Apr 2, 2009

Learning To Ride A Bike

The title pretty much sums up my Cape Epic. I feel that for the first time in my life I actually learnt to ride a bike properly and it felt great!

I've already said it a lot but will keep on telling anyone who will listen that riding with Paul was a real privilege particularly as he has a very natural racing mentality. Paul could strategise and see opportunities to pass teams and drop other riders whilst I was happy to sit back, relax and get my heart rate back to normal. Riding with someone like Paul is a real education as suddenly you realise there's a whole lot more going on than merely pedaling your bike.

My lowest point was on Sunday evening after Stage 1. I blew my ride by spending over 4 hours in the orange zone and burnt almost 8000Kcal's, most of which I failed to replace. I was left wondering how on earth I was going to get back onto my bike in the morning and was convinced it was physically impossible! Somehow my mind overruled my body and I did indeed ride again on Monday in Stage 2. I really didn't enjoy it much and after burning almost 5000Kcal's was getting myself into a real mess. I knew I had to eat but each small mouthful I took caused me to gag. I really wanted to puke big time but somehow managed not to. Not sure how but I held on. Stupidly Stage 3 was pretty much a repeat with a ridiculous number of Kcal's being burnt and nowhere near enough being consumed. I really was hitting some very low points and simply not helping myself. My only other really tough day was Stage 7 when I felt like I simply had nothing left to give. Somehow I had to dig very very deep and with a bit of help from Paul (pushing me uphill again) I managed to get myself up to the top of Wedderwill which was the very last hill. Hooray!

After getting my nutrition sorted with help from Polar we began to race properly and Stages 5 & 6 were far and away the best days. The riding was proper mountain biking with plenty of technical stuff and great singletrack. I really enjoyed these two days, particularly the singletrack leading into Oak Valley and the stuff in Lebanon both of which are local rides for us.

The 'Bum Tent' run by the Medi-Clinic was an interesting experience. By the end of Stage 2 I really needed some help as my saddle was set incorrectly and my bum was getting very sore! The initial visit to the bum tent was a bit odd but very quickly you lose any inhibitions and really don't care who's got their hand up there. I got to know the Dr's quite well and Sharon was an angel. Initially they gave me nappy cream then I moved onto an anti-septic cream but by Stage 6 my bum was screaming with pain. So on seeing the Medi-Clinic 4X4 at a waterpoint I jokingly asked for the 'under the counter stuff' to which the medic said "OK" and pulled out a small tube of cream. Within 2 minutes of applying it my bum was numb. Blessed relief! I forgot to ask what it was but that night (I was staying at home) I saw my GP and she gave me a prescription for what she thought the cream was. Sadly she was wrong, so the next morning at the first water point I grabbed the medics and made them give me a LOT of the cream. It turns out it was a purely anaesthetic cream but it was glorious and I managed to continue riding pain free.

Besides crossing the finish line in Lourensford, one of my key highlights was being told by Paul that he was 'happy to follow me downhill as I was picking some sweet lines'. Now I'm not normally noted for my downhilling but for some reason it all came together on the Epic and I was really happy to throw myself (plus bike) down the rocky loose hills with almost complete abandonment. Wolfkloof in the Kogelberg on Stage 6 was exceptionally good fun. Part of it was born out of the confidence I have in my bike, the BMC Fourstroke 02 is a very sweet machine!! But I think mainly it came from the many hours I spent in Jonkers and Eden practising my technical skills on singletrack and rocky downhills. The Rock-garden that links Eden and Coetzenberg was great practice as nowhere on the epic was worse than that.

Having said all of that, the best thing by far was crossing the finish line in Greyton on Stage 3 being cheered on by Paula and my boys! I knew Paula would be there but I hadn't expected her to take the boys out of school for the day. I was so emotional on seeing them and they really lifted my spirits. Later as they drove off home I realised just how tight we are as a family and how much I really adore them!

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