Date: August 06, 2010
From: Christiansburg, VA
To: Wytheville, VA
Distance: 58.00 miles
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I badly needed that rest day yesterday. You could say I absorbed it like a selfish piece of not-getting-out-of-bed-today sponge. Just me and my laptop, in my jimmy jams and watching really bad daytime TV (I mean honestly, wtf is with that Maury show?!)
Strangely though, it still wasn’t quite enough. Mentally or physically. Mentally, I found myself filled with a sense of real dread about having to get back on the bike at all. I read a stat that said 50% of solo TransAm cyclists don’t finish. It’s very easy after a day like I’d had to see how that happens. But the stat also says that when a solo cyclist makes it past 10 days, that stat jumps to a 95% success rate.
Ten days. I’ve just gotta get through these mountains.
I realize that I’ve been a little cocky. I didn’t ride a bike for almost 2 months, yet in my mind I thought, “How steep could these mountains really be? How hard? Seriously?”
And not just that, I thought my wrist would be fine. It was fine riding the two previous weeks. Barely a tingle. But that was without having to wrestle a front fork laden with panniers around on 4mph climbs, over and over and over again.
I am slow. Really slow. I am humbled. Embarrassingly so. I took a licking and so I laid down for a day. A whole day. I iced my wrist to within an inch of its life, and even though it’s still not happy, it’s willing to continue.
Since I lost a day, I’m rebuilding my itinerary. I’m ok with losing a day. In fact, my whole attitude is that I will do whatever it takes to get through these mountains. If that means staying in more hotels than I planned (they have lots of ice for grumpy wrists!), then that’s what I’ll do. If it means reducing daily mileages, then so be it. I will make it up elsewhere. If it means added rest days, then fine. The mountains are not the place to be a hero. The mountains are the place to just survive.
This morning, I left at around 6:30am and headed back into the center of Christiansburg. The plan for the day was to not to kill my legs. Meaning that even if I felt a little strain on a straightaway, I would change to a lower gear. Don’t gut it out. If a hill went on for too long in the granny and I just couldn’t handle it, walk it. No shame in it. In fact, the walk often made me feel better, stretching out the muscles and giving the ol’ backside a break.
This was my strategy all day. It didn’t hurt that it was a somewhat easy day. Sure, there were some big climbs (I walked three), but mostly it was rolling hills and even some nice downhill sections. Things started out swimmingly, and I covered the first 13 miles in an hour, but then I slowed the pace due to some very grinding ascents.
But I was singing. Out loud. And my legs, although still stiff and sore, were hanging in there. While at a gas station, a woman called Colleen started chatting with me through her van window. That chat alone gave me a good boost, and her dog, Miss Lily, was a friendly mutt face on a somewhat dreaded day.
The worst climbing was at the end, and again, I was slow. Didn’t finish until 3pm, but I did stop a lot, walked some hills, and actually went inside a restaurant and ate lunch rather than grab snack food from a gas station.
Beautiful countryside, but the first day where I’ve had to ride with some gusty winds coming from all directions. Tended to frighten me a little on the downhills with the trailer, which I think is a bit of latent fear from the accident. I can still remember the violence of the moment just before I got thrown off, and I don’t want that to happen again. Ever.
Tonight, I’m in a cute little hotel ($44 a night, and it’s not that bad), icing my wrist and feelin’ sleepy. I went to The Log House restaurant for dinner, had two beers and that’s put me right out. Short day tomorrow, but pretty hilly so not sure how I’ll go. I’ll just keep repeating the mantra I chant when I find myself in my granny on a long-arse hill.
“Just keep going. Just keep going. Just keep going.”
Or as Jens Voigt would say: Shut up legs.
Go to the next day > Day 12: The Freewheeling Day