Remember how I made the distinction between workdays and reward days? Today was definitely a work day!
I knew today was going to be very hard. I started at 6:00 AM. The air and ground was warm even at that time! I was sweating within the first few miles. I wasn't sure how I was going to make it through the day, considering I was sweating even while riding at 5 mph and had at least 76 miles to go!
I didn't have internet so couldn't get the accurate height profile for the day, but I knew there was a long steady climb. I assumed it was 15-20 miles, but even after 35 miles, I was still going up slow and steady! There was a detour at 39 miles to the Natural Bridges Visitor Center. I was debating all morning on whether I should take it, but there at the 35 mile mark, with just 1.5 bottles and my emergency spare water bottle, I decided not to risk running out of water and took the detour. It was a long 4.5 mile road until the visitor center, but looking back, I might not have made it without it. I got a lot of water and got some rest from the scorching afternoon sun. At about 1:30 PM, I got back on my bike for the second leg - 40 miles.
As soon as I got on, it was clear my body had taken a beating from the long, hot climb of the morning. 5 more miles and I finally reached the edge of the hill. Then it was an intense 5-10% grade downhill for 10 miles continuously! Once at the bottom, there was a wicked uphill and then a down on the other side.
At this point, my legs were really feeling the stress. I was overheating a lot and most of my body hurt. But I had just 20 miles left, so I pushed on. The first 10 miles was as expected - hot and slow, but I was getting closer. The last 10 miles though, was some of the most intense few hours! There were 2 insanely steep climbs. In the situation I was in, I wasn't ready at all for such climbs! They were about 0.5 to 1 mile each and I was taking breaks every 0.25 miles just to slow my heart rate down a bit.
There were multiple times I felt like just giving up and walking my bike up, but I didn't, and that makes me happy looking back.
So 6600 ft and 88 miles later, I can confidently say I hit a new "hardest day". I have been hitting too many of those lately!