Sunday, 31 May 2009

It is getting cold!

Winter has finally arrived on the highveld.This morning it was freezing cold. For the first time this year I had to wear my beanie! I suspect that on the trail I will have to add 1 or 2 more cold weather items - like gloves and a buff.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

The Race is Almost Over

"The race is almost over" is a comment someone made yesterday. It might sound a bit odd considering we only line up at the start in 16 days time.

Having though about it I must agree that the race is almost over. Packing the race boxes and shipping them off is the last real activity before the race starts.

The first part of the race begins with the desire/dream of doing it. That progresses through actually entering, coercing your friends into joining you, getting on the forum, having countless dreams about the race, getting your first glimpse of the route, attending a race briefing, getting the updated maps and narrative and planning your boxes etc.. In between all of this is the countless hours and kilometres on the bike.

By the time you have shipped your race boxes you have lived the race for the better part of 6 months. All things going to plan you will be home with the race behind you in little over 5 weeks.

There is little you can do to be better prepared physically so it is now hurry up and wait for the start.

Packing the boxes is a little stressful, even the second time around. You are allowed to forward 2 litre icecream containers, filled with stuff to ease your race, to each of the 26 designated support stations. 2 litres is not that much once you start loading necessities and comfort food. Riders have opted for everything from loo paper to Jack Daniels. The last minute rush to stuff everythng possible into 2 litres is both expensive and exhausting. Now that it is behind me I can relax as there is now nothing I can do about it - what has been sent is done, we must live with the consequences of any oversights or mistakes. One rider in a previous year loaded his maps in corresponding support station (SS) boxes. Day 1 maps in SS box 1, Day 2 maps in SS2 and so on. The problem being that you need the day 1 maps to get to support station 1. Fortunately for this rider other events resulted in him not starting the ride....which is probably fortunate.

Carl, one of my guys at work yesterday admitted to having a dream where he had entered the race and was all excited. Most people I have spoken to who are doing the race have had at least one dream about the race - mostly negative ones at that. Carl is the first person I have heard of who is not doing the race and had a dream about it. Perhaps my excitement and anxiety is rubbing off on him.

So with boxes packed and shipped I can turn my attention to getting my bike in good shape and plannng and packing my backpack. A couple of fun rides chucked in and then it is all systems go.....

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Where can I get one of these?

If there is one thing that Glenn excels at it is his ability to eat non-stop. He is a grazing machine! When we ride together he stays off the subject of food for at least the first 20 minutes. After that he is constantly hooking stuff out of his bag and eating. Between bites he enquires about the next available food stop. We hadn't been out of the Wimpy more than 20 minutes the other night and he was already grumbling about needing to eat something!

I found the accompanying picture on the internet. It looks like a rugged off-road cooler box on wheels. I think this would keep Glenn happy for at least 10 hours. Where can we get one?

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Go Big or Go Home!

Firstly I must thank all of you who showed concern for my injury following the posting of the bruised shoulder picture. The interest it aroused was touching. I must point out that it wasn't a picture of my injury but rather a picture randomly downloaded from the internet. There are 2 similarities. Firstly, the person in the picture suffered this injury as a result of a cycling accident. Secondly, the coverage of the bruising was very similar to mine, except I didn't have all that awful colouring. My bruising was very faint. Even so, many of you knew that a superb in-form athlete like me was in better physical shape than the picture indicated.

As you can see from the attached picture I have made a remarkable recovery!

Yesterday Forest and I decided it was time to embark on a full test of The Beast and riders in race-like conditions. With this in mind we packed our backpacks will all our kit (yes, including the pot and stove to make tea) and headed out on the Tandem.

Our route took us from Roodepoort across to my office in Kya Sand where we were delayed for an hour sorting out the lighting on the bike and other work related nuisances. After we got going again we headed to van Gaalen's in Skeerpoort via the Home of the Chicken Pie and the cradle. We stopped for fresh brewed tea en route. Actually, more like hot milk as I had left the tea bags behind. After a quick lunch we did the bridle trail and then rode along the dirt roads all the way to Hekpoort. A quick scamper past Bekkers Skool saw us having dinner at the Magaliesburg Wimpy. As it got dark (6pm) we layered up, turned the lights on and wiggled the last 55km's home in the dark arriving at 21h45 a full 14 hours after we had left home that morning. Actual riding time was around 11 hours and we managed 160km for the day.

Surprisingly we were not that tired although the sitting part of the body was starting to feel uncomfortable in the saddle. I shows that if you back off a bit and keep the effort levels under control it is possible to ride for a very long period. If we were required to get back on the bike again today and do it again, we both thought it would have been ok.

I guess that means we are race ready as far as fitness levels are concerned.

Monday, 18 May 2009

A Tale of Two Rides

Friday saw a handful of us dashing to Magaliesburg and back. It was a fast and enjoyable ride. I covered about 106 km's in about 7 hours which included a 1 hour breakfast stop in Magalies. One of those rides where you feel you are strong enough to ride all day.

Saturday saw a similar handful of us riding from The Home of the Chicken Pie near Lansaria through to Van Gaalen Kaasmakerij (cheese farm - for those of you who don't speak Dutch) and back. I rode to and from the Chicken Pie and totalled around 116km for the day. Door-2-door it took 10 hours. We stopped near the cheese farm and again at the pie shop for a total of around 90 mins I guess. Was glad to be done with the ride when I eventually rolled in the gates. My "uninjured" shoulder hurt like crazy and I was tired.

Based on Fridays ride I was ready to conquer the trail in 7 days. Saturdays ride left me wondering about making the 26 day cut-off. Sunday I didn’t feel up to a ride and so declared it a rest day. Makes me wonder how I am going to manage in 4 weeks time when I line up at the start.

Tim managed to ride the same distance as me in the same time. A few notable differences being:
1) he did it in one day on day one of the race last year
2) in worse conditions
3) with a race back pack
4) …and climbed nearly 5000 metres whereas I barely managed 2500 metres over my pathetic 2 day effort

Clearly I need to find some race form and quickly if I want a 2 week taper before the race!!!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

So I guess I am a Wimp

First point is that whether you spell my present condition as Whimp or Wimp it makes no difference except that one is generally regarded as a Nerd Whimp if you acknowledge Whimp as the correct spelling which apparently very few people are aware of. So in order to avoid the appearance of being a complete woosie I declare myself to be a common or garden Wimp.

This condition came upon me this morning when I went to the GP to get some medical attention for my current irritation, being my annual sinus flare-up. While I was there I mentioned that my right shoulder was a little sore following the spill on Saturday past. I was given a piece of paper and directed to the closest X-Ray facility. The result is that there is no evidence of skeletal damage, in fact no evidence of anything unusual at all! In fact the supposed-to-be-injured right shoulder fared better than the non-injured "control" shoulder - being the left one.

So all the huffing, puffing, groaning and muffled screams everytime I have tried to use my shoulder over the past 5 days has been a figment of my imagination - apparently.

Accidents come in 3's I am told - lets for a second confine the 3's to bike accidents and just gloss over my son bending my VW Golf out of shape this past Saturday night. Doug was number 1, I will claim the second spot which leaves spot number 3 up for grabs. Good news is that the spot has already been taken. I took my imaginary shoulder injury out for a test ride on Tuesday evening with my regular Tuesday night riding partner - Bradley Francis - hereinafter referred to as Tumble Weed. Shortly after our ride started he zipped off up a footpath and promptly took a tumble over the bars - no damage worth detailing.

Come to think of it Tumble Weed is not the final 3rd of the accident trilogy. Cecil, my ABSA Cape Epic partner (2007) had a nasty fall one evening early this week breaking a bone in his hand and sustaining a cut lip and other abrasions to the face. This trumps Tumble Weed both in time and degree of mentionable injuries.

Beware fellow riders, Tumble Weed did not close out an active accident set but rather started a new one!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

... and we all rolled over and the one fell out...

Early Sat 9th May 5 of us gathered at the Sasol garage at the foot of Krugersdorp hill. The plan was to ride up Krugersdorp hill and then through Kings Kloof, AKA Krugerdorp Gorge. The ride through the kloof is stunning as the riding is challenging, the view magnificent and the sense of being far away from the city wonderful. After snaking up a jeep track one is rewarded with an exhilarating downhill. I always enjoy going with first timers down this section as it is tricky and a tad slippery with a lot of loose rock. The look of horror or satisfaction in the face of a kloof rookie is always worth seeing. Chris and I bombed down the hill and scrambled up the steep incline on the other side and then waited for the others to catch up. The lengthy wait was ominous - surely someone has been dismounted!

Eventually we saw the others coming down the other side and then crawl up the hill to where we were waiting. My comment of "A lag like this must have a story attached to it" elicited an apology from Doug, "Sorry for keeping you waiting so long but I fell off." He is such a mellow guy but apologizing for falling off was just too funny. To make matters worse he didn’t even fall off on the tricky bit. The jeep track leading up to the decent is a tad rutted and Doug managed to drop his front wheel into one of these ruts and ended up over the bars. He is well organized and produced a bandage from his pack and we strapped his wrist. He was obviously not having much fun and opted to head back to the car as soon as we exited the kloof. Fiona couldn’t bring herself to abandon him so kindly rode back with him.

That left 3 of us - Sean, Chris and I. We ended up having a pleasant ride to Magaliesburg where we wolfed down platefuls of Wimpy food. On the way out the back end of Magalies we had the 3 SAA planes destined for the Presidential Inauguration in Pretoria fly overhead in tight formation. About 20 kms after leaving Magalies a thunderstorm started building in the distance. By my reckoning the closest safe port was the supermarket near Sterkfontein caves 15 km’s away. We rode like men possessed and only just made it to the supermarket before the heavens opened. A coke, small bag of crisps, a big bag of crisps and a bag of biscuits later the skies had cleared enough for us to venture out. The plan was to ride to a spazza shop 6 kms up the road and then ride a further 7 kms to a coffee shop and so on, one storm safe location at a time. By the time we got to the spazza shop the storm had swung around and made the coffee shop a bad choice so we changed direction and slogged up a hill. Chris decided there was little point in riding all the way around a residential game farm when his farm was on the other side so made a plan to gain access to take the short cut through the game farm. Sean and Chris then proceeded to “cheat” by taking the shortcut while I continued on the “honest" route :)

The competitive side of me kicked in and I decided I would ride hard and try beating them to Chris’s place. Things were going well until I started cutting through the bush to get to the farm. The earlier thunderstorm meant there was a bit of mud about but not enough to be too much nuisance – or so I thought! Rounding a corner on a footpath at speed I discovered a patch as slippery as snot and before I could say “Oh Dear” my front wheel washed out and I was unceremoniously dumped on the ground. It is my experience that crashing seldom hurts, it is the getting up afterwards that hurts. I closed my eyes and just lay there. It was a peaceful few seconds before I reckoned the longer I lay there the more it would hurt when I eventually started moving. The good news was that everything still worked. The bad news was my right shoulder hurt like crazy. I pedaled to Chris’s place struggling to carry my bike over one fence. I did get there before the other 2 so the effort was not wasted. As soon as they arrived I scuttled off to finish the 10 km’s home so that I could get in a nice hot bath. I knew that as soon as the shoulder got cold it would be worse. And worse it is. The only way I can use my right arm now is with the help of my friend Myprodol. A trip to the Doc tomorrow is probably not a bad idea.

5 riders started the day and 2 able bodied completed the distance. Not quiet true as Sean did get a lift home with Chris as he was running late ( ... or tired, depending on which version of the story you choose to believe).

Doug did his wrist, I did my shoulder, Sean was “running late” and Fiona got soft! At least Chris had a good day out!

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Just Keep Moving

Glenn says:

So Mike hasn’t been sleeping well and I’ve been getting restless after a recent forced layoff. We are both quite consumed by our upcoming adventure and I for one am counting off the sleeps until we roll out of PMB on the 15th. Having gotten to Rhodes in ’07, I have some idea of what to expect but now going beyond and throwing the tandem into the mix means that there will be quite a few unknowns to factor in this time.

For one, most of our training has been done apart, as I live in Mpumalanga and Mike in JHB. I’ve been going through for training weekends every few weeks which has helped, as it has meant spending some ‘quality time’ on the tandem. ‘The Beast’ is not very forgiving if you’re feeling weak and although it rewards a determined effort with an exhilarating turn of speed, this comes at a price and is not sustainable for very long stretches. It’s a more powerful style of riding than what I’m used to, so I’ve been trying to get stronger and focus on recovery by doing things like intervals, hill repeats and sprints, together with the usual long grinds in the saddle. I’ve been doing all of this on my ‘tandem simulator,’ a 19kg freeride bike with a very similar setup and feel to the Beast. At least then when we do ride together, it doesn’t take me too long to feel comfortable on the tandem again.

So the training has been coming along steadily and we’ve got most of our kit sorted out. We even have a strategy of sorts (we are going to have fun and we are NOT going to fall off) but still many doubts surface and unanswered questions remain: will we get down into Hella Hella in one piece on the Beast?(the new route apparently has some steep, sketchy bits), will we be able to get over Lehana’s in less than a day? What happens when we don’t agree on the navigation? How are we going to drag ourselves and the bike through Stettynskloof?

Fortunately we have one thing going for us – we both have a real blast when we ride that tandem together and as we turn the cranks and shoot the breeze, the miles always tick over quicker than we think. All we have to do is keep moving (and NOT fall off).