The alarm went off at 4 AM to prep for our 6 AM start. 90 miles for the day. It was dark and rainy. We were riding from the village of Mucuge to Rio de Contas. At the start, my body greeted me with bad legs. This was the only day I wore my heart rate monitor and I did not like what it said. It’s like my legs and heart will still half asleep. No matter how hard I pushed, I couldn’t get out of zone 2… or get any power to my legs. It sucked. I was so frustrated and upset. We got dropped from the pack on the road. Jeff was urging me to go faster, but I couldn’t. We were riding in 4th place – something neither one of us liked. We were pulling an entire second group and finally rode away from them. I felt like I’d never finish the stage, that I had no business racing, that I was out of shape. How would I ever get through it? I felt like I was letting Jeff down as we watched our competition easily ride away from us.

Around the 2 hour mark, my legs finally got the memo that we are actually racing and we made back a ton of time. Guys that had passed us early in the race looked surprised as we jetted past. We surprised 3rd place as we overtook them too!

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In case you missed the video:

The best part of the whole race was a long trek on a trail through the jungle. There was a lot of getting on and off the bike and hiking. I was bonking and trying to recover. The change of pace helped things. It was clear the trail wasn’t regularly used. The jungle plants were so overgrown in parts that you could not see the ground beneath you. They clawed and tore your moist skin as you rode through. There were mud bogs where I fell in up to my booty! We didn’t see anyone for a long time. I said to Jeff, “This is what I love. The adventure of being on a trail, not on the road!” We couldn’t believe our eyes when we came up on 2nd place and overtook them soon after.

Of course it rained.

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There were a lot of rollers immediately after the jungle. We came into a town and thought it was the finish. Dead wrong.

Focus.

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I rode a lot of the race with my glasses off. The mud would cake on them and I couldn’t see anything. Sometimes my eyes would be squinted to tiny slits, with mud and water flinging in my face. It was hard to see. The key was to keep a loose body. I felt empowered after we moved into third. The emotions of being a failure earlier that day were great, and when the pendulum swung to the other side, it was almost overwhelming.

We kept pushing on. The last climb of the race was never ending. With each pitch, we thought we were almost there but it kept going and going and going. In the end, we crossed the line only two minutes out of first place. If only I had felt stronger the first TWO hours! I felt elated and triumphant at the finish. “Maybe that wasn’t so bad.”

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It was an odd feeling to have tons of microphones (like Brazil ESPN!) and cameras in my muddy, sweaty gross face!

After almost 8 hours in the saddle, there was some eating!

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Spacking…with a flip flop!

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and coffee.

We were second overall in the GC. We focused on recovery that afternoon. The next day was the shortest stage aside from the prologue. Our category seemed to be the most competitive. The top teams were all very strong keeping the pressure on. You really can’t afford to have a bad day. 50 something miles for stage 3 – It’d be easy, right?