bikeroutetoaster and sent them to my Garmin in preparation. The weather promised rain so I reluctantly decided to take the mountain bike with me - in any case I like to avoid sticking my road bike on the roof of the car as much as possible. The idea was that the mountain bike would be more robust, especially on roads that I didn't know - ha ha, the irony!
On Saturday I got a puncture at the furthest point from "home". Not to worry, I had a spare tube, patches and a top of the range pump that had hardly been used. I connect the pump to the valve and all the remaining air comes scooting out; this is when I find that the pump doesn't actually work. I call my wife - this is the first time I have had to play this card because there were no other cyclists out to help me. Its a real hassle for her to come because she is supposed to be working - of all the weekends, what bad luck! I start to get quite cold waiting for her to come but thankfully I spot another cyclist - Manolo - passing by. He very kindly stopped and helped me get going again, and was also good company on the ride until he himself got a puncture! It seems like I am jinxed by the Puncture Demon: everyone who stops to help me seems to end up falling foul of it too. My shoulder was extremely painful during the first half of the ride - so much so that it made me shout out in pain a couple of times. This, coupled with getting the first puncture on the mountain bike in about 9 months and the fact that I had an hour and a half run to do immediately after, put me in a very dark mood. It doesn't take too much imagination to guess what I was calling the company that made the pump that let me (and my tyre) down - Crank Brothers. At least the run was very good quality - the last 20 minutes at medium heart rate I completed at 15km/h, after three hours riding and an hour running. I worked out my run in such a way that I could pick up a new pump and inner tube from Eroski on the way for my long ride the next day.
The ride on Sunday was supposed to be 5 and a half hours long. In the end it was 6 hours of pedalling and more than 7 hours of elapsed time. During the ride I didn't get just one puncture or two, no, I got FIVE punctures! I checked very carefully each time inside the tyre to see whether there was something lodged in there but the answer was much simpler than that - the tyre was wearing out and it chose this weekend to make its last stand. Not to worry, I had a spare tube, patches and a brand new pump. Now, the Chinese can make good quality items if they put their mind to it but they are the experts at making disposable plastic crap. Normally you can expect to get at least a couple of goes out of something "Made in China" but the pump (9€) turned out to be utterly useless (worse than the W*nk Brothers one) and the spare tube - get this - split immediately as soon as I pumped it up the first time! I needn't have run 10km the day before clutching a pump and a spare tube after all, not to mention the waste of money. Anyway, I had learnt an important lesson from Manlolo: instead of trying to pump up the tyre with the hand pump and risking being left with completely flat tyres, better to soldier on to the nearest petrol station and pump up the tyres with the machines they have there. It meant that I ended up cycling about a third of the 140 kilometers I managed to cover on a partially flat tyre, with that annoying growl it makes rubbing against the road and with the seat bouncing up and down, making fun of all the energy I was putting in to moving forward. On top of that I made the classic mistake of not noticing that I had the wind with me on the outbound leg; the return journey was into a headwind most of the way. At one point, the road I was riding along petered out and turned to mud. I had the mountain bike so I decided to plow on regardless. Actually "plow" is exactly the right word for it - this wasn't mud but some kind of sticky red clay - I'd never seen anything like it before. Soon my wheels had an extra 5cm diameter and were so clogged up they wouldn't move. Amazingly I managed not to gunk up the gears or the disc brakes so I was able to pull most of the stuff off and carry on.
Amongst the usual roadkill - rabbits, hedgehogs, birds, etc - I saw a dead dog lying in a field and it made me realize how far away I was from anything and anyone: I didn't see a single cyclist in the 7 hours I was out. If my tyre had deflated completely then I really would have been screwed and my wife would not have been amused to have to do a two hour round trip just to avoid her husband joining the dog in the field. The amazing thing is - and I am rather proud of this - I didn't lose my temper once! I was a bit nervous that I would end up getting lost as my Garmin ran out of batteries after 90 kilometers and I had opted for a circular route rather than my usual out and back style. I started to go off the beaten track as far as nutrition went and, instead of my usual Mule bars, started to eat Snickers, M&Ms and drink Red Bull. Perhaps this was why I started to "bonk" (run out of energy stored as glycogen) in the last 8 kilometers or so. I was so happy to see Ciudad Real looming before me - I felt nearly as elated as I have done to see the finish line of a Triathlon. Food was waiting for me when I got back and I gratefully wolfed it down. Meanwhile, my back tyre sighed as it let out its last breath.
Tonight I will be buying some new tyres and a new pump, made anywhere but in China.