Monday, 28 March 2016


Well after all is said and done the over-whelming sense I have is one of pride.  That was a soul-searing, deep-wrenching endeavour.  My mind took over when my body had surpassed what it could manage.
I learnt that I can do things really slowly and not fail - but still get to the end point.  There is a lesson in my Kayla life lessons in this.
I was reminded that I am tough and I can endure physical hardship.
I have also come to the conclusion that one does not need to do these incredibly hard things too often. I have chosen to not do the Race to Rhodes and definitely not do RASA.  My mind would probably cope but my ass would definitely not cope!!

Doug put the maps ups on the wall in our kitchen and everyday Kayla would trace the route I had done.

Well deserved glass of wine with my treasure

The recovery has been slowish.  My hammie is still tight, the new skin has grown back on my ass, the sores in my mouth healed and I picked up a viral infection probably due to my immune system being so low.  I am sitting with Bell's Palsy now and a skew face and only half a smile.  
But know my heart and soul are absolutely BEAMING. 

The adventure - part 2

Day 4 - Romansfontein - Hofmeyer (72km) - Elandsfontein (33km)

We set off altogether the next morning and Fi and Trevor successfully navigated getting out of the farm which saved quite a bit in time and kms.  The boys went ahead, Trevor and Jacques missed the turn and went off for ages on the wrong road.  It is a silly but easy mistake to make.  One has to be conscious the whole time where you are on the map and distance-wise. 

Good morning God

Aasvoelsberg was a slow tortuous portage for me.  I was limping and couldn’t flatten my left foot going up the hills.  It certainly wasn’t a difficult portage but I struggled.  Coming off the portage on the other side was hell.  Downhills, at the best of times, are not my strong point.  I couldn’t stand on my pedals and I could not take the weight on my hammie.  So I had to sit with my right leg straight to get some weight off my backside, however this made me off balance.  I cursed and swore and cried my way down the hill.  Fi was waiting for me (again) and we set off after I had a breather.  So normal cycling was manageable but certain movements really caught me and hurt.  

A very sore struggling body

Aasvoelsberg portage


We had a long climb up a pass.  The beginning bit was so deceiving as it looked flat but it was a gradual up with a side and head wind.  It went on forever.  I took a decision that if I did not get into the lunch stop timeously, which was the pie shop in Hofmeyer, then I was going to pull out.  There was a portage at the end of the day, Elandsberg, and I did not want to be on that portage at night – with or without Fiona.  She agreed with me but in fact we were making slow steady progress into Hofmeyer.  On the last hill down into Hofmeyer this cyclist suddenly came past me.  “Good morning” he says and zooms on past.  It turns out he was on a training ride from Queenstown and had already ridden 140kms.  140kms – is he f*&^$!!ing mal!?  He (Clint Le Roux) had been following us on Twitter.  Clint joined us for a yummy lunch – I had a coke and a toasted chicken mayo sandwich.  It was one of the few meals I could get into me easily.  We left at about 1:30 and some of the riding after that was my best!  There were big clouds building but we were hoping they would miss us.  Fi navigated Elandsberg perfectly and we went as fast as we could as there was stormy weather around with lightning and thunder.  I was relieved to get off the top of the mountain.  The last part seemed to go on forever and I was getting so frustrated but as per most things in life, all things come to an end.  We got into Elandsberg overnight stop at 4:30 - a short day – ha ha 11:30 hours.
It was an awesome rest for me  – slow trundling around, a mini bike wash, tea drinking and a dinner I absolutely loved and wolfed down.  It really does make a difference getting in early and having time to recover and spend time off the bike.  There was a menagerie – 5 dogs, 2 cats, lots of birds that were being bred, a dassie.  The dassie was so cute and enjoyed being picked up.  105kms down and one more day to go.

Day 5 - Elandsberg - Newlands (51km) - Cradock (80km)
Fi and I set off at about 4:50.  It was so fast – there was a tail wind and a gradual downhill for the 1st 20kms or so.  We got into the breakfast place at 7:50 – the boys hadn’t caught us!  Muffin and cheese and tea went down a treat.  

Sadly thereafter I got slower and slower.  My legs were so tired and my butt in such pain that sitting on the saddle in any one position could only be held for a few minutes at a time.  At one point I got on and off the bike about 5 times on a flat stretch of road over about 400 metres – it was crazy!!
We had a long portage over the Schurfteburg.  We agreed that at the top we would separate and Fi would go on to complete the rest on her own and me on my own.  I was so glad – I was so so slow and really holding her up.

Its a long way up

I carefully made my way off the mountain and set off on the 30kms home.  Shoowee it was slow going.  But I was gentle with myself and did not stop encouraging me.  I was no longer able to ride the flat rocky stuff – my legs couldn’t hold me off the saddle and bum could not take the pounding.  There was one final climb 20kms out of Cradock – the Swaershoek Pass.  The weather was coming in and I thought I was going to be drenched.  In fact it was low level cloud (or a frooken high climb??!!) and it was quite beautiful and eerie.  It was also very cold.  It was a slooooooow walk up the pass.  I got to put my new rain jacket on although that was for warmth not rain.  Then there is an 18km down hill on the other side.  I kept steady and in control – I did NOT want a repeat of my entry into Rhodes with a huge gash to the knee.  I was exhausted and yawned my way down – those huge jaw cracking yawns!  I was so so grateful for the downhill I tell you.  There was whooping and whooing as I got to the finish.  Fi was there and Meryl came dashing out.  I DID IT!!!!  There was much hugging and happiness.  This was a 14h30min day and I was toast!  But a very happy piece of toast!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

The adventure - part one

“Looks like we made it
look how far we’ve come my baby
Might have took the long way
But I know we’d get there some day….”

Shania Twain kept me company in a manner of speaking.

That was long and hard.  I dug really deep.  I “mantra’d” up a storm.  I was slow and sometimes not so steady.  There were times when I swore A LOT.  There were times when I soothed myself with gentle humming.  There were moments when I sang really loud.  I talked to myself.  I cajoled and  encouraged me.  I wept a few times.  I laughed a little.

I spent a lot of time by myself and enjoyed my company.  I was out of my depth with the navigation on the portages and hugely grateful that Fiona stayed with me for those.

The days are pretty blurry – I can’t really separate out the descents and long dirt roads and jeep tracks.

 Day 1 - Rhodes - Chesneywold (68km) - Slaapkrantz (37km)

I started so strong and steady.  Fi and I started at 5am – a very low key start. 
I just kept peddling and enjoying the crisp clean air and the breaking dawn.  

Rhodes start - 5am

Fi taking in some R & R

I got into the lunch stop – Chesneywold – at just before 11 – having done 68 kms.
As I was leaving Fi arrived.  She came in pretty broken and was struggling a lot.  She ate lunch and stablised out the sugar levels and we spent the rest of the day together – and the next 3.5 days together.

We got into Slaapkrantz at about 4:15.  There were 3 gorgeous dogs there – 1 collie and 2 retrievers and they were so sweet and welcoming.  I sat on the grass with my recovery drink and .... well recovered!

Day 2 - Slaapkrantz - Moodenaarspoort (58km) - Krantzkop (38km)
There was a serious rude awakening the next morning on the Slaapkranz portage.  We missioned around a little in the dark getting to the start of the portage but not for long.  The portage is very steep and is a narrow path in the bushes.  I fell down a couple of times, dropped the bike and generally really struggled up the mountain.  I can’t imagine what that is like if there is rain.  Shoo I really swore my way up that thing.  The guys came up and joined us at the top having caught up.  The difference in men and women strength was very apparent to me that morning.  They were a fun bunch of guys – 2 farmers from the Eastern Cape – Adowan and Jac – and 4 Natalians – Trevor, Russel, Chris and John.  

Smiling after recovering at the top
Photobomb - top of Slaapkrantz

Everyone was faster than me on the descents but then again I am used to that.  I just made sure I stayed steady and in control.  There were 2 portages close together so it took a long time to do 20kms – I guess 4 hours or so.  

Overlooking descent in Bontehoek Farm

We got into the lunch stop at around 2 pm.  I really struggled with getting the soup into me and gave up after 2 bites of roll.  I cooled my legs down in the pool.  It was 30kms to the end but it was a really long 30kms and I was quite tearful near the end and pretty wiped out.  It was a 96 km day.

We stayed in Krantzkop that night.  It is accommodation away from the farm and the farmer dropped off the dinner.  Venison pie and veggies – again such a huge struggle to get the food in me.  I sat there like a naughty kid at the table eating "met baaie lang tan"de!
I went to bed dreading the next day which was 130kms.

I whiled away the time on the bike staying as focused as possible on the present.  I would not think about the next day or too far ahead.  It was too easy to get so overwhelmed then by the milage and by the huge effort required and the long hours on the saddle.  I would calculate how many kms we had done.  Then I would promptly forget the figure so as I completed another km I would start all over again working out the milage.  I tell you this went on for days!!  I am generally quite easy to entertain.

I had put tape on my bum to see if I could stop the chafing.  Every night or morning I would add another layer.  My backside was getting more and more painful.  There was always the bruising factor but the chafing is seriously crap and sore.

Day 3 Krantzkop - Brosterlea (49km) - Romansfontein (82km)
I chugged along during the day.  I focused on getting into a rhythm and staying in one.  I constantly encouraged me and I felt a little better than I thought I would.  We stopped at such a pretty farm for lunch - Brosterlea.  I left my juice bottle behind stupidly!  

Stormberg - beginning of the portage. Fresh cold water

Stormberg portage

About 15kms from the end I stopped to wait for Fi and stumbled as I un-cleated.  I hyper-extended my knee and fell to the floor in agony.  I was behaving like a soccer player rolling around and wailing.  Poor Fi had nothing in her and sat behind me asking if I was ok.  I walked a bit and got back on the bike - it was so damn sore.  My eyes kept leaking.  There was a crappy headwind which was really not aiding anything. I had also completely run out of liquids.  We slowly slowly made out way to Romansfontein and got in just as it got dark.
I was frozen.  The guys were eating dinner when we got in.  Stefanie bustled around us and got us sorted.  I went into a bit of shock and started hyper ventilating and shaking.  Someone mixed up my recovery drink and I held the glass with 2 hands trying to get it in me.  Gosh what a dramatic entrance.  I was sad I couldn’t get a slice of corn bread and butter in me but managed some dinner.  Fi was feeling pretty low.  She said to me that I may need to consider some options if I couldn’t cycle.  She suggested that we do 2 half days but then we would not be official finishers.  I said to her that I WANTED that windmill and was going to give it my best shot.  But I also said that she did not need to wait for me and could go on.  She did say that she had thoughts of not finishing and I could also go on without her.  We agreed to see what the next day would bring.
One of the racers from the guys behind us, Jacque, caught up to us in Romansfontein – he also brought my bottle to me from the lunch stop.  First I called him crazy for riding so fast and then I kissed him on the cheek for bringing my bottle.  Not much in the way of filters for me at that stage.
The bed was soft and warm.  I had borrowed socks from Stefanie and was so grateful to be in a safe comfortable restful space.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Well now.....

So the boxes are packed with goodies, maps and bum cream.  The serious big training is done.  The backpack has been tested with weight, the shoes have been chosen (2 pairs of socks had to be tested with the shoes) - I do declare I shall rest on my laurels now!!  Well not really - still some Mark training on the in-door bike and a couple more rides but shortish ones.

There are still some things to do on the bike - new chain, more tyre juice, learn how to change the hangar or put it into single speed (God help me if I have to ride in single speed in those mountains!).

I rode with Colleen this past weekend.  We rode from our respective homes through the Cradle, past Zengen, through Magaliesburg for brekkers and out over Breedesnek to a self catering place called Bietjie Vrede (near Buffelspoort).  It was 98kms.  Phew I was poked!  I walked most of Breeds.  It was a good exercise in just dealing with one little stage at a time.  I would not allow myself to think about riding home the next day.  I just kept on looking at the next intersection to turn at or walking 30 steps then breathing 4 deep breaths.  I started cramping towards the top of Breeds.  I had forgotten my carb bottle at home and although I was taking in food and water I guess I was lacking the electrolytes.
We were out for just over 9 hours and had about 7 hours riding time.  We had a wonderful welcome by Doug and Kayla.  Doug was awesome - yummy chicken, fresh farm bread, drinks.

We came back a different way the next day and finished off the ride at Nikitas - a Portuguese restaurant frequented by bikers (normally the ones on the brmm brmm machines).  I struggled to get food in me but loved the sparkly water and chocolate milkshake.  We did 77kms - about 6 hours out.  I struggled about 20kms from the end.  My ass was very veeeerrry sore and I had had enough.  It worries me to be tired after only 6 hours as the days on R2C are likely to be about 12 hours - aaagh!  But I shall just have to manage those days - one step at a time, one pedal stroke at a time.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

In the middle

I am nervous, I am tired, I am excited, I am poeping myself...... The training seems so daunting, the prep seems never-ending, the prep of the maps seems complicated....

I guess this is the time I ask WHY.  Beyond the excitement of such a big goal and the chatters over coffee or dinner there are hours and hours of training, loss of rest, hours of bike prep, a sore ass, a semi-constant bubble of excitement or nervousness in my tummy or just plain nauseousness with nerves.  Why, why, why?  What on earth drives me to these big goals?

 - They make for good stories
 - They make great memories
 - I feel strong and capable
 - There is no sense of wasting my strong, super body - with all its lumps and bumps and bruises and       scars
- There is no feeling of wasted opportunities.  My sense is that there is not much chance of, when I        pop my clogs, that I will feel I have missed out on chances that were in front of me.  There is one        life I have.  I would like to think that when I do die I will go screetching into my grave (in what          ever form it takes) with scars and scrapes with a glass of bubbly in one hand whooping and                  whooing knowing I had the most brilliant ride of my life!
- There is that elusive feeling of challenges - doing the challenges, being challenged, over-coming the    challenges, living, breathing, BEING the challenge