What a difference a year makes. This very day, in 2009, I was sitting in the Jump Start Café in Banff trying, but not succeeding, to a) digest my breakfast and b) not think too much about the folly of what lay ahead in my debut in the Tour Divide. Of course, the folly at the time was in part due to knowing next to nothing about what I was actually letting myself in for (the bare statistics of the Tour Divide are too overwhelming to create an accurate picture, and whatever picture you do create ends up bearing little resemblance to reality anyway). Now, a grizzled veteran of the madness and wonder that is the Tour Divide, I know that it’s still a folly even if you’re fully aware, like Matthew Lee and several others in this year’s race, of exactly what it is you’re likely to encounter and feel over the next 18-30 days.
But, it is a magnificent folly. Which makes the fact I am now sitting oh-so-comfortably in a café not dissimilar to the Jump Start but one that’s 8,000 miles away from the action something of a poisoned chalice. The dry mouth, the unsettled tummy, the unflinching anxiety and the sense of foreboding – all those are happily absent. Yet so is the sense of anticipation and wonder, the realisation of a dream (for it is a dream just to have the courage to start). And, in spite of the fact I am not now about to spend five weeks away from my family and all other domestic pleasures, exposed to rain and bears and my own mental and physical frailties, I feel slightly saddened for it.