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.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

On the Tour little things add up…..

At times I felt busted, broke down and sort of lost in the desert.....
Disclaimer Time: I have been seeing some thoughtful comments on my ideas/posts, both here and on Facebook. 

So it’s time for the ol disclaimers:
  • If it doesn’t fit don’t wear it.
  • If there truly was one best way everyone would be using the same exact gear and following the same exact race strategies etc etc.
  • Just because it’s used by some fast racers doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you.(see #1)
  • Lots of great ideas come from newbies, veterans, and other venues, if it fits wear it…..
  • Ha, I reserve the right to change my mind about what’s good or not, what works or doesn’t with regards to the TDR and life in general…..

My 2015 TDR is quickly fading into the past.  Now my ribs barely hurt when I take a deep deep breath, I can sleep on both sides, hard upper body moves on single track don’t hurt and I no longer wake up from TDR dreams……..

And I want to start writing a more traditional ‘day by day’, blow by blow description of my TDR before my memories fade much more.  But before I go there I want to finish my thoughts on mental aspects of the TDR.

First I suspect many will approach the mental aspects of the TDR from a totally different angle.  Others will think along the same lines I do but substitute key words or have slightly different emphasis.  Hence my disclaimer #1—if it doesn’t fit don’t wear it…..

My experience tells me the truly ‘hard’ mental part of the TDR is being disciplined or consistent in these four areas:

  1. Don’t over or under sleep
  2. Don’t stop more than absolutely necessary
  3. When stopped don’t waste time
  4. When riding maintain appropriate pace
For me personally, the biggest ‘fail’ I dealt with was #4.  There were several days were I lost my drive to ‘race’ and fought hard just to keep going. 
sometimes, no matter how hard you press on the gas you don't seem to get anywhere
There were several factors that came into play with regards to failing at maintaining the best pace for my current situation.  Several factors that contributed to my complete loss of motivation to keep pedaling at my best pace, to race vs just ride……. 

a) I overextended myself sleep wise on one occasion.  I had stopped at a rest stop but couldn’t sleep well and pressed on.  In about an hour I was so ready to quit and pack it in when it finally dawned on me that most of my despondent attitude was a result of too little recovery sleep.  It was a minor ‘eureka’ moment.  This particular issue was easily put behind me with 3 unplanned hours of sleep in the teepee at Atlantic City.  In hind sight this occurred the day after I crashed hard and hurt my rib cage, at the time it didn’t seem that bad but now I think it may have affected me more than I realized.

b) I had several physical issues to deal with. 
            From about Butte MT to Wamsutter WY I dealt with a grapefruit inside my left knee.  The right knee bothered me on and off but only the left one became swollen and felt at times like it was ‘serious’.  With strategic stops and soaks in ice cold streams and rivers it eventually deflated to normal size settled down to a dull background issue.

From day 2 till the finish I dealt with a swollen, creaky right achilles.  By Wamsutter it was quite painful and I was making bailout plans in a cheap hotel room.  That night it was way to a creaky, almost ‘locked’ but almost magically 5+ hours of ice and elevation released the pain, the lock and most of the ‘creaking’.  I knew I would be quitting in the morning when I went to sleep that night but set my alarm for 5 hours anyway.  I was sort of laughing at myself at 4:30am when I discovered I could flex my right ankle without pain and just the slightest creaking, well Marshal I guess now you can’t quit….. it did get worse again but then got better and simply faded into the background by NM.  I will detail later my thinking on ‘why’ my knees and Achilles went south on me.  Some of it was just the typical long hard TDR stress but the root cause was actually a bike/mechanical related issue.

And the fore mentioned cracked ribs.  I went down hard in the dark in WY while descending the dirt section of Togwotee pass.  To be honest I should have gone to a clinic and gotten checked out.  Earlier in the day I had called ahead and reserved a room at Lava Mtn Lodge, with arrangements for an after-hours arrival and the door to be left unlocked with key inside, so I had a nice safe retreat to recover in.  When I got to my room and looked at my chest in the mirror I could see my right side was no longer symmetrical with my left side.  I was slightly ‘bent’ on the right side, I softly pressed my ribs back into place and felt a lot better when they mostly stayed where they belonged.  The pain was not bad, fairly mild actually and I told myself I would self-monitor as best I could thru the night and see how I felt in the morning.  For the remainder of the race the ribs were a low level issue, I couldn’t pull or push very much with my right arm and deep breaths were noticeable but not that bad.  Riding wise I only noticed my ribs when standing and pulling back on the bars—ie: only in technical sections.

To fight back against these various injuries I used kinsio tape, ice, cold flowing water, rubs and a max of four 200mg Aleve’s (per 24 hr period).  Two Aleve's at bed time and 1 to 2 during the day.  None of these physical issues completely stopped me.  I do remember telling my wife that if I started taking too many Aleve pain pills I was going to pull the plug.

c) In addition to overextending ride time, low to mid-level physical issues there were several bike related issues that dragged and sapped at me.  Most notably my poor drivetrain selection and yet to be discussed fully rigid vs front or full suspension.  I am going to save my thoughts on suspension vs rigid  for another  post. 

d) But next up on the list of de-motivating ‘factors’ is one that’s all mental, self-pity.  Basically I got off to a pretty good start and when I realized I would not be able to keep my current race position I just lost it.  
by WY I was already in a mental funk about falling back.....
Hard to admit but in the end I had a hard time manning up and dealing efficiently with all my individually minor issues, at the time they seemed to add up to an insurmountable wall .  They seemed like a ball and chain slowing me down.  Then I lost my focus, motivation went away and hence I slowed way way down.  And this is key---I slowed down Much Much more than the circumstances actually warranted.  IE: I was trapped in a closed loop that spiraled down and down with me eventually moving along at what felt like a crawl. And once I slowed down the inevitable happened, time and time again.  I would be passed. And each time I was passed I would drop a little deeper into my self-pity hole. 

So added up I was de-motivated by both external (under sleep, assorted nagging injuries and poor gear choices) and internal issues.  The external issues eventual got worked out or just ignored. 

The internal or mental problem was a more difficult nut to crack.  Eventually I did crack the nut and broke free from the destructive self-pity loop I had trapped myself in. 
by here I was 100% back in the game....
And it’s interesting to me that it was accomplished in two totally different ways, one from within, one from without.   I will talk about this once I get into my ‘day by day’ posts.  But for now what I can say is once your motivation lags you are toast, as far as racing anyway. 

Call it what you will but I think the most descriptive word is 'motivation' and for several days mine was burnt to a crisp………..hey, just put it all into your own words, change it around till it ‘fits’ you ---but in the end------
  • Above all else to race your best personal TDR you have to be disciplined. 
  • To be disciplined you have to stay motivated.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mental Toughness during the TDR is way overrated

Start at Banff

Everything else being equal the 4 key aspects, in order of importance for TDR racing are:

1) Physical condition

2) Bike/gear choices

3) Route knowledge/multi-day technique

4) Mental discipline 

At the start I was in my own place, not paying much attention to the festivities...

My earlier post talked about how key the drivetrain choice is for optimizing one’s pace and speed across varied terrain.  But many talk about the ‘mental’ aspect of the TDR.  So I thought I would opine a bit about that.

It’s a long race.  Many ‘fast’ racers seem to unable to achieve their full potential, was it because they weren’t mentally ‘tough’ enough?  And then there are always some of these ‘fast’ racers that started off slowly but somewhere along the way get their personal TDR going and going and move up and up thru the pack. Oh and many mid-pack racers, and their family and friends, comment about how mentally tough the race was. 

I might not explain this very well but in terms of mental characteristics ‘toughness’ is way down the list in terms of importance. Basically displaying mental toughness is what a racer does when thing go wrong.  Sure it’s ‘hard’, duhh, that’s because something went wrong.  
Ya, I got tough, had no choice, but it sucked
And some talk about positive thoughts and other fluff.  Fluff because if things are going well positive thoughts come naturally, But if things are going wrong positive thoughts are basically irrelevant, ie: just a semi self-lie that might ease the anguish but does nothing to solve issues.  Staying on track and getting back on track takes physical actions not mental outlook.  So if not toughness or positive outlook then what mental characteristic best drives consistent physical actions?

What is the absolute most important mental characteristic when things are going right or wrong??

Ha simple as free pie with a Salsa top cap, it’s all about mental “discipline”.  
Its discipline that keeps you on track when your race is progressing as planned and its consistent discipline that gets you back into it when things go bad.  The race clock does not respond to your mental outlook, positive, negative or indifferent or how tough you are but will respond to your consistent physical actions.  So instead of being tough or artificially positive, when things are going bad the most effective response is to re-gain or better yet maintain your personal race discipline.  

TDR race/mental discipline is very simple.  It’s all about being disciplined or consistent in 4 basic areas:

1.       Don’t over or under sleep

2.       Don’t stop more than absolutely necessary

3.       When stopped don’t waste time

4.       When riding maintain appropriate pace

All else being equal, the self-discipline to consistently hit 4 of 4 will achieve the best finish time every time for every individual racer.


Beth Dunne, Josh Daugherty and Marshal Bird at the top of Marshal Pass. 
This pic also stolen from:
I was schooled big time by Beth Dunne and Josh Daugherty in both efficiently re-supplying and maintaining pace.  Josh was a driven man, fast at the stops and fast with his pacing.  But Beth was absolutely textbook at all 4 elements of maintaining TDR discipline.
In my particular case, with some notable exceptions, I came close to hitting #1 each night; I did not over sleep (ha, not by much) , I did however under sleep one night and paid the price. 

And I did so-so with #3.  I could have been better at efficiently re-supplying but overall didn’t waste too much time during re-supply.  I did however spend lots of extra time and stops icing my knees and Achilles.  It had to be done but it destroyed my will to maintain my best pace. 
Ice cold water in the basin, took to much time and that ate at me

But for me it was #4, where many days I completely lost the ability to maintain a consistent pace.  Despite my poor drivetrain/gearing choice really it was more a lack of discipline at maintaining my best (appropriate for my personal circumstances) that ruined my chances at a true best personal time.

So why did I fail mentally, why was I not as disciplined as I wanted to be? 
This is the look of lost motivation in the middle of nowhere Wyoming.  Ya, I played the usual mental games to keep going but they are a poor substitute for the real thing, real driving motivation 


Well this brings us to the second most important mental characteristic for a good TDR race, any guesses?  No not toughness or positive outlook but again very basic and simple—motivation.

More to come on motivation

Note –for many positive thoughts equal motivation, for me also, but motivation can come in many forms: fear, anger, fame, glory, money, the need to dominate etc.  My focus will be not on where it originates but rather the effect it has.   


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight……

Andres, High Country Lodge, fast/smart guy-future TDR winner????? (take a close look at his bike as I will be discussing FS in a later post)

Are you going to retire after this asks Andres?  (Andres Bonelli, Uruguay, 8th overall, 17 days, 5 hours)

Humm thinks I, what do you mean “retire” I reply…….

Andres and I are riding side by side thru the dirt rollers on Bannack Bench Rd, near Bannank St Park.  I am hurting and my ‘race’ is basically over for all intents and purposes, his is just getting warmed up.  Andres was keeping me company, soft pedaling at my meager pace and peppering me with questions.  He has read this blog, knows who I am and is vacuuming up all the tid bits of route information I can share. Knowing I can’t hold Andres pace I am just enjoying the short-term company and want the conversation to last as long as possible. 

I mean after this will you ever come back and race the TDR again?  And if not will you continue to write your blog and share with rookie racers?

Wow, big big questions that slam me right in the gut.  Will I continue this blog? yes for sure.  Will I race the TDR again?  My head, my wife, my job, my rational side all say no but my heart and soul say something so much different……….. 

Many times over the coming days, long after Andres and I were miles and hours apart, he on his way to a respectable 8 place overall, me on the way to a barely tolerable ‘finish’, I thought about what I might write in this blog about my TDR experience.  And other than my earlier ‘statistics’ post, somewhere along the rough gravel road into Wamsutter WY I decided I would start my 2015 TDR report/posts with the most important lesson learned. 

What’s the absolute most valuable tip I can share with a future TDR rookie?  What’s the one mistake, the one thing to avoid at all costs?  The one thing that basically destroyed 1.5 years of training and prep.  The one thing that demotivated me to the point I was a crying wimp, feeling so sorry for myself that I lost sight of the big picture and numerous times wanted to give up and go home?

Don’t bring a 1X11 to the TDR!
Argue, disagree, dispute all you want but a 1X11 or 10 is absolutely the wrong drivetrain for the TDR route.  Yes, yes, YES--I KNOW-- who has used a 1X10 with great success on the TDR.  Doesn’t change the fact a 1X anything (not talking 14 speed rohloff here) is simply to limited for the TDR. 

 And don’t get me wrong, I will be rocking my 1X11 on my next race (Ring the Peak) and love the simplicity and light weight.   
For my 2015 TDR run I built up my bike to be a climbing demon (ha, powered by a ½ power engine) and it handled all the climbs and technical terrain with ease and grace, even with the ½ power engine pushing it along….   

But the TDR includes hundreds of miles of varied, non-climbing, terrain and any combination of 1X will soon find a limit.  Either you don’t have enough high gear (my case at 32X11) or you will work needlessly hard on the low end.  And just because you can push a big low gear doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient/fastest way to move from point a to point b……  Again argue or disagree but you would be flat out wrong, physics doesn’t care.  The TDR route doesn’t care what we ‘think’, hey it is what it is and that’s a route with hundreds of miles of ALL TYPE Terrain (except extended hardcore single-track). 

So only a drive train that can provide you with the ‘Ideal Gear’, for literally hundreds of miles, across virtually every terrain type is the correct choice for your best result!  So rookie TDR racer--Just go with a 2X (or a possibly a Rohloff  '14' speed if so inclined) and be done with it—you won’t regret it.

In short-- Anyone who does the TDR on a 1X could have had a faster time with a 2X—period, end of argument, end of discussion.


High Country Lodge, eat, shower, wash kit, ice knee all nice at the time, but cant fix the impending doom of my self imposed 1X11 fiasco....
Next up –the 2nd most important thing to a fast TDR


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Marshal’s TDR 2015 Statistics


Finish Time:
18 days, 22 hours, 9 minutes

Finish Position (South Bound Grand Depart):
18th of approximately 157 starters

Old Man Podium (South Bound GD, over 50 male, approximately 40+ starters):
1st:  Robert Orr (60)                         18 days 8 hours                 12th overall
  2nd: Marshal Bird (59)                    18 days, 22 hours             18th overall
    3rd: Luke Aufschlager (53)           19 days, 2 hours               21ts overall (time yet to be verified)      

Average miles per day:
145 miles

Average moving speed:
9 mph

Days near or above 200 miles:

Nights in hotels:

Average Sleep:
3-5 hours per night 

Number of semi-sit down meals:
5 with some level of service
2 more like fast food

Highest position at major check point (Butte MT):
9th overall

Lowest position at major check point (Salida CO):
23rd overall 

Swollen, inflamed left knee, day 4-8 (more on this later)
Swollen, inflamed right Achilles, day 3-current (more later)
Some type of rib fracture or cartilage tear/ break, day 7-current, moderate
Inflamed right knee, day 4-8, minor
Six finger blisters or wear spots, day 3 till end, minor
Nerve compression at contact points-slight re-aggravation of prior foot issues, fingers, hands etc -none
Saddle Sores, none to minor

Weight/Fat% change:
zero / 1-2%

Defective Shift Cable, Day 2 (much more on this later)
Twisted Handlebars, Start to day 7 (more later)
New chain and 1 tire in Steamboat