I was becoming delirious. My arms were shaking, and I sensed myself losing motor control. I started swerving on the road; the 50 pounds of weight on my bicycle were making it difficult to keep a straight line. I turned a corner, and saw yet another hill up ahead. For the first time since leaving Paris, I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the top. I had thought each of the previous hills would surely be the last, only to be confronted with another one a couple kilometers later. I wanted to collapse. But it was getting late, and we needed to get inside. It had been raining for the past 7 hours.
Where was this damned city? The road signs were frustratingly inaccurate, taunting me with their inconsistent kilometer measurements. Two signs ago it said 15 kilometers to the city of Shumen, but the last sign read 20.
I looked behind me. Morgan was nowhere in sight. I knew that I wasn’t the only one having serious problems. 115 kilometers in intense rain, on only our second day of cycling after weeks of inactivity seemed like a foolish decision. I started making a mental check list of the mistakes we had made: 1. Leaving too late. 2. Not refilling with enough water. 3. Not researching the topography of our ride 4. Assuming the storm wouldn’t be so bad.
I stopped at the top of a hill and waited for Morgan to catch up. He was also shaking violently, his eyes stretched wide in physical shock. We had taken our bodies beyond the edge.
“Morgan, I’m in a bad way right now. Like dangerously bad” I said.
It was a pointless comment, if only because we had no choice but to go on. We were expected by a couchsurfer in Shumen. And besides, we needed to get inside. There were no cities between us and our destination, and we were in the middle of some deserted highway, completely soaked. We pushed on.
By the time I saw the lights of the city, I was too out of it to process any emotion. In the last 20 minutes, my motivation had boiled down to a single mission: Find a hotel, have a bowl of soup, and fall promptly to sleep. The couchsurfer had become irrelevant. There was no way we would be able to socialize with them, or be even remotely functional as someone’s guests.
We went into the first hotel we saw. Morgan and I must’ve looked crazed when we devoured the food and water they placed before us. We ate in silence. I could feel the rice, bread, and soup instantly melt in my stomach, helping bring back life to a body begging for energy. My head began to clear, and was able to start producing thoughts more complex than my base instincts for food and sleep.
It hit me that our experience on the ride from Ruse to Shumen was an unnecessary risk. Among our lesser mistakes, like setting out too late, we had completely failed to listen to what our bodies were telling us throughout the ride. We were already in trouble at 65 kilometers, when we stopped for a late lunch in a major city called Razgrad. We should’ve stopped there. Our bodies were getting sick from the constant rain, and we could have easily found shelter in the city.
Instead, we pushed ourselves too far, to fulfill a couchsurfing arrangement we didn’t even end up using. It’s true we average over a 100km a day, and don’t usually delay rides for rain, but sometimes the combo just isn’t in the cards. And that’s OK.