Day 4 – ‘Only‘
I desperately wanted to get to the top of Col d’Iseran, our ‘only‘ Col of the day.
‘Only’ 2,200m of climb over ‘only’ 47km, with temperatures peaking at ‘only’ 28 degrees, with absolutely no shade.
At every km on each Col, there is a marker depicting the distance to the top and the average gradient of the climb over the next km. With an average of ‘only’ 4.2% overall, with the highest gradient of ‘only’ 10%, it was a tough climb. Those who are cyclists, will understand how that translates. For those who are not cyclists, it translates to pedalling hard uphill constantly for 47km, in blazing sunshine for me, for nine hours.
If ‘only’ these were the ‘only’ challenges but it transpired there were many more, some before we even start climbing. Dark, eerie, Alpine tunnels, where the noise of the traffic became disorientating and at times overwhelming. I did fleeting think of images of hell and this had to come close. The road surface poor, water pouring through the ceiling in places, zero visibility, an intense heat and a feeling of vulnerability as cars and bikes whizzed passed, seemingly from all directions.
If I thought my balance was affected by Parkinson’s, it certainly wasn’t helped by a vertigo induced by the sheer drop at the side of the road, or the continuous twists and turns of the Alpine roads. If I’d expected some mindful cycling, these moments were few and far between with heavy traffic in the form of motorcyclists (think convoys of engine roaring, leather clad, fearless, speed demons) in between parades of supercars racing to the top.
There were however many positives too. The scenery was spectacular, the camaraderie great, the support team are fantastic and of course this is a challenge. It was never expected to be easy.
‘Easy’ could never be an accurate description of any element of the challenge so far but today was as tough as I have experienced. The Col d’Iseran, the highest in the Alps was unforgiving but I found a determination, I wasn’t sure I had. Despite my Parkinson’s being relatively well behaved today, I was slightly taken aback by my overwhelming desire to scream out when I arrived at the top, ‘F*** You Parkinson’s, not today you don’t!’
I expect many people with or living with someone with Parkinson’s will understand the sentiment and the emotion behind it.
PS. Sorry Mum on two counts. For worrying you with descriptions of danger and hardship and for swearing. These were ‘only’ my perceptions and I ‘only’ nearly swore.