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

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?

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
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!


  • 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!