 

Racer call ins: http://mtbcast.com

We’ll be posting to or FB page along the way:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Beth-and-Seb-Tour-Divide-2015

Cheer us on and leave plenty encouragement, we’ll need it! We have passed over blogging rights to our bikepacking buddies Courtney Shinn and Al Gribble from Rolling Adventures to keep you updated with where we are at! So watch this space!

Thanks for all your support everyone. You know who you are and what you have done to help us get to the start line. 

Happy dot watching!

  

Seb’s TD gear list and bike setup

For anyone who hasn’t been lucky enough to hear us talking about what this actually is (i.e. the whole time)……it’s a wee spin down the Rocky Mountains from Banff in Alberta down to the Mexican border in New Mexico. A bit under 4500km – no stages or mandatory stops, sleep when/if you want. Sounds fun hey!?

Preps have been lots of fun. Training has gone well with steady big base kms January through to the end of March then some easier weeks and short stuffy the last month or so. Lots of spreadsheets (an Actuary’s favourite) planning gear, the route, resupply logistics etc. Now we’re ready to get this show on the road.

Here is a quick gear list of what I’ll be carrying for Tour Divide. The short answer is less than you’d think! Apart from a basic sleep system we’re not carrying a lot more than you would on a long day ride. We’re heavily reliant on resupplying food & water in the many towns along route. Always moving forward is the name of the game as we simply can’t carry enough for multiple days at a time.

I will be taking basically what I took to NZ for the Kiwi Brevet end of January, less the half-frame bag I’ve decided to go without. I don’t carry a backpack as I find having no weight on my back makes things a lot more comfortable for the backside.

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Bike – Waltly Titanium 29er

  • Rigid
  • 3 x 10 XT Groupset
  • TT bars (helps ease pressure on hands/upper body over long distances)
  • Brand spanking new wheels! Carbon rims with the front laced to SP dynamo hub, rear DT Swiss 240s
  • Ikon 3C EXO TR 2.2 tyres (never missed a beat and I’ve used the sh!t out of some of these puppies)

Shiny SP dynamo

Handlebar bag – sleep system

  • Western Mountaineering SummerLite bag (rated to 0 deg C)
  • Thermorest NeoAir Xlite mat
  • Integral Designs Bugaboo eVent bivy bag
  • Lightweight down jacket for extra warmth

Saddle bag – clothes

  • Showers Pass Elite eVent jacket with hood
  • Ground Effect Helter Skelter ¾ length waterproof pants
  • Mid weight soft shell jacket
  • Merino skull cap
  • Neoprene gloves for wet weather

Feedbags

  • Mainly for food
  • Some spares

General clothing

  • Rapha classic bibs (soooo comfy…better be since I’m only taking 1 pair)
  • Craft mesh undershirt
  • Merino jersey
  • Fleecy arm/knee warmers
  • Whistle for the bears
  • Merino socks
  • Defeet merino gloves
  • Shimano XC50 shoes
  • Sunnies
  • Helmet
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Gotta remember to KEEP TO THE RIGHT –>

Gadgets

  • Garmin eTrex 30 (to follow the purple line)
  • SPOT tracker (so you all can follow along at home!)
  • Wireless cateye computer (for backup navigation if Garmin fails)
  • 6000 mAh cache battery (Charged through dynamo and used to power garmin, iphone, headlamp)
  • Exposure revo dynamo lamp for bars
  • Exposure Axis headlight (USB rechargeable – extra oomph for descents and around camp etc.)
  • iPhone (so I can call mum)

Extras

  • 2L foldable water bottle. V lightweight and gives extra capacity for dry sections
  • Sea to Summit sil-nylon backpack – packs down to nothing and again helps if overflow required for some long sections
  • 3 x 3L sis drink bottles
  • Basic spares & lots of chain lube
  • Basic first aid kit, ibuprofen, multi-vitamins, electrolytes, sunblock, chamois cream, chapstick, toothbrush/paste
  • Passport, cash, credit card, phone
  • Bear spray….

Not the lightest setup but enough to make me comfortable I’ll be able to handle the conditions I might face out there without being overly luxurious. Ultimately, everyone has to decide on their gear based on their own aspirations and risk appetite.

 

Bring it on!

The final countdown

In February 2012 we received our Tour Divide dvd and t-shirt combo package in the post and we were so excited! Since then Seb and I have had heaps of great adventures together and with lots of awesome friends who either crazy or stupid enough to join us! We’ve done lots of planning, rethinking, repacking, cold rides, hot rides, long rides, seen big views, big mountains and everything in between. As we reach the final weeks before we head off for Tour Divide, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Seb for all his support. Not only has he embraced my obsession with bikes and crazy adventures, but he has always joined me and pushed me that little bit harder each time to be the best I can be. Heck, we even got engaged while bikepacking! We have had some epics since that first time we watched Tour Divide on the living room floor at Courtney and Al’s, and I bet they didn’t know what they were getting us hooked on that night!

We’ll post the link to follow our dots once the website is all up and running in mid-June. Until then, here’s some fun photos from some of our adventures!

RTD

Where it all began! Crazy kids!

A successful weekend for the Sebeth!

Our first overnight ride to Tumut 2012

Blinman

Starting the Mawson Mega Marathon in SA

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Riding to Tarthra for Easter

Dalesford lunch stop

GDT bikepacking race with Courts and Al

Selfie of the newly engaged lovebirds

Bikepacking proposal!

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Honeymoon on the Munda Biddi Trail

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Impersonating grass trees in WA

Munda Biddi excitement

Munda Biddi excitement

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Bikepacking around NZ

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Finishing Kiwi Brevet 2015