Thursday, 31 October 2013

Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek 2013 – Glass always half full!

So, I have a few notes to put down before I write the race report.. 

1.       The route for this Pioneer was beyond amazingly beautiful, every single aspect of it was pure art, but alas, there is nothing that the route planners can do with acts of God, so take it with a pinch of salt and try figure what the days lesson may be, so, be it mud surfing of sorts, or navigating bike without brakes… seeing through heavy rain.. figure it out and make it work for you.

2.       The hardest ‘ pro’s ‘ to manage are the ones in C/D/E/Z  batches, forget Batch A, re-routing here is harder than asking Sauser to wait 5 minutes while the course markers re-route to minimize broken bones, these things happen, deal and dance in the rain.

3.       Rain is unavoidable, there’s worse things that could happen, especially considering it was not cold or windy, it was just warm heavy showers.. like gale force winds, hail and cold with the rain or extreme heat.. conditions are not always going to be perfect, I’m certain this is part of the reason we take part in stage racing, if good weather was a given… it would take away from the many stories you tell little people one day.. I mean really, where else are you gonna tell a story of having run out of brakes, slipping and sliding praying you don’t fall off a cliff as that would mean your downhiller baby dream comes to an end???? Anyway, lets not jump the gun

4.       Lastly, You always hope for the best, after training hard, you hope your body arrives for you, but sometimes things don’t go according to plan, as you could ask the front line as the elite men’s podium chopped and changed every day, or Phil buys and World XC Champ dreams, and when things don’t happen according to plan, you work with what you have and hope for the best, this was me, super tough week, just battled to put the power down, but once you accept the best your body’s going to give you, you win, giving up is never an option.

The Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek is not only amazing for the gob-smacking single track, crazy mind-blowing downhills and the steepest never ending climbs, it’s amazing for the Bridge and Dryland staff that make it extra amazing. I can’t explain how everyone is there for you and will help as best they can.. it’s crazy.. says a lot about the Spirit of the Pioneer, the amazing villages, coming ‘home’ to warmth, good food, and amazing people.. yes.

Prologue - #BuffelsBattle : Buffesdrift Game Lodge, Oudtshoorn (14.8Km – 354m ascent)
The Prologue route was awesome to say the least, this year they added in little XC jump-offs as part of the route, it was amazing! Last year we had chosen to not ride the route before Prologue day but the Bestmed ASG racing snakes were not going to let me to my own, so Prologue was ridden the Saturday, as the cold, knot-forming feeling dawned upon me on the 2 steep climbs.. the reminder of how hard this stage race had been last year- much as I enjoyed it.. panic..  yet somehow, riding it on Sunday was much better.. the elephants had come out to wish us luck again.. it was good fun.. and the 2 steep climbs didn’t = gasping for breath at the top like a choked squirrel, this felt good and was an indicator for an awesome week ahead!

Day 1 - #RedStoneRumble : Buffelsdrift Game Lodge, Oudtshoorn to Calitzdorp High school, Calitzdorp(105Km – 1768m ascent)
The excitement as we rode from our guest house to the start at the Buffelsdrift Game Lodge, the start venue, nerves, realizing how strong the field was. Prologue results were no indicator of anyone’s fitness really, just how well you could ride technical single track.. and everyone could ride really well..that’s all.. panic.

Fast start out, in the rain, light rain, managing to sit a good bunch until the mayhem… the sand in Oudtshoorn turns to clay in the rain.. I wouldn’t know how else to describe it, even when you managed to sit on your bike and pedal through it, about a km later you would hear rocks hitting your frame.. from your wheel.. this was crazy.. stopping to look what was going on was shock horror.. the mud had caked up so bad, it had collected the stones as well, and mud was everywhere.. no rock/branch could move it efficiently so my right glove was off permanently as I kept removing the mud, using my water to release the chain..  so everything could start working again.. oh this was a tough day.. then I tried lifting my bike to put on my back to carry as riding was pointless.. PrincesssPina doesn’t weigh a lot.. I’m certain she was closer to weighing 30KG’s.. no one could lift their bikes the mud was so heavy.. as expected, mechanical after mechanical spelt the royal mess up of what that day had been.. heart broke for the front line as I passed 4  Pro teams.. broken derailleurs.. broken chains.. punctures, plugging, bent rims, single speeds… mechanicals was the order of the day for all– you just had to get in line with your woes, better yet, get over it., manual gear shifting with that ‘clay’ stuck everywhere.. sigh.. this day was an adventure of note. 

Rest of the day was a blur, except for the awesome single track that had been added in.. the 2 Olympic rowers James and Matthew i think, came past me at about 8hr30 we had been out, this was cut off time, they had also been plagued with mechanical after mechanical so there was no point complaining. We arrived at the finish to find cut off had been extended by another 2hours, to which later on at supper, James said ‘whatever delays the front line by 30 minutes, delays the back by about 2-2hr30.. and cut offs should be adjusted accordingly, The Bridge Team had, perhaps this is the difference here. And on this day, I cared for nothing else but the immense emotion of finishing.. getting to the village.. at one point it had seemed impossible, wow.

Happy to be home, shower, eat, sleep, what a day!

Day 2 - #SwartbergShowDown : Calitzdorp High School, Calitzdorp to Summit Swartberg Mountain Pass, Prince Albert  (92Km – 2760m ascent)
This was the big day I’d been waiting for a whole year, the Swartberg Pass and I had a date and I looked forward to being the perfect date! This climb had broken me the year before, but this time round, I was ready for it.. excited for it if I may even!

Day started out lovely, it wasn’t raining, there was no weird mud, just happiness on route.
The realization of what makes this stage the most prize worthy is the mind games involved in bagging the stage, up to WP 1 all is good and well with some beautiful climbs, dare I say so myself and amazingly fast descents.. yes the descents were amazing, with that, I started looking forward to the next climb, knowing 1. I won’t be disappointed, but 2. There would be a crazy amazing downhill in store as a treat for all that work going up.. yes this mentality was to work.

WP 1 stop, quick drink and off I was, beautiful descent, crazy climb too, on climb, get a puncture- getting flatter as I kept riding hoping to seal it, plugged with Ernie & his partner –bless, they’d been amazing to ride with, managed to get done and off I was again.

The race only begins after WP 1, the climb, if you had burnt too many matches in the clay-mud factory the day before, this would be evident on this climb.. rolling hills between WP1 and 2.. then the last trek to WP3.. it was quite interesting to ponder the front line tactics as I merrily rode, rolling hills that actually was a never ending climb.. I would have paid good money to see the team that arrived at the top of Swartberg pass first.. they deserve every penny.. we all know the whole front line is strong enough.. I think it was a question of who was the smartest.. anyway.

Past WP3, Diffie being awesome as usual,headed to the Pass, on one of the descents, the sound no one wants to hear, rim on ground, I had a serious flat, manage a stop and realize the plug we had plugged earlier had come out, the plug had been hitting the frame so I guess it was to be expected, fixed with Christo and his partner, bless.

Off they were, off I was, 300m past the ‘Swartberg Pass’ sign, as I powered with glee.. my pedal came off.. it was the weirdest thing ever.. the pedal was still attached to the bottom of my shoe but not on the bike.. trying to fix it with no luck, guy comes past saying if I ride inwards ill manage.. right.. eventually Anton and Bridgitt coming past as I’m pushing PrincessPina up the Pass with the 1 leg drills not working, he tries to fix it, off they are, 2min later I slip off the pedal again.. and just like that, the date I’d waited a whole year for, didn’t happen.. the Pass pitched, on time too, I didn’t.. heart sore as I walked to the top.. arriving at the finish was another emotional moment after trying to not get upset with self as I walked up the Pass.. bitter sweet as Paul welcomed me to the finish.. another crazy day on the bike.

Wine with Paul as I waited for Diffie to take me to the village - the downhill from the top of the Pass to Prince Albert is actually not all downhill, so one pedal wouldn’t do the trick. Perhaps I postpone my date with this Pass to 2014.. I love this race.. and with that, was a new date set.
Shower, food, source new pedals and cleats, converting back to Shimano, I’m clearly not cool enough for Egg beaters, sleep.

Day 3 - #MeiringsMagic : Zwartberg High school, Prince Albert to NG Church Grounds, De Rust (107Km – 1543m ascent)
…hmm… this day..  this day is pretty much a roadie stage.. my life.. leaving race village was straight into wind and bunches forming.. and before I knew it.. just I and the wind.. oh heaven it was horrible.. sigh.. 45/46 km’s to WP1 took me 3 odd hours.. boy I hated life right here.. passing WP1, into this canyon.. the morning had been so disastrous, I prayed I wouldn’t be by myself as the mind wonders to very scary places in such happenings.. most majestic mountains and the mass walk to the top as I found a stranger here as well, Sean.. this was needed as we chatted to the top.. heart was desperate for a crazy.. we finally arrived at the top as he asked me if I descend fast, I looked at him and said, ‘yes I’ll go first, I need this’.. with this was the last I saw of him until just before WP 3.. this downhill was amazing.. it got me smiling again..  crazy massive rocks scattered everywhere.. knots in tummy from uncertainty if I could ride some bits as I rampaged on figuring we’ll see later if it was rideable or not, luckily they all were.. this was the most amazing part of the day.. the downhill was long, fast and technical.. just how I love it, little bit on to the most crazy rock beds, no I didn’t ride all of them.. fear of running outta talent and another puncture, I couldn’t handle another one.. 

WP2 as I saw the international team that had been on podium the night before.. something had to be seriously wrong, and off I was, more road, open gravel roads.. joy.. a little of what felt like an eternity, I was at WP3, Diffie.. meat.. I remember this.. from here, twas single track up,, down, then road home.. with that I was inspired.. single track was amazing.. there’s no feeling like that giggle that surprises your inner as it breaks free.. into the most glorious smile filled with happiness.. this is what I’d come back for.. re-living this moment brings such happiness.. wow... and out onto the tar road I was.. 10km to home I think it was, little bit of wind but lots of happiness.. 

Arriving at the finish, Beer with the tandem, crazy talk, shower, food, massage, bed, I’d suffered.

Day 4 - #KammanassieKanon : NG Church Grounds, De Rust to Louvain Guest Farm, Herold (70Km – 1950m ascent)
Kammanassie.. this is a beautiful day of note.

Trek to WP1, lovely refreshments, and a… insane downhill.. hell of an amazing.. there’s no words to describe that downhill except, eyes gorged out in anticipation to see how fast you can you can go and still have control over the bike.. wow!
This was very well deserved considering up ahead was quite a bit of walking.. attempting to ride some of it, walking most of it, before I knew it, chasing the voices in the twisty Kammanassie forest, finding irritated stragglers, from the sun and the walking, as you get to the top of the 1 mountain, looking across to see riders on the next mountain.. mind games, mounting on PrincessPina.. the millionth realisation that walking sucks and being on bike is amazing!
A young steep climb as we burn up all we have.. I loved this day.. then we were at the top again after another young push.. then flat.. then mind blowing downhills.. I dare you to come tell me of any other stage race that has downhills as thrilling as Pioneer downhills.. I live for these, by now we know I only climb to descend like a crazy rocket.. amazing.. another crazy one on this stone like thing oi.. who needs brakes! 

Slow down through the river, climbs, awesome rolling hills, Diffie (WP3) then the craziest last trek.. into head wind, then into the mountain, up down up down up down.. this was frustrating, my back wheel was flat and slipping everywhere, in all this I knew I’m not stopping to fix it, Suunto says we a few Km’s from home yet these up downs aren’t stopping..  we clearly weren’t camping at the top of the mountain for the night, eventually going through a gnarly descent, a young tumble at the bottom from an uncertainty on which line to pick as I landed in push up position, in front of me was the most beautiful forest.. Louvain race village is beautiful.. its ridiculously beautiful.. the trees tell of a magical past as I rode through this heaven.. few more pedals and I was on the grass, ahead, the finish line, all was forgiven, Louvain is beautiful.

Day 5 - #DevilsDescent : Louvain Guest Farm, Herold to Van Kervel High School, George(70km- 1698m ascent)
This was the bestest day ever.. everyone I’ve spoken to rates this to have honestly been the best day. We woke to rain and rode the whole day in the rain, some parts with heavier rain than others but a whole lotta fun… yes, thee most amazing!

Off we were in the rain, into some awesome single track that I’m certain would have been amazing had it been dry.. but, in the moment, live it, love it, enjoy it, out onto a little grass climb, then biiiig climb which was aided with walking.. like with all things, the suffering ended and a crazy downhill came.. yes, smiles.  Fast & crazy then a mass climb.. it was big.. granny gear big, like all climbs here and again, another treat waited in store for us.. this route was magical.. pure art, what we were riding was insane.. you could see riders going up and down while you were on your own section.. it was like a roller coaster ride.. thrilling downs, climbs not even considered as you chased the next happiness!! 
Here, as PrincessPina and I were having a mass party, was the pulling of my brakes, right down to the handlebars.. and no response.. no slowing down.. in panic as I attempted to ‘pump’ the brakes aaand nothing… in this, all I could picture was me and PrincessPina flying off a cliff and my downhiller kids dream coming to an end in all this happiness.. chances were taken and managing to keep calm and manoeuvre bike.. dreams were still intact, I in one piece as I stopped.. one of the riders, Max , coming past as I asked if he knew how to replace brakes, luckily I had an extra pair in my bag, he was willing to help – replacing brakes is a mission but we managed to get it done. Happiness meant I could ride like a crazy again, lots of mud and rocks all rideable… I loved this day probably more for the fact that it was all things that I loved in one.. mass happiness.. I think there eventually was a brake crisis at the water points, like day 1, the derailleur crisis, this day ended quickly, Meiring’s Pass a beaut, even in the rain.. this whole day had been such a treat.. 

Diffie (WP3), a re-route as the last bit of single track would be dangerous to ride, and arriving in Herold, our accommodation for the night being the school hall with the field filled with tents, wet.

Warm shower, food, more crazy talk, food, bed.. somehow, there was more than 1 person snoring in our hall but everyone was so kak tired, there was no bugging the tree choppers, bless!

Day 6 - #ChandelierChampagne : Van Kervel School, George to Oudtshoorn High School, Oudtshoorn(Was 91Km – 1584m ascent, became 68Km -896m ascent)
Today had to be cut short as we were riding to Oudtshoorn, it had been raining, there was lots of single track and we all know the fear of the clay happening from day 1, so, 96 km to 68Km, and 8.30am instead of 7.30am start- score!!!

Breakfast at this village was amazing.. they had a fruit affair going and everything else you can imagine for breakfast, bless, this was amazing.

The only thing that bugged me about a re-route was, we were routed to my favourite.. gravel.. lots of it.. only it.. roadie stage.. my life…

Nice paced start and before we knew it, we were on Montagu Pass.. hmm.. this Pass goes on for forever, you decide what forever is but all I knew was to not rush it, an attempt to enjoy the pass was successful.. yes.. it’s a beaut.. steepest towards the top, last year I’d walked parts of this pass, this year, I’d ridden to the top, and I was proud of self. The top dealt dessert as usual, a fast downhill, rolling bits, WP1.. rest of the day a blur, fun rolling hills as legs finally felt good, I’d been longing for this feeling all week.. standing on the bigger climbs over.. body had been kind, and what a way to finish.. lots more fun.. before I knew it.. WP3.. but no Diffie.. this meant we weren’t far from the finish.. 

As quickly as it had all started.. it was all over.. tar to the finish, the feeling of crossing that finish line so surreal.. the finish was never a given.. I didn’t think I could.. and there it was..  it had been a tough week of all sorts.. thank heaven for the Finish line!

Castle Lite, Shower,  Pannekoeke, home.

Sad to have missed the finishers dinner but it'd been a long week and work awaited.. fun and games*

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Crater Cruise... the National Series end of year party..

So, my first Advendurance MTN National Series - Ultra Marathon, I was scared and all sorts considering all the scary stories I'd heard, mostly about how corrugated the route is and how tough it is.. and that it was a roadie race..  hmm.. this makes me think, a lot of the boys are youngly girls.. led me to thinking how people limit you with their fears and stuff.. nervous as hell I still went.. I even considered wearing 2 cycling pants but luckily that crazy thought was reassured by my trusted Asg F-Tech kit!

What happened out there.. well I’d never been happier to see the finish line that’s what..

Firstly I was batched in A, I don’t know how that happened, 2ndly it wasn’t just A, we were taking off with the Elite racing ladies- let me break it down- Ariane, Robyn, Amy.. should I carry on? Freaking out, heart rate at 140 before we even took off, no prizes for guessing what happened from there.

Started out onto road in a cute single file happening being paced by a car, otherwise, I’m  certain, Robyn would have owned the day as we were on tar for quite a bit.. quuuuuite a bit.. eventually falling off this train, and the A batched men came past, bit of wind, I was irritated.

We went on to our first bit of gravel.. and corrugation.. for a bit, little long climbs.. this was the order of the day, stopping at every 2nd WP about, it was a hell of a hot day, thank heaven for those Ice cold USN drinks at each water point.. I’ve never been more grateful! Temperatures touching on 46 degrees..  Crater was tough.

We went through a little bit of single track, with a  fun bit that had that loose sand, and steep little climbs.. I love single track!.. then we back out again baking in the sun..

they had set cut off times at the different WP’s, probably cause someone could die from that heat but the overall cut off time was around 3pm I think, this would give you about 8hours to finish 103Km’s of heat and climbs and corrugation and find happiness in that little bit of single track if that’s your kind of thing, I was certain the cut off was put in place to ensure I had adequate time to get to the finish but turns out I managed a decent attempt.

The end was the most interesting, going through a grass burnt patch in head wind, while seeing other riders going up on the other side.. WP stop, it was so hot, the biggest factor was keeping well hydrated, and luckily I did, heading towards the clear finish, spot the finish line banner ahead while Suunto reads 97 odd  Km could get frustrating as you get taken back into track.. that type o stuff can give you extra legs or make you throw your bike over the fence and walk to the finish but luckily it gave legs J lots of them too and sense of humour J and a thrilling steep metal ramp finish, just when you were unsure if you had legs too.. I enjoyed the last 60Km.. legs only arrived then, not complaining though, hella happy to have finished.

The recovery USN protein drinks & water at the finish were boss! I treasure my medal for many reasons and so proud to have been part of this event. I always say the National Series, more than the fact that they deal pain on every climb and awkward bit, we get to see our beautiful country.. places we can bike outside of JHB, in the greater scheme of things, uplifting communities.. warms my heart proper!

A note : because we all on the trails for different reason- be it in-front, the middle or the back, some for fun, some a good training session, some looking to better their times, others racing and whatever else blows your hair back.. when another rider asks for track.. it’s only polite to give way.. chirping ‘who you racing’ or ‘you’re not gonna get podium’ is not polite.. figure where you fit in the greater scheme of things and let others be.. hell give support!! J

… don’t let other peoples fears become your own.. I was so scared for Crater but wanted to see for myself how bad it could be and looking back past the heat and corrugation and wind and thirst.. I enjoyed it.. a different challenge, a mental challenge.. were you gonna let the heat get to you? The corrugation? The hard grass? The wind.. no.. instead you rise above the physical, time and time again.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Engen Cycle Challenge - 103Km

Engen Road Race – 103Km

So, Saturday was Hakahanna, which had me finished by the time I was done, I ceased to exist the rest of Saturday as I will confess ‘dreaded the road race’ on Sunday ..

Road races start at 6.30am.. have you ever.. so 4am stuff face moment and off to Pretoria I was.. the elite ladies taking off at 6.45am.

So, the happy bit when racing road is the Bestmed ASG ladies team, Sunday was  An-Li Kachelhoffer, Linda Van der Biggelaar, Michelle Benson and Desray  Sebregts, and I. Thing is, these girls are hella fast, I don’t know how they keep so calm and and and, but I love spending time with them on their terrain too though it not be my cuppa J

I'm semi happy I held on longer than my last attempt to this bunch before I merrily let go. Someone needs to explain the surges to me.. we started.. then there was a ‘brakes’ moment.. then go.. then brakes.. soo much concentration.. in one of these surges, not paying attention, my worst nightmare almost came true.. me.. tar burn, after months of accusing my road bike of ineffective brakes, I realize they work, and in this moment they worked. While crawling out of the horror that almost happened, the bunch was going, faught to catch up, back in, one more ‘brake’ moment at the bottom of a climb and they were gone.

Needless to say the bunches that followed were hella strong, fun to sit a little then let go, yes, that bunch riding thing. Legs were still torn from Hakahana so the day was hard, it took every bit of mental strength to not take the medium route and to finish. Wind towards the finish.. a big man came past and gave me slip, bless his soul, I’m certain I would have been out there for another 20minutes had he not come past.

Twas a lovely route, with interesting long climbs and I don’t remember many downhills.. but yes, a few rutted scary areas especially on climbs but good mileage now that I can ride a road bike J
Discussion after with An-Li & her dad if mtb’ers are stronger, we finalized at roadies are stronger cause they can hold the same pace for hours at good cadence while mtb’ing races are never really like that unless it’s a roadie stage of sorts.

Can you imagine what happened after this race? Yes, after a 22 hour training week, legs were done with me, rested on Monday, sports massage from Joanne was hella sore as she took out the knots in my thighs.. and Tuesday was back on the bike.. yes, I love this place! Suunto says i need 290 hours recovery time, this is true, we can catch up on this rest next week as we taper for Pioneer  :)

Nissan Trailseeker #4 - Hakahana

Toughen The Feck Up… Trailseeker #4 - Hakahana

This is what is written on the back of Mutual Safe Cycling kit, on the bum to be specific, so if you look up on a climb, you’re constantly reminded to TTFU, like I always am when Michael rides in Mutual Safes #Mamba kit.

So, what happened at this Advendurance Trailseeker.. this was my first time at this venue, apparently last year was deathly and they’d made it a little easier of sorts.. it’s not often the marathon distance is 62Km.. guess that should have been the first indicator that had it been any longer, a few of us may have camped overnight there as we finished at 8pm.. okay maybe taken a tad far but it was hell of a tough!

The start was fast and flat-ish, Grant & Petru  had decided they didn’t wanna race, so were gonna ride with me, this insert is important because the start was lightning fast.. they both  roadies, with that heaven amazing cadence.. sigh.. so the next 2hours were hell between mad climbs and technical climbs and I no power..  thank heaven for the USN drinks stocked at the Water points, help was needed and this was it!

Things got better somewhere as I enjoyed the technical bits and a young sandy downhill that had me uncleating my left foot to get leg on the ground to try stop the bike before I saw my face smash into the bushes on the side! This was managed successfully, but not the same for the rider behind me who came screaming down the hill on his bum with 1 hand on handle bar, I jumping out the way a little too late as he knocked into me.. oh boy, fun and games!!

The gist of the day, mad climbs, frolicking flames of heat, I was certain we were being roasted over some kind of flame, amazing technical bits once legs arrived, I swear they were coming from East Africa, but they arrived. .. eventually.

The end was the most interesting, spotting Paul Cordes at WP 3 with his Epic Cycles team as we discussed how Princess Pina was handling, I knew it was home time, Paul warned to take it easy as it was rather hard from there.. he was right, but I was headed home. They definitely made the Marathon route amazing, from the half marathon/ marathon split, the fun heightened with playful XC bits then.. WP4 was the pause button, a hell-ish concrete climb.. it did nothing for my clearly evident sense of humour failure at the site of it, getting to the top was the realization that it was rideable and I was being childish, things looked up in a strange way from here, I knew I was done walking, I hate walking.. just sucks.. short legs.. pushing 29’er.. yes...  then it was these awesome downhills on this sandy area, met with switchback-like climbs that were just not fun in the heat but fun at the same time, and just not ending.. luckily I had company, chatting away, knowing we didn’t have far to go, we hooked it and made it to the finish.. I was beyond sun burnt and ready for home.

Front line agrees twas hell of a tough… looking back.. it wasn’t as bad as it felt.. I’m def going back for that concrete climb.. makes all the other fun stuff even more fun ! Yes, Advendurance team sure know how to throw a MTB party, and we all hungover for days after!J