Firstly – For those interested, I’ve dumped some of my Tour Divide photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskFctRNz These are the ones that tell less of a story, but show more of the route itself.
I’ll start this postscript (brain-dump) with one of those photos:
A snapshot my wife took after the traditional smiling happy rider finish shot was taken. This, this is closer to the truth. A broken body that has remained in motion finally ready to stop. Tire. Sore. Spent. No more to give.
The months post Divide have been hard – physically and mentally. The physical side is easy to categorise and deal with;
- Numb baby and ring fingers on both hands due to ulnar nerve compression. Cause: 4,400km of riding … but mostly vibration. Remedy: wait it out, it’ll come back eventually. Currently: 70% back to normal, I can type again, mostly.
- Loss of grip strength on both hands, similar to white finger due to vibration. Cause: Vibration…. duh. Remedy: wait it out, it’ll come back eventually. Currently: 50% back to normal, fine finger motion and manipulation is not good, gross movements are clumsy, I can’t really hold on for technical descents longer than 5 mins.
- Loss of sensation/control in hands. Cause: Vibration and lack of motion of hands. Remedy: wait it out, it’ll come back eventually. Currently: 60% or so. I still can’t touch my baby finger off ring finger on left hand when fingers are straightened out, and I can’t catch clusters of things when people put them into my hands – e.g.. change from a sales teller.
- Pain/numbness on metatarsals on one foot. Cause: SPD pressure + shoe failure. Remedy: wait it out, it’ll hopefully work itself out. Currently: 80% or so. Doing lots of running and no longer using these shoes have easily fixed this. Once I figured out what caused it – which was the carbon/plastic footbed under the SPD failing.
- Tired. So tired. Cause: Sleep deprivation + 4,400km of riding. Remedy: While on holiday I slept whenever I could the two weeks post Divide. When I came home, I just slept and ate when I felt like it, didn’t worry about much else. Currently: 100% I’m back to normal now, have caught up on the sleep side and am back into my normal 6:30am wake up 10:30pm sleep cycle.
The mental side is less easy to categorise, solutions are less obvious;
- Things move too fast – number one problem. You all rush around to much for me. Driving, standing in line being agro, walking. Chill the fuck out people. I find it hard to deal with. Driving around the US (or rather being driven) for two weeks on holiday was odd. I found the increased velocity disconcerting and it angered me that I passed along so easy without earning it. I saw a guy publicly shouting at the barista who made them a coffee with one not TWO shots of espresso as if it matters more than anything in the world and they need it NOW NOW NOW FASTER why haven’t you done it! I’m finding this very, very hard to cope with. Luckily, living in a semi-rural area I can switch off from this, but working in a big city…not so easy.
- People are assholes – from the one above. I’m noticing a lack of tolerance towards people and how they treat others. I’m finding I’ve withdrawn from a lot of social media interaction due to this – especially on forums. It’s also helped me continue my drive to not use the Web in any form at the weekend. A 4 day bank holiday with only syncing some photos and my GPS proved quite relaxing – less people talking shite on the internet = less hatred in me = a calmer outlook on the world.
- Dislike of other peoples reality- coming down from the Divide is hard. I’ve gone from living in a wonderful (stinking) bubble to suddenly having to deal with other people and their shit. Or the flip side of knowing that people have issues that need your attention. This is the reality – other people want me to deal with their issues, ones that I cannot mitigate or control. Contrary to that, I’m noticing that there are people I can help, and want to. It’s annoying. As a result I’ve probably been a lot more blunt with people than normal when I don’t want to deal with their troubles – but also, when I see something I can help with, I’ve been a lot more willing to help. So a bit of growth I suppose.
- Apathy towards cycling – I knew this would happen. I had zero interest in riding my bike for about a month after the Divide. It took rides with some friends to get me back out again, but on a bike that was nothing like what I’d been on for the past 4 months. Lots of short personal rides, and now longer ones. Back to riding up to 5hrs at a time. But more importantly, wanting to ride.
- But this apathy has gone deeper than just riding my bike – which I inherently love – to being more of an apathy towards all the bullshit that is associated with riding bikes. The pandering to new trends/style, the constant drive for newer/faster/gooder-er things, the crap that we the bike industry and it’s consumers spout and eat. I’ve found myself unable to get aroused by any new thing that I see – it’s all just eye candy that I don’t feel the need to hump (purchase) .
- I’m not surprised by this, but I am surprised at how deep it has gone. I’ve no interest – literally no interest in any new product I’ve seen since I’ve come back. Possibly I’m just over consumered (not sure this is a word) and can’t deal with it. or maybe I’ve reached some sort of Zen state where I no longer need to purchase any bicycle related item again? Probably not.
The one thing that has certainly happened post Divide is that I’ve slowed down. I am willing to take time to sit and watch some rabbits play while out on a ride. To spend a little longer waiting for a photo to happen when walking around the streets at lunchtime. To look around me more often when I take the train rather than burying my head in my book/Kindle/phone. I’ve found myself enjoying talking with people who I meet while I’m out and about rather than shirking interaction – something I’ve not been so good at these past few years. I’ve stoped, sat in a pub and just drank a beer because why the fuck not. It’s great and I feel like I’m somewhat more relaxed because of it. No longer thinking.
Socially I’ve spent the last 6 months in a self contained bubble with few outsiders being part of it – my wife, some close friends, that’s it. I wanted this to be how I’d operate while training as it’s worked in the past. Get myself in a position where the core influencers in my life are those that bring positivity and help me get where I want to be. This won’t change. However, I’ve found that I can no expand that group a bit more – my running community has grown by actually being social with my fell club; my riding community has grown by actually riding with other “not fast” people who I’d normally avoid; my racing community has expanded by actually riding with other “actually fast” riders who I’ve not been able to synch time with. Sure all of this is still sports related, but that is how I define myself – and this has only been furthered by time spent on the Divide. I’ve also just gone out and done things on the spur of the moment – with no reason – other than because I can. For someone who self confesses as being the kid who spent his Sunday afternoon’s organising his bookshelves to get them in correct order (be that size this week, author, or genre) this is relaxing. I’m starting to feel more like a normal human.
So what of the route itself. I’ve been asked why I’d go back after such a raw and open recounting of what it is like to be there. Well that’s it. That is why I want to go back. Because it is raw, because it sucks the most, because when you are doing that one thing that you have to do nothing else matters in the whole world. Isolation is a thing you learn to crave.
Also, why the fuck not? It’s an amazing place to be. But not for a while. I need to spend some more time where I am now, exploring again, finding new places and people and spending time in and with them.