On paper today was supposed to be one of the easiest days out of the entire trip. On paper it was supposed to just be 50 miles of soft rolling hills in gorgeous blue bird weather. It ended up being one of the more physically exhausting days of the trip so far.
Wind is the biggest game changer on the prairie when you're 5'8" and weigh 135lbs (at the start). We had a massive headwind all day that persisted from the very first pedals of the ride that never did let up at any point in time. Climbing is manageable, you can put your head down and spin your legs up to the top of a hill, but with wind you're constantly in a battle of taking two steps forward and a hop back.
The thing that made today exceptionally rough was the brutal sun and heat that we encountered. Even at 8 am we were being baked by the massive Montana sun, and this was only the beginning. A bank's weather clock in Circle read that it was 99° today when I arrived, dripping sweat for the first time on this trip. It's insane that not even a week ago it was snowing in sheets and I was nearly hypothermic.
The final little nagging thing about today was that there was a constant set of rolling hills that you could never get a rhythm on the climbs or descents. You'd spend all the climb fighting the wind, sun, and the grade just to be faced with many more hills like the one we just climbed marching on to the horizon. There wasn't even a break on the descent, the wind made going downhill almost as strenuous as climbing.
I'm quickly learning that a perfect day on paper is dooming that day for failure more often than not unless the mileage is 0.