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Saturday, 4 March 2017

Predator attack (EEK!)

Whilst not much mountain biking has not been achieved in the last month I have spent some time researching my fears..

Wild animals in the UK conjour up images of foxes... badgers... deer... animals that are way more scared of me than I am of them. Catch a glimpse of one of those and it will be them that run away not me.

Therefore one of the more scary aspects of the Tour Divide is an unexpected wildlife encounter. On this ride it is me that is scared of the animals and not the other way round.

And so began the research into the native predators along the route and the likelihood of 'bumping' into one of these magnificent creatures... hopefully figuratively and not literally.
My reading pre signing up to the dotted line started with books and blogs documenting racer's stories... many of which had at least one mention of an encounter. This info has been backed up by comments on a thread on the Tour Divide group on facebook where nearly everyone who commented had a story to tell about a sighting or encounter with a bear or a mountain lion. Chances are then that I too will see some of the native wildlife... hopefully at a safe distance and not charging at me... mock or otherwise 😁

Recently I have delved deeper. Initially mostly at bears because I assumed that was more likely. With websites dedicated to 'bear awareness' full of info on how to avoid an encounter in the first place. Turns out bears like food smells... therefore advice on hanging all smelly items (presumably not including myself after several weeks on the road) from a tree... keeping food away from camp... bear proof cannisters.... the triangle rule, where camp and food and bike are kept away from each other in a triangular shape.

Above are pictured both the grizzly bear and the black bear. It is important to understand the differences as they may not be black or brown. Both species of bear vary in colour and so if you can recognise what it is you are dealing with... you have a better chance. 
Best of course is not to get too close to either sort. Singing... whistling and shouting alert the bears to your presence and give them a chance to move away. Anyone who saw my video of 'Its alright... it's ok' in New Zealand will know that i managed to successfully scare sheep... hopefully it will have the same effect on bears.

Now if i do encounter a bear there are different schools of thought on what to do but mainly the advice is to back away slowly... speaking calmly ... not giving eye contact. If its a black bear... climbing a tree isnt useful because before you have got up to the first branch they will have overtaken you!! Adult grizzlies however... do not climb well. One recent retrospective study suggests that you have a better chance if you run away although if you are unlucky enough to get caught you then have a better chance of being killed than if you had stood still. 
Most bears will mock charge first... if an actual charge happens ... im supposed to wait until they are 20ft away and then spray the bear spray. If they are closer than that and bear spray is not an option... hit them on the nose. 
Some people say 'play dead'. This may work... or may not... and then you fight back.

One site I went to said ' if you play dead in a mountain lion attack.... you will be'. So with mountain lions... you never turn your back as they like to attack you from behind. You throw sticks and stones and shout at them. The names may not hurt but the sticks and stones may break their bones... or at the very least convince them you are not easy prey.

Anyone who has ever read my blogs knows I hate dogs when im cycling... so wolves have gotta be similar... in which case they will hunt me in a pack... dive in front of my wheels... all whilst im going uphill.... pretty similar to Oaklahoma then... and I survived that!!

So those are the main fears where predators are concerned.... or at least I thought so...

Until one person added the comment on my fb thread.
' I never had a problem with the bears... the Moose however... is a different story!'
And then came stories of snakes... tarantulas... scorpions... armadillos... lightning and bad car drivers. 

There was a ray of hope in all this scaremongering... one racer from last year suggested that I would be waaaay to exhausted to care... good to know😁

So what have I done with all this info??

Firstly I have bought a length of rope to take with me to either hang stuff from trees... or failing that to wrap around trees with my bivvy in the middle  to confuse the bears!! I will be buying bear spray on my day after arrival and it will be on my person or on my bike in reach at all times.
I plan to eat well before I camp up so that there is no recent food smell in my camp.
If possible I will bivvy in or near towns or in proper campsites with bear bins..  failing that I will pick my spot carefully. Many towns of the few that we go through have a post office lobby or a church porch that I will be able to kip in.
If in the middle of nowhere and there is no good spot to sleep... I will keep cycling... at least thats the plan.. or at least until im too tired to care.

All this information hasnt really allayed my fears but im hoping for 2 things...

1... This detailed info on exactly what I face will make everyone sponsor me and I will raise huge amounts of money for LHS...

2... That despite my fear... I will stay flexible and sensible without compromising my attempt to get to the end with a decent time

I dont think this is too much to hope for 😁

With very little time left until D-day.. I will be blogging more about my preparations and a few 'small' training runs I have planned. Please like my fb page One Challenge At A Time and share with friends and family so that you can join me on another journey.

Fight the fear... Embrace the Randomness ... but above all... Go With The CraZy!