I wake sore and feeling like I’ve been mugged which is not a good sign. Even though I haven’t figured it out yet I am dehydrated and suffering badly. After the crash yesterday my body has kind of congealed, like old congee left on hot concrete and peed over periodically by passing dogs.
My face is very puffy. A picture later that day reveals the extent of my new Asiatic face, which I grow quite partial to, adopting new nicknames and attracting a new legion of fanboys in the peloton. Other people are suffering too, some have dropped today.
This would be a good morning for an IV from the team doctor, intense bandaging of my badly swollen and sore as f**k thigh and some Dr Good-death pills. I go the stiff upper lip route instead and settle for a solid breakfast and dressing quietly in the chilly gray morning, sobbing stoically into my knuckles.
Today’s session is the flat fast course from 2015 that I loved so much. It’s “supposed” to be my kind of course – minimal climbing, lots of pack riding on roads (farm and tarmac) and a great sprint up a slight false flat on an another Ecovia trail (which you’ll recall is basically an old railroad converted to a dedicated bike path.) Howard and co pulled this one like a diesel in 2015.
Starts well enough. I hang with the pack for an hour and change, but then slowly, ever so slowly, the needle on my battery starts to fade, ampule after ampule draining away.
Try to hook the same 40 km/hr with the Europcar train but this time it’s a tired leg slugfest across muddy farm and sandy water laden tracks to the tune of the driving headwind. Dave from S Africa graciously hauls my pathetic ass back into contact just as we turn off the tarmac and I promptly slide like jelly off the plate out the back again.
I end up soloing a lot of after this. Not that I mind the epic face cleansing of the windy sections. Or the muddy tracks. Or the sandy, soul sapping trails. It’s just that I have no gas. I also struggle to eat all day. Struggle to drink too. Struggle to think.
Connect with the Canadian senior posse towards the last third of the day. They are going strong – Bob is looking like he’s going to finish today and get his first complete Trans Portugal which is amazing for him. He’s the guy who introduced me to Trans Portugal in the first place. At almost 70 years old he’s an honest to god inspiration.
I hook up with my roomie Francois towards the end and we ride in for almost the last 40km. He’s in a good steady mode, riding solid, and hangs with my silent suffering. Not feeling like dancing. Or talking. My stomach is in revolt. It’s a horrible performance. I barely speak for an hour and a half.
We arrive, we finish, we navigate Evora. Dinner is a struggle, feel nauseous. I get some welcome abuse from the UK table cheering me sarcastically as I arrive for finishing. All in good fun of course.
Discuss my secret plan to the horror of others, but sticking to my guns leave the buffet and go to McDonald’s by taxi. 8 euro ride and 3 burgers later, I walk home satisfied by the grease and the little side trip through Evora.
I talk to Alfredo who is manning the pop up shop when I get back to the hotel (which incidentally is absolutely beautiful – almost too good for muddy bikers), he immediately suspects borderline dehydration and calls the doctor. She checks me out and announces borderline, but don’t need an IV, just lots of tea, and salt and honey.
I get a massage, I drink tea till almost midnight, and finally pee for the first time in many hours.
I also get on the Sponsor hydration and nutrition program, because mine is basically in tatters. New fluids, new bars, new gels that are the size of toothpaste tubes. It’s amazing to me how my body demands have changed over the first half of the race.
Sleep is not forthcoming, I’m tense and wired and think about getting a sleeping pill just to rest. Love to know what others are doing to recover at this stage. Whatever I have going is barely working.
Still, it’s almost 100 miles on a mountain bike in awful conditions, so maybe, one day I’ll be happy about it. Well done to everyone – most almost all the riders finish the day.
Additional Photo Credits: https://pedronc.smugmug.com