The Hardest Day

This was one of those posts that I was simply compelled to write. I can’t tell you why. All I can say is this: After literally riding THOUSANDS of miles over the last four years in the London to Monaco ride to help the Blue Marine Foundation draw attention to the crisis our oceans are facing, and more importantly, to help them raise an enormous amount of money to help protect a significant portion of the world’s most fragile ocean habitats, I could not think of a more worthy ocean-centric charity to support.

The Tourmalet climbs up a ski mountain…literally.

The ride has grown and evolved since Winch Design underwrote the first event back in 2016. And Blue has celebrated real successes in being able to protect significant tracts of ocean from the damage we humans create all too easily.

But I don’t want to talk about any of that.┬áBecause…I’ve just expierenced two of the hardest days I’ve ever had on a bike. Days that have hurt my body, darkened my mind, and shaken my spirit┬áto the core. Participating in this majestically beautiful ride that started in Windsor only a few days ago has shown me that I’m capable of overcoming physical, mental and emotional hurdles I never knew I could. And that’s not only why I’m compelled to write.

David Churchill: This is my team that went up the Tourmalet. I’m not in the shot becasue I had to lay down I was so recked after the climb!

I’ve also come to realize that this ride is the perfect metaphor for what Blue is doing because it shows just what we are all capable of overcoming when we pull together and commit to a cause that’s bigger than ourselves (ocean conservation)–for the good of ourselves and our kids too.

But man, the last two days have been HARD. Yesterday, we rode nearly 100 miles over two iconic moutian climbs (total elevation of nearly 10,000 vertical feet) that are often featured in the Tour de France. First up was the 17-kilometer long climb up through a ski village and on to the top of the col du Tourmalet. The sun was out. It was the climb that I’d come to France to see and climb for myself. And I knew it was gonna be hard but thought, “Well, I just go slow. How hard could be be, really?

Wham…Hard. Really hard. I guess I though that I could get by with some dubious training (not for lack of want to but honestly just for the lack of time) and a banzai attitude.

This is what I looked like BEFORE climbing the Col d’Aspin.

Wham…Hard. “How’d you like them ‘pommes’ the mountian seemed to say!” But, ok. I made it up. Now all that was left was a quick decent and then I’d limp over the Col d’Aspin before high-fiving all the people on this ride that make it so special.

But the dark place my mind went into as I climbed the last steep seven kilometers of the Tourmalet was rather benign compared to crushing blow I was about to recieve on the much shorter col d’Aspin.

The Tourmalet is as beautiful as it is hard.

The darkness started on the gradual lower slopes of the climb. I was well placed in the group I was riding with. We’d all sufferd on the Tourmalet and we all just wanted to go slow and steady up the Aspin. But I soon realized, their slow and steady was faster than I could manage. I was giving all I had to give, and I was still slowly getting dropped with every pedal stroke. That’s all I was capable of doing.

My team at the top of the Col d’Aspin. I’m also not in this shot because I’m laying down after the col broke me. Ex-pro/ride guide Nicole is in black and sitting on the top tube of the bike.

But I kept moving. Nearly every endurance athalete or mountian climber has a story of enduring by simply keeping moving. And I guess I understood that intelectually, but my climb up the Col d’Aspin I actually experienced just how hard it can be. And you know what, I can’t even take much credit (nor do I even want to) for making it to the top and eventually back to the hotel that night, because Nicole, the ex-pro cyclist/ride guide the extremely capable team from Just Pedal had onhand to look after our group was there to help in the exact way I needed it. She didn’t judge. And she just provided me with a few pitch perfect nuggets of human encouragement. But the most remarkable thing Nicole provided me with over those incredibly dark last 5 kilometers (when I was passed by another whole group of london to monaco riders) was her silent support. She didn’t say a word. She simply provided me with the simple human kindness and support that we all need to deal with our difficult world from time to time.

Amazing people from Winch Design on the top of the Col d’Aspin.

And what could be a better metaphor for trying to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges?

Anything is possible when we pull together!

So please, help Blue get over their fundraising goal of $500,000 by clicking on the link here.

You’ll be glad you did!

And be sure to tune in tomorrow to find out how we overcame the insanely hard headwinds that pounded us for the last 50 miles of today’s ride into Carcassonne.

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