Hope 1000, Day #2 How I found hope
I tried really hard, but I couldn’t fall asleep. I saw lights of riders, that were passing by and slowly climbing the hill. It didn’t matter in that moment. I knew that rest was best for me and I felt a little bit better. As I stayed calm, my core temperature dropped, but sleep was only a dream. I don’t usually sleep on these events at the first night. Mainly because I’m too excited and eager to ride.
After one hour of trying, I got up. If I slept, I didn’t notice it. And there was no point in staying there, if I wasn’t sleeping. There was an asphalt climb and I tried to pedal as slow as I could. I didn’t want to break any sweat. I felt my core temperature rising, but it was within reasonable limits.
I stopped pretty soon near a water source to fill up my bottles and eat snacks. The race mode was already turned off and I was just trying to survive. I was lucky that for a moment I shared my struggle with Bernhard Hartenstein. There is nothing better than to see a human soul in the middle of the night. After about an hour I climbed 600m of elevation and got to the top of the pass.
Everything was covered in darkness. The path was narrow and I crossed half rotten wooden bridges above swamps. It wasn’t easy to navigate through and I spend some time pushing my bike. But I broke through, it changed to a normal road and I was descending fast to the town of Siebnen.
That was a main story for the most of my days. Climb some gigantic mountain, descent this gigantic mountain and get to the town. Repeat, repeat and repeat.
It was still the middle of the night and there was no chance to get food. I began to climb another mountain. I felt much better as it was night and the sun wasn’t burning my skin. I pedaled in a steady pace and enjoyed myself.
What I loved about Switzerland was the lakes. It was very common that after every pass, there was a view with a magical blue color. The course was hard, but rewarding.
As I was riding next to the Lake Lucerne, I rested a little because it was a flat section. But I was starting to have problems with my supplies. At early morning, towns were empty and all the shops were closed. I blindly got off the track to the town of Gersau and I tried to find something to eat.
At first, I found a food vending machine. We were told about them by the organizer, that they’re a good source of nutrition during crazy hours, when everyone else is sleeping. He told us about the app that we should get and that would allow us to pay contactless. The problem was that the app was only available in App store for accounts with a billing address in Switzerland. And I was running out of coins.
I bought a can of Coca-Cola and one Snickers. It wasn’t much. I felt I needed more, so I was searching in the streets for something else. And I was successful! A found an open bakery where I bought some kind of Swiss pizza 🍕. It had a thick crust and a fatty toping with a bacon flavor. Yummy!
I though it would give me the strength I needed. But my nemesis – the sun – has appeared on the horizon. No, no, no! Immediately I felt like trash. I had to climb 600m and I couldn’t do it. I stopped on every bench trying to get some rest. Every time I tried to pedal, I felt weak as a fly. I was moving so slowly and the temperature wasn’t even so high at that point.
I learned it’s no longer enough to wet my cap in water to cool down. I put water all over myself whenever I found a pipe. It was dripping everywhere, but it gave me a little bit of protection against the sun. But this damn sport gear was drying so quickly!
I was so happy when I reached Gätterli pass. But I didn’t think I could do another mountain. It will be worse; it will be harder. I already checked the trains. After the pass, it will be my chance to quit this madness and go home. The end of suffering could be so close.
I was running out of water. When I arrived to the Steinerberg the hotness was already unbearable. My Garmin showed me there will be 1000m of climbing. It was insane! I got stuck between two mountains, unable to move. Without strength, nor a plan I simply sat next to a water fountain and drank excessive amounts of liquids. This was no bike adventure; this was a survival game. Me and the others were dehydrated, burned and our stomachs were severely bruised. Despite all conditions I found hope.
I met Luca Bernasconi there. He seemed to be in much better shape. I was thinking I was going to just wait here until the night and continue then. But he gave me one important piece of information. This was going to be the last big climb of that day. Do this one climb and everything will be better.
It was one of those incredible efforts, highlights of the event. I sat on the bike and I pedaled. I could feel the strength in my legs as I produced an immense amount of power. And in 5 minutes I felt like trash and I needed to lay down in the shadow. But it wasn’t over!
When I couldn’t pedal, I pushed. When I couldn’t push, I sat. When I couldn’t sit, I laid. I repeated this over and over again. I was so slow, but I was moving! The whole climb took me more than 4 hours. Until this day I’m last on this segment on Strava. Last of 269 people. But I have done it. Despite the temperatures hitting almost 40°C.
When I rolled over the top and saw Ägerisee I felt like a superhero. When Luca told me that we were near a famous road climb, I realized I don’t know anything about Switzerland. I know they have Alps, there is Zurich and Geneva and that was it. I was going from pass to pass without the knowledge of my surroundings.
It’s not over yet
Soon, I dropped 700m to find out how bad it is in flatlands. Even during the descent, I felt how hot and dry the air was. It still felt awful, but it was better than on steep sections.
But there was still one big climb to go. I was really demotivated, because I though that THE LAST WAS THE LAST. On the way up, there was a restaurant, where I drunk some cold Coca-Cola, which helped me a lot. It wasn’t that big of a hill after all, but I hit the highest temperature of 42°C there. It was so high, it doesn’t even fit into a Strava chart.
After that the worst was finally over. And I was very lucky that after Alosen, there was a lady, that was helping all participants of Hope 1000. I could sit for a moment and have a nice chat. I wasn’t in a hurry. My racing ambitions were obliviated yesterday. I had a nice cup of beef broth and I ate some biscuits. It really helped my mood and I was so thankful.
When another rider arrived, I continued. I prefer to ride alone on these events, even though sometimes it’s nice to have company.
Next section was something I would call rolling hills. It was a pleasant ride, compared to the Alps. In these flatlands it was 36°C, far from ideal, but as I was moving faster, wind was cooling me down.
I was looking for a shop and luckily, I found an open petrol station. I bought drinks, sweets and sandwiches. That should last me for a while.
At night I met Bernhard once again and we rode together for a while. Conversation kept us going and we were looking forward to the Hope 1000 depot. It was a magical place, roughly in the half of the race, to which we could send a bag with goodies and spare parts. But it was still far away.
I stopped at a fridge with sausages and cheeses. Bernhard told me this is not food that would push me through the night, but I knew exactly what I needed. It was such a nice mouth experience. I ate one sausage at night and one in the morning.
I have decided to sleep on a bench in the middle of the hill and I let Bernhard go. I was getting tired and I didn’t see a point in trying to get to the depot. It will wait. No one will eat my chocolates.
That day was hard. But it should be that way. It wouldn’t be really an achievement if I reached the finish line without any struggles. In that moment I knew I could do this. I wiped out all thoughts about giving up. I had not only hope, but my mind was prepared to tackle all challenges. And some new challenges were on their way.