Friday was our last full day of the holiday, which made me very sad. Although I was finding it challenging, I really liked all of the other triathletes and find the coaches inspirational. I knew that the bike ride would be tough, but I was also aware that we had the entire day in which to complete it, and I was confident that I would be able to at least jog the 2km afterwards.
We were warned that it might be cold up the mountain and that we would need to be adequately prepared, so I packed my arm warmers and a lightweight, waterproof running jacket. I also thought about taking my knee warmers, but didn’t think that I would need to use them as I’ve not used them in the UK before.
We set out early with Graeme and Kat and were told that Alan would catch up with us later. It seemed fairly pleasant until we got to the first big hill. As usual, I was at the back of the pack. I slowed down to stop, but was told to continue. unfortunately, I had lost quite a lot of momentum by then, but continued and did the best I could. unfortunately, it seemed like the hill was going on forever, so I got off and started pushing my bike. I got to the corner and realised that the hill continued quite a bit further. At Graeme’s request, I got back on my bike as he said that he would push me a bit. However, I had failed to clip in my left foot properly and when I tried to clip it in I toppled over to my right. A quick check confirmed that my worst fears had not been realised and I was not mortally wounded (I wasn’t bleeding at all), so I was able to get back on and with a bit of help from the Buscke motor, I made it to the top of that hill. THANK YOU, GRAEME!!!
At the top of the hill, we stopped at a cafe for drinks, and to admire the view. However, we didn’t stop long as it was a little chilly and the coaches were concerned about the weather.
We continued on through a switchback section, before tackling another climb. I resumed my usual position at the back. For a change, I wasn’t alone as Heather joined me for a while. We both found the last part of the climb quite tough, which was exacerbated by plunging temperatures and a number of crazed Portuguese rally drivers. Then the fog rolled in and visibility became poor and it also started to rain. I really started to struggle and found that although I wanted to press on, I was unable to breathe well enough to continue with the climb, so a couple of times, I got off my bike and walked until I could breathe more easily again. This meant that I was dropping further and further off the back of the group. I was so grateful to Graeme for helping me out. Not only is he one of the greatest athletes that I have ever met, but he is also incredibly kind and motivational.
The abrupt change in the weather took me by surprise, but as I continued up the last part of the mountain, it reminded me of being at home on Bodmin moor. I didn’t initially feel the cold as I had been exerting myself, but as soon as I slowed, I realised just how chilly it was.
At the top of a mountain was a cafe, where everyone had stopped for a hot drink and a cake… well, everyone except for Graeme, Heather and I. We arrived and had enough time to drink half a glass of coke each before it was time to descend the mountain.
I put on my arm warmers and my waterproof jacket, but it was a little late as I was already cold and wet.
We left the cafe and started the descent. It felt treacherous as I have never ridden a road bike in the rain and I’m not very good at going downhill anyway. My fingers were really cold, and I was clutching the brakes as I was afraid that I would be unable to stop.
Part way down the mountain, we stopped to regroup, but no-one wanted to stop long as everyone was cold and wet through. I had appreciated my bike shoes earlier in the week as they are tri-specific ones with big velcro fasteners and large gaps, however, this meant that they easily filled with water and the cold air blew through them. It wasn’t long before I lost the feeling in my toes. As I slowed near the group, I felt something strange and realised that I had a flat tyre. understandably, no-one wanted to hang around, so poor Alan was left to help me change the inner tube. When I say ‘help me’, I actually mean ‘do it for me’. I am capable of replacing a tube, but it would have taken me far longer, especially as I was standing shivering and couldn’t move my fingers very well. Alan had a few problems with the CO2 cartridge, which was freezing his fingers and I felt really guilty, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
As soon as my tyre was fixed, we set off down the mountain, to try to catch up with the others. The rain had abated, but the road was still wet, so I tried to follow Alan as closely as possible. Then came my second problem, I slowed a bit much and my when changing gear my chain came off. I tried to pedal slowly to get it back on, but I was nervous about a forthcoming corner and somehow the chain got wedged. I tried calling out to Alan, but he was turning the corner already and couldn’t hear me. I was nervous that I would crash, so I unclipped and stopped at the side of the road to try to resolve the problem. I managed to cover my hands in oil, but was unable to release the chain. I knew that at some stage Alan would look back to check on me and would realise that I wasn’t there, so I didn’t worry too much. Sure enough, within a matter of minutes my knight in shining armour was back again. It didn’t take long for Alan to free my chain and get me moving again.
We caught up with the group on a flat piece of road. The sun had come out and everyone as starting to dry off. I took the advice of removing my wet jacket, so that my wet jersey could dry out. It was a sensible option as although I felt cool for a few minutes when I started cycling again, it didn’t take long for me to warm up and for my clothes to dry out.
The rest of the journey back to the apartments was fairly uneventful. I did my best to keep up with the others and was relieved that there were no more hills to battle up.
Monchique madness Garmin data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161342
When we arrived back at the apartments, we had to do a 2km brick run. I remember just in time to do a flying dismount, but I didn’t look where I was putting my feet when I entered the transition area… it had also rained in Lagos and I stepped right in a puddle, so although my socks had dried out, I made them wet again 🙁
I quickly pulled on my shoes and got rid of all of the accessories that I didn’t need before heading out on a slow final plod.
2km brick run off the bike: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161351
When I got back from the run, I felt pangs of sadness. It had been a challenging day, but the coaches had helped me to complete it and I realised that all of our scheduled activities were over, except for the final meal out. I had to take my bottle off ‘my’ bike and then bid farewell to it.
In the evening, we had a slide show of photos from the week, accompanied by some local port and cheese, before heading out for a meal to celebrate our achievements. It was also an opportunity for the coaches to say their goodbyes as Alan, Graeme and Kat would be departing early the next morning before any of us got up.
It was really nice to have an opportunity to chat with everyone and lots of contact details were shared between the athletes.