When Jill Homer recently give a shout-out to her twitter followers asking if anyone would like to borrow her latest book, Be Brave, Be Strong in Kindle format, I jumped at the chance. I’d been wanting to read it but having recently lost my job, couldn’t justify even the few dollars for the ebook.
But before I get into the book, let me just say that I’m a closet Tour Divide hopeful. It’s been an obsession from the first time I heard about the race several years ago. Every ride—long or short—ignites some small fantasy that I’m cresting a pass in Montana or rocketing down into a New Mexican valley. I’ve listened to virtually every MTBCast for the last five years and have watched the movement of many a blue dot. Clearly, I need professional help.
But when Jill announced she was writing a book on her experience riding the Divide, I knew I wanted to read it. Maybe to live vicariously, maybe to fuel the obsession.
Be Brave, Be Strong starts with Jill’s Iditarod trail invitational race and her recounting, with striking and beautiful detail, her experience there and what lead her scratch. That race sets the stage for the rest of the book and reminds the reader that ultra endurance bike races aren’t for the faint of heart; they’re for the fit, the prepared, and the lucky. And maybe the crazy.
The book also recounts other lead-ins to her decision to race the Divide: her work-a-day life and her relationship (and ultimate break-up) with her long-time boyfriend Geoff. Some have said that this part of the book was wholly unnecessary, but I disagree. While some of the story made me squirm for Geoff and Misty (I’m glad I never dated any authors…awkward), this glimpse into Jill’s mind helped later to understand where some of the fire and drive to finish came from. (Dang right she’s not dropping at Kremmling!)
I did have mixed feelings about how much detail needed to be shared about the other relationship showcased in the book—that of Jill and John Nobile. The pair toured together for a good portion of the route and it was an important part of the overall story. But, again, there were many a part that made me thank my stars I never dated an author; I couldn’t help but feel for the guy.
The rest of the book give the reader all fodder he or she needs to breathe life to that stunningly crazy notion to ride the route themselves. Jill describes—almost poetically—the beauty, the exhilaration, the loneliness, the slog, and the fear she experienced while on route. I especially enjoyed the telling of how she managed to cross the Great Divide Basin despite a crippling mechanical and almost cheered as she later rolled into Pie Town New Mexico and enjoyed a meal at the almost never open Pie-O-Neer Cafe.
The ups were equally balanced with the downs, however. The endless slogging through mud, the accident involving Pete Basinger, and the hippy convention in the woods served as a reminder that the Divide can be brutal, unforgiving, and just plain weird.
All-in-all it was a great read for anyone interested in the race, the route, or bikepacking in general. Nice work, Jill.