Arkansas High Country, day 7

Friday, June 14, 2019
White Rock Mountain to Bentonville


Facebook post: The plan for today is to make it to Fayetteville (57 miles), get a new rear brake pad, and hotel it. Then an easy day to Bentonville tomorrow (30+ miles of paved bike path) and spend the rest of the day there giving my body a break before tackling the last 400 miles. But plans change, so we’ll see what the day (and my legs) hold.

Maybe the cold night had Mikey moving slowly, or maybe he was just tired of riding by himself. Whatever the reason, despite the fact that I took forever to pack up, he and I left at the same time. Just as we started, it began raining. Not much, but enough to make me pull out my rain jacket for the first time. Though we never got much more than a sprinkling, it was chilly enough that I left my jacket on for quite a while.

We rode through the campground, looking for some overlook that was supposed to be amazing. Not finding it, and not caring enough to make further effort, we rolled out.  If he was looking for company, Mikey was quickly disappointed. 
I'd ridden past this sign the previous night on the road to the right without noticing it.
8:16 a.m.
Two big climbs in the first four miles put a separation between us. I was slightly more aggressive on the preceding downhill, but he was a much stronger climber, pushing ahead when I got off to walk. The first 20 miles were a terrible slog. My legs felt weak, my body hurt, and I could barely keep my eyes open. The temperature barely reached 60 that morning; that's perfect riding weather on a good day, but the overcast sky, steady breeze, and my glacial pace combined to make me uncomfortably chilly.

10:16 a.m.

11:16 a.m.
It's a mark of what good friends I have that they were
so wonderful and encouraging in the face of my
struggle. I was barely clawing my way through
each day, but they cheered me on like I was leading.
I struggled to motivate myself, rewarding every two miles with a handful of gummy bears, every five with a caramel, and every ten with a look at my phone.  I reminded myself how lucky I was to have this opportunity, what a cool experience it was, but none of my tricks put a dent in the self pity.  

At mile 20 I stopped for a snack break, hiding from the wind on the side of a rural fire station, had a little cry, and fell asleep. Ten minutes later, a hummingbird woke me. Between eating, napping, and facebooking, I spent about 40 minutes on the side of the fire station. When I reluctantly climbed back onto my bike I was soon rewarded with almost 25 miles of downhill into Fayetteville.

But Kate, I heard you thinking, you said that it was 56 miles to Fayetteville, and if my math is right you've only ridden 46. So true. And while I blamed race brain in my evening facebook update, I was relying on notes I made before the race. It certainly wasn't the first time my math was significantly off, and I'm not sure if the issue was just a simple addition error or the accumulation of too many vague estimates or something else entirely. Anyway, it's definitely an area for improvement before my next multi-day event.

I stopped for 20 minutes at a gas station on the outskirts of Fayetteville, not so much because I needed anything as because I just wanted to not be riding my bike. Suffering the typical culture shock I felt every time I hit busy roads or city traffic, I was relieved to reach the shelter of the Razorback Greenway, the closest thing to a bike superhighway I've experienced.

I took the Greenway to Highroller Cycles. The guys there replaced my rear brake pads while I considered my next move. I know it doesn't come across in these posts because they're being written so far after the race, but I was really ambivalent about staying in the race. On one hand, I really wanted to finish. I knew I could finish, if I just stuck it out. And, having made it through that abysmal day four crossing Poteau Mountain, how could I justify quitting?  Though I knew my friends would be supportive no matter what I decided, I really didn't want to let them down.

On the other hand, that day had taken an enormous emotional toll. It was as if I'd shattered a glass, then placed the pieces in a plastic grocery sack, and every time something jostled the shards they'd poke through the bag. I cried at least once a day, usually more, usually for not much of a reason. I really, really needed a break.

And yet, my bike was finished before 3:00. It seemed dumb to stick with my original plan of staying in Fayetteville when only a 30-mile paved bike path separated me from Bentonville. I grudgingly pointed my bike north, stopping almost immediately for late lunch at Chipotle before continuing once more.
Between Fayetteville and Bentonville
5:05 p.m.
The smooth, glorious Greenway made for a quick trip. I covered the last 30 miles in 2.5 hours, which is not at all fast unless your typical pace has been more like 7 mph counting stopped time. This despite a C-store stop and some navigational challenges. Calling the Razorback Greenway a bicycle superhighway isn't total hyperbole. It has spurs and exits all over. It's confusing.

Typically that wouldn't be a big deal since I was just following my Garmin track anyway, but in order to save memory on my Garmin 520 (limited memory, not expandable, and being tasked with holding two huge routes, a base map covering an entire state, and ride data from each day), I'd opted not to upload the base map for the northernmost portion of Arkansas. That little bit of the state was bundled with a big chunk of Missouri, making the file size huge.

Unfortunately, that also meant that, in the most confusing part of the route, all I had to follow was a purple line without the added context of other roads on the screen. So there I was, within three miles of my hotel, slowly riding back and forth in an effort to figure out where I was supposed to go.

If I wasn't outwardly crying, you can be sure I was on the inside.
Between 2 and 3 on the map picture, you can see that I rode right past my turn. It was totally unclear from my Garmin where I was supposed to turn; I knew I was wrong but couldn't figure out what was right. I was so frustrated. After retracing my steps several times I gave up and just kept riding ahead. Sometimes I could see the purple line of my route way over on the edge of my screen. I followed the path until finally it intersected with the route again. Then, not having ridden the actual route to that point, I turned right and rode to where I'd missed the turn, then turned around and rode right back up (of course it was up), ensuring that I'd been faithful to the route.

1.5 miles and one more wrong turn later, I rode up to the Holiday Inn and Suites. I was definitely the dirtiest person in the lobby as I checked in, but the front desk clerk didn't bat an eye as I wheeled my bike down to the elevator and up to my room. I plugged in all of my electronics, washed my disgusting kit in the hotel sink, and then hung it to dry while I took a long shower.

My kit hadn't been washed since day 2, and I wore it constantly except in the evenings. This was a much-needed wash.
When I finally got out of the shower, my phone, which had been almost dead, was no more charged than when I'd first plugged it in. The cord I'd bought outside of Hot Springs wasn't working any more. I felt a wave of panic. That phone was my lifeline, the majority of my human contact, my backup maps.

I went down to the front desk to see if there was a Wal-Mart or Walgreens or somewhere close that would sell phone cords, but there weren't. Thankfully the hotel did have an iphone cord that the front desk clerk loaned me. That emergency resolved, I ordered a pizza for delivery.

While I'd been almost totally alone most of the week, I found myself not wanting to be around people. Instead, I cocooned in my room, feeling fragile and very unsure of what the next day held. Would I continue on? Would I take a zero day? Would I quit? Even I didn't know.

I tipped the pizza guy 50% because I wanted someone to be happy. I ate half the pizza in bed and went to sleep without setting my alarm. I woke up starving at 2 a.m. and ate more. My mind was hiding from the race, but my body was preparing for battle.

Evening Facebook postARHC day 7. I’ve been doing this for a full week now! I’m pretty sure I’ve never ridden as many miles in a month as I have this week.
74 miles today.
I still don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow. Zero day? Short day? Who knows. Here are some pictures.


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