In 2 weeks I’ll hop in a rental car, drive east, and make my way to Jacksonville, North Carolina. I’m getting ready to participate in the first ever American Trail Race. I’m super excited. I’ve never taken on such an enormous event. I’ve also never trained harder or been more focused in my life. People have been asking me what I expect from the race. I thought I would compile a small list of things that have come up in conversation over the last few months.
-What is my goal for the race? Is there a time limit? – Seeing as how this is the first year for this event I can only base my goals on my own expectations. I expect to average anywhere from 150 to 200 miles a day. My goal is to be on the bike 18 hours a day and to sleep 4 hours a day. I am hoping to finish the race in 30 days or less. To the best of my knowledge there is no time limit. Normally a race of this nature will have an “official finish time” which is 150% of the current record. For example if the course record were to be 14 days the official finish cut off would be 21 days or less.
-Do I want to win? – Yes, but let me define “win”. A win for me equates to leaving it all on the course. I want to do my very best while continually pushing my physical and mental boundaries. I haven’t worked my ass off for 8 months to go out on the course and play it safe. I’ll take risks when I feel they are warranted. I want to find my limit every single day and push a little bit harder the following day. It’s a long race so I have to keep in mind that it will not be won in one day. I can’t go out super fast and expect to keep up an inhuman pace for 30 days. If I finish with nothing left in my gas tank, a smile on my face, and a lifetime of memories I will have “won” this race in my mind.
-What could go wrong? – Well, just about everything. I think for me, based on my mental and physical state, it will come down to mechanics. There are so many things that can break on the bicycle itself. I have had to think very carefully about what to bring in my repair kit. You can’t bring everything so I have whittled it down to what I think can get me to a safe place where I can hopefully get the parts I’ll need to stay in the race. I suspect everyone in the race will have very different repair kits. There are some scary long distances during this race without bicycle shops. Ingenuity and MacGyver skills are a must for anyone who plans to finish the race.
-What scares me the most? – When I signed up for this race I was most scared of being alone at night and being harassed by the wildlife. I’ve had some pretty scary nights camping by myself. Waking up at midnight and hearing packs of coyotes yipping and howling is not very comforting. But I’ve come to accept that I am the scariest thing in the woods. I simply cannot allow my mind to play tricks on me. So now the scariest thing is having catastrophic bike failure forcing me to hike my bike an absurd amount of distance to have it fixed.
-Random expectations – Anyone who knows me well is aware that I’ve always wanted to be able to grow a beard. But my facial hair looks rather rubbish when grown out. I’m hoping that after a few weeks without showering all of the dirt that will have accumulated on my face will fill in the patches to create the Grizzly Adams beard I’ve always dreamed of.
-What am I most excited for? – I think I’m most excited to see all these new and wonderful places in America. I’ve traveled Colorado and Utah but every other state will be mostly new. After biking around the Quad Cities for the last 8 months I’m really looking forward to a change of scenery.
-What will I eat? – Mostly gas station food. I will focus on lots of nuts, bars, burritos, and pizza. Depending on how I’m doing and how the rest of the field is doing I may stop at some cafes to have quick and hearty breakfast. Also sandwich shops are great for fast and somewhat nutritious food.
-Where will I sleep? – Right now my plan is to sleep in a bivvy sack. A bivvy sack is basically a lightweight bag that you crawl into and sleep on the ground. It will keep you somewhat protected from the elements although the particular one that I have does not provide much warmth.
-What climates will I face? – I believe I could see temperatures as low as 30F to as high as 100F. We will be going over some pavement, lots of wooded areas, lots of single track, possibly snow, sand in the deserts of Utah, and lots of and lots gravel.
-How many people are participating? – There are currently 15 brave souls signed up for this event. There is even a couple from France that is riding a tandem. I’m super stoked to meet them. I would guess we could have as many as 25 people at the start line though.
-Why am I doing this race? – I got back into running after my brother passed away. I had just been in Colorado watching him complete The Leadville 100. Sadly he passed away 2 weeks later. At that moment I realized 3 things. One, I was going to do The Leadville 100 and spread his ashes over Hope Pass. Two, Life is too short not to be constantly pursuing what makes us happy. Three, I had to change some of my habits if I was going to accomplish what I wanted in life. My brother passed away 3 ½ years ago. I went from smoking cigs on the regular to running my first marathon in 2 ½ months of self training. I was determined to become a runner. Over the last few years I have completed several running races. Many 50 ks, a 50 miler, a 150 miler, and last year I completed The Leadman Series. It’s always been a dream of mine to bike across the United States and I just happen to have a friend named Michael Kinney who took me under his wing and has taught me the ropes of bike packing. I had originally signed up to do The Tour Divide which runs from Canada to the Mexico border. But when I heard about this race I could not pass up the opportunity to bike across America.
Cheers, please ask me any other questions in the comment box below.