Sunday, 7 June 2015

Bomb Proof Your Race

Over the years very few people have dropped out of the Race to Rhodes. On the other hand there have been a good number of riders on the Race Across South Africa that have pulled out before getting to Rhodes. Amongst them some notable riders who have had fast finishes before or since and a few less notable ones such as this writer.  I didn't even finish day 2. 
There are some good reasons to call it a day and catch the next lift home and some even better reasons why you should rather vasbyt. One reason to hang in there is articulated as 'I have some unfinished business!' Leaving the trail without a previous finisher draping a blanket over your shoulders starts out as a little disappointment that is 'understandable under the circumstances'. By the time you get home you have an invisible companion who at first resembles a cute organ grinders monkey. In the days, weeks and months that follow the cuteness is supplanted by a monkey that weighs you down and needs constant feeding. 
The only way to get it off your back is to wheel your bike back under the clock of the Pietermaritzburg town hall the following year. While that sounds like a good plan consider the following. The first time you enter the race the sacrifices made in time and energy is massive. I am yet to address the sacrifices made by the rider, I am addressing the sacrifices made by the people around the rider - family, friends and work colleagues. Don't make them go through all that for nothing. 
So what's a good reason? Your leg falls off. Maybe a few other reasons. I have experience in this regard. If you have a physical impediment such as a broken leg, torn muscle or other ailment that makes it impossible or dangerous to continue then by all means get Uber up on your phone and hail a taxi. 
If in the other hand you are simply tired and/or morbid, that's a poor excuse. Here is the formula to get through that. The first step takes place months before the start. Brag to everyone within earshot that you are doing the Race Across South Africa and promise your child a finishers blanket. Having to face them afterwards sans blanket is a serious motivator to hang in. Secondly, never give up until you have slept on it. Things seem better the next day. Thirdly, and I have loads of experience in this, understand that your best day on the Freedom Trail is likely to follow a day or two after your worst. When that happens you start to wonder what you were thinking when you wanted to give up. 
To family and friends reading this, if your riding champion calls and indicates that they can't go on. Don't sympathise. Remind them why they started and put the phone down. 
It's flippin' hard out there but home sympathy doesn't help one bit. 
Bad weather sucks but it rarely lasts more than a few days. Ride it out and even consider doing shorter rides each day until it clears. 
Lastly, I do understand that non physical challenges can bring a ride to an end. If you have a few days on the trot where you are hollow and completely joyless then go home. Rather live to fight another day. 

2 comments:

Tom-Viggo VĂ¥rdal said...

hey, I`m wondering and have some questions about this race, may you help me?

1. Security around the race?
2. Navigation, why is it not allowed with GPS?
3. The support, who does this work?, see it`s alloved with 2 liter with supply, pack this in advantage and different 2 liter too different check points?
4. Price?

Regards
Tom
From Norway
4 X Finisher
www.offroadfinnmark.no
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offroadfinnmark

Mike said...

Hi Tom
I live in Johannesburg which doesn't exactly have the best reputation for security. However, when I am on the trail I have never been in a situation where I felt like I was threatened. Its one of the reasons I keep going back time and time again. The warmth of the people along the trail restores my faith in the inherent kindness of human beings.

The route is non GPS on purpose. It has always been the case and it gives the race a completely different complexion to any other event I have done especially since it also not marked. Competitors engage with the geography of the race route. Many hours are spent poring over maps before you arrive at the start line. Added to that is the fact that on large sections the objective is to get from point A to point B and there is no prescribed route. Competitors are able to figure out their own lines. If it was a GPS directed race I wouldn't have returned every year for the last 8 years. The added challenge is that you need to be self reliant on power on certain sections and keeping a GPS running for 10 to 15 hours at a time gets interesting.

Each support station provides food, bed and a shower/bath with a towel available for use. The 2 litre containers are sent ahead to each of the support stations (or just the ones where you want them) for you own items of resupply such as energy sachets, dry socks, snacks and the maps for the next section. Mostly happy food like chocolates and nougat and often a friendly note from home that was packed in before shipping. I normally put just a can of coke and some jelly babies in mine. I understand the logistics from Norway is a bit tricky but there is always some here who would be happy to source, pack and ship your resupply boxes for you. I myself would be happy to do that. On some sections you will not go past a shop for many days so it's impractical to resupply enroute.

Prices for the various race options are available on the website www.freedomchallenge.org.za

Would love to see you on the trail in the near future.

Kind Regards, Mike