Tuesday, 1 December 2015

It's Munga time.

"Fate whispers to the warrior, 'You cannot withstand this storm.' The warrior whispers back, 'I am the storm.' "     (unknown)

I'll get back to that in a moment. In the mean time I want to contrast two sporting codes. 

First up, American football. This sport typifies the hubris and  aggressive nature of many team sports. It seems team huddles, high fives and aggressive body contact are all part of the brouhaha that teams feed off. On telly we see military-like coaches talking big, "Go out there and grind them into the ground. DO YOU HEAR ME?" Their charges respond in unison, "YES COACH!" before barrelling out the door to take on their foe. It's safe to say the energy and testosterone levels are high. 

Next up, professional golfer. Yesterday, a work colleague who had spent the weekend watching golf, commented that being a pro golfer must be the best job in the world. I was reminded of an incident that took place a dozen or so years back. It was the time of the Nedbank Million Dollar. A friend had occasion to be sitting in a bar at Sun City one night and noticed one of the big-name golfers sitting next to him. They struck up a conversation which led to my friend commenting on how awesome it must be to be a pro travelling the world. The golfer's response wasn't what he expected. "I would rather play a team sport. Golf can be a very lonely. On the course it's everyman for himself. You live and die by your singular effort. Even then, after all is said and done, on any day of a competition, I can often be found sitting alone in a pub talking to strangers. Just like I am doing right now!"

Endurance cyclists will resonate with the sentiments of that pro golfer. But there isn't any melancholy attached to it. It's a space that veteran endurance riders are drawn to - a solitude in which they thrive. But it takes incredible tenacity to push on day after day without faltering. Mr Munga — Alex Harris — understands this all to well. Apart from an extensive CV of world class craziness, he has completed the Tour Divide on two occasions. Below is a picture taken by Alex somewhere along the trail. He isn't in the picture. It's simply a picture of his bike taken in a particular setting that we can but imagine the significance of. This is generally how endurance riders record their exploits. There are no team mates to capture those special moments. 

At least when Alex finished he found someone else to record his finish at Antelope Wells. I am guessing it was someone who worked at the border post. I have even seen a picture taken at the finish taken by the rider himself — his lone bike propped up against the name board. The border post was probably closed. 
It has to be the event with the most low-key finish ever. 

This is the space some of us are going to find ourselves in over the next few days, albeit the Digest version. For 3 or 4 days we are going to marinade in our own thoughts. Some will thrive and others falter. Mind failure is by far the biggest obstacle to completing an event of this nature. 

Back to our quote...

"Fate whispers to the warrior, 'You cannot withstand this storm.' The warrior whispers back, 'I am the storm.' "     (unknown)

Pithiness aside, I want you to focus on the method of the warrior's reply. They "whisper". There is no one to hear their boast. No adulation expected. It is a measured response, thoughtful and internalised. They are determined. 

For those of you who, like me, are about to embark on the inaugural event of the Munga, I hope you are able to steel yourselves against the moments of doubt when you feel you cannot push on. As we say in SA — Vasbyt!

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