Mary Metcalf-Collier Reflects
A final signing out from Mary Metcalf Collier, Tour Divide ‘08:
When I lined up in Banff about a month ago, boy were there expectations in the air for everyone! Some of those were high and some weren’t. Brendan and our good friend Matt rode out the first 10 miles with me and then I headed off in a tearful first day. I really had no idea what I was in for and am glad that I didn’t. You read up on all the reports from years past, you study the numbers – 200,000 feet of elevation gain, 2,709 miles, at least 18 long days in the saddle (for some of us much more) – but it is all so abstract.
I only hope to begin to understand what that all means now. But, more than the numbers, was the experience. How to stay focused on what lies ahead…and why? I describe it like playing pacman. You look at what’s in front of you and take one bite at time. The most amazing thing to me was how you could feel like you were an inch tall at the beginning of a day (with such monstrous tasks in front of you) and by the end of the day feel like you could conquer the world – or like you just had. I met so many people along the way that kept me going. I did this race for myself. But when you pull into a roadside stop and meet a woman who has been waiting for you because she was following the race – then she tells you that you can’t stop, you’re not allowed to, you have to do it for the rest of us – how can you argue with that!? I met so many men and women along the way who had faith in me – and they didn’t even know me.
Before the race, one piece of advice that John Stamstad gave was to be flexible. Adaptability, he said, was a valuable asset in finishing. My race didn’t go as planned a single step of the way. Sometimes it was very tough to deal with not making a goal, or laying over for a few hours in a motel bed. I had to remind myself though, that the important part for me was to finish this behemoth. So few people ever do that!
This was my first attempt and I learned a lot. I rolled into the flats of NM late Saturday and felt right at home. Growing up in NM, I felt a great sense of comfort arriving here. I also felt that it was a very appropriate place to end this race. Here I was, amidst the prickly pears, mesquite bushes, yuccas and arroyos – all features to be reckoned with. I felt emboldened at that moment, like I had earned my place in this harsh environment. My skin was a little rougher. I was dark with freckles and dirt and my legs were a bit pumped. I raced through the clay to beat the lingering showerstorms to the final pavement. On the final stretch, I was able to unwind and enjoy the smells and sounds of the night desert after a rain. Arriving at the border was one of the craziest and most wonderful days of my life. I am still trying to understand what it all means and only hope to be able to convey some of that to all of you.
I will have photos posted on my blog soon and am working on a write-up with many of the details. Until I get a comprehensive write-up, I’ll be sharing a few important stories with you as I have time. Check back often as there’s so much to share.
Thanks everyone for all your good wishes and thoughts while I was out on the trail and it’s good to be home!