A Blog About Brian Albritton's September 2012 Cycling Ride Across Britain

Monday, September 17, 2012

Observations from the Ride: I Was Lost and then Recovered

I finished the End-to-End ride yesterday and will return home tomorrow. I want to thank you, my family and friends, for your encouragement, support, and prayers. I want to share with you over the next few blog posts some of what I experienced and the people I met on the ride.

I was talking with another rider today here at the hotel in Inverness. As we were speaking about the ride, we both teared up at points: there were so many emotional and moving points in the ride. For me, it was Stage Two: Okehampton to Bath. Stage One from Land's End had been brutal; though it had been listed at over 4,000 feet of climbing, the Garmins on many bikes had shown it was almost 8,000 feet of climbing. Many of these climbs were of incredibly steep hills. Even the best riders did not go over 5 mph over the hills. It was hill after hill all the way to the end, and a struggle to make it over them. I gave it everything I had to complete the ride.

As a result, at the beginning of Stage Two I was spent. I was so tired I rode 6 miles off course. When I got back to the ride, I was listless and had no energy. My eyes were heavy; I felt like I wanted to sleep. I was in despair. I did not know how I would complete the ride. One of the ride chaperones, Bob, rode up to me and told me I was the last person; everyone was in front of me. He and I were just in front of the sweep wagon.

Bob realized I was in a bad way. There is a condition in riding called "bonking", when the body shuts down and becomes listless and without energy due to the lack of energy and carbohydrates: essentially, the body's reserves are gone. I was about at that point. Bob started feeding me - chocolates, a tuna sandwich, and other stuff. One of the medical cars accompanying the ride stopped too. The driver took some of my gear and offered me a glucose drink. Minutes later, that guy --  I didn't get his name -- stood by the side of the road, and as I was riding along handed me a drink, just like at a Tour de France feed zone. Bob paced me to the first stop at mile 37 where I got even more food. Bob was so upbeat. I asked him if I should abandon. He said, "Depends on what you came here for, to just enjoy yourself or to finish." I came to finish the whole ride, I told him.

I started off again and kept riding. It was not getting better. I just wanted to sleep; I had no energy. I was praying and just trying to keep pedaling. As I came upon 50 miles, I thought, I can't do this anymore. I stopped, thinking I was going to abandon. At that exact moment, Bob came up. In his cheerful way he said, "Hey Brian, you can't stop on a downhill." I started riding again, telling myself and praying, "Just make it to 60 miles." And at 60, I told myself, just make it 70. I did that in 10-mile increments, celebrating each 10 miles I finished. I completed huge, steep climbs at 55 and 85 miles as well.

By the end of the day,  I had cycled 116 miles. I finished feeling pretty good, with a group of riders I would continue to ride with until the end of the ride yesterday.

I was so grateful to Bob, and we embraced when I saw him in camp. I had been lost, thinking I would have to abandon after 11 months of preparation and 6,000 miles of riding. And, then I was found, having recovered my energy and a regular cadence to overcome the climbs remaining that day. I was happy and thankful: I had completed the day. The emotion on finishing was overwhelming.

I will post more tomorrow. I arrive back in Tampa tomorrow.

Brian Albritton
Inverness, Scotland
September 17, 2012

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