Saturday, February 12, 2011

TdA Stage 23. Hell on Wheels.

107km. To Gondar.

The memory of this ride stings so sharply that only now can I speak of it.

It started with midnight fever and chills, mixed with a handful of urgent sprints out of the tent and through a potholed paddyfield.

After staring through my breakfast for ten minutes, I realized that I would have to actually get some of it in my mouth if I wanted it to be useful for the ride. I felt like I was in a zombie movie. Under any other circumstances, I would have stayed home or gone to a hospital. But there was only one thing for me to do. Get on the bike.

I am going to EFI.

I avoid counting down the mileage on my rides, as I cycle for pleasure; however, this was a countdown ride from the moment I got in the saddle. This is the challenge of the EFI. Yes, having support and companionship makes the journey *much* more comfortable/safer/enjoyable in many ways. One luxury that it does not provide is flexibility in time. If I want to EFI, I have to do it on the same day as everyone else. Regardless of what supremely inhuman things my body is doing.

'Epic' is an appropriate word to describe the climb that started the day. At 5.4km/hr and a bathroom stop every few kilometres, the mileage passes painfully slowly. Carrie rode with me as (fortunately?) she was also ill.

Doing basic math at the top of the first climb, it began to sink in that we may not have enough daylight to finish the ride. I decided to keep that thought to myself, though it continued to torture me as I re-calculated with every up and every down and every mile that passed.

We stopped for lunch and the dude beside me commented on the amount of body heat I was kicking off. No hiding a fever.

As the ride progressed, the children became less friendly and more aggressive. It started with throwing rocks (some approaching the size of tennis balls) and sticks (imagine a two or three foot pool cue). It seems that these kids have a lot of time to practice their aim. Slightly more troubling were the mobs of kids that would slap/punch/pick-pocket as we passed. One group almost got Carrie off her bike. We were glad to still be together at that point, though I still wouldn't like our chances against a devilish crew like that.

We eventually learned to 'go easy' at the first sight of children, so that we could 'sprint' through the danger zone. Unfortunately, the 'danger zone' was usually near the top of a hill and a 'sprint' in our condition barely registered in the double digits. And, hey, those kids can run! We had some kids carry 17km/hr for what seemed like an eternity. If there is such a thing as bitter admiration, that's what I felt.

I made it, only with the Carrie's unbelievable support. Peter-the-Plumber made it, too. By the hair of his chin, but he did it. Thank god that we have two days in Gondar to recover.
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network


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