The days are dragging by (for me). By the end of today's stage, I would have cycled through fire if it meant it would be over! It took us 7h48m to complete 98kms. We climbed over 1900m - almost as much as yesterday but about 30km less distance to do it in. So a very tough day. There was one massive climb and many many other less massive but no less painful climbs all day long. Every time you thought you were getting a downhill, a new uphill appeared.
I cried for the first 20km, which was due to a combination of starting off with several climbs (one was so steep most people had to walk for part of it), very bad saddle sores, and a cramp in my right calf. A lot of people around me are suffering, but I have only seen one other woman openly shed tears.
I have come to accept that crying is my body's way of trying to make me stop doing painful things. Like riding up hills(!) Once a downhill comes, no matter how short, it is such a relief because I can finally relieve some of the pressure off my poor bottom!! And get some free speed and knock off some easy kilometers. Today, for the last 30kms, I swear the mileage barely moved. It was such a slog. I started counting 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 over and over until I reached the top. Most often, this is when I would find yet another incline awaiting us!
To emphasize just how painful (and long) today was, we took very few photos, despite some spectacular views and beautiful and interesting people. But photos aren't always necessary. One very strong image in my mind from a few days ago is of a woman in a patterned dress and kerchief picking up her chubby little baby and tossing him in the air until he started giggling. Today, we passed a number of schools filled with children cheering for us and singing out hellloooo behind chainlink fences.
Today's highlight was the switchbacks down a steep side of a hill. John loved it, and I was able to get into a nice groove after some scaredy cats got outta my way 😉
We are eating well - the water stops are amazing with tons of delicious food and lots to drink. The volunteers lube your chain, wash your glasses, and fill and wash your water bottles. Then, when we arrive in camp, we try to eat the calories we burned, and rehydrate. I had a hamburger and potato salad for lunch today and it tasted like the best food I had ever eaten. It is the best part of the day, right up there with crossing the finish line, getting a shower, and sleeping!!
It's dinner time now! Just three more days to go!