Updated: Sep 10, 2019
Long musical intro There's a thing in science called the Observer Effect. It basically asks if the act of observing something can influence the thing being observed? (at least one of my children will tell me I'm over simplifying that, but it is my blog, so back in your box Michael). Anyway, the discovery yesterday, that people who are not called Berney are actually reading the blog surprised me. Genuinely. I honestly thought I was writing it for myself and my family. But mostly for my Mum who has been telling me since primary school that I would be a writer. Quite how she judged this based on my efforts in crayons is beyond me. But that's Mum's for you. [Get to the point! - phantom editor]. My point is, that now I know that at least four people are reading it, will that change the nature of what I write? Will I start to pander to my audience? I am wanky enough to use the phrase "my audience"? Will I run out if things to say by Sunday? Probably yes to all three. There's pressure now to entertain. Otherwise how will my two commuting friends cope? What will chef's and plumbers read on their coffee breaks? Damn. I've already started to do it. On with the blog... Fail to prepare.... I'd spent so much time thinking about the first three days that it hadn't occurred to me to look much beyond that. I know that doesn’t make sense if I'm planning to ride for 14 days. But I was so focused on getting to Lucerne that all the other locations were just names on a spreadsheet. What was I to expect between Lucerne and Basel? I had absolutely no idea. I'd never looked at the route once. The day did not start well, in that it started too early. Airbnb can be a lottery and after the beautiful home I stayed in on Tuesday comes a very different experience. My host is the Swiss version of The Dude from The Big Lebowski and the house is a tip. I mean, students would turn their noses up at this place. Alongside Lebowski is his friend who 'owns a creative media agency'. This guy started a Skype call with a clearly angry girlfriend in Australia at 5am in the morning on speaker in the room next to mine. Coupled with the fact my bedroom faces East and has a huge window with no curtains, there no way I can get back to sleep. I did doze off around, 6.30am but at 7am their next door neighbour started working in the garden with a strimmer. OK I get it. I'm leaving. Skype guy offered me breakfast. He was eating cereal from a large mixing bowl and asked if I wanted Chinese noodles. No joke. Now I really was leaving, resolving to stop somewhere on route for breakfast. I ride for an hour before reaching Sempach, the first of many charming little towns on today's route. While sipping my coffee I got a message from an old friend who has been reading my blog and it totally changed my bad mood (Grazie mille mia Bella Simona) Leaving Sempach I was back on single track roads and I was amazed at how quiet it was. Just the sound of my chain whiring around. It was blissful. Then I hit gravel again. This time though I was OK with it and rode with both feet clipped in. (I'm not about to buy a mountain bike before you ask Moto TJ). The gravel section seemed to be endless though, so I stopped and Google 'National Route 3'. I clearly should have done this months ago as the site told me exactly when to expect tarmac or 'natural surfaces'. Only now does it occur to me that the reason my Garmin keeps saying I'm off route is the guy who created the GPX file avoided all the off road. Yes, I got a GPX file off a German I met on the Internet. No, I didn't get anything else off him. I rode through a beautiful forest and even some strada bianca. But after 10km the vibration was making my fingers numb, despite the fact that the Infinito has technology in the frame to counter this. I could see the next town, Aarau, ahead so I freestyled the directions and then went into meerkat mode looking for the little signs once in the town. The town seemed too busy to stop in so I pressed on. Something I will had time to regret later. My mood changed again when I was sent through a forest and up a 6% climb for 2km on bloody gravel again. Once I'm over it and down the other side I came to a tiny village with warning sign about the forthcoming climb. This seemed curious as nowhere else on the route has felt the need to warn me. I was forced to raid the vending machine on the petrol station forecourt at the bottom of the climb to get some energy to go uphill again as everywhere else was closed. The hill turned out to be a total bastard. At the bottom I tried to psyche myself up and I think about two of my friends for inspiration. Ron and Tom are bigger guys than me, but both have done some impressive climbs this year that I found inspiring. Ron climbed The Struggle in South Wales (which I failed to do) and Tom (or Davo to his mates) got up the Col de Feminina in Mallorca. It's easy to be inspired by a Chris Froome or Geraint Thomas, but they are exceptional athletes I can never match. I am more often inspired by people around me rather than sporting gods. Within the first kilometre though the hill ramped up to 13% - the kind of incline I really struggle with. By half way sweat was pouring off my head and stinging my eyes. My shirt and mouth were both wide open and blood was pounding in my ears. I had to stop (Sorry Ron and Tom). And again just 500m later. And again just 250m from the top. If climbing St Goddard on day 2 left me with a sense of euphoria, then this climb left me dejected. I was upset with myself for giving up. No amount of rationalising helps. My mood got worse, as in three villages in a row nowhere was open. I am close to bonking. The road went up and down in short sharp inclines and on one section hits 16% and I was almost off. Only that little adrenaline hit you get when you think you are about to fall off stopped me from doing so. This was no longer a mental wobble. It was a full tank slapper and I was in a bad place mentally and physically. I finally found a cafe open, but they had no food left. I had a beer, a coffee and a twix. There was 40km to go still and for the first time on the trip I started to think I won't make it to my destination. After my stop, the road helped lift me a little with a slight descent that I could freewheel. They say that you have to experience the lows to enjoy the highs. I would add, you have to experience the lows to know you can come through them. My lowest point ever on a bike ride came while doing the now defunct Grand Fondo Cymru in North Wales. It was bitterly cold and the mountains were unlike anything I had ever experienced at the time. I lost all feeling in my fingers and feet and honestly I wanted to cry with the pain. I only got through it because a friend from Coventry Triathletes, Joe Reynolds rode side by side with me and talked me round. He is an awesome bloke. Today I just had to keep reminding myself I've been here before and I can do it. The distraction of old memories helped. I looked down and I'm riding at 28kph and there's only 15km to go. Somehow more than an hour had passed by without me noticing and I hit the outskirts of Basel. This gave me a huge lift and I was flying through tiny back roads all the way to the city centre to my Airbnb. I am still disappointed by my climbing failure, but congratulated myself on coming through the other side of a tough day. Tomorrow is scheduled to be my first rest day. I'm not sure I want to stop, but let's see how the legs feel in the morning. Today's numbers that count: 1. Time in the saddle - 7:36 2. Number of cyclists with luggage passing me the direction - approx 200 3. Number of cyclists going my direction that I passed/passed me* - 0 4. Tune that went through my head endlessly - Heaven 17 "Temptation" (thanks Alex Meisl) *my younger son once explained why this is the case. It's basic maths. He looked at me like I was an idiot when I asked why I always see more people going the other way. He was 13 at the time.
stuck at a cross roads in the woods with no signs and no Garmin. not happy
The hill was even worse than the sign suggested
slim pickings on the petrol station forecourt