We hit rain from the old toll booths to the corner near Zopkios Brake check (that's that rest stop just before the big down hill). For those who don't know the area, that's about 3/4 of a mile where it rained. It was a nice cooling rain...not the "oh boy...here we go again" kind of rain.
I'd spent the previous few days on the phone with various authorities responsible for maintaining the highways and getting an update on the construction that was happening on the steep downhill known as "Snowshed Hill". We would have to keep our speed to 60kph/40mph through the construction zone. That may sound fast, but on a 4km/2.5mile stretch of road that is more than 8% downhill, and has parts at 11% that's brake-cookingly slow. We made it down safe and sound and entered the tunnel. Soon after the tunnel the wind we'd been missing for the last 3 hours appeared full force.
We were riding downhill into a ferocious headwind and the group began to split up. Folks at the front were rolling at 35kph, and I had teamed up with Chris to try and pull the back of the group up. The problem was, we couldn't go more than about 32kph. Riders behind me couldn't stay with me if I went any faster, and I couldn't go much faster myself pushing into that headwind. I got on the radio and tried to get the lead pilot car to slow up, but we still couldn't close the gap very quickly. We were most of the way down the hill and the wind was still blowing hard when we finally closed the gap. I was exhausted.
We pulled off onto Othello Road to take the back way into Hope and were finally out of the wind. It's a nice winding road that's generally not very busy because there's a 110kph/65mph highway "just over there" that goes to the same place. The road winds along the river and finally has a nasty little uphill section about 400m/1/4mile at 10% before the gentle "coast" into Hope.
I'd been feeling pretty good up to this point in the ride, and the group's morale had been fantastic. We got real quiet at the bottom of this climb and the words of encouragement were called out to riders struggling as we neared the top. I saw Al pushing Vicki up the last part of the hill and smiled - there's a running joke Vicki and I have about our love for hills. So there we were about 3/4 of the way up this grunt of a hill, and that's where it really stopped going well for me. My right abductor started to cramp. Don't worry if you don't know where that is...I had to cramp it before I found out I had one. Actually you have two. If you put your hand, palm down on the top of your thigh, your thumb lands on the inside of your thigh. That's your abductor. I found myself trying to pedal a bike up this hill while being unable to push the right pedal. I got a little further up the hill pushing with only my left leg and was driving my right thumb into my thigh to stop the cramp. It wasn't working...I called to Al to give me a hand and he started to push me up the hill.
I couldn't pedal any more...my right thigh was cramping up just from being pushed around by the pedal, so I had to ask Al to push me while I stopped pedaling. So there we were...Al pedaling for both of us to get the last 50m over the hill, and I was bruising my thigh to stop a cramp. I pretty-much coasted into Hope with occasional pushes from Al to keep my speed up, and I headed straight for the food after carefully dismounting from my bike. "I must be running out of electrolytes" I thought. (In hindsight, I may have been over-dosed on the electrolytes.) I had some potato chips, some chicken noodle soup, some water...and tried to stretch my cramping leg.
There was a lady from our local community TV channel filming a documentary on the ride. There's a clip of me in the program, sitting on a park bench eating and I'm asked,
"How do you feel?"
"Tired and proud." I reply. Five minutes later, I was sitting on the grass, unable to move either leg. Both my quadriceps and my other abductor were cramping. The wheels had fallen off, and I would not be leaving Hope on my bike.
The picture here sets the scene. Danika is there with her camera to the left. Al's in the foreground with his shoes off and the white socks. I'm sitting on the park bench in the background frantically shoveling food into my face.
The next photo has Dotty taking a picture of Gladys and me. See I'm still smiling.
And then I've tracked down
the Massage Therapist who
was a volunteer on the ride to help. The paramedics have given me a heat pad for my muscle and it's not really helping.
We take a group photo in Hope of all the riders and volunteers together. I couldn't stand up to get myself over there. So, Kelsey, Kerry and
Ray carried me over and set me down in the photo. I'm at the bottom left in the front row.
I was afraid to move for fear of cramping again, and I worried the you-know-what out of my wife. Sorry dear.
After the photo, the riders mount up and head back on the road for the last 140km to home. The wind was blowing still, and I would be doing the next leg in the back of the RV. The ambulance was the only other
choice, and once you get in the ambulance, your ride is done.
I drank a lot of water over the next hour or so...went to the bathroom (that's a good sign - it means you're not dehydrated), and generally had a great time talking to volunteers and relay riders in the RV.
I saw a side of R2S I've never seen before and I was back up and walking about by the next rest stop in Deroche. Right after the stop in Deroche is a 1.5km hill at 11% and it's not the sort of thing one tries to ride up with cold legs that have recently cramped up. I was back into the RV to the Mission rest stop. More water, more bathroom visits and some more food. I was helping unload luggage and handing out food and snacks at the Mission rest stop and cheering riders on as they rolled out. Many asked how I was, and I was feeling fine.
The sunset was beautiful and I changed from the RV to the pickup that was towing the trailer with my bike in it for the next leg. I re-joined the ride in Surrey and rode the final stretch in with the pack. It's a fantastic event and a fantastic thank you to riders, volunteers, family and supporters that were there to welcome us home.
Congratulations to Markus for finishing the ride, and to our wives for surviving the day. Volunteering on this ride is not easy and the riders can't do it without them.
Thank you to you readers too for allowing the annual R2S intrusion into this blog and for your support of the ride. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go put my newly made "STP bike ride" socks away. They're STR Cougar (yes, that's "Socks that Rock" STR) and they were made to replace the pair I wore out. It's very sad when you wear a hole though a favourite pair of socks. But, it's okay when you can buy more yarn and your wife will happily craft a new pair.