Since my return to the bike, my fitness has incrementally improved as measured in muscle strength, stamina, and bum soreness. I have been supported by encouraging and patient friends who have helped me tremendously. But today was the test. Kari woke up feeling a bit low on energy and unwell so she made the wise choice to ride the van to recover (too often riders will push themselves beyond their limits, creating medical catastrophes insteadof mnageable ailments).
So I set out for a long day of 150ish km of rolling hills with more hills up than down. The morning 20 km was gorgeous and at 25 km we crossed the Luangwa river, a major tributary to the Zambezi. Immediately after the bridge was a small village with market stalls of dried tiger fish, woven grass goods, and fried fritters. Many riders stopped, even though it was a “mando” day (the toughest day of each section on which racers push it hard causing a cascade feeling resulting in all riders going a little stronger). The break was much needed as the next 50 km were rough. Lots of hills, very rough friction pavement, and rain for 10km. I spent the 10km before lunch listing the reasons to stop for the day! When I pulled into lunch, 10 fellow riders were huddled under the tarp, silently eating cheese sandwiches with long faces. I immediately felt this spirit that we are all in this together. It was enough of a boost to urge me on.
I am so glad! The afternoon was easier but still a bit long. I arrived into camp at 3pm, 9 hours after I left… tired but beaming from ear to ear with a big grin. An accomplished goal is more satisfying after putting in the hard effort.