Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Giants in our lifetime

In the last 15 years, we have been privileged to see giants. These are the individuals who can push back barriers and change our perceptions of what can be done.

Before my lifetime came Roger Bannister - the first man to run a sub four minute mile. Until he came along, it couldn't be done and now? Well if you can't run well under that number, you aren't remotely competitive. So what did he do?

He moved the bar and everyone followed. It helped that there was great rivalry from another runner who was so close to the mark but I don't remember his name. He wasn't the first.

Tiger Woods is also one such athlete. He arrived on top of his game and totally dominated the golf scene. All the others were left trailing in his wake. Either they had to change their belief systems or get left behind.

He revolutionised golf, expressing his feelings on the course (no doubt to the dismay of the old guard), in his training methods and his desire for perfection. And now, Tiger is not guaranteed to win every event he enters.

Roger Federer is yet another who perfected his tennis game and the only real challenger who could rise to those levels is Rafael Nadal. These two have titanic battles and none of the other men come close...yet. There are some who on a good day fear no one and beat these two but they have yet to consistently reach those sublime heights of skill and composure.

Lance Armstrong raised the bar for the Tour De France, dominating it totally for seven years. Single minded focus and a properly drilled team took him further than any other rider. Naturally gifted, he used his obsessiveness to create a legend that still keeps his younger rivals guessing.

Perhaps this is a sport that will take time to respond as in his absence of three years, only Alberto Contador has achieved significant success winning all three of the cycling "majors". But the youngsters are coming.

Which brings me to the man who has single handedly raised athletics back to an A list sport. The wonderful, incredible Usain Bolt. The dour IOC was unhappy about his antics at the Olympics last year when he broke the world record in the 100m. But what do they know.

The crowds love the man. He performs non stop for the cameras but when it is time to excel, he rips the heart out of world records that "couldn't be beaten". Another world record in the 100m and 200m in Berlin and record numbers of viewers watching the Athletics World Champs.

These are charismatic leaders who consistently cause us to see what is possible - and all of this in the face of ongoing detractors who find reasons to dismiss their achievements. The negative naysayers who would have us stay in our small cocoons of comfort never challenging, never improving, never shattering any myths.

I choose to believe in these giants for the joy and the awe they bring to us.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ultras and focus

I am envious of everyone who is riding with a goal in mind. I have no focus or commitment at the moment. I was supposed to do the Mankele 3 Towers at the end of September, but I can't face the thought of racing hard. I am still enjoying riding but love balancing it with the running now - so I am more motivated to set a running goal.

I am even running(pardon the pun) out of topics to write about on this blog! Horrors!

So I thought I would diverge a bit and ramble on about other thoughts that occur to me. Like the Leadville 100 with a 14 000ft ascent that took place a couple of weeks ago.

This legendary bike race of 100 miles sounds as tough as they come. Dave Wiens has won it for 6 years in a row beating first timer, Lance Armstrong, last year. I can't imagine any one day race here of 160 kms having over 1600 competitors and needing a lottery entry system.

This year, the tables were turned with LA turning in a sublime performance to win by about 30mins - still a 6 and a half hour effort! So touring 3 weeks on the road is clearly great prep for one mother of a race. But I would love to see how a competition between the top international mountain bikers would have panned out - if a Christoph Sauser has been there or a Julien Absalom?

Now that would have been a race I reckon.

And then there is the Leadville 100 mile trail run apparently held this weekend. I can't find the results for 2009 but have seen the second fastest time of 16 hours 14 mins set in 2007. Now that is a long day of pounding. There are special awards for anyone completing under 25 hours!

I always thought we s'effricans were ultra distance mad, but these events and the participant numbers show a whole 'nother side we have yet to explore en masse.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Are you brave enough?

I referred to this blog post in a recent tweet but thought it was too good not to share here- thank you Charlie of Productive Flourishing.

Do Epic Shit

by Charlie on March 15, 2009

This one will be a short one – as many of you know, I’m currently at SXSW. It’s awesome and intimidating and overwhelming all at once.

One of the panels I went to the other day was “Try Making Yourself More Interesting,” moderated by Brian Oberkirch. In his discussion about how to make yourself more interesting, he presented the following, easy guidance:

Do Epic Shit

Many of us aren’t doing epic shit because we think we’re not big enough to do it. Or that it’s better to start with something small and that smallness defines our ambition indefinitely. Or that epic shit is stuff that epic people do.

Wrong. Everyday people do epic shit and then become epic. They weren’t born that way.

Okay, so you may not like “Do Epic Shit” as a mantra. You might prefer to think along the lines of “Create Something Remarkable” a la Seth. They’re saying the same thing, though.

What are you doing that’s epic? Why is it worth talking about? Why should other people care?

Rather than do something small and work like hell to build a story around it, do epic shit and let it speak for itself.

If this post turned a light on, maybe these will, too:

  1. Think Big, Act Small
  2. The Rebirth of Entrepreneurialism

Borrowed from Productive Flourishing because you will all relate and be inspired. I was. Tell me your epic plans - you do have, dont you?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Where to Now?

The more I chat to other riders of the Freedom Challenge, the more I realise the profound impact the event has had on all of us.

Three weeks of testing ourselves against mental and physical odds has fundamentally shifted perceptions of ourselves and our environment.

Many of us are restless. I am. Others hanker for change from their daily grind and are actively searching for new challenges that will stimulate and satisfy. I am too.

I have found that sharing the experience on different levels has been cathartic and has helped me to understand the magnitude of what we all achieved. We were gifted with the chance to spend 20 odd days in pursuit of our real self. Where we were face to face with weakness and strength and no one to judge us except ourselves.

I am still able to endlessly discuss facets of the race and in doing so, remind myself of the trials and tribulations of the time out there. These chats help me with my perspective and I get a great deal of pleasure in sharing the others' experiences too.

That I can still write about it a month or so later, also shows the depth of the enjoyment and the impact the race had on my psyche. These articles help me revisit the positive mood and space I was in when I finished. So I resist with all my might the vortex of city life and the mundane.

So where to? I am hoping my new energies will bring new ideas and new directions.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Rekindling the joy

Today I rode with Kevin (a blanket wearer) and Nick, a first time with either of them. I wasn't really looking forward to it as my fork is still stuffed and really hurts my hands and wrists.

Also, I wasn't feeling that great with a sore throat and snotty nose. But I had committed to showing them some routes that they had not experienced but that I had ridden countless times in preparation for the race.

Ho Hum. I could practically visualise every rock and rut along the way. My big dilemma was which kit to wear. Now that was a big decision. Luckily I went with more than I thought as it really didn't warm up until the last 20km.

So without any great expectations, we set off in the cold and semi dark. Its probably been over two months since I last did this ride and changes there were aplenty. The normally soggy sections of single track had dried out into hard pack and the grass had died back enough to avoid normally hidden ruts. It was fast and flowing but not fast enough for Nick who couldn't contain himself and dashed off like a little kid.

Horrors, the first shock was the huge green palisade blocking our path to the Total garage on the R24. Luckily we spotted the rotating green gate which made for interesting navigation. I managed to maneuver my bike through but the others passed theirs over. Nick's bike - a Santa Cruz - weighed just over 10kg. I hate him.

Snigger - Kevin's bike is a hard tail with v brakes and he doesn't ride with cleats. A free rider, he calls himself!

It was clearly the day for green palisades. Next up was a monstrous fence surrounding the new business park next to Lanseria. This hadn't been completed so we could still pick up our route but that wont last long. There are also massive road works on the main road which had eroded our normal path too but the local pedestrians did the job of walking a new section flat for us.

Which brought is to our third palisade of the day. The dirt road to the Refilwe school had been closed off but here, at least, they (whoever they are) had considered pedestrians and by vague association, mountain bikers. There was a narrow pathway left between the palisade and razor wire. Hold your line!

And so we were able to finally reach untarnished track and head into the Cradle. It blew the other two away. They were thrilled to discover kms of single track, technical riding and wide open countryside. Nick especially, as he had just immigrated from Cape Town and was desperate for good riding routes.

An additional bonus was the rare sighting of a small brown buck bounding away from us (dunno what kind) and the magnificent sight of an Eland loping majestically up the mountain. But this wasn't all. After doing part of a technical climb towards Kalkheuwel, we spotted a Gemsbok on the ridge. Problem is, these two guys now think I can produce fauna and flora at will.

Then it was back to the Chicken Pie place for apple pie of course before heading for home. It was shorter than we thought but we left each other with promises to re-visit the routes and explore other options.

Looking forward to seeing all my old routes through new eyes.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fit, fat and flourishing...

...according to my fitness assessment this morning. Say what? I am still thinner than when I started RASA so was I obese before?

I joined Vitality earlier this year in order to shamelessly exploit the special deals and especially the Pick n Pay savings. I am a bit snooty about all these fitness tests and questionnaires but hey, if I get to fly cheaper on Kulula, I'll subject myself to them.

So lets look at this thing in depth.

Training for the step test

Non-smoker, never smoked, never intend to gives me Excellent. This must be the equivalent of a gold star. Blood pressure is also a gold star. But the mere fact that I have a couple of glasses of wine a week is not good, only a silver star. And here I was thinking that antioxidants are good for you. Tut tut.

My golly gosh, my nutrition rates even lower. Must be because I admitted to eating crisps when watching rugby never mind all the other healthy choices. Oh, I got it. Someone spied on me during the race and saw that I ate everything that was placed in front of me and then some. More likely, its the fact that I am still enjoying chocolate too much.

Unsurprisingly, my physical activity was almost full house. Not quite excellent but better than good. Pity they didn't have a box where you could check higher than 2 hours at a time. But hey, my Maximal Functional Capacity (???) was 52.8 and excellent was only 36.4. This was possibly because I could only get my heart rate to 63% of max on the step test. Eish!

I was disappointed that I only scored Good on my crunches. Oh well, only doing them once every couple of weeks will have that effect. Imagine if I did more. Like my push ups. Carrying my bike up mountains helped me score Excellent!

But now here's the kicker. BMI (Body Mass Index) is normal. My oh so tiny waist is well below the norm but the Body Fat, no, no, no. Even the words make you cringe. Body. Fat.

It is 0.1 over the top end of the scale. It would seem that I need to immediately go and ride RASA again in another vain attempt to become waif like. Either that or all my muscles are actually hardened fat masquerading and fast and slow twitch fibres.

So look, what I will do now is (no, not slit my wrists in dismay) is have another piece of chocolate, tear the test sheets up and gleefully take the extra 7 500 points.

Trying to make a fat face

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Blogosphere - bringing us closer

Last night, Susan Nelson died from cancer. She left a legacy few can hope to match. Her husband is one amazing blogger - The Fat Cyclist.

Over the years, he has entertained legions of readers with his humorous and passionate approach to cycling. As Susan became more ill, we shared in the pain of watching a loved one fight a horrible disease. But we watched and learned how human beings can become greater than they ever thought possible.

Through Susan's fight, Elden (Fat cyclist) was able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the fight against cancer and all the while showed enormous grace under pressure in extremely difficult times.

We all learned to value our health and our loved ones a little more.

I am in awe that one person can draw so many people together all over the world even though none of us will ever meet him or his family. The warmth and support from strangers rekindles ones faith in humankind.

So if you hate cancer, donate to a worthy cause.

If you love someone, tell them.