Today was a “recovery” day after yesterday’s exertions and we all needed it. Although I don’t know how anyone else would define a “recovery day” in the context of what we are doing, but it was another 36 miles in 2 hrs 40 of cycling at an average of 13.4, hardly a light days work in anyone’s book, but it was better than yesterday!
I had slept really well and woke at about 6. I don’t think I have fully woken up all day as I’m feeling generally tired. When we stop for a break, I’d just like to lie down somewhere comfy, well actually anywhere really, and have a few minutes kip. I suppose it’s all catching up with us today and we are all feeling like we need a battery recharge. In a way this vindicates my decision not to do Scorpions and the last climb yesterday. Even if I could have done it ( which to Scorpions was a definite no but the last climb probably a yes if I really wanted to) my recovery would have taken longer and the rest of the tour much harder as a result. We did talk of should we have tried harder, trained more, trained differently etc in order to do Scorpions. The considered feeling is that it would make not a jot of difference, it really was impossible for most of us ( not for Darren of course, but we don’t mention the 3rd front cog which he has on his bike that no one else does, too much! His was a supreme effort, but he is feeling the effects today too). So on reflection I still won’t be too hard on myself for not doing more of it yesterday.
Back to today. At breakfast, Stuart was in his normal clothes having decided that a ride today would be too much of a rush to get his pre planned plane home tonight for one of his sons’engagement party at the weekend. It was wonderful to have Stuart back with us and I hope he will get back into cycling regularly with us again back home. Cheers Stuart, it’s been great.
As we were in the desert area, it cooled off at night. When I awoke to another picturesque sunrise, I opened the rooms’ veranda door to the gardens outside and the air was so refreshingly cool, it was lovely. Quite peaceful with lots of birds doing their dawn chorus, I enjoyed the moment. Then, at 7 o clock the roadworks outside rudely started again, end of peace, I shut the door and packed up my case!
I think we got going at about 8 and the air was still cool. Darren managed to cycle into a parked car just as we left and we were going through the town, don’t ask how, it was only a big black shiny thing at the side of the road, but he says it just turned in and parked suddenly. Darren was OK as was his bike and after a few minutes of are you ok, I’m so sorry, from both sides we were on our way again. As I said we were all tired, so I’ll allow him a moments lack of concentration as an excuse. It’s a reminder how easy it is for some thing to happen out of nothing and how careful we have to be each time on a bike. Richard P declined the personal injury claim work even with the bonus of testimony from 6 unbiased witnesses!
Oh yes, update on Alan. Alan had a good night and managed to eat a small breakfast. When I saw him in his cycle gear for breakfast I knew he would definitely ride. He was feeling weak in the legs, and tired, but why should he be different to the rest of us?
Jumping forward to the hotel room I’m now in, it’s absolutely fine. But a bit quirky, with a kettle that keeps boiling on it’s own and a bathroom that floods from some kind of vent In the floor when I let the bath out. Perhaps they didn’t want me to have a bath (I tried a a cold bath to help my legs recover , I’ll try anything to help them ! But I didn’t go so far as to ask for any ice to put in it, I’m not that desperate!), because there was no bath plug. I discovered that the disposable hair cover provided for the shower works very well as a plug too! There goes the kettle again, I’ve now taken the plug out!
Anyway, the day was split into 3 parts as we had 2 sightseeing breaks. We were going from Yeruham to the edge of the Ramon crater at Mitzpe Ramon, which means the ” vista or view” of Ramon.
The roads were similar to before. Good Tarmac, variable hard shoulder to cycle on but generally good. Not busy, hardly a car at times. The desert today is not sandy but more strewn with small boulders, rocks and stones. The scenery is pretty, with hill ranges of all shapes and sizes, but not much colour apart from the blue sky and black road. Actually there were more scrub bushes than I expected, but they were not a vibrant green at all, more a grey green.
We had a day of rolling roads. That sounds lovely and images of scenic, lovely roads undulating off in to the distance comes to mind. I think of being at the top of them and having a lovely free cycle ride down. But there is a huge problem with that which is of course, if there is down, you have to go up! Some of the inclines were OK, some were not, actually the way were were feeling today, a lot were not. Hills we would normally just complain at, became a far bigger challenge. My legs actually hurt a lot at times today in both my thighs and calves and I don’t remember this happening before. But I eased off and they soon recovered, until the next hill! We are taking in lots of water and food but we’re still tired. We did need a “recovery” day , but one by the pool would be nice……please.
On a road bike there are normally 2 cogs at the front. The bigger one makes you go faster and is harder to use whilst the smaller is generally used for inclines. At home on training runs, we will often keep in the big cog for a harder work out. Today I had decided was a small cog moment – all day for me. Doing that took some of the hard work away but you do end up spinning your legs faster. I won’t get all technical about the differences here, but I did it for an easier ride today.
The cool air lasted for about half an hour until 8.45. It was glorious. Then the Sun hot into its stride and the heat took over. It was soon very hot again.
After about 15 miles in we arrived at the desert home of David Ben Gurion at the town of Sde Boker. His was a famously very modest small house for such a remarkable man. Ben Gurion was a visionary who came over to the county in the 1920,s and ended up being the leader of the Jewish administration after the war under the British mandate. He made the most of the opportunity after the war to forge the State of Israel, get its international recognition and was its first prime minister. He had a very socialist, zionist ideology but was also a great visionary, very much believing that the Negev desert and Eilat must be part of Israel in order for it to survive and then flourish.
We were there for perhaps an hour enjoying a tour of the house and a short film about him in an air conditioned area. We also sampled wine made from vineyards cultivated in the area. It is hard to imagine the early settlers who built these towns out of nothing and have been instrumental in making the desert bloom. There was nothing here but desert and heat plus water from some springs.
It was time for some food again so I treated myself to a fresh bread pretzel and bounty bar from the cafe, we know how to live it up!
We left there about 10.30 for some more rolling “up” roads. They weren’t getting easier and it’s hard to get legs going again after stopping for so long. In 5O minutes or so we were at the next stop of Avdat national park.
Avdat was an important town established by the Nabatean traders. There is a large ruins of the town upon the top of a hill, which we didn’t walk or cycle to. We sat for another short video and saw how their trade route linked India, the Middle East and Europe. The Nabateans were originally nomadic but the wealth they generated from exploiting being the only ones to know where water was and so establishing the trade route, made them wealthy and led to the town being established. They even struck up good relations with the Romans and flourished during that era too.
We left at just before 12 for the final 8 miles in the heat of the day. The up bits got steeper and longer, we got hotter and more tired. At the last water stop I also took on an energy gel. It must have worked because I went off at a quick pace with my music keeping me company. I pushed quite hard up the hills and to the edge of Mitzpe Ramon. I thought I’d left the others behind but suddenly as I was catching my breath, Daren passes me followed by Keith. Daren said he was going a real pace and they had to get up to over 40 on the down hill parts to catch me. After both their efforts yesterday I think they must be very strong to do that at the end of today. The others were a few minutes behind and when they caught up we followed the van to a restaurant for lunch which was a short way form the hotel.
Yet again the last few hundred metres to the hotel is up a steep hill. Why is that?
We were all shattered and agree this trip is a lot harder than we thought. The heat is a big factor, which we knew about but didn’t realIse just how much energy it takes away. The roads are also more hilly than we expected. Assaf asked if we looked at the daily charts to see what was in store. Well yes we did ( some of us anyway) but it’s impossible to convert the chart into actual cycling. Anyway, it is what it is and we will just get on with it. That all part of the challenge.
We all enjoyed a massive lunch. Mine was BBQ chicken legs, salmon pasta and a banana milkshake, plus lots of water. I know I have put on weight out here but am convinced it’s all the extra leg muscle I’m developing, as it can’t be for any other reason!
Today I wore the Prostate Cancer UK cycling shirt they gave me for the fundraising I am doing. Thanks to all of you who have donated, it’s very much appreciated, as is your encouragement. I felt a bit self conscious wearing it, but it had to be done.
I have now finished the blog before supper for once and am looking forward to an early night and another good sleep.
Tomorrow we go through the Ramon Crater and on southwards. It’s 120km, 75 miles so is a long one. There are some nasty climbs again so let’s hope the recovery day works.
I would add that Assaf has been an excellent guide. He takes everything in his stride and seems to know how to deal with all the questions we throw at him. We have learned the hard way that to Assaf, “a little push” in Assaf speak means a bloody big hill to us.
Onwards to the last but one day………. and a few little pushes……
Stats for the day