Not even three days into the tour and one thing has become very clear; despite all the training and the thorough preparations that’s no guarantee that the real thing will go well. Even the four day pre-ride didn’t bring out the challenges that the start of the Sea to Sea ride dropped on me.
I say, dropped because it was wholly unexpected. Day one of the ride caused me some difficulty because of the waiting around, getting the first day of the ride to start in an organized way, and doing the ceremonial tire dip in the Pacific Ocean. The ride portion of the day went very well, so I looked forward to reasonably uneventful days after putting the first day behind me.
Day two was an easy ride with 90 km and minimal climbing. We had a refreshment stop at one church with lots of fresh baked cookies, drinks and lively conversations. The lunch stop later in the morning was at a Christian school where we were served a choice of 5 different soups, buns with an assortment of meats and cheese and watermelon.
I rode with two cyclists to minimize the sensory loading from being around too many people. We had the wind on our backs with most of the route following quiet secondary roads which ran more or less parallel to the Trans Canada Highway. Arriving in camp, it was my Service Team’s job to set up the supper tables, erect the canopies and unload the cooking equipment from the kitchen truck.
With the cycling done for the day, and my service team duties done by 2 pm I knew it was time to relax and hopefully get in a short nap. After lying down for an hour and napping for a half hour I figured I was good to go for the balance of the day.
It was when I got up from my nap that I realized I was dealing with a significant bout of sensory overload. The timing of it took me totally by surprise. During the day I did not notice any of the possible signals that my body usually gives me. Nevertheless, when I got up from my nap I was dealing with some very strong side effects, making it difficult to get my tent set up, showering and laundering my cycling clothes with any efficiency. Supper went okay because I found a quiet place to eat after going through the buffet lineup.
Usually a night’s sleep will dissipate enough of my sensory loading to function in an okay manner the next day. When I woke up the next morning I soon realized I was still very close to my limit of sensory loading. Taking down and packing the tent, rolling up the sleeping mat and sleeping bag took a long time because I couldn’t focus enough to get things organized. Between having things stored in the tent, in the gear truck and using the washroom facilities I ended up misplacing too many things. I then tried to retrace my steps to find my missing stuff. I managed to find everything back eventually except for my only official pair of biking shorts. (No worry, I do have a couple back up pairs.) By the time I had my camping gear in the gear truck I had missed out on most of what was available for breakfast. The challenges of packing up and getting myself ready to ride for the day put me into a downward spiral.
When I was finally ready to roll my two cycling buddies from the previous day were patiently waiting for me. That simple gesture by itself was a real morale boost. It felt good to be cycling, which gradually helped dissipate the sensory loading – no schedule to meet, no planning, no organizing demands, just pedal my bike. And so with one soothing pedal stroke after another I began the 70 km ride from Hope BC to Manning Provincial Park a 1300 meter climb.
The rhythm of the cycling helped me ease into the rest of the day. Gradually my symptoms began to subside a bit. We were climbing in the early morning so the shade cast by the mountains kept us relatively cool. As the day progressed the temperature increased. By early afternoon I was once more at my limit as the sensory loading again reached a point where cycling became difficult. A couple of short breaks and a some encouragement from a couple of people was enough to help me complete the last 10 km for the day.
The two and a half day experience did not bode well for the 65 days of cycling that lay ahead. What troubled me is that a four day ride a month ago went much better than the first 3 days.
My godsend was a fellow cyclist Ally who is a brain injury specialist and had been my cycling buddy since the start of the ride. She had observed my struggle and had given me some general pointers in the first couple days. When we got to camp she gave me a dose glucosamine and recommended taking a dose everyday within 45 minutes of completing the ride. In addition to that she recommended taking magnesium to help relax and rejuvenate the muscles. The combination of these two vitamin supplements allows me to sleep better and help my body recover from the demands of the day. This was in addition to the variety of vitamin supplements I had been prescribed by a nutritionist before starting the ride.
Each cyclist is part of one of eleven Service Teams, organized to get vital tasks done in camp each day. My Service Team has been very encouraging and accommodating of my limitations. The tasks assigned to us will change from week to week, so my ability to contribute my share will vary from week to week.
Each rider is part of this tour because of a common purpose – to raise money for helping people get out of poverty and at the same time to spread the news about the work that Partners World Wide and World Renew are doing to meet that goal. What is heartwarming to see is that the desire to help others is being practiced among members of the tour. With such a generous outpouring of empathy and support my ability to complete this tour looks much stronger.