Saturday, 27 June 2015

Game on. First Objective - get to Allendale

Our ragtag army made its way down to the town hall. Glenn, the race director, said he wasn't going to lead us out of town as he was sure the racing snakes would want to get on with the job as soon as the clock started chiming. At the first knell we were off. 

By the time we had cleared town and were pedalling through the last suburb I was at the front of the pack with Janine tucked in behind me. A solitary light switched across the road a few hundred metres behind.  Entering Bisley Tim caught up with Janine and I and we sped through the farm gates onto the tar and into Baynesfield Estate. By the time we got to the first big climb of the day we had covered the distance from the start faster than any previous start batch. Clearly the lack of training was not yet showing. 

Stopping to shed a layer I was passed by Andrew Barnes who gave me a jolly greeting - clearly he was having fun. Further along I passed Janine similarly engaged. The climb up the watershed to Minerva is something in the order of 10 to 12 km's. I don't really know as I carry neither maps nor narratives. I have even dispensed with a bike computer. I ride from memory and it is liberating not to mention efficient. Some have suggested it's an unfair advantage. It probably is. 13 or 14 trips along that section of the trail gives you a distinct advantage over a rookie. After a solitary ride up through the forests I saw Andrew and Tim about 5 minutes ahead walking up the first of the open grass sections. I eyed a sneak I had contemplated before and decided it would save me 2 or 3 minutes. A tangled rusty old barbed-wire fence made sure the trail gods were appeased with the first blood offering of the ride. They would be similarly appeased on numerous occasions along the route. 

Arriving at the Minerva soup stop I found Tim readying his kit for departure. He told me Andrew had just left. Three minutes later I passed Janine. She was entering the shed as I was leaving. 

It was 09:30 I was moving well. The drop down and through Byrne went easily. As I hit the gravel road beyond Byrne Janine caught up. We rode together down to the Umkomaas river making short work of the descents and rocky portage. By 11:30 we had forded the icy waters of the river and were moving toward our next goal - The Hella Hella. It takes a good 60 to 90 mins to tame that climb. The first steep climb tested my legs. A few minutes in the hamstrings of both legs started cramping. Standing there stuff legged like a scarecrow I was quickly caught and passed by Janine. I have only cramped once before and it was on this same climb in 2012. Perhaps the icy waters of the river crossing have a part to play. This thought crossed my mind briefly. Mulling it over wasn't getting me up the mountain. I plodded on slowly, eventually trying to ride but the cramps quickly resumed. Over the next 10 minutes I was able to ride but had to nurse my legs along to keep the cramps at bay. I guess the cramps cost me at least 15 to 20 minutes up the climb. I passed Janine somewhere along the way and pulled up at Allendale a minute or so ahead of her at 13:50. I made my way to the support cabin and sat down. I had lost time through cramping and had still managed to equal my two previous arrival times at Allendale. Except this time I was spent. 

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