Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Durban Dash Up 2016 - Really cold and boring

The section from Kestell to Reitz is a tad under 70 km. It's not particularly challenging, mostly flat and fast... kind of.  It's always flat, but it's only fast if the weather is good and you don't have 19 hours of nonstop pedalling under your belt. 

Less than 1 km out of town I rode into thick fog. Visibility was down to 30 metres. Normally not an issue as, unlike a car which covers almost 30 metres per second at 100 km/h, I was trundling along at a mere 7-8 metres every second. I had all the time in the world to take evasive action should it be required. Although I'm not quite sure what there was to evade, except boredom. The thing about boredom is that it is a massive challenge. Sleep monsters thrive on boredom. Hemmed in by fog all I could see was the road ahead. The occasional road sign, reflecting bright from my bike light, was as exciting as it got. It's really hard to stay focussed when there is no mental stimulation (there are no navigational challenges on a 60+ km stretch of straight road) and nothing visually distracting to keep your mind going. On a clear night you can see the stars and generally see the skyline. If the moon is up then it's a visual feast. 

Before long I was "nesting". 

That's not a word that you'd be familiar with in context with cycling, I just made it up. When I start nodding off on the bike I instinctively start scanning the bush next to the road looking for an ideal spot to have a quick snooze - that scanning action is what I call nesting. I tried fighting the urge to sleep by turning up my music and singing along but that quickly became monotonous and annoying. I eventually stopped at a farm gate and lay on the ground and closed my eyes. 

In the distance I could hear two owls hooting. My shoulders ached so bad that I couldn't get comfortable enough to nod off. While I tossed and turned I could still hear the owls. For some reason my mind turned to a book I had read a few decades back - 'I heard the owl call my name.' In that book a young vicar who is suffering from a terminal illness is sent to work among the people of the Kwakiutl Nation in British Columbia. One night he hears the owl call his name which, according to tribal belief, foretells of imminent death. Shortly after hearing the owl call his name the vicar is caught in a landslide and dies. The owls now had my undivided attention. I listened carefully and was glad my name wasn't "whoooo". Thoughts of presaging owls and death by landslide pushed the sleep monsters back. I took advantage and pressed on toward Reitz.

The hordes were soon swarming and once more I found myself  nesting. But what about the aching shoulders? Perhaps, I thought, if I tried laying flat on my back my shoulders wouldn't hurt. I found another short driveway leading to a gate and lay flat on my back. The silence was absolute. I could have heard an ant walk across the ground. Then the crazy thoughts returned... If I was sound asleep would I hear a face biting jackal creeping up on me? Do jackals even bite faces, I wondered, or is that more the style of a hyena? Certainly no hyenas around but I was fairly certain there was a jackal behind every clump of grass. Not surprisingly sleep evaded me. At least I got to rest my eyes and exercise my imagination. After a 10 minute break I was back on my bike. 

It was getting really cold. My Garmin indicated 3 Celsius. I was still in short gloves and shorts with a lightweight windshell. I wasn't keen to layer up. I find it a lot easier to stay awake when I am cold. Adding warmer gloves, another jacket, and leggings would simply encourage the sleep monsters. As it was, I wasn't coping too well with those beasties. 

Visions of frothy-mouthed jackals kept me going for another 10 km before, once again, I caught myself nesting. I needed a new tactic to stay awake. It wasn't quite 3 am but I needed someone to talk to. My son Jason pulled the short straw. 

"Hey Dad, what's up?" 

I could hear that I had woken him from a deep sleep. I explained my need to make small talk and he was game to chat. We jabbered away while he made himself a cup of tea. Before long he had his laptop open and was tracking my progress. 

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