Tuesday, 17 May 2016

If vasbyt, like beer, came in 6 packs, one pack wouldn't be enough to get you through RASA

Vasbyt. Now there's a cool South African word. It has even made its way into the Oxford Dictionary. Alas, it isn't properly defined - bite hard. That's pathetic.

The closest English synonyms I could find were 'perseverance' and 'tenacity'. Close but no cigar - those words aren't visceral enough. The word is simply bigger than the sum of any words you could find to describe it. It's a bit like the Afrikaans word padkos. Also in the Oxford Dictionary - Food taken to eat on a journey. Okay, that's close.

Finishing a Freedom Challenge event takes perseverance. Racing it day after day takes vasbyt - perseverance on steroids if you will. A few years back I had occasion to see real vasbyt in action. It took the forms of Martin Dreyer and Alex Harris. The occasion was a particularly miserable day during the Freedom Challenge in 2012. A whole pile of riders, myself and Trevor Ball among them, had been mauled by persistent rain and clawing mud for a couple of days. One morning, after 4 hours of riding from Moodenaarspoort - a section that normally takes 2 hours - we tied our steeds to the post at Kranskop and called it a day.

Let's rewind a little lest you think we were being wimps.
From the outset Trevor and I had our minds set on getting to Rhodes in 3 days. A tall order indeed, but it was within our grasp. All we needed was a little vasbyt. At the start we popped into the local battle store and picked up a 6 pack of vasbyt, as one does. With a good measure of cunning, perseverance and a liberal sprinkling of vasbyt we managed to pedal into Rhodes inside of 3 days.

Having arrived in Rhodes and met our first objective we realised that we didn't have a plan beyond Rhodes. We trickled down the road to Chesneywold and caught up with much needed sleep. The next day we spent 20 hours slogging through rain and mud. At least 13 hours of that was on foot. We dug deep and exhausted the last of our 6 pack. Arriving at Moodenaarspoort the wrong side of midnight we were broken when we flopped into bed

The next morning, 22nd June 2012, we woke to find it was still raining. We had caught up with another half dozen riders at Moodenaarspoort. We joined them for breakfast and together we headed into the rain. We all got as far as Kranskop before throwing in the towel.

Many hours were spent washing clothes and repairing bicycles. The fireplace was stacked high with logs and then obscured from view with a mass of wet clothing vying for drying warmth.

Long after the sun had given up trying to pierce the leaden sky and dropped below the horizon the front door swung open and a drenched and muddied Martin Dreyer stepped into the room. Most of the other riders had already retired to bed. Martin stripped off layer after layer of sodden clothes. He stood in a puddle of water and glanced toward the fireplace. It was obvious that he wasn't going to be able to dry anything. Unfazed he ate, showered and hopped into a bed. An hour later the door swung open and Alex Harris gave a repeat performance.

These guys are true gladiators. On that particular day, in conditions that had us cowering inside, they had covered a distance that had taken us two days. When I woke up the next morning they were long gone. The conditions were no easier for them than they were for us. The difference was their focus on what needed doing and their unwavering determination to stick to the plan. This was their day four. They kept their focus for the next seven days and shattered the previous race record.

Since 2012 I have been a frequent visitor to the battle store. My regular basket of goods includes a single 6 pack of vasbyt lite - that's sufficient to survive a 2 or 3 day event like the Race to Rhodes or the Race to Cradock. However, rolling over the finish line physically depleted after a couple of days is a far cry from rolling over the finish line in Diemersfontein in the Cape after a couple of weeks.

This year I am looking to pull out all the stops and give the race everything I've got. My goal is to better my previous best time of 15 days 16 hours. Experience has taught me that over the course of the 2300 km's of the race I am going to encounter a number of challenges. Rough weather, mechanical failure, as well as physical and mental condition will all conspire to slow me down. To prevail I am going to need a crate of vasbyt and I reckon I should ask for quarts.


Ray Sephton said...

Enjoying your posts as usual, esp last one about rings on tree. Please give me a tow when you come past. One priviso, please dont beat me to Rhodes!!

CharlvdSpuy said...

I like the word "resolve", it speaks of a predetermined decision to go through with something.

Enjoying the posts Mike.