My worst cycling day ever.

I love cycling, but I have to admit that it’s not all fun and games every single minute. Sometimes having to pedal just one more meter can make you want to throw your bike away and sit by the road sulking because everything just SUCKS. This is a feeling I usually get when I’m hungry. When I’m really hungry I easily turn into the hulk, I simply get hangry (hungry/angry). I’m usually very chatty when cycling in a group, I can talk your ears off if given the opportunity. The first sign of my mood dropping is when I get quiet. When I go silent – beware.

Let’s skip to last summer. Day five of the cycling to Paris, we were in Belgium. It had been raining all day before, and the moment we got up in the morning we realized that the rain was still beating down on the pavement outside the hotel windows. As if the lousy weather wasn’t enough, this was the day when we had 220 kilometers to cover to get to the next hotel, including several steep mountains. On of them being Mur de Huy, a famous Belgian climb with the biggest grade being a fear-inducing 26%. The cycling race La Flèche Wallonne is usually decided on this slope. I was terrified.

We dressed in our fancy rain gear (huge black plastic bags) and set off from our hotel in Maastricht. We were pumped up and ready to go, despite the awful weather. A few hundred meters from the hotel we got out first flat. It was mid-July, 10 degrees and windy. I think you can all imagine my mood at this point.
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But we cycled on, it was slow and we had a lot of flat tires, and the Belgian mountains didn’t help at all. And then there we were. Mur de Huy loomed in front of us. We took of restricting clothes, we drank energy shots, we removed our water bottles to lighten the load and one by one we set off up the mountain. It didn’t take long before my legs were stiff with lactic acid, and my tires were slipping on the wet road and I had no power left at all. I was going so slow that I realized that if I didn’t pick up the speed I would fall over. Well, I jumped off my bike, just before hitting that last bend and seeing the goal line ahead. I was completely beat, and I knew that the time was ticking away quickly and we had yet to cover half the distance for that day.

This is me at the top. I can see so clearly in my own eyes how completely exhausted I am.

This is me at the top. I can see so clearly in my own eyes how completely exhausted I am at this point.

The entire team on top of Mur de Huy.

The entire team on top of Mur de Huy.

Huy is SO steep.

Huy is SO steep.

We kept cycling, there were more awful steep hills and I was completely silent. I didn’t say a word because I was so tired, I was hungry and thirsty because when it’s pouring down and you’re shaking on the bike from freezing so much it’s really hard to force yourself to eat and drink. Also it’s not very nice to undress outdoors (when you’re a cyclist you learn quickly that it’s very necessary to be comfortable with peeing outside) and remove most of your clothing to pee – which is why I didn’t drink. And I just had to keep cycling, because there were 30 people counting on me to keep on pedaling. All this time I was crying silently in the rain.

Warming hugs during lunch break.

Warming hugs during lunch break. Too tired to even remove our helmets.

Food truck and frozen cyclists.

Food truck and frozen cyclists.

When we finally reached the place where we were going to eat lunch, the clock was approaching three in the afternoon, we had more than 140 km left and I had never been more exhausted in my life. I had no idea how I was going to make it, and I still couldn’t eat because I have a hard time eating when I’m too tired. I was sipping hot tea and wishing for the best. I was scared for my safety and for everyone elses because I was not the only one who was tired, we all were. The roads were slippery, it wouldn’t stop raining and the wind was picking up as well. And that’s when it happened.

We were told that there were 8 available spots in the core team cars, and they were for the ones who were suffering the most. And I promise, I was not the one who was in the worst shape, people were crying all around me. But when the team leader told me that I could grab the last spot, I just broke down in tears, I was so thankful. I put my bike in our giant food truck, crawled into one of the cars wrapped in a blanket and could finally relax. I was having a very hard time focusing though, I lost track of what I was saying and my mind was just as exhausted as my body. After two hours in the car we got to the hotel, and after checking in (they were expecting 30 cyclists and their bikes, not 8 shivering soaking wet cyclists with no bikes) we got our rooms and after long, hot showers we gathered in a room wrapped in towels and comforters because our luggage was still in the food truck that would arrive much, much later.

The rest of the team seen from a warm cosy car.

The rest of the team seen from a warm cosy car.

The waiter was a bit surprised to find 8 half naked ladies in a room I think.

The waiter was a bit surprised to find 8 half naked ladies in a room I think.

We ordered beers and snacks and talked and laughed and it was the best afternoon I could have wished for under those circumstances. The others arrived a few hours later, after having cycled for 50 more kilometers than us. Then they were forced to stop too because it wasn’t safe to keep cycling, and I felt so sorry for them when they arrived. This kind of exhaustion can really break a person down, and there were a lot of tears all evening.
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This is a photo of me taken later that night during our team dinner. You can always see very clearly on me when I’m exhausted and looking at this pic it kind of breaks my heart. I hate being that tired.

So I (mostly) know what I’m doing. I know how hard it can be. Rain is awful, wind is awful, hills are awful but some good food, a beer and a good nights sleep and then I’m ready to pedal on again. The next day we had some rain, but it was mostly fine and I was my usual happy chatty self again. We got to shake President Hollandes hand as we finally made it to France and saw one leg of the Tour de France. It was pretty awesome. The day before was forgotten and everything was good again.

That was my worst day of cycling. I hope this will continue to be the worst day for a long time to come. But at least when I’ll be cycling by myself I can stop and take shelter from rain and harsh weather, I won’t have to push on if I don’t want to.

What’s your worst experience cycling?

Getting the gear – starting the packing list for cycling across America.

It’s almost exactly 8 months until I start my big trip now, and I’m in full planning mode. Planning and plotting is usually one of my favorite parts of anything, and for this trip I’m reading a lot of blogs of other female solo cyclists which gives me great inspiration. I’m also doing research on what bike to get, on panniers, how to make my own cycling cap, safety tips, and I’m looking at every hashtag I can find for cycle touring on instagram.

I’m also looking at and buying a lot of cycling gear. Last week I got a delivery of merino wool shirts, thermal underwear and socks, and yesterday I finally got the cycling shoes I’ve heard so much about; Keen Commuter III. They are clipless SPD cycling sandals (clipless means that they clip into your pedals, but to me the name sounds like they do the exact opposite hence the explanation…oh well) but unfortunately Keen has discontinued them, so I had to search high and low before I found a pair in my size. I finally found them on Rose Bikes and I’m in love already. I think these will be great for next summer, and they should definitely give my feet some interesting tan lines…

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My lovely new shoes. They’re also great for walking in, something that’s not usually said for cycling shoes…

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Last Sunday it was time for the annual Sthlm Bike race, which takes place the first Sunday in September each year in the center of Stockholm. It’s 42 kilometers and you start cycling at 7 in the morning in a deserted Stockholm. It’s not often you get to race down the usually busy streets without any cars or busses, but this is one of the reasons why I really love this race. That and the breakfast you get afterwards as well of course. But this year it had an even bigger importance, it meant that my time with Team Rynkeby officially was over, the charity group I’ve been riding with for the past year. We delivered the check to the children’s cancer foundation (Barncancerfonden) and it was all over… Sad, but I’m so glad I got to do it, and got to know such great people and cyclists. I’m sure they’ll be happy to whip me back in shape for America next year!

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Me and Gullan, my lovely bike. I love her so much! My 6 year old nephew namned her (it’s an old Swedish women’s name) and I think it fits her perfectly. Especially since gul = yellow.

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With some team mates at the breakfast afterwards.

With the check of the money we raised. 11 million SEK (1.5 million USD).

With the check of the money we raised. 11 million SEK (1.5 million USD).

If you want to check out some great blogs of awesome cyclists, then I have some recommendations:
Melissa/The Loong Way home – She started cycling from Barcelona last year and has been on the road for 13 months now. Really amazing cyclist and person and she happily answers all the questions I throw at her via email which I am so grateful for.

Shirine/A Wandering Nomad – A twenty year old girl who will make you feel like you’re living your life with the completely wrong standards. Has been cycling for more than a year with a $5/day budget. Warning: makes you want to quit your entire life to cycle. Or wait, is that just me?

Travelling Two – Basically my bicycle touring go-to guide. They know everything and they have guides for everything. Check them out!