Friday, February 27, 2009

The end of February

So February comes to an end and it is also the end of my stalling on training. I have reveled in saying no to long rides or routes that I just don't feel like doing. But at the same time, I have started planning routes in my head that will take at least 6 hours to complete.

That's a good sign. It means that my parameters are adjusting to the idea of more time in the saddle. And with it, comes the motivation to train.

What I can't decide is whether or not to get a coach to help me. The difficulty as I see it, is that there are so few people who can grasp the magnitude of the event which is so beyond mere cycling. How do you train for an adventure which encompasses all that it means to be human?

And to reduce preparation down to so many hours on a bike each week, with a splash of interval training thrown in just doesn't seem right. Even the Cape Epic does not fall into this category of preparation.

I am relying on my fellow riders especially those that have gone before to provide me with advice and I will draw on my years of adventure racing too. I was privileged to meet wonderful human beings on last year's R2R and the insights gained from their attitudes and generosity of spirit will definitely get me through this.

But for now, there is a bike waiting to be ridden, routes to be explored and new friends to be made. Bring it on.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A year down the line

A year ago, I was riding really well in preparation for Sani2C. I was riding with Dennis (the route director for the York Timbers Sabie Experience) and I was scared.
Dennis is a machine. Living in Sabie has given him monster climbing legs and he races a lot.
Although we were doing the adventure version of the race, we would be riding hard. And we did. It took at least six months for my left shoulder to come right after holding onto his camelbak on the hills. We had a stormer of a race coming in the top 30 teams.

But by the end of March, I had hit the wall. Hard training, stress, no supplements and my system dug in its heels and said stop. Everything crashed around me as I struggled through each day barely able to keep my eyes open past 10am.
Panic ensued as Ride 2 Rhodes was looming 10 weeks later and this was a 6 day ride, mid-winter with tough climbing and long distances.
Luckily I found a doctor with a sports medicine background and homeopathic philosophy who ordered the right blood tests and was able to refine my supplements for sport and training.

But mentally and physically, I was blown and struggled to do 40km rides and it was only my ride buddies who kept me going.
I realised that I would have to ease my way through R2R having convinced the Doc that I would take it easy and I am so glad I persevered. The upliftment I experienced in that race did more than any medication could have (although I do not dispute the need).
It took a further 6 months for my body to right itself and I really wasn't motivated to ride hard or to attempt anything big.

And then came 2009 and my wayward ambition.

So it was time to do a refresher on the blood tests and plan my training with the Doc. Physically great, mentally - I don't think there is any muti for a wandering mind that persists in day dreaming about the Freedom Challenge.
But with March looming and my intention to start training with a bit more conviction, its good to know that the slate is clean.

But it also means I have no more excuses.

Friday, February 20, 2009

They're Everywhere

The universe is peculiar. Now that I have come out the closet of Ride2Rhodes and have entered the Big One, I keep meeting interesting people who one way or another add value to my decision.

While waiting for my riding partner this week, I met an old friend, Ian M, who is a well respected coach and a very competitive rider bombing along on his mtb on his way to a meeting. In our 5 minute chat, I was reminded again of the fundamentals of any big undertaking - mental preparation and specifically, "the core and flexibility before endurance." My abdominals are quite stiff and sore right now as typically, I launched myself into an orgy of crunches. But he's right. Carrying the extra weight of the pack and the lifting and portaging of the bike is going to require additional strength of all the body parts. The head...well, that's another story.

I started the hundred push ups programme and that's cruising along with the arms and shoulders showing definite improvement already. There is also the two hundred sit ups programme and I did the initial test just to see how many I could do. Not sure if I will be so dedicated on this one but I will keep on training the core.

Yesterday, I met someone who had ridden from Rhodes to Perdeberg in January (I think that's what he said before a million Jack Daniels kicked in - for him, not me!). I'm going to have follow up on his experiences too.

And then there is Andy Masters who has committed to the full race this year. I met him when I was adventure racing about four/five years ago. Through the forum, we have re-connected and already swapping anecdotes and theories on how we will tackle this monster event.

So far, most people have hidden their private (She's nuts) thoughts quite well. And so far, I am still feeling great about the decision. In March when the training begins in earnest, I hope to still feel the same way and will be hoping for more universal interference.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rear Ended

Which woman do you know would willingly have her bum measured....a desperate one!

Well that's what I subjected myself to this morning. Luckily Anton of Summit Cycles was very polite about it. A sore bum has been my major complaint of all my long rides. I have rejected conditioning as a cause and have been trawling the internet researching saddles.

I stumbled across the forums and in the Women's Lounge, I found reference to saddles and mention of Specialised's "arse-o-meter". (Men - if you have wives, girlfriends or daughters wanting to ride - visit this lounge and read the sticky).

So, I called the only Specialised lbs I knew and popped round there this morning. I sat on the gel thingy and Anton measured the imprints afterwards.

Now let me be emphatic - it is not the overall size of one's toilet area that is important but where one's "sit bones" imprint. So, don't get coy about this very important aspect of cycling enjoyment.

Apparently, I need a saddle about 143mm across and a wider cut out in the middle. This will provide better support to the bones and less drop off angle on the sides of the saddle. The logic of the fit and how it impacts on your bones (which always feel extremely bruised to me) was impeccable and I was keen to measure my old saddle to see what size it was.

Apparently tests on blood flow to legs have been done on various saddle brands and the wrong fit can register at least a 50% drop in circulation - which kinda makes it imperative to have the right fit.

My soon to be turfed saddle actually measures 140mm but the cut out is only 35mm when it should be closer to 50mm. The edges along the cut out are also quite sharp and I can see how that might dig in and put pressure on the bones.

So, now I am going to try a Specialised Ladies saddle with all the right measurements and hope like crazy that this will be cash well spent. But my bum will thank me.

Summit Cycles (after Chain Reaction Cycles) is the next bike shop to benefit from my credit card but this will be worth every SA Rondt.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Riding again

Finally, it was back on the bike this weekend. Valentine's Day was a spinning class and not a chocolate in sight! The rest of the day spent reading my favourite fantasy trilogy and then a road ride on Sunday to Vida (no cycle is complete without a Vida coffee). I wonder if they can set one up in Baviaan's Kloof for me?

Its a bizarre thing, but I keep meeting people with an interest in doing the event or have entered and there is this buzz beginning to build. Our coffee stop was no exception with an extended chat to mtbers Russell and Mike about the merits and demerits of committing to such an adventure. C'mon you guys - be there.

So this weekend wasn't big mileage but it was a start. Today is back to narfydom but Wendy has forced a promise out of me to ride this afternoon. I wonder If I will get the "abort" call. Half of me hopes I do.

More treatment on the calf today but I can start running again. I am really in the space of preferring to run at the moment so it will be good to get going but with a little more restraint this time and a slower build-up on the mileage.

But right now, I am standing on the edge of the bottomless pit of expenses. Payment of the race entry is due and the cycle shops are going to be eased out of their credit crunch by my credit card.

Uh, oh!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Blogspert - not!

So half the fun of this is playing around with the blog - trying to make it more interesting and enticing.

I have a wealth of photos from all the riders of last year's R2R and RASA (Race across South Africa) and I desperately want to make a background. I didn't know one could until I saw this blog Go read it - amazing mountain bike riding on the Iditarod Trail. The Karoo in June has nothing on this.

I recognized the template but was hugely envious of how she had customised it. I have sortof, kindof read the manual and have uploaded a picture 20 times but can't get it right.

Anyone out there have a clue? I can like to have some input on this one cos the pics I could use will really, no, really make you envious.

Update: Thanks Mr Simit for the help in loading the pic in the heading - awesome.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tell One, Tell All

There's no going back now. These are what friends had to say:

You go girl – so proud of you!!!!!!

Mari (environmental specialist)

Sigh. It’s rough not having a day job….

Rob (Leverage Corporation)


Sacha (new to mountain biking)

WOW! That’s quite a challenge!

I’ll definitely be following your journey – good luck!

Amy (Bicycling Magazine)

Good luck Fiona !!!! Like a friend of mine said: "When you go down, go down in style!"

Troye (Panorama Tour finisher)

You are crazy!

Wiehann (sometime very good triathlete)

Welcome to the club :-) You won't regret it.

Andre (single speed fanatic)

You go girl!!!! I admire your gutspha!!!! I will follow your blog & 'dream of Africa!'
BUT I seriously recommend you contact this man (training coach) & get it right ... don't compromise! - it will be well worth it!
Mark “of Arabia” (brother in law in Abu Dhabi)


The fringe virus has spread. Only way, maybe, for me to get a cure is to go complete the unfinished business. Maybe we see each other in passing?! –which should not be in opposite directions, as that would mean at least one of us has stuffed up on navigation!

I’ve asked for a 13th June start, -but will have to see if they accede to that. That way, IF I get my navigation right, I won’t be running into lost souls every few days. But, of course, that is simply idle thought, -while reality has a way of precipitating a serious wobbly!

We can have fun talking big to the others at Panorama Tour, -to cover up the apprehension and cause some false envy!

Grev (specialist time keeper for sports events)

Lucky bugger! - Andrew (Ride Magazine)

Nice one Fi

Thanks for including me in your mail out. It will be nice to be a part of it. I applaud you on the time devoted to your last blog and indeed what you will do as the year goes on. I think it shows a certain strength in oneself to do something like that. I wish I would get some inspiration to write as it would be nice to look back on when the memory starts to fail. I started on something for the Freedom but my attentions soon get diverted.

If I can help in some small way to make it happen for you I will. Even if it’s putting the world to rights and getting the head back in the right place. You probably have loads of people for that but I make the offer anyway.

Stu (a finisher in 2008 and lives on the Isle of Man)

You are wonderful! Yes, I really mean it. When you are 92 (I'll get there first) this will be a wonderful dream. Are you getting sponsorship for a charity or anything?

Wishing you the very best of luck (if you need it)

David (uncle in UK)

Go Fiona! You will have a blast... you're stepping out of your personal space, go for it! We love it!

Deon Braun (Go Multi Magazine)

Eish – it’s a long way !

Alan (scottish roadie turned mtber who hates mud)

You go girl!

I thought it was a madcap friend of yours – not you!!


Vivette (aspirant runner)

Nuts. I had to read this twice, Thought you were going to undertake this feat when you turn 92. Some would say that you should have little Fiona’s then you would not have time for these ventures.

I say go for it girl. Will watch with awe.

Kevin (long term paddling and esoteric friend)

Your combined bravery with just a touch of lunacy has my admiration, especially as you know what lies ahead after doing Rhodes. I look forward to following you on Google Earth the full distance this time.

PS: It’s a mind thing and I know you’re tough enough to go all the way. This will be an experience that you will never forget.

Lance (CEO of York Timbers – brilliant sponsor of the Sabie Experience)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

When does one push the button?

I love having a seriously big goal. My mind wanders over to it frequently and I day dream about how it will all roll out.

Reality is, I have to get on my bike and I am really narfy now. I last rode two weeks ago and am supposed to do a 100km mtb race in Sabie next week. Lets just say, I am concerned. I am running but as luck would have it, my traditional calf injury is back to irritate the hell out of me. I have also joined the programme at to build upper body strength for carrying a larger pack and portaging with the bike over a zillion fences.

So the cross training is happening and so is the reaching out to those who have gone before. Allen got a call from me about his ride last year. His group did it in 20 days and I am hoping to be about the same. Stu, based on the Isle of Man, got an email for info.

And so it will go on. Instead of focusing on the work on my desk, I stick my head into the Forum on the website, imagine snowy conditions in places, get envious of those down at Molteno this weekend, and think about the clothing I can buy from chain reaction cycles.

But at some point, I have to commit to the riding...I just don't know when. Its not one of those "work best under pressure" scenarios, is it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Too late Now

There are any number of people I can blame for my change in status from a mere 6 day mountain bike ride to the unsupported, and if I'm lucky, 20 days across South Africa. You know who you are.

It all began last year when I completed the R2R in the middle of winter and fell in love with the concept and the terrain and the people and the cameraderie and the experiences in some of our remote rural areas. But I also enjoyed having my kit transported to the overnight stops and having warm dry clothing for every night. There were also the little luxuries such as sherry tucked into a corner of my crate and shampoo and deodorant which I didn't have to carry. I looked at the large packs of my fellow adventurers going the whole way and was really glad not be one of them.

When we reached Rhodes and I could finally put away my bike, I wasn't unhappy to wave goodbye to the guys the next morning. I was well satisfied with my experience and ready to repeat it this year.

News of this event had grown substantially and the field filled quickly despite more spots being available but I was secure with my R2R entry. I just couldn't conceive of loading myself with 8kgs of kit and cycling thousands of kilos in the bitter cold of the central areas of the country.

And then, two friends and I rode just under 1000km from Plettenberg Bay on the East Coast to Cape Town in January. ( Eleven of the most wonderful days of riding I had ever experienced. A back-up vehicle took care of the kit and we were free to ride unencumbered. 5 of the days were on the route of the Freedom Challenge and I was able to experience some of what these tough racers had seen and done.

The highlight for me was the moonlight ride into Die Hel with David Waddilove, the founder of the Freedom Challenge, and some other free spirited mountain bikers, two of whom had completed the full race (Di and Steve Thomas of Day Trippers).

But still, I wasn't really entertaining the idea, despite Di's best attempts to enlighten me as to what an experience it has been for her - pouring rain and howling gales, yeah right!

But it was chatting to Tim James, the legend who set the new record for just over 14 days, and sharing the memories of the areas I had traversed in January, who seemed to be the tipping point. I mulled over the possibility while driving back from Sabie and decided to call my good friend Doug, who had completed the R2R with me. He was gung ho to do the full event and had already entered but was having second thoughts. Work pressures seem to have that effect.

If he was still in, so was I. Our third companion from R2R, Mark, was still committed depending on elbow surgery.

All that remained was see if the race office could convert my entry. Two days later, THE EMAIL arrived and I was committed.

So here I am, blogging my musings and thoughts in the build up over the next couple of months. I have no doubt that they will swing wildly from panic to "Yes, we can!".