Friday, 26 June 2015

No it wasn't fun!

After competing in and winning this years Race to Rhodes I have had to contend with people asking "Did you have fun?"
I have caught myself on a few occasions when I have wanted to reply with a flippant "Yes." The true answer is "No it wasn't fun." Taking an untrained body into a 500 km non-stop race in the middle of winter is not a recipe for fun. 
Let me tell you how it was and let you  be the judge of whether it was fun or not.
Pre-race Dinner
Sitting around the table waiting for the race briefing to start I was aware that Tim James and I were by far the oldest people in the room. Having said that, we have been tramping the trail for the longest - we both rode our first RASA in 2007. Marnitz Nienaber (aka Hyena) the most blanketed Freedom Challenge rider was sitting with two strong looking lads who would be accompanying him on his ride to Wellington - Ivor Jones and Stuart Roos. Janine Stewart and Ingrid Avidon, both doing R2R completed the group. Missing was Andrew Barnes who was still making his way to the venue. 
Janine and I had a loose alliance which essentially meant she was planning to ride to Centocow but would tag along with me if I was able to push through to Ntsikeni on the first day. I have met Ingrid before on a  few occasions. She is delightful. To illustrate that I offer the following true story. As we sat around the table someone asked Ingrid if she could fix a puncture. Her answer "Sure..... Well I could wing it!...... Okay, I have watched a YouTube video!" Ingrid announced her intention to push straight through to Ntsikeni. 

Andrew Barnes arrived in due course and entering the room walked straight up and greeted me like a long lost friend. The last time I had seen him face to face was in 2007. This is the nature of this race. Twice more along the route I would bump into faces from past FC races and we would pick up where we left off. 
Marnitz et al were planning to stop at Centocow as was Andrew while the rest were hoping for Ntsikeni which is a strategy often voiced but seldom executed - it's a huge haul and requires a 17 - 19 hour effort. Long enough for a myriad things to go wrong and plenty of time to change ones mind.
The last day is typically reserved for those riding hard, the so called racing snakes. I can tell you that the motley crew assembled around that table did not look that fierce. Only one rider, Ivor, looked like he understood the seriousness of the job in hand. The rest looked resigned to the task ahead. I commented to Janine that Ivor had the look of someone who was a bit awestruck by the race and as a result I believed he would make it to the finish - the trail needs respect. 
I wandered back to my room. Days of vacillation had resulted in me packing everything bike related into a carryall. Unable to delay any further I finally got around to stuffing kit into my backpack. A quick weather check had me tossing in an extra layer as snow was forecast along the route. 
Bike and kit readied I set my alarm for 4:30am and flopped into bed. 

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