Friday, August 29, 2014

Epic Camp Day 10: Sunwapta to Lake Louise

I won't sugar coat it: Today was absolutely miserable.  I knew the weather here in Canada was too good to be true, and today made up for it.  It was cold and rainy from the time we woke up to about five minutes before the end of our ride.
The day started with a short 4k run to Honeymoon Lake.  Given that we were at 4500 feet, Newsom was going to make the call as to how long we'd have to swim due to cold water.  His conclusion: Swim as long as you can, but if you're getting hypothermic, get out.  Yep, that about sums it up.  The water was f'ing frigid!  As usual, I got in the water and started following my favorite swim buddy Shannon.  About five minutes in, my hands and feet were numb.  I checked my watch thinking we'd been in the water for 20+ minutes.  Nope.  5.  This was torture, but since it was our last official swim, I wanted to beast mode the full 3k.  I got it done, but I definitely paid for it.  After getting out, I could barely get dressed because I saw shaking so much.  It definitely reminded me of my 19min T1 at Tahoe last year.  The 4k jog back to the cabin helped warm me up a bit, but it wasn't nearly enough.
Before the big ride of the day, I could tell it was going to be a shitty day.  The rain was coming down, and the temperature was dropping.  I put just about every piece of warm clothing I had in my day bag on top of what I was already wearing.  The details for the ride were: 178k with two KOMs at 54k and 134k.  Translation: LONG with two HUGE climbs in the worst possible weather.  I think I was completely soaked less than 10k into the ride.  It wasn't raining too hard, but the spray from wheels including my own was wrecking my gloves and shoes.  Around 25k, the front group took off.  I hung back with the more logical crew.  The theme from yesterday continued: No energy.  I just didn't have it.
The first KOM was a grinder.  There's a steep part in the beginning followed by a downhill and finishing up with a long slog at a steady grade.  The steep part was tough.  I caught up to Gary and just chilled on his wheel for a while.  He didn't know that the steep part wasn't the KOM, so he dropped back a bit.  For the steady part, Gareth and I just slogged up that.  Brutal, brutal grind.  Eventually we saw the top, and he busted out a solid sprint to take it...for like 10th place (the front group was long gone.)  At the top, they had the greatest soup of my life.  In reality, it probably wasn't that great, but given the situation, it was everything I could have hoped for at the top of a climb.  At the aid station at the top, I also made the decision to put on my long sleeve thermal shirt (layer number 4) and put garbage bags on my completely drenched feet.
From there, we had a long descent down to the next aid station at 100k.  Normally I love descents, but given the weather, this was the last thing I wanted.  Freezing.  Cold.  The other guys here are also much faster at descents due to gearing, so I missed the group which meant 45k solo.  Actually, Douglas came by, so he want I cruising along together for a while.
After what seemed like forever, Douglas and I got to the aid station.  Actually, we missed it, but thanks to a really awesome car, they let us know and we doubled back a bit.  Initially the garbage bags that I put on my feet were a good idea, but somehow water got in and never drained.  The pools in my shoes were quite annoying, so I ditched them at 100k.  Feet were still freezing though.  I downed two Snickers bars, and since the main group was rolling out, I decided to head out too.
The next KOM was at 134k.  Almost immediately I was dropped by the pack.  Molina didn't have much either, so it was me and him grinding away up this mountain.  Near the top, I hit my low.  According to Molina, I didn't hit rock bottom because I was still pedaling, but I will tell you now that I was as close to getting off my bike as I have ever been.  I was questioning how I ever got into this mess, why I even decided to buy a bike, and probably even the meaning of life.  I was dropping F-bombs left and right and yelling, "Where the hell is the top!?!?!"  It was bad.  Cold, wet, and absolutely miserable.
After a quick lunch at the top, we had a decent descent down to Lake Louise.  It wasn't pleasant, but at least I knew the end was near.  A Red Bull gave me some wings for the final stretch, and after almost seven long, treacherous, uncomfortable, grueling, and stressful hours, that bitch of a ride was done.  Molina and I celebrated with a quick dip in the hot tub which was amazing after a day full of numb hands and feet.  The circulation returned.
I didn't take many pictures today partly because I couldn't get my camera out, and if I did, I couldn't squeeze my fingers hard enough to turn it on.  It's also a day I would rather forget.  I'm sure in some weird way it made me tougher, but it was also the worst training day of my life.  Today was supposed to be one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the world, and it was ruined by cold, wet fog.  What a disappointment.  If there's one thing that I want to take away from today, it's a quote from Molina which he told me while I was hating life up the second KOM: "Even if you have the perfect race, it always fucking hurts."

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