Friday, April 22, 2016

NO GUTS NO GLORY

An account of the 36One mountain bike race (361km in under 36hours) undertaken as one of my preparation rides for Race Across South Africa in June.



Oudtshoorn, South Africa. The date 15 April 2016. Time 18:05.
5 minutes to go! And I am profoundly calm on the start line of one incredibly insane mountain bike race that is about to start!

What is it about this ride that has now been etched into my mind? A mind that has now been altered somewhat onto a level that is incomprehensible. Yet, I am sure many of the 780 riders that crossed that start line that evening may know all well what I am talking about!

I say some; because not all made it back from the dust covered battleground where the personal wars were waged and where it was also commanded not to last any longer than 36 hours while crossing the mountainous terrain of the Swartberg, Outeniqua and Rooiberg mountains as well as the treacherous heartlands of the Karoo over a distance of 361km. Some left their nightmares out on the mountains. Some slayed their demons and dragons in their quest to make it back but some also left their offering of blood, sweat and tears out there in the dust too!

After a failed attempt at this beast of a race in 2015, I never forgot the mystifying pull of this ultra distance event and the desire to conquer it! And so I set in motion the plans, the training and goal to get back there and here I was standing calmly on the start line as the sun dropped off the horizon making way for a breezy warm evening with hundreds of like minded cyclists.

Courtesy Oakpics.com



There were plenty nerves firing. Enough to jiggle an atom! The look of apprehension on some of the ‘warriors as they were readying themselves to embark into battle and for some the unknown, being it their first time was prominent! It was also heartening to see and hear the nervous chatter echoing the concerns, the doubts and what was to come. It reassured me that even though we may have trained like machines, we were also human.

The ‘bugle sounds and we fire off. A kilometer neutral zone behind the lead quad bike leading us out and then it’s all go! The pace quickens off the front almost immediately and is blitz fast kicking up the fine dust of the dirt roads we embark on creating a film of mist that would stay with us almost the entire night. The bike lights remain off until the last of the fading light makes it almost impossible to navigate without them.

Dust bath!
Still in a reasonably sized peloton and about an hour in we leave the short tar section we are on and join dirt on an incline. The long night of insane ascent and the battle royale between mind body and spirit had begun! I found myself riding the mountains and passes with relevant ease throughout the night, pacing well and racing within myself, alone into the darkness with the odd flickering red tail lights of distant participants ahead of me crossing mountains and hills, one after another. I monitored the plan I had implemented for myself and swept through water point after water point along with the checkpoints, all the while keeping my tank full, ensuring sufficient ‘ammunition was taken on board to continue with the battle ahead. To keep my head together, I was using my distance splits between stations to maintain stability and effort.

The night was warm and there was no need for protection against the elements. I had found my mind in one or two ‘dark places through the night near half way and it came with an over-whelming emotional desire to cry. Not because I was full of self doubt or negative perspective about what I was doing but more so because the night had gone so well, incident free and I had yet to feel as strong as I had up to this point of the ‘battle in a long time. All my training was paying off.

The mind has the ability to sabotage the best laid plans. A week running up to the race, my visualization of the race, the climbs, the fatigue, and the finish was ongoing. My silent mantra “I will do it!” was hissed into my subconscious.

The 36One is a lonely race. If you are not up front with the contenders, you are pretty much on your own. Through the night, it’s you, your steed and your thoughts. There was a partial red moon setting down off the horizon in the early hours. Sometimes there would be the unsuspecting visitors like the couple of frogs I saw crossing, bouncing, hopping across the roads, or was it an illusion from the after effects of fatigue? And then there was the silence, also some extra silence because of my hearing loss too. Just your bike wheels crunching through the dirt, your heart beat pumping the rest of the engine and your breathing stabilizing your rhythm getting you to a place where you are one with everything around you.


Courtesy Oakpics.com


By the time I had left Checkpoint 2 and on my way with around 190km in my legs, the sun already just coming up, I calculated my stats and I was on track for my 25hour finish I had set. I was pretty chuffed with the progress so far. 

The sunrise was a sight to behold! 

By now the battlefield route was dotted with the odd warriors on their bikes attempting their way to the front line of victory. Some were behind and some ahead. I saw broken people with bewildered stares. Some were walking and some were sitting alongside the battle lines. Some were still moving along slowly and here and there in passing I felt the need to offer some verbal support and encouragement. You see, I had been where they had been a year earlier. The battle scars can run deep if you allow them to. Some, I couldn’t but help feel would be traumatized by the effects of this particular battle for time to come.


My onslaught to checkpoint 3 started to unravel 25km before arriving at the checkpoint destination. I came under fire with heavy heat threatening to derail my mind as I approached the 12km obstacle of that  being a drag of an ascent that lay before me and allowing me access to the safe haven of a meal, something cold to wash down and rest.  My mantra “I will do it” kicked in and I put it all out there to get over the infamous Rooiberg mountain. This was an absolute mind attack to its core! No guts no glory! No retreat and no surrender pushing on to the summit.  Victory was sweet arriving at the top and then a frantic descent and a grind of an effort with the devil trying to get into every chink of my amour in his effort to derail me, failed as I pulled into the welcome sight of checkpoint 3.

Checkpoint 3 became my safe haven for nearly an hour as I re-stocked, patched my mind and rested. I was 80km from my final post. I had two mountains to get over.


Induced rest applied and I was ready to ride on. It was time to break through the final ranks of the last two murderous climbs and this was going to take some smart tactic and riding so not to allow my mind to collapse. Yet, I looked back to see how far I had come as a boost to get through what was coming. Giving up had never ever been an option throughout the battle so far and once again I had an overwhelming desire to spill my guts, not because of the agony I was feeling in my body but because of the pride I felt in how strong I had been through it all!

I had two water points to get to before I would find myself on the final frontier. I stumbled across a weary warrior (Martin) in my pursuit of the finish and he and I teamed up. It was a partnership that would take us to the end. With darkness falling he was low on battery power and ended up having no lights for the final run into the finish. We were all in this ‘war together and as I would have wished the same would have been done for me in the same position, I adopted a silent commitment; we leave no one behind in distress. We both witnessed warriors falling along the wayside with only 40km to go. They had nothing more to give and their minds had taken their bodies’ hostage. They were prisoners in their own souls. Nothing could rescue them other than themselves. They had to beat their own demons to keep moving forward and it seemed they had lost the battle.

Martin and I pushed on in the darkness, with one light and conquered the torturous hills, one after the other in every way we could. We reached the last water point and we had 23km to slay in the final run in. We both logged calls to our relieved loved ones waiting for us back on the finish line home front. We were bringing it home!!

Martin and I gathered the last of our reserves and made a dash for the ‘borderline. We dished out and laid everything we had out on the final dusty road and racked up the final kilometers in just on an hour amidst heavy fatigue and exhaustion along with a splatter of rain as we came into the last stretch.

The run into the finish was a bag of mixed emotions. Seeing a crowd of loved ones waiting for you at the finish line was better than victory itself! Martin and I had taken on a battle in our own rights and won the war! We crossed the line in a non stop 27 hours and 7 minutes of racing. All the discomfort and tired body was lost in the moment of achievement. I had a lot riding on this race, especially from a mental boost perspective and I had achieved just that! 


With over 5300m of vertical ascent cutting throught the 361km distance, 780 brave souls started out on the battlefield. Only 521 made it back when the final trumpet blew.

I came prepared, I rode it, I conquered it!

I became my own hero; ...........to self.......


No guts. No glory

If you would like to support my Freedom Challenge endeavor, please go to: 

https://www.facebook.com/afrivence/
or




Friday, April 8, 2016

LOOKING FOR A HERO

15 months earlier….

June 2014 log date:
My interest in the Freedom Challenge race across South Africa since hearing about it in 2009 had climaxed and I was now physically out on the trail. 9 months of training, preparation and sacrifices behind me to finance and pursue a dream and I was on the start line and advancing into the unknown.

Why did I do it? I think certain sports for certain people reflect certain elements and aspects of our lives and where we find ourselves. As individuals we all have different core values and greater values that reflect on things we subconsciously think of from day to day. Survival, courage and strength may be some of those values. Some of us feel the need to test our limits and for me the Freedom Challenge race across South Africa presented the play ground to do just that, an adventure race into the unknown. It was a journey and something that I had nervously anticipated and by the sometimes fragile human reasoning of logic, convinced myself to go for! After all, if it was a dream, why not pursue it!

Towards the end of June 2014 I exited the Freedom Challenge trail 11 days in, a ‘shattered left knee that wouldn’t pursue a relationship with the rest of a willing body but also, I left the trail with a ‘shattered mind not being able to finish what I had started. Nobody gets to feel those emotions even if hidden away from others unless you experience this form of disappointment, but again, everyone deals with their disappointments differently. For some, the mind at the precise moment of feeling defeat has the ability to gel together a concoction of negative perspectives that moves to destroy anything that you want to see and believe that are positive.

This happened! Everyone is different, but this happened to me!

I started to believe everything I had sacrificed was for nothing. I started to believe that I had pursued this quest in the realm of fantasy rather than reality. I started to believe that races like this were only for certain species that are above the norms of who we are. I started to believe that dreams were just dreams and I shouldn’t have been on the Freedom Trail in the first place. This incident in my history book broke me but it also tutored me in the months to follow. I had a lot of learning to do as well as maturing and we never too old to learn.

It was to take me 15 months to finally really find my feet from that personal gut wrenching day, to find my ‘mojo as they call it. Cycling had been my passion for over 20 years and mountain biking had offered me a whole new dimension and freedom in the past 7 years. After my time of rehabilitation and getting my knee fixed and back to strength, I started dabbling halfheartedly back on the bike. I was battling to find the motivation. I was battling to feel the freedom and excitement of riding my bike and getting out-there. My rides were half baked to say the least. I was putting on weight. My family would point out my moods that served no purpose. 

A sad loss of a close family member and witnessing the physical finality of a life towards the end of those 15 months started to catapult me towards the blips of light. Deep down the embers from the whittled down fires in my belly were still glowing somewhat. Getting back on the bike even though it felt like nothing was there, it still kept glowing even though I was blind to the sensation and endorphin that was flowing through my veins. Again, we are complex beings and based on our upbringings, belief systems and life experiences we all judge, respond, react, make decisions and live our lives differently to another. One of my biggest weaknesses is that I have always been too hard on myself and I fear failure.

In June 2016 I am back on the start line! 

The lessons and reminders have been learnt and need to be applied. Live in the now and stop worrying about tomorrow. Today as with all days is all you’ve got and there are no guarantees how your day will play out. The most important thing is to make every second count especially when it’s in pursuit of your passion and what matters to you. There will be highs, so celebrate them! There will be lows, just harden the F*** up! It’s never always going to be lollipops and sunshine. Its par for the course! We need to understand attitude makes all the difference between a good experience and a bad one so keep it in check. We are all stronger than we think we are and we need to learn to give ourselves more credit than we think we deserve. One also needs to understand that even in the beauty of our sporting passions and those that pursue it, your health is both fragile and irreplaceable and sometimes you have to make hard decisions around it and it’s not always the beginning and end of all. (Note to self. Don’t be hard on yourself and face your fears)

The question can be asked many a time when you pursuing a challenge and the suffering kicks in, why can it be so difficult to let go when a race has surpassed our limits, and our own survival may be in question. I’ve been asked many times, why I would want to put myself through this, a race such as the freedom Challenge race across South Africa. Other than past answers given, I think the answer also lies in that we are also always witness to scenes of raw courage in others from time to time in sporting arenas and day to day living; People pushing on against all odds through adversity and hardship pushing their own limits. A normal rational person’s view would be that this behavior is sometimes reckless and foolish when some of these amazing individuals do what they do. Yet! There is something in our subconscious minds that admires these displays of sheer determination and courage and some of us just longs to be just as full of pure grit and toughness.

I decided to write this blog insert and hopefully just give a small glimpse away from any perceptions and the quiet unassuming individual that I am and rather into simple facts that we are all just mere mortals with hopes and dreams, failures and successes and feel emotions of elation and disappointments, laughter and pain just like everyone else.


Yet! Everyone likes a hero………but I’m just merely wanting to be my own….


Just a reminder!! Anyone interested in helping me with my cause, please go to:

http://www.givengain.com/activist/141916/projects/10833/


or send me a personal message via the page:

https://www.facebook.com/afrivence/

for other ways in which you can make a donation deposit.

Monday, April 4, 2016

LIFE'S A JOURNEY


April is here and just going on three months to launch and take on the might of the Freedom Challenge race across South Africa!



My training has gone on and well even in respect of a few interruptions though. I am eleven days away from another race to take place and unfinished business. A daunting single stage race covering 360km in under thirty six hours!


To date, with 60% increase in miles, 81% increase and focus on ascent, 54% increase in time in the saddle, 118% increase in calorie burn and effort and a 10% loss in body weight, I feel I have done what I needed to up to now compared to my preparation in 2015.
This race will be used as part of my training for the big one in June!

I have been blessed in the month of March with having seen, been and experienced as well as surrounded myself with positive people. As much as I have improved on my physical well being, I still believe I have some work to do on my mental fitness.

We can so often, as I may say again, give ourselves less credit than we believe is worthy. One needs to take a moment and take stock of where you’re at, where you’ve come from and where you wish to go. Maybe last year happened for a reason and this year is a new season where one needs to go forth using experience and logic.

I am urging all that may come in contact or read this page to share it. I am hearing impaired but this story is not about me. Sure! I am tackling something bigger than most will do in their lives, yet in taking on the Freedom Challenge race across South Africa is nothing compared to the deaf and hearing impaired children at the Carel du Toit Centre in Cape Town that are tackling something bigger in that they are trying to learn and find their place in the world with early intervention relating to their impairments. My aim is to help them along with your help.

Knowing that I am doing the Freedom Challenge race across South Africa and attempting to raise funds for the Carel du Toit Centre in Cape Town, I have been approached by people, some who have known me for some time, expressing their surprise, unawareness and sometimes shock to hear that I am hearing impaired from birth. In having already engaged in some personal mails to some of my interested and concerned friends about the matter, I decided to share this via my blog. It is something I shared two years ago.

With a hearty laugh, I called it: “coming out the deaf closet”. 

As some may know or not know (in my blog & FB page) my deafness, from birth has been a long journey. In adulthood there is a lot more acceptance as well as living in a modern world than what there was years ago. 

Hence, as a bad habit, I have always kept my deafness low key for personal reasons due to subjection and sometimes enduring negative stigma for a number of years of my life, mainly my youth. However, sadly there is still stigma attached to deafness which the younger generation sometimes has to endure still. Lack of education, awareness and understanding are the key reasons for such stigmas.

Being hearing impaired is challenging BUT because over the years I project an ability and awareness of extreme coping skills, which I developed and survived on, like lip reading, body language recognition, reading situational cues, intellectual intelligence and 6th sense, I almost project "normality". Even audiologists are dumbfounded when after doing hearing tests, documenting & realizing the extreme level of impairment I have, how it is that I interact and cope so well. Maybe because I have dealt with it for so long in my own way I see no big deal in it. I am by no means a social butterfly, rather quiet and reserved which are traits sometimes becoming of a deaf person. My speech has been and is affected but not as badly as most people with letters (s, th & r ) which are some of the common denominators in speech and result of being deaf. 

To best define my hearing loss to others it is termed sensorineural hearing loss. It occurs when there is damage to the auditory nerve that runs from the inner ears to the brain. Those affected by this form of hearing loss experience among many other things, some sounds that seem too loud, difficulty following conversations when two or more people are talking and difficulty hearing in noisy areas. It is easier to hear men's voices than women's voices. It is hard to tell high-pitched sounds (such as "s" or "th") from one another. Other people's voices can sound mumbled or slurred. There is also difficulty hearing when there is background noise.

My hearing range is fair in the category of low range sounds and where there is more bass than high notes. However, higher sound ranges are the problem. Sounds like a flute or high key notes on a piano keyboard are way out of my range of hearing. To hear properly you require the ability to hear both sound ranges equally. 

By my own choice and after evading technological intervention for 30 years I now don hearing aids with mind blowing technology features and of which was a very moving experience when I fitted them and switched on for the first time on 13 October 2012. There was a mammoth difference experienced to what I had had from a hearing aid use from 5 years to 12 years of age. I am however bad when it comes to using them continuously because of the extreme noise factor one experiences after being use to a world of much “quieter" surroundings for so many years. It is something that needs work on.

I opted to try and help the Carel du Toit Centre in Cape Town, a school for deaf and hearing impaired children because I know what these kids are going through and will go through. My first visit to them at a satellite branch in East London in August 2013 had me holding back some of my emotions. The Centre receives no real assistance if any from government. Being an NPO, (Non-profit organization) they do a lot of their own fundraising as well to try and help fund their school and the work they do. We are living in a modern and expensive world and these kids, some previously disadvantage, need a better shot at life but the funding is not always there. My aim is to help but also with the help of others that may be better off to help make that difference. It is going along slowly and I so wish for a big sponsor to come on board. 
TO MAKE A DONATION GO TO:
http://www.givengain.com/activist/141916/projects/10833/

(or personal message me for other ways you can make a secure donation)

I have been asked a few times by obviously concerned people why I am doing The Freedom Challenge race across South Africa. My reply is very simple...


I am doing the Freedom Challenge because it has been a dream. It is an opportunity to transverse part of our country very few will have the privilege of doing. It is an opportunity to revel in and experience another side of humanity that many speak about but few experience. Confronting extreme terrain and adverse weather conditions, it is an opportunity to dig deep into my character and push the boundaries of the human spirit and how far we can go and how much we can endure – handicap or no handicap. It is an opportunity to write my own story and define a little of my own history. At the same time it includes all those that have been part of and will be part of this incredible journey that I am about to embark on and for that I am grateful.

Life is a journey and we need to enjoy the ride…..





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...