May 16, 2017


Into each day, some rain must fall. The original plan for today was to bike some 50 miles; I didn't feel strong, and I certainly didn't feel like I had 50 miles in me. Defeated, that's how I felt.

Clouds looming over the countryside, sheep in field, Yorkshire Dales, England
Wiser today, I was fully bedecked in my rain gear. Glad, in fact, that I'd brought the heavy-duty rain pants. As we passed, I considered whether it was feasible to cuddle with some sheep under a tree—all that warm wool was enticing. Maybe I would just have to bail out at the first steep climb.

Rocky stream flowing near stone walls with white flowers, Yorkshire Dales, England
You know how a tune gets stuck in your head? Yesterday, and today: King of Pain.
I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running 'round my brain.
The toughest climb would come early in the ride: Buttertubs Pass, also featured in the 2014 Tour de France. Unlike the pros, we were tackling the more difficult side (north to south). This article sums it up well; I threw in the towel when I hit the 17% grade, facing sections in excess of 20% further up the hill. (One sign warned: 25% grade for 500 yards. Switchbacks, anyone?) It was was too far to walk, especially in the rain and wind. I'd pedaled less than 8 miles.

My disappointment must have been written all over my face; one of our guides snapped a selfie of the two of us, making me laugh and raising my spirits immeasurably.

The views, and the descent, would have been stunning on a clear day. But I chose to stay in the van, with a few other riders. The road was slick, the wind was blowing, and I didn't have a good feeling about it. It was raining enough, and I was dejected enough, that I didn't even snap a photo.

It was the right call not to descend. One of our riders crashed; luckily, not injured.

Sign for the Wensleydale Pantry Café, Hawes, England
I felt reasonably well after a bowl of soup and a cup of tea. Might as well get back on the bike.

Aysgarth Falls, Yorkshire Dales, England
We stopped to admire Aysgarth Falls, though it was less than picture-perfect with sediment stirred up the by rain-swelled flow.

Kidstones Pass was another climb in the 2014 Tour de France; again, we were tackling it in the opposite direction. Looking at my stats, I did manage a few stretches of road at 13% grade today (heart rate peaked at 180 bpm). Kidstones was steeper than that. Back into the van for me; again, no photos.

Pheasant in a field with lambs and sheep, Yorkshire Dales, England
Eventually, it stopped raining, the terrain mellowed out, and I began to suffer less—maybe, even, to relax.

Our leader and two strong riders along a country lane, Yorkshire Dales, England
Our destination was Malham, but with enough challenges for the day, our leader amended the route.

Wilderness Scotland guides loading bikes for transit from Grassington to Malham, England
We had tea at a pub in Grassington, racked up the bikes, and brought another epic day to a close.

I managed to bike 36 miles after all, with a mere 2,533 feet of climbing. (The gaps on the map represent the segments not biked.)
I guess I'm always hoping that you'll end this reign,
But it's my destiny to be the king of pain...

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