HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — She did it! There was never really any doubt. Thanks to technology, we caught up with Huntsville’s Grace Ragland as she was finishing the 2018 Tour Divide.
We first talked to her on Monte Sane in June.
“I’m going to do what I can do, the best I can do,” Grace told us as she was preparing. “It could be 40 days, it could be 50 days. If it’s 60 days, I don’t care, I’m going to do it! I’ll be tired, but I’m going to do it.”
It’s the race of a lifetime.
“The ride itself starts in Banff, Canada and it finishes in Antelope Wells, New Mexico,” Grace told us.
It’s a race the length of the Rockies. She did the 2,725 miles ride in 42 days! “This was life changing event for me,” she told us afterwards. “I am completely satisfied at this moment.”
Grace’s biggest obstacle was her Multiple Sclerosis. It was replacing the 5,000 calories she was going to be burning each day.
She survived on energy and candy bars and her own blend of trail mix: “with gummy worms or gummy bears,” she said with a smile. “Trail mix combines with my own little concoction of things like peanut M&Ms.”
But if she found herself close to a restaurant, she went for the calories. “I just ordered the most fattening thing, one of the most fattening things on the menu and made myself sit there and finish it, every bit of it,” she said.
Now that the race is over, Grace says, “I’m sad. I’m elated. I’m changed forever. I have more confidence now in myself than I’ve ever had.” She’s already moving on to the next goal. “I want to help people do something special in their life,” she said.
Grace calls the Tour Divide the most thrilling accomplishment of her life. “And not once did I even contemplate quitting. I knew I could do it,” she said. “From the get go, I knew I could and I knew I would.”
But there were highs and lows along the way. “I had many of both,” she said. Strangers she called her trail angels lifted her up saying, “There were people out of nowhere just saying hey, would you want some water? Hey, do you want a banana? Is there anything you need? How about some sunscreen?”
And then there was a guy from Hazel Green, Alabama who stopped for coffee on his way to Durango, Colorado. “A nice man who paid for our breakfast one morning,” Grace recalls. “We were in line and ordering breakfast and he came up and said I want to pay for their breakfast. I mean, kindness.”
There were moments that weren’t so fun. “I had an injury on my toe,” she said. “My lips were very fried and I had a really major league swollen gland.” She need a doctor and some rest. “I thought my body is screaming at me. It’s telling me, Grace, you need to take some time off,” she remembers. Thankfully, she listened.
But what’s down the road for her now? “I am pretty full and can’t say that I’ll never eat an elephant again but that doesn’t mean I won’t try to eat something else pretty large or accomplish something else,” she said with a smile. “To see our own United States of America the way I just saw it, is highly recommended.”
Grace is the second Alabamian to finish the Tour Divide. The first was Scott Thigpen from Birmingham. But Grace is the first woman from Alabama to finish the race. She’ll talk about her journey August 18 at 6 p.m. at the Salty Nut Brewery.