Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Day 9

Departure 7:05 a.m.
Arrival 2:30 p.m.
97 miles
1,600' of climbing
Departure Temp: 41
Arrival Temp: 81

The most significant feature of today was riding out of altitude. I mentioned yesterday that many of us were having problems with altitude one way or another. Most were having mild to severe bloating/fluid retention issues (one person even went to the hospital for some IV therapy). Since I hammered the hills yesterday and was barely even aware of the altitude I had no fear and trepidation about today. One thing I'm learning while on Tour is performance one day is absolutely no predictor of performance tomorrow.

It was cold (41 degrees) and out of the hotel parking lot we were faced with an 8% grade ascent. The minute my foot hit the pedal I knew I was in big trouble. The thin air, the cold, muscles that weren't warmed up, and muscles that had worked hard the day before ground me to a complete halt. I made it to the first ridge of the first climb (there were 3 big climbs out of the valley) and absolutely could not breathe. I had to stop for 5-6 minutes gasping for breath while the other riders seemingly sailed on past. When I/we weren't climing, we were descending 8-10% grades in either the cloak of early morning darkness or blinding sun-rise depending on which side of the mountain we were on. That makes seeing scree on the road difficult and us difficult to see for morning trucks and commuter traffic.

The morning was a challenge for all of us, but each had his/her own stories of why and how. Dennis, one of our Alaskan riders, still thought it was summer so was riding in short fingered gloves, a short sleeved jersey, and riding shorts. This time he readily admits he was COLD. When he passed through the little town of Capitan he found a local roasting chilis on some kind of a kettle drum. He stopped to warm up over the grill and was the benefactor of some chillis and a plastic bag to put under his jersey to break the wind. Another rider hit speeds of 47 mph going down those descents with the vision limitations. Way to scary for me, for sure.

With my slow start I was quickly at the back of the pack, sort of a lonely place to be. Since there was some confusion on the route card some riders were backtracking. By the time I got to the first rest stop at mile 24 there were 5 of us who rode together to lunch. Basically from the 1st rest stop to Roswell was a slow descent from the starting elevation of 7,300 to 4,000. I began to feel better physically as we continued to descend and actually finished quite strong, but the morning took its toll.

All of us are beginning to get a return of our kidney function and, therefor, beginning to loose the bloating in our tissues.

Roswell is, of course, the home of the UFO museum 3 miles from our hotel. PAC shuttled those who wanted to go to and from the museum which is in an old movie theater. Everything about the museum has a 1950's feel to it. None of the people I talked to came out a believer.

The country side today was, as usual, beautiful--rolling lands with cattle grazing, horses corralled, and families of elk. Almost as holy for me as the corn and soybean field of the midwest.

Tomorrow appears to be a flat day to Clovis, NM.

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