Day 11

This day was utter hell. Not only the worst day on the tour, but the single worst day of cycling I’ve ever experienced. Like so many bad days, it started out with an inaccurate weather report.

I remember the weather report very well because there was a good chance we were going to get rained on. Most of the day was a 10% to 20% chance, but for an hour in the early afternoon, the chance jumped to 40%. They said to expect accumulation of 0.04″. We set out with that in mind, wearing rain coats, and when we got rained on early in the morning, even rain pants. The rain was cool and the air was cool, but not unpleasant, especially if you’re working up a sweat. We had a hard day ahead of us and expected to reach a 7900 foot peak.

Some of us had trouble in the mud generated by the morning rain. Bikes became unrideable. It was unpleasant, but we worked it out and got through. When we reached the apex of our climb, we saw storm clouds ahead, and were pretty sure we’d get wet again. With that in mind, Greg M. and Chris, the two most at risk in the mud, rode ahead in an attempt to outrun the storm.

The rain came. Big, fat drops. It picked up the pace and drove harder. If it behaved the the morning storm, this would be no big deal. It would soon back off and turn to light rain once again. But it was not at all like that storm. This one began pelting us, and the rain began to sting, and that’s when we realized it was actually hail.

The video below tells most of the tail of what happened next, but not all of it. Natural rain is notoriously hard to catch on camera. The storm was driving and relentless, but you don’t really see it, even though it kept pelting us every minute of this ride. Another thing is the temperature. It dropped from ~78 degrees to ~34 degrees in less than an hour. We were freezing. But because of the very heavy rain, we were reluctant to stop to put on extra clothes for fear of soaking through the new layers before we could put them to use. We were looking for shelter, but as you can see in the video, all we have is sage brush as far as the eye can see. Not even a tree to huddle under. We knew where we were, but not the details. Sure, we were on the right road, but how long until we see a farm house? How long until we see a car? We were at very real risk of hypothermia, and when we did finally find shelter, we were shaking uncontrollably as we tried to put on more clothing.

The weather eventually got better, but there were still many miles to go. It was an 80 mile day, the longest of the tour so far, and that’s fully loaded with gear and a 7900″ hill in the middle. But we were all strong, we were going to make it. Except in all the haste, confusion, and pain of the storm, we forget to eat. And we bonked.

For those of you who don’t know what bonking is, it’s basically running out of gas. You put out energy to ride hard, but don’t take enough in, and your body starts to rebel. The last 7-10 miles were flat, and many paved, and despite that, I could barely make it. When I showed up to the cabin, I was beaten down. Greg M. and I were sharing a room, and he suggested a hot shower. When I got it, the water immediately started to cool. The water heater was tapping out, too.

The video I’m going to link to, the same one from another post, is not actually the worst. There’s one more where the ice gets thicker. I’ll try to post that one later. For now, I’m tired. But I’ll ride tomorrow. Not giving up.

Biking in the 3rd circle of Hail

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