Friday, 15 July 2016

Of talking rabbits and interstellar butterflies

A coughing fit woke me. I looked at my watch. I had been tossing in my space bag for nearly 2 hours. I had been following Chris Morris up the Swartberg Pass from Prince Albert. We had left at midnight hoping to get through Gamkaaskloof and Rouxpos onto Anysberg.

The few hours of fitful sleep at Denehof in Prince Albert had done little to reinvigorate me. I had started with a hacking cough 6 days previous and apart from being a nuisance it effectively halved the amount of sleep time I should have been banking. Now almost 11 days into the race I was run down and running a fever. I had been dragging my unresponsive carcass over the landscape for the last 250km's desperate for my "engine" to reignite. I knew it was simply a matter of time before I came back online and I was running out of patience. I had already lost a day and my hopes of a probable 12.5 day finish had evaporated. Now I had to see what I could do to make my original target of 13.5 days.

An upset stomach had me stopping twice on the climb. At one point I saw Chris's lights high above me on the mountain. After my second stop he was nowhere to be seen. About two thirds of the way up the mountain pass I could barely take a dozen steps without the effort causing me to stop to rest. I realised it was a battle I wasn't going to win. I pulled over and dug out a space bag. Wriggling inside I hoped that Chris had the good sense to not wait for me.
I didn't set an alarm and simply pulled the space bag over my head and yielded to the urge to close my eyes.

What followed can best be described as bizarre series of technicolor hallucinations that included talking rabbits, earthquakes, and interstellar butterflies. Nearly 2 hours later I opened the space bag allowing freezing crisp air to wash over my face. The puddles on the road were iced over and yet I was as warm as fresh toast in my flimsy foil bag. The fact that I was running a fever probably had something to do with it.

I continued my plod into Die Hell having 2 more power naps along the way. Liehann Loots passed me on the final climb reinforcing the fact that I had lost a full days lead on him. I trickled into the support station and had a 5 minute chat with Liehann before he left. His last words as he got on his bike - I'll see you in Anysberg tonight. It had taken me over 10 hours to do a 5 hour ride and the prospect of getting to Anysberg that day seemed improbable. But then a funny thing happened as I sat there enjoying the thin sunshine in the bottom of that strange valley eating lunch and sipping my coffee. My engine ignited. Getting back on my bike I felt the pleasure of legs turning over with ease. I did make Anysberg that night and to be honest it wasn't that hard. Funny things happen when you least expect.

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