The Headwinds and the Hills (Day Nine)
Day Nine was not for the weak, it was not for the faint of heart, and it was not for the quitter. It was a day that brought tough terrain, worse conditions, and for me, the full aggravation of an injury that has been threatening to get worse since I started training or this ride in March. The best part of Day Nine was finishing the course.
There were four hills (and you’re thinking: four hills? How tough can that be? Right?). Yeah, the shortest of these hills was seven miles and the longest was eleven. They went forever. You’d look back behind yourself, see the road just slope around hazy bends and wonder how you did it. You’d look ahead and see the same haze and wonder how you were going to do it. Even though the grade was never more than 9%, it was often over 5%, and that’s a long way to be cranking uphill. And, it gets worse…
The Headwind. It. Was. Blowing. For. All. Seventy. Eight. Miles. In our faces, the whole time. Brutal. Unrelenting. Mocking us. Impossible to get any momentum, even on the flat stretches. Mince and I were joking about how, on one of our few descents, we had to push hard on the pedals and work our tails off to even get to 18MPH, just because of the wind holding us back. Even with us taking turns ‘pulling and drafting’ each other, there was nothing that we could do but work. There was no coasting, no rest, and strong resistance. The entire time.
For me, though, the toughest part was the announcement of a nagging pain that shows up occasionally, though I haven’t seen it a lot so far. I’ve been lucky, I guess, and im hoping that my luck didn’t run out yesterday. It’s an aggravation in the upper right shoulder, and it works its way over to my neck. It’s not constant, but days when it’s around, it shows up in five-second bites. It begins as a dull ache (almost like an itch) and escalates to a sharp, stabbing pain. It is no fun, trust me. Day Nine’s was the worst it’s ever been, by far. It was excruciating. Over the past four months, I’ve had many people speculate on what may be causing it, but no one seems to have a surefire way to get rid of it. I spoke yesterday with Dr. Greg Richards (AKA Dr. Dick), a longtime friend of Kevin’s, and our volunteer medical expert for the trip. He gave me some suggestions and I’m going to stick with them, diligently.
The course itself was beautiful despite the agony. Red wildflowers popped up here and there, and it was rocky and rich with shrubs if there were shrubs at all. In some places, though, it sort of reminded me of ‘Tatooine’ from the Star Wars movies. It had some pretty cool twisty roads that kept you guessing what was around the corner. Sadly, usually the answer was ‘another hill with wind in your face’.
So, by the end of the day, after I’d also gotten hit in the face, twice, by flying rocks from a truck’s tire, my face was windburned, my legs fried and I had an exhausted brain from being insane with pain.
But…Day Nine was a day that I had the opportunity to give all I had to give. Now, bring on Day Ten.
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