The plan yesterday was to stop briefly in Masakala and push on to the next support station at Mahlaghalonyane which I should have made comfortably by 10pm. Unfortunately after leaving the soup stop at Glen Edward yesterday I realised that it was going to be a problem. My left leg started showing signs of what I think is ITBS (Iliotibial Band Syndrome - also referred to as Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome). Knee also a bit swollen and that is puzzling. If you are not familiar with this injury go google it. The long and the short of it is that it is incredibly painful. I have had it only once before and that was on this race in 2009. This year I thought I had done enough training to prevent a reoccurance. To have it flaring up 6 hours into day 1 was a bit disturbing. 8 weeks back I rode from Pietermaritzburg to Rhodes with a full race pack and had no problems. A month ago I raced the 900km joBerg2c without so much of a twinge. All quite bizarre. Might not be Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome at all but it sounds like an impressive injury to have.
Back to my ride yesterday. After leaving Glen Edward I got progressively slower. Jacques, Coen and Gavin were gracious enough to wait for me and even resorted to pushing me. Eventually I was unable to put any weight on my leg so decided it was time to throw in the towel. I made a call and the local chief arranged for transport to fetch me to drive me through to Masakala.
What followed was the scariest car ride of my life. It was dark when the "transport" skidded to a halt beside me. My bike was tossed in the back and off we went. The "transport" was a collection of nuts and bolts masquerading as a bakkie. Every piece of the bakkie was vying for attention as we rattled along the road. It took me a few seconds to realise that the headlights were on. The glow so low that the candle-power scale of luminance is too lofty to assign even 1 CP to what lit the road ahead. I wouldn't ride my bike with lights that bad. Undeterred "Schumie" raced the engine and attacked the road ahead. In spite of the severe pain in my legs I desperately pressed hard against the floor boards as the first tight bend loomed into sight just ahead. Schumie had no intention of slowing and we executed a 4 wheel slide around the corner. All good except for the fact that this is the Eastern Cape and the condition of the roads here are pretty lumpy. It was more like slide/sideways hop combo. The next corner saw us sliding past an oncoming car and nearly taking out a dog sized rabbit which greatly amused the driver and his mate who was wedged in between us. To say I was uncomfortable is an understatement. As I was contemplating my life ending in a car wreck in a remote corner of the Eastern Cape things got worse - the drivers cell phone rang! With a nonchalance that had to be seen to be believed he answered it, spoke briefly, hung up and started pecking away at an SMS. All the while navigating an interesting s-bend at the bottom of a steep hill. At one stage the car stalled on an uphill section. A quick attempt at restarting the engine came to nought as the battery was way passed its use-by-date. The driving tried letting the car roll backwards so he could start the engine and after a few inches it fetched up against something that halted its progress. Undaunted, the driver and friend spilled out the drivers side door to see what the problem was. I had visions of the car suddenly breaking loose and careering out of control down the hill. Fortunately, after a few more minor antics I arrived safely at the overnight stop having suffer no more than 15 minutes of absolute terror.
My race is over and I am disappointed but its ok. This race is amazing. It gives even us ordinary guys an opportunity to go out there and do something interesting, albeit so briefly for me this year.
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