Day 2: Marina to Morro Bay, CA
For day 2, this was going to be the hardest day of the whole tour. We would be riding through the Big Sur National Park. We started at 7:00 am and were in for a pretty big surprise. I was still pretty tired and had not slept very much at all the night before. I was with a really fast group and was struggling to stay with them. We went through Monterey and through part of a ride I had previously gone on the day before the Big Sur half marathon where my friend had hit a root, rolled over the front end of his bike and fractured his collar bone. We went up the backside of the exact spot where the incident had happened.
We hit the 101 briefly before finally reaching one of the most beautiful stretches of ocean I have ever seen (Not even pictures justify the views). I had driven this way before when I had taken a January off in college to teach myself Gaelic. (Which was really just an excuse to go explore California with my roomie Colleen from when I studied abroad in Ireland).
The group was pacing pretty hard and I managed to keep up with them for a while. Then we stopped for a bathroom break and I mistimed getting back on the end of the pace line and was immediately dropped. I took it easy knowing we would be stopping for breakfast soon.
However, along the way, Highway 1 had been closed. I learned later that a car had lost control and driven off the cliff. They were going so fast the car split in half. Not really a sight you want to see while riding on a little bike along a two lane highway with switch backs left and right and a couple thousand foot drop to your immediate right. But no big deal. It wasn’t long before the cops let the bikers through. Apparently, Highway 1 was closed from 10am to 4pm.
The stop for breakfast was probably my favorite meal of the whole ride. I’m not sure if it was just because I was starving or the food was actually that good. This leisurely stop came back to bite us later in the day. Afterwards, my energy level felt much better than before and the next part of the ride was my favorite part of the entire tour. I do not think I can accurately describe what it was like cruising along the coast. It was such a rush. I am usually a pretty nervous descender but I was flying down the hills: it was my own personal roller coaster. Chad and I were sticking together through most of this stretch. I just looked over at him and screamed “This is awesome!”
We approached the last water stop at mile 80. At this point, my feet were cramping from all of the climbing. That little voice in the back of my mind whispered that I should stop. Three of the guys I was with encouraged me to stop, that I had Ironman New Zealand coming up and that I should not risk injuring myself. This only fueled my fire to continue. I am the type of person that if you tell me I can’t do something, I will do it just to prove you wrong. I am that stubborn. So I did it. We still had 50 miles to go.
The plan for the last stretch was to do a pace line with BP, Troy, Sam and I taking turns pulling. I was the slowest person in the group and worried about slowing them down. About 20 miles in, I was desperate to pee but didn’t say anything. I was contemplating peeing on my bike when my prayers were answered and we stopped to take a bathroom break. There were so many times on this tour that I wished I was a guy so I could just go wherever I wanted to.
With 7 miles to go, the sun was setting in a fiery masterpiece splashed across the sky. Nick, the driver of the SAG van (support and gear) attempted to pull us off the road. However, collectively as a group of the 4 of us, we were going to finish this damn thing no matter what it took. It was a complete tease seeing exactly where we were going, yet not feeling like we were getting any closer. Nick trailed us all the way to our hotel, leading us along until the sun set completely, then he shined his lights on the highway for us so we could see where we were going.
With less than a mile to go, Troy dropped his chain. We all stopped. We were all in this together. Then up the last tinsy, tiny little hill, my chain got stuck in the big ring and refused to go into the smaller one for climbing. I had to wrench my legs in circles and grit my teeth as I propelled myself up that hill in order to not fall over.
The day was done. 133 miles, 11,800 feet of climbing and 10 hours from beginning to end with all the stops in-between. This is the longest ride of my life. It was such a feat to finish it and I will never forget it.