Hungary. Hungary, Hungary, Hungary. How I hated you. Cycling in Hungary involves being unceremoniously bounced from one pot hole to another, in an oven, with the fan on full. Oh and my arse was in clip.
In the planning phase I’d eagerly anticipated Hungary because it was flat, and I thought I’d make great time. The reality was soul destroying, as I made slow progress through the featureless countryside. I’m struggling to find anything good to say about Hungary, sorry. (I have no photos from Day 9 so make of that what you will.)
One thing I will say is as I sat in a bus stop taking a break from midday sun and contemplating my route, a bedraggled looking man made a beeline for me. Ever the the cynic I thought “fuck me here we go”. He looked at me and then put a bottle of water in front of me before stumbling off away down the road. A very random act of kindness. I didn’t have an opportunity to explain the rules of the race, nor would I have insulted his kindness by trying to do so. As it happens I had water in my bidons and there was a shop over the road, so I didn’t consider myself to have sought outside help and I’m sure he’d have done the same for anyone else riding through his furnace of a village.
I was at this point considering my route options, as previously mentioned I’d had to change my route and I was making the final decisions on the fly. I was west of a large lake, which simplified my decision to take the Western route through Croatia towards Banja Luka in Bosnia. It was a hot flustered plan, but one I was happy to have finally committed to.
The rest of Hungary was a slog. Didn’t like it, and have no interest in revisiting the experience here. I decided I was definitely getting a hotel tonight. So I booked one in Daruvar, Croatia. It’s quite far but I check that I can check in late; I’m learning! I also ask the ladylord to get me cereal and milk in. I’d seen this on James Haydens insta and thought it was a fucking exceptional idea. I fucking love cereal.
Because as usual I’ve booked a hotel miles away and the day is pushing on, I find myself time trialling through the last part of Hungary. I’m genuinely pushing it as hard as I can. Relatively speaking it probably wasn’t very quick, but on day 9 it felt TOUGH. As I approached the border I was really gunning it and I felt a spasm in my left quad. It felt like cramp so I sort of stretched whilst riding, and thought nothing more of it. Just prior to the border I stopped at another Penny Market and stocked up on Pizza crawling with flies and ecoli. As I walked round the hellscape that is Penny Market I noticed a slight pain in the aforementioned quad. Again I thought little of it…
I make it to the Hungary-Croatia border and get my passport out of my wallet as usual. As the border guard opens my passport his eyes widen suddenly before flashing onto me. “No! We are corrupt no more! No!” he barks at me. What the actual fuck mate?? I look at him puzzled. He shows me the open page of my passport and the 50 euro note tucked in there. Ah fuck yeah, fair one. He begins to admonish me once more, and I rush to explain that I keep the passport with my money and this is an innocent mistake not an attempt to bribe him. He looks dubious, but I think he accepts I have no reason to covertly pay my way into Croatia. I had seen Ede (#179) wasn’t far ahead on Trackleaders, so in an attempt to change the subject I mention other cyclists. His face lights up and he tells me Ede is not far ahead. He appears appeased and I’m waved through. Diplomatic crisis averted.
Croatia proves to be much more enjoyable riding in the dusk hours, and initially I really enjoy myself. There are three small climbs between me and the hotel. By the third one my leg is pieces, and I’m starting to worry about it. I finally arrive at my hotel and I can hardly walk, not good. The very kind lady who runs the “hotel” (her flat I think) shows me to my room and provides me with my cereal. I eat a gigantic bowl of cereal and put the milk on my thigh. Its total agony, and for the first time in the race I start to question If I’ll be making it to Greece.
I’m very frustrated with myself. I pushed way harder than needed in Hungary. I’m at the hotel much earlier than planned but that doesn’t really achieve anything. Instead it has cost me quite a lot physically. Another lesson is being learnt the hard way; you have to relax and you get there when you get there. Rushing and pushing in a 14 day race is a recipe for disaster. I realise I have potentially jeopardised my race for no real reason.
I gulp down my second bowl of cereal and halfheartedly massage my leg before closing my eyes for a few hours of troubled slumber.
Day 9 – 202.94 miles. 4,623 feet. 15.2 mph average speed.
123 bpm average HR 4839 calories
Total time: 16:23:34
Active Time: 13:26:11
“Cafe” Time: 2:57:23