Friday, 11 December 2015

Racing The Munga - Britstown to Loxton - Part 2

Two minutes after leaving the water point I stopped and swallowed a pain killer. This is going to be a long ride in from here I mused. The last 70 km's had taken me 7 hours and I still had another 120 km's before my face would feel the softness of a pillow against it for the first time since the race began.

The numbing effect of the painkiller kicked in just as the jeep track from hell emptied onto a better road. The sun dipped closer to the horizon and the head wind dropped off making the going easier. Stopping to go through a farm gate I swapped the cabling around in my bike and got my front light running. During the day I used the dynohub to recharge my power banks. At night the power banks charged my spare light, cell phone and GPS unit while the dynohub was used exclusively for lighting the way.

Rounding a corner and popping over a small rise in the road my front light turned off. This isn't good I thought. I hoped that it was simply a case of the wire connection on the hub coming loose. It was still attached. I started going through the permutations in my head. Firstly, the hub may be broken. That would be the worst case scenario and not one I wanted to entertain just yet. Perhaps it was simply the light that had blown. If that was the case then it wasn't a big deal. I could simply use my spare light and keep it fully charged off the dynohub routed through the AC/DC convertor. It would run continuously in that configuration. I swapped the cabling around and had no luck. The hub wasn't charging the spare light. I then decided to split out the two separate looms to ensure that a fault in one wasn't affecting the other. I probably spent 20 minutes running through all my options only to conclude that the hub wasn't working. I was glad that I had opted to carry both a spare power bank as well as a spare light. Without them it would have been a disaster. I had a headlight but didn't bring spare batteries as it was to be used as a supplementary light and would last on a single set.

I saw rider lights in the distance behind me. Even this deep into the race my competitive nature kicked in. I didn't want anyone catching me so I pushed the dynohub issues to the back of my mind and set off at pace. The road surface was good and the evening cool. Up ahead I saw a red flashing light. Another rider. It was like a red rag to a bull. I dug in and churned away at the pedals riding somewhere between 35 and 40km's per hour. It took me 20 minutes to close the gap, but only because the other rider had pulled to the side and stopped. Seeing me approach they hopped back on their bike. I whizzed passed them doing about 50 km/h and kept the hammer down for the next thirty minutes. My legs were burning from the effort but it was exhilarating. I had regained some momentum and I wanted to hold on to it for as long as possible. Finally the road surface got scratchy and I sat up. Sitting up reminded me that it was time for more pain killers.

Just before 11pm a few kilometres short of the next water point three riders caught up and I followed them into the water point. At that time of night we found a fully functioning water point operating on the front lawn of a farm house. Husband and wife aided by their two daughters enthusiastically served us cappuccino's banana bread, muffins and scones. It was surreal. It was wonderful. I did notice Chris van Zyl's bike propped up against a tree. His race had ended here. Apparently he was nicely tucked up in a bed inside the farm house.

The other three riders were full of vim and vigour unlike myself. They joked around and soon pressed on while I indicated my desire to catnap for 15 minutes in a canvas chair on the front lawn. I was offered a bed and then a couch and declined both. I explained that the canvas chair was just comfortable enough to sleep a bit and equally uncomfortable enough to keep it short. Real comfort is a trap. I still had 60 km's to get to Loxton and was determined to make it there before flopping into a bed. While one of my power banks charged I snoozed in the chair. After 15 minutes I stood up, drained my third cappuccino and got on my bike. I saw a bike light up ahead. It had missed the turn off to the farm house. One of the daughters gave a shrill whistle that would have been the envy of any shepherd working his dog. The rider pressed on. Unperturbed the farmers wife jumped in the bakkie and chased after the rider, never mind that it was almost midnight. I passed first the rider, my mate Philip Kleynhans, and then the bakkie as they threaded their way back to the comfort of the farmhouse.

The first climb had me walking. Not only because I was tired, but because my backside had started to hurt again. I was eventually reduced to riding for a minute or two and then walking for a minute or two. After twenty minutes of this I decided it was a complete waste of time and stopped. I took another pain killer and decided to sleep while I waited for it to take effect.

I placed my bike on the ground and had a good look around. I had seen enough snakes, scorpions and other Jurassic era looking bugs during the night to know this was hostile territory. I didn't fancy waking up to some fiery bite. I set my alarm for 15 minutes and lay on top of my bike. My alarm soon had me back up and riding.

The ride into Loxton proceeded without further drama and at 2:40 am I crossed the threshold of the Loxton support station. The last 190 km's had taken me just over 17 hours. But now, after nearly 39 hours and 585 km's I could finally bath and get some well needed sleep in the comfort of a bed.

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