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Thursday, 29 June 2017

Day 2 When you're 6ft under and dead on your feet

My nights sleep last night was not the best. Having passed out about 11pm .. I awoke at 1am to the sound of roaring engines. Logging truck number 1 of the night sped up the road... lights blazing. This continued on the hour every hour. At about 3am my air mat deflated... leaving me on the hard stony ground. At 4am it started to get light. At 5am I needed a wee! Crawled out of the bivvy... bear spray still in my hand. The good thing about being in the middle of nowhere (aside from the logging trucks) I didnt have to worry about dropping my shorts at the roadside. I didnt want to go into the forest particularly... bears are active at this time of the morning.

I started packing up my bivvy and was just packing my bike bags again and stuffing down a blueberry danish for breakfast when a truck drove up. One of the forestry guys was just coming to work. He called me both brave and craZy for camping out in bear country by myself and asked if the logging trucks had been through overnight. Haha... yup loadz!

Then it was off and it was a chilly morning so I kept all my layers of clothes on.... 

Within the first few miles a logging truck had approached... slowly and stopped to ask me if there were any other cyclists on the road so I told him about the cyclists at the cabin. He thanked me and said have a nice day. 

The next few logging truckers were nowhere near as nice... speeding by me with 1 ft to spare (i had got off my bike and stood in the ditch) leaving me choking .. literally ... on their dust. Then behind me came my home for last night with the gentleman that I had met earlier in the cab. He waved as I let him pass but I soon overtook again on the downhill and good roads. We played leapfrog for a bit until he pulled off with a final wave. 

I continued on the logging road... making sure to keep a close eye on the GPS as the turnoff was coming up. Despite that I whizzed straight past it ... screeched to a halt and climbed back up the hill to the start of the re-route... or as I now call it.. the Gates of Hell! 

I am in no way exaggerating as you will come to see. It started off like a stream bed.... rubble and boulders. The gradient was ok to start with. There were 6 miles to cover. I got over the first section with little trouble and thought... hey this isnt so bad but was soon cursing myself for the thought. 

The rocks and rubble eased off for a bit but the gradient worsened. I thought ... 6 miles... 2 miles an hour... 3 hours... but the time slipped away amidst sweat and cursing and slipping.

The track then took a nastier turn (of course upwards) but became stream bed like again or more accurately an avalanche chute... which is what it was. It would have been hard enough hauling myself up there let alone with a loaded bike. After that section came a more path like section... still strew with rubble and at a 45 ° angle. I literally had to get all my weight behind the bike to get any forward momentum... heave.. brakes on... rest... heave ... brakes on and rest... ad infinitum.  It was endless. Every time I looked back and down I couldnt believe the gradient and how high I was with each section. In one slightly easier bit... I looked up and a sun beam was shining through the pine trees. I dont know why but suddenly I thought of someone I have loved and lost and the tears started falling. It was so beautiful and serene and peaceful in that moment and I thought how much he would have liked it and how much I wanted to share this with him. That made me smile cos I then heard in my head 'I hate the bloody mountains' and saw his smile and decided that he would be laughing at me right now at my decision to haul my bike literally up a mountainside.

Wiping away the tears... I continued upwards. The hours were ticking by but it didnt matter... I could not go any faster. Every time I stopped I tried to rest my heel on a rock so the strain on my achilles was lessened. 

Finally after 4 hours... I got to a top... sat on a rock and gave a shout of triumph. Then I ate a couple of oat bars... drank ... and looked down. Wow... unbelievable. I couldnt believe I had pulled my bike up that high in so short a mileage. 

I got back on my bike... turned a corner... and my heart sank... collapsed in a little heap.

Another 45 degree slope awaited... at that point I looked at the mountains for inspiration but they didnt care! They stood indifferent to my suffering. I had no choice... up was the only way. So I steeled myself inside and kept going.

At some point during this uphill battle a sudden crashing sound happened right next to me... and I jumped right outta my skin! About 10ft away.. I had surprised an adult bull moose. He jumped further into the bush but was still pretty close... he stopped and his head turned to stare at me. He was jet black and HUGE! And his stare unnerved me. I couldnt work out whether he was going to walk away further into the bush... or turn and charge at me. I didnt fancy my chances! So I started talking to him in a calm (ish) voice and proceed to move slowly forward up the road... all the time talking so he knew where I was. Eventually I figured I was outta range and my pulse went down a few notches but my general call now became ' hey bear... hey moose' ! 

 Several more times I thought id got to the top only to be severely disappointed In the end it took 6 hours of bike hauling (hike a bike doesnt do it justice) to get to the downhill point, which in places was way too precarious/steep to ride. Eventually I got to the road that headed south again and breathed a sigh of relief. But it was short lived. Everything hurt and time was running out. Add to that I had miscalculated the distance in my head so it was a lot further to Fernie than I realised.

The road now was good grade gravel and I was making reasonable time but my reserves were depleted and partly because I couldnt bear the thought of eating... and partly because I was afraid of running out of time before dark. And so I plodded on... a general downhill gradient but with the occasional steep up bit. I saw a herd of deer (and got a photo) and lots of gophers which dived into their burrows as I went past.  As I cycled the fear repeated itself in my head that I wouldnt get to the top of the 'back up and over ' bit before dark. I kept repeating... I dont want to cycle in the dark. Bivvying out was more preferable. The other fear was that the route up and over would be similar to the start of the re-route... book ended if you like. I decided that if it wasnt a gravel road.. I would stop and camp but as I eventually reached the turn off I found a good gravel road. With close to 2 bours of daylight I reasoned that the 5 miles to the high point could be reasonably done before nightfall and then I only had 4 miles to whizz down to the road into Fernie. I didnt mind cycling on the main road in darkness but didnt want to be walking up the mountain in the dark.

My body however was close to dropping and any slight incline and I was walking. At first it wound by the river which was thundering along... glacial blue. Given that the river was flowing from uphill it made sense that I was still next to the river but as the light started fading I had to walk more and more as my legs and body were shot.

I was hating my bike.

In my head I was considering quitting

I had had enough... and whilst my respect for anyone that has attempted this had shot up fivefold it was incomprehensible how anyone could finish. . Let alone in 13 days!!

Different scenarios ran through my head.. take an alternative route tomorrow.. scratch from the race but continue cycling southwards...

Scratch and get my bike boxed up and go and see friends

All of the thoughts in my mind at that point were about quitting.... my body couldnt take any more. I thought about the disappointment from everyone... but they just didnt understand how hard these last 2 days had been .. I thought about myself and how I would live with it... and with that thought came a little spark... lighting up the surroundings of depths of utter despair.

Clearly I wasnt making a high enough mileage but tomorrow... in this state... I wouldnt have a chance of making it through the next back country section. I needed to look at my map and make a plan...

What if I rested in Fernie for a day and then continued on... see how far I get. It would mean I was unlikely to get to the finish line as it would be over 150 miles behind schedule.. but if I tried to continue tomorrow I wouldnt get very far. At least this way I could still try and have an adventure and tell some stories and justify the sponsorship already given.

I could now understand those that quit ... this was beyond hard. Even without actual injury.. the body has a limit and I was close to it.

I was still mainly walking up... occasionally I would cycle a very short way. My GPS counted down the time until sunset 1 hour... 1/2 hour... 2 mins. And then light was fading. Shit! The moment I had dreaded... uphill on a mountain... in the dark. Lights on and continued forward motion.

By now I was blowing the whistle every second breath and shouting hey bear every so often.  In the growing darkness my brain was turning logs and trees and bushes into bears and every sound was making me jump a little inside. Worse my headtorch wasnt working well and kept switching itself off. Fortunately my front light is pretty powerful but obviously only points in the direction my bike is heading leaving the peripheries in darkness. Worse still was the light picked out glowing 'eyes' which more often than not turned out to be the edge of a bit of road furniture! Psychological combat zone !! 

The last couple of miles ti the high point ticked by very slowly but I eventually reached the top and had 4 miles of downhill ... in the dark...

The downhill ended up being a bit of an adrenaline rush... my whistle blowin furiously as I descended into blackness... and it was a proper downhill. The road had potholes which caused a gew near misses and the brakes were squealing at times but I admit I actually enjoyed this bit ... in a fear topped kinda way. Eventually I started seeing driveways and at one point a dog growled and barked as I shot by. Then a few trailer parks and relief....civilisation. it was around 11pm and I still had another few miles on tarmac to cycle into Fernie. The lure of a motel room and rest spurred me onwards and I shot along the road reaching Fernie at around 11:30pm. Took the obligatory bike and town sign photo and crawled to the first motel I spotted. Fortunately there was a room. Also fortunately the pizza place was open next door.I stashed the bike and kit in my room and then suddenly began retching. I dont know what made me throw up but it was just bile. I think my body had just gone... enough... and it took a while to stop the sick feeling. I knew I had to eat and drink so I crawled to the pizza place, got one to go... and back in the motel room tentively ate a few slices of pizza. It seemed to stay down.

I realised having looked at messages from friends that loads of you folks back home were getting concerned as my dot hadnt moved from last nights bivvy spot on trackleaders. I dont know why that is as my SPOT app shows the tracking messages as sent. I have put up on my fb page another SPOT shared page and tested it this morning... both a tracking signal and check in/ok message have shown up on there... so even if not registering on trackleaders it should be up there.

My day 3 blog will be up soon but eventually decided to have a rest day in Fernie. I think my body would have revolted if I had got up and started peddling. 

Despite this I have done around 168 miles in 2 days (according to my GPS) which isnt bad. Hopefully the rest day will fortify me for the days to come.

A massive thank you to everyone who has sponsored me so far. I am so grateful for that... the comments... likes and messages. They all keep me going... keep me smiling. #sufferingforsponsorship #LHS

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