I trained for the climbs in Hawaii by riding our little ‘bumps’ in the middle of the Pacific over and over again. I tried to train for the effects of altitude by riding in the heat of the Hawaiian day (makes your body work harder to cool you down). And yes, Haleakala is in Hawaii, but it’s also on a different island and we just don’t have the money to fly over there! What I wasn’t prepared for was the cold.
By cold, I mean 55. THAT is really cold for me. That’s leg warmers and arm sleeves and toe covers and two jackets. When it’s down in the low 40’s, I’m wearing everything I own to stay warm. Which worked for all but the last half mile of Sunday’s ride, but I’m tired, hungry, fatigued. My immune system is fighting what I call The Berthoud Cold. (It seems every other rider is walking around coughing and sneezing!) My sleep pattern is shot. And my calorie deficit has caught up to me. My husband has the full-on Berthoud Cold. And I took the lead most of Wednesday and pulled him into Avon. That took a lot out of me so this morning, we knew he’d have to help me get up these mountains.
We started early — as recommended in the Route Brief — and were on our bikes by 5:50am. That biting headwind, topped with the 40 degree temperature immediately took its toll and at mile 7 I had to call it. My husband was in a very bad place and I was just holding it together. We tucked our ice-cold tails and headed back to Avon. Since my husband was already shivering on the way UP, the ride down made things worse. He was hypothermic by the time we got back to HQ and they called in an ambulance to get him warm. After about 15 min, they released him with a stern “No riding and no alcohol today!” command. I took care of our bikes and got them on the truck to Breck. When they released my husband, the 20 steps he took from the ambulance to the cafeteria started him shivering again! So I pumped him full of hot food and liquid to warm up his core.
I don’t like to do anything half way. I fought my decision to walk during the Ironman marathon because I though I’d regret it. And the decision to turn around today was similar. We are here to ride, not take a bus. We want to get up to these beautiful places and have stories to tell. And the decision I made to turn around was very hard and I was ashamed as we rode past everyone heading out.
But there comes a point when you have to step back and be smart. And when the EMT said “no” then I knew I’d made the right call. On the bus ride to Breck (which only took an hour!!!) we both slept like rocks. Still cold though! And our luck was with us as we got a room at our hotel at 9:30am. We fell into a hard sleep until 1pm taking only enough time to remove our bike shoes.
The rest of the day was spent eating and sleeping (and shopping for NyQuil where I saw many other riders picking up cold and flu medication). We are calling it a night at 7pm and we won’t be starting so early tomorrow.
There is no shame in the SAG wagon. It’s there for this exact reason. Day 1 of Ride The Rockies 2014 will go down as one of the toughest for the riders AND organizers. And it has taken its toll on a lot of us.
We hope we can finish tomorrow, but I will not hesitate to use a SAG vehicle if needed. No shame.