Thursday, April 23, 2009

...and then there were three... (almost)

This type of training makes you realise how difficult the race is going to be.

Last week on Saturday morning a group of 5 of us braved the cold to go on yet another long ride through the unspoilt beauty of Broederstroom and surrounding areas. All 5 of us are RASA entrants so we need to get miles under our belt.

We parked our cars at the Home of the Chicken Pie, and set off down a sand road that we have ridden many times before, and then hopped of onto some single track and continued at a fair pact down into the valley. At the bottom we noticed we were only four. Steve went back to see if he could find the missing member of the group (Steve has far too much energy so he offered to go). A few minutes later he returned and said the 5th member had decided to go back home...

So we continued further trying to find a new route onto the ridge that we had scouted last week. The ever alert Fiona spotted it from the back, and we slowly climbed up the ridge. The views from here are absolutely amazing. It is hard to believe that Johannesburg (the largest city in the world not built on a river or at the coast) is less than 20km behind us.

As we start off again we see a lone warthog running through the grass in front of us with its tail in the characteristic vertical position. A little further on we spotted some duiker in the more dense trees. This beats sitting in a car driving around a game park.

The rocks in this area are extremely sharp and have a habit of slashing tyres (and arms). Steve managed to get a gash in the sidewall of his tubeless tyre. Fortunately he managed to plug it which lasted for a while but kept on deflating. Steve had numerous 'pump' stops.

We'll head out on the same route as last week (now we know where the first path is) and when we get to the big gate, we will head to the right instead of the left. Wind our way to Harties Dam, head back to the Bridal Trail and return through the veggie farm and saddle again'...

These were the instruction from Fiona sent on an email describing the route. Well, that sounds very simple except which gate was Fiona referring to. In my mind it was very clear and it didn't require any further questioning, I could visualise in my mind the exact gate she was referring to. Well guess what we had different gates in mind. That is what makes the Freedom Challenge so challenging when you are trying to navigate from someone else's narrative. It is very clear in their mind what they are referring to but that does not always translate into how I interpret the text. Fortunately we didn't get lost, but it is an interesting reminder how we perceive things differently.

We then ended up cycling on the southern side of Hartebeesport Dam, going up a gentle climb up the side of the mountain. From here we had spectacular views of the dam as can be seen from the pic.

After a quick stop at the local Spar, for a calorie top-up, we headed back, leaving Steve behind, who opted to head directly back to the cars to get new tyres for the next day's riding.

The three remaining riders now head back thinking everything is all sorted and not much else could go wrong, go wrong, go wrong ...... Derek broke one of the support rails that holds the saddle to the seat post. The seat, now minus a support rail was leaning at a 30 degree angle to the left. About 10km later Derek was in agony trying everything he could to make the ride more comfortable. Eventually he had to 'sit it out' and just finish the ride. I'm sure his rear end was not a pretty site by the end of that, put I wasn't volunteering to check it out for him.

I am sure there are a lot of lessons we can learn from ride like this which will make us mentally stronger for the real thing. So after this very eventful day we just managed to get 3 of us back together.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Start Date vs Training

There seems to be a bit of confusion as to when the race starts. The start batches were posted over the weekend and Fiona and I are starting in Batch C on Monday 15th June 2009. There are 3 Ride to Rhodes riders and 10 Race Across South Africa riders in this batch including the only tandem in the race. This gives us just over 8 weeks of training before the start. My heavy work schedule precludes me from getting much training during the week, so weekends are my training days, however this does interfere with family time (thanks Aileen, Michael and Kayla for your understanding and support).

We have done some spectacular training rides over the last few weekends. Fiona is a master (or should that be mistress) on route planning and navigation. She has a built in GPS in her brain. Here are two photos taken going up Breet's Nek last week, such amazing scenery so close to home.

I have had some challenges in training over the last two weeks. On one of our long rides (110km) my rear shock burst a seal 17km into the ride. Fortunately I could continue, however it was like riding a pogo stick, bouncing up and down with every pedal stroke. I earned the nickname of "Bob" during this ride. I seem to be accumulating nicknames at the moment, Ill tell you about "Shrek" sometime.

The training schedule this week is 70km road ride Friday morning, 70+km MTB ride on Saturday and 120km road ride on Sunday morning.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Race Across South Africa

Last year I decided to do the Ride to Rhodes, a 600km mountain bike ride from Pietermaritsburg to Rhodes. See Ride to Rhodes 2008 This event was so amazing that I knew I had to do the complete Freedom Challenge (Race Across South Africa) this year. Fiona (who rode R2R with me) is also doing the full RASA this year. Below is the picture of Fiona and me finishing R2R last year.

This race is not something you do lightly, it is a 2300km ride from Pietermaritsburg to Paarl in the Western Cape. It is an individual race through some of the most remote places in South Africa, relying on your ability to navigate with maps, route narrative and a compass (no GPS). The organisers provide 26 support stations where you can get a bed for the night (or day depending on how bad your navigation is) as well as meals. We also have 26 two litre ice cream boxes which we can pre pack some essential items. These boxes will be distributed to the support stations befor the race starts..

All other kit, spares, clothing needs to be carried in a backpack. The race has a cut off time of 26 days. This year the start is staggered over 5 days (13 - 17 June). This is to limit the number of riders for the support stations. Each start group is about 15 riders of which half are doing the R2R and the other half are RASA riders. Fiona and I have a 20 day strategy to complete the race in, assuming there are no major problems.

This blog will cover the weeks of preparation and trepidation leading up to the start of the RASA, as well as some of the race its self. I will send or phone reports through to Aileen at home for her to add to keep interested followers up to date. If you are keen to follow this blog, link yourself as a follower and please feel free to add comments and suggestions.
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