Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Invitation - Xtreme dinner 1 January 2011



You are cordially invited to a celebration of (insert own reason) on 1 January 2011 before dusk on top of the tugela falls (amphitheatre, Drakensberg)

Dress code: Black Tie
We'll most likely leave Gauteng around Saturday morning (1/1/2011). Sleep in the mountain that evening, either at the top, or in Sentinel Cave on the way to the top (depending on numbers)

RSVP as soon as possible so that we can arrange transport/food/props. You'll need (among other things) a proper rain jacket, sleeping bag & place in a tent.

Will send further details tomorrow by lunchtime.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

When in doubt, do both

One way to clear your mind is to go cycle round a 12 km lap for 24 hours (or parts there-of).

But it wasn't necessary to cycle for 24 hours. My mind was made up within the first 20 minutes of the first lap when I rode with Ride-2-Rhodes-rider and prospective Freedom Challenger Ben de Lange - who couldn't understand at all why i'd want to give up mountain biking to study. 'When in doubt, do both', he suggested before finding a gap in the first-lap singletrack-congestion and speeding off.

It was a crazy week-and-a-bit since then: I had to schedule and write the GMAT exam, use what spare time I could find to study for it, then compile CVs and motivations and complete piles of application forms and speed-courier them to Stellenbosch in time for the cut-off date ... all while still pretending to be productive at work - and balancing it with follow-me film evenings and Xmas hubrides and AR club year end parties and Dark&Dirty rides and organising Xtreme dinners :)

"It gives us great pleasure to inform you that it has been recommended to the MBA selection panel that you be admitted to the MBA programme of the University of Stellenbosch Business School."

Short notes:

  • The 24 hours night-laps were absolutely stunning. No wind, no rain, no midday heat, very few people, just you and singletrack and the night. Graham passing me after a bit of getting-lost on rietvlei's more technical tracks (their team still won despite the hour-long lap); Johan Malan passing me with a huge grin and a wave (he managed 23 laps and second in his category, wow). Hubbers Dangle and Dobby cheering me on every time i went out for another lap. And cycling legend Tinker Juarez passing me every so often :)
  • The Xmas hubride started on the other side of the Spruit. So I met up with Nancy Drew and Agteros for a pre-hubride to meet the other hubbers at the bottom of the Spruit at 7. I'm not a getter-upper ... but the Spruit was magical at 5:20 in the morning. All washed clean from the thunderstorms the previous night, and the singletrack green and twisty and fun. Haven't been to the other side of William Nicol for a while. Need to do that more often!
  • This week's D&D is on Wednesday night, not Thursday. Possibly a 55. There's only 2 weeks a year when traffic between joburg and pretoria calms down. The weatherman predicted cloudy with a chance of cupcakes.

Monday, November 29, 2010

a midlife crisis

I may be experiencing a midlife crisis.

I probably have a life other people dream about: I cycle to work on beautiful singletrack. My job is flexible enough to allow me to arrive late if i've had a late evening at Dark&Dirty, or to leave early on a Friday if there's something happening in Sabie. On weekends i play - on the rare weekends that there are no events, i ride with zebras and giraffe in Groenkloof, or over floating bridges at Teak's place, or i run singletrack at Van Gaalens. Life is good. It doesn't get much better than riding awesome singletrack with great buddies.
Yet in a strange way i feel unsatisfied. There must be something more? Is there?

I need a new dream.

Someone suggested a sportscar. The micra's got a sunroof, a bike rack and a roofrack for the kayak - it doesn't get much sportier than that :)

So - what are the options?

  • Do an MBA

not because it would solve any problems, nor because i necessarily would get a better job (that would be hard to beat)  - but simply because it would challenge me.

It's expensive - i could buy a really really nice bike with that budget. with lots of change to go ride it somewhere exotic. But then life is not (only) about playing outside - at least that's what i heard :)

It would broaden my horizons. I've looked at Gibs' curriculum. The subjects look really interesting: Business analysis and communication, financial accounting, management accounting, information & knowledge management. Useful. It might help with at least some of the problems i (try to) solve at work :)

I've looked at the admission requirements (Gmat tests) and loved the types of questions. I'm already looking forward to the mental challenge - being out of my comfort zone for a while (before getting back, hopefully satisfied).

The workload would be very high if i tried to do it part time. I would probably have to give up some or all of my free time for 2 years. Including singletracktime. (Which may not be a bad thing - i might appreciate it more if i can't do it every weekend.)

The MBA is still a very real solution. It just have to wait a bit, i'm not ready to give up all my free time - yet.

  • Do the Freedom Challenge
The Ride across South Africa grabbed my attention since i first heard about it many years ago. I was delighted to discover the Ride2Rhodes, the first 6 days of Freedom Challenge - to go see for myself what it's like without any long-term commitment. I was toying with the idea last year when i came back after Ride2Rhodes, and the other people continued. Simply because of the great people I met, and the awesomeness of the trails. I was toying with the idea again this year when Mike posted pictures of knee-deep snow on Lehana. I was just back from the  Himalayas and there was more snow here in sunny South Africa! What a beautiful place.

This time the reason for wanting to do it is different. I need to get away from my comfort zone, to be an outsider looking into my life. Can't evaluate it properly while still being in it. I don't know if the Freedom Challenge is the right place for that. It's hard - physically, mentally - hard enough to not want extra pressures from somewhere else. 

But it will still be there 3 years from now. Or 5.
It's calling, and i'll go.
Just not now.

  • Go climb some impossible mountain
Mont Blanc, Matterhorn, Eiger. Some big mountain that needs a bit of skill, planning, training. Bring back some stunning pictures. I was briefly tempted when someone suggested Matterhorn a few weeks ago. Am still tempted, but i don't think this will solve anything. I'm gonna be outside for 3/4 weeks - then fall right back to where i was, everything still exactly the same. Like it was after the trip to Everest Base camp earlier this year.
A brief spell.
I would still like to do this.
It will still be there a few years from now.
  • Pack the bike up and go tour somewhere
Unsupported, unplanned. Pack panniers on the bike & ride till it's dark. Stay over if it's nice, move on if it's not. Coffee & donuts for breakfast. Cheese & bread from a local shop for supper. Pitch a tent at night, or find a youth hostel if it's too wet.
    • From Paris to Marrakesh, it's been on the to-do list for a while.
    • Somewhere in South America. Not sure exactly where. Don't know how much of Inka trail hiking could be done without proper advanced planning - permits, people to hike with?
    • Somewhere in Iceland? Canada? Sangri-La?
The boss knows that i might request extended unpaid leave at some stage. Now i just need to carefully study that budget to see how long the homeloan, insurance, medical aid and levies would be able to survive without a regular salary .... 

Anyone who wants to  join me for a part of the tour? Or meet up for coffee along the way?
Or any other (cheaper) alternatives for getting rid of a midlife crisis?

Monday, November 15, 2010

want some cheese with that whine?

SabieX preride
Saturday: cloudy. about 80 kays; just under 2 km of vertical ascent, some superb singletrack and a few whiners
Sunday: wet wet wet, so i opted for the lite in stead of the main ride. Just under 40 kays, around 700 m of vertical ascent, mudpools and great company.

i always thought that mountain bikers were happy people. I never thought about the chicken and the egg: whether they were happy because they were mountain bikers, or whether they mountain biked because they were happy. The people that i generally end up riding with are all happy issue-less people (and if they have, they don't bring it onto rides). Mountains, forests and singletrack are happy places.

There must have been some undercover 'agents' on Saturday's ride.

The climbs were too long, or too steep, or not steep enough; the singletrack was too technical, or too easy, or too rutted; the group were too slow, they stopped too often, they shouldn't have stopped for a swim. They were tired, they were cramping from all the waiting, they wanted a steak, it's hot, they're not used to being our all day; they just want this ride to end - i can't remember all the complaints. they were mostly about the bunch being too slow. some of them were ahead of the leader almost all the time. there were two groups; they chose to go with the slow bunch. later in the day we caught the fast guys cos they were waiting for the backup van. again they didn't join the fast guys but chose to stay with us.

i was wondering why they didn't join the fast guys - would it not have been more fun? and better training? 

It spoilt the ride a little bit for me.

We were in one of the country's most beautiful places to ride. the tracks was dry and sometimes a little more technical than the average spruitride. Value for money, you don't get much better. for R100 you get permits for the day, qualified paramedics in a 4x4 who feed you powerade, water, bananas and junglebars, (and pick you up from the mud to take you to hospital if needed) - the best of sabie's singletrack, people to show you the way, AND great company. you even get to ride in a bunch that suits your ability and speed. the tracks was dry  which made them much easier than the real ride would be. wow sabie's great when it's dry!

Sunday morning was wet, & i opted for the short route. There was very little singletrack (which is what i go to sabie for) - but the forests was green, the bikes filthy, the mountains steep, the downhills fast(ish) and the company great. The agents were in the long group, and life was good again :D


PS hey Zoo hoping you're ok enough in time to go ride a PB on sunday!

calling pink drive volunteers for sunday 21 November

Haven't got anything planned for Cycle Challenge Sunday?
Doing the MTB ride on Saturdya and planning to take the Sunday off?
Want to be part of the action?

Pinkdrive needs volunteers to help spray hair pink, collect donations & sell pink goodies.
They also need 80 volunteers to form a pink mile & cheer the pink riders on on the N14. You'll get a pink t-shirt and drinks for your efforts; also some food at the pinkdrive hospitality tent after the ride.

When: Sunday, 21 November 2010 
Time:  06h00 – 14h00
Where: Waterfall Country Estate
            C/o Maxwell Drive & Kyalami Main Road
            Kyalami

Contact Cecile Tel: +27 11 608 4144 Cell: +27 71 522 0418

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lap Races

There's something mindnumbingly monotonous and just a little masochistic in riding round and round in circles around the same track for hours.

Lap racing: 5, 6, 10, 12, 24 hour events where you try ride as many laps as possible in the allocated time.

But there's nothing boring in riding the same track if it's sufficiently technical. Bonus points if there's night-laps involved :)  The more you ride the difficult parts, the easier they become. That gnarly downhill on the first lap becomes a huge-grin downhill on the 5th lap - and maybe taken slightly too fast on the second-to-last lap :) That rocks that you walked on the first lap become ridable after the third try, and finally after the fifth lap you were in the right gear for that steep climbie right after the steep turn.

Lap racing is as hard or easy as you make it. Which usually make them very hard. You've got say 6 hours to ride as many laps as you can manage - or as far as you want. It's up to you to decide if you're up for another lap, or if you'd rather take a break and have lunch. You decide if you want to aim for a total of say 80 kays for the day, or if you want to see if you could ride nonstop for all 6 hours. You can find out where the boundaries are without any risk - if you entered an ultra marathon and 3/4 of the way find that there's no more energy, you still have to get yourself to the finish. Not so with lap racing - if you're at the end of your energy, you can simply stop. Safe.

If you're slow and used to arriving at the finish when the marshalls have packed up the tables, and used to searching for the timekeeper to take your time, it's great to finish with a crowd to cheer you in :)

A big bonus is that you get to see the fast people in action. On mountain bike marathons you'd start way after the big guns, and by the time you finish, they're already home and showered. On lap races, there's a good chance of being lapped by the faster okes - so you can see them clearing the obstacles, check out their lines and try it yourself next time.

There's usually a great vibe at these events. Teams (riding in relay format) vary from very social (taking beers with on the laps) to very competitive, and it's great coming in from a lap and see the festivities going on in the different gazebos. Slow and fast people all in the same team, and all can have fun. It's usually much more spectator-friendly than marathons, cos supporters can see their heroes in action. And have a chat inbetween. Or bring food :)  and carrot cake :D

There's a 24 hour first weekend in December at Rietvlei. Anyone wants to join me for a team of soloists?
http://www.entrytime.com/index.asp?GoTo=EventInfo&EventID=2904

Monday, November 1, 2010

Rogaine - A treasure hunt for adults

A Rogaine is almost like a treasure hunt: You get a map with lots of points marked on it. Some points score more than others, depending on how difficult it is to get to them. You and a team mate collect as many points as you can within an allocated time.

It's not necessarily the fastest team that wins - you need some mapreading skills, there's some strategic planning as to which controls to visit and which to skip, and you have to know your and your teammate's abilities - there's huge penalties for being even a second late.

The Capestorm Rogaine is an annual highlight n the Orienteering Calendar, always around end October. It returned to Kaapsehoop this year after 2 years in Lakenvlei. And what an awesome area for this!

The Foot Rogaine on Saturday offered a 4 and 8 hour event, while racers could choose between a 2- or a 5-hour event for the MTB on Sunday.

Barrets' Coaches (2 sleeper train coaches that serves as hiking huts about 1 km from the start) was very much the place to be during the last rogaine that was in that area. I remembered the war stories from the day's hike around the campfire on the Saturday night, so I booked a spot there.

Dawn & I left Gauteng early-ish on Friday afternoon, registered, had some food in the only open pub in Kaapsehoop, and arrived at a very lonely campsite around 8 on Friday night. Soon afterwards 2 other rogainers arrived (they camped next to us before and after the Mankele adventure race earlier the year) and a few hours later all 6 memberes of team Lickety Split arrived. Suddenly the train trucks were noisy and full and comfortable.

8 hour foot-rogaine Saturday 30/10
7:52
around 34 kays
just less than 1000m vertical ascent

It was a mass-start: everybody received their maps at the same time. We discussed some route options, and when we looked up, it was Dawn & myself, and 2 organisers left at the start: everybody else had left. We had ambitious plans about getting the furthest controls - we would pick up the lower-scoring controls on the way back. There were a few good navigational calls, we searched a while for a control in a ditch, and one valley wasn't exactly where we searched for it - but generally we were satisfied with how the run went. Downhills and level we jogged (if it was in the shade); uphills and level-ground that was not in the shade, we walked as fast as we could. Saw lots of familiar faces out there :D

We carried lots of food for a panned picnic about halfway, but we totally overestimated our ability - by the time we reached the furthest control, we knew we were sot-of in trouble. We had about 10 kays to go (straight home) with less than 2 hours. It may sound like plenty of time, but our feet felt the effects of 6 hours of running/hiking on terrain that was very seldom anything but granny-gear-up or brake-slamming down. The body was willing, but the feet not that much. On the way back we still saw some teams coming out to collect controls! Adri/Con and Sue/Landie certainly looked like they'd still be able to run a 10k in 1 hour back.

The last 7 kays was very hard; it was mostly downhill, but the feet were complaining loudly and the clock was ticking. I fantasized about just sitting for 10 minutes at the finish, not having to worry about a clock and not having any weight on my feet. About 200m from the finish we ran a bit of as detour while looking for shortcuts back, but we made it with 8 minutes to spare. It would have been enough to collect control 17! ("no, we couldn't", my feet chirped in.). 'Twas still enough points to get us overall second ladies' team in, but only because Sue/Landie had to pay a hefty penalty for being an hour late (after collecting almost all the controls out there)

I would like to report a very noisy outrageous party around the campfire that night - but alas, by 8:30 not a mouse was squeaking in the train compartments - and if they were, no-one would have heard them.

5-hour MTB rogaine Sunday 31/10
4:42 (of which only 3:48 actual cycling)
46 kays
just over 1000m vertical ascent

I don't think mountain biking gets better than doing a rogaine :D You decide how long you want to be out, what you want to ride, and how fast.

Having seen the terrain down south during the foot-rogaine the previous day, we decided to rather go check out what the terrain north looks like. It was a mass start again - this time we weren't the last team to leave, but when everyone continued straight, we turned off to the right, found ourselves on totally the wrong road, and climbed a monster-hill to get back to the original track. We should have, like the previous day, went for the furthest controls first ... could have, would have, should have.

Anyway - so this time we DID get those darn furthest controls. on the way back had to give up some high-scoring controls to fetch even higher-scoring controls. The nave went very well; there were one or two good calls. It felt especially good to find controls while other teams were milling around the area searching for them or frowning over their maps :)

Saw a lot of familiar faces out there, what a lovely area to ride in. With about half an hour to go it was getting dark (storm clouds, not sun going down) and we decided to skip the last 2 controls and rather go straight home. It was a downhill, and we were home 18 minutes early and with enough points to get us first vets girls team - there was a bit of pressure to do that, since i forgot the trophy of last year at home ...

can't wait till next year!

Footnotes

  • ROC (Rand Orienteering Club) organises this every year. It's around end October - keep an eye on their website, and a space in your diary.
  • Would have loved to swap the format: an 8-hour cycle and a 5-hour foot. The problem is most likely the time mapping and putting out controls on an area big enough to keep the fast people out there for 8 hours on a bike.
  • I should spend more time on my feet if i'm gonna do an 8-hours foot rogaine again. Was possibly a good idea to go for the furthest points first - because we would have finished early on the foot-event if we could.
  • The orienteering/adventure/rogaine crowd are a very friendly bunch.Great to spend a weekend with them, and compare notes afterwards - and hear stories about other events.
  • I was very impressed with our map-reading abilities this time around - that's, until i compared the time out there with time that the wheels actually were turning. Turned out we cycled for only 3:48 of the 4:42 that we were out there. that's a ratio of 1 minute of reading maps for every 4 minutes of cycling. Some work to do re speed-reading maps!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Flatwater Proficient - finally

There's been some debate on the AR mailinglists about requiring different water proficiencies for adventure races. The next Ystervark AR (early next year) will require at least flatwater proficiency, so a few us went through the process on Saturday. All of us in the picture below :)


We spent a bit of time with Bill (the safety officer) on Saturday afternoon. A short theory lesson where we discussed how to choose a boat, what to take with if you go paddle, and what to do if you fall out. Here's Eric comparing his notes with what Bill told us.


Here's Francois and Oupa Gerrit on one of the 2 laps where we had to prove that we could do some distance (as far as 2 km counts as 'distance')



Here's Oupa Gerrit and Francois again, this time demonstrating that they could do an emergency stop before hitting Tony and Nando's boat. In the background Adri and Keanne is getting ready for the steep turn.



... and this is what the proficiency really is about: falling out of your boat without loosing the paddle ...


... see? Leon still has his paddle :)



Tony and Nando swimming back



... and emptying the boat.




thx hardy for organising this!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Not quite as famous as Natalie du Toit - but getting there :)

TV cameras everywhere, blinding lights and lots of microphones all around me, fans calling my name or holding out pens so that i could sign on their cycling shirts ...

no, it didn't happen quite like that - and being a geek, i would have been very uncomfortable if it did :)

I read about the Cebe 12hr event on the hub, and figured it would be good training for the Rogaine the end of the month. I haven't done much since Transbaviaans - a sprint here, a coffee-ride there - so would have been way too slow to enter in a team. There's much less pressure if you ride solo - you can swim if it's too hot, stop for any excuse like lubing the bike, altering seat height, cleaning the gear cables, putting lights on. Much less pressure and hopefully a lot of fun.

The venue was originally going to be at Teak Place, one of my all-time favourite playgrounds, but it was moved to avianto (muldersdrift). 'Twas a boring-ish route with a few steep turns on loose gravel, a niiiice downhill, a climbie that i took in granny from lap one, a stunning piece of singletrack in a forest on an old railwayline, and some short steep technical-ish climbies before you enter the transition zone again.

There was enough space to pass, but the first few laps we had to share the tracks with the 22k funriders and the 5k juniors. I thought the track was a bit rough for the size of the kiddies on the course, but it didn't seem to phase them - the future of South Africa's mountain biking looks great! I knew i had all day to cycle, so did't mind waiting my turn to get past them - but it must have been scary for the youngsters when they were passed by the racing snakes :(

Race started at 9. About 8.5 kays per lap. I did a few laps (4, i think) before stopping to refill for water. Noticed the leaderboard but didn't stop to figure out how it works - i wanted to complete two more laps before a lunchbreak. So 3 hours into the race i got to see what was going on - liked it, and didn't like it at the same time. I was first female - but i was also second overall. My strategy changed: i know i'm not fast, so if i wanted to hang onto that 2nd position, i simply had to continue cycling.

I'm getting too old for this. Wrists were very sore after a few hours. Then my feet started complaining. Then my back, and finally my neck. Good grief, it's not like i've never been on a bike before!

Afternoon was very hot - i never stopped to jump in the pool. I did stop to refill with water/ice/usn on every lap - was consuming more than a litre per lap during the midday-laps. The huge ice tub in the transition zone never ran out of USN.

Agteros came to say hi and cheer me on a bit :)

Finally the sun went down. Stopped, fitted lights, lubed the bike, ate everything i had in the car, relaxed a bit at the Graham/GuyP/Wheelsuck/Deon/Albert gazebo, and got on the bike again.

(did i mention that Deon did the morning's trailrun, then the 12hrs, and interrupted it for the evening trailrun?? ouch!!)

Ahhh there's just something about nightriding. The big light didn't work, so I had the princeton tec helmetlight only - but that was good enough. Fairylights on a small bridge where we had to go under, glosticks on all the directional markers. Climbies, downhills, steep off-camber turns that i did 15 times or more in daylight, suddenly came alive. That's why i cycle!

Wheelsuck waited for me so that we could do the final lap together - he was the winner and the guy whom i chased all day. thx that was so sweet! but my gears were not playing along, the headlight was fading fast, and i was tired - so i declined.

So i still haven't finished a race with people cheering and tv cameras capturing the moment.

I'm getting too old for this! I slept the whole of Sunday, getting up only to eat or drink. Sore wrists, feet, ankles, neck, back, good grief!

I see there's a 10-hr coming up in November :D

Monday, September 20, 2010

Small Miracles

2 small and one bigger miracle last week.

Tubeless Tyres

Was playing around on the BMX track when I noticed some stan's leaking from the very flat tyres. While pumping it, i could hear the air escaping. The wet goo even marked the spot for me. Plugged it, pumped a little and off i went. Aaaah the miracle of tubeless !

Teak Place

Those lovely little bridges and other fun-things at Teak place!! Can't ride there and not feel good about life afterwards.

Finding the missing paddles

A bigger miracle: After Swazi X we found someone else's paddles in our boat. Both pablo and my split paddles were missing and after some posts on various mailing lists I gave up on ever getting it back. A few weeks ago there were some desperate pleas from Team Swazi Moto, who lost theirs too. One of them was one of the unfamiliar paddles that ended up in our boat. Mike Richardson collected it from me last week Monday. He didn't have ours, so i thought it was the end of it. BUT Tuesday I got an email from mike - he located the paddles in Pietermaritzburg - they might be able to get a lift to the Fish Marathon, from where we just have to arrange a lift back to Jozi. THANK YOU Mike for phoning around and locating them for us - i knew you were still looking for your other paddle as well, but thx for doing the extra bit to find ours as well :)

oh yes and i managed to stay in the k1 for 2 laps on Emmarentia on Saturday, without tipping over. does that count as another miracle? :D 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sunday's Sprint

To Quote a face-book friend (Erik) : Heidi and Stephan must be the King and Queen of Gauteng-AR at the moment. The Kinetic events are always fun - and sunday was no exception. We ran a bit, cycled some VERRY pretty and uncongested singeltrack, got lost a little bit, found a lot of controls without stephan's help, zig-zagged accross two dams cos the kayak just wouldn't go straight, almost fell off the obstacles at the finish, and laughed a lot.





Dawn on one of the bike legs (lifted off big baboon's site)
Zu's grin was just as wide - now who won't want to race with girls with smiles this big??   :D

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Post-race Depression

I've Googled it; it seems that post-race depression sometimes occurs after a big event - you've trained so long for so hard, juggling work and family commitments with training for race day - then you reach your goal - and suddenly you don't know what to do with your time - mission completed, and your life seems empty.

My personal totally unscientific theory goes more like this:

You have a tube of happy hormones in your brain. You go run or cycle a stunning piece of singletrack, or smell good coffee, and the happy-hormone-tube is being squeezed a little bit and you go on a little high. You go do a nightride on gnarly singletrack with gauteng's coolest crowd, and you drink hot chocolate with friends afterwards, and the tube is squeezed a little more and you glow with endorphins (or serotonin, or dopamine, or whatever causes this high) for days.

The total stock of happy-hormones in your brain is now less, but you operate off the released happiness while you sleep or work or drink good coffee or clean your bike, and over time it replenishes itself, so there's always stock when something squeezes the tube next time.

All working like nature intended.

The problem come in if you squeeze the endorphin-tube too hard without giving it time to replenish.

e.g. you go do Swazi Xtreme. You sleep very little, but you spend time with some of the best navigators you'll ever meet - you cycle in the dark, you trot on a dirt-road while talking to buddies in other teams as they pass you,  you catch up with other team's seconds at transitions, you paddle on pretty rivers, hike in a kloof, carry your bike over gnarly downhills,  find controls in unexpected and pretty places - and you use up a lot of happy-hormones. Then, while you're still on the high, you have 3 days to sort out the bike-issues and light-issues that broke on Swazi, get your adventure gear clean, get in the car - and start squeezing the tube again as you cycle down into the Baviaanskloof, as you catch up with friends along the way, as you plan where the controls for an adventure race might be, as you manage to get up the mother of all climbs without putting a foot down, or fight the sleepmonster, or almost get blown off your bike by a very temperamental sea-wind, or reach a checkpoint and can sleep for 4 minutes, or get to cycle some awesome dual-track at night by the dim light of your headlamp, or hear the sea, or cycle into Jeffereys bay 230 kms later - you're on a high, and the happy-hormone-stock in your brain totally depleted.

Like an empty toothpaste tube, it won't matter how hard you squeeze the tube. Empty is empty.

You'll just have to wait it out.

Eat some chocolate, email some friends, go buy pink flowers at the nursery for the friend's newborn-girl, drink some good coffee, go watch Evita at montecasino - even dine at Melrose Arch with some Ausie-friends that you haven't seen in years - but don't expect it to release feel-good feelings.

Lie awake for hours at night, search for company on the hub at 3 in the morning, sleep late every morning - till 12 on weekends, and 10 on weekdays (luckily your work allow that) - get a cold, play mindless computer games. Go find a paddle shop so that you can replace the paddle that went missing at SwaziX. Have a haircut, eat some chocolates. Bleh.

I went for a ride to Albert's farm on Sunday afternoon - first time i've done anything since Transbaviaans - all on my own - and the singletrack was pretty and dry, a little dusty - but lots of happy people at the botanical gardens, the downhill into delta park fun as ever - and i think the happy-hormones finally replenished. Managed a run as well on monday afternoon ... the sky is blue, the Spruit smells of jasmine, and I'm doing a sprint with Dawn & Zoo Cookie on Sunday - life is good again!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Transbaviaans


Been getting some grumpy questions about whether i'm EVER gonna update my blog again - so here it is :)

Yes, i did Transbaviaans - 3 weeks ago already.
How was it? long!
230 km on mostly gravel - but must be some of South Africa's prettiest gravel roads - with those huge rocks both sides of you as you drop down into the kloof. Then it opens up, some river crossings, some forests all around you, some farmhouses in the distance, a climb, another climb, some in daytime, lots at night!

Still haven't caught up with missing SwaziX sleep, so I struggled to keep awake during the small hours of the morning - the most technical part of the ride was trying to cycle a straight line with closed eyes.

It was also an emotional experience - the last time i was in that kloof was when i did the race with Hans Wolfaard (he of the Libia plane crash 4 months ago) - so I kept remembering where we stopped last, or what we did when we were at a specific transition.

I had some of the best team mates one could wish for (thx Adri, Leon, Ducttape and supersecond Nicolien)

Was great to see Elsie & x-D&D-er Sybrand, Breedtsnek-nightriders Denise & Zoo Cookie, and some hubbers (spud and buddies) out there - also my adventure sprint (and ride-2-rhodes) buddies Dave & Dawn

Was great to see Etricia, a cycling buddy of the time when i was still a George-girl, at one of the control points - and she looks exactly like 15 years ago!

Very well organised, checkpoints very well stocked with potbrood, hot chocolate, coffee, jaffels, sosaties and jungle bars. It's a long drive down, and even longer back  -THANK you nicolien for getting us safely home - even though you slept as little as we did the previous night

anyway - it's a long drive there - but very much worth it - maybe just not the weekend after SwaziX :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pink Drive

No, this time 'Pink Drive' is not about getting pink bling for the bike.

I’m doing my 10th 94.7 this year, have decided to try raise money for breast cancer awareness while enjpying a day in the sun : http://www.pinkdrive.co.za

PinkDrive is a non-profit organisation that is committed to improving breast cancer awareness, education, and providing and offering services to women across South Africa, particularly to those who do not have access to information on breast health. PinkDrive currently has two mobile breast units working in four provincial hospitals in Gauteng, serving some 1.6 million women.
We aim to:

* provide affordable, convenient mammography services to women in the private and corporate sectors; and
* provide free scanning and education to disadvantaged communities via local clinics, community health centres and specified hospitals with no oncology facilities.



I’m trying to raise R3000, so I need 100 people to donate R30 each - or 10 people to donate R300 each :)

Go view my profile on http://www.race4charity.co.za/index.php?option=com_competitor&view=profile&Itemid=71&id=117&rid=31

You can donate from there (through credit card or paypal) or sms race 31 with your comment to 42030 (sms charged at R30 each)
 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Swazi Xtreme Pro Lite - 6-9 august

Prelude
'Are we gonna do it?', Pablo asked.
'We might as well', came the answer from G-man without even thinking about it.

I was already entered for the Transbaviaans the next weekend, and it's probably not the wisest thing to do two sleep-deprived xtreme-ish events two weekends in a row. But the 10'th SwaziXtreme was also going to be the last, and I had some unfinished business with that race. When Theuns chose Kilimanjaro above racing with his favourite team, we roped Mummy-man in. G-man's sister and brother-in-law was going to be the seconds.

But 2 days before race-day the seconds' kid landed himself on a drip in hospital, and we were frantically searching for last-minute seconds. At 18:00 on 5 August, the day before we left, we were still  Secondless in Swaziland and making all kinds of plans to second ourselves. By some miracle we sourced 2 lastminute seconds that seemed very willing (and even eager) to be our slaves for the weekend. One of them still had to collect his passport the next morning ... but the race was on.

Anyway ... so we got at the race venue long after dark. Excellent feast that Darron organised for us ... then race briefing. It was gonna be a long 3 days. Did we train anough? oh well - too late now. We decided to only go for the compulsory points and take the 2-hour penalty for missing the optionals  - to try make the distance more doable.

Day 1
Hike about 10 kays
Cycle about - 60? (i'm making this up - can't really remember)
Paddle about 15 kays on a canal; includes a 21-point turn to get into the flume
Hike 8 kays
<sport people go to bed, pro people continue>
Hike 20 kays
Bike 70 kays

Race started 6 on Friday morning. Was great to see so many familiar faces out there: the D&D team of oupa Gerrit & Brendan, team Bad Medicine, Lickety Split. The stronger teams collected OPs while we went for CPs only, so we were fortunate to see teams like Jabberwock out there!

Here's Pablo carrying his bike over the last obstacle just before the paddle - G-man rode some of this, but he was in front of me so i couldn't get a pic of him - for some or other reason Mummy-man and Pablo refused to ride it.




At the start of the night-hike we took a wrong route, so decided to use an aardvark-hole to get under the electrical fence, rather than going back the 1k. Here's Mummy beneath the fence with G-man and P keeping him away from the shocking part of the fence.

There were lots of warnings about hippos and crocs - Red Ants caught us while we were taking this picture - we kept up with them for about a kay - then their lights disappeared in the distance.



We hiked for a very long time, then climbed a mountain and hiked some more. Finally got to the bikes. The seconds left some cheesies and a packet of biscuits with the bikes - much appreciated and quickly devoured. We tackled the downhills - but the sleepmonster attacked me badly, so I don't remember much of this. We did sleep for 10 minutes or so, i think. 'Twas daylight by the time we reached the camp again. Requested breakfast from the seconds before we quickly collected the last MTB CP for this leg  (while other teams were still discussing where it should be) and then tucked into bacon and eggs. We started day2 about 2 hours late.

Day 2
Cycle about 10k very scenic, flat and on mostly singletrack - yaay
River paddle about 20 kays with crocodiles, rapids and a few swims
Hike 20 kays in the rain and most of it in the dark - but it felt like 50 kays
<sport people go to bed, pro people continue>
<pro lite people decide to skip the night-bike and night-hike in the rain, and rather get some sleep>

The first cycle to the river-put-in was very enjoyable. the sun was up, the sleepmonsters gone and the eggs & bacon went down well. 
River paddle was great!
The boat was heavy, so the portages was tiring. We fell out a few times, and seemed to be a sandbank-magnet - but a very enjoyable paddle. Met up with team Numa Optics who had a shoulder-incident in one of the rapids - we were exchanging names, contact details and painkillers when the race helicopter noticed the patient under the space blanket, so we could leave the scene and fall out of our boats again.

A short rest, then onto the hiking leg. A very pretty rainbow and dark skies warned of a wet night. Soon it was night again. Sleepmonsters came out again, but there was no chance of powernap - we had to keep moving to keep warm. A convoy of seconding vehicles past us with the bad news that the transition was still 8 kays away. It felt like 20.

We finally arrived to a hot potato-and-mince-meal prepared by the lastminute-seconds. Yum. Chocolates, and then decision-making-time: do we want to go mtb, then hike, be out there in the rain all night .... or maybe do the sport-thing and sleep. We opted for sleep. Heinrich and Handsome drove to where the next campsite would have been and pitched camp. Too soon it was morning - the 3rd day.

Day 3
hike 20 kays
bike 80 kays - how hard could this be? <We were about to find out>

To soon it was the morning of day 3. Having not done 2 of the pro legs, we were now on the SwaziX Pro Lite course. Here we arrive on a soccerfield - not much navigational skills needed here, we were escorted to the point.


A beautiful hike with some spot-on navigation by Pablo and G-man - we even managed to collect quite a lot of optional points :)  Hre they're discussing one of the more interesting options.


Then we went down into the kloof - here's g-man on one of the more technical descents:


We waited for a long time at the jumar - about 3 hours. Could have caught some sleep - but it was daylight and we didn't feel any need after last night's 4 hours. Here's the gigima-guys checking out the girls on the jumar


A quick jump in a dirty rock-pool, a very pretty hike out of the kloof, and we reached the transition before sunset. Heinrich & Handsome had a hot meal ready. 

Here's Handsome in his seconding outfit - we never saw the pompom-dance, though, cos we arrived too late



We fitted lights. Navigation was going to become much more difficult with roads that aren't on the map, road on the map that dont' exist anymore, and villages where there were nothing 20 years ago when the map was printed.

So off we went. Some excellent navigation from G-man to find the first control that was blown over by the wind. Then down a very technical rocky descent that the Trance kind of didn't want to ride. Saw Red Ants briefly. Then up on the other side, equally rocky and technical - so we had to carry the bikes up (I practised a bit of this on Lehanna on Ride2Rhodes last year). More excellent navigation from Gman for the next control. Finally out of the gorge, met up with Alex (Cipralex), then onto more ridable roads. The rest of the night is a blur - we might have slept once or twice for 10 minutes at a time. At some stage I became aware of light again - it was the 4th morning. 

Day 4
Actually, this was still part of day 3. But the sun was up, we were on cattletracks and it was a beautiful day. We were tired and our feet were swollen in protest to the abuse of the last 3 days, but the map looked up - no more hike&bikes and no more deep gorges. Sometime during the morning P got had to fix a puncture. Here we are taking a break just before we discovered the puncture - kind of tired. 



Red Ants and Cipralex caught us about here - we did see them a few more times before they disappeared off into the distance. Then we disappeared into the distance too - it was such a good sight to see the finish venue!!!!

Epilogue

We had to pack & leave immediately to try catch G-man's flight back to C-town. The seconds drove us back - none of us were in a state to drive. We missed the flight anyway :(

  • Would I have liked to complete the full race (and not convert ourselves to light?) No. I don't think i'm made for these extreme events - the sleepmonster is not my friend.
  • Would I race with Gman, Pablo or Mummy-man again? Absolutely! Well, maybe 'race' is too strong a term ... but i'd tackle any adventure with any of them any time!!! Not only for their endurance and physical ability - nor for the excellent navigational skills (we managed to stay with far stronger teams on that last night-leg, because we always knew where we were) - but most of all for their ability to handle sleep-deprived people (read: me) - for their very strong wills to face whatever, and endure it (cos complaining won't help) - for their calmness even when there's no hint of a second the day before the race, for their ability to adapt to any situation and see solutions in everything - for being so tired, yet still being so kind and funny and helpful and resourceful - team Yoshimi - you guys rock!
  • Would I recommend posting desperate please on the mailinglist? hell yes - hours before we left, we still haven't confirmed any seconds - and they were super! THANK YOU Heinrich and Handsome, not only for the hot meals and being our slaves, but for the sense of humour, for innocently asking if we were considering getting any optional points, and for keeping yourselves busy when we took to long to get to transitions.
  • Life is good!








Wednesday, July 28, 2010

RIP swampdog Allan



Swampdog founder Allan Laudin died of a heart attack last night.

TimesLive quoted him last week in an article about mountain biking:

What gets Laudin onto his saddle is the "freedom of riding the trails in the company of fellow mountain bikers with a passion for single-track ... meeting new communities, seeing beautiful and panoramic vistas, resting beside the streams and sharing food and conversation".

I will remember him for the pretty trails that we rode together, for the greetings and laughs when we saw each other in the Spruit, and for his sense of humour.

May there be lots of singletrack where he is now.

Woof.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Micra finally grew up


Got tired of having to choose my paddling buddies* according to whether their cars could transport boats - so the Micra got a roofrack the weekend. Here's the K2** (and the hardtail) ready for action at Emmarentia on Sunday.

Now isn't this just the sexiest Micra out there?

* Pablo you're still my favourite paddling-buddy; it's just that you're not always available.
** That's Mummy-man's cradles on the roofrack; i'll get my own cradles as soon as the credit card recovered from the Himalaya-thingy.




Monday, June 21, 2010

Ghana: 1 Socceroos: 1


The coolest part was all the South African flags being waved at the game between Ghana and Aus :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dhulikhel

Yesterday morning at the top of Thang La in Tibet it was about -10°C. This morning in Nepal jnext to the river, ust before lunch it was 41°.

The downhill continued, through the border where we swapped the truck and landcruiser for a bus. Was also where I gave Calien's bike back and got the rented bike.


Soem more downhill followed (I could get used to this) and then some very pleasant riding next to a river.

For lunch we stopped at a local restaurant - where we duly followed the local example of eating rice with our hands.


Was a monster climb to Dhulikhel - was very hot and i soon ran out of water. Luckily met Herman the Flying Dutchman about a tenth up the hill, and he emptied his 1.5l bottle of hot water into my bladder - 'twas enough to get me up the hill. With gears slipping, and brakes holding onto the rented bike's rims, I was not very impressed every time there was a downhill after we've gained some altitude - and very glad to finally reach the top a few hours later. The resort was absolutely beautiful (but we couldn't find a swimming pool anywhere) .

The food was once again great - and the view of the mountains around out of this world :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

The last 5000m hill - and one of the world's best downhills

(so far as tar downhills can be nice, that is)

You don't go to Tibet for the epic snowstorms that you'd have to cycle through - that's what the Freedom Challenge is for. You don't go to Tibet for the miles of endless singletrack - that's what Joberg2C is for. There are awesome pieces of singletrack and technical riding if you look for it - if there's badly corrugated roads for miles, there's very likely gonna be a yak-track next to the road. If the jeeptrack to basecamp gets to boring, there will be a hiking trail somewhere if you search for it.

But I digress - you don't go to Tibet if you're after exceptional technical riding ... But if you're after exceptional views of big mountains, then this is where you'll get it. If you like the piece of road between Worcester and Ceres, or if you like the drop from the N2 down into Nature's Valley, then Tibet is a 3000m drop over 30 kays.

Climbs to match, of course.

It was cold when we climbed the last 5000m pass up Thang La. By now we're used to the altitude, so it was possible to race this hill - as far as the oxygen at 5km above sea level allow you to race, that is ...

The downhill was even colder - you sit on your bike and do nothing while the icy winds from the icy mountains cool you down. The downhill flattened out and the ride was interspersed with some mild climbs and very pleasant riding to lunch at Nyalam.



After lunch the real downhill started - the road just goes down and down and down. Breathtaking, the river far below - and suddenly you smell trees. You're below the treeline again, but the downhill just continues.  





Just before Zhangmu the road surface turn really bad - you ride through a few construction sites with lots of mud. The whole town of Zhangmu is built on one single road that snakes down the mountain. You'd walk into the hotel at street level, then go down doe your room on floor 3 (with a nice view) and down to the first room for breakfast - where' you'd be on street level again.


Tomorrow we cross the border and back into Nepal.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

a broken derailleur



Yesterday on the way to basecamp the jockey ended up in the spokes, damaging a few spokes and bending the jockey. There were calls to remove the derailleur and make a singlespeed, but we managed to put the bike in an acceptable gear, and continued the ride with a 3-speed.

This morning about 1 kay into the ride, the derailleur ended up in the spokes again, and was bent so badly that it refused to keep the chain rolling. The guide offered his bike and we loaded the hardtail on the land cruiser.

The first bit was absolutely stunning riding - it was mildly downhill, and the corrugated road caused me to continuously search for singletrack next to the road - of which there were plenty. The guide's bike's handlebars are very narrow, and the set-up feels like the bike want to go fast. It's light and handles exceptionally well.

Then we started on a long uphill headwind-climb that lasted an eternity. Here's the mummy-man at the top of the climb - from here it was superb technical riding with big rocks, a river crossing, some sand and generally good desert surface.


After lunch the guide rode his bike while I had a ride in the Jeep - it did not help my mood at all when everyone arriving at the campsite had huge grins on their faces, telling tall tales about a tailwind and not having to peddle at all for 40 kays ...

The derrailleur was bent badly, so that the top wheel-thingy de-railed the chain before it got to the bottom wheel-thingy.

I removed the broken derrailleur and shortened the chain. Test it - chain climbs up to next gear (at back). Ok, lengthen chain again and put it on that cog - no luck, now it wants to climb down to the smaller one.

The question:
- Any advice on how to change the bike into singlespeed without a derailleur, and get it to work without the chain wanting to go to a different gear than the selected one? I tried to select what looked like the gear that was in line with the middle blade at front, but obviously it was not in line enough. Is it even possible to make a singlespeed without using a derailleur as tensioner?
- Would it have been possible to bend the derailleur back in some way, and use it as a tensioner?
 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Everest Base Camp

The derrailleur got caught in the spokes and bent badly. Here's my bike being converted into a singlespeed with a pretty hill in the background.

Some prayer flags almost at base camp.

The mountains next to the road looked like bottles with coloured sand-layeyers in them.

Top of a tiny hill at basecamp.

The ride there was good - but back was superb when found the hiking-trails :D

The hardtail.



The prettiest campsite in the world






Wednesday, June 9, 2010

42 hairpin bends - and the sweetest downhill singletrack

It was a beautiful day when we left Shegar. More tar, then the first signs of a big mountain waiting for us - here we finally left the tar - the bike now much happier 'cos it was on familiar surface :)

Lots of town have 'gates' at the entrance - here's the town gate just before Pang La. 

Tibettan houses all look the same - a flat roof and painted square windows like this one. Often more symmetrical, though.

Pang La has 42 hairpin bends. I counted them. It's about 1000m's worth of vertical ascent. It took a while to get up there. On the way up, I thought it would be cool to come down that bends - but that was before I saw the singletrack on the other side :)

The view from the top was just stunning - the first time we saw the Himalayas. Wow. Was windy and cold, so I retreated to the lunch-spot about 200m back.

After lunch, we crested the hill again - and then, when everyone wanted to go on the motorway, the guide pointed to a hiking trail. 'The road's too bumpy', was his excuse. And man, was that singletrack fun! I'm used to let the faster people go first on singletrack ... but I soon realised that the 2 South Africans are much more comfortable on this than any of the faster climbers or tar-riders ... so we asked some track and bombed down the trail with large grins ... there were some steep turns, and a jumpie here and there - and every time you look up, Everest is in front of you.

THIS was why I came to Tibet.



The thrill lasted for a long time - at the bottom, we joined the dirtroad again, but it was horribly corrugated - and there were lots of yak-tracks and donkey-cart-tracks next to the road, which made for excellent mountainbiking on what was generally downhill and with a tailwind. I stopped too often to take pictures, so lost contact with the front guys - but those behind me couldn't catch me - so this made for some solitary riding in a desert - this day easily counts as one of my best days of riding yet.

When the downhill finally ended in a small town, we waited for the whole group while the truck tried to source some drinking water for the night. the last 5 kms was into a gale force headwind on a false flat - uphill on badly corrugated road. Was hard cycling, but luckily not too far. Arriving at the campsite, the truck's crew (who arrived just before us) had difficulty putting up the tents in that wind - so we all jumped in to help. It took about 6 people per tent to pitch it in that wind.