Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Five FAQs (and some answers)

1 - Did you enjoy it?

At times, very much. Overall, yes. But...the further into the race I got, the greater it seemed to be an emotional roller coaster. After about halfway it seemed to take 2-3 hours to warm up in the mornings. This could be very discouraging. Eventually, most days, the sun would come out, a fun descent would present itself, and maybe I'd have an enjoyable encounter with a rider or local person or some wildlife. Often the scenery was uplifting, as was my MP3 player and phone calls to Sarah. On the first day the ratio of fun to grind was about 10:1. By the last day it was 1:10. There is a correlation between those ratios and the amount of time I spent with fellow racers.

2 - Would you do it again?

If I had my time over - absolutely!

Will I do it again? No - once was enough. But I wouldn't rule out a similar challenge elsewhere.

3 - What happened to Rainer?

Rainer took a short-cut off Togwatee Pass (taking a fast stretch of highway rather than a 1hr+ hike in the snow). Just hours earlier, he indicated his intention to take that shortcut to a fellow racer (due to the pain he would experience pushing his bike, having broken his collar-bone 5 weeks earlier). At the end of the day he claimed to have been prevented from following the official route by a State Trooper. No other racers saw a State Trooper at this point.

The previous day he was seen missing a turn (and not returning there for at least 10 minutes). He then appeared to arrive at the next town before riders who had been in front of him on the official route.

It seems that Rainer may have been unaware of the importance of sticking to the official route. If he goes back next year, I expect he'll win.

4 - How did you and your bike handle the abuse?

I got very tired and experienced numbness in all points of contact with the bike. My lower back became numb where the backpack sat. My disgestive system became very cantankerous and I lost 11 hours to a stomach bug in Wyoming. My throat & tongue was often dry and sore. Various leg muscles seized up temporarily and my quads became very fatigued. My lips cracked. My brain became very tired. My weight went from 69kg to 67kg.

Now, 3 weeks later, my legs and fingers are still a bit weak, and my physical energy levels below average. My weight is 70kg.
[Too give this some perspective, Carl Hutchings ran a half marathon last week and Jenn Hopkins is currently cycle touring from Portland to San Francisco]

My bike was fine. Three bolts fell out of the granny chainring - that's all. Not a single puncture! I'll do a gear review shortly.

5 - Are you writing an article or book about it?

I'll do an article for SPOKE magazine, and a diary-style account here. There will also be the odd slideshow, including a big one at Rongatai College (where my gear will be auctioned off). This Friday I'll be interviewed at 8:10pm on Radio New Zealand National. There will be the odd extra article here and there, but no book - you'd all be bored to tears!
If you're in Wellington and want to hear more, sooner rather than later, come along to the tree planting at Makara Peak MTB Park this Sunday at 10am.

Bonus question: Where those Diamond Back shorts really 17 years old?

No, of course not. They were only 11 years old. I wore them over my Ground Effect shorts for a little extra padding in the mornings for a few days. [The Sams Bike Shop shorts I wore on day one were 17 years old]

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Home Sweet Home, and Sweepstake Winners's nice to be home in Wellington after 24 hours in planes and airports - instead of dodgy air-conditioning we have a freezing southerly gale to keep everybody moving briskly as they shuffle about between showers. The forecast is for a maximum of 9 degrees C - but with the windchill of a 110 kph southerly thrown into the mix, 9 degrees is just wishful thinking.

It is good to be home with friends and family, back at work doing something useful. If the weather clears I'll be testing my wasted upper body with some track building on Mt Vic, if not, I'll be helping the bros finish the first draft of the 7th edition of Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides.

Well! The fundraising sweepstake was almost too close to call. Just over 60 people pledged support for MSF and 50 of those entered the sweepstake at the same time. There were a few outliers - one guy thought I'd take 66 days! But the bulk of the predictions weren't too far off the mark:
  • 16 days: 2
  • 17 days: 3
  • 18 days: 7
  • 19 days: 7
  • 20 days: 5
  • 21 days: 12
  • 22 days: 6
  • 23 days: 4
But here's the rub - two people guessed 19 days and 1 hour, which was the closest estimate to my finish time, so they both get first prizes. They are Illona Keenan (from Cycling Adcovates' Network, a friend who gave me a first-aid kit for the race) and Andy Jones (who is riding the Great Divide Route at a civilised pace this very year). Congratulations!

Christian Hoerning was runner-up with an estimate of 19 days 10 hours.

I'll send out a gentle reminder of what people pledged in the next few days.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Final results for GDR 2008 (revised)

From the GDR blog :

1. John Nobile - 15:01:26, overall course record
2. Carl Hutchings - 17:10:41
3. Simon Kennett - 19:05:02
4. Fred Wilkinson - 21:01:45
5. Noah Dimit - 22:12:11
6. Jenn Hopkins - 22:18:40, women's singlespeed record

Click on image for full size version

Did not finish:

Geoff Roes, Steamboat Springs, Colo.
David Blaine, Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Keith Flury, Rawlins, Wyo.
Cullen Barker, Rawlins, Wyo.
Ryan McHale, Lima, Mont.
Dave Croll, Lima, Mont.
Brad Perry, Butte, Mont.
Nathan Bay, Butte, Mont.
Todd Temres, Helena, Mont.
Andrew Genco, Whitefish, Mont.
Gary Anderton, Whitefish, Mont.
Rainer Klaus

Thursday, July 17, 2008

20 Pics

OK. When it comes to blogging, I'm a punter, so these pics are all over the place, but here they are - 20 of 241. [I went in and reorganised them. Paul]

But, first...a week has passed since I finished and a few questions are starting to recur.

The sweepstake will be sorted as soon as I get home. I've a feeling somebody got within a few minutes of my finishing time.
And, yes - after a few days of exhaustion, I'm starting to recover quite nicely. Fingers are still a bit arthritic, but saddle sores have gone, stomach is back to normal and my energy levels are returning. After a few days of complete dissinterest, I thought about going for a ride this morning. Didn't actually do it, but suspect I will in the next couple of days.

Now for the photos (not necessarily in this order!):

This noon startline shot (above) has record-holder John Nobile closest to the camera.

David Blaine marching thru the snow with his usual cheery outlook.

Andrew (single-speed), Geoff (29" MTB) and Keith (touring bike) are leading the race up the first major climb (Whitefish Divide). Sadly, all three DNF'ed.

Some aspens. Pretty.

Twelve of us camped at Toms at the end of the first day (at the 120 mile mark).

Carl clambers over one of a hundred downed trees on day 2.

Carl tackling yet another roller on the tedious day into Lima.

Flowers and snowy peaks on the road to Island Pass.

Jenn and more flowers on the way into Wyoming.

Me leaving the Great Divide Basin with mylar neck shade and ear plugs to silence the wind.

A rare sighting of the mountain turtle.

Sweet view at the top of Togwatee pass.

Me hating the heat at 10,000', but soon to be revived by a mountain lion sighting.

Scot giving my bike it's first TLC since the start. Absolute Bikes at 1550 miles was almost a compulsory pit-stop. Oli had built it up so well that it needed very little attention.

Receiving some awesome hospitality in Del Norte.

Sunset on the Polvadera Mesa, New Mexico - the biggest climb of the race at just over 4000' (and covered in sand and bedrock for the last quarter).

Happy to be crossing the Continental Divide for the 2nd-to-last time on the last day.

The finish

Back with Sarah & Miro : )

I'll post a few more pics when I do a full write-up and there will probably be a slideshow back in Wellington.

Pedal on!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Jenn Hopkins: 22 days, 18 hrs, 40 mins

From the GRD blog:
Jenn Hopkins called from Antelope Wells at 10 a.m. Sunday to say she arrived at 6:40 a.m., for a seventh-place and first-female finishing time of 22 days, 18 hours and 40 minutes. Jenn also is the first woman to complete the Great Divide Race on a singlespeed, which would make her time the new female singlespeed record. Her call from Antelope Wells was a bit warbly and hard to understand, but it sounds like she had an amazing last few days.


The official leader board hasn't been updated since last Wednesday - here's my rough version. Noah and Jenn's last five plot points are my guesses:Click image to enlarge.

Noah Dimit: 22 days, 12 hrs, 11 mins

From the GRD blog:
Noah Dimit called from Antelope Wells about 11 minutes after midnight Sunday, for a sixth-place finishing time of 22 days, 12 hours and 11 minutes. He sounded pretty tired and didn't have too much to say at the finishing line. "Anyways, it's a pretty crazy race," he said.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fred Wilkinson finishes: 21day 1hr 45min

Fred has finished. Noah is real close and Jenn is on the home stretch.

The official leader board hasn't been updated in several days, here's my rough version:
Click to enlarge.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hello from Santa Fe

Howdy folks

Just a short note to say 'Hi' and thanks for your interest/support. Sarah let me know that there were people cheering me on and that sure helped during the low times.

I'm still pretty wasted right now. Although I only lost a couple of kilos and suffered no significant injuries, my fingers (and other bits) are a bit numb, and my brain is exhausted, too. The main feeling at the finish was relief, with a fair degree of satisfaction at cracking 20 days. Hopefully there is more satisfaction yet to come once it all sets in. I'm a little dazed. The last four days were very tough. It was a LOT more fun when there were other riders to share the experience with. Everyone I rode with was great company - Fred, David, Geoff, Keith, Carl and Jenn (and Tour Divide riders Stephen, Mary and Felix). And there were several ordinary folk along the way who were a pleasure to meet. That said, most of the best wildlife encounters and fastest days came while riding solo.

It is fantastic to be back with family.

I'll post some photos soon.

Best of luck to the riders still out there.

Kia ora!


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Post race thoughts from David B and Geoff R

David Blaine has some thoughts on his Great Divide Project:
A full write-up on my experiences will be coming, but for now I would like to give some details about my departure.

Despite having some knee problems in Wyoming I had high hopes and lots of energy heading into Colorado. Once in Colorado, I realized I wasn't digesting my food right and my energy disappeared. By the time I crawled into Steamboat I knew I had more than a sour stomach. I got a motel room and hoped to take a day to recover.

By morning, I was in a terrible state. I was no longer thinking about the race I was just hoping to get myself to a hospital. I was extremely fortunate that I was in a town with medical service when this happened. Isabella from the Nordic Motel took me to the Emergency Room and within a minute I was getting hooked up to an I.V.

Geoff Roes is Fumbling Towards Endurance:
This is as close as I'm going to come to a race report - a random collection of thoughts and photos:

Lack of sleep seemed to be my ultimate undoing. In the first 3 days I slept a total of 8.5 hours and in the first week a total of 33 hours. In the future I need to find something to help me sleep when I do multi-day races. I would lay down at night and just couldn't get my mind to stop carrying on.

And Jenns Cycling Compendium friends are still blogging for her.

Simon will be back at his in-laws, in Santa Fe, sometime tomorrow. Then he'll be able to blog some post-race thoughts.

Antelope Wells 19 Days 5 Hours & 2 Minutes!

Simon just called- he's done!

He called at 6.30, the border station closes at 4, which is where the pay phone is (and no cell phone coverage)- so he was calling from down the road.

Bill & Janet were there to meet him, having got there a bit early and spent some time fending off dogs!

He said they were driving back the way he had just come, down a road they could barely see the end off, slightly downhill. It was a pretty tedious day, around 11 hours including breaks, lots of long straight roads. He had mostly cross & slight head winds. But the weather was very good & the temperature perfect.

He's exhausted and aches all over, a bit worse for wear after yesterdays effort.

They are heading for Deming tonight, he said something about guacamole. He should be back here in Santa Fe early afternoon tomorrow.

He sounded relieved and happy.

I am so proud of him.

He's finished!

He finished just after 5pm.

Not only is there no payphone at Antelope Wells, but there's no cellphone coverage either. So Simon's in-laws had to drive him way back up the road till they could get cellphone coverage.

Sarah will post details soon!

No news yet

Still no news.

When Simon reaches the finish he'll call Sarah. Sarah will call her mum, Shona. Shona will call me. And I'll blog it as she speaks.

By the way - there's no podcast from yesterday because he didn't call in to the GDR answerphone.

On the home stretch

By about now (3pm New Mexico, 9am New Zealand) he will have plugged his way across this stuff:

And popped out onto Highway 81:

The National Weather Service is reporting better conditions today: currently 25 degrees Centigrade, East-South-East wind at 19 kph.

The nearest webcams I could find are:Updated leader board:

Simon's rough day, continued

The GDR blog pretty much summed up what Simon told me last night. But just though I'd add a few extra points this morning.

There were three people that gave him food yesterday after he either flagged them down, or in one case went in to a Real Estate agents- in each case he offered to pay, but they were all insistent that he just take it (I guess we would do the same!), he probably looked like he needed it too.

He said when he was in the thick of the thunder storm, before Silver City, where the trail actually goes along the Great Divide, the gap between thunder & lightning got down to 2 seconds. Eeek. Once he saw a bolt of lightning strike the ground about 200m ahead. He was riding along crouched down to make himself as small as possible.

It was pretty much an afternoon long interval session!

When he got to Silver City the first motel he went to took one look at him and said "sorry all booked up".

He said he felt really the riding was really isolated yesterday. It was about 120 miles, and for 95 miles of that he only saw 4 cars.

He was going to get going about 6 this morning.

He's on the last leg!

Simon's rough day

From the GDR blog:
Simon called from Silver City at about 10:10 p.m. Tuesday, saying he arrived in town at about 9 p.m. "I got pretty well thrashed by the weather today," he said. He also discovered there was no store 40 miles south of Pie Town, so he rode off route and flagged down a vehicle to ask where the next store was. When they told him it was 20 miles down the road, he asked if he could buy some food from them and they sold him some cheese crackers. "Those are good. They pack a bunch of calories," he said. When he arrived at a ranger station, he bought six bottles of soda from a vending machine, "and that carried me through most of the way."

"I finished my food off just before the last hill, and I'd really been hammering to that point because there were lots of storm crowds brewing," he said. A big storm broke out with pouring rain, thunder and lightening. Simon waited under a bridge until it eased a little, but the storm didn't show any signs of letting up. He decided he needed food more than he needed to stay dry. So he set out as the storm picked up steam again, trying to hammer to the next town. "I got there, got soaked, got muddy, got to Mimbres at a quarter to six and the store closed at five." He tried to wait the rain out a little longer and continued on to Silver City. "I'm pretty well hammered, but only one day left, and it doesn't look too tough," he said. "I look forward to being at the border."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

290 km to go

Antelope Wells is now 290 km away, with 914 meters elevation climb.

The leader board updated:
Click to enlarge

Part of the trail he'll face tomorrow, south of Silver City. Elevation 1834 m. [Source]

Note: This photo is from 2004 - the weather forecast for tomorrow is less sunny.

Silver City- Tuesday 9.45 (18 days+9.75 hours)

Just a quick update- will add more tomorrow morning (sorry!)...

Simon just called from Silver City where he is safe in a motel after enduring full on thunderstorms most of the day. He's pretty shattered, but glad to be there (and glad to be alive too).

What does Antelope Wells look like?

Satellite photo - there ain't much there

The border post

And here's what Wikipedia has to say:
Antelope Wells is a small unincorporated community in the state of New Mexico in the United States of America, located along the United States-Mexico border, across from the small settlement of El Berrendo, Chihuahua, Mexico. Despite its name, there are neither antelope nor wells in the area. The name comes from an old ranch, located 2.5 miles north of the current community. The only inhabitants are United States Customs and Border Protection employees.

Antelope Wells is the southernmost settlement of New Mexico, situated in Hidalgo County and in the region commonly known as the "boot heel" of New Mexico. It is the smallest and least-used border crossing of the 43 ports of entry along the border with Mexico. The crossing, which is open solely for non-commercial traffic, is open every day from 8 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon.

The port was established by Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 and has been staffed since 1928. In 1981 the border crossing had a population of 2, living in trailers behind the customs station, and averaged three people enterring per day. In 2005 just 93 pedestrians crossed over at the site, which consisted of just four buildings, a port of entry building, two houses and a trailer. Including domestic and international travelers, fewer than 500 buses and privately-owned vehicles pass through the community each month, though traffic has been increasing slightly lately with more international shuttle van service. Despite its low usage, there is no move to close the port, which is the only port between Douglas, Arizona, and Columbus, New Mexico, and provides the most direct route from the United States to the Sierra Madre Occidental.

Antelope Wells is located on New Mexico State Road 81, which links it with Interstate 10 and New Mexico State Road 9. Antelope Wells is the official southern starting point of the 3100-mile Continental Divide Trail.

The word from Sarah is that they are expecting him to finish roughly Wednesday lunchtime New Mexico time.

So that would be around 6am Thursday morning in New Zealand.

David Blaine's photos of GDR 2008

David Blaine has just uploaded a whole bunch of photos to Flickr. Here's some shots he took of Simon:

Simon on the start line, 20 June 2008

Simon nearing Red Meadow Lake

Red Meadow Lake Snow

Simon leaving Ovando

Simon catches David before Island Park

Simon riding into Atlantic City at dawn

Breakfast in Atlantic City with Simon and Jenn (not in the pic)

David in Yampa Valley Hospital - the final pic in his GDR08 set

See all David Blaine's GDR08 pics

Rainer Klaus: 18 days, one hour and 26 minutes

From the GDR blog:
Rainer Klaus called from Antelope Wells at 1:26 p.m. Tuesday for a finishing time of 18 days, one hour and 26 minutes. He enjoyed the morning's ride and said he stayed ahead of the rain. "It was a very easy stage today," he said. "Had I known the stage was so easy, perhaps I would have gotten up earlier in the morning, so that would have caused a below-18-day finish. But I'm very happy to have done it. I'm healthy and I'm feeling well mentally and physically." He said he would call back in with more details later.
And the updated leader board:Click to enlarge

Sunday call-in

Simon's call-in:Do you think Simon might finish in under 20 days?!

Cheers, Paul

Carl Hutchings: 17 days, 10 hours and 41 minutes

From the GDR blog:
Carl Hutchings called in from Antelope Wells at about 2 a.m. Tuesday. He said he arrived at the border at 10:41 p.m. Monday, giving him a second-place finishing time of 17 days, 10 hours and 41 minutes. He wanted to thank Pete Basinger and Mike Curiak, and also Eric Parsons at Epic Designs for keeping his bike "rack-free."

"Wow, this race really kicked my ass," he said. "It wasn't easy at all. I'm pretty pleased to be done." He wished good luck to everyone else still in the race.
Updated leader board:
Click to enlarge

Monday, July 7, 2008

Day 17 Leader board update

Click to enlarge.

GDR blog update from Pie Town

From the GDR blog Monday afternoon:
Simon called from Pie Town at about 2:30 p.m. Monday. He said the Pioneer Cafe was closed, but he has a 69-cent pie that he bought in Cuba, "so that will have to do." He said the weather was nice and overcast, but the last stretch of road was rough with washboards. "300 miles to go, yee-haw," he said.
500 kilometers to the border [that's roughly the same as Rotorua to Wellington]

And earlier:
Simon called from just outside Grants at 6 a.m. Monday. He said he arrived at 10:30 p.m. Sunday. He said he was going to roll down Route 66 and 117 to Pie Town. He said he had the "usual roller coaster ride" Sunday, with beautiful scenery and a bit of rain.
South Of Grants, NM through the desert

Here's a weather forecast for Hachita NM (Elevation 1433 m, compared to the Desert Road summit which is 1074 m):

This Afternoon: Isolated showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a high near 91 [33 degrees Celsius]. Light southeast wind. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Tonight: Scattered showers and thunderstorms, mainly before midnight. Partly cloudy, with a low around 64 [18 degrees Celsius]. Light wind becoming east northeast between 13 and 16 mph [26 kph]. Winds could gust as high as 23 mph [37 kph]. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Tuesday: Scattered showers and thunderstorms after noon. Partly cloudy, with a high near 90. East northeast wind between 7 and 14 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Tuesday Night: Scattered showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 64. Northeast wind between 8 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

Pie Town- 2.30pm Monday (day 17 + 2.5 hrs)

A very tired and dry sounding Simon just called from Pie Town. No pie though! The cafe was closed, but fortunately the Post Office was open and he'd posted himself a care package.

The Pie Town Cafe - closed as usual.

He had just had 16 miles of slightly rolling uphill, with corrugations & a headwind- so didn't sound like it was much fun.

Yesterday he did 270km. Saw a herd of about 20 red deer.

Fortunately it's not too hot today (he said it was 24 deg. C). He might only go on another 20 miles today.

But it gave him a real lift when Janet & Bill (my folks who we are staying with in Santa Fe) offered to go down and retrieve him from the border. We had been wondering how to manage it, the prospect of driving down there (about 8 hours from here) with a one year old wasn't very appealing, so we are super grateful that they have volunteered!

Keeping track

Now it's getting more down to the wire for Simon I'm going to start using the GDR race start time to keep a track of the days.

So, they started at noon on the 20th of June (we'll go from noon to noon)- it's now just after 2pm on Monday the 7th of July. Which means that he is 2 hours in to his 18th day.

Add a comment if I've got it wrong!

Day 16 call-in from Cuba

Simon's call-in:The dates have become even more confusing; yesterdays Podcast was definitely "Day 15, Friday 4th July", but today they're saying "Day 16, Sunday". The riders started at noon on the Friday 20th June - so the end of "Day 1" is noon on Saturday the 21st.

Whatever the time... Simon is still plugging away at those miles.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Cuba -mid day Sunday

We were out when Simon called this morning at 11.50. His message is pretty much as follows...

It was a really hard ride to Cuba & his legs feel exhausted.

He saw cougar prints in the dirt after being warned in Abiquiu about cougar being around, and to watch his back. (sadly a man in northern New Mexico was killed a week or so ago, by a cougar they think, so I guess the warnings weren't unfounded)

The ride from Abiquiu was the last big "hill" of the ride though, it's mainly just rolling stuff from now on. He's hoping to make it to Antelope Wells by 20 days. He's got 160 miles of seal in front of him & 3 out of 4 bolts are lost from his middle chain ring.

He sounded pretty tired.

Day 16 Sunday afternoon

From the GDR blog:
Simon called from Cuba at 11:45 a.m. Sunday. He said he couldn't find a pay phone in Abiquiu but he arrived about 5 p.m. Saturday. "Bit of a grunt over to here," he said. "But that's the last big hill of the ride." He was planning to hit the alternate route and shoot for Grants later today. He congratulated John Nobile "on taking it out," and said he hoped Geoff and David were feeling better and maybe even starting to think about next year.

The track south of Cuba through high desert [Source]

And the leader board:
Click to enlarge

Cuba is 2,133 meters meters above sea level.

At Cuba, Simon had pedaled 3,130 kilometers and climbed 42,062 meters in just over 2 weeks (Mt Everest is 8,850 meters tall). It's 152 km to Grants including 2,438 meters climbing (Mt Taranaki is 2,518 m). Simon has averaged 2,628 m climbing per day.

The finish line is 870 km from Cuba, with 10,668 meters climbing.

The weather in Grants is currently: 31 °C, partly cloudy, wind 26 km/h from the SSW (which sounds like a head wind).

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Day 15 Friday call-in from Pletoro

Simon's call-in:And the leader board:

Click to enlarge

Abiquiu- 6pm Saturday

Simon called this evening from Abiquiu, New Mexico (the closest he'll be to us, till he gets back to Santa Fe (didn't mention that to him though!)). No pay phone there either, so it was a pretty quick call.

He said the Brazos Ridge [see weather ] still had snow on it. At El Rito he bought a bag of ice & put bits of it everywhere he could- down shorts (yikes!), pockets, back of his pack. It was pretty hot here in Santa Fe today, so that sounds like a good idea (though we did get a good downpour this afternoon, and it cooled off alot- Simon didn't mention that he'd had any rain).

Along Brazos Ridge (Simon had snow here) [Source]

He's going to head on out and get a couple of thousand feet of climbing under his belt before he hits the sack. I'm pretty sure he said the climb out of Abiquiu is the longest in the GDR. So I guess he'll be waking up to more climbing

South of Abiquiu

Tomorrow he's going to try to get to Cuba in the morning, have a siesta, then push on in the afternoon.

Heading towards Cuba