Thursday, May 28, 2009

26 x 2lt boxes heaped on the floor, 26 x 2lt boxes heaped..

And if one 2lt box gets emptied at Allendale, there'll be 25 x 2lt boxes heaped on the floor. (To the tune of 10 green bottles)

Kay, the boxes are packed and ready to go (That could be set to the tune of Daniel). And what a weird and wonderful mix of stuff to eat. I will never remember what food I put in the boxes so it will be a daily surprise and treat to look forward to.

Most of all, I am looking forward to the notes written by Wendy D, Cheyene, the Alexanders and Jean which have been tucked carefully into a corner of each box. Monica Childs -who makes the best goodie bags for races - donated a whole lot of stuff to me such as body lotion sachets and tissue packs which will absolutely add to my well being. Also, thanks to Gary for the extra boxes to top my needs.

Gadget was horrified at the contents of my boxes. For some reason, he seems to think this race is about deprivation. Well, that's what the race director wants but I am planning counter measures. Anyone who has ridden with me, knows that coffee shops, breakfasts and snacks are an integral part of riding so why should this be any different?

So in no particular order, here is the mix of contents:
  • salty crackers
  • cheese blocks
  • smoked oysters (yes really!)
  • tuna sachets & spoons (thanks for the hint Di)
  • crisps
  • pretzels
  • fruit juice & Milo drinks
  • mini Bar Ones
  • tuc biscuits
  • romany cream balls
  • chewy super c's
  • vitamin packs
  • shampoo and conditioner sachets
  • body lotion sachets
  • a few earbuds
  • chocolate covered peanuts
  • mini eggs
  • mini chocolate slabs
  • Nescafe White Chocolate sachets
  • Hot chocolate sachets
  • Cranberries
  • cashew nuts
  • Goji Berry sachets
  • Biotone tonic
  • Bicarb sachets and Miltons tablets (for sterilizing kit)
  • Jungle bars (dark and milk chocolate)
  • Mini bar bottles of Jack Daniels
  • cable ties
  • Hair elastic (gotta try and look tidy)
  • tissues
  • notes from family and friends
Then dotted among the boxes are bum lube, bike lube (not to be confused), hand and toe warmers, spare socks, a spare chain, maps (best make sure they are in the right box) and a few odds and sods.

They have to be packed quite carefully to make sure everything fits in. I would hate to leave anything out but whether I will get to eat it all, not sure.

Ah, life's little luxuries in an ice cream box!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

FIFO Principle anyone?

One of the famous sights along the trail is the aptly named the Village Headman of Prince Albert - Johann. He has also done some slightly kooky rides in his time such as a single speed, single person ride from Sishen to Saldanha.

But, more to the point, he has been known to pop up at all hours of the night when it is bitterly cold with welcome coffee and rusks for the weary RASA riders.

As organiser of the first ever Dikwiel Kommando Ride into Die Hel under the Full Moon (read all about it here), there is a second one planned. Those of us present at the inaugural one, have an invitation for life - not so?

But now it is under the auspices of the FIFO principle. So check out his blog and if you can, add to the wacky ideas that seem to come with territory of living in Prince Albert or being associated with Freedom Trail riders.

Fit in right over here

Monday, May 25, 2009

Today in 3 weeks...

...we'll be well on our way to SS1 - Allendale. Its a bit intimidating but like most of us, I am ready to start. The 2lt boxes must be delivered to Snapper Display on Friday, then there is little to do other than check and double check bike, clothing and equipment.

Last week was a bit arbitrary in terms of riding but we ended up doing two great rides on the weekend. As always, the rides revolve around food and coffee shops. Maybe its because we know we'll not see the like on the trail.

I rode both Saturday and Sunday with a loaded back pack and felt the difference over the distances. This is when it is hard to keep positive. My back ached continuously (a chronic problem made worse by the extra weight) and no amount of gel in my saddle can help when you load an extra 8kgs onto it.

I envied all the natural strength of the men and would gladly have traded some of my fitness for more muscle. But I guess, within a couple of days of starting, the pack and its weight gets welded to your body and you become one entity.

This is the first time I have felt anything but positive and luckily, my co-riders are so supportive that I couldn't stay down for long.

Our Sunday ride (thanks Anton of Summit Cycles) was a great change in pace and routes. We rode harder than normal, all of us with loaded packs, and enjoyed seeing the Pretoria side of the world. After a stop at Smuts House (museum and tea garden), we flew back. Must have been something in the water. So despite the aches and lack of comfort, the legs are handling the effort so in the end, I finished feeling pretty high.

A recovery drink and enormous bacon, feta, avo and olive pizza later, and I was ready to tackle some of my tasks for the race. The afternoon was spent watching the final of the DLF IPL T20 cricket and laminating endless maps.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Size does count

They say it doesn't but when pushing a bike through all sorts of terrain, it seems that it does. This was the calf contest. Name them from left to right.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I rode a lot last week

All in all, it was over 17 hours of riding last week, mostly due to fellow riders bunking work.

It was mostly the usual suspects - Nutty, Gadget, Badger and now Stompie (no, you won't know him). Friday was a stunning ride to Magaliesberg (94km), meandering through wattle forests, jeep tracks, lots of powerlines before ending up at the Wimpy in the little town.

Nutty likes to show off and made sure he was on his second cup of coffee and page 6 of the newspaper before we got there. We're convinced he takes a short cut. He also likes to live dangerously. When asked by a motorbiker for the newspaper, he said; "Oh, do bikers read?" We all looked the other way.

We briefly met "Jamie", an Australian who has ridden from Canada to the tip of South America on this 20kg (unloaded) steel bike. This is another breed of rider altogether. He was currently touring South Africa but his steed was built for endurance, not speed and we left him and Dave Collett all too soon.

Admin and The Monk (I'm sure he took a vow of silence) joined us on Saturday for an excellent training ride into the Cradle of Mankind on Saturday. Although only 60km, it is hard going with a lot of technical riding, lifting over fences and not a few short sharp hills. Plus we had some rain just to add to the experience. Did I have my rain jacket? Of course not.

The highlight was the Bridal Trail which is in excellent condition and Gadget's home made fruit cake. Oh ja, the boys were dosed with tonic and goji berry extract which I had been given to test. Can see these being an addition to the 2lt boxes.

These last two rides were done with the pack that I will use on the race and I shoved in some t-shirts and stuff to create weight. The pack is brilliant but I can certainly feel the difference in the extra weight. Climbing is suddenly somewhat harder and lower back tends to take more strain. My shoulders are a bit stiff too.

So, from now on, all the rides will be with the race pack. Except Sunday. I couldn't face the weight so seeing it was a 60km amble up the Braamfonteinspruit, I did without. We met two more riders doing R2R whilst out on our round and it was great to chat to Lesley and Brett of Swazi Frontier Mtb Race fame.

So now it is only 3 more weekends left.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Where am I?

The week started slowly with a lot of time being spent on maps and sorting through the 1:150 000 (25 maps) and 1:50 000 (89 maps). Obviously we can't take all of them although the detail on the 50's is so much more helpful.

So I spent my time choosing the most appropriate maps for which section which still leaves a huge pile of paperwork to prepare. There is also the guesswork of how long each stage will take because on paper, it doesn't look too bad. From experience, 72km can take 13 hours. It all depends on the terrain, the portages, the push-a-bike sections, the weather...who knows.

I met someone last week who thought it would take the winners about 6-8 days to complete the event. Man, he has no idea! There is a princely total of 25km of tar road over the 2300km. The rest is district road, jeep track, cattle/pedestrian track, bundu bashing, bike carrying and every other obstacle to bring your average speed down. Hey, maybe there will even be snow this year.

I'm really pleased I did R2R last year and the last section of the Freedom Challenge this year ( as it remains reasonably fresh in my memory and has given me a lot of confidence for both ends of the race. It has also given me an excellent idea of what to expect and how slow the going can get.

Its just the middle which is the Big Black Hole. But the names of the places are becoming familiar as I link the routes and maps. Names crop up such as Slaapkrantz, Romansfontein, Toekomst, Bucklands. (Did you even know such places exist?)

Then there is the careful placing of the correct maps into the matching 2lt box. If this is not done properly - Disaster or being really, really nice to the other riders as you hang on to their wheels and hope they won't lose you.

Once we have finalised our map selection, there will be the notations to go on and finally the laminating of the maps to water proof them.

I haven't even mentioned the narratives which get changed on a weekly basis but are due to be finalised this week. These need to go with the correct map and without them, you are truly up the creek without the proverbial paddle.

The maps and the narrative go hand in hand and the plan is to figure out between them exactly where it is that the Race Director is sending you. Mess this up and you are in for a long cold night.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Life after the Freedom Challenge

I am pretty convinced that I will not want to look at my bike for the longest time after this three week epic. And I have been hesitant about committing to any events in the months that follow.

But who can resist the lure of a ride in our neighbouring country Botswana? For three years I have had a standing invitation to attend this two day stage race which has had rave reviews. There is always a strong Botswana showing at my Sabie Experience event and it is time to return the favour.

So on July 25th I will line up at the start of the Subaru Kalahari Challenge for two days of fun, slightly warmer weather and with a lot of base fitness! Here is an extract from their website.

Yet again, we’re going to play with the route. Some woosies (ex roadies, perhaps?) complained that Day 2 was a bit rough. So, we’re going to turn things around – Day 1 will now be long and rough, and Day 2 will be a quiet stroll in the Botswana bayous. And we’ll be going the other way around, which we hope doesn“t upset the clockwise amongst you. We think the race route has got even better, if not any easier - it’s still approximately 95km for Day One and 85km on Day Two. We have dodged some of the desert, but there’ll still be the odd patch of sand (‘horizontal hills in Botswana’) guaranteed to blip the heart-rate and blow the hammies, some real hills, a bit of wildlife, some water, and every variety of thorn known to man. Oh, and a bit of natural singletrack. South African visitors have learnt to their surprise that ‘flat’ don’t mean ‘easy’, it just means you have to pedal all the way!

The race comes highly recommended and entries are limited to 100 teams. You can get all the lowdown here.

See you at the end of July - Seamus, Steve, Neville, Marius and all the other Gabs riders.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What's in a name? Plenty

When you hang out with the other riders for hours on end, you get to see the quirks and characters emerge. And of course, along come the nicknames. Some have been earned over time whilst others are conferred ceremoniously.

Such as Limp Wrist.

Falling off, cutting the ride short and cradling one hand while holding on precariously with other made this a no brainer. Not to mention falling off and taking a muscle biopsy out of the arm, cutting the ride short and riding home cradling the arm a few months before. Apparently this also the name of punk band. Is there a connection I wonder.

And then there is Badger (also known as a Ratel for all you army buffs)

Wikipedia says : Typical badgers (Meles, Arctonyx, Taxidea and Mellivora species) are short-legged and heavy-set. The lower jaw is articulated to the upper by means of a transverse condyle firmly locked into a long cavity of the cranium, so that dislocation of the jaw is all but impossible. This enables the badger to maintain its hold with the utmost tenacity.

Tenacity and not letting go....oh yes. Ask the race office! Um, also have a look at the sporting career of said badger and weep.

MacGyver aka Gadget Boy

This time Wikipedia says : Angus MacGyver (known to his friends as MacGyver or "Mac") favors brain over brawn in order to solve desperate problems. MacGyver's main asset is his practical application of scientific knowledge and inventive use of common items—along with his ever-present Swiss Army knife. The clever solutions MacGyver implemented to seemingly intractable problems—often in life-or-death situations required him to improvise complex devices in a matter of minutes.

Practical devices include a digital pressure gauge, a monocle, a coke can in every box, a homemade map board which could be patented for other RASA riders, an articulated backpack harness, pliers, two multi tool kits, needle and thread and an assortment of cable ties, elastic bands, maybe even a blow torch or two.

Nutty Professor

Incredibly cool inventor of all sorts of things with a completely nutty sense of humour which extends to inventing formulae for predicting race finish times. The sense of humour verges on the sly so you have to be awake to catch the drift else you fall way behind. Revels in insane challenges and creating race records where there were none.

I can't take the credit for these nicknames which is just as well as I may have to dodge a few bullets. Luckily I get to write this stuff which means there is no comeback...sorry boys! But here's a clue for another...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Moving Forward

Its been an interesting week with a bit of training, some drama and a step forward in planning.

It was the first full week back on the bike and I wasn't able to make much headway. I certainly didn't feel as comfortable on the bike as two weeks ago. I hope that it will return pretty quickly and that I avoid the colds and flu going around. More downtime will be really frustrating.

But I hope that I will develop momentum into this week.

I planned to test my backpack on Saturday and packed it with a lot of the kit I will be taking with me. Man, did it feel heavy as I hoisted it on my back to do a 90km ride with some of the RASA riders. But once in place, it took a while to find my balance and it felt pretty OK. Its a nice light Northface pack that's been tried and tested by the Myth on a 500km adventure race so it has what we call "houding" (character).

But a full test will have to wait. About 6km into the ride through the most spectacular gorge, Doug took a tumble over the handlebars (about an 8 score) but landed awkwardly on his hand. We feared the worst with all the symptoms he was displaying and there were frantic calculations on how long broken bones take to heal and what alternative training options existed. However, the other three wondered more about me bequeathing my hot cross buns to them as they headed on for a 9 hour epic.

Doug and I cut the ride short and 14km later were back at the car and heading to the local clinic. After an hour, the verdict was just deep tissue bruising, nothing broken. Boy, that was a long wait for luckily, great news!

Then I have spent many hours pouring over the maps and trying to get a handle on the big picture. Linking all the maps together makes the route come alive and I really enjoy the process of imagining how it will all pan out.

I also went shopping for snacks for my 2lt boxes. So far, very little healthy stuff - mainly comfort food. Yum, any excuse to indulge in tasty, feel good stuff. I am just not sure how much to cram in. I guess more is better if the space allows. I've gone for a mix of sweet and savoury and stuff that will be easily eaten on the move.

So all seems on track for the first deadline which is the delivery of the boxes to Cape Town by the end of the month.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Board Blows The Budget

Its not only about the camaraderie on the bike. Its also the friendships that are forming as we prepare for this huge undertaking.

So a self appointed Board of Riders met in Fourways to discuss the next month of preparation with the only item on the agenda being a joint order to an internet cycling shop.

That's when the fiscal discipline went out the window. It became an orgy of ordering. As fast as I took things off my wish list, Derek, Steve and Doug added items. Items such as candle power, hubs, cones, caps, BBs, cassettes were discussed, dissected, compared, surfed.

I thought I was reasonable technically savvy but was eventually forced to phone a friend (Shaun the bike mechanic) to cut through the fug of jargon.

Not on the list but going for the ride were digital pressure gauges, monoculars (instead of bi), kickass 1000 lumen lights, two different saddles and a few boring chains to list just a few items.

In fact, we started a whole new trend. Women may have their book club, but we....we have Bike Club. And the Bike Club is going to meet tonight to see whose light is brightest.

(Sigh) Boys and their Toys.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Back on the Bike

Its been 12 days since my last ride and I confess I had no time to miss it. Yet, I can never escape this thing called the Freedom Challenge.

Even in the midst of a roadie tour, there were RASA guys lurking and ambushing each other with questions and ideas and inputs. Grevile (our timekeeper for the race) is returning for unfinished business and he would jump on his bike every afternoon to get in a couple of hours of riding.

Tim James was riding the roadie tour and hear this...his partner was Yolandi du Toit, one of our top lady professional riders. The legend called Tim was pushed up the hills by his female partner!! I couldn't wait to share that snippet with you all.

But I was too tired and immersed in the organisation to even wish for a moment to get on my bike. It took a further two days of 9 and 11 hours sleeps to begin to feel energised again and finally, today was the day.

What a gorgeous morning - cold and damp with a spattering of rain. Doug and I set out to do the Pretoria West ride but decided against it for safety reasons (hijack hotspot) and opted for an amble down the Braamfontein Spruit. This is our soul riding in Johannesburg. A gem of single track with greenery, flowers, trees and the river. And now in autumn, it is spectacular with the leaves crunching on the ground as we rode through.

We decided on the tiger line to Vida coffee shop in Greenside as we were getting quite wet and were reminded of the ride into Ntishikeni last year. Good call. We sat there for a while and the skies cleared and the air was sparkling after the light rain.

The sun came out and we meandered back home with a 60km ride under our belts. This was a great way to get back into training mode. Now that my event is over, I am free to focus on the Race and get my planning back on track. Its time to focus on the details which will get me to the start line and hopefully to the finish.

Not long now.