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June 24, 2016

We were talking last night about bucket lists, the question was:  if you could pick one epic adventure, what would you do?  Options given were (1) Hike the Appalachian Trail, (2) ride the Tour Divide (bike race from Canada to Mexico, largely off road or on gravel), or (3) race the Trans Am bike race (going from coast to coast).  I had no answer, hadn't thought much about it and so those thoughts rumbled through my mind for much of the night.  When young, I'm talking about mid 20s, I became interested in two of these things.  I wanted to hike the AT and then ride from coast to coast.  Even bought a bicycle built to ride that distance, even bought one of the map sections of the bike route and rode 500 miles to try it out.  Then nothing happened.  I think the Tour Divide ride, if one could do it, would be the one to be most proud of.  You are in bear country, self sufficient, and largely remote.

The Trans Am 2016 bike race is going on, the winners have already completed it.  The winner was a young women who biked the country in a bit more than 18 days.  Fans followed the race via computer because each of the participants carried GPS trackers.  There are no entrance fees, no awards, no trophy.  And often, there will be nobody at the finish line.  That's my kind of contest.  Don't make pictures if you require an audience.  Don't race if you require a large crowd to pour on the cheers at the end.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, but doing it for yourself means a whole lot.   But rewards will come to the standout racers through endorsements and speaking engagements, so in a sense there are always prizes to be found.

The winner, Lael Wilcox, captured the intrigue of the computer dot watchers, me included.  In 2nd place for thousands of miles, she was riding her bike slower than the leader but never needed nearly as much rest or sleep.  Riding through the night and eating on the bike paid off.  At the end of the race, she said she was tired of eating, had to do it all the time.  About 10,000 calories a day, largely gas station food eaten while riding.  

With these epic adventure races (or rides), navigation is a big part of it, certainly as important as fitness.  She carried two GPS units but no maps.  The leader required more sleep and was so far ahead that everyone figured the race was a done deal.  He pulled over and took a roadside nap in the middle of the night.  Waking in the dark, he took off in a hurry.  After a good bit of time, maybe a couple hours, he encountered another rider coming in the other direction, so they stopped and chatted.  Ended up he had ridden the wrong direction and had met the 2nd place Wilcox, who had charged on with only a 40 minute nap.  What a way to loose your advantage.

Here is an interview with Lael Wilcox before the race.  Wouldn't you like to be young again and fit enough to do this?  I don't think I was ever that young or fit.