Distance covered: 131.6km
Headwind: some legs no, some legs most definitely
Temperature: the road temp hit a staggering 46.2 today.
Number of falls in the group: 2
Water consumed by the group: almost 400 litres
Today I hit the wall. And it hit me back. Repeatedly.
No silly wordplay today. No whimsical attitude and carefree humour. Day 3 was bloody tough. Grueling in fact.
Today we hit our heartbreak leg. I seriously doubt anyone who was here will ever forget the fourth leg of Day 3.
I have to confess I’ve been okay with this ride so far. It’s certainly very hard and each evening I’ve been sore and tired but I have never once thought I couldn’t do it. It was just a matter of how much I was going to have to push myself. Ah how my hubris was about to be punished by the gods.
I hate admitting it but during this leg I finally knew doubt. A couple of times I was struggling for air and wondering what the hell I was doing there.
I honestly thought – several times in fact – that I couldn’t get to the end of the leg let alone the ride. At 27 km it was on the longish side but the heat and the unrelenting hills combined in a tortuous manner which left us literally gasping.
Halfway through my quads were trembling uncontrollably and I was starting to worry about dehydration and/or heat exhaustion as I thought I might be wobbling around on the road. The fact I wasn’t sure speaks to my state of mind and mental capacity.
Then I wasn’t thinking at all. At one point I was jolted from a mental fugue when I almost hit a coconut on the road – which at speed wouldn’t have been pretty. Most concerning was that a second after the shock awakening I had the thought that it wouldn’t have been too bad as at least I would have got to rest in the ditch by the side of the road.
I was all by myself and had no idea how that happened. I’ve spent most of the ride helping others and staying near other riders but somehow there was no one in sight when I needed some proof of life – or sanity – the most.
I was almost gone both mentally and physically. And although the tears hadn’t quite appeared, I now knew firsthand how easily they could come to the fore.
I was trying desperately to compose myself when thankfully another rider appeared before my descent into madness had taken hold fully. Paul made me focus on why I was doing the ride and asked me questions in an attempt to distract me from my pain.
In truth I was cogniscent enough to recognise what he was doing but the reason I kicked on was actually because I didn’t want to let him down. I didn’t want his efforts to be in vain.* And he reminded me of the children we were riding for.
They have so little and compared to that my pain was temporary. I chided myself and lifted. Not in a Hollywood herculean comeback complete with soundtrack– more like a slow limp: just enough to roll into the lunch break humbled by the elements.
Paul saved my ride there. I was pushed to my very limits and he pulled me back from an abyss.
We limped into the lunch break to what looked like a war zone. Bodies were strewn everywhere. Some were fast asleep, others just re-gathering themselves or moaning quietly.
A part of me was ever-so-briefly relived to see even the serious athletes and cyclists were struggling before feeling for them too. I don’t like to see anyone in pain and this was a very sombre picture. Like a civil war battlefield where those still able to stand moved quietly among the wounded offering tender touches and soft words of support.
Thankfully this story has a happy ending. The last two legs after lunch were surprisingly easy compared to the fourth leg. We had survived the crucible and emerged stronger for it. Despite the many tears, vomiting and fatigue we survived.
And having now done 330km it’s all downhill from here.
Well not literally as we have lots of rolling hills on Day 4 and the little matter of an entire mountain on Day 5, but you know what? I now know we can do it.
That we WILL do it.
I can’t believe it’s taken me three days of riding to realise what the four fingers of the front riders who come back means. I naively thought it meant four kilometres to go but today I realised it really means “FOR f***’s sake cycle faster”.
Today’s singalong (which of course took prior to the descent into Dante’s Inferno) was with Nikki and Hannah. We sang songs from Frozen, The Lion King and the Little Mermaid. My favourite was the duet with Nikki singing “Love is an open door”. Spot the parents.
Also spot the two who ran out of breath shortly after the singalong. Note to self: only sing on downhill or flats.
The GetAboutAsia Rider Of The Day
We have such a wide array of skill and fitness in this group I don’t have much to say about the top riders. The leading group is very strong – even in the heat – and their fitness is impressive as is their willingness to ride back to encourage us. So while I don’t have specific stories about them I do want to give a shout out to Anthony (the other Anthony), Sean, Megan, Scott, Alex, Patrick, Andrew, Troy, Beau and Jodie. I’m told there is debate about whether to include Cam and Peter in there. This will no doubt play out in the comments below…
But I do want to make the point that the girls have more than held their own, impressing everyone with their strength. Megan is simply awesome while Jodie climbs hills as well as Sir Edmund Hilary.
To me they’re all incredible athletes excelling in trying conditions for an amazing cause.
* At one stage he asked me what I’d do in past situations when the chips were down and I responded with “I’d get angry and it would drive me on” but when he encouraged me to get angry I spat out “f*** you Anthony for agreeing to this ride. You suck!” I don’t think it was what he expected but it was a sign that my sense of humour hadn’t quite perished.