Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dirtbagonomics: The Costs of Bikepacking

There are no official entry fees for the Arizona Trail Race, The Tour Divide or the Colorado Trail Race. I don't have to pay money to put my front tire on the "start line" of the "race." There are no race plates, no plastic bag full of stickers, coupons, pencils and product samples to clutter up the house, no cheap water bottles or race t-shirts that I won't wear anywhere except to sleep in. There are no overly-caffeinated announcers yapping into a microphone, no bands, no race sponsors or course officials.

I took to this obsession because the somewhat underground, low-key style really appeals to me. The adventure aspect, the miles and miles of unmarked, stunning scenery to navigate and explore, as well as the self-survival piece, trump any marked course, schwag bag, t-shirt or post-race party out there. It is also really nice that I don't have to sit at my computer and "race" to enter. Huh? Yep, there are races that fill so fast, you better be on top of your game and have a lightning fast connection when its time to register, just to even get the chance to pay an arm and a leg to race.

Bikepacking races don't involve many of the normal costs that come to mind, but don't be fooled: it is NOT free (or cheap) by any means. In fact, if one calculated it out, it would probably be far more logical and cost-efficient to pay a formal entry fee and race an official race. Think about it:

Less miles (time) racing=less resources needed=less money out of my pocket

Closer start locations=less gas, time off work, hassle=less money out of my pocket

Fully stocked aid stations every few miles=no extra food I have to buy=less money out of my pocket

New T-shirt=new pajamas or dish rag=hahahahaha! never mind.

Yawning yet? Yeah, I was nearly asleep writing that.Thank GOD none of that enters my mind as I think about the reasons I race ultra long, multiday (AZT and CTR) and multiweek (Tour Divide) races. Seriously, if it did, I would not even consider taking on this dream. It is expensive, exhausting and completely illogical.

It is also exhilarating.

Exhilarating to think of a summer spent on my bike, being fully self-reliant, pushing my perceived mental and physical limits, sleeping in a different bivvy spot  every night, observing the world of nature I love with every fiber of my being and sharing real life with people who understand this obsession.

The hard part, as I mentioned way back in September when I jumped in head first and set this goal, is the journey to the journey. Precisely, the money factor. No one really talks too frankly about the cost of this dream. There is no one set cost, or entry fee, which is part of the beauty of this kind of racing. There is no "correct" way to get to the finish line. There are many unique and different ways, largely dependent on personalities, comfort needs, tolerance levels of discomfort, exhaustion and good ol' pain, speed goals and financial means....just to name a few, really.

The numerous different ways are as unique as the gear set ups I observe. I have seen some guys roll up with so much crap strapped to their bikes that I can not see the actual bike and I have seen some guys that look like they are racing a 30-mile XC race with next to nothing on their bikes and shoes that look like they never intend to step off the bike.

And I love it. I love everything about the fact that everyone has their own way. We spend hundreds of hours planning, researching, testing and refining our bikes into the ultimate machine that hopefully provides survival and forward movement. Want to know more about a person? Check out their bike and gear.

As for me, I am a dirtbag. Tried and true. And most definitely by choice.

I suppose, at this point, a working definition of the word "dirtbag" is needed. Let's roll with this for now:

Frugal and minimalistic, DIRTBAG is my way of unabashedly making fun of myself, while still advocating a lifestyle of simplicity, resourcefulness and minimalism I fully believe in and strive to live. Its hard sometimes, as I am a human, and all humans are selfish and lazy to a certain extent. But when I see the disgusting, excessive overconsumption, overspending and waste every single day and the frenzy among so many just to have the newest, coolest, shiniest thing at any sends me running as fast as I can in a direction of less is more. Because in my world, less TRULY IS more. My heart is not content (truth be told it is a jumbled mess) when material things, money and more, more, more things to tend to, to maintain, to fix, to upgrade, to build, to buy get more attention than people. And its too wild and free to be owned by things. Been there. Never ever, ever, ever, ever going back.

Ok, I am getting into another post topic. Back to dirtbags on bikes...

I added a donation button to my blog a few months ago after many, many months of contemplation. I came to the conclusion that reaching out for financial help was my only viable option to make this dream work. The amount of time off work is the killer. Thankfully, I already have the majority of what I need as far as gear from previous years. The huge cost is food, bike maintenance and travel costs to and from the start and finish line. There are a few items I need such as a GPS (just was able to purchase one) to replace the one that I lost somewhere in the desert two years ago, shoes (found a fantastic deal on some Northwaves!) and some new kits (mine have thousands upon thousands of miles on them, are threadbare and look like old, ratty bath towels).

The donations that have come in have been from a few absolutely amazing human beings. I am so full of gratitude for this support. Some have blown me away completely with their generosity and kindness and provided a lot of encouragement with positive and uplifting words that are needed in this. Other racers who have gone this same route of fundraising have contributed and reached out to me. Thank you. People who I have never met who have found inspiration to do things they never would have through following this blog have contributed. Thank you. I know (all to well) that money is tight and we are all trying to stay above water sometimes and to those who have contributed what they can out of the good that lives in their hearts--Thank you. Every one of you are helping me make my dream into a reality that I am about to embark upon in three weeks in Arizona.

I am close to making this all come together and you can bet this journey will be none of excess. I have a bare bones budget that allows me to eat and ride my bike. I have been working far too much at the expense of sleep (rather than sacrificing training time) to put money away to cover my monthly bills for much of April and all of June while I am out on the bike. The reality is, I make due with what I have been blessed to acquire in relation to this dream. My bike is not new. It is my trusty 2010 Superfly 100. It doesn't have the best components, lightest everything, etc. But its a damn nice bike that I love. My clothes and gear aren't the newest thing out there. They are functional and simple. I buy only what I need to make possible my one goal for each race in the Triple Crown:


Here is the part where finding the right words becomes difficult even after rambling on forever in this post:

Could you contribute a simple, small amount if it is in your heart to help me out? The fact is between 200-600 hits show up each time I post a new blog entry. Let's be conservative and say 300 are real, actual readers. What if those 300 people each gave just $5-10? You crunch the numbers. This would complete the fundraising I need to make it financially possible live my dream....

Can you help?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Red Dirt Weekend

Awakening to an iconic Moab sunrise set the tone for my day. I simply sat up and slowly took in the most air my lungs could hold. I tasted the clear crispness of the breath for as long as I could and exhaled. I exhaled the constant go of the city and work. Without thinking, I reached over to pet my old shadow out of years and years of habit, but instantly remembered that she couldn't make the trip this time. Old dogs don't do so well for ten hours in a car.....

I had already packed everything the night before and laid my clothes out on the dashboard like the first day of first grade, so I was ready in record time and turning the crank just before sunrise. Pedaling back the same way I had driven in, Mineral Bottom Road was feeling much better than the last time I was here in subzero temperatures. I quickly came to Hwy 313, turned right and spun all the way to the park entrance. I watched a sunrise and thought about my goals for the ride:

1) Ride smoothly and consistently

I paid my entrance fee of five bucks and tore down the Schafer Switchbacks. In my mind I was this guy:

Photo: How I feel riding my bike at 18 Road in Fruita
Can't remember where I saw this first, but I think we all have something that takes us here....
The trail undulated along and I felt like a ten year old getting let out to recess. I looked down at my Garmin and was surprised at the pace, so I backed off a bit and focused on smoothness, consistency and form.

For the most part anyway.

The views are classic Moab, so a fair bit of my attention was diverted as I took in the serenity and cherished the peace and solitude given to me on a gorgeous Saturday morning in March. The wind was constantly at my face, but that is usually a given. Wishing for a calm day wasn't going to do me any good, so I rode on in bliss. A handful of people came out and about as the morning wore on, but the total number of jeeps and motorized vehicles I saw all day was four.


The wind started to pick up and its power-sucking presence started to nag at me. Heading in a generally southward direction until about mile 50-55 I think made it very tolerable, however, around mile 56-60, the forecast 40 mph gusts made their cameo, and I had finally had to duck behind a rock for some reprieve.

Views of my trusty old horse from rock shelter.....
The climbing and the wind increased substantially from this point to the end. The "noticeable" headwind became a big, ugly bully the rest of the way. I thought how nice it would be to ride this whole thing minus this significant power suck, but just shrugged my shoulders and continued on thinking more and more about riding as smoothly and evenly as possible, rolling with the punches the wind was delivering and being efficient when stopping. Although it seemed I didn't stop much.

There were times when the wind would push my whole bike too close (for even my comfort!) to the rim and times where the sand in the trail was so deep I had trouble even moving. So I decided to duck into the cover of one of the outhouses at the top of Murphy's and take my third and last picture of the ride:

If you want to see the rest of the pretty rocks, get on your bike and do this loop before its too hot. You won't be sorry....
I pushed up Hardscrabble and rode back to the car after climbing the Horsethief Switchbacks at mile 99. It is a good climb that begins as a huge mental challenge when standing at the boat ramp, but as soon as the crank turns, it is much easier than one would think.

I loaded up and was met by this guy on the way out:

I rolled into town. met up with some old friends, met some new friends and enjoyed a chill night of laughs and jokes before falling asleep early. The next morning was not an early start (very foreign but welcomed) and we ended up riding 3ish hours total, at a fun, casual pace on trails I had never ridden. Nothing special, but it felt great to ride strong after a century instead of feeling the exhausted leg burn as I had all last spring.

I leave you with the day in pics and the routes to wrap up a good time in Moab. Having ridden there a million times, each trip holds its own unique memories whether it be the people, the bikes, the trails or the races. What ever it is, life is always damn good in Moab....

Chris and Randy

Drew and Zack

Yep, the sign is correct!
Faster, faster! First one to puke, buys beer!

The routes:

White Rim on Saturday
Bar M Trails
Klonzo Wrap Up

Friday, March 14, 2014

Dirtbagonomics: Moab

I have been stewing for the last couple of weeks over tomorrow. Running a whole bunch of miles to see this:

Do you know where this is?
was one of my ideas. And this:

was the other choice. Hmmmmmm, I am far more intrigued with the Eye of the Sun, but White Rim is an excellent training ride. Honestly, the last time I was here it was 12F and not one bit of interest to me. The slightly crazy, adventurous part of me that has taken a real liking to running trails not accessible by bike said the former. A few words of wisdom from a good source, and my logical side, said ride the latter. As good as I feel, AZT is less than a month away, recovery is key and I haven't run over 15 miles since the 42-mile R2R2R crossing on Thanksgiving. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.....

And then there is the financial side of things:

Ultra race-bill and a half to enter
White Rim- Fiver to get into Canyonlands

Gas-$50 (paid by work through a crazy coincidence!)

(61 days of NAP....more energy physically and mentally and more money in my pocket by prepping and packing)

I am meeting up with friends to ride Sunday and trip planning has been on the email train for a month. After a hundred or so, the plan came together nicely! Personally, the White Rim makes more sense financially and physically. Traveling, eating and finding a great place to stay can be done so cheaply. An absolute must in light of my big dreams this summer.

Leaving this soul-sucking city in an hour....

SO....Who is in town? Wanna come play on the rocks Sunday or get some miles in Saturday???

Monday, March 10, 2014

70 and Single

It is days like today.

Its days like today that are 70F and your quads want more rocky single track to climb. Yes, I said climb. And want.

Its days like today that bring all the people out of the woodwork to the trails on bikes that haven't been touched since last fall when it was taken home from Walmart. The smile on their faces make me believe a little more in humanity, they make the world a little smaller. They make me aware of the simplicity and the unifying power of the bicycle we often overlook as we obsess over uploading our ride data and racing to enter races.

Its days like today that make the hard work of the everyday 4am torture(trainer) sessions worth it all.

Its days like today, I will continue to wear my shit-eating grin even in my sleep tonight.

Because I got to ride my Superfly100 for the first time on dry single track in 2014!

And now, I feel like this guy:

You know what I mean. Sunshine intoxication makes us all ten feet tall and bulletproof. Get your butt out there!!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

2:48 AM

I remember sitting in Durango two years ago, wide awake, thoughts swirling in my head about the upcoming AZ trail. I looked over at the clock that read 2:45am and suddenly a deluge of words came out through my fingers and produced this:


and then, a few months later, this:


And here I am, this time its 2:48 AM and the thoughts are not of bikepacking. WHAT? Have I gone mad? Why else would I be awake at this hour and motivated to write if it were not about bikes?

My insomnia comes from a heavy heart. A heart that is confused and hurting to reach a person it knew from three years ago. But my heart hates to acknowledge that pesky devil--reality--and is guilty of being blind to see that three years does a lot to us. It numbs us, exhausts us, beats us down and causes us to quietly acquiesce in many areas. My heart is very guilty of only remembering the good and assuming that everything should resume where the happy, fun, exciting memories left off.

So it hangs on to unhealthy and damaging associations, hoping for the same person and the same situation from the past...

Stupid, stupid, stupid heart.

A parting of ways was inevitable. Rapidly approaching and clear to anyone looking in and clear to my logical brain. But oh, the power of my damn heart. Give, give, give, try, try, try. Again, again, again. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Stupid, stupid, stupid heart.

But, I think I am going to just let it be stupid for a few hours right now. I am going to allow myself some time here in the silence of the early morning to just walk through and relive the old memories in my mind. I want it to fondly and happily remember a time that was different. I want it to remember the laughter, the exhilaration of shared adventure, the miles, the ideas, the conversations, the innocence of sorts. I want it to remember this in a healthy, loving and motivating way.

But more than anything, an accepting way. To learn to accept the harsh realities of humanity, that no matter how much it opens and gives and tries and loves that it will not always receive the same in return. And that hope for such to be reality must die. That hope must die right this moment. Because this is now and that was then.

Stupid, stupid, stupid heart.

It is time to find gratitude for the things you learned, a way to cherish the good memories of past days, an acceptance for how things are today and a new hope that in parting, this person thrives, lives, laughs. loves, grows for the rest of this life and always listens and follows that

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful heart.

New energy and life, strength and motivation all arise from pain if one embraces it as it comes....