Hello from Dublin, Georgia! Sorry to have missed an entry yesterday, but I was so exhausted last night that I could barely even talk to Rachel :( Yesterday's ride from Camden to Eufaula, Alabama was just very similar to the previous day's rides in the south. Sorry to sound repetitive but - just big, rolling hills - up one, down another and so on, and so on... Yesterday was a little tougher than previously because the hills were a little longer and a little steeper.
When I began this ride, I had two major concerns - fitness was not one of them. I trained religiously but I was concerned about headwinds and saddle sores. I got through the worst of the headwinds with drafting help from my companions - as I helped them also, but I just never imagined the saddle sores would be this bad. So far on this blog I've tried to be careful with my choice of words. A lot of days I remember were very hard. Getting through the heat of the desert was hard; the 206 mile, 13 hour day into headwinds in Oklahoma was hard; the ridiculously steep 13 to 15 percent grades of the Talihina Parkway were hard; but yesterday was the first time I had to use the word "suffer". There was a period of time during the day where I really suffered because of the saddle sores. Rowing and cycling actually have something in common. In rowing you hope for smooth water, and in cycling you hope for smooth pavement. Lon had us on some back roads where the asphalt was topped with something called "chip seal". It's a very rough surface. I guess it helps roads last longer, but it's torture on a cyclist with sore body parts. While riding on this, if you sit it kills your bottom. If you stand to pedal, it beats up your feet. It's beating up your hands the whole time with constant vibration. It's very difficult to get into any kind of cycling rhythm. Most of the time we've had great roads, but we were on this chip seal for a lot of miles yesterday. I know Lon drives all these routes - his planning is incredible - but there were times yesterday, that I actually wondered if he was testing our resolve.
While miserable, the upside of the day was that Charles was on my mind almost all day. Of the many things I knew about him, he was always working hard to better himself. This ride is about honoring a really fine young man, and there was just absolutely no way I was going to quit. I've been preparing for this tour since last September, and for as much pain as I was in, I just felt that to stop riding would have been to quit on Charles, and there was absolutely no was it was going to happen. So, somehow, I just kept going and made it in. I don't mean to sound so negative, and I always try and make cycling as fun as I possibly can, but yesterday was purely about survival. When I first talked to Lon about this Elite Tour, he said it was about survival and indeed yesterday that's what it was all about.
Today (Day 16) we rode 160 from Eufaula, Alabama to Dublin, Georgia. What a different mindset I'm in right now. It's just incredible how on this tour you can feel completely different from one day to the next. Even before the saddle sores, some days you go out and ride really hard and feel great. Other days you try to ride really hard, but just can't really seem to get going and don't feel all that good. It's hard to explain why. I know my sores didn't really heal up last night, but for some reason, as I pulled out of the parking lot this morning and gently eased my weight down on the bike seat, it wasn't so bad.
In the morning, for the first 80 miles, the terrain was the same. Up and down long, steep, rolling hills. It was a tough morning. But in the afternoon, things flattened out quite a bit, and after lunch we breezed on into the motel. The pavement was very smooth today :), which you can imagine I was very thankful for. Toward the very end, however, there was a six mile section of chip seal pavement. It was majorly uncomfortable, but fortunately for not too long. The most frustrating thing that happened today was my flat tire just three miles from the hotel. It was my sixth flat of the entire tour, which is probably not too bad. I'm feeling pretty good right now - I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Tomorrow's ride is (only) 142 miles and relatively flat - of course I'm hoping for smooth pavement(!)