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. (www.plett2capetownoffroad.blogspot.com). 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!".