Aftermath

I don’t mean to dwell upon the TD. Really I wanted to write it all down, get it flushed from my system and move on. It has been almost a week since I rolled into Antelope Wells, since I have done not much other than eat, sleep, moan about my feet and drink beer. Not surprising since for the last week or so of the race that is all I wanted to do, eat sleep and drink beer, that and not ride my bike. For the past 6 days I have eaten enough ice cream and drunk enough beer that I swear I’m already getting fat. I have gingerly ridden my bike around town maybe getting in a mile and half a day. This morning I got the dogs out on a hike for the first time as my feet would finally except wearing shoes. Life is slowly returning to normal.
Only I am really unsure what normal is for me these days. For years the next challenge was always on the tip of my tongue or right there next in line in my brain. During this years TD I was confronted head on with the reality that I am feeling quite done with this ultra endurance, no sleep for days type of bike racing. The very thing that has defined my life in so many ways for the past 7 to 8 years is going to the back burner and maybe right off the stove for good. I am not thinking of the CTR, I am most definitely not thinking of another TD, or AZT or any of it.
So where does this leave me? It is a strange state to be in, one that I am feeling a bit queasy about, yet at the same time excited for the possibilities of what might fill in the blanks? Even so right now I am sitting around, elevating my still sore feet, drinking beer, feeling fat, wanting to feel like I am moving towards something meaningful, important. I try and remind myself, and others remind me as well, that I should be cooked, tired and taking easy, chilling, recovering. It could and should take a while, months even to put the physical, emotional and mental strain behind me. Damn I have never been all that patient of a person, and it is hard to sit still even as tired as I am.
Meanwhile thoughts of doing this race or that race sneak past my well guarded senses. Maybe I can’t help but think about racing bikes? Damn it isn’t easy all this sitting around, too much time to think when I am not sure what to think about? I’ll just have to finish this beer, eat some more food and take a nap, guess this really ain’t so bad after all….

20 thoughts on “Aftermath

  1. I loved your story Jefe, and I loved your honesty even more. Perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to you. I’m the same way. I have faced many difficulties in life ~ marriage, divorce, re-marrying, blended family, raising three kids to adulthood ~ one of them was an extremely difficult child, financial setbacks, and now a serious health issue with my wife. Through it all I remain open and honest. I’m not afraid to say how things really are, I have no areas that are off-limits, and I don’t care how people might judge me for that. From my experience it seems that most people welcome such honesty, as it gives them permission to be honest about their own struggles in life.

    Like it or not my friend, you have become a role model to anyone who has any contact with you. What you endured was incredible. To keep pushing yourself in the face of such overwhelming obstacles is inspirational. Most people would have quit ~ hell, I would have quit. I have endured a lot in life, but I doubt if I would have persevered if I were in your shoes. You brought your physical strength to the Tour Divide, you brought your endurance, and you brought your experience. It sounds like all of those things have been challenged, and they have come up short. The Tour may have beaten you in that regard, but what it didn’t beat was the strength of your character. You still have that Jefe. Maybe you won’t ever want to race again, and that’s okay. Racing doesn’t define you, the one thing you had left in your arsenal ~ the thing that got you to Antelope Wells defines you ~ it is your character.

    Perhaps its time to slow down and enjoy the things in your life. You still get to ride your bike, you still get to take some bike packing trips, you have your job, you have your health, you have your friends, you have your dogs, and you have gained some admirers. You’re a rich man.

    • Mike,
      I have thought about this much, the fact that in our world we are often taught to only project strength and success and to hide weakness and what bothers us. It skews the truth quite a bit when we are not honest with what we betray ourselves as and we end up lying to ourselves. We also tend to hero worship in our culture as well. I have heroes whom I think are superhuman and this can be a dangerous thing for we excuse ourselves from trying to be as good, or as strong as they are, cause they really are human too. Yet I also get inspiration from everyday folks that pull through tough circumstances to do great and wonderful things, these folks really make me grateful to be alive and striving. I guess I want anyone who reads my stuff to know that I am far from perfect, I have been a total mess in the past with no direction, no purpose. We can all change, grow and seek out something that makes us get up and get out the door in the morning, makes us reach higher instead of sit back satisfied.
      I guess the tricky part for me right now is transitioning from the place of knowing what dream I am chasing, to seeking out what will get me out of bed and out there door in the future. Some part of me is afraid of falling back into the ruts of the past when I did little and was not happy as a result. I am going to work hard to not let that happen, but fear is rarely rational!
      Again, thanks so much for reading and reaching out, really enjoy these conversations!
      Jefe

  2. A few years ago, my wife and I gave a friend of her family a ride to the airport. He was telling us a story that seems to relate to what you’re describing in your post. He’s a very accomplished individual by almost any accounting — he’s a respected surgeon, an experienced pilot who trains others, and in his spare time, he climbs mountains. So this is a guy you’d think would have a pretty clear sense of his own successes. But what he was telling us about the feeling of emptiness he gets after each summit he achieves. He wasn’t belittling the work or efforts or even the achievements themselves. What he was talking about is the vacuum that is created when something that requires your complete focus is achieved and that focus is suddenly — almost instantly — taken away. He described it as a near-depressive and overwhelming feeling of “what now?” He also described exactly what you’re describing — a sense of having no desire to go back and repeat the thing itself (in his case, combing a mountain.) But that vacuum eventually goes away, and he gets an itch to try get out and climb again. I can relate a little bit to that feeling from having done 24 hour races in the past, but I imagine the difference is one of scale — thee is a huge difference in the amount of training and focus required to do a 24 hour vs. the days it may take to climb a 20K mountain or ride 2700 miles in just over two weeks. But is it possible you are just experiencing that vacuum now? And even if the feeling doesn’t change, perhaps you could look at it a different way: you’ve done the toughest thing, and bested the toughest challenge, and now it really is time to rest on laurels in this arena (cycling) because you’ve gone as far (literally) as one can go. Focus on that accomplishment – and be happy to be the yardstick by which others will measure success. You can now go and enjoy that scenery that you had to fly through at 10 mph, because you’ve done tithe hard way and now it’s time to do it the beautiful way.

    I wish you the best of luck in finding your next “thing”, Jefe — no matter if it’s another crazy challenge or a shift in your focus to other arenas. But rest assured — your performance was truly inspirational and appreciated by those of us who watched those blue dots sliding down the country toward Mexico! Enjoy your ice cream and beer for a job very well done, sir!

    • Thanks 1speed for the good words and perspective. Transitions/change are tough things and I am feeling the weirdness of not knowing what is next. It is hard for me to faith that what ever it is will be good, absorbing and worthwhile. It is also hard to potentially walk away from something that I have actually been successful at, for most of my life I have just plodded along without direction or success. It will be interesting to see what it all boils down into in the near future. I kept repeating out on the TD, looking down at my GPS when I doubted I was going the right way. “just trust the track,Jefe, just trust the track”
      Thanks again for reading and responding with such good advice!
      Jefe

  3. Thanks for writing your TD story Jefe. It’s great to be able to watch the blue dots, cheer your efforts and success, and then be able to read so soon after all of your thoughts and impressions of the experience. Congrats and have another bowl of ice cream!

    • Thanks David,
      It is amazing to get so much response from what I’ve written, I am honored and flattered to have people reading and enjoying it. Means the world to me! I might just have another bowl of ice cream…sounds delicious!
      Thanks again for reading,
      Jefe

  4. Jefe,
    Great reading. Thanks.

    My 2 cents is in the form of a question: Is this your hobby, or is it a bucket list thing? The thing about hobbies, is that you do them because you enjoy them. Your hobby might evolve, but in the end, hobbies are what you do because you like doing them. In contrast, bucket lists are something you do to satisfy the demons, check off the list, and move on.

    After making a few check marks of my own, it took me a while to realize that what I like about cycling is riding long/hard/fast, and not feeling like crap when it’s over. Enjoying the ride has now become my goal. A good ride also makes the beer taste better, and that is a very good thing. I don’t attack every hill, and I pay very little attention to the bike computer. My perfect ride is somewhere I’ve never been, eating guilt free food in a bar with people I’ve never met, taking pictures, seeing sights, and sleeping in my hammock until I want to get out of it. I always take time for hot coffee in the morning. Then, I go ride. I can get my fill, but I always want to do it again.

    What do you enjoy about riding? My advise for you, is that you define what it is about this hobby that you like. Then do that.

    Congrats again on the win.

    • More of an obsession or lifestyle than a hobby. I live, breath and work with bikes. I have always been a bit on the competitive side and bike racing has been a fun thing for almost 15 years. The bikepack racing thing became more of an obsession in the past 7 or so years. I think I will always ride and race bikes nothing makes me feel better than a good bike ride Just not gonna be my whole life anymore and not too interested in the sleep deprivation torture anymore!
      Looking forward to catching up on some things left neglected, like a social life, my dogs and my creative side. It will be interesting for sure.
      Thanks again
      Jefe

  5. The ole competitive brain is a crazy place. It just does not want let go. You think you are going for a nice leisurely ride when the ole brain is there reminding you that you pushed two gears harder last week. It wants you to feel like without matching or exceeding your very best that somehow you should feel unfulfilled. It’s a devious task master. The good news is that, as I’ve got a few more miles on the odometer, my body has kicked my brain’s ass a few times which has resulted in a little more balance and perspective. Oh, and the beer doesn’t hurt either. Cheers

  6. Hi Jefe, I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks and followed your dot during the TD. First off, congrats on an awesome feat! It’s really an inspiration to read about someone pushing limits like you’ve done. But the even bigger thing for me is how candid you are in your writing, and for that I just wanted to offer my heartfelt thanks!

    • John,
      Glad you like the words, that means much to me as they are straight from the heart and soul, I try to be as honest as I can be with what I remember going through out there.
      Thanks so much for reading, really does mean a lot!
      Jefe

  7. Hey Jefe,
    I was wondering if I can get some of your thoughts on getting into bikepacking. I’m not ready to make any purchases just yet ~ just doing some long range planning at this point. Please feel free to correct any wrong ideas I might have, and forgive my barrage of random thoughts. There’s just a lot of ideas that I need to get settled before I do anything. Hopefully your input can help me sort some things out.

    I’m a big believer in doing things right, and I don’t want to waste a lot of time and money with needless experimentation. It seems to me that the most important piece of equipment ~ the foundation, is the bike. I’m currently riding a Santa Cruz Chameleon. It’s a 26″ hardtail that can be set up as a singlespeed ~ which is how it is currently set up. As a shorter rider, (5′ 6″) I require a small frame. A smaller frame also means a smaller frame pack.

    My bike is okay, but I would like to get a new bike. I’m going to need a lot of help when that day comes. There’s a lot I need to figure out regarding the bigger wheel sizes, and whether the 27.5 or the 29″ would be best for me. I want a bike that can do it all. Something that will allow me to do my XC / single track / occasional all mountain rides during the week, and something I can do some short bikepacking trips with.

    I see that you and many other riders in the Tour Divide opt for rigid or hardtail bikes. Is there any reason for that? I love hardtails, but as I’m getting older the full suspension bikes are beginning to look more attractive to me. I was under the impression that full suspension bikes and bike packing don’t mix, until I ran across this guy’s set up for the Arizona Trail 300. It’s a Specialized Epic 29er. http://www.outsideonline.com/blog/outdoor-adventure/bikepacking-101.html

    I would love to do something like that ~ like with a Trek Fuel, but again as a shorter rider, I’m concerned about whether I would be able to raise the seat high enough to have enough clearance for a seat bag, the reduced amount of space there will be for a frame bag, and whether or not this is a good idea.

    Any input you have would be greatly appreciated.

    • Mike,
      Complicated question….The answer is you can do anything on any bike. But there are compromises on either end of every choice. Hardtails are popular as they are simple, have larger main triangles so they have more room for frame bags etc and they have less moving parts to break.
      I have always bikepacked with a hardtail, but would love to venture into using a Full Suspension. It would be more fun on the downhills, rough trails etc. But the compromise is getting as much stuff onto the bike as possible, I do not like using a pack and really don’t want to use a big pack, hard to do on lots of squishy bikes.
      So like I said it is all possible….the biggest thing, I think, is to get a bike that fits you and rides the way you like, then adapt it to bikepacking. Keep in mind that the Tour Divide is mostly dirt roads, while the AZT is a lot rough and rocky singletrack, very different races but could both be done on the same bike for sure.
      Hope this Helps!
      Jefe

  8. Dwell on Jefe, dwell on. it’s why I come here and some of my favorite reading by far. After a move from Denver to Summit County myself and years of organized and sanctioned racing, You’ve inspired me to give the CTR a second shot. (my first in 2011 being a disaster with every mistake in the book!) I’m drawn to those driven by the intrinsic value of these pursuits. No prizes, contracts and little accolades. Just back to work and dreaming of the next adventure. Of course ego plays a part, but it seems in a much different way than those office park crits and xcountry races with sometimes may people cheering on and possibly a little prize money. (or pair of socks)

    As I begin my year out training next month I cant wait to here about your next ???…..
    a huge pat on the back for ya,
    Jamey

    • Ha, funny for you to say! Thing is that race took over my life for 7-8 months and then tried to kill me, so I needed to move on and think about other things!
      Still in recovery/drink beer/eat ice cream mode…but that is coming to and end…..did sign up for the Vapor Trail 125 in September, so got sto get my ass moving again soon.
      Thanks for reading and good luck prepping for the CTR, bummed I’m not lining up for it this year, but then again I’m stoked to be sitting it out at the same time!
      Take care and thanks for reading!!!!
      Jefe

  9. Jefe, you should be a writer if your wanting a job change, I love reading your blog, you have a way with words. I think your unlove for bike riding will dissipate soon enough, once your body heals up. You know we will all be bummed if you don’t ride tour divide next year. If you do it again, have a film crew make a documentary covering your version of the ride. That would be a great film if you did the writing.

    • Thanks Sloane,
      I do enjoy writing, but I really like to eat not to mention I can’t even afford a new lap top!
      I swore/promised my body that I would never do it again, but who knows….the TD is difficult in so many ways/levels….don’t think I could handle a film crew for more than a day!
      Thanks for reading
      Jefe

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