Proper planning prevents piss poor performance…. It’s an age old saying that my good father instilled in me as a young child. Both Paul and myself are very organised individuals and have a rock solid work ethic, but sometimes a spanner gets thrown in the works and that is when things get VERY interesting… This is the story of one of my hardest days in the saddle, EVER.

We had planned to have a ‘rest’ day after our 162km day yesterday and we were trying to figure out how that would work out in regards to location and riding. Given that my flights home were now cancelled and we were going to be making the 1,000km by travelling back north every route we had planned is now out the window. We had just done the massive climb from the eastern sea to the Andaman the day prior and we knew that we needed to now head back that direction.

Up, up and away!

Given that this was meant to be a simple ‘rest’ day we had planned on doing the short climb and stopping at a resort around 40km from where we were on the other side of the first mountain range. However that was not to be the case, and thus would start one of my hardest days ever in the saddle.

‘only’ 25km… Distance is very subjective on a bicycle. What is easy on some days is hard on others!

Given that we departed at almost 7am instead of 5:30am and “every minute before 12pm in the shade is worth 5 minutes in the afternoon sun” we had inadvertently locked ourselves into a blistering scorcher of a day without knowing it.

There are two main mountain crossings over Thailand (the route 4139 or 4006) from Chumphon to Ranong, the first day we took the ‘main’ route and today we were taking the yet to be graded short route, this meant it was much more hilly.

After chewing up the flat 30km from our hotel to the base of the mountain, we were met with a ’25km to the next Amazon coffee and 7/11′ sign which we thought was a good start and would be our first waypoint.
Before even hitting the first climb we were met by a fully loaded cab over semi truck coming down the mountain, zero engine brakes on and with plumes of smoke pouring out of all the brakes.
Protip: this is NOT how you are meant to descend with a prime mover… AT ALL…. Low gear and engine brakes on lads…
This should have been the first omen of the day and if it wasn’t the fact that every truck carrying fresh prawns over this mountain for years on end had been leaving a constant pungent fishy liquid all over the road should have been our second.

View the ride on Strava below!

Alas the first part of the day was quite fun, we made decent enough ground moving over the mountain and the views were absoltely gorgeous, the shade being provided by the jungle put us in a great mood as we begun to chew up the KM’s.

We finally made it to the 7/11 and Amazon for lunch at 11am having only completed 53km. Little did we know that this was to simply be the ‘start’ of the day and the real work was yet to come.

“ha dow!” or 5 star, a popular Thai chicken branch makes for some tasty calorie dense lunch time eating.

By the time we stopped at the lunch break the sun was out in full force, Paul was feeling strong and suggested that we make the big push to finish the day down at the beach, after all it was ‘only’ another 60km.. Looking at the elevation for the rest of the day I was beginning to be filled with dread, it looked very undulating and quite threatening to me.

One of the many beautiful descent points of the route 4006. Notice the absolute lack of shade by this time. Put your hand on that road surface for a good 5 seconds and you will know about it! Probably ‘feels like’ 42deg plus at that point.

Waves and waves of undulating terrain started to hit us and after every one I was thinking ‘surely we will see the coast soon enough!’. My arse was numb and I had reffered pain shooting down my femur bone and with every hill the hot mid day air begun to sit still and slowly permeate my lungs. I felt like I was choking on heat.
To compound the problem my Garmin has had a bad battery for some time now (it’s over 10 years old) and would just go dead in the middle of the day, so my only real reference point was Paul who was in front of me. By this stage he was having a strong day and had plenty left in the tank, so as every hill would approach I was watching him disappear over the top as I was left behind to grind my way up the incline with no measure of how far I had go. As I would reach the crest I would be met with the reminder of just how slow I was beginning to grind out the day by how far ahead he was getting. I was starting to mentally break down and get less than ‘fun’ to ride with.

Caveat: Paul is an amazing riding mate and would never ‘leave you behind’. At this point I was struggling to do 15km/h

The Covid-19 measures even in place here. We couldn’t “eat in” at this roadside stop, so we had to ‘take away’. Note my lunch on the pannier, the chair from the restaurant and just how far away we were.

By this stage we ‘only’ had 15km to go, after today I am hesitant to call any distant ‘only’ because it’s all relevant. The next 15km were to be some of the worst ever.
We finished the lunch and begun back out in to the blaring mid day sun, no one is around at this point because all the smart people are either inside in the A/C or in their cars with the A/C. The black gleaming snake of bitumen was flaring it’s napalm tongue along the undulating Thai countryside as if to lead me straight into the depths of hell.

It took me almost 2 hours to cover the next 15km before we finally reached the beach, I was cranky, exhausted and soaking with sweat for over 10 hours but the final destination was totally worth it.

I called ahead to the bungalo resort at the nearest petrol station to ensure it was open before we were to do a single unncesseary KM. The communication was broken, she thought we were 6 people then she kept on asking me “where are you now”. So I got the map out and said “near the hospital” to which she replied “WHY YOU AT HOSPITAL!” haha.
“No no no, no corona virus! haha, we just near there, at petrol station, we come to you now”.

The next “only 7kms” were still hell. By this stage it had been 9 hours of riding and almost 70% of it in the kind of heat that makes you think “stuff that for a joke”. Each pedal was slower than the next and I was having to dig very deep to make it to the finish line. Paul on the other hand was having a ball! haha.
That’s the hard thing about riding in pairs if one of you is having a good day. Riding your bike is fun! That’s why you do it! So if you’re having a good day it’s very hard to be in the same head space as someone who isn’t. Can you imagine if you took your friend to Disneyland and they were complaining about how hard it was to climb the steps up to the water slides?! Pffftttt…
Today I was that friend, Paul was a very supportive riding mate through all this!

Our beach side bungalows. Absolutely gorgeous in the afternoon heat.
Parked for the day at our unbelievably lovely resort!

And that’s it.. That is what goes into a ‘bad’ day on the bike.