After months of planning and training, the Alto de Letras day was here and I was suffering badly. In fact that's an understatement. I was in so much pain and in the horrors I can't even put it into words. My back was screaming, the balls of my feet were burning, I had saddle sores and chaffing. I couldn't get any sort of rhythm going and my motivation had gone on a day trip!
I also had suffered the worst food poisoning imaginable from a dodgy prawn five days earlier. It had drained me of every body fluid imaginable. How is it every time I decide to an epic cycle my guts let me down? (There was the Marmotte and the tampax saga and while on Mont Ventoux I got an upset tummy!)
I really felt awful. I was so weak. I hadn’t managed to eat much or keep anything in me for the last five days. I hadn't slept much either due to having to run to the bathroom periodically. I was floored and afraid of every gurgle I heard or felt in my tummy.
Never ending road
The trouble was, I was so slow. Unbelievably slow. So the kilometers were not passing. Every time I looked at my bike computer it hadn't moved. I was stuck on this God forsaken climb and I hated every minute of it. Each of my sections were never ending. I was desperately trying to stay upbeat.
The the first 60km were by far the worst! Motivation was waning, I was so tempted to get off and walk, or just give up. I thought it would never end, I was going nowhere. On the plus side the temperature was very pleasant. We had started early enough to get up high before the midday sun.
At 59 kilometers there was a downhill bit! I couldn't believe it. Hallelujah. However there were also two mad, black dogs who decided I looked tasty and gave chase. I was seriously afraid and peddled as hard as I possibly could. Thank God it was on a down bit or I think I may have been their dinner. They were right at my ankle and I could see their teeth! A driver in a car came by me; thankfully beeping and swerving towards the dogs to scare them for me. I was absolutely terrified, my concentration wasn't great at this time due to exhaustion.
The support vehicle was all mine now. The guides friends who were cycling that day had finished long ago. I felt bad that I was taking so long but what could I do? They hadn't got food poisoning, they are young men too in comparison to my middle aged lady status! (One was 26, I'm 45!)
He dollied up to me at 70 kilometers and decided I needed advice on how to cycle.
Now I will admit to being very tired at this time. In fact I was shattered. I was at 3300 meters altitude. I had 8 kilometers left. Telling me I should "cycle in a straight line" was not what I needed to hear at this time. Contrary to what he thought, I was doing my best to cycle in a straight line however I was somewhat busy just trying to stay up right.
Then we had the " I like to get up out of my saddle and give my back a stretch, look at me!"
I lost it.
I had gotten myself this far and really did not appreciate his inane comments!!
I politely asked him to go away and leave me alone. I had gotten myself this far, I was having "fun" and was grand. I told him to go on and I would see him at the top.
Lucky for him he had the street smarts to leave me alone!
The end is near
My jacket was too warm but at the same time I was glad of it. The downhill was so welcome and I really tried to put the boot down. Then it started to go up again and my little legs slowed right down again. Where was the end of this road at all? I couldn't wait to finish, my back was in tatters at this stage, my seat and bits were so sore and I just didn't have enough fuel in me for this.
I was delighted to finish though and was so glad to see the support vehicle waiting for me. I flopped off the bike and tried to smile for the photos.
I got presented with a lovely cat teddy, he's the company's logo and an alternative to a Alt de Letras Medal. I guzzled a protein shake and changed my jersey for the photos.
I did my best with Pepto Bismol, stopped eating before my flights and tired every Irish mammies favourite remedy: flat 7Up. In the end I had to take a trip to the doctors and get an antibiotic for a bacterial infection. On the plus side I lost 3.5 kilos (half a stone!) and I don't have to worry about January blubber!
Would I do the Alto de Letras again? Hell no!
Would I recommend the longest climb on earth? Not a chance!
What I will say is, my holidays are going to be holidays from now on. Lesson learnt! My cycling trips are my cycling trips but my actually vacation, the one I work hard all year for, is now a challenge free zone. No more stupid stuff!! Just go and enjoy the country, sightsee and relax. Sure I will cycle the Dolomites in June 2019 with my friends but that is a designated cycle holiday!
About the Author:
Sinéad Kennedy is a Physical Therapist, Yoga Siromani and Pilates Instructor. She has recently qualified as a Personal Development Coach. Based in both Rathfarnham and Dundrum, South County Dublin. She treats and teaches people from all walks of life, including many athletes, especially cyclists, runners and golfers. Recently featured in the Irish Independent, FIT Magazine and Breaking News.ie her Yoga 4 Cyclists class has gained notoriety.
A keen cyclist and proud member of Orwell Wheelers she has completed numerous cycling events including The Alto de Letras, Les Cingles du Mont Ventoux & La Marmotte Sportive. She is an accomplished audax-er having done numerous 200km and 300km routes. Sinéad has also completed three Dublin City Marathons, numerous Adventure Races and Half Marathons.