The most important thing anyone has ever told me is what my camp director Tay Gillespie repeated constantly when i was a kid: "Happiness is a path, not a destination." As i've rolled through life since then i've discovered frequently that she was correct. I can't seem to always live by those words, but i've never heard better advice.
This is a very challenging year on the Divide, due mostly to lots and lots of mud, but also to cold, I spoke to Kent yesterday and he said that he's in as good or better riding shape than 5 years ago. But the trail is in worse shape.
The snow and mud not only slow riders down, often to the 24 inch gear (2 feet, aka walking), but the deepest mud can strip off derailleurs, break chains, snap spokes, trash brakes, and just generally clog the bike to the point of making it luggage, a load to be carried rather than the most elegant transportation.
It took Kent 4 days to cover what took 3 days in 2005. Most of the other veterans are experiencing a similarly longer ride, and most of the Rookies are staggered and amazed.
An awfully lot of them, including some still riding, were not NEARLY as well prepared for this race as Kent was. Over a dozen racers have dropped out, so far. (More than 1/4 of the starting contingent.) Many dropped out because of the physical challenge - it's a REALLY hard race; some have had equipment failures. But for most, it was mental. The goal paled against the challenge of the road.
Kent stressed that he's having a great time -- just talking to him made me wish i was there riding with him. He's riding, and walking, hard. He is motivated by the finish line, but he's enjoying his trip through the mountains. He's gaining strength from the fantastic scenery.
About the fast guys way out front, he said, and i will quote in full: "holy cow".
This is a race, have no doubt, and Kent is pushing himself hard. He's got goals and dreams of the finish. But the Mountain Turtle knows, and constantly remembers my camp director's mantra. It's about the road. Who knows what the destination will be.
Kent is enjoying the road. Every time i have ridden with Kent over the years, he has embodied this philosophy (although he's never stated it in those words). That's the key that makes it so much fun to ride with him. He enjoys the ride, the road, the path. And that's why he's such a good Divide racer.
Hasten Slowly Mountain Turtle!