Monday, May 3, 2010

Coffee Corner Article 2

2009 Through the Eyes of a newbie - Part B: A Family business this.
{Read previous article at -

There are so many things to consider. When I was six years old you got on a bike and just rode, but now that I was getting into this sport you realise there is so much more to it – duel suspension vs hardtail, tubes vs tubeless, pedalling efficiency, etc. I had a lot to learn.

In terms of developing, as far as I could make out, there are two aspects to it – skill and fitness, and as I could not fork out the monies for a skills clinic I’d focus on the fitness and pick up as much as I can along the way. The best way to tackle any new aspect in life is to set a target, and then plot how to get there. So the target was simple – Do 75km Sabie Classic in February 2010 under 5 hours. How would I get there? Do the MTN half marathon series and any other race I can between the training and I would use the MTN Blockhouse , a non-technical race in Walkerville in August as an interim target - 45km in under 2 hours 30mins.  Seemed like a stretch.

Target: Check! Process: Check! So here we go.

Every race was a new experience, some good, some bad, some great. At Nigel I did my first 60km, but on one of the downhills a lack of concentration resulted in me somersaulting foetal position down the mountain grabbing mouthfuls of dirt and sand, as my bike spontaneously disassembled while following me down. I was shaken and stirred as I pedalled on my rebuilt bike to the finish. It was a tough day on the bike, but I learnt a lot. I also rode Argus on my iron steed – probably not the best idea, but resulted in me being the only one not blown away but the horrific wind on the day.

“…somersaulting foetal position down the mountain…”

The races came and went and the training hours every week started climbing, 4 hours, 5 hours, 7 hours. Every week I could feel my legs getting stronger and my heart rate slowing down. The hills started looking smaller, the scary downhills started looking like fun and in August came my first opportunity to test myself – MTN Blockhouse.

Four days before the race though, something diverted my attention completely – my baby girl was born. Megan was finally here and all of the training and competitiveness fell far to the back of my mind as I looked into those beautiful blue eyes. The Friday before the race my ladies were doing so well they were discharged from the hospital and we took our newest family member home. Being first night at home, there was not much sleep to be had, but we felt so blessed to have our beautiful bundle of joy it didn’t matter. Somewhere between 3am and 4am, just before I drifted off, the idea of the race popped back into my head, I had trained so hard for eight months, but as I glanced over the room at my exhausted wife breast feeding our angel, I realised she wouldn’t understand, she wouldn’t comprehend how much this race would mean to me, but I respected that and fell asleep. An hour later she woke me up with a whisper in my ear. I jumped at the thought of something being wrong, but nothing was. Her tired, fatigued eyes looked straight into mine, and without I hint of uncertainty she said – “Honey, you better hurry up, you’re going to be late for your race”. I never said a thing, but she knew.

The calm quickly turned into utter chaos as I ate, packed and jumped into the car for the two hour journey to the start. Race entered, kit on, and in the starting chute, I waited for the signal to set us off at 8:30am, but 8:30am came and went. 9am came and went, and at 9:20am just before the gun went off I couldn’t hear a word around me as my stomach growled…oh no, I had eaten hours ago and I was starving! If I got this wrong all my effort and my wife’s incredible understanding, it all would be for nothing! The gun went off and we pedalled through a 5km section comprising of pure dust, it clogged everywhere to the point that I felt like I was air-tight. I rode a hard start but knew that on this empty stomach it wouldn’t last, but 10km into the race we already reached out first watertable. Now, I’ve learnt not to stop at these by carrying enough fluid with me as it saves quite a bit of time, but this time I stopped…and I ate like it was my last supper. I shoved five potatoes down my throat, forced a banana down as well, with another banana in the back of my shirt and off I went. Not five kilometres later it felt like the turbo kicked in, and man did I feel strong. I nearly sprinted the rest of the race to finish the 45km in 1 hour and 53 minutes, much better than I would have ever expected.

“If I got this wrong…it all would be for nothing!”

That day learnt the most valuable lesson, one I still carry with me today. Was it to eat well before a race…no not really. Perhaps to carry enough provisions with me…nope not that. That sand takes three days to move through your digestive system…perhaps. But that day I learnt – you can not do anything worth doing in life on your own, you need the love and support of friends, fellow riders and family. And that I had.

{ To be continued…}

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