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When the going gets tough...very tough

Yesterday was one of those days when you go to bed swearing that this is your last Lifecycle. Never again, you promise. We were up at 4am to be able to leave at 6am. Well, that was the theory anyway.

The reality was that most of the sleeping bag cocoons did not stir till nearly 5am. They had only had a few hours sleep and your body hurts less when you are lying down. People are getting better at shoving everything back into their luggage, however, as we were on the road by 6.15am.

The day started badly. As soon as the back-up van saw a group of cyclists by the side of the road, they knew something was wrong. One of the four female cyclists was hunched over her bike.

Part of the wheel mechanism had snapped off and she did not have a spare. And what was worse, there was little chance of finding one. She was obviously distraught but so were the men that she had been training with for the past four months who had encouraged her and seen her turn into an ace cyclist in peak fitness.

We simply refused to give up but after we had tried three cycle shops, googled the Japanese agent etc, we eventually had to face up to the fact that we were simply not going to be able to get the part in time. She sat in the back of one of the vans, stunned by her bad luck...

The cyclists had 275km to do and the route once again took us through endless towns and traffic lights.

The hours ground on and on and we moved like exhausted zombies from check point to check point.

By late afternoon, there was at least two hours between the first group of cyclists and the last, and with 100km left to go, the reports coming in were alarming. There were huge sections of road in absolute darkness, something that had not been picked up on the pre-visit.

And the cycling lanes in two tunnels were too full of litter to be used - and it was far too dangerous with trucks rumbling past to use the road. Apart from being against the law.

Two cyclists had strayed off route and the back up team were trying to look after the scattered groups of cyclists and locate the two missing ones, when the decision was taken to abort the route as it was considered too dangerous to go through the tunnel. Even so, it was past 11pm by the time we got to the accommodation.

The lack of sleep and the stress of keeping everyone safe has been taking its toll and tension has been building.

Today (already Wednesday here) started out much better as the route moved out of town and up into some of the most magnificent mountain scenery I have ever seen, and the first glimpse of Mount Fuji put us all into a much better mood.

The lunchtime checkpoint was by a picturesque lake but once again the route got the better of us. There was a section of off-road which was much harder than expected - and certainly too dangerous for the cyclists once night had fallen.

But the alternative was a tunnel which had no cycling lanes. It took three hours to get a van back to ferry them through the tunnel and escort them back to the checkpoint.

It's now 9pm and there are still five cyclists out. There is still our luggage to take in, clothes to wash and mattresses to inflate.

When I stood by the lake with Mount Fuji in the background, in awe of the tremendous endurance of the cyclists, I momentarily forgot the stress of the previous day.

Now, I just want to get home. And I am asking myself why on earth I am here. And I am pretty sure that many of the other 33 people here must be asking themselves the same question right now.

This is my third Lifecycle and one of the cyclists behind us has done it eight times. There is always a moment of soul searching. We always come back next year. This may be hard but as we keep reminding ourselves undergoing dialysis every other day for years is harder....

 

Vanessa Macdonald

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