I was really thankful that Stage 5 was neutralized after being sick in the morning. I also think I blew myself up after pushing so ferociously for Stage 4. It was a great opportunity to ride with people that I didn’t see in the first four days in the race and to have the freedom to stop and take photos. Mid-ride, we stopped and had some noodles at a place on the road.
Stage 5 had changed from the last year. It used to be the end of the road where the circuit was only accessible by foot. Since last year, there has been a new road blasted into the mountain. We had two options for Stage 5 – do the same route as last year and taking the hiking trail, or take the newly blasted steep road to Taal. We had a vote the night before to decide if we take the road or the trail. The vote was very close, and it was voted we’d take the hiking trail meaning a heinous hike-a-bike. Since we had to start the stage so late, we ended up taking the road to Taal. Road is a bit of an understatement with the huge babyhead rocks and very steep pitches. I’m not sure which way is easier or faster! I think the trail is more fun from an adventure standpoint but you really cannot ride much. The difficult and technical road plays more toward the bike racer and less toward the adventurer. I was relieved to finish the day and tried to drink a lot of fluid and rest up. One of the docs gave me some antibiotics. It seemed to clear up the issue after another day so that was a good thing.
Meanwhile, Yuki was extremely sick to the point where it was hard for him to move or talk. Someone joked that I had the Medusa touch because both my teammates from each year got sick.
It wasn’t looking good for him. The docs also advised me to bunk with some other people. I stayed with Brian and Steve at the rustic teahouse in Taal.
Steve said, “yeah…this room is okay if you’re alright with it having huge cracks open to the outside.” I looked and you could fit your hand through the cracks. Steve joked saying, “hope you’re not afraid of spiders.” And just that moment, we both spotted a GIANT brown spider on the wall. The 8-legged creature was the size of my hand. We were nervously laughing at it and wondering if it was poisonous. Snow Monkey came to look at it and the lady from the kitchen showed up. She took a cloth and like it was nothing, grabbed the spider, killed it in her hands and left. That night, none of us slept soundly in fear that its mommy would come back to avenge it, or wake up with one of those spiders on our face!
I woke up the next morning feeling better. I also knew we were going to Chame and were starting to get into the thick of the mountains. Last year, the Chame stage was one of the hardest. It was 15 miles and tons of hike-a-bike. 15 miles took me about 3 hours last year. This year, we would take the newly blasted road. I settled into a steady pace for the day. I didn’t turn myself inside out, but I did put in a good effort. I wanted to make sure I could look around. The trail last year was more scenic and epic than the rocky, dirty road. Eventually, I was on familiar territory where the hiking trail had dumped onto the undulating rocky road. Keith and I were battling it out. He was true to form – getting faster as the race went on but I managed to shake him off for the day. Yuki had to take the jeep. It was the last day that a jeep would be a possibility for the race. If he could not recover from his illness by the next morning, he would have to turn and go back. He arrived in even worse shape. I tried to take care of him, but he was so weak. It was heartbreaking to see this happen again.
I went for a walk after the stage with Pete, Thor, Steve E and Steve H. We walked up the course and into the woods.
The river was teal and crisp. The color almost reminded me of the Caribbean. Steve H and I took another detour and went up some rock steps onto a plateau.
There was a huge garden on top of the cliff. We were the only people up there and it felt really nice and peaceful.
After that we headed back to town in search of food!
The next morning, the town of Chame had a ceremony for the racers, blessing us with prayer shawls and Tibetan bread. Yuki could not continue and had to go back to Kathmandu for medical care.
I prefer Old track bike and hike.
I’m going to agree with Rajeev. Still great stages though.