Rugged race: Student pushes limits mentally, physically during cycling race

Reagan Brown

For thirty days she was isolated from the outside world, only able to see long dirt roads and forgotten trails through the Continental Divide. The race stretched on for 2,768.4 miles as she faced dehydration, starvation, lightning storms, and isolation. Junior Lina put her body and mind through the toughest experience she ever faced when she competed in the Tour Divide with her dad, which is an ultra-cycling challenge through the Great Divide Mountain Range, the world’s longest off-pavement cycling route starting in Alberta,Canada and ending in Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

“My biggest challenge was staying positive because if you’re not you’ll probably drop,” Lina said. “Staying positive is really difficult, but I managed to do it. “I learned that negativity is bad for you and positivity is key to life.”

Along the way, Lina faced difficult challenges but learned that no matter how difficult times are it’s important to stay positive. After competing in the race, she grew wiser from her past experiences and her outlook on life completely changed.

“I stayed motivated because I knew all these people were going to be watching me and I couldn’t come home without succeeding,” Lina said. “It was that mentality that pushed me. If I came home a quitter, that would not be okay. “I don’t want people to ever see me as someone who quits and doesn’t try their hardest.”

Lina went into the race knowing she had the support of her friends and family back home. Before leaving for the race, she was reminded that people had faith that she would survive the grueling challenge ahead.

“All of these people were writing on my dad’s Facebook about how inspirational I was,” Lina said. “I knew if I came home as a quitter, I would’ve let them all down and I really didn’t wanna do that.”

The Great Divide can be overwhelming but Lina had her dad by her side every day encouraging her and giving daily advice to push through each day. It’s beneficial having someone with experience on a team and it is even better when the person is family.

“My dad and I were on a tandem bicycle, which is a two person bike,” Lina said. “My dad being there motivated me because he’s done it before. He had the experience which was great. We had five years worth of bonding in one month. Since we were 8 inches apart 24/7. It wasn’t at all pressuring. He’s more of a safety blanket.”

One of of Lina’s goals was to prove to the world that a young woman can accomplish anything just like any man could. She also wanted to prove that age doesn’t have limits when it comes to accomplishing the unthinkable.

“Technically I wasn’t the youngest to participate”, Lina said. “Last summer there was one other sixteen year old participating. Knowing that there was someone else my age out there was another motivator for me. If I didn’t finish but he did, I couldn’t deal with that. I had to finish and prove myself.”

Riding a bike comes as easily to Lina as walking, but biking on such a difficult trail for so long posed challenges, some more expected than others.

“I wasn’t actually struck by lightning, but we were pretty close to it,” Lina said. “Towards the end of the race in the northern half of New Mexico, there was a really bad storm approaching. We were in the eye of the storm and we couldn’t ride because the mud was too thick so we were walking and it was extremely cold then it started to hail. A flash of light and a loud noise struck right in front of us. I instantly started panicking and we took safety measures.”

Though New Mexico was scary for Lina and her father, she learned to stay calm in times of any catastrophe and that with time things will get better.

“Mentally it made me stronger because now I’m able to reflect on those hard moments that were more difficult than anything I’ve ever dealt with in my life and those are the moments that keep me grounded,” Lina said. “There were days when I shed tears because of hunger and tiredness, but it’s made me stronger because I know how to handle my emotions now. I know that whatever I’m dealing with is not going to matter within the next couple of days.”

Because she had a strong mentality, Lina was able to finish the whole race even with all the obstacles her and her dad faced along the way.

“Mentally, New Mexico was the hardest state because I knew that the race was almost over and I had to continue and finish strong,” Lina said. “Physically, Wyoming was the hardest because the mountains were really steep and there were millions of mosquitos in one area.”

Lina wanted to participate in the race because she saw how much time and dedication it took. Being isolated was harder for Lina and her dad to keep track of the days because they were so focused on finishing, and every set back Lina had to remember why she started.

“My favorite memory would either be starting the race or finishing the race,” Lina said. “Starting the race, I was so naive, I had no idea what I was doing I just wanted to ride and I thought it would be so easy, but finishing the race was my favorite part even though that seems to be hardest part of the I didn’t want to finish.”

Starting the race Lina’s emotions were running wild but once she finished she would have to adjust back into her normal daily life.

“I was secluded from the normal world for 30 days,” Lina said. “Coming back to reality was shocking. Days before the race I questioned myself if I really wanted to continue. We crashed to what we thought were three days before the finish, but it was actually six days and I knew that I didn’t want to get back on that bike,but I pushed the thoughts away and encouraged myself to keep succeeding.”

Lina finished the race and overcame the sleepless nights, conquered the steep mountains, and she pushed away all of her negative thoughts. This was more than just a race for her. The Great Divide had such an impact on Lina that she now wants to continue doing it in her future.

“Watching people finish was very inspiring,” Lina said. “The race mattered to me and it will matter for the rest of my life, so I had to continue and push through It. I would like to do it again. I’ve contemplated doing it again in 2018, the summer I graduate,but I’m not sure if it will happen because I’m so out of shape. I’ve really slacked off because school is more of a priority so that’s one of my main focuses.”