Today started out on a much more reasonable footing (or pedal stroke). After quitting with the sun last night, he was able to rise with it this morning and be biking by 6:30. John's new goal is to avoid riding in the dark. He will be faster and get more sleep. After 20 miles of biking this morning, he enjoyed a breakfast of steak and eggs (and coffee! which is not a guarantee most mornings). John's first texts stated, "Great night. Slept under the stars. No night riding." He said the nausea is better. Scratch hydration drink is the magic. That and cokes. And ice cream. Also hamburgers have been well received!
One other smart strategy he's adopted is walking up the steep hills. This gives his butt and ankles a break (there are achilles tendons blowing up all over the place; achilles strain is a common injury in this race). He can go 4 mph in the saddle or 3 mph walking, so this makes a lot of sense.
His evening reflections were not as hopeful. He is starting to get a little discouraged, saying that he is behind, not keeping up, maybe feels like he is going too slow. I reassured him that he is still mid pack and maintaining a good pace. And that lots of racers are hitting a wall right now, even the pros. This is indeed the hump.... might be for a few days. I told him to focus on getting sleep. My sense is that racers can start to feel like they are going too slow and that it gonna take forever to finish.... that it will never end. A slow slog up a long climb can make you feel like you'll never get there.
Technical challenge: His eyes are swelling up from his sunglasses not being strong enough (bummer, the guy who sold them to us is an experienced bikepacker/racer and he said they were awesome).
Tonight he is staying in Ovando. Looks like a cute Montana town that is keen to host cyclists (it's smart to be bike friendly!). He is sleeping in a covered wagon. The bugs are vicious and he is feeling filthy after a hot day and one pass that was 4000 feet of climbing.
|Top of Swan Pass|
|Ouch.... sun-damaged eyes|
Day #6 - Ovando to Helena
He woke up feeling good. Said this is the best he's felt in the morning. Nothing like a good night's sleep. Is he over the hump?
Biked another 107 today, totaling 662! He is a one quarter of the way!!! Lots of passes today; the climbing is feeling tough. He said the last 20 miles he was just hating it. "This is no fun," he told me. Arrived in Helena around 11 p.m., then took an hour to grocery shop and find a hotel, so he was up too late eating and washing his clothes.
Yet I think he enjoyed the middle part of the day, at least. He texted: "Most incredible thing about today was no man-made noises. Just wind and bird songs. And incredible wildflowers. I wanted to lay down in the meadow." I keep hoping that his love of being in the woods will keep him going.
|Somewhere on the way to Helena....|
Scary tidbit about someone else that John has been riding with on and off. Lots of folks have said they've seen bears. But a woman from New Zealand had the privilege of an encounter! She was biking along and alone near Swan Pass, looked up as a grizzly crossed the trail. It reared up and charged her. She blew her whistle and yelled like crazy and did end up using bear spray, which also got it her face. The bear did retreat. Poor woman, there are no large mammals in NZ..... at least she will have quite a tale to share back home!