Discoveries

Our protagonist, trying not to look cold.

When I do European tours, I ride them for a few different reasons. First and foremost is my desire to see a place that is not les Etats Unis. Second is my desire to have a genuine adventure—to do some hard riding and have some thrilling descents. Also, I like to encounter the frustration that comes with getting lost in a strange place, eat new foods, struggle with a foreign language and meet fascinating people.

In the course of doing all this, I generally hope that I’ll gain some new insight into myself, that I’ll learn something that adds a level of understanding or complexity to my world. Sometimes that understanding comes in the guise of plumbing new depths as a rider, or it may come as a newfound appreciation of foreign cultures and their subtleties. On a few occasions it has unfolded as an existential curiosity about why I bother to ride a bicycle and why I choose to write about it.

To be honest, right now, I’m in a very different place. It’s, shall we say, much more elemental. I feel like some rookie cop who has heard that gang members may shoot at him, but then, when confronted with his city’s mean streets, looks at his partner and says, “Dude, they’re shooting!”

I have gas enough to fill a hot air balloon. I’ve developed diaper rash by the end of the ride most days. Back home, I almost never eat red meat; here, I have some almost every day because the alternative would almost certainly result in bonking. As a result of all the red meat, I smell weird. Not just body odor, mind you, but the gas is foul and even my urine reeks. I’m eating so many calories—or at least trying to—that I’m pooping at least twice and sometimes three times in a day. And yes, they smell like someone opened the fridge a week after the power went out.

I went into this trip with the best fitness I’ve had in years. Three days of cold and wet mauled me, forcing me to burn matches I was saving for later in the trip. Yesterday was the killer, arguably the tour’s queen stage, in which we climbed the Col du Galibier, the Col de l’Izoard and into the town of St. Veran, which lies in the shadow of the Col d’Agnel, about two-thirds the way up.

Or is it really as bad as I think? It took me most of the day to ride 64 miles, but we also climbed at least 10,000 vertical feet including two hors categorie cols. I road at a subsistence pace because the fatigue goes down to the bone, but any time the gradient wasn’t 10 percent, I could get on top of a real gear, not the bailout 34×32 (more on that in another post).

RKP‘s Top 10 Reasons Padraig Rode Like Crap:

  1. I’ve got a pinched nerve that kills my neck if I go too hard and long.
  2. My mother called to say she was joining the Jesuits.
  3. Sleeping at 2000m altitude has eliminated the notion of recovery.
  4. I can’t process beef protein unless it is accompanied by beer.
  5. My legs are too tired to pedal a low gear at a high cadence.
  6. My iPod died.
  7. This is the sixth day in a row I’ve climbed more than 7000 feet.
  8. Ugly may only be skin deep but cold goes all the way to the marrow.
  9. Maybe I shouldn’t stay up until midnight installing bike parts.
  10. I’m saving my strength for the really hard days ahead.

As it turns out, at least one of the reasons above is really true. First correct guess gets RKP stickers.

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24 comments

  1. Ron

    I guess number 1. This is because I have neck pain, and it makes me ride like crap. I need to stop looking up, especially when going uphill. Generally there is just more up, which does not help my neck or my moral.

  2. Paul

    “I’ve got a pinched nerve that kills my neck if I go too hard and long.” — if that really is the problem, you have my sympathy, because I have a pinched nerve from a herniated disc, and the pain gets worse and worse on long rides.

    BTW, where does one purchase that great looking RKP kit?

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  4. Bikelink

    Sounds like you’ve scraped off all the messing around and are actually at the edge of life….a great thing. It must be hard to even try to express what you are feeling in the written word, but however paltry the words seem to you they are great reading them here in the kitchen on the laptop after a one hour training ride in the States…


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Thanks for the good words everyone. I do think tomorrow will be a more easily enjoyed day.

      Paul: To inquire about the RKP kit, just drop us a note at killerkit@redkiteprayer.com. I’ve got stuff in stock and can ship when I get back home next week.

      Keep those guesses coming!

  5. Marco Placero

    Hunter beat me to the punch line by saying ‘all of the above,’ but since your mom probably didn’t join the Jesuits, I’d go with 1, 3, 7, AND 9.

    Thanks for the info re kits. Been wanting a second jersey.

  6. todd k

    I’ll say this much, doing hill repeats today were so much easier after reading your updates….

    going with numero 8… mostly becuase we have a slight cold spell today and got me to thinking in a couple of months I’m going to be back in layers…


  7. Author
    Padraig

    Marco Placero was the most correct in answering 1, 3, 7 and 9. The correct answer was all the odd numbered reasons. Numero Uno was the biggest single reason, but the others added a layer of difficulty I couldn’t ignore or deny. That said, #9 only affected me for one day, why I could claim that #8 (cold goes to the marrow) messed with me on at least three days. Anyone who answered 1, 3, 5, 7 and/or 9 should send your address (and real name) to killerkit@redkiteprayer.com and I’ll send you some stickers.

  8. Michael

    Patrick i’d been meaning to ask, but what type of training did you do in the last month before your trip? I am planning my own epic in 2011 (23 days, full Giro D’Italia route…!) and am especially curious about ow you tapered into your trip.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Michael: I only allowed myself a one-week taper before my tour. That was due mostly to the fact that I was participating in Map My Ride’s Le Tour Challenge. I posted to their blog two or three times a week about how my riding was going. I had the task of balancing my coming needs for climbing form against the unexpected inspiration to ride well in the Le Tour Challenge. You can visit MMR and check out all the rides I did. I’m PadraigRKP. You can also read my accounts of how my training went; just follow the link to the Aquaphor Le Tour Challenge under “Events”; scroll down and you’ll see “Ride Along With Our Experts.” As I recall, two of the weeks didn’t go quite according to plan due to unexpected flats (one on tubulars when I had been planning to kill it on a group ride that I NEVER flat on).

      If you plan to do the full Giro route, I’d definitely plan a two-week taper. I’d also do mega base miles this winter.

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