Boss and body willing, in June of 2021 I will ride the TransAm Bike Race, aka the TABR. Never heard of the TABR? It’s a 4300-mile, self-supported bike race across the United States, from Astoria, OR to Yorktown, VA. The Pacific to the Atlantic, sea to shining sea. Kind of like Lewis and Clark, just in reverse. And with bikes instead of boats.
Why 2021? Why not 2019 or 2020? Mostly it’s logistics. I work for the State Department, posted overseas until 2020. My tour ends too late in 2020 for me to do the race that year, and I can’t get a month off this summer to do the 2019 race. So my tentative plan is to move back to the U.S. in 2020 and do the 2021 TABR. I say tentative, because I may not move back to the U.S. at all in 2020, depending on where I’m assigned next. Such is life in the Foreign Service.
But let’s assume I do move back home. The TABR is a “self-supported” race, meaning no sag wagon or support car driving behind you or handing you drinks along the way. No camper van to sleep in at the end of the day. No family members or friends giving you food or helping you fix a flat tire on the side of the road. Break a spoke or five? Fix it yourself or find a bike shop. Get hungry? Find a store or cafe. Get tired? Find a hotel, sleep in your own tent, or–as lots of racers do–find a post office lobby or bathroom to sleep in. In other words, you’re on your own. For everything.
Why am I doing this? Why not just join a supported tour along the same route, one where I take my time and sightsee while someone else hauls my gear, prepares the food, and sets up my tent every night? Isn’t riding the 4300 miles, even with all that help, hard enough? Why race? Why ride 200 miles a day for 20+ days, eating semi-frozen gas station burritos and Little Debbies?
Why? Mostly to prove to myself that I can.
In June of 2014, I found myself at the bottom of the toughest hill I’d ever taken on. Known on Strava as Back of Hogback, it’s one of the longer, steeper climbs on the 105-mile Skyline Drive in Virginia.
For 22 minutes and 11 seconds, I sweated, grunted, clawed, and mind-tricked my way up the hill, a few meters at a time. The one thing that kept me going was a vow to myself: no stopping, I won’t stop, there’s no fucking way I’m going to stop until I reach the summit.
And I didn’t. When I reached the top, the sense of accomplishment, the pride I felt in doing something damn hard washed over me like a warm wave. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so good about something I’d done on my own.
That’s why I’m doing the TABR. More to follow.