By Jill Homer
The Great Divide Race is a north to south adventure, following the crest of the Rocky Mountains, crossing the continental divide several times en route, to finish at the Mexican border. Jill's story of adventure and misadventure is set against a backdrop of her almost devastating brush with frostbite from a previous race across the frozen Alaskan plains, her doubts about leaving her post as a local journalist, and the break-up of her 8 year relationship with Geoff, a fellow-adventurer who had kept her buoyant on many previous adventures.
Some books catch your attention in the first few paragraphs, others take several pages, and yet others never qualify. I have a straightforward policy: if a book does not catch my attention in the first chapter, it is summarily discarded into the ‘graveyard’ of would-have-beens.
Be brave, be strong by Jill Homer, however, had me fascinated from the start. The relatively new Great Divide Race officially starts at the Canadian border in Montana, but Jill Homer opts for a more demanding version that starts in Banff, Alberta, which adds an extra 270 miles to the total distance. The complete route totals over 2,700 miles, including huge stretches of demanding climbs over 3000 metres.
Of the 42 starters in 2009, only 16 finished, the fastest taking 17 days 23 hours, with a tandem couple just 14 hours behind. Jill Homer was the only lady to complete the route, riding solo, and she set a ladies’ course record of just over 24 days. This meant that every day had to be a minimum of a century ride, and when she fell short, she had to up her game the next day to as much as 140 miles, over rough mountain terrain, climbing over huge ascents and encountering some of the worst weather she could possibly imagine. So bad sometimes, that she sought refuge in her sleeping bag and bivvy, waiting out the storms and then contending with never-ending tracts of ankle-deep mud.
Alongside Jill's struggles with self-belief, frustration, fatigue, appalling weather and injuries, we see her overcoming and completing the route, arriving at the Mexican border to be greeted only by a small welcoming party of family. This is not an event of world renown, nor is it even well known in cycling circles. This is an event that attracts a small band of Great Divide enthusiasts, and there are no awards beyond the personal satisfaction of completing the route………. and being able to tell the story afterwards for publication!
A very good read and a worthwhile purchase. If you have a Kindle reader, the e-version is under £2.
This book was reviewed by our guest blogger Frank Burns. Frank’s blog is called Serendipities of life.