The girls and I the morning I left
My time goal for the first day was four hours, that meant I had to keep an average speed of 20km/hr. The first 57km was actually pretty easy, it was after that that my butt started to hurt and my legs started to get tired. I don't think I ate enough for lunch either so I started to feel a little worn down. I was on my own for most of the ride, occasionally chatting with people I was passing, or those who were passing me. I saw a Hutterite couple riding together, she in a long dress and sandals, he in black pants and a short sleeved plaid shirt. I also saw a younger guy riding in jean shorts, a wife beater and flip flops, along with cyclists whose outfits matched their bike. I think that's why I had such a good time, there were riders of all levels and most were really nice and very supportive.
But back to the ride. Like I said, I felt good for the most part, even though it rained constantly. I drank lots of water and ate many bananas. While kilometers 58-75 were more difficult, it was the last 10 that were really tough. I was tired and hungry and my motivation was starting to wane. I was fighting the need to vomit and it was all around unpleasant. Luckily I got to Gimli just in time, got off my bike and got some food and water into me, which picked me up. I completed the first leg in 4 hours and 15 minutes with an average speed of 20.1 km. I was sore, so sore in fact that I wasn't sure if I would feel well enough to ride the next day.
One of the many lessons learned is that Tylenol is magic. I popped a couple, stretched and felt great after a good nights sleep. I was ready to go the next day, but this day was much harder on me. I had a dull headache so I mixed gatorade with my water and put some extra granola bars in my handy dandy jersey pouch. By kilometer 35 I was starting to get tired, and I knew the second half of the ride would be very challenging. I tried to combat this by taking a longer (and larger) lunch break. I sat with a couple women who had seen me say goodbye to the girls the day before. They made me feel better about my progress by calling me a machine and saying they were impressed by how consistent I was. This compliment gave me a bit of a second wind, and while I was in a lot more pain then the previous day, I was able to stay positive and fight though it. I also knew that those last 10 km were going to be hard again, so I spent most of this time talking myself up for them.
The nice thing about the ride back is that most of the cyclists seem to want to chat, and when they passed me they would say something to pump me up, so I did the same when I passed people as well. I was still wet from the rain in the morning, so I was really uncomfortable and my butt really hurt. The only time I actually considered giving up and pulling over was in the last 4 km. I was just so tired and my legs, arms, shoulders and back were so sore I could not imagine going on. But I followed Lindsay's advice and told myself to do one more stroke, then another, then another until I was in Stonewall. There was a volunteer who said "Welcome to Stonewall!" and I said "I grew up here, and Stonewall has never been so beautiful." I then started to cry....again. I continued to cry up Main Street toward the finish line and through it. I was done in 4 hours and 20 minutes with an average speed of 19.8km/hr. I could not believe I had done it. I knew in theory I could probably do it, but the reality of what my body can do when asked has become apparent. I now need to figure out what to do with this new found knowledge.
Special thanks go out to Colleen and Jim, who housed and took care of me in Gimli, Jen P for all the advice and Lindsay Menard, a bike tour veteran who answered all my questions, was my inspiration to ride and is one of the strongest women I know. One day my Auntie DD gave me a hug and said "You've worked so hard Cara, go ride that bike." I did Auntie DD, I rode the hell out of that bike.