Saturday, April 4, 2009

It all comes together bit by bit

Saturdays are usually couch time...after a serious bit of training though. I love the guilt free feeling of parking off, having a little doze knowing that my work is done for the day.

Today - NOT. So we knew it would be a longish day because that is what we set out to do. A 90km mountain bike ride as a test of fitness as well as a bit of mental prep. The route was my responsibility and I opted to add the extra loops on early in the ride and have the option of cutting distance at the end.

This ride took in lots of single track, gnarly, rocky track, some open roads and some technical climbs on jeep track. The grass at this time of year is seriously long and each of us would disappear from sight often riding blind as it was impossible to see the ground below. This resulted in a couple of tumbles by riders who shall remain nameless (for now).

The tandem, piloted by crazy Mike and stoked on this ride by Andre (single speeder) was both impressive and ludicrous. 22kgs of metal beast which had to be pushed up some of the climbs but made up for it on the downhills. Sadly for them, I didn't include enough of those. But get used to these names as they are all riding RASA and will crop up frequently.

We left at 6:15 and headed out to the Cradle of Mankind which offers plenty of variety and replicates a lot of what we will experience on RASA. Rocky cattle tracks, river crossings, a "toll gate" operated by a down and out person living in a shack (R5 pp) before heading into Winsome Vally.

Here we were treated to a 5 km gradual descent into the valley and sightings of zebra and Red Hartebees grazing in the open veld. Only in Africa. After crossing the Jukskei River we climbed a beast of a hill before winding our way through a little jewel of a valley.

It was here that Andy decided he'd had enough and took the tiger line home - wise decision. Weeks of escorting and protecting some of our political leaders had taken its toll on his legs and fitness. Oh well, election day is not too far away.

Then, as things do, Malcolm (of plett2capetown ride fame) and I lost the others. In the long grass, they took another route while we waited at the single track. You cannot see people at all at times and we figured out what had happened but then they were in front of us with only a reasonable idea of where to go. But the lure of the shebeen meant they would get to the meeting point eventually, which they did. Apparently Lucky Star pilchards are good for a hangover!

The long drag up the hill towards Gerhardsville was made more interesting by a panicky snake trying to wind its way across the road but found its way blocked by our wheels grinding past. I stopped and balanced on my bike to allow it space but the damn thing wiggled straight at me and under my bike just as I was losing balance. The language was choice but the adrenalin made the climb a lot easier.

An emergency pitstop led to the discovery of a cheese shop and coffee shop - definitely on the list for a return vist - to eat though. According to one of the staff, a bike like mine would be worth a cow in Malawi!

So we all made it in various states of disrepair to the Spar and wolfed down whatever looked good ( jam donuts and lucozade) and plotted the tiger line home. The tandem headed off in one direction and Malcolm, Doug and I in another. We covered 105km with over 7 hours of riding and boy, the beer shandy at the end tasted good.

My training over the past couple of months is definitely coming together as I felt consistently strong although by the end of the 10 hour epic, I was a little "fatigued". But there were some great things to come out of today.

The new saddle is the answer - 7 hours of sitting on that little black gel thing was the most comfortable I have been in a long time, a very long time, so I am chuffed about that and can tick one more thing off the "worry" list.

My bike was stripped and serviced by Shaun Mileson (mechanic to some of the bigger mtb teams) and it went soooo sweetly. He listed all that needs replacing between now and the start of the race so I can budget and shop around for the best deals. But this is going to make a major dent in the finances no matter where I source the products.

Doug had the misfortune to blow out his rear shock at about 15km into the ride which made him bob and weave all over place. Luckily, it happened now and not in the middle of the Karoo. You can plan as much as you like but things like this will happen so it is vital to try and prevent what you can and treat anything else with equanimity.

But we are on the way to the big goal and a long ride like this is a major morale booster.

(This is not me)

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