HCMC Dining Guide

Saturday, April 18, 2015

H2H 2015 Days 12 to 14: Into the Mountains

The most challenging stretch of riding on H2H begins right out of Hue as we head west and then south into the mountains that straddle the border with Laos. As we left the Imperial City on day 12 I felt good, but shortly into the ride my left glutes started hurting. I stopped and the pain subsided, so I carried on. As the kilometers passed by through the rolling hills that precede the mountains several muscle groups in my legs went through various stages of pain - given my history of quad strains on the ride I was getting nervous. It was as if my legs were re-activating piece by piece and putting up a fight along the way. The various pangs went away, but then my left butt started acting up again, and this time it didn't stop. 35km in I decided to get in the rear support van instead of trying to ride through the pain.

I was dumbfounded, and finally realized that something about rest days really throws my body off. At the lunch stop I felt better though and decided to get back on the bike for the final 20km to A Luoi. My legs were problem-free the rest of the way, even on the tough 15km climb that took us up onto the plateau on the border.

I was riding with a good group and we stopped regularly for pictures of the amazing scenery, and we rolled into town as the afternoon was beginning to cool down.
We were treated to a stunning sunset over the border from our hotel, and it quickly cooled down to nearly 60 degrees, which feels freezing when you are used to tropical southern Vietnam.

The next morning dawned cool and clear ahead of our first official 'Evil Bitch Days', one of three days on the ride so named for their combination of long distance and intense climbing. We had to tackle 105km on the way to P'Rao, with two major climbs and several smaller ones along the way.
My muscle issues of the previous day were a distant memory as I powered up to the first stop, a tunnel through a mountain.
The team tagged the walls to serve notice for next year's H2H.
After that first serious climb came a massive downhill - these curvy downhills are exhilarating but also terrifying at times, as you rip around blind hairpins wrestling with your brakes as your hands wear out. At one point a herd of cows took up the entire road, forcing us to a complete stop until they decided to move.

After reaching the bottom it was time to go straight back up again, but I was still feeling strong. On this day there is almost no civilization for the first 80km so we were relying completely on snacks, and luckily I had brought enough. Finally we reached a small village with one restaurant that served up some great mi quang, which gave us enough fuel for the final 20km to P'Rao. Once we arrived I checked Strava, the app I use to track my cycling, and was astonished to see that we had climbed over 4,600 meters, or 15,000, that day. That is a proud achievement.
After the beasts that were days 12 and 13, 14 clocked in at a measly 52km, although there was still 2,000 meters of climbing to handle. The scenery and the weather remained amazing, although the heat was starting to get to a few people. I had been riding in the middle of the pack for several days, since the riders I've become closest with ride at that speed, but today my riding buddy Chris T. and I decided to smash it. We reached Thanh My, our destination for the night, in just over two hours, giving us most of the day to relax.

Weird muscle issues on day 12 aside I've felt great, and I've enjoyed getting to know the people on the team. It's just going to get hotter and hotter the farther south we go, which will become an issue, but for now people seem to be doing well. Onwards to the Central Highlands!

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