Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Roadside: Refocus

Struggling on Manitoulin.  Also, please share the road.
I blogged a little while ago about our determination to focus on the here, the now, and the next.  It's a great strategy, but actually impossible to maintain as the trip draws to a close.  These are the struggles that we face as we count down the days.

There is a significant planning factor.  We tried our best to keep a schedule so as to maintain our planned finish date of tomorrow afternoon, with great success.  But as we communicate with our home teams, we necessarily realize just how close we are to that point.  It becomes too easy to rationalize the counting of days left, or remaining "sleeps," or kilometres.  We note little milestones: crossing into Ontario, then crossing into the Eastern Time Zone, then crossing into southwestern Ontario.  Last week, I somewhat intentionally turned on the trip odometer function, and found our kilometres to be 5955, which allows for a mini millennial celebration the next day.  I accidentally counted the remaining kilometres, and we have been recalculating and recalculating daily.

So now we face a new set of mental obstacles.  Rather than the overwhelming distance remaining, now it is the proximity that gets in the way.  And it affects us more than you would think.

Kyle is feeling the worst of it.  It's hard to explain, but I think that for the past four or five days, we have just been too close to home that it is hard to push.  Go for the extra distance, the cruising speed, the long stretch.  Tyler and I are able to maintain a strong desire, and we all feel great, physically.  But as a team, we can't connect the mental to the physical and get it done.

One of the stretches of which I am most proud is our first three days in Northern Ontario, from Kenora to Upsala.  We averaged 28km/hr over the rugged terrain and hills with full panniers and overstocked food.  This was to be one of the most challenging periods of the trip, and we absolutely rocked it.  Now, we are fully supported by the wonderful care of Dennis and Helen, and Kyle is having trouble getting above 22km/hr at times.  It's tough, because now as a team we're out of sync.

We try different strategies: close drafting with increasing speeds, putting Kyle in the middle, in the lead, and emotional encouragement and challenge.  At one point, I erase Kyle's iPod and put exclusively top-40 music on there for him to listen to, you know, something to pump him up.  In reality, the next hour we did 30km/hr, but that effect didn't have a noticeable effect the next day.

This reaches a critical point on Day 50 on Manitoulin Island.  We need to catch a 5:50 ferry to Tobermory to keep our schedule.  The day is brutally windy, and it slows us down quite a bit.  But we're just moving so slow that after Little Current, with 50km to go, our previous hour's pace will not get us to the port in time.  We try some new strategies: Tyler floors it to the port to find out just how late we can be.  In desperation, I carry one of Kyle's panniers, to lighten the load.  The next two hours are some of the hardest for the entire trip, but we are able to increase our average speed as a result.

I suspect that another significant factor in this is the weeks ahead.  Tyler has a tough choice between going back to Greece and travelling Europe, or waiting out the summer at his cabin in Missanabie, both incredible choices.  I am back to work the day after the trip, and I've also got a lot going on this summer with my family, friends, and and I'm really excited about all of it.  We are both I am eager to get home and "back to reality."  Kyle is in the tough spot that he has another week off after the cycle, great for rest and recovery, but it also means that he doesn't feel the same pressures that we (especially I) face.  Just another factor affecting our pedal-by-pedal motivations.

As a team, we are losing our common drive, and our "short" days at the end of the trip are becoming just average.  It's tough, but we're slugging it out and keeping our schedule just the way we wanted it.  One more sleep...

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