Saturday, April 29, 2017

POWER OF THE MIND

...I have yet to determine why I decided to return to do this crazy race! My race going so well was starting to unravel. Feeling emotional and close to man tears sitting in the shade of a low karoo bush halfway up a madman's climb, a place called Rooiberg, I had around 260km and roughly a solid 16 hours plus in my legs but right then the heat was threatening to burn a hole in my soul, to leave an ever lasting ugly scar to remind me I might not have been tough enough on the day... 

(With temperatures that would later peak at 45 degrees), I made a choice. I stood up. Picked up my bike and started walking....Rooiberg wasn't taking me prisoner. I started the battle but I wasn't ready to lose the war...
oooOooo

It was good to be back in Oudsthoorn after racing and finishing my first solo 36One in 2016, arriving late Thursday afternoon for the mind blowing 2017 challenge that the 36One is. Starting Friday night at 6pm, a solo journey in a single stage covering 361km with 5400m of ascent and with 36hrs in which to do it in, is personally one of those ultimate tests of human endurance.
Having registered just after 10am on Friday morning I opted to only take one of the three boxes on offer for the three checkpoints. I opted to put in a change of cycle clothing and a spare light battery for checkpoint two which was the halfway mark. This year I was after a sub 24hr finish and didn't want to waste too much time at water-points and checkpoints for this year's race as I had done so the previous year.

My training was a little off the mark compared to 2016 but then again I had included the 36One into my training for the 2016 Freedom Challenge race across South Africa which came in handy and was partly instrumental in my successful finish of the grueling 2300km race. Yet, I felt confident that my base was solid and my mind was in the right place for the 2017 event. It was only the heat that was going to be my biggest enemy and concern.

On Thursday evening I had met up with Martin who I had met and helped in 2016 with his failed light battery power enroute to the finish. 
(Last year blog) http://afrivence.blogspot.co.za/2016/04/no-guts-no-glory.html 
He was looking good and it so happened that for 2017, no arrangements made, he and I would start and finish together with him being very instrumental in helping me get through the last 80km and to the finish 2017.

Nervous Start



The Friday evening start was traditional. An electric vibe, nervous energy in the air and race debrief from the organizers, last bike and gear check and then we were in the chute waiting for the countdown chatting to loved ones over the barrier line.

At 6pm sharp it was all go and we were counted down and off! The evening was a little cooler than last year and this would become predominant through the late night and certain areas. The pace up front was fast and I had to repeatedly tell myself to ease up a little as the 500+ solo adventurers excitedly got going. A short tar section and then we were onto dirt road and the dreaded dust!

Martin and I seemed to compliment each other quite well and from the gun we were pacing each other steadily and our riding styles seemed in sync. With buff drawn over the face to ward away the wheezing from dust filled lungs and about 30 minutes in, I started up my bike light for the first time as the fading light made way for the start of nightfall and the blackness that would lay ahead for us the rest of night. From then on, it was the blackness and the tunnel vision for the next 10hrs at least.






Here we go!!!

The evening was somewhat of a blur for me all the way to CP2. I had the distance splits on the top tube of my bike and I have found a race like this, like last year, is to break it up. 53km to the first waterpoint, then add 30km to make 83km to CP1 and and.
The climbs kept coming and I caught myself thinking that I was feeling comfortable, riding within myself and this just boosted my mindset. We were into WP1, a few minutes, water bottle refills, a snack and we were off again into the darkness. I think I was smiling in my mind as I had started to realize that I was rolling faster than last year. After some continual twisted and winding roads, along with the par for the course ascents and following descents and after some more grinding away, rounding a bend there lay CP1 just off the rise of a small valley. We clocked into CP1 in just over 4hrs. I had started to have some mild stomach cramps running into CP1 and so it was off to the porta-loo to try alleviate the problem to no avail. I rolled off some toilet paper and placed in my pack in case I had to 'bless the Karoo in the dark of night and scamp off into the bush. I forced some soup, a coke and a slice of banana bread down my gullet and then whipped on my jacket as the temps had fallen below what I was desiring. Then we were off!

The section from CP1 to Cp2 was lost in my subconscious with just a beam of light in front of me and I just recall riding hills, some single track, railway lines, dirt roads covered in thick mist of dust with cars moving through and stirring it up all over again and eventually some tar running into Volmoed our halfway checkpoint. I was over the moon as Martin and I gunned it on the tar almost in time trialing mode and rode into the jovial atmosphere of CP2 at 180km in and around 10.5hrs. Way earlier than last year! I was extremely ecstatic as well as motivated now and according to my Garmin stats I was on track for a 23hr finish!

I retrieved my box. Got my change of cycle clothing gear and made the change. A few cups of coke, a tinfoil bowl of lasagna, coffee, bottles refilled and we were all go!
As we rode out of CP2 I started to realize just how cold it was and I started shivering uncontrollably on the bike. I just needed to suck it up and hang in there until first light. I knew once the sun came up it would bring on a whole new mindset change and warmth.

Martin started to cramp mildly just after sunrise and we stopped for a few minutes so he could stretch the calves. The surrounding Karoo was gracing us with its beauty as the new day dawned and being an avid photographer I was sorry I didn't indulge in some quick camera shots with the lilac skies on the one side and the blazing orange on the other. Now that we were no longer chasing red lights in the darkness it was good to see the course in daylight as I recalled certain areas from the previous year. We arrived at the next waterpoint and I couldn't help but feel humbled by the volunteers who had been at it practically the whole night whilst taking care of all the passing mountain bikers and again they were there to serve us with a smile and real traditional karoo hospitality. After a bottle change, shoving down some incredible date balls and koeksusters we were out of there.





Up to this point I was still fill of hope. My Garmin was still relaying positive stats and all we had to do was get to the next waterpoint as early as possible as the weather had predicted the temps would rise during the course of the day. It was important for me to get here early as this waterpoint was the last before and on the outskirt of Rooiberg.





The ride onto the Rooiberg waterpoint was nothing but bland. I still remember saying to Martin that it was probably the most boring section on the entire course. Very desolate. From the time we arrived at this water-point the temperature was starting to climb steadily. We filled bottles quickly, had a few snacks and set off. We descended into a shallow valley and then the climb started. It was around 10.20am when we started at the base of Rooiberg and I was starting to feel the heat. The sweat started to run. My body started feeling the slight discomfort. In hindsight I started to panic...

I started thinking about a lot of things.
Up over the 1st straight and around the first bend, I blew! or was it my subconscious, my mind just telling me stories.
The battle royale in my head had begun. It was arguing and deciding between you are good enough, you are not. You can do this, no you cant. Ride! no stop! Its hot. I'm overheating....The noise in my head got too much and I promptly un-clipped and sat down in the first bit of shade I could find. Martin too.

...I have yet to determine why I decided to return to do this crazy race! My race going so well was starting to unravel. Feeling emotional and close to man tears sitting in the shade of a low karoo bush halfway up a madman's climb, a place called Rooiberg, I had around 260km and roughly a solid 16 hours plus in my legs but right then the heat was threatening to burn a hole in my soul, to leave an ever lasting ugly scar to remind me I might not have been tough enough on the day...

(With temperatures that would later peak at 45 degrees), I made a choice. I stood up. Picked up my bike and started walking....Rooiberg wasn't taking me prisoner. I started the battle but I wasn't ready to lose the war...

We eventually rattled over the infamous cattle grid highlighting our summit of Rooiberg at exactly 12 noon and as I looked down at my Garmin which by now was showing completely different stats to a few hours earlier. My hopes, in this heat for a 24hr, never mind a 23hr finish was dashed! I would have to pull off one of the biggest feats of my life if this was ever to happen from here onward.

Martin and I found a water-point just after the summit. Ice cold water! Sent from heaven! We made our way off Rooiberg, rocky and rutted in sections, fatigued and again the heat making it a whole lot more challenging.

The run into Calitzdorp, CP3, had been a nightmare. With around 5km to go to get in, I knew I had hit the proverbial 'wall'. Martin had used one of his water bottles to hose me down from behind to keep me cool, to keep me going. I really appreciated that.

Arriving at CP3 - 280km, I was finished. I was broken. I had that thousand yard stare. I was thinking of quitting. I was thinking of calling it. I had nothing more to give. The heat demons had done their utmost to annihilate me and soften my mind.
I had stopped eating, I wanted nothing from this checkpoint. I couldn't even bring myself to put food in my mouth. I drank plenty fluid though.
My wife, Martin, Gail (Martin's girlfriend) were all offering encouragement. I had to go on! 80km to go, I had come too far to throw in the towel! I respected what they were trying to do for me but I just wasn't registering. I decided to take myself off to the grandstand off the field and walked into the change room and put my head under one of the cold showers.

Martin was not taking no for an answer in his quiet resilient way. My wife had seen to my bottles being refilled and in a partly zombie like state, with goodbyes and hugs done, Martin and I saddled up and rode out of CP3 and back onto the course. We had lost a lot of time at CP3. How much? I wasn't even certain.

Around half an hour in I had one more "breakdown" which had me sitting in the shade and contemplating my race status. Martin, ever calm and cool in his approach, just kept reassuring and his patience was beyond me. He was not leaving me behind in my part delirious state and he was positive I would come out of it. The sun was setting lower and there was more shade. After popping an energy sachet, and around half an hour later, I started going through a more positive transformation. I was ready to go. It is incredible how my mind shifted and this cannot be accurately explained.

At around just after 300km, it was Martin's turn to 'slide and we stopped briefly with me scratching for a energy sachet in my pack and handing it over to him. We met some other riders riding in pairs battling on. The climbs kept coming. Up and then screaming descents just to do repeats. With close to 40km to go and the sun having just set, a quick pitstop at the second last waterpoint and we pushed on. I was battling to hold food down and the sickly sweet energy gels were starting to make me nausea. Whatever I had consumed was repeating on me and after a flying dash and long twisted descent at high speed, trying to keep concentration in amongst the bouts of fatigue in the dark and with around 800m before the last water-point, I couldn't any longer and stopped to purge whatever contents I had left in my stomach. Pulling into the last water-point a medic was there to assist me and offered me a tablet to control the nausea.

I couldn't believe we were 23km from the finish line! This year's race had played out way differently than last year. I logged a call to my wife who was waiting at the finish to let her know we were coming in and I was fine!
Fresh liquids in the bottles and thank you to the volunteers at the support station and we were off. Roughly 13km of dirt and 10km of tar would take us to the finish line and take us out of our misery, and I guess a good kind of misery. It was on this last section of dirt that I heard Martin complain for the very first time throughout the entire race. The road was rough, rocky and corrugated and riding a hardtail was certainly not serving his cause. I just smiled, and encouraged him that we were nearly home!

On the last tar section heading to the finish I had a very brief moment of reflection, which caused a stir and emotions to well up inside me. I told Martin I was grateful for his patience and encouraging help and even though we finished together last year and I took line honors, it was now his turn. He deserved it! Sticking with me, encouraging, helping along the way, it was his for the taking.





The marshal signalling us to turn into the park and onto the finish line was one of the most welcoming sights at this point and rounding the corner and crossing the finish line was one of an incredible sense of exhausted accomplishment. 
It was insane to think that just 80km earlier it had been touch and go. An absolute mind f*ck!

Having measured on my Garmin, 363km, 5421m of ascent, 45 degree maximum temperature recorded, average moving speed 16.4km/h (but overall 13km/h average speed) and 27hrs and 47 minutes later, I had done what I believed my mind thought impossible and recorded a finish even though (44min) longer than last year but yet nobody could take that away from me.....












That average moving speed of 16.4km/h still highlighted that I can get in under 24hrs but that is a 'next time' issue.

I firmly believe the 36One is not about fitness, speed, the bike you ride, what supplements you take, how you plan to tackle it, even though they are all important components of your race.

I firmly believe your 36One success will ultimately rely on one key component.

The power of your mind!





Friday, April 28, 2017

THE VOID OF A MONTH

The end of February 2017 came and went as well as the month of March. 

The weeks rolled by with the norm of ongoing riding (training), photo grabbing and sometimes new photo subjects looked upon.

A two week stint of uncontrollable tummy problems that had me flat on my back for longer than I would have liked and visits to the bathroom on average three times an hour at one stage, wasn't something I would have wished on my worst.

Other than that, the month and a bit since my last post was a void. A month with nothing but the norm and getting ready for my third 36One Solo single stage mountain bike race that would come and go and take place in late April...

What a race it was....

Monday, February 27, 2017

THE FOUR DAY TOUR

The four day tour – 21 February to 24 February

I decided I needed some time out and what better way to do it than to mount a mountain bike and a backpack and ride across the countryside from one destination to another....

From up country Queenstown to the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Here is an brief account as recorded in my log diary.



Day 1 What a fabulous morning of riding & arrival at my overnight stop early afternoon. It is no secret. It is not all downhill to the coast so I found out today! Some hilly terrain to traverse and some big climbs to add good measure. First half of the morning met with mud and drizzle to later clear up and get rather warm....One small river crossing and relieved to find it not resembling a 'white river rafting launch' even though one of the locals in the village nearby told me it was flooded. I went against it and took the risk. So! Sometimes it pays off. 
That's adventure!

Day 2. After a later than expected start, (you just can't seem to get away from good old farm style hospitality) I left the Levy family and their Fairview farmstead. A farm seeped in history and what interesting stories told. Very overcast, wind and drizzle is how the day started, yet a far cry from yesterday in respect of climbing. After the summit of the Winterberg Mountain range I dropped down into the Baviaans River Conservatory and what a thrill of a ride! This valley has so much history and I am told there is a book on it! The descent is every mountain bikers dream!! It just never seemed to have an end. It warmed up pretty quickly as late morning rolled in and to a max temp of 31deg. There are so many building ruins and history lost in this valley and it's such a pity. There were also two small passes I traversed and the views were certainly spectacular!
On Garmin tracker, the family could not track the whole day due to no comms on the ride course. After a 101km stint with two small stings in the tail at the end, I arrived in Bedford for my overnight stop....

Day 3. I left Bedford early hours of this morning in heavy fog for one simple reason and that was to beat the forecasted heat that was to grip this section of the ride. I shy not away from admitting that heat & I do not bode well together! At 10am this morning still enroute to Ann's Villa, my overnight stop, the temps had already soared to 35deg once the mist had lifted. This had me grappling with pace as I found myself stopping numerous times when seeking & finding some shade for a quick reprieve. Signal is weak & I have not been able to upload stats for my only 90km day and well over 1000m of ascent. Today was different to the other days. There were long lonely stretches, yet liberating through some very dry and arid landscape in places but also some lush green as well. There was wildlife a plenty! Treated to a test of strength early morning was a wild cat running for almost a kilometre and a half in the beam of my bike light, ahead of me. Today I saw a total count of seven kudu, the most I have even seen in a days sighting, this along with various other buck. There were monkeys and jackal and it would seem animal life in this part of the world is in sure abundance! Even though green, as well as no sign of human life anywhere, not even a vehicle on the last stretch, I couldn't find water and ran the risk of running “dry” enroute to my stop but made it before then. My GPS kicked out on me due to an apparent corrupt file about two hours before reaching my destination but managed to ride on study memory and sign boards. I am alone at Ann's Villa, an old Inn built in the early 1800. It is fully self catering and so I had to carry a little extra meal replacement for the evening. This establishment is seeped in history with plenty of the original fittings and fixtures still evident. If you looking for five star accommodation, this will not be for you. This is roughing it at its best! Tomorrow my final run and day to end in PE. With around 150km to get through.....I am sure one of the oldest passes, Zuurberg Pass will be a treat!....

Day 4 - Leaving Ann's Villa at 5am, it would take me over 10hrs to do the 147km and reach Port Elizabeth under what I would call extreme conditions. Looking at my stats, I was shocked to see the temp had reached a staggering 48deg for a moment and explained why the heat had me stopping more often than not. The 1st 15km from the base of Zuurberg was rocky, technical and a long pull to the summit but the magical skyline of dawn breaking at the top made it all worthwhile! The pass did not disappoint with clean air, unspoilt nature and the scenery soulful as I traversed this old pass built in the mid 1800. Once passed the Zuurberg Resort at the top of Zuurberg, 30km from Ann's Villa, it was down into Addo for a much needed & required breakfast as I had not eaten properly since Wednesday evening. From there with the temp in their high 30's already it was the onslaught onto Uitenhage and then Port Elizabeth a 100km away. The dirt road to Uitenhage was grueling to say the least. The long endless, lonely roads, with the heat and my mind playing games, sweat pouring off me, there was nowhere to hide on this arid section of the ride. Once at Uitenhage it was mostly tar all the way to Port Elizabeth. With the heat blazing off the tar and stopping continually, at one stage I holed up at a farm stall where I found myself sitting flat on a tiled floor because it was the coolest place to be for longer than I would have anticipated. With the afternoon ticking on I forced myself to get up and get moving and made one last surge to my destination. As I got closer and closer to my destination and then with about 8km to go, hammer down, it is amazing how you can forget all the hardship and reflect on what an awesome journey this has been. I feel blessed I can do this. I feel grateful I could experience it. For those that cycle; never underestimate the experience and moments of where a mountain bike and a backpack can take you....


Zuurberg pass at sunrise

Some interesting stats from the entire trip.

I turned over my pedals roughly 481620 times over the distance ridden. Climbed 4661m
Lowest temp was 11deg
Max temp 48deg!!!
Clocked a max speed 67.4km/h
Burned 14172 calories which explained why I lost 3kgs.

BUT! It's all done!,……………….. now to plan the next one! 😉

Monday, February 20, 2017

WITH A BIKE....

February is past the half way mark and the year tapping along.

My antics over the past month and a half have been, quite frankly, traditional. Work, bike riding, home and one or two minor travel moments etc. After embarking on what I term my 40 day cycle "base train system" which started on the 1st January and ended 40 days later, had been very different to past 40 day programs completed.

After a term off the bike, It was time for me to start getting back into shape. I had piled on the weight after Freedom Challenge race across South Africa in 2016, just letting myself self go sadly. Getting caught up in the rat race again and easing myself off the balance of life, which I only have myself to blame for that, the 40 day plan basically would form the backdrop of my base training to start getting into the sync of things. It entailed a commitment of riding for 40 days, every day, with a set minimal distance, or time and a required ascent as the goal. I had packed on just short of 17 kilos to my skeletal frame since August 2016 and some serious work was required. I only needed to lose 9 kilos to get to my optimum weight I prefer which creates a balance between the power to weight ratio I desire.

My other half who also committed herself to wanting to shed some weight loss was right up my alley. No dieting needed but a required shift in eating habits and lifestyle has become the key and has seen me shed 6 kilos from the 1st of January.

I have found that my commitments to cycle have taken a more laid back approach with very little early morning rises as to what was witnessed in 2016 and more afternoon rides between and after work.

My first little adventure ride about to kick off, planned and structured solely by me, will be a rough maximum 500km trek across the country from my home town Queenstown up in the countryside of the Eastern Cape and end all the way down to the port city of Port Elizabeth on the Eastern Cape coastline. Taking few, short connecting tar roads but then onto mostly the dirt roads/tracks less traveled and planned over four days, traversing over some new terrain will surely be a challenge when doing it purely solo. The additional challenge will be the day heat and finding accessibility to water if needed as part of the stretches are across some remote barren land with nothing in sight for miles. The risks of adventure are always attractive to some. The elements of the unknown can sometimes be a mystic pull to those who seek it.

 The planned route decided on....
Day 1 

Day 2 - tricky...

Day 3 - long lonely stretches....

Day 4..... enter civilization again...

The hours are ticking down and the packing just about complete, the excitement mounts....I guess then I am ready to roll!

With a bike...........





 


Thursday, January 19, 2017

MOMENTS


2017 is here!

A whole new year with twelve months of adventures to get stuck into, if you wish!

I am not one for making New Year resolutions but rather choose to construct the year with a vision and some goals on what I would like to achieve. At the end of it, it is merely a case of sitting down after it all and comparing notes to see what has been achieved.

Life is not about 'things but rather about 'moments. Well! That is how I see to it.

“Things" just give you temporary pleasure whilst “moments" give you the pleasure of evaluating your soulful achievements and sometimes your failures, but in the end it also give you lasting memories and hopefully some wisdom to go with it.



I harp on it, hinging maybe on the risk of boring some, but the 2300km Freedom Challenge race across South Africa was incredible and definitely a start and hopefully birth of many new moments to come.

For those interested, here is a half hour video on my 2016 Freedom Challenge race across South Africa. Copy & Paste the link into your browser and hit enter...& turn up the sound.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4rOTQEtThyGV2M4M21GT1doTk0/view?usp=sharing

Raising funds for the Carel du Toit Centre in Cape Town where deaf kids are taught to speak was also once again one of my highlights in 2016 and all going well, planning and waiting on feedback for applying the same in 2017.


January is nearly over and in late February all going well, even though the planning is already 99% concluded, the start of some fresh new moments will begin!


 I’m excited!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

LIFE HAPPENS

Like a freight train, 2016 is running, in actual fact, screaming along threatening to slam into the stage curtain walls and rip them off from their fittings.

23 more days and 2016 will be a distant memory of what has been...
Victories and losses. Elation and disappointments. Solitude and adventure. Yet, I feel that 2016 has probably been my most personal best and incredible year to date! It stands out as the year of personal achievements, goals set and goals attained. Its been a year mixed with wisdom and experienced gained. Its been a year of realizing, truly realizing, that if you dream it, you can do it! And if you have enough self belief, you can achieve whatever you set your mind on doing. If you believe you can succeed you will! I've met some incredible people along the way and in some way it has also changed the way I view the world through my own eyes, somewhat.

Coming into 2016, there had been plenty unfinished business and I can settle my mind that the deals were realigned as well as the deals have been sealed. Deep down there are so many people as well as companies and businesses that had an impact on my belief system, changed the way I looked at things as well as assisted me and had me driven to discover my hidden resolves and perseverance. The highlight of  2016, most certainly was racing the Freedom Challenge race across South Africa and finishing the grueling 2300km non stop single stage race. An ordinary working class guy juggling training, work and family commitments, minor setbacks and the normal day to day activities and succeeding in this was an ultimate dream come true and a massive goal achieved.

2017 will bring with it, its own challenges and goals and no matter what comes your way, we must always remember, life happens. You either will or you won't. You either do or you don't. You could succeed or you could fail but the common denominator in it all, is it is about choice. You decide.

I need to mention a special thanks again to the companies that became part of my year in some way and no amount of gratitude would be fitting or enough. The service, the top notch equipment and general involvement went a long way to aid and be part of my 2016 successes. With goals set for 2017 and more crazy adventures planned, it would always be great to have companies like this on your side. A big thanks again to Adventure Inc, Buff SA, Sea to Summit, Osprey, FutureLife, Chain Reaction Cycles, Panda Sportwear, Leatherman and Led Lenser.

As I also moved to raised funds for a deaf school in Cape Town whilst completing some of my 2016 challenges, a big shout out goes out to those that made contributions in 2016! Honoring their confidentiality requests, it is nevertheless, big thank you goes out to them!

After taking much time off the bike, I have had to take stock of where I was at. It is early December and my base training has kicked in for the first time. I had just really taken some time out, indulged in one or two small races, the odd bit of riding but just couldn't get a training program kicked off. So! I took more time off. In this time, the adventurous mind has been skirting the horizon and there are some challenges that I have committed to mindfully, going forward... 

There are some plans, papers, maps, ideas and as mentioned goals on the table. 
Without the goals, there would be nothing. 
All going well, 2017 will be epic.....





THE STORY OF 2016 RACE ACROSS SOUTH AFRICA

The full 2016 Freedom Challenge race across South Africa race report https://view.publitas.com/private-18/2016-freedom-challenge-rac...