Wednesday, 21 May 2014


With three weeks left before the Tour Divide I took the opportunity to pre-plan a two day one night excursion in Maine on the Downeast Sunrise Trail. The trail is an 87 mile (145 km) jaunt across an old railway line cut through the wilderness from Ayers Junction, near Calais, to Ellsworth Maine. I was fortunate to be able to share the ride with my friend Brian McCloskey another TD rider whom we both just met, Dan Gravelle. We are all rookies at the TD event and wanted to use this little trip to test out the equipment and our bodies at a longer distance over two days.
Monday morning 3am on way outta Halifax
I arrived at 9am, prepared my gear and awaited the arrival of Brian and Dan from Massachusetts. Brian is a 59 yearold hockey guy and former longtime hockey coach on both the men's and women's side at UNH. Dan is a 51 yearold retired air-traffic controller looking for new challenges. Both are avid cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts preparing to tackle the challenge of a lifetime!
My Ride waiting to carry a heavy load!
The Boys arrived and prepped their gear!
Once Brian and Dan were ready we were off under overcast skies and drizzle. The trail was packed yet soft in places with a mix of dirt, sand, and rock. It was in really good condition and had some wear from ATV traffic - although we only ran into a couple in two days. My bike had a full load of everything I planned to take with on the Tour Divide from Banff to Mexico. I am not sure of the bike plus gear weight but it is heavier than I anticipated and I will be looking for ways to cut weight over the next few weeks. I am riding a Salsa Fargo, Brian rides a titanium Stevenson with rigid forks, and Dan had a nice new Specialized Stump Jumper with Rockshok forks. We hit the trail at 10:45am not knowing what lie ahead.

Cruising along at 18-20 km/h we kept a steady pace and tried to stop every 25-30 km just to eat a little, hydrate, stretch, and 'compare notes' as we knew it was going to be a long day anyway. As the day wore on the weather deteriorated as did our pace. We each had our own form of discomfort, Brian had difficulty liking his seat and his butt let him know along with a little bout of dehydration, Dan tweaked his back a couple weeks ago and was a little uncomfortable and felt some numbness in his hands, and I felt good but am having issues getting comfy with my Garmin and sunglasses. We forged on and fought through the rain over the last 20 kms to the end of the rail line into Ellsworth. After a brief discussion, and due to the poor weather, we decided to avoid staying in the rain and setting up a campsite in the dark, and we jumped at the chance at a room in the Comfort Inn and a hot shower before a large meal. The time for our ride read 8 hours and 30 minutes for 147 kms.
Preparing for Day 2
On Tuesday morning, we started out from Ellsworth in the rain once again after loading up on some food at the nearest gas station store. We found the trail and jumped on for another day full of exploration and discovery in our trek back to Ayers Junction. Brian switched to another seat (he brought a second one anticipating issues) and made the decision to keep a slightly slower but steadier pace and one that could manage his butt pain. Dan biked steady and strong throughout and was happy as the discomfort in his back had all but disappeared. My legs felt 'heavy' but once I started cycling that disappeared as well and I felt stronger on Day 2 than the one before although my 'sit bones' were tender.

We rode steady on day 2. We also chatted a lot about what each others plans were and what was working or needed to be changed. Dan decided a new seat was in order and wanted to explore a higher stem and aero bars. Brian will also be exploring new seats and has to tweak his bag/storage setup along with his bar options/additions. We used the time to talk about family, friends, employment, interests, and of course we shared thoughts on the Tour Divide. We battled through the days distance and some discomfort in 9 hours 15 minutes...we were very satisfied with our effort and the lessons learned over the 294 kms travelled.

The 'Three Amigos' decided that we would start out and travel together into the wilderness on route to Mexico aspiring to stay together and finish as one during the TD. We are very compatible, each with different strengths, which will be of benefit to our anticipated success.

This Downeast Sunrise Trail trek was a great experience. It was challenging, long, and tough. Our bodies reacted in different ways and some of it not so good. Our equipment responded well and with a few adjustments will carry us along just fine. We realized pace, consistency, regular hydration and nutrition, terrain, and weather will all have to be watched closely and managed effectively. We also realized that soreness, along with mental and physical fatigue, is going to be a constant that we will have to accept and work through. We completed two days of 147 kms each with little elevation change. In the Tour Divide we will need to do 180km days over 25 days, in/under tougher conditions, to finish when we hope to.

Experience is teaching us that it can happen but will happen only at a high price and that price is full of effort, intelligence and discomfort.
Brad, Dan, and Brian - 294kms  and done!

1 comment:

  1. nice write up--sounds like you all learned some good lessons to help prep you for what's coming
    Have some good final prep and look forward to seeing you 3 amigos in Banff