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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Day 13 ... Down the Road

Day 13 began where Day 12 left off... with the miles whizzing by under my feet. We had had a longish layover about midnight near Idaho Falls where they had abandoned us and taken our kit and the bus to get a new driver... 1/2 hour they promised. 1 1/2 hours later a new bigger bus pitched up with our hold luggage present but we then had to go and pick up hand luggage left on the other bus. It was all very convoluted and frustrating at that time of the morning.
Still it gave me time to organise a few thoughts on what had been and what was about to come but more on that in a bit.
Another stop ... this time at 4am in Salt Lake City, Utah... a state that I have never been but disappointingly was unable to find a fridge magnet at that time of the morning 😐 Got to sort the important things right?
The final part of the journey saw entry into Colorado and what appeared to be a very dry and arid landscape.  The lack of water is a little disconcerting in this heat which despite fast forwarding a state or so South has not disappated in the slightest. I was a bit concerned about my bike because at the last change they had put it on its side rather than upright so I was pretty relieved when I got to Steamboat Springs and unloaded the box to see it intact.
I took the box over to the little lodge and took a little look around. The river ran close by and on the path by the river were bikers... runners... skateboarders. On the hill above the town were two or three ski jumping slopes... it bustled with energy and healthy outdoorsiness. I took to it immediately. Unlike Helena,  which although it is only the size of Abingdon in the uk (small) felt like a big town/city and didn't feel welcoming to me... this place immediately shouted... 'come join the fun!'. One lady came up to me as I was unpacking the bike and asked where I was headed. She suggested I take the bike path by the river to the downtown area and I would like to publically thank her as it was a nice ride.. but I fast forward a little...
I started putting my bike together and made a stoopid (spelt like that purposely) mistake...
As I was taking out the front wheel skewer I dropped one of the small springs
.. bugger. Still I had planned to go to the bike shop to try and get a few small things sorted following the tubeless sealant debacle... I may as well go now!
Turned out that Wheels Bike Shop was very close by and I cycled to the store and went in.  I explained my predicament. In addition to the spring... after putting the tube in during my mountainside emergency repair... the back wheel had not been rolling right and I wasn't sure why. If possible I also wanted to go back to tubeless which I couldn't do as I had no CO2 cartridge to sufficiently inflate the tyre to reseat the beading. It needed high pressure inflation. (Sorry if I lost you with the tech speak).
The guys there were great. Given that I'd just pitched up they said they were just getting some food but would then look at it. So I went and did the same and then wandered back to the shop.
Whilst there I was chatting to the younger of the two guys there. Turned out he had been a Nordic Combined athlete... ski jumping and cross country skiing. We also chatted about biathlon (one of my favourite sports) as he knew some of the athletes who were doing really well last season. Very Cool!!
Going back to my bike..
my inner tube was rescued and I was trying to fold it up but having difficulty getting out the air... one of the guys said.. don't worry... I will just punch a hole in it and it will be fine ....
The back tyre is once again tubeless... and I've got a new pair of shades as my other ones broke. Sorted and a big big shout out to those guys at WHEELS BIKE SHOP in Steamboat Springs... you are AWESOME!!
Then it was time to go to the motel... which for once I had pre booked. The guy there Peter was fascinating... I asked where he was from and turns out he was from Davos (in my fave country in the world.. Switzerland). He had led a hugely interesting life... emmigrated to Australia and then the States. He said that he had been lucky in his life despite the hardships he had obviously suffered. He was a cool guy!
The only concern I have at the moment is that propably due to the prolonged bus journey and the heat... my legs have become incredibly oedematous (swollen)... I have cankles. The skin feels tight and my legs feel a bit wierd. This should settle by morning though... watch this space. My arse is certainly celebrating its rest from the saddle and the mosquito/horsefly bites are starting to settle down. Tip top shape then!! 😁
So I settled into the motel and am looking forwards to the next days but there are some thoughts that I'd like to share looking backwards over the last 13 days...
I can accept that I was not fast enough or good enough to complete this challenge because I accept these fundamental truths...
I know I gave every ounce of energy I had in the first week of this challenge... I could not have given more
It really IS about the journey and whilst there may be some disappointment about not experiencing The Basin or Wyoming I have had some experiences that will be forever mine to tell... Camping out in Bear Country Solo anyone???
This journey ... the actual cycling has been so much harder than I expected. Despite having completed multi day large mileage challenges before ... off-road and the general isolation provides a challenge far above anything I have ever done. I was close to breaking totally and although I have scratched from the race... I don't honestly think I was broken... totally up to the edge of it... but not broken.
I guess my only regret about the race is that I didnt give myself more time. But that's life...
At least I'm not afraid to try... not afraid to fail.  Fear of failure stops people trying to follow their dreams more than anything else in my opinion.
The psychological aspect of this is always interesting... was it worse because I was 'in a race'. That might not be fair to answer that just yet. I'm not sure I paid much attention to the race apart from the first time I got overtaken which knocked my headspace back slightly. Frankly there was enough to pressurise and stress about with just the nature of the trail. I did a lot of talking to myself... shouting at the rocks and the heat and the flies... laughing at the chipmunks and the squirrels and I don't think any of that will change now I'm not racing. It's the coping strategy I employ to keep myself going and stop my head from going down.
I have learnt more lessons about who I am when faced with hardship... (I SURVIVED THE RE-ROUTE!!!) and I think that I have re-affirmed that my best quality (when it comes to things like this) is my stubbornness.
It's not also that I don't get scared... there were times .. in Canada specifically... when I was scared out of my wits for different reasons... Bears... yes but also fear of unknown... e.g where was I going to sleep/eat etc... fear of the dark... fear of injury (The Wall). The list could go on. But I will keep going because I'm stubborn 😁
I also realised that this type of long distance cycling is totally different from road long distance. I have previously described road cycling as meditation... where in the back of the brain all other stuff was just filtering through.
In off road cycling... this is impossible as concentration has to be absolute. Going up requires all focus on just getting up the incline and going down requires even more concentration. This means it is more psychologically wearing on the soul and requires more fortitude as bad days can be REALLY bad days!
Juxtaposing this is the real benefit of off-road cycling and it is this that will pull me back time after time... never reluctantly.. but eager to experience and I hope I explain it well enough to perhaps persuade others to step out there... so here goes.
If you step out into the middle of nowhere and remove yourself from the sounds and sights of modern day ... immerse yourself into nature and stop and listen....
I hear the mountains whispering to me to come and climb them
I hear the paths and the 'paths' calling my name to go and explore
I hear the trees and the animals urging me to come further and discover new things
My soul is regenerated with every breath...
It is fortified with every step into the unknown..
It is constructed and held together by the silence
And I know that when this adventure does come to an end (one adventure has to end so that another can begin) I will miss all of those things and cherish those memories more than I remember the hurt and the suffering. But the suffering and the hurt will also enter into legend ... Re-route anyone?? and will probably be a memory that is cherished as much as the rest in the end.
For now though I hold these thoughts and prepare to step out into the unknown again. I hope that you will find the second half of this journey as worthwhile.
Thank you to everyone who has already sponsored me
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