Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Restless Nights

Uninterrupted nights of sleep are a distant memory. I just can't stop dreaming about the race. Judging from conversations with other entrants for this years race it seems to be a common problem. For the first timers the dreams are a bit generic as they have no idea what the route entails. Preceding the race in '07 I have weird dreams about riding around in some indistinct forest passing other competitors going in all directions. This years dreams are more vivid. I am now riding around lost in familiar looking country side - not familiar enough to know where I am but typical landscape for the various parts of the race. In one dream I am condemned to riding endlessly without ever stopping! We all wish we could ride forever until it is all you can ever do!

Glenn had a rest this past week owing to having a flu jab. His idleness had him resorting to a multitude of strategies conveyed via sms - "If we ride....... then we can.......... and be there in xx number of days!!" Thankfully his rest week came to an end before we had a chance to shake hands on a 3 day strategy to Capetown.

How long will it take? We have been asked by a few people how many days we expect it to take. Last time I finished on day 21. The record set that year ('07) was a day 17 finish. Tim James smashed that record last year by finishing on day 15. He did have at least 2 ordinary days (by his standard) so a day 14 finish should be easy enough for him this year. I suspect that he would not be satisfied with that and will be looking to finish on day 13. This is a huge undertaking but not out of reach of an athlete of his calibre. So how long will it take the Tandem Wranglers? To be quite honest we have no idea how we will stack up over the varied terrain. We know the bike is very fast over flattish undulating ground, such as the 170km stretch between Willowmore and Prince Albert. But, this speed does not come without a price. While we are able to rip across this type of terrain we do get rather tired. We have shown that we can ride technical stuff at a reasonable pace but cannot match competant solo riders. Portaging is another question mark. How fast can we move the beast up and over hard portages... we don't know.

It will come down to how long we can spend on the bike each day. Tim James in setting his 15 day record averaged 10km/h measured as distance covered each day from start to final stop. This is not that fast by normal standards but this is not your normal race. The tandem is tiring to ride as you are not at liberty to stand and pedal as on a solo bike. While pedalling you remain seated for 95% of the time. This is tiring on your butt, back and body in general.

Another problem is that everyone has bad days. You can also have good days which then have the effect of smoothing out your overall performance. 2 guys on a tandem having unsyncronized bad days and good days results in just loads of bad days. Loads of bad days = many days in the saddle.

So how long will it take? We would like to finish inside of my 21 day finish in '07. How much inside that time? Here is the dilemma. If we said 17 days and finished in 19 we will be viewed as having gone soft. If we say 20 and finish in 18 we will be over achievers. I think being an over achiever is better than being an underachiever so we hope to finish in just under the 26 day cut-off.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Training is Addictive

In my previous post I was moaning about being tired of training. In the 7 days ended yesterday I managed just short of 23 hours of training for the week. The best part is that it was generally hard riding. Yesterday, owing to a broken solo bike (see below), I took the tandem out for a solo ride. 25km's of ordinary terrain left me exhausted. Now I know that when I ride with Forest he is making some effort : )

On Saturday a broken chain resulted in not only a bust chain but the removal of the useful bits of my front derailleur. This can happen at anytime - just plain bad luck. As it was I didn't have any tools with me. Fortunately my brother had a chain breaker and a power link so we were up and running in a few minutes. Just before getting home I realised that I could still change up with the stubby remnants of the derailleur and a tap with the toe of my shoes would effect a change down. Good fun, as long as you have only 10-15km to get home.

While training with Andre in 2007 my chainring bolts fell out reducing me to frantically pedaling the last 50km back home. Imagine if this happened during the race! I carried spare chainring bolts in 2007 and the only thing that broke was my fork! Do I now take spare chainring bolts, a new fork and a spare derailleur? Clearly not, but it does highlight the fact that anything can go wrong on the race so one needs to get ones head around that and deal constructively with the issues as and when they occur.

As I was saying earlier, last week I was moaning about all the training. Today due to various irritating factors, such as having a job, I was unable to ride at all and that made me miserable. I am at the point in training where I need my daily dose of dust and blackjack seeds. When I don't ride I start getting aches and pains and become incredibly lethargic. Walking up and down the stairs at home becomes a real chore. But once my butt is in the saddle and my lid is firmly strapped on my head I can ride all day. The best part of riding at the moment is the perfect weather - clear skies with the mecury hovering in the mid to low 20's, it doesn't get better than this..... except this irritation called work!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Training Training Training...

I am so tired of training. When I go out and do a 115km training ride I can't help thinking that if I was on the race I would already be 5% of the way to the finish. Knowing how difficult it will be on the tandem has made me train even harder than my previous attempt. Since Jan this year I have shed 7kg - no diet plan just 4000km of training. That puts me currently 3 kg lighter than my starting weight in '07. I am trying to put in a minimum of 15 hours a week with peak weeks of 25 hours. Work does have a habit of getting in the way!

It is hard to stay focussed as you wind up and down the various trails. As I get further from home there are scores of routes to choose from but on the close-to-home outward and home bound routes it is the same boring stuff. Even Glenn commented the other day that he is sick and tired of the one dirt road we trickle home on. It is trafficless but does get monotonous.

The tandem is now requiring some attention as it is showing signs of wear and tear. The one BB needs replacing as do the hub bearings. I replaced the chains again. Have got new stuff to put on just before the race to get it back to "new" condition. This is one expensive bike to maintain.

Riding through a rocky section this past weekend we took one huge pedal strike which trashed both pedals on the left hand side. Was able to get one working again but the expensive one is toast! Careless riding on my part.

Monday, 6 April 2009

On the road again

The Freedom Challenge - Race Across South Africa (RASA) 2007 is almost 2 years behind me now. Last Year I entered and rode the Freedom Challenge - Ride to Rhodes (R2R) 2008, a 600km, 6 day stage "race" that coincides with the RASA event. More of a non-competitive ride than anything. Still required long days of up to 13 hours on the bike to get it done.

I entered only 4 weeks before the event and had just a few weeks to coax a little endurance into my legs. Kind of worked. Rode really slowly finishing last every day in our start group. I found it really enjoyable, particularly since I only had to figure out a few bits of new navigation and after the previous event I had it more or less figured out.

2009 has me entered for the full RASA from Pietermaritzburg to Paarl (actually in Wellington next door to Paarl this year). As a twist I have entered with Glenn Harrison (Forest as we affectionately call him after his 2007 escapades) on a tandem. This will be the first tandem attempt on the route so will be interesting to see how we get along. I received the Tandem on the 18th Dec '08 and we headed out to the Maluti section of the trail the very next day and had 3 days of riding on "The Beast" as we call the tandem. With various stokers (the stoker is the person who sits on the back and just pedals) I have managed to crank out just over 3500km on the bike. It has been an interesting learning experience as tandem riding is a whole new kettle of fish. More to follow.....