Day 11 – Always turn right – Nova Bila, BOS – Bjelasnica, BOS

Oh Bosnia, what are you doing to me? Day 11. My shortest day. The closest I come to quitting.

After a leisurely breakfast I decide to face the music and get on the road. I don’t get far before I’m struggling and the doubt starts to creep in. Not much further down the road it’s flooding in and in my head I’ve all but given up. I set myself Raskrsce as a target, because this is where the road splits, right to CP4 and left to Sarajevo and failure.

I stop in a roadside cafe to consider my options and give Katy a call. My chocolate ice cream arrives as I burst into tears and declare I can’t physically go any further. The cafe is filled with burly Bosnian men and I’m sat there melting my ice cream with my salty tears. A few of them glance at me a shift uncomfortably. I tell  Katy it’s left to Sarajevo and right to CP4, to which she replies that if I have truly hit my physical limit then I am to immediately turn left to Sarjevo and get a flight home. Crafty bitch. I think no fuck that, I’m not crawling yet. My friend Shaggy had warned me not to quit if I could still turn a pedal, and if I was honest I could still turn a pedal, just.

Right it is.

I finish my salty ice cream soup and head towards the climb that leads to CP4. That is my only target now. CP4 then worry about the rest after that. I hit the first incline and make it 200 meters before I turn round and roll back down. I stop and have a long hard look at myself. What the fuck are you doing? You’ve gone 200m. You could walk this if you had to. Man the fuck up. I do the same 200m but this time I carry on.

On another day I would probably like this climb, today I grimace up it. I stop every 15 minutes or so to give my screaming quad a break. My corresponding arse cheek is also now in bits, struggling with all the extra work its having to do. Near the top an Italian rider (sorry I don’t remember your number) comes alongside and cheers me up. He gets me to the top and to the checkpoint.

I make CP4 and get my stamp. That’s the first target out the way, and I can refocus my efforts. I moan to anyone who will listen. I will now thank and apologise to the volunteers at this CP because I dripped for ages about how shit everything was. Thanks for listening, even thought you were probably desperate for me to get lost in a minefield.

I decide to do the parcours this afternoon, and then stay at the hotel that night. I figure if I can carry on in the morning, the last thing I’ll want to do is the hellish gravel climb. This turns out to be a fucking excellent decision.

The climb is horrendously hard. Its not ride-able in large chunks and I walk a lot. I also fall off a lot and seriously lose my temper. Not as much as my Italian friend from earlier though. Halfway up I see him fall off for the umpteenth time. He jumps to his feet and picks up handfuls of gravel which he proceeds to hurl off the edge of the mountain, all the while screeching an uninterrupted stream of Italian profanity (presumably). I crack up laughing as I slowly push the 17kg Condor through the boulder field they call a road in these parts.

At the top the scenery is stunning. There are ominously dark clouds rolling in. The sun has almost set. Thunder rumbles in the distance. It’s wild and beautiful. I remember why I’m doing this and I’m so happy I turned right this morning. Nick (#92) is at the top and we chat. I “mention” (surprise surprise) my woes. He tells me rather succinctly that it all depends how much I want it. I hate and appreciate this comment in equal measures, because its bang on the money. It stuck with me for the rest of the race, because he was right, and Nick is another one who deserves a belated thanks.

I take one last glance at this amazing scene, before heading back down. I don’t absorb the view anywhere near as much as I should, but the storm is nearly on top of me and I know I’ll be shit at descending through the crappy gravel.

I get back to the bottom and join one of the volunteers in a restaurant for dinner. This bloke deserves a medal because after listening to my whinge, we move on to other non race stuff. Its the first time I chat about something other than the race for the first time in about 7 days, and its SOOOO good. I have a beer and eat my plate of meat in the evening warmth, and its class. I don’t think I can overstate how good the volunteers I encountered throughout were. They really do make the race.

Hellish dinner

I retire pretty early. Its a short day but I’m still ahead of my original schedule. I’m not really racing anymore, so I choose a proper nights sleep and breakfast over riding into the night.

One of the media crew interviews me while I’m getting ready for bed. I’ve never been filmed stripping before, it didn’t come naturally. That must have come across, because the footage never saw the light of day.

Today was so nearly a different story. I’m glad I’m not sat in Sarajevo my race over. I’ve managed to drag myself over the biggest hurdle I’ll face and I’m all but on the home straight. Thank fuck I turned right.

Day 10 – 67.8 miles. 5,515 feet. 9.1 mph average speed.

125 bpm average HR   3414 calories

Total time: 10:54:37

Active Time: 7:27:18

“Cafe” Time: 3:27:19


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