It is profoundly demoralising being me!
Don’t get me wrong, I love me and my life…..the reason I say this is due to the way I ride my bike (especially during endurance events).
I am slow!
I’ve always been slow. I am getting faster (slowly) but I doubt I’ll ever progress much beyond my current average speed and I’m kind of OK with that most of the time.
One thing I do to help myself stave off last place in everything I enter is to put in some very long days in the saddle. I’ve never had pace but I can keep riding my bike all day without feeling the need to rest or take frequent breaks.
The upside of this is that by the end of day 1 of the Tuscany Trail I was in a fairly good position (on paper) and had clocked up a decent mileage – so far so good.
The downside is that I get passed. By everyone. Multiple times a day. Every day!
I’d get up earlier than most and so I’d get past by a whole bunch of people around mid morning once they’d had a nice lay-in, a leisurely breakfast and then eventually jumped onto their bikes around 09:30 (I wish!).
They’d then stop for lunch at which point I’d slowly plod past them (though there’s no glory in it for me as they’re either sat in full view tucking into some delicious looking Italian meal or it happens unbeknownst to us all and no one is any the wiser).
The second passing usually happened mid-afternoon once they’d let their decadent lunch settle, maybe taken a small nap and then reasoned they should put another hour or so on the bike before calling it a day.
Some days and with some groups there was a third passing after the evening meal but usually I’d pass people once they were soundly asleep either in the trees somewhere or tucked up in a nice B&B as I rode silently past.
Needless to say that I rarely experience(d) that most glorious feelings, that of chasing down the rider in front, easing slowly past them whilst giving a smug ‘ciao’ and a nod of the head.
Instead I would be gracious in defeat each time a cyclist or group cruised by and endure the comedic banter that comes with them realising that it was the 4th time they’d past me that day (and maybe the 10th overall) – it hurts!
It also doesn’t do a lot for morale.
Ok, let’s get back to the trip…..
I awoke early on Saturday morning and was showered, dressed, breakfast’d and on the trail by 07:30.
It was raining but that didn’t matter as I’d ridden longer and further than I’d hoped the day before and so it was with high spirits that I trundled towards Florence.
It wasn’t long before progress was halted by a puncture which took over an hour to fix due to the bloody tubeless ready tyres/rim being a bugger to remove and replace (even though the rear was being run with a tube).
Here’s a photo I like taken beneath a busy underpass whilst I repaired the bike out of the rain:
Problem solved and, after being passed by about 10 riders, I moved on into the increasingly bright morning.
I soon reached Florence and what a pretty city it is:
As I was eating a swift second breakfast (in the mighty fine pizza emporium pictured above) I was passed by Jasper (a fellow Brit) who I wouldn’t see again due to him being a lot faster than me but who I’d get tantalisingly close to (I know via watching our progress on the Spot tracking page) which was a nice bit of encouragement in some of the darker moments of the ride.
Once out the other side of Florence my legs really began to feel the efforts of the previous day and the first signs of the slump that was to come were rearing their ugly heads.
Every hillock felt like a mountain and every minor hurdle began to feel epic.
I realise now that I was just feeling low but at the time I genuinely felt as though I was somehow going through a very different experience to all of the other riders, that my day was soooo much harder and that the cards were stacked massively against me alone etc…
Nonsense – I just wasn’t prepared for the physical and mental fatigue that I was enduring and I didn’t deal with it very well.
I flumped on but it was a broken man who limped through the beautiful Tuscan countryside on that slow painful day.
I hit rock bottom around lunchtime:
I was beyond tired, beyond broken and a long way from where I wanted to end up by the end of day two.
I tried everything, motivational texts with the wife, chocolate, the evilest drink in the world (coke) and more chocolate but nothing could bring me back from the black hole I’d entered.
So…..I sucked it up, got my head down and just kept on pedaling.
Slowly, slowly crawling forwards but at least I was moving forwards.
I was done! Finished. Out for the…..wait a minute…..I wasn’t about to give up that easily (though so many reasons to stop riding entered my head that it was hard to resist them all).
I stopped, took stock of where I was, thought about why I was here and before long my mojo had been semi-rejuvinated by the stunning scenery and up I got:
I kept on keeping on and before long the will to live returned. Before I knew it I was back in the zone and ready to put some real miles in once again.
The trail-side beauty was something else and for an hour or so all negative thoughts subsided and I got on with the business at hand:
I passed so many amazing little towns and villages with some of the best snacks and treats I’ve eaten in many a year but everything that day was such a blur that I can’t recall the names any of them.
Below are a few snapshots of some of the pretty places I passed:
I had a chance meeting with a fella named Matteo, an Italian fella who had only heard about the event a couple of days before the start and so he’d downloaded the route from last year onto his phone and was following along on his own but tagging along with other riders whenever he could.
I really admired his balls at just jumping in and seeing what happened and so we rode together for a while chatting before he decided to stop for something to eat while I decided to carry on (got to put those hours in!).
The thing that stuck with me was the pizza that arrived as I was saying goodbye – it was, without doubt, the mightiest looking pizza I have ever seen in my life, bar none!
We’ve emailed since and he has confirmed that it was a once-in-a-lifetime pizza (and he’s Italian!) and so I’m at least pleased that my obsession was well-founded.
Nope, we’re done.
My floundering and miserably slow pace lasted until about 6 o’clock at which time I decided to get something to eat and call it a day.
I’d only ridden for 11 hours (9 hours moving time -pitiful) and covered less than 110km but I knew that I was done for and that to carry on would lead to an early bath for the whole trip – I needed rest and so I took it.
Below you can see the meal I ate, the beer I drank (ok, I had two – who’s counting?) and the stats for the day:
I was in bed by 21:00 and determined that day 3 would be a different ball-game altogether.
Let’s see what happened…..