Friday, 19 April 2013

Day 16: When I say climb, you say "How high?"

I think it's safe to say that when we woke up this morning, most of us were all very nervous, anxious, and not really looking forward to the day. We were made aware that there was going to be an 18km climb and it was going to be both long and steep. Not only that, but the entirety of the day was going to be over a 100 kilometers. Basically, it was going to be the hardest day of the entire ride. At this point, my morning routine seems zombie like and monotonous. I've been riding a bicycle for 16 days and every morning it's the same; wake up, get dressed, eat food, and get going. From the time I wake up to the time I saddle up on my bicycle, it feels like no time at all. Just get in your groove and get going.

Our day began with about 20km of meandering and slightly hilly terrain, or a warm up so to speak, before the big climb was going to start. I felt good, but it was hot. The skies were blue, scattered with white puffy clouds and a big bad sun beating down -- all ready to make the day even more challenging. When these climbs begin, it's hard for me to think about how long it's going to take, or when I'm going to reach the end. You just have to go for it.

I got in my groove and tried to pace my way up to the top. I spent about the first half of the climb behind Steak and tried as hard as I could to keep him in my eyesight as motivation to power on, and to stay on my bike (literally). However, my pace was slower and I needed to have enough stamina to ride out the rest of the climb. The point came where I had to had to stop and catch my breath and chug as much water as I could because it was so hot, and let Steak ride on solo. Then I continued on in the blazing heat. I saw some mountain water coming out of the side of the road and I pulled over to douse my top and rinse my face off. So much sweat had been running down my face that my lips were pruning. There were two times where the hills were just so steep, that I had to get off and push my bike. I believe the majority of the team had to get off and push as well. Ain't no shame!!

Finally, after what had already seemed like an eternity of climbing, I saw two beauties; a gorgeous waterfall, and even more beautiful, a drink shop! I pulled over, took some pictures, and then around the same time Conor and Allegra pulled up and we took a much needed refuel break. There was still a little bit more climbing to go, but I felt drained. I couldn't believe how drained I actually felt. Where did all my burst of energy go? I was spooning peanut butter in my mouth at breakfast! Then I looked at my bike computer and realized "Oh, I've been cycling for 2 hours and 38 minutes without any fuel. No-freaking-wonder."


Rory met up with Conor, Allegra, and I at the drink stop and the four of us were ready to power on. We hopped on our bikes, and cycled maybe 1km, and saw
Steak waiting at another drink stop. Had we of known that he was just around the corner, we all could've taken a break together. The 5 of us knew we were close to the top, and hopped on to get going. We all wanted to take some pictures together to document the peak of accomplishment. Steak got pedal happy, and missed out on some the photo opportunities, but I know the feeling very well of what's after a tough climb; a sweet and victorious downhill that he just couldn't resist (he was lucky enough to make one picture!)

After our group photo op, we bombed it down the hill and met back up with Steak for lunch. Alright, so the big bad hill and tough part is over right?? "Nope, think again Andrea!" I sit here reflecting to myself. After, lunch we still had about 55km to get to the town of Ngoc Hoi. I started off well in my groove; I was keeping up with Steak, and marveled at the gorgeous scenery that I was riding through.

                             Well, the good feeling disappeared after about 35km of keeping up with Steak. It feels so much better to have someone to ride with, but he's a machine and I can only keep up with him for so long. I decided to take a rest and watch those beautiful calves of steel ride off into the distance once I felt the sides of my quadriceps literally start to pulsate with each and every stroke up the incline we were on. From this point, I had exasperated all of my energy. I still had about 18km to go, and had no idea where I was going to get the energy to finish. Every little uphill there was looked like torture. The down hills even felt like they required a strenuous amount of effort. Kids on the side of the road were wide eyed to see a foreigner and excited to say hello as I rode past. I felt guilty, cause I could only muster up a peace sign with my hands. I just slowly paced myself, and kept going.
I saw Steak up ahead. There was only about 10km to go. He asked me how I was feeling, and my response was "dead." He said that we'd finish the last 10km together, which made me feel so good that I was going to be able to arrive with another rider. I was working hard to keep up with him for the last bit. He was tired too, but his tired is still faster than my tired. I noticed that he kept checking behind him to make sure I was in eyesight. This made me happy that I was going to have someone to finish the ride with.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally arrived to Ngoi Hoi!! I was so excited that this day was over. I proudly hugged Steak, and felt so accomplished with the day's cycle. I had battled a huge mountain, blazing heat, and endured the distance of over 100km!! Shortly after, the rest of the team started to arrive in. Everyone else was feeling the same; depleted of energy but relishing the sweet, sweet victory of completing the toughest day on H2H.
Although today was the toughest climb that the team has had thus far, we have all spent the past five days battling several mountains in Vietnam's Central Highlands region. The scenery has been spectacular and climbing mountains on a bicycle has left me with such a feeling of accomplishment. I think the rest of the team would agree with that. My final thoughts on today's ride and the past four days reference a common quote: "Nothing worth having comes easy." The H2H team is cycling an entire country. A COUNTRY! We have all been pushed and tested to our limits, and we have all successfully completed the toughest days of the ride. The outstanding views and feeling at the end of the days are more rewarding that you can imagine. All we have left is nine more days before we arrive in Saigon. What ever am I going to do with myself when I don't have to get on a bike at 8:00am every morning?

Words: Andrea T

Photos: Andrea T & Rory H

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