Tuesday, May 3, 2011

TdA Stage 86. There is no I in EFI.

126km. Konkiep Lapa to Seeheim Castle Camp.
Location is everything when you are camping in the rain, and I've come to be reasonably good at selecting well. I can usually even avoid digging a drainage ditch by extra careful placement.
But, I was not so clever last night.
What I didn't account for was I) the volume of rain that we would encounter, and II) that others would set their tents up so close to me and dig drainage ditches (accidentally) pointing toward my tent.
I woke up feeling like the ground underneath me was a whole lot softer than I'd remembered it going to bed last night. It was a feeling akin to being on an air mattress in a swimming pool, except that it was dark and rainy instead of sunny and I was in for a cocktail of mud suffering and instead of long island iced tea by the pool.
I waited for as long as I could to get out of the tent, hoping that the rain would subside. But the rain still came. It was the first morning in a while that I dreaded packing up the tent and getting on the road. At least I'm not sick anymore.
I eventually sucked it up and told myself that it would be ok once I was on the road. As I was leaving the camp, there was another rider cycling back into camp. He'd gone out a few hundred metres and decided that it was not ridable and came back to get in the truck.
I quickly discovered why.
The consistency of the mud on the road allowed tires to sink in far enough to make steering a full body effort. The granny gears were out in full force. It would be 31kms until I reached the first town, and pavement. I calculated and recalculated my time to the pavement. Three hours to go....two and a half hours to go...two hours and twenty seven minutes to go.
It was hard not to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation. It was just as challenging as I'd feared while I had been laying in my tent this morning. Yet it was somehow so fun. Even when things are bad, they are good.
At the town where the road switched to pavement there was a little shop selling pies and coffee...and, for some reason, Barbies. I warmed up and waited out the rain with Carrie and Kim and a few others, while indulging in all of the shops specialties, including a wedding Barbie, which I strapped to my helmet. Everyone needs a mascot.
When I finally got moving again, I was delighted to find that the next stretch of road was not just paved, but had a slight decline. That is, until after just a couple of kilometres out of town, when my rear shifter busted, leaving me with a three speed bike that was woefully inadequate for the tail wind on the paved road. I tried to make the most of it by doing ultra high cadence intervals.
After close to an hour of this, one of the support trucks passed me and it was carrying a sectional rider, Christina, who had thrown in the towel for the day. She kindly offered me her mountain bike to finish off the remaining 70 kilometres. I suppose that I could have finished the ride with my limited gears, but I would have paid the price tomorrow - I would have finished more tired and likely too late to replace my shifter.
We may be more than three quarters of the way through the trip, but I still find myself quite focused on making sure that I achieve EFI. This means avoiding unnecessary risks (such as riding 70kms - or possibly more than one day - with one gear). Christina helped me out a lot today by lending me her bike. It is not the first time that I've been saved - that my EFI has been saved - by the effort of another. It was Carrie who got me into Gondar when my guts were trying their best to escape my body. It was Young-Adam who gave me his emergency water on the way in to Isiolo. It was NoHomo, Kendra, Mike-without-a-bike and Paul Spencer who got me the last available hotel rooms on various days when I was too sick to take care of myself.
All along the way, I have relied on others to help me keep the dream alive. There is no I in EFI.


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