Last night we arrived back in Safford totally wasted after 107miles. Great folks at First Baptist were waiting for us with a gorgeous meal, which we scoffed down, and then split up to stay at four different hosts for the night. I’m with the Smiths, who are a delightful family with two boys. I really needed my sleep but in between a dozen or so trips to the bathroom during the night to deal with my gut issues, I got maybe two hours sleep. In my fleeting bouts of half sleep I think I was constantly paranoid of leaving my mark in a very memorable but inappropriate way on the bed of kind 11-year-old Andrew who’d vacated it for me for a couple of nights. “Oh yeah, I remember that missionary guy with diarrhea who…” You get my drift!
Sleep is crucial and I’m just not getting it. So it was interesting as I skyped my sister Rebecca in England. I think she was in a pub watching England v France in the rugby, and as we talked, I just burst into tears. I’m not sure she even noticed, as it wasn’t a great connection on the line, but I just think that talking to someone I loved unexpectedly triggered a switch and opened the floodgates of tension and exhaustion that had been welling up in me. I then perused a few pictures of Lizzie and the kids and tears flowed again. I’ve watched documentaries of tough men (far far tougher than us, I’m not putting us in one of their categories at all) doing incredible endurance feats and slowly being broken down, and I guess that’s what’s happening on a much smaller level to us.
I spoke twice in the morning, and due to the tiredness repeatedly felt on the edge of tears. But it went well, and people seemed genuinely impacted and challenged.
So today is a recovery day – not a rest day, but a recovery one. So we had a brief ride planned to keep the muscles and miles ticking over, knowing that Monday and Tuesday are going to be nasty as we head up and down some more mountains. We got 17miles done, a lot of it very steep up into the mountains, and that felt good to get them under our belts. The beauty of the rugged scenery was literally awe-inspiring.
We returned in time for me to speak at the evening meeting, standing on leaden legs, and again it was a great time. It’s such fun to meet new people along our trip who are so supportive and generous. Our taste of Safford has been a sweet one, thanks Ken and all your gang!
(Picture of John and Pastor Ken)
So looking back from Monday through Saturday, we did 86miles, then 107, 80, 112, 93 and 107. The first two weeks are meant to be the hardest, and we are half way through them, before three ‘easier’ weeks to the finish in Charleston, South Carolina. In terms of the three of us, I would say that I am still the weakest link because of my knees and my chaffing backside (got some Sudafed today which is baby backside cream), but if I can get through this coming week, I’ll be quietly confident of making it to the end (at the start I’d given myself a 15% chance to get through day 1). I am the slowest because of my knee injuries, but paradoxically, I go up the mountains fastest, because it strains them too much to stay in the saddle, so I do most of it standing, which drains more energy but gives me more speed. Craig probably has the strongest legs, and has a great kick to him when he wants to suddenly take off, but he struggles the most with food and getting it down him, so has been the most trashed of us at the end of some of the days. And Jeff was always going to be the strong link because he’s fifteen years younger than us and was already a keen and experienced cyclist, but he still gets some aches having sliced clean through his Achilles tendon nine months ago in a horrific cycling accident (great gruesome pictures on his blog – www.haulinhennessy.blogspot.com scroll down to last August – inside his actual leg during the operation!). All of us are struggling with our guts, all of us are desperately weary, all of us are determined. So roll on Week 2!