Saturday, October 31, 2009

My come back slows

After my initial enthusiasm for yesterday's stage, I realised very quickly that today was payback.

After all, I had done the equivalent of two weeks of my most recent training regime in one day and I was about to double that again.

Stage 2 of the race started innocuously enough but soon started a steep climb which got us all sweating profusely in the humidity and mist. Oof, this dragged on but eventually levelled out to a pleasant contour. The ground was pretty soggy after the rain which sucked the life from already tired legs.

And then we hit another bugger of a climb. So what that the surface was smooth. It was horrendous ever higher into the mist.

By the time I got to the next contour road I was pretty tired and this section also dragged on with mud sucking on my wheels.

At the base of Hartebeesvlakte, there was still a lot of climbing to do. Two hot cross buns and cheese and a 30min break for all of us, helped the recovery somewhat and then I tried to ease my way over the next section.

If you do nothing else in your mountain biking life, you have to ride the "vlakte". The space, the rolling verdant hills, the wild game and the magnificent views are unparalleled. Of course, you have also worked like buggery to get there.

The sun came out dispelling the last tenacious wraiths of mist and we were treated to the wide vistas. And then the descents are sublime, heart stopping too when you discover your front wheel is loose! The bikes and hearts took a hammering but in under an hour, we were into the final few kms to home.

Huge sticky buns and coffee while we cleaned bikes rounded off a longer than expected day.

So my comeback hit a bit of a slippery slope but by tomorrow, I should be fit...yeah right.

If you are doing this year's Sabie Experience, please train.
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Friday, October 30, 2009

What a return (sort of)

I had nervous anticipation all this week as I was heading for Sabie for our annual mtb pre ride.

Once a week training doesn't cut it for the mountains in the area but a break from Jhb and something new was all good.

Sabie Experience is a four day mtb event in December and is known to be tough, even brutal depending on the weather conditions.

We arrived in rain and woke up this morning to rain. Steady falling rain and dampened spirits.

At the start were about 30 hard core souls. Actually, some were posing as they had no intention of riding but wanted to be in the aura of those of us heading out.

There was a vote. The time trial route (32k and 3 hours of rain) or Stage 3 (80k and 8 hours of rain). To me it was a no brainer but - I won't tell you how I voted.

Off we went. A 13k climb to stables soon had the butt and back complaining but at least it kept us warm. A roaring fire at the hiking hut made it super hard to leave knowing this was the point of no return. 60k more awaited us. I added another layer. Well it was worth it. Sublime single track even in the wet, a near cartwheel over a cliff by yours truly and slightly warmer weather in the valley.

My gears were giving me the zig and fatigued my legs quicker along with the mud, but hey, I was keeping up. I was surprised that I was not exhausted and that I had not fallen off the pace.

Despite the constant drifts of rain, everyone held up really well and there was good feedback on this stage.

On the climb named "Ugly Words", I rather heard the thud of raindrops falling from the trees onto the damp earth and the sigh of my tires as I wound my way onward and upward. I could hear birds faintly and not another soul.

Rare peace indeed.

The race office ladies, Ilsa and Sandy, had whipped up hot soup with buttered rolls for the weary warriors. Manna!

It took several rinses of my bike, myself and my kit to get ride of most of the brown mud.

And now we are off to celebrate Halloween at Georgies restaurant.

Tomorrow? Who knows, who cares. I'm back!
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Obsessions with numbers

I found myself doing it again on my longer run this weekend past.  Obsessing about 300 - that's what I was short. 3.0.0.metres of tar still needed to hit the round figure of 15km.

I don't understand why we can't let the figures go.  15km sounds much better than 14.7km but does it really matter. 

Runners line up in the droves for a marathon, frantically pressing buttons on their watch as they start and practically tripping over the finish mats trying to press buttons when they finish.

Now if you are world class, seconds may make a difference.  But you and I?  We still focus on the numbers.  Even on the odd road ride, I get home and it is 69.6km and I round it up to 70km but feel guilty.  I didn't quite make the mark and it feels wrong to claim a higher number.

For a while, I ran with only a cheap and nasty stopwatch.  Most of the time, I couldn't figure how to stop/start it when I paused at an intersection so the overall time didn't matter.  It was pretty liberating.  There were times when I had no watch at all.  But as I have run more, I am filling in the distances, times, average speeds and all the clutter.

I think I must find the courage to rid myself of gadgets - speedometers, gps, watches and just run or ride. 

If I can do it, can you?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wednesday Wind Down

Mmmm - I love it when someone else takes the time and effort to make things happen and I can just pitch up.  Guy, founder of the new Hilltribe cycling club, sent out a mail this week for a Wednesday Wind Down.

What a great opportunity to double my riding for the week! (Embarrassing admission that).  I was so going to be there and Doug decided to join and Derek spat bricks because he was in the throes of budgets.

I rode part of the way there to avoid the traffic hooking up with Doug.  Luckily.  My bike was unhappy and eventually we figured a cable was loose from its moorings. 

Guy has a garage full of different sizes.  He says its so he can lend new people a bike that fits them.  Crazy. In his place, I would keep all the bikes for myself - a different colour for every mood.

Les, Oh Les.  He claims that all his kit has shrunk.  Yeah right!  But this Les is in charge of one of the big brand motor vehicle advanced driving schools.  He should ace mountain biking. But I think he fell off.  Well, that's what I assume when I heard the horrible phrase: "Are you alright?".

By this time, I had arbitrarily taken over the route and was leading the charge down the single track.  Sorry Guy, I just can't help myself. 

30km later and settling darkness saw me back at the car, happy, upbeat and booking off Wednesday Wind Downs for the next eon.

PS I gotta learn to minimise the camera shake...ride slower, girl, ride slower.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Go Big or Go Home

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  What an exciting and daunting concept.

How does this relate to me and all things cycling?  Well it doesn't really but I am putting my reputation on the line and giving this a go.

November is a month dedicated to getting a draft of a novel done.  The target is 50 000 words.  You may only start writing at midnight on November 1 and it requires roughly 2000 words a day.  And it must be brand new.

Now, I just finished writing up my 3 week experience on the Freedom Challenge and that only comes to 33 255 words and it took me ages so I am hugely daunted at the prospect.  At least with my ride story, I didn't have to think up a plot and characters and events - they were all there.

I have fiddled with ideas, lurked on the NaNo forum, scribbled mind maps and was drawing a blank.  But the other day, I was at Sugo's (oh yes, the ubiquitous coffee shop), and I got an idea.  A theme, characters and personalities.  So it was a start but how to drag this idea out for 50 000 words, I don't know.  There are some strange tips out there. 

I have just downloaded NaNo for the New and Insane by Lazette Gifford and her first paragraphs reiterate that this is all about Having Fun! So fun it will be.  I am not going share my plot just yet - maybe I won't ever, but November is going to be interesting.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What defines you?

I just read an article on one of my favourite blogs,, where he speaks about the one constant in his life.

For me, that is mountain biking. For as far as I can remember, there has always been a mountain bike in my stable. As time went on, the sport of mountain biking has meant different things, but one thing is for certain…through all of the changes in my surroundings and tastes…it was always there - Rob Sutton. Read it here

It got me thinking.

The constant in my life has been sport.

Way back before the rinderpest, I attended a smallish private school which had the basics of sport but of course, success was usually measured by academic results.

I found school singularly boring bar a handful of teachers who truly inspired me and I have those lessons with me today.  The swimming and hockey coach was Mrs Borrowdale.  She made school bearable.

I survived because of sport playing first team hockey at an early age and eventually captaining the school in the sport.  I also remember the dramas of trying to contact me via dodgy phone line after the school gala to get me into the school interhigh team.

Sport was my lifeline.

Varsity was a degree in Physical Education punctuated by diving and playing underwater hockey.  I must have tried dozens of different sports in those years.  I still grimace at the bruises from my foray into karate.

Then I discovered the passion of my sporting life - canoeing (kayaking as the rest of the world knew it).  It began with the 3 day Dusi Canoe marathon and burgeoned into a career spanning many years.

From the long distance river paddling, I discovered sprinting.  I was hooked.  I watched a World Championship and vowed I would be there as a competitor.  It was a fledgling discipline but I persevered and was rewarded in so many ways.  I travelled the world with my canoe, met wonderful people and raced in beautiful cities.  My biggest disappointment was missing an Olympic berth by 1/100th of a second.  I cried for two days.

But it was all worth it.  After sprint canoeing, I ventured into the marathon distance and travelled some more.  And then I swopped a boat for a mountain bike.

I loved the feeling of freedom that came with riding a bike.  I loved feeling like a kid again.  It would never be the love of my sporting life, but it was a fitting replacement.  I ventured into adventure racing (which is a whole 'nother story) and the culmination of my riding career to date was the Freedom Challenge this year (Dash4Freedom).

I even run a business in the world of sport - two cycling stage races. This after being involved in our country's Olympic, Commonwealth Games and All Africa Games movements.

I can't imagine a life without sport, I just can't.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hello, Hi, Grunt, howsit...

What's your language - if you have one?  I'm referring to how we greet fellow cyclists (or runners).  It seems to be an ongoing source of irritation or opportunity to flame road riders or each other. Even more so when one comes across riders who feel entitlement - entitled to the track, entitled to push past, entitled to curse if you are in their way, entitled to being the biggest asswipes too!

I really do make an effort but I know there are times when I am watching the wheel in front and can't look around much less raise my head and smile or say hello.  That feeble flap of the fingers is all you're going to get.  Hey but the intent is there.  Conversely, when sending it down a rocky mountain, you'll more likely get a squeak but the white knuckles mean no waving, not a hand nor a single digit.

I'm also known to stop completely to talk to other riders with much eye rolling from my companions.  Hey, can I help it that I know so many people??  We seem to live in isolation behind high walls, locked in office buildings and we seem to have lost the art of connection.

All the experts talk about the connection economy and how relationships have become the new best business tool.  So greet your fellow rider, greet the pedestrians, show a little courtesy to the people around you.  You never know, it may be the most valuable greeting you have ever given or received.


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Monday, October 12, 2009

Calories burned aplenty

I think the biorythms were cooking this weekend - good hard riding and running and the legs didn't flake out.  We rode 75k on Saturday taking in one of our regular routes towards Chicken Pie before heading around on the Cradle road to Teak Place.  For those who don't know this spot, its quite magnificent with plenty of value for everyone - runners, riders, drinkers, eaters, kids.

Ironically, my only other two times for a visit were road cycling related so I had yet to experience their mountain bike routes.  Gadget led us around the garden path until he found the start of the single track (err - right where we entered) and we were off.  We had done 30 odd kms to there already and my legs were feeling the week's running and spinning but soon I forgot them with the winding single track cut through the bush crossing the stream.

Springtime is simply awesome.  The shades of green are luminescent and wild flowers decorate the veld.  We came across several huge oaks casting benevolent shade over the tracks and interspersed were many indigenous trees also breaking out in new leaf.  Following the black route brought us to the floating bridge which we had to cross twice - just for kicks.

The adrenalin made it worth it but we were disappointed when Gadget managed to correct his skid and not fall in.  It would have been priceless. Eventually I called it a day (mindful of my run the next day) and headed back to the restaurant area to meet up with Aileen and the largest rock shandy I have ever seen.  Time passed, the sun shone and the wind pumped in my face.

I realised we had made a huge tactical blunder.  All around me, other riders were showering, swimming and feasting on large breakfasts.  The thought of riding another 30kms home was distressing when all I wanted to do was kick back for the afternoon.  Aileen had not brought a bike rack.

There was no short cut home.  Worse still, it was on tar which is not right.  Knobblies do not go on tar. The End.

But having almost double the amount of gears for the hills on the home route compared to my road bike made for an interesting change.  I found a second dose of energy in my legs and rode the hills pretty strongly - managing to keep Malcolm in sight (he of a million Jagermeisters/tequila/late night before fame).  Funny how some people ride well on alcohol residue.

But by the time I got back to Broadacres, my legs were a bit wobbly so I grabbed a lift home and promptly slept all afternoon.  You know how it goes, the siren song of the I thought that I was going to suffer mightily the next day.

Sunday's run was a jol (blast for non-south african speakers). We started behind several thousand women with another few thousand behind us.  Women broad of beam walking four abreast made sure we couldn't start too fast and so we picked our way around them and eased into the running.  My legs felt surprisingly good but it was my arms that felt weak from the bike handling which was pretty amusing.

We cruised our way around and I decided to push the last 2kms and it felt good.  So good that I was getting those goosebumps from effort.  It wasn't a great time but we were all pretty happy with a good morning's work.  Each of the friends had achieved a goal and we now had a handle on what additional training we had to add to the mix.

So I am looking for a 15km and a 21km to do in the next two months but I had better not neglect the riding as the next time, it might not all come together so well.

Oh yes, and on the way home from the ride, we saw lionesses with two cubs - only in Africa!

Friday, October 9, 2009

And for something different

I am running my first 10k road race in a year.  In fact, this same event was the last event I ran other than an aborted effort when I was battling with my calves earlier this year.

The Spar Ladies 10k is a festival for women - runners, walkers, elite athletes and your average joe - or should that be Joan.  I'm looking forward to it - a different energy and culture.  The 11 year old will also be doing the 5k with her aunt - gonna be quite an experience for her.  Certainly, she has done some things in the last three months, she would never have done otherwise.  Good for her!

Aileen (Her Blog) is my regular running partner and since introducing Chi Running to her style, she has taken off and I am sprinting to keep up - Go you good thing with a PB this Sunday for sure!  Vivette - another novice runner - is about to tackle the 10k for the first time.

What a great way to celebrate being alive - doing things that challenge and stretch us further than we ever thought.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Uh Oh Need some focus

The end of October is the annual pre ride for the four day mountain bike stage - The Sabie Experience.  I always ride the three long days of the race at this time as come the race, I am too busy running around on logistics.  (I am the race organiser, you see).
This way, I can relate to the sufferfest that happens in the bodies taking part.  Last year, I was dry while driving the TV crew - the riders...they got very, very wet!  But I digress.
I have about 3 weeks to get into some shape for the mountains of Sabie and mountains they are.  Last year, I was pretty fit for the three days but this year, well, I will have to rely on my running (fat lot of good unless I am pushing my bike!).
But good for Gadget.  He has been pushing us to ride on the weekends or perhaps I should now call him Badger for badgering us. We are doing an expedition from Fourways to ride the trail at Teak Place in the Cradle of Mankind.  He promises LARGE rock shandies for afterwards.  So I will ride with a smile on my face and a goal in mind.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Would you wear these?


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I saw these trendy "knickers" advertised for general cycling, probably more for commuters than for racing. But at least it does away with the overshare of bumps and lumps in lycra.

See what you think here -

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