Sunday, 7 July 2019

Stage 9 (Sunday): Walls of Death (and other minor impediments)

Yesterday’s stage, featuring wicked hills and wicked weather, had me ridiculously tired. This morning I was pretty sure I could shake it off. Stage 9 was 170 km and another hilly outing with over 3000 meters of climbing starting with another “Wall”. The French are fond of their “walls”. This one was called the “Wall of Death,” just to distinguish it. It has a maximum grade of over 18% but hovers around 13-14% for almost 2 km. I set out and, almost immediately, when I hit the wall, I really did hit the wall. I wasn’t feeling great, and I thought it must be accumulated wear. No matter how I tried, I just couldn’t climb this beast and, as much as I didn’t want to, I had to walk some of it. I even struggled to push my bike up the hill. Something was off.

I finished my “walk of shame” to the top of the Wall of Death and climbed back on my bike. But I couldn’t seem to get a good rhythm going. I tried to keep up with riders that I have ridden with before, but they dropped me easily. A few came back to try and pull me back up to the group, but it was no use. I had zero power. I pedaled alone for what felt like days, plodding along slowly. I took in the views and tried to make the best of it. I was told I’d have good days and bad days. Maybe this was one of those bad days.

I reached the third feed station for lunch and, as I dismounted, I noticed that one of my legs was enormously swollen. As I looked at my legs, I realized that I couldn’t make out my knees. Where did my knees go? What’s happening?

Fortunately, I didn’t have to wonder for long because Doc Fi was at the stop and I made a beeline to her. Fi took one look at me and asked whether I had been taking salt or electrolytes. “Both of course,” I said, “it’s hotter than hell out here.” She explained that there was enough salt in the food that was being served throughout the day, and that we didn’t need to supplement it. She also explained that we’re on a multi-week event and that a body can’t process the quantity of salt I was taking in quickly enough. “Your kidneys are failing you,” she informed me. “That’s why you’re swollen and listless.”

Well that’s a new one for the list: kidney failure.

At least I now had the answer to the power problem I was having. All in all, it was a little bit of good news on this otherwise bleak day (keeping in mind that good news is relative).

As I ate my noticeably salty lunch, I walked around, watching the locals jump into the lake at the Shangri-La setting where our food-stop was set up. Women were swimming without tops, a young couple were kissing, children were jumping off a long dock… I really was in the heart of France. It was a perfect setting and perfect weather to be here, by the water. My spirits were lifted. Doc Fi rode with me for the rest of the day, keeping an eye one me (again).

My legs continued to swell throughout the day and by evening my skin had stretched so much that my legs were too sensitive to touch. A few big bruises appeared behind one knee, most likely due to the swelling. The doc told me I should be okay within a few days and that my knees would be returned to me. 

I believed her and trusted that tomorrow would be a much, much better day. :)












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