Start: Butte, MT
Finish: Helena, MT
Miles: 76.7 miles
Odometer: 2,169.7 miles
Ascent: 8,000 feet
Descent: 9,500 feet
Apart from the beautiful scenery, today’s ride was marked by running into so many of the Tour Divide Race participants. I recognized they’re trying to go fast and far so I was surprised to see how many wanted to stop and talk. I asked each of the racers, “How are you holding up?” I was shocked to see so many with dazed looks on their faces. Nearly all of the cyclists opened up about their serious physical concerns. Here are a few examples. A female rider who was probably in a top five position explained how she is having difficulty breathing at night when she tries to catch a few hours of sleep. She has trouble breathing when lying flat. That’s called orthopnea and could portend a serious condition. I suggested she get some medical help in Butte. I would later see on Facebook that she posted to the Tour Divide group that she went to get checked out and was told she was in atrial fibrillation. Yikes!
A male racer showed me his swelling in his lower thighs that was noticeable and “squishy” just above the knee caps. I have never seen anything like it, and I have seen my fair share of edema. He had some milder edema in his ankles. I would later see his post on Facebook where he bought some compression hose and was seeking advice from the Facebook community.
Another male racer told me that he had such severe saddle sores that he was bailing at the next big town. In fact, saddle sores have been a common complaint among several of the riders. Another younger racer said he had saddle sores and severe knee pain and couldn’t ride on the seat or off the seat and so he was out too.
A racer who look to be about my age appeared so distraught about his abdominal pain, almost looking through me with this thousand yard stare. He has had the pain for 2 to 3 days and has lost his appetite but has no nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. That complaint is so non-specific it could be almost anything, but one thing is for sure, all of these racers have put their bodies (and their minds) through some pretty harsh conditions in the past several days with very little sleep and recovery.
It’s completely bizarre the way these riders opened up to me within seconds of meeting me. It may be because I asked an open ended question about there experience, but I also think it’s because they have been riding alone for days thinking about their problems and stopping to talk is just a cathartic opportunity.
Not all of the racers were suffering today. I was eating lunch in Basin, MT when an unconventional racer, Jeff from Oklahoma City, came in dressed in a plaid shirt and hiking shorts. He didn’t have any complaints. He was having a good time and relaxed. This is the third time he’s done the race. “It’s addictive.” As he was leaving he grabbed a small race momento out of his bicycle bag and gave it to me. It’s good for two free pieces of pie down in Pie Town, NM. Cool.
Two British racers stopped to chat. They told me that I had a pretty tough climb ahead and one turn to the other and asked, “How long before the old man gets up to the top?” I had to laugh because I’ve never been called an old man before but he was probably 25 years old.
I ran into racer, Jimmy, who I met (with girlfriend Janie) on May 18 down in New Mexico while they were on a training ride. It turns out Janie is a couple of miles ahead and I must’ve missed her in Butte. Jimmy and I visited for quite a while and we took each other’s picture because it was such a coincidence to see each other.
I am starting to run into casual southbound GDMBR cycle tourists who are non-racers. I met Becky from Cornwall, England and Barbara from South Africa. The casual riders are in much better spirits than the racers.
I finished my ride in Helena with its thriving old historic district and downtown promenade with many shops and restaurants, including an ice cream shop with a line out front. Naturally, I got in line. Part of the downtown was closed off for a weekly music concert celebration. This town might be worth a revisit on another occasion.