To set records is quite a strange thing to do. It’s hard to apprehend reasons for which Fred Rompelberg set a record in maximum bicycle speed (268 km per hour), following a racing car on his bicycle; for which Colombian Marco Antonio Navas set a record in the most continuous 104 hours bicycle riding, but on September 19, 2013 I felt myself willing to set my own record.
I was inspired by excellent highways of Ecuador, which I rode on my way from Kito, and by the site ridewithgps.com, which told me there’d be a long descend after Cuenca down to the shore of the Pacific. That’s why I decided to overcome 175 km in a day. I never managed to ride more than 150 km per day before.
8:35. One hour delay. 175 km are to be done. Let the wind be at my back. (At first I planned to broadcast through social networks, but the signal of mobile network was very poor, therefore I made a few recordings on my phone).
9:20. Let’s make the task even more difficult. The guideboard tells that the goal is in … 186 km. I’m leaving the city in 10 km.
10:45. I got stopped on a highway and had to show the documents for the first time in that journey. For the next 10 minutes I’d been asked a few “why? how?” questions.
11:00. I’ve just rode the first 25 km uphill, the descent will start soon. I fastened GoPro to my bag, shooting myself is very difficult.
11:30. I broke the record, having gained the speed of 75.9 km/h. The most important when descending is not to look at the speedometer. Should I look at it, I’ll get scared and apply the brakes.
New speed record — 75.9 km/h. The most important is not to look at the speedometer. Should I look at it, I’ll get scared and apply the brakes.
12:10. I overcame 50 km. It started raining 20 mins ago. I hid under the roof of a barn — don’t know why — wanted to check if my credit card was on its place. Didn’t find it. The internet didn’t work there. Got to a village and found an internet-cafe. Found a phone and called to a hostel in Cuenca. The credit card was there.
To get back must be a better choice but I found it more logical to gain the goal I set for today. And I continued to pedal.
12:40. Dinner time. Rice again, but not with chicken — with tuna. I got soup, a side of rice with fish, and a glass of juice just for $2.5
13:05. Time to go!
14:05. I did more than 60 km. Bicycle line on the roadside ended. The line didn’t help much, some areas of it were buried with mud but it’s a pity anyway.
14:10. The road became really bad near the city of Santa Isabel. Prolonging ascents began. It’s almost impossible to speed up because of a broken asphalt. The rain was left behind, it’s a scorching heat now.
Landscapes changed each other very fast. I began in fir forests, nothing alike left here. Vegetation’s rare here, a rocky desert is all around me. Beautiful desert and mountains. Unbelievable landshapes. Sometimes I felt like Anakin Skywalker on Tatooine race — I swept past the rocks through which the road was built.
The sun heat became harder, the road became hilly. Each long ascent was followed by a short descent. Headwinds literally blew me off, not allowing me to speed up. I felt tired and started thinking about fallback plan. Meanwhile, the road ended with a precipice. A mountain river seethed at the bottom of it. The road, lying along the river, wasn’t only of a descending character unlike a flow of water, streaming down to the Pacific Ocean. Soon I got the second wind. I was looking at the river and thinking of how cool would it be — to climb down with an inflatable boat, and then, skim along from the mountain with a flow, shielding my face from splashes. It became easier to ride with these rather absurd thoughts. While my brain was busied with that nonsense, legs did their job.
In another twenty kilometers landscape changed once more. I found myself in a haze of a tropical forest. Birds started singing. A mountain river went somewhere else, but my tiredness came back.
I realized that it would be less felt if I thought of something abstract. Thereby I started sniffing, “I can smell the ocean! Yes, I’m almost there!” whilst there was not even a scent of the ocean. My goal was in another 70 kilometers but the trick worked. I was pedalling quite fast, and more descends waited ahead.
I crossed the border of El Oro region when darkness fell. More than 50 km remained, I had an opportunity to stay in a city, situated in 20 km from my goal, nevertheless I wanted to set the record whatever it’d cost.
When I finally got to the center of Machala, I settled in the first hotel I found, and left a message on vk.com: “8:30pm 12 hours sharp, almost without rest. Red-faced as an overripe tomato. 100% exhausted. No sunset, no ocean, came at night. But I did it!”
For the next two hours I was lying in a bed, prodding my iPhone with fingers, felt proud of myself. There was a thought somewhere in subconscious: “There will be a descent after Bolivia, more that 4000 metres high. Aren't up to it, are you?”
At 10:20pm I went out, looking for some food. The only place opened was a fast-food restaurant, which served rice and chicken only. It didn’t matter to me, because I could eat three portions in a row, but ordered just one.
P.S.: Sometimes I ask myself, “What was that for?” — not only about these strange records in my journey, but also about other different events in my life. There’s no answer. So what?
Translated by Erik Maker.
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