Monday, June 30, 2008

Leader board update - day 11

Here's the latest:

Click on image for full size version.

Note that Geoff Roes has pulled out with the flu. "My body's at the point where it's broken down to a point where it's not even really an option to continue in an enjoyable way or probably for that matter even a safe way," he said.

David Blaine called from Steamboat at 10:57 a.m. Monday. "I had a rough day yesterday and even rougher morning," he said. "I'm having difficulties with my stomach - the latest part of my body to give up on me." He said he was going to take it easy for a while.

Jenn called from Steamboat Springs at 8:20 a.m. Monday. She said she had a bit of trouble with her left knee, so she was going to take it easy on Monday.

Special comment from Patrick Morgan

Support for Simon doubles

After ten days of following Simon's epic, I am inspired and awed by his courage and perseverance. Moose! Dehydration! Saddle sores! Sharing small town motel with strange biker dude!

So I am doubling my donation to Simon's nominated charity, Doctors Without Borders.

I invite all fans of Simon's terrific adventure to do likewise. Great guy, good cause.

Patrick Morgan

Sunday, June 29, 2008

GDR blog update

From the GDR Updates blog:
Simon called from Atlantic City at 3:40 p.m. Saturday. He said he arrived at 8 a.m. with David and Jen, but he picked up a stomach bug the day before and had to remain in town.
Simon called again from Rawlins at 2 p.m. Sunday. He said he spent 11 hours in Atlantic City "sitting around and thinking negative thoughts about the race." But after a couple of ice creams he rallied and said he was feeling much better into Rawlins.
The Updates blog also mentioned that Geoff Roes, currently in second, was considering pulling the plug. Sounds like this second week is a much harder physical and mental endevour.

Simon's call-in:Cheers, Paul

Leader board update

Click on the image for a full size image.

That's 1907 km since last Friday, and 22555 m elevation climbed.

Which leaves 2084 km and 27737 m climbing left.

Rawlins has a population of about 8,538.

Rawlins!- middle of day 10

Simon just called from Rawlins, sounding his normal cheery self! Yay. He arrived in at around 2pm, before the heat of the afternoon really set in.

He spent about 11 hours in Atlantic City yesterday, napping & cleaning his gear & having very negative thoughts about this whole escapade (he ate a total of 4 pieces of toast, 2 eggs & 2 ice creams). By 7.20 it was nice & cool and he left town, rode about 35 miles in to the dark (lights working beautifully- thanks Gavin!) & camped in the sage brush. He slept for 6 hours & managed to sleep through 3 snooze alarms (didn't have Miro to wake him up), got going by 6am.

Didn't see any trees for 200kms. He was out of the desert by noon when it wasn't too hot, but the last 40 miles of tar seal were a bit of a killer. He had enough water though.

It's Sunday here so most things are closed in Rawlins, but there was at least a convenience store open. It's too hot to do anything till after 5 this afternoon, so he's going to try and have a power nap & then get another 25 miles or so under his belt.

He sounded very positive and happy. And now I am too.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Day 9 call-in from Atlantic City

Simon's call-in:
Atlantic City: population 39 according to Wikipedia, map, and here's the Atlantic City page on

And ya gotta see this: Atlantic City, Wyoming, USA on YouTube.

Atlantic City- middle of day 9

Simon called from Atlantic City at 3.30 to say that he is sick! Aaargh. He says he has some kind of stomach bug. He's been in Atlantic City since 8 am.

Last night he rode till 11.30 and then didn't get much sleep. He had a few pieces of toast at lunchtime today. He hasn't had any vomiting, but has had the runs and is feeling really weak. He's been trying to drink plenty.

He's going to try and eat some more this afternoon , and then head out towards Rawlins when it cools down a bit. He doesn't think he'd be able to make it there in one day anyway, given the way he's feeling now (its 136 miles).

I've got all my fingers & toes crossed again that he gets better soon.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday afternoon - day 8

From the GDR blog:

Jenn calls from Boulder. She was in Pinedale at 4:00 p.m and will be continuing on down the road with Simon and David. She says that Union Pass was beautiful.

Simon's call-in:
Click on the image for a better view.

In an effort to see how he's going compared to the others and also to the fastest and slowest possible times here's a plot of the times as posted on the leader board.

We already know he's passed Pinedale so this is a bit out of date. I'll update it as the official times come in. Note that Simon and the others may not call when they arrive in a town - they might call in after having a sleep. So it's never clear how they are doing compared to others around them. Hopefully that will become clearer as the race goes on.

The bottom dashed line is the 15 day course record, and the top grey line is the slowest you can go and still reach the finish line within the 24 day cutoff time. I'll expand the chart as time goes on.

As you can see - Simon is doing great.

Cheers, Paul

Pinedale- middle of day 8

Simon just called from Pinedale, 2.20pm.

Yesterday afternoon he had trouble staying awake- downed a couple of Pepsi's and felt much better. Then was the 9,600 foot Togwotee Pass. The climb was fairly easy, had a good tail wind, but the descent took 2 hours! The first hour trudging through snow. Then, to the relief of his hands & saddle sores there was a tarmac section.

He spent the night at a cyclists only lodge at the base of Union Pass. For a donation he received a cooked meal & a bed for the night- sweet! He was away by 6am this morning.

The climb up to Union Pass took him an hour forty, but the downhill seemed never-ending, with countless false-tops.

In Pinedale he's got a mail drop to collect, including a new rear tyre to put on.

This afternoon he's going to try for south Park city, but that includes three crossings of the Continental Divide! Go, Simon!

Then tomorrow he's hoping to get the Great Divide Basin over and done with (I think there's quite a bit of trepidation about this section, on both our parts!), and maybe make it to Rawlins.

He says he feels like things are going well, but that his mood could change if the tail wind turned!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thursday, 26 June 2008 - day 7

From the GDR blog:

Simon Kennett calls in from Flag Ranch at 10:20AM. He reports that the ride from Lima to Island Park was pleasant, but the Rail Trail following that was "brutal" and it was the first time he wished he had suspension.

Last night he slept at Squirrel Creek Lodge and despite having a good night's sleep he is still feeling a little weak today.

Simon's audio:

Flag ranch, Wyoming- mid-morning day 7

Simon just called from Flag Ranch, Wyoming where he was stopped for a 9.30am buffet breakfast.

There's been slushy snow on the road and he's really knackered.

He stayed at Squirrel Creek Ranch last night.

Got totally hammered by about 40kms of rail trail, horrible sand & corrugations. Had to get off & walk a few times. He said they had just ripped up the rails & left it at that. His hands were so sore this morning he coouldn't chop up his bacon- ouch.

His throat is heaps better today, at least.

He saw a moose with a calf. They've been riding the boundary with Yellowstone National Park, so the views are pretty spectacular- but if you stop for more than 10 seconds you get attacked by ravenous mosquitos.

He's going to try and stop for the day at a lodge just before Union Pass- which is possibly one of the hardest climbs in the race. Here's hoping he gets a good nights sleep.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Island Park- middle of day 6

Simon called at about 3.20 this afternoon (was just on the way out- hence the lateness in posting!). He was in Island Park, Idaho, and planned to carry on to Warm River.

The scenery has been stunning and he saw a bull moose (big!). It was about 50 feet away, but he didn't manage to get a pic.

Some of the navigation today was a bit tricky- one of the reasons he was travelling with Rainer Lenninge & David Blaine, they had both mis-placed themselves & he caught them up.

He's got a bit of a sore throat (which could possibly be due to the fact that he spent alot of the time on his aero-bars, strangely about 20 minutes after I talked to him my throat started feeling sore too....), hope it doesn't develop in to any thing else. Apart from that he sounded pretty chipper really.

He used his mp3 player for the first time today, the first track was Bolero- by the end of which he was going about 10mph faster.

He hoped to be in Wyoming by tomorrow.

All the audio so far

MP3s of Simon's call-ins:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lima- end of day 5

Yay- just had a good chat with Simon. He's made it to Lima in time for the 6 day cut-off. Got in about 7.30pm. 135 miles today.

[That's 1,005 km and 14,325 meters climbing in 5 days.]

Going back to Monday, he said he spent just over an hour in Butte in the shade (sounds like it was pretty hot) & decided to press on to Wise River. He called the Lodge to make a booking & they told him that the kitchen closed at 9pm- pretty good motivator! He got there at 9.03- the kitchen was still open so, hooray, he managed to get a burger & chips. Had a good nights sleep too.

He was able to collect a package that he had sent to himself care of the Post Office in Polaris, so didn't have to make any detours for food on the way to Lima (and enjoyed a can of peaches mmmm). Ran out of water though, so had to scoop some out of a dodgy looking puddle, yay for iodine tabs.

As we were talking he asked me if I knew where any of the others were- I was able to tell him that John Nobile & Geoff Roes had both called in from Lima earlier in the day, but I had checked David Blain's spot position about ten minutes ago and he hadn't moved for a couple of hours. So I went back to look again and he was still there- told Simon that he was on Harrison & Willow Creek Road. Simon was calling me from a service station on Harrison & Bailey- he said there was a cafe & a motel over there, I wonder if he'll find him? Ha!

Simon said that yesterday Jenn had left about 20 minutes before him and it took him about 1.5 hours to catch her up. Wow.

Physically he said he has a pretty darn sore arse, his hands are a bit tingly & his quads are sore as. He sounded a lot happier than last time we spoke though.

He's going to get a good nights sleep, and an early start tomorrow.

Miro saw her first chipmunk today.

Monday night

From the GDR blog:

Simon Kennett called from Wise River at about 9 p.m. Pete said he saw Simon riding up the hill at Fleecer Ridge "like he was in a cross country race." Close behind was super Jenn, who claims her English bug spray doesn't work on American mosquitoes. We didn't receive any more calls from our intrepid group of non-Americans (Simon from New Zealand, Jenn and Carl from the U.K. and Fred from Canada). Those calls will probably come in the morning.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday afternoon

From the GDR blog:

Carl Hutchings called from Butte at 2:30 p.m., reporting Simon Kennett was with him and "that insanely strong English girl Jen" was just 10 minutes behind. Jenn called at 3 p.m., saying the weather was hot but nice, and she was moving on with Simon and Carl.

[That's the 692 kilometer mark. He's done 10363 meters of climbing since noon Saturday.]

Pushing on

From the GDR blog:

Simon Kennett called from Helena at 4:45 a.m. to report he was leaving with Carl Hutchings.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Helena [end of day 3]

Quick update: Simon just called me from Helena, 9.30pm. [That's the 587 km mark, 8534 meters elevation gained so far, including 2133 meters gained since leaving Lincoln just after midday.]

He's just had one of his toughest days biking ever - it got very hot this afternoon, they had three crossings of the Great Divide, pretty rough track.

He's sharing a motel room with Carl Hutchings (who also had a really tough day).

His plan is to get a good nights sleep & do 120 miles [193 km, 1828 meter elevation gain] to Butte tomorrow. (a decent feed tonight should help too, I reckon!)

Helena, Montana State Capitol

From GDR blog: Bike party on the GDR [Day 3]

It's been a big "bike party" on the Great Divide route so far today, with racers piling up in Seeley Lake, Ovando and Lincoln and pushing on toward Helena. John Nobile called in from Helena, at mile 365 [587 km] on the route, at 1 p.m. Sunday. He reported no snow on the route between Lincoln and Helena, a washed-out road toward Stemple Pass, and a wolf sighting.

David Blaine called from Lincoln [492 km] at 11:36 a.m., Rainier Lenninge called at about noon, and Simon Kennett called at 12:35 p.m. to report light overnight rain and a nice tailwind into town. Geoff Roes also called around noon Sunday, sounding a little wiped after attempting to camp outside Ovando with Simon, Fred Wilkinson and Carl Hutchings. "I have not been able to sleep," he said. Geoff said he's been sleeping about three hours a night even though he's been stopped for seven or eight, and the weather isn't helping. "We got a torrential downpour just as we were getting out of bed," he said. "I was trying to get my stuff together and my sleeping bag got soaked." Geoff said he would probably only push as far as Helena today because he's exhausted, "sleepy-wise," but still feeling strong physically.


Simon called at about 12.30, Miro and I were just having lunch. He was in Lincoln & had about 60 miles to go to Helena, where he was going to call it quits for the day - maybe splash out on a motel.

Yesterday morning (Saturday) saw about a dozen riders camped on a front lawn together, they all headed off to a cafe for breakfast. Simon had a salmon omlette- couldn't move for about 1/2 an hour afterwards.

It was a long hilly ride to Holland Lake, where he arrived 30 minutes before the cafe closed. got a packed lunch (he reckons he has about 1/2 the food carrying capacity of some of the others, that'll get better as he gets rid of some of the old (very old) shorts etc he is carrying).

Simon starting up Richmond Peak.

He hooked up with Carl Hutchings (a former Iditabike winner- very handy) going over Richmond Pass. It was a bit of a slog. Lots of fallen trees.

At the end of a 145 mile (233 km) day in Ovando dinner consisted of some gummy bears and an oatmeal cookie (not ideal recovery food!). Camped out on the grass in front of the museum, when at midnight the sprinklers went off! Eek.

So, sounds like he's having a pretty good day today.

Cheers, Sarah

Also: Listen to Simon's GDR call-in (597KB mp3)

Scorching Day 2

This from the GDR updates blog:

A quiet day for call-ins, but not for movement out on the Great Divide route. Around 3:30 p.m. Pete Basinger and the film crew found Geoff Roes, Rainer Lenninge and David Blaine on their way up Richmond Peak - the next big snowy barrier where Tour Divide racers reported deep snow, steep sideslopes and lots of deadfall. Just behind them came Simon Kennett, Carl Hutchings, Fred Wilkinson, Jenn Hopkins, Keith Flury and, just a little ways behind that group, Nathan Bay.

"They were all within three miles of each other, and none of them really knew it," Basinger said. "But the most exciting part of the day happened when we were coming into Lincoln about 11 p.m. We were expected to get some sleep and then wake up to film the racers when they came through in the morning, but then we bumped into John Nobile. He had some pretty good stories to tell."

Nobile, the first racer into Lincoln at 11 p.m. Saturday, definitely did have an interesting day. First he saw two small black bears, followed by a big black bear. Then he met a hunter with at least two dogs "with heads as high as my handlebars" that gave chase. "One chomped into my left thigh and one chomped into my right knee," he said. "Now I guess I have some puncture wounds I have to wash out."

"But he was so stoked about (the bites)," Basinger said after talking to Nobile in Lincoln. "He's talking about it like it's some huge adventure."

Richmond Peak is still a complete mess. Nobile said he was lost up there for about an hour, and Nathan Bay, who called in from Seeley Lake around midnight, said "it really was that bad." But Basinger said racers seemed to all make good time over the nasty pass, and were rolling into Seeley Lake close together after 9 p.m.

"Nobody seemed to have too many problems on the pass," Basinger said. "Mainly, the problem today was the heat. Everyone said something about that. I think it was in the upper 80s, at least 88."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

4pm Saturday (Simon time) update

Here's some stuff I've collected from the Great Divide Race Updates blog:
Simon just before the start.

Simon got to Whitefish at 8:30pm Friday which puts him in 5th. Here's the progress board.

Here's what he said on his Friday 8:37pm Whitefish call in:

Listen to Simon (248KB mp3)

Gidday, it's Simon Kennett here. It's about 8:36 and I'm in Whitefish - which is niiice. Been a good day, not too much snow. Lot's of good people to ride with... so looking forward to tomorrow. See ya.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Just had a call at 8.40, from Simon in Whitefish.
He sounded tired but happy.

Not too long after the start he was with a couple of other guys, after 12 miles, one other guy, then after 20 miles it was just him (don't get too excited he's not in the lead!). He was thinking it would be really cold going over the snowy passes, so wore two layers of wool- and is now a bit dehydrated. Had a 45 minute walk through the snow with David Blain (a single-speeder).

He thinks he came in to Whitefish in about 5th place (but who's counting).

Apparently it doesn't get dark till after 10 up there, so he is pressing on to a GDR-friendly front yard 10 miles out of Columbia Falls (I imagine a big pile of bikes and tired riders).

Simon said there are some very talented riders in the field- the guy who is in the lead rode to the start from Utah!

I think I'm going to have a cup of chamomile tea and a lie-down.


Start line

Click on the image for the full size version.

19 Great Divide Racers left the border at noon today under clear skies and warm temperatures [not sure why there's only 18 people in the photo].

That's Simon 4th from the right (facing away from the camera) shaking Cullen Barker's hand.

I just noticed in the start line photo that Simon has his orange sleeping/bivvy bag attached in-line with the airflow, whereas everyone else with gear on the front has them attached crossways to the wind - except for John Nobile, who has his windshield.

What time is it?

Here's the time in Helena, Montana.

Add six hours and subtract a day.

This message was posted just after 10am on Saturday NZ time so that's just after 4pm on Friday on the Great Divide.

Simon has to phone in when he gets to Whitefish, Montana - 101 miles (162 km) away.

Cheers, Paul

From the border

Hi, Sarah here. I'll be taking over from Simon while he's a tad bit busy for the next couple of weeks...

This photo is Simon on the Dale Ball Trails here in Santa Fe before he left.

He called this morning just after 11 from the border. Phew, he made it there.

Didn't have a great sleep last night- motel neighbours woke him up at 3am watching Western's.

Race briefing and breakfast at nine, followed by a cruisy ride from Eureka up to the border (about 10 miles). He seemed happy and ready to go. Of note was the fact that he wasn't the oldest rider there, the weather was fantastic, and there were some pretty interesting bike set-ups.

Simon's plan (as of 11.15am) was to ride conservatively for the first three days, maintaing a pace that will see him inside the 6 day cut-off. And to try and hook up with one or two others riding through "bear country"! (good idea)
He's been going for 1.5 hours now! Miro and I have got all our fingers and toes crossed for him.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Getting to the Startline

The old hands say that getting to the startline of this race is half the battle. I'm starting to see why.

Bill & Janet drove me to Albequerque yesterday morning (with Sarah and Miro - they then checked out the polar bears at the zoo). Then I flew to Spokane Washington (via stops in Oakland and Portland). Then it was a very early morning Amtrak train to Whitefish. I had time to kill in Spokane and meet GDR racers David Blaine (who picked me up from the airport; see www.the ) and Noah Dimmit (who invited me over to his friends house to shoot some pool). Super friendly folk.

Looks like my bike survived the journey just fine. It's getting some new running gear slapped on it at the Glacier Cyclery right now. While I was unpacking my bike there a Tour Divide rider pulled up and pulled out, so we packed his bike into my old box and hauled it over to the bus station. His big mistake seemed to be having a photo of his beautiful family stuck to his mapboard, and he got taken by surprise at the amount of snow on the passes - several miles worth. Sounds like there are lots of fallen trees too. [The Tour Divide is a new race that follows the Great Divide Race route plus the day north of the US/Canada border. It started a week earlier and, as it has no cut-offs along the route, it's attracted a wide range of riders - 17 in total (probably about the same as this years GDR)].

I'll hang out here trying to finish off my 'Classic NZ MTB Rides' writing for a couple of days and head up to Eureka (a stones throw from the border) on Thursday. Oooo...writing that just put a tingle up my spine. Nice.

BTW, the MSF/Doctors Without Borders pledges are now up to 114 cents/km. Yee-haa! And thanks!
If you were thinking of pledging something and want to be in for the sweepstake, better send a form in before this Friday (there's a copy in the Feb 12th post). After the first day of the race you'll start to get some idea of my form. I've refrained from looking at the poll Paul put up at the top right. Too scary.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Right Stuff

I'm still fluffing around trying to sort out the right stuff to take on the Great Divide Race. Should have had this sorted a week or month ago, but I've been taken by surprise by how much detail there is to consider. Anyway, this pic shows 95% of the final selection. Still got to get a bear bell and some insect repellent, and I've posted a couple of items for the New Mexico desert to southern Colorado. And, there will be more food most of the time (up to two days worth when departing for a really remote stretch).

Tested the lights that Gav Ng lent me yesterday with a singletrack night ride. Yee-hah! And then slept out to test my sleeping bag and pad. Hmmmm...not exactly cosy.

Heading north tomorrow. Thanks for the emails and phone calls and comments of support - they are all much appreciated, including the ones I've not found time to reply to.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Back on Track, almost

Well, I won't deny that an extra week to prepare would suit me down to the ground, but things are kinda back on track.
A couple of days ago I did a 45 min timetrial to confirm there's still some speed in my legs. That was on the road and a 30 kph average was just fine. The bike was loaded with camping gear and a clothes bag.
Yesterday was a much longer Dale Ball singletrack ride with Sarah during which we both actually enjoyed ourselves. The afternoon was filled with much more gear tinkering and a trip to the post office to send out some Red Cross parcels to tiny towns without shops along the route.
Today I drove out to Abiquiu, a wee oasis at 6,400 feet altitude, on one of the most brutal parts of the course. Two Great Divide racers ended up in hospital here with dehydration last year. I wanted to test my gear, trial my navigation skills with cue cards, and gain a little confidence.
At 10:30 am it was off uphill, through the dry scrub-land of an Indian Reservation and eventually into some rather pretty National Forest (see pic). After a couple of thousand feet of climbing it was a pleasant 20 degrees C. The climb was broken by a 400 foot descent to a small cattle ranch, but when it resumed the track deteriorated fast. I only did 20 miles - the last few were all on sand and bedrock - and then ran out of time to reach the 10,300 foot hilltop. About face; downhill and with a reasonable tailwind - I was feeling pretty damn slick : )
Then my bivvy bag jumped ship during a rough stretch. Lesson learnt. Better now than mid-Montana. The ride was 3:4o all up, and the general store in Abiquiu came up trumps with a tasty turkey and swiss cheese sandwich.
Turns out the higher passes in Montana and Colorado are still under a fair bit of snow. Apparently, we can expect many stretches of a few miles of hike-a-bike. Making the first cut-off at 6 days is going to be very interesting.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

High and Dry

Just a quick update - nothing much to say really.

Sarah, Miro and I flew over to New Mexico on Tuesday. Miro handled 15 hours in planes like an absolute star. I caught a bug.

We're staying at Sarah's Dad and step-Mom's place in Santa Fe. The weather was very kind the first couple of days, but I just got sicker, so it was off to the doctor on Friday. Acute sinusitis was the verdict and another course of antibiotics prescribed. They seem to be working.

While laying low, it was fun to observe some of the things that make America great - stunning scenery, BIG motor vehicles on the 'right' side of the road, upside-down light switches, friendly peace-loving people. Santa Fe is nearly all traditional adobe construction homes. The Spanish built a capitol city here in 1610 and proceeded to try and convert the native Americans with all manner of uncivilised methods. The natives eventually said 'Piss off!' and in 1680 they burnt the Spanish out of the region. It was 12 years before they came back, another 31 before Mexico became independant from Spain and another 25 years after that before the Mexicans got kicked out of New Mexico - this time by the Americans. This town is a melting pot all right.

Saturday Sarah and I went for a ride on the Dale Ball trails just down the road. It was hot (high 20s in the shade) and VERY dry (about 12% humidity). There are cacti and stunted pine trees. At breakfast we sat outside and watched the resident snakes come and go from a hole under the back door step. On the trail our throats were dry and our heads pounded at 7500 feet altitude. Basically, we felt like shit. Couldn't imagine doing a race in these conditions. Fingers crossed that 2 weeks acclimatisation will do the trick.

Today I set off earlier on a 2-3 hour ride to the Santa Fe ski area where snow fell a few days ago. At about 8500 feet my head was pounding and plans changed. The nearby Windsor Trail beckoned. Sweet singletrack under the shade of some big trees at slightly lower altitude. Very therapeutic.