Friday, June 20, 2014

Tour Divide Race

Unbeknownst to me, as I have been following the Race Across AMerica (RAAM) and my brothers friend Dale, the Tour Dive race had also begun. This is the annual mountain bike race that starts in Banff Alberta (Canada) following the Continental Divide, and finishes on the Mexican border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Actually there are two different TD races: one going north to south, and one going south to north (if you look at the map and click on any racer, it will tell you if they are south or north-bound).

This race is 2475 miles long, over 300,000' of climbing, and is totally SELF supported! My brother thinks the RAAM is the hardest race in the world, but I beg to differ. I think the TD beats that hands down. Anybody who's ever ridden a Mt bike can attest that typically the miles are roughly two to one (ie: 20 miles on a MTB is roughly equivalent to 40 on the road bike). Of course, this is all dependent on the ride I suppose, as I've certainly done some MTB rides that were easily THREE to one! Not that the RAAM isn't hard, but you have total support day and night. Bad weather? Come on inside the support vehicle and wait it out. Your lights ran out of juice? No prob, we'll drive right behind you (which they do) from 7pm to 7am with you riding in the chase vehicle headlights (Greg called that "Direct Follow" which they are required to do when they ride after 7pm). Need some food? just sit in the easy chair and let the crew get it for you. Maybe take a nap on the bed in the vehicle. Or even a quick sponge-bath, and a change of riding kit. NONE of that on the TD, unless you carry it with you.

And I'm guessing the RAAM riders typically don't get bogged down waiting for a grizzly bear to move out of the trail. Or swarms of bugs. Or "Soul Sucking MUD" down in New Mexico as far as the eye can see. And that the RAAM route is pretty well laid out. The TD route (well, actually the TD follows the Great Divide Race route, or GDR) is totally written out on paper, and they make changes whenever they need to. It's easy to miss a turnoff, as you have zero support, it's just you and your bike. Your bike breaks? Fix it yourself (if you can), or ride/carry it to a bike shop, wherever the next one second (or third, or fourth bike waiting at your disposal on the follow vehicle, all nicely maintained by your personal mechanic). You want food? Ride to some and buy it, wherever that may be (a lot of racers fuel up with total crap food at gas station mini marts and such). You want water? Carry it yourself, or suffer the consequences. As I said...TOTALLY self supported. For 2475 miles of whatever nature throws your way. Does this sound like FUN to you? Me neither!

OK, OK you are saying to yourself. Get to it already. is a link to this years TD race leaderboard/map/racer follow link:

2014 Tour Divide Race

And if you are interested in any info on the race, here is the general link for that:

Tour Divide Race info

The current mens record was set 2 years ago (2012) by Jay Petervary (his wife has raced this also and she is an animal also btw). The current womens record is held by Ester Horanyi, also from the 2012 race. Iwas following it that year and it was apparent both Jay and Ester were going to crush the current records. Jill Homer (world famous blogger, her site is now called "Jill Outside", see my link on the right side of my blog) raced this back a few years before that and set the womens record at that time (she had never done anything like that before and thought she should give it a try). She wrote a book about it called "Be Brave, Be Strong" (which I have, she's a gifted writer AND her book gives an inside look at how utterly difficult something like this is). Normally Jill would have got me fired up for it ahead of time by posting a nice writeup about the upcoming race, including some info on the racers she knows (she IS famous in the crazy endurance world btw)...but THIS year she is currently riding her bike across South Africa in the Freedom Challenge (see her blog to check on her exploits).

ANYWAY, I was working up in Sunnyvale the year Jill raced it, and as I had been following her blog for years (it used to be called "Up in Alaska", when she was living in Juneau, and then Anchorage for a bit before moving to the states) and I was fascinated by the race that I had never heard of. She would leave short phone voice messages that we fans could listen to, which really made the race fun to follow!

And so, this years race is now in full swing, the current mens leader is Jefe Branham, and he's not too far off of Jay's record (there's a marker showing both the mens and womens record pace, as compared to the actual racers). And how is Ester's record holding up you ask? Well, let me tell you....her pace is AHEAD of everybody in the race except for Jefe! Yes...even ALL the men! That tells you how awesome Ester is!

Jefe is currently more than halfway thru Wyoming, and not too awfully far from pacing Jay's record. The next closest racer is a tandem team: Katie and Sam, and they aren't too far off of Ester's pace. There are 2 other racers already in Wyoming, and the rest of them are still in Montana but are getting close. Jefe is the only racer past the half way point (he's just under 1400 miles). Most of these racers who are trying for any kind of a record ride about the same hours as the RAAM folk do: around 20 hours a day. However I must say that is a TOTALLY different animal being self supported.

OK, that's enough on the TD race (for now).

AS to the RAAM, a new mens record was set by the same man who won last year: Christoff Strasser (the new record is 7 days, 15 hours and I forget how many minutes). Greg met him (and got his pic taken with him down in San Diego before the race). I'm still hoping Greg will write his crewing story and let me guest-post it...Jeannie and I are having dinner with him and his wife tomorrow down in Santa Barbara, and I can't wait to hear some of it!

Oh, here's the RAAM link again (just in case you don't want to go looking for it..go ahead, I KNOW you're just dying to look!:

2014 RAAM

Dale (#493) had been holding second in his age group (50-59) most of the way across the country, but has just recently slipped to third. He is currently at 2738 miles, with only 284 to go! He's past the ten day finish he was shooting for, but he's going to be pretty close!

And with that I'll sign off with a big shout-out to the Mens World Cup Soccer team! Hang in there guys! What an amazing tournament the World Cup is!


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cancer surgery, and RAAM

Hello again!

I look at my blog and suddenly realized that another MONTH has gone by! Sheesh, I'm not doing very well (again). I'll TRY to do better...I PROMISE! (Try is the operative word there).

Anyway, I don't personally have too much to report on...other than we survived ANOTHER doggie surgery. Sweet Pea had a cancer removal surgery on her rear was a repeat tumor. We had one removed from the same spot a bit over a year's a Mast Cell (don't know the grade, and don't want to). It came back and this time we took her to a soft tissue specialist surgeon. The tumor was just above her knee, and was about the size of half a golf ball just under the skin. Our normal vet did last years surgery, and due to the location there isn't much skin to move around after taking the tumor and some margin, so she had a 'gaping hole' in her leg for months as it slowly grew together, covering the hole. She did the best she could, but we now know why a specialist is in order for something like this.

Due to last years surgery and scar tissue, the area has even less skin to stretch, however this man is a GENIUS! He cut out a gigantic ellipse that stretches across above the knee, going back towards the back of the leg, pretty even on both front and back as to how far back he cut. Due to it being a 'repeat' tumor he took a HUGE margin, and even went down into what lies below, leaving only tendon and bone. And THEN the magic happens. He mad a decent size sideways V cut about where the rear leg skin attaches to her belly, and was then able to stretch skin down and close the ellipse of missing now it's a long horizontal suture line from back to front running across the front just above the knee. THEN he was somehow able to suture closed the V cut! Like I said, MAGIC! He made skin appear out of nowhere, and then closed both cuts! He showed me on paper, and I still don't get it, but it's a great thing!

We brought her home that afternoon (2 weeks ago Friday), and BOY oh BOY was she unhappy! She cried for about 18 hours straight! I sat up with her all night as she cried, and there was nothing I could do...she was on Rimadyl and Tramadol (2 diff types of pain killers) Saturday morning we called the vet as soon as they opened asking if we could up the pain meds...we did up the Tramadol, but she continued panting and crying out loud nearly all day, until I think she passed out from sheer exhaustion (as did I) around 3pm. It was breaking our hearts that maybe we went too far (she is over 12 years old as best we know) and we are faced with the decision of what is doable and when do we put her down. No way we'd let them take the leg like we did with PG a year and a half ago...Sweet Pea has arthritis in the right hip, and this was her 'good leg'. To leave her with the arthritic hip only would be cruel and we'd put her down first. But thankfully we weren't faced with that decision, and by Monday morning things were MUCH MUCH better. And within a week she was all over the place again, and we were having a hard time keeping her calm and NOT running (the surgeon was worried about the stretching and didn't want the stitches ripped out). Got the stitches out after 10 days, and now we're at 2 weeks and she's a terror on 4 legs again, cancer free (for the moment, we are hopeful it will stay away for good but there are no guarantees).

And so...that's what's happening at our house. As to the Race Across AMerica, brother Greg is crewing for a friend and fellow club cyclist as he races SOLO in the 2014 RAAM! The race left early Tuesday from San Diego, headed clear across the country. The racers name is Dale Capewell, and he is racer # 493. Here is a link to the RAAM tracking site:

raam -2014

 You can click on any racer (on the left) and the map shifts so that racer is dead center in the map, and you can then zoom in (top left corner of the map are the zoom in and out controls) and eventually you will be in far enough to make out the individual racers. Then on the lower left a box comes up with the data on that racer. Dale is racing the Solo male 50-59 year olds, and is currently in 2nd place after 2.5 days of racing (he's now covered 750 miles as I type at 2.5 days in, can you believe that?) He plans to ride around 20 hours a day for 10 days, hopeful to cover 300 miles in that 20 hours. Sound like fun to anybody out there? I can't fathom doing even ONE 20 hour day, letalone 10 of them!

Greg volunteered as he thought it would be a crazy adventure on it's own merits. He's only planning on going half way across the country...I think he will be flying back from the Kansas City area. There are 3 crew, and  2 a larger one that stays with Dale all the time, rolling along at whatever speed he is riding. The other vehicle is a small rental car, and it's used for the crew to take turns sprinting ahead for food/shower/sleep/whatever...and ferrying back and forth so someone is always with Dale. I gather the crew won't be getting much sleep either...but Greg was all jazzed about the 'adventure'! He's taking time off work and spending his own money for everything (including air travel home I believe, but I'm just guessing out loud here...I'll have to ask him about these details when we get to talk after it's over).

Can you imagine riding your bike across the country in just 10 (or so) days? I think it would be quite dangerous....I'd surely crash out on the first LONG day. I gather there are LOTS of medical problems with the race.

So...just thought I'd toss this out there in case any of you are interested in following people crazy enough to race their bikes across the country. Time for me to much to do, so little time.