Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Day 13 - 'Never take drugs to mask pain when you are on the bike!' - Really?

3 am and I was riding out of Dam se Drif with Tweet. One doesn't actually ride "with" Tweet. Its more a case of riding in his proximity. I found him to be a very focussed individual. He gets on with his riding and allows nothing to distract him. We were both a little dozy from not quiet enough pillow time so the sleep monsters were starting to whisper in our ears. Tweet carries an ipod with him for such occasions and plugging in he drowns out their suggestions. I envied him and wished I had thought to bring an ipod. By the time we reached Neuwekloofpass it seems the ipod had lost the battle and I caught up to Tweet who had donned his rain gear and was nestling down in the bushes for a power nap. It seemed like a good idea and I slumped down into the bushes nearby. 15 or 20 minutes later we were back on the road with the sleep monster chorus silenced for now. By the time we made the final climb out of the Baviaanskloof the sun was lighting the sky. The karoo mornings are spectacular. The eastern sky looks like a water colour rinse in orange while the western sky is washed in purple. After a brief stop to enjoy the magnificent view we made good progress to Willowmore in time for breakfast service at The Willows hotel. We had ridden for 6 hours and covered the first 90km's of a 260km day. Breakfast was short and sharp and the Tweet show with me as a supporting act headed out for the tedious 170km push across to Prince Albert. I knew from previous experience that a headwind was likely as the sun rose higher in the sky I just hoped that today would be the odd exception. No such luck! We hadn't gone 20km's when I noticed Tweet seemed a little distracted. On enquiry I found out that the sleep monsters were calling his name. If they were calling my name I wouldn't have noticed as the screams of the pain monsters were ringing in my ears. My left knee had become excruciatingly sore. Not something I needed with the other pains that I had been nursing for the last week. It was so painful that at times I caught myself groaning with each pedal stroke. At one time I wondered where the awful sound was coming from before realising it was me. I told Tweet I was going to take a time out and he said he would ride ahead and have a power nap. I said I would wake him if I found him asleep. I plonked down next to the road and tried to figure out how I was going to get this aching body across the next 150km's. I popped a few pain killers and strapped my knee and sat next to the road waiting for the drugs to do their work. 30 minutes later I still couldn't stand up. Sensitive and responsible readers should avert their eyes for the next sentence. Sitting in the middle of the karoo with no other option apart from a good supply of drugs I popped a few more pain killers and added the odd anti-inflammatory for good measure. After sitting immobile for over an hour I was eventually able to stand and get back in the saddle. The twin evils of a head wind and a wounded leg made the going really tough. I averaged just over 11 km/h over the following 6 hours. The polar watch I had made a beep every kilometre. It tortured me all day with its long drawn out silences. By nightfall, still 80kms short of Prince Albert I arrived at the farm Rondawel where I knew I could get water and a hot cup of tea. I had been on the go since 3am and still had 80km to cover. But, I knew that the slow climb I had been chipping away at for the last 15 hours would soon be a thing of the past! Once over the tar road the last 70km's in to Prince Albert were mostly downhill. Rondawel did not disappoint. Water and tea were accompanied by fresh vetkoek.
By the time I returned to the track outside the farm I noticed the wind had died. I got on my bike and scampered off as fast as I could before the wind got bored and started lashing me again. The lights of Prince Albert finally rose over the distant horizon. My excitement was tempered by the knowledge that the town was still 40km's of riding away in spite of the lights looking so bright and close across the clear expanse of the flat karoo. Johann Rissik, a Prince Albert resident, avid race follower and bike fixer extraordinaire normally meets the riders at this point of the race and treats them with coffee and rusks. Before the race we had spoken and he had promised to do exactly that for me. My phone being offline coupled with the tracker website being down meant he had no way of knowing where I was. I scratched around in my pack and found one last pain killer and put it somewhere useful - my belly. It was sobering to think I had gone through 10 myprodol, 4 cataflam and 2 voltaren in the course of the day. Shocking I know, but that's how bad the day had been.
As I pedalled up the last gentle climb just before Prince Albert my phone picked up a signal and I got a call from Johann. When he realised I was just a few kilometres from town he hung up and raced to make good on his promise. Just short of the first street light of town his car drew up and I enjoyed the warmth of both his coffee and his company before mounting my trusty steed and riding the last stretch to Denehof Guesthouse ending an arduous 20 hours of riding for the day. I was warmly greeted by Ria and Lindsay who plied me with good food and warm drink. Johann in the mean time had taken my bike to put on a new chain and give it a once over. It had been an incredibly hard day which left me completely depleted. I had finally caught up with Trevor and Theo. At midnight I was shown to a room which I would be sharing with Brian O'Reagan. He was as fast asleep as I was exhausted so I skipped a shower and quickly fell into a deep sleep.

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