Friday, July 31, 2015

Day One (all goes well.....)


The ride up to Banff was provided by Mike Schlichtman and truck, Mark Caminiti joined us. 
I did not know it but my fork must of got twisted on the dive up when we hit a sharp bump.  I rode several days before I realized my handlebars were cockeyed about 5/8 of an inch.  Funny how soon my knee issues cleared up once the bars were back to straight.....

The three of us talked TDR stuff nonstop almost the entire ride up.  I brought my work laptop and phone and did my best to stay on top of last minute items and make a smooth transition from the real world to the TDR world.

Mark and I did a 60 mile warm up loop. 
60 mile Pre-Ride, all is clean and pretty...
After this last ride I fine-tuned my bike but almost exclusively hung out in my hotel room getting caught up on last minute work emails and mentally prep'ed for the start.

I had a very specific race plan for days one and two, a hope for days three and four and a general idea of what I wanted to accomplish each day thereafter. Like all TDR race plans mine quickly fell apart, by day two I was already into serious contingency strategies.

Day One:
160 miles, 6:30am-12:00pm, 3.5 hours sleep night one
I slept pretty good Thursday night  all things considered and was up around 6:30am .  In the morning I only had to dress and go grab some breakfast and wait for the roll out. My head was in a good place, focused but relaxed.  I had my food for days 1 & 2 planned out down to a T and packed and all was ready. I deliberately worked hard to ignore most of the other racers, crazy Larry and all the comings and goings. 
I snapped off some random pictures but that was the extent of my pre-race goings on. Basically I wanted to stay calm, focused and just get to it and execute my day one strategy. I knew I would have time to chat up the ones that were similar in pace later in the day and that I would see some of them over and over.

The plan for day one was simple, carry enough on-the-bike food for days 1 & 2, skip the store at mile 60, do a fast resupply in Elkford (including picking up something for a camp ‘dinner’ in case I did not make Sparwood before things closed up) and regardless of weather ride to the end of the pavement, camp up there (around mile 160), sleep for about 3 hours and start day 2. Why stop at mile 160?  Several reasons but several key reasons were:

1.       That last section of pavement is always going to be easy/warm riding at the end of the 1st day, rainy or dry and always cold if starting in the morning from Sparwood.

2.       Unless day 1 was a unexpected ‘problem day’ I knew my energy level would still be near peak levels by the time I hit Sparwood--why waste it by stopping early?

3.       I am not fast enough to reach Butts cabin in a ‘reasonable’ amount of time on day 1

4.        I knew I could make a warm/dry camp at the end of the pavement no matter the weather...

5.       I could have gone just a bit farther on day 1 but did not want to camp cold or hit the notorious hike-a-bike water crossings in the dark.  I planned (and did) hit them right at first light on day 2 and had also slipped on knee high plastic bags that morning to keep my socks dry and feet warm—worked to perfection bty.  After the many water crossings I just rode till my shoes were mostly dry and then removed/stored the bags for later use if needed (never were).

The start was actually pretty relaxed for such a large group, easy roll out followed by several hours of smooth, hard pacing for 60 miles.  Everyone around me was as strong or stronger on the climbs so I knew I was going as hard as I could/should yet was still going at my all-day pace. The riding from Elkford to Sparwood was cold, wet and gritty.  The mud/grit played havoc with my frame bag zippers and though I did not know it at the time also damaged the Teflon coating on my shift cable.  Latter on this minor cable damage would impact my entire race and haunt me all the way to the finish at Antelope Wells. 

I got to Sparwood at 9pm (my ‘hoped for’ time but frankly earlier than expected) with plenty of time to eat a chocolate shake and hamburger, wash off my bike and soft pedal the last 20 miles of pavement in the fading sunlight. 

I reached my intended camp area at 11:30 pm and hunted around a bit for the ‘perfect’ camp spot.  Later I was willing to crash out just about anywhere but on this 1st night I took some time and found a nice sheltered (warm & dry if it rained) spot in some dense pine trees.  As I was setting up camp I played light tag with some glowing eyes.  My small camp light would show the eyes but not the animal.  Every time I looked away it kept coming closer and closer rather than moving away.  Finally I said enough of this cat & mouse and hit it with my helmet light—it was a big ol badger.  Once I spot lighted him he went on about his business and I went to sleep. Somehow I miss-set my alarm but woke up on my own within 30 min of my planned wake up. 
Day one was a text book execution of my race plan and I was quite pleased with myself.  Ha, if only I knew as it was also the last day that would go according to plan till I was almost to New Mexico………..

Bonus Section (I will add a little gear tidbit for each day)

·         I used Shower Pass Rain Gloves ( and have to say they worked very well.  It did not rain much on me but they stayed dry when it did and I used them each morning for the cold and many nights as part of my sleep system.

·         I did not bring a sleeping bag but was very happy with my all-weather blizzard survival bag. It does condense up after about 3 -4 hours, which was about all the longer I was sleeping most camp nights anyway.  I would turn it inside out most nights so as to start with a dry surface.  With my Neoair sleep pad and rain gear I slept warm and quite well each time I used it. Also it was very fast set-up and pack up, saving me lots of time each camp-up.


  1. hi Marshall,

    nice post. I saw you hanging back at the start, i'm in the pink jacket in your first picture. I rode to Sparwood the first day and that mud between Elkford & Sparwood caused me some damage as well.

    my only question is why the bivy bag and not a sleeping bag? your bivy bag weighs more than my sleeping bag. plus my damp/wet clothes dried every night. i used this bag

    full disclosure is I work this company. but as you were paring your weight down so much i was just wondering what led you to that choice.

    I'm back to riding so if you're heading down my way, Ouray/Telluride area let me know. be fun to go for a spin.


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  3. JC,
    HA, actually the blizzard bag web site
    shows its just a tad less (10 grams less) that the down bag you mention...anyway good questions and here is my long.....answer:
    Why did I choose the blizzard bag instead of a down bag? Well if you use a down bag you have to also bring some way to keep it dry. Basically there are three methods and I have used them all--Tent is best for keeping dry but is way overkill for a bikepacking race. Bivy works but condenses and most are confining; tarp is iffy if it’s raining and windy. All 3 methods weigh more, take longer to set up/take down and don’t pack down as small as my overall system did.

    What are the key strengths of the blizzard bag? At 385 grams it offers a higher warmth to weight ratio compared any similar weight ultralight down bag. Its 100% waterproof, you could dunk it in a lake, shake it off and sleep warmer than your typical ultralight down bag. Requires no special set up or ground conditions, just lay it down anywhere, even on soaked ground climb in and sleep. Its huge—lots of room inside for laying out any gear as needed. clothing, Packs down as quick or quicker and as small or smaller than any bag/bivy combo I have ever seen.

    I should point out its quite noisy but that doesn’t affect me, but this will bother some. And as it’s not breathable it WILL condense up. However I simply slipped on my ‘breathable’ rain gear each night. So while the inside of the bag was wet my riding clothing was at worst only slightly damp. In the morning If it was warm I would slip off the rain gear and go, if it was cold I would ride for a few minutes with the rain gear still on.

    Would I use a blizzard bag again? Yes I will for a race where I am concerned about real rain (CTR in 2016??—maybe)
    Would I use it for a non-race bikepacking trip? No I would use my Z-Pak tent and down bag and have it all…….

  4. Hello Marshall, I've been experimenting with a Blizzard Survival bag. So far it's exactly as you describe it. I do have a question on how you bundle/pack it when it's time to head out. Do you have any tricks on getting it small? Do you roll it? Stuff it? Thanks for the super informative blog!

  5. rolled and stuffed in a Sea to Summit bag--see bag on front of my bike in 1st pic