WOMEN OF ENDURANCE: Eszter Horanyi
Having placed their worldly possessions into storage this past spring, this woman of endurance and her husband crammed all remaining necessities into their car and moved out of the house in Crested Butte, CO, where they'd spent the past 2 years, taking up residence in a tent where they lived for months in an attempt to save a little money. Why bother with a house anyhow when you're going to be away for weeks out riding your bike on a little 'ole mountain bike race called the Tour Divide.
Coming in 7th place overall, she blasted the Tour Divide women's record by 5 days with a finishing time of 19 days and 3 and a half hours on her first attempt. She also happens to be the women's Colorado Trail Race (CTR) course record holder for two years in a row, beating her own record the 2nd time around, and she won and set a new women's record at the Arrowhead Ultra (a 135-mile snow bike race in Minnesota).
Most recently, she raced the Alpine Odyssey. Held in Crested Butte, this race is a qualifier for Leadville. Racing for the first time in the 30-39 category, she managed to pull off a 1st place in her age group. "I felt old, but even though I got smoked by Amy B, I won the age group, which I guess means I'm racing Leadville next summer." When she wasn't racing over the summer, she was busy coaching a middle-school-aged kids' mountain bike team.
Between her wins on these multi-day/multi-week rides, her multiple course records, and also her nomadic lifestyle – which included a week of camping alone when her husband was riding the CTR this year- this amazing female has rocked my vote as a woman of endurance. She is one freakin' tough cookie and is also funny as all hell. So who is this tent-living, mountain biking, endurance-loving, kick ass chick who she signs her email as E and refers to herself in her blog as Ez? Read on!
After dropping off her husband for his CTR race, she blogs, "I made it to work having no clue where anything was, the car a giant mess, but true to Ez form, when it came to crunch time, I had a helmet on my head, gloves on my hands, water in my bag, and a bike with two wheels that rolled. My brakes even worked. To an outside observer, it would have even seemed that I had my life together. Little did they know..."
Meet Eszter Horanyi, no longer tent dwelling after one of the Crested Butte 'Town Bears' hung around a bit too much.. to the point of swatting at their tent one night tearing the rainfly. Eszter and her husband, Chris, have since scored a housesitting gig which gets them out of the tent and back into a house for a bit. Tent life seemed befitting to this outdoorsy girl and Eszter wrote upon moving that she was excited at having pared down her day-to-day belongings to a duffle bag, a bin (all Tour Divide stuff), her computer and related items, a portable kitchen and her -20 degree sleeping bag. They took a CRV load of trash to the dump and filled up an 8x10 storage unit. From her blog, Gooney Riders, dated June 3, Eszter says, "From where we're camped (yes mom, I am officially homeless, I cook in the dirt, I sleep in a tent, and I watch the moon rise at night instead of checking Facebook status updates. I love it.) there are a handful of routes to town, which as the crow flies, is about 8 miles away."
At another time she blogs, "I can't complain about day-to-day existence. I've gotten into a happy little routine with camping and work. Wake up, make some eggs, ride to town, wash up at the 4-way, buy a peach from Brian at the 4-way, ride up the hill for work, work, go for a ride, do some life maintenance, head back to camp, eat, read myself to sleep. Seems rather dull compared to the adventuring rock and roll lifestyle that I lived in June."
When I asked Eszter how it felt to once again have a roof over their heads after tenting it all summer, she tells me, "Tenting it was definitely a cool experience. I'd do a little dance on the 1st of each month that I didn't have to pay rent but it definitely came with its fair share of trials and tribulations, namely keeping the car organized. The first thing my husband and I did when we moved into the house we were housesitting was empty the entire car into the garage. It was nice to be able to spread everything out and find the lost coffee cups, lonely socks, and various other things that I'd thought were long gone." When asked what are some of the things she missed most about living in a house, she states, "The kitchen for sure. I like to cook, so being limited to a single burner stove definitely cramped my style. I also missed the refrigerator because shopping for food in town is expensive and I wasn't able to go down to Gunnison, 30 miles down the road, to stock up on perishable items." "It's been nothing short of luxurious to have a full kitchen, a dishwasher, and a washing machine."
On the flip side, I had to ask what she missed about living in a tent, to which she responded, "Being outside all the time. I find that when I live in a house, I end up wasting far too much time on Facebook, and the current house we're staying in has satellite TV, so I've wasted far too many hours watching bad TV because it's so easy to turn on and get absorbed into it, especially after years of not having a TV."
Self-admittedly, almost adamantly so, Eszter states that she is not a gear freak; however, with the riding and racing she does I was curious as to what one particular item she couldn't do without. She says in one of her many mountain biking/race-related articles that testing gear is one of the most important aspects of preparing for a multi-day race such as the CTR or Tour Divide. Even after many bike packing trips, she still spends large amounts of time testing different equipment, finalizing clothing decisions, and experimenting with different ways to pack it all on a bike. "I've always opted for bombproof gear for long bike packing trips and races. My friend Walt builds my Waltworks frames and they are absolutely indestructible while being fairly light. I love knowing that everything else on my bike can fall to pieces, but the frame is going to be solid."
Not only was her frame solid, but Eszter's performances were solid as well! In 2010, she competed in the CTR, which runs through the Colorado Rocky Mountains from Denver to Durango and covers 470 miles, 300+ on singletrack at elevations ranging from 5500' to 13,200' with 65,000' of elevation gain. She was the first woman to finish the race setting the women's course record and taking 5th place overall. In 2011 she took on the challenge again and crushed her own record by 24 hours, averaging just over 94 miles per day and finishing in 5 days, 5 hours and 26 minutes.
As stated earlier and well worth repeating, she took 7th place overall in the 2012 Tour Divide crushing the women's record by 5 days when she finished in 19 days and 3 and a half hours. For those not familiar with The Tour Divide, let me introduce you: 2745 miles (4418k) from Banff to Antelope Wells, NM, on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, self-supported. As described on the Tour Divide website, the route travels through Canadian provinces of Albert and British Columbia, and the United Sates of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. A thru-rider will climb nearly 200,000 feet of vertical (equivalent to summiting Mount Everest from sea level 7 times). Eszter's description of the Tour Divide: "19 days, 3 hours, 35 minutes. Two countries, five states, four bears, and countless decisions on where to sleep, what to eat, and what to do."
Just prior to heading out on Tour Divide, Eszter did a video interview for drunkcyclist.com. She was asked about her goals for finishing, which were listed off with the final goal being "not to be eaten by grizzlies." Hearing that response led to my next question, "It seems you see plenty of bears around Crested Butte, have you otherwise found some comfort level in existing and playing outdoors in bear country or was it the grizzlies, in particular, that worried you when riding Tour Divide?" "It really was only the grizzlies that scared me on Tour Divide, " says E. "I've been living in bear country for so long that black bears don't really worry me, they tend to run away long before I see them. I was pretty happy to get out of grizzly country in southern Wyoming and I got rid of my bear spray soon after. I ended up seeing one more bear in southern Colorado, but we had a good look at each other while I was eating a burrito on the side of the road, and he continued on his way."
"Any tricks for dealing with my infamous boredom?" This read aloud by Eszter as she continued her video interview for drunkcyclist. Her deadpan reply, "I plan to solve world hunger while I'm out there. I'm sure I'm going to come up with plenty of other good ideas."
Upon reading the following exerpt from Eszter's Tour Divide letter of intent, you can get a good feel for E's outlook regarding not only the race but life in general.
The idea of this ride feeds my soul on so many different levels, I hope the experience lives up to what I am expecting.
What am I expecting? I'm not sure, but I do know that I am happiest when I am out on the trail. After all three of my traverses of the Colorado Trail, two of them fast, I return home to feel cooped up, to find myself wasting absurd amounts of time on FaceBook, all while knowing that there is life outside my doors that I'm busy not experiencing. I've finished the final miles of most of my multi-day races and tours with a profound sadness that I have to reintegrate into the real world. By setting out on Tour Divide, I'm giving myself the gift of three weeks outside.
She gets into more deep thoughts in her blog regarding Tour Divide saying, "But I think, I know, there's more to it. I think there's more to it on a deeper level, but that's impossible to explain, you either get it or you don't, but aside from getting to pedal and do nothing else for three weeks, I get to see a lot. It dawned on me as I was driving through the deserts of the reservation in northern Arizona, the climbing up through the forests near Flagstaff and into the rugged mountains and deserts of California: It really is a big world out there and the slower we move through it, the more we get to see and experience it.
What kind of writer would I be if I finished up the interview without asking this, the most pertinent question of all, if she had indeed solved the world hunger crisis. Responding in casual Eszter style, "No, I never do. I've given up hoping that I'll find some deeper meaning to my riding. I just really like riding."
Eszter's Tour Divide letter of intent can be found here in its entirety: http://www.mountainflyermagazine.com/view.php/eszter-horanyi-s-tour-divide-letter-of-intent.html
Eszter and Chris's website: http://gooneyriders.typepad.com/gooney_riders/
If you know of any Women of Endurance please share in a comment below!