Minor panic attack, no one hurt

2 weeks to #joberg2c

I can’t believe it. Just two weeks to the start of joberg2c. I’m not ready yet. They have to postpone the event. I need an extra week or three and then I might be ready. Or will I? Probably no more than I am right now. So instead, why not start tomorrow. Except I’m not in South Africa yet. Oh well, I’ll just have to wait two weeks and then begin.

I have to admit to a certain amount of anxiety. I don’t usually get anxious, but this time I know that I’m dreading the start. And the finish, And all the bits in the middle. Mostly the bits in the middle. The first km and the last km are the easiest, it’s just the 898 km in the middle that scares me witless.

Is this a panic attack? I certainly think so. That list I spoke about in earlier blogs hasn’t got any shorter. In fact, every time I think of something that I haven’t done yet, it gets longer. So instead of getting down and doing something, I’m writing this, hoping that it might be a bit cathartic. It isn’t.

Perhaps I’d better just go to bed now and hope that everything will be fine when I wake up in the morning. Night night.

Like Christmas, if I wasn’t so tired

18 days to #joberg2c

What a day that was. An 80km ride ride through the woods and hills of Cranborne Chase. It was all new to me – I mapped the ride on the computer, and then went out to find out what it was really like.

Well, it was hilly (over 1,000m of climbing), and muddy, all churned up by horses’ hooves and farm vehicles. And it was tiring. But also, it was beautiful. I started along the Ox Drove, which runs along the top of the downs, but then it led into woodland with wonderful sections of single track. Needless to say there was some pushing, and a sore rear at the end of it all.

About midway during the ride I happened to check my phone (come on, you do it too) and there was an email from Zuzanna at Kalas Sportswear to say my joberg2c kit was on its way. That was a relief, because the kit was manufactured in the Czech Republic and was due to be delivered here by 10th April. The worry was that if the UK left the EU on 29th March, there might be importation complications. Well, the UK hasn’t left the EU yet (and let’s hope it never does), so that problem wasn’t a problem after all.

Polly doesn’t get what all the fuss is about.

Anyhow, I arrived home tired and sore (did I mention that before?) and there inside the front door was a parcel – my kit had already arrived. Well, suddenly it was like Christmas. All that lovely kit to look at and feel. If I wasn’t so tired, I might even have tried it all on.

P.S. Don’t forget that the kit represents the charity that I’m riding for – Velokhaya. You can read about it in earlier posts. And of course, you can still donate – just go to the DONATE button (obvious, né?) and do your thing.

The winds of change stay the same

3 weeks to #joberg2c

If that’s Stonehenge, it must be sunny Monday.

In Britain, there is one thing that we can always depend on. No, I’m not talking about politicians or Brexit. I’m not even talking about breakfast, although the odds are that a full-English is far more likely to raise the nation’s spirits than our PM or MPs ever could. No, what I’m talking about is, of course, the weather. Unlike Brexit, we’re certain that there will be weather, whether we like it or not.

Just take Monday. The forecast was mostly sunny, with light breezes from the north-west, no rain and about 12 to 15C (which is warm by English standards). Perfect for a long ride, you would say, and that is exactly what happened. The ride was 91km mostly off-road from home near Shaftesbury to Stonehenge. And back, naturally – the stones don’t have a roof any longer. The ride is something that I’ve wanted to do since we moved to Dorset more than three years ago. Finally I had the chance, and the reason, to do it. And so it took place, as anticipated, although it was a lot more tiring than I’d hoped for. Still, tick that one off for the log-book. Training for a long event like joberg2c is all about time in the saddle, they say. And believe me, my rear is evidence that I’ve done that.

So roll on Wednesday. What should I expect weather-wise. Well, if Monday was “warm”, Wednesday was time to pull out the thermals. Temperatures plummeted and there was an icy wind. But that is what you expect from the British weather. Although it might just have been hell freezing over because Theresa May had just asked to Jeremy Corbyn to help her secure a Brexit deal.

Off the beaten track. Or just beaten. And off track.

Friday’s ride, of course, was something else. Not quite so cold, but three hours of wind, rain and mud. And then some more mud and rain and wind. But I ploughed on through it all like the good soldier that I mean to be, hoping that in the long run, miles under the belt will become money in the bank.

Ah yes, my apoligies for the cliches. They’re a bit like Europe – we really can’t live without them.

Looking back, going forwards

  • 4 weeks to #joberg2c

Today’s wonderful ride through Wiltshire and Dorset

Heavens, can that be right? In just four weeks’ time, if all has gone according to plan, I will have completed the first stage of Joberg2c. It’s just so hard to believe that it is almost here, and I don’t feel as if I’ve done nearly enough training.

Suddenly I find myself looking over my shoulder, not to see who is coming up behind me, but to see what I’ve done heading into previous events. I’ve looked at my log books from 2005 and 2009, when I rode the Cape Epic, and I’m not at all happy. Log books? you ask. Yes, I’ve kept a log book from when I started to run at university. The first entry is dated 3 January 1973: about 3 miles in 25 minutes. That is more than 46 years ago, and the entries switched from running to include cycling over the years (I “gave up” running in 1986, although I’ve never really stopped). There have been a few gaps in the log book – 1977, 1978 and 1980 have no entries, because I was a lazy bugger for a few years, drinking and smoking and enjoying life too much.

Look here, my first race, Springs Striders 32km on 18th February 1973: finished 82nd out of 450 entrants in 2 hrs 15 mins 14 secs. I’ve even noted that the race was won by Dennis Morrison (who won it for several years, if memory serves),  Geoff Tribe was second and Brian Chamberlain third. Three weeks later I was back in Springs for my first marathon, the Southern Transvaal Championships. I finished 63rd in 3 hours 0 mins 49 secs. It wasn’t until years later that I’d realised that I’d missed a sub-3 hour marathon at my first attempt by 50 seconds.

Anyhow, that’s all ancient history. I’ve looked at the evidence and suddenly I realise I haven’t done nearly as much training as I’d have liked. Admittedly I still have three weeks to go, so there is hope. I know I’ll just have to keep plugging away, at the training and on the ride.

Probably the most notable thing in the 46 years of logged runs and rides, there is not one entry that says: DNF (did not finish). I suppose that is what gives me hope.

One last note about why I keep the log book. It’s not so much to see what I’ve done before. Rather, it is a prod, a goad. If I open it and see a few blank spaces, I know it’s time to get off my rear end and do something. I’m not a Duracell bunny that just keeps on going and going on magic juice. No, I have to find my own energy, but a guilty conscience helps.

Shame-faced and red-cheeked

36 days to #joberg2c

Oh, the shame, the shame.

I’m almost too embarrassed to tell you, but I suppose that eventually the truth will out. So I’ll just come out and say it: Today, for the first time in my life, I shaved my legs.

There, I’ve said it. It’s over and done with. But confession doesn’t relieve the shame. Or should I say, the shames, because there are just so many levels of humiliation.

First let me take you back in time, to explain why I sank to such depths. You see, each time that I rode the Cape Epic I was told, when having a leg massage, that it would have been better if I’d shaved my legs. I have to admit, they are (or should I say were) pretty hairy. That alone wasn’t enough to prompt me to prune the growth. What really moved me to get down and depilatory was that on both Epics I was forced in the later stages to join the queue for the Bum Clinic – the specialist unit that patched up nether regions that had been eroded by excessive friction due to prolonged contact with a bicycle saddle. While trouserless and bent over, the nurse told me that I should have considered being hairless below.

Now, with the prospect of 900km and nine days in the saddle, I decided to have a trial run at being smooth on the outside as well as the inside.

The first shiver of shame came in Tesco, as I stood nonchalantly at the “women’s” shelves trying to pick out the particulars that I would need. Then there was a moment of mortification at the check-out – although I used the self-service, I still needed the assistance of the assistant to clear up some “unexpected item in the bagging area”. I dared not tell her what it might be.

Once home I had to wait till the wife was out so I could do the deed, head down and heart racing for fear of being found out. I discovered that it’s not something you can rush. Every time you think you’re done, you find a bit that you’ve missed. At least when I shave my face I can see what I’m doing.

Also there was cleaning up the mess, making sure there were no remaining signs of my activity. For all the world I wouldn’t be a woman.

In the end, I wondered if it was worth the effort. I must say, though, that I think I have pretty shapely calves, even if they are a bit pale.

So was it worth it? Well, people have done worse for sponsorship, so maybe I should cash in.  Come to think of it, I’m raising funds for Velokhaya – you just have to click at the top of this blog to donate. And if you don’t, I’ll give you the lowdown on when I waxed the other important parts. Donate today, or else.

Whom shall we send?

40 days to #joberg2c

So, which one of these delinquents should we send off to ride from Johannesburg to Scottburgh? The Hairy One or the Smooth One? Of course, there is no choice really, because they will both be going. Right now the Hairy One is no more – he has given way to the Smooth One. You might think that this sacrifice has been made in the interests of weight loss and streamlining, but really, it’s all just down to practicality. But fear not, the Hairy One is always there, lurking somewhere just beneath the surface, struggling to get out. Just like Arnie’s Terminator, he’ll be back.
And that’s a bit like me and the weather right now. I’m struggling to get out. I blame Gareth and Hannah. In case you’re wondering, they are the two weather systems that are passing the United Kingdom right now, and they are wreaking havoc with my training plans, blowing them right out the window.

Still, got to just plod on and do what I can.

Still counting the days

7 weeks to #joberg2c

It just doesn’t stop, does it? I’m talking about the passing of time, naturally. It really shouldn’t be something that I have to worry about, especially not at my age, but when you’ve got a deadline, you can’t help but fret a little. Still, I’ve got seven whole weeks – that’s 42 days – to get my act together. But then I stop and think about it, and I realise that I don’t really have seven weeks, because I fly to South Africa on April 20th, so that makes it just over six weeks. Oh sh…

On the River Stour today. Now you see him …

… now you don’t.

It’s not the training that worries me, although that’s probably what I should worry about most. I’ve finally got over my nasty cold and this week my mileage increased by 120km, which might seem okay, but isn’t really when you’ve started from close to nothing. I’m trying to be sensible, increasing the miles slowly but steadily. And with the weather like it is right now, I’ve got to grab the moments that I can. And they’re not always great moments. Take Monday, for instance. I went out for an 80-minute spin. When I left home at 10.30 in the morning it was 14 deg C and sunny. For this time of year that’s positively balmy for England, if not a little barmy. But when I got back home just before midday the temperature had plummeted to 3 deg C and there was sleeting rain and an icy wind. Okay, the forecast had said there would be rain later, but this rain turned up (or came down) sooner rather than later. How am I supposed to account for that?

But enough about me. How about you? How are you doing? Are you getting out and about, do you have enough to eat, are you getting enough sleep? And more importantly, have you donated yet to the wonderful cause that I’m riding for? I spent half the afternoon fashioning a couple of fancy little buttons at the top of this website just so that you can do so. There, that’s it, the one at the top that says DONATE or Velokhaya. Go on, press it. I dare you.

Burglars and Brexit bollox

8 weeks to #joberg2c

Hell, if that was the English Spring, it was on a Wednesday this year. In fact, it was so warm in parts of the country that it might have been the British Summer. But I hope not, because then there’d be little to look forward to for a whole year. Apart from a little jaunt across South Africa, of course.

I didn’t really get a chance to enjoy that flash-in-the-pan weather, because I was working. Well, I’ve got to pay for this expedition somehow, and there are worse things to do than work in a bike shop. It is, for me, sort of a reverse busman’s holiday – and I get a good discount on all the necessary paraphernalia, with the use of a proper workshop thrown in.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been putting together my new bike, which I showed you in my previous post. I finally took it home last Saturday, and would you believe it, some scumbags broke into the shop on Sunday night and took the five most expensive bikes there. Some not-so-nice guys smashed through the door and took two brand new bikes, my Saracen enduro and Andy’s Saracen, plus a five-grand Trek downhiller that was in the workshop. My Saracen and Andy’s were found dumped near by, and the two new bikes have been spotted for sale in Devon, which the police are following up.

Needless to say it wasn’t a great week in the shop, but I’m just relieved that I didn’t have to start building my bike from scratch. Poor old Will was frantic, because he didn’t know that I’d taken the bike home on Saturday, and he phoned early on Monday to tell me that the shop had been burgled, not knowing if my bike was among those missing.

The better news of the week is that my kit has been ordered and paid for (you can see the wonderful design at the top of this post). It should be here in six weeks’ time, if all goes according to plan. Of course, there is one blot on the horizon that could scupper things, a little political hurricane called Brexit. The kit, you see, is being manufactured in the Czech Republic, and if Brexit goes the way some people want it, I might have to spend a week filling customs forms before I can don my lycra.

Still, another thing ticked off the ever-growing list.

Charity begins at our ‘new home’

9 weeks to #joberg2c

We’re into single figures, and I wish that I could tell you about the triple-figure training rides that I’ve been doing. But sorry, I can’t. I thought I was almost back on the road a week ago, but on Sunday the lurgy struck back with a vengeance. My personal physician (the wife, that is) said that I’d been too impatient to get going again, so it’s been a bit downhill this week, in a physiological and psychological sense. The good news is that my bike is ready, and come what may, I will be riding it on Sunday.

Instead of droning on about preparations, let me tell you instead about the charity that I’ve decided to support (and I hope you will too). I am riding for Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy (yep, follow the link), a cycling charity (naturally) based in Khayelitsha, just outside Cape Town. My South African compatriots will know all about Khayelitsha, but for my foreign friends, here is a brief history: Khayelitsha (which means “our new home” in Xhosa) is one of the shameful results of apartheid, a place where people of colour were dumped en masse after being moved from their homes in Cape Town and its surrounds. It has grown to be one of the largest black townships in South Africa, a place with few services, few jobs, and where crime is rife. Velokhaya was set up to give youngsters in this environment a chance in life, an opportunity to break out of the cycle of deprivation.

The charity’s website explains this best: “Approximately one third of South Africa’s population is under the age of 15 (and more than 50% of the population under 25) and a large percentage of these young people live in areas affected by high levels of poverty and unemployment, which makes them particularly vulnerable to social ills such as crime and substance abuse. The Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy was founded with the intention of using the sport of cycling to involve children living in these under-resourced communities in a positive after-school activity and to give them the life skills they need to deal with the challenges they face.

“As a Khayelitsha-based organisation, we are only too aware of the extent of the challenges faced by our township youth and we know that the skills our children need to deal with these challenges won’t necessarily be those they learn at school. We chose the sport of cycling as the medium because it was a sport which township children wanted to participate in – and one which, until the formation of the Academy, had excluded a large percentage of South Africa’s population.”

I first came across Velokhaya through Conquista magazine, and its editor, Trevor Gornall. Immediately I thought that it was the type of cause that I would like to support, so I will be telling you more about Velokhaya and banging on at you to be generous. For those of us who are privileged to live in peace and security, it is the least we can do to give youngsters a chance to enjoy some of the advantages that we take for granted.

And lastly, some pice of the new baby, which arrived home today:

All uphill – well that’s how it feels

10 weeks to #joberg2c

Oh my gosh, were does the time go? Only ten weeks to get ready – I don’t think I’m going to make it. Where do I begin?

Well, firstly, we had sunshine today, which is a good thing, so I had the most wonderful ride in months. We had sunshine yesterday too, but I was stuck in the bike shop all day. But I made up for that today, not a long ride, only 40km, but with more than 500m of climbing, which made it even more worthwhile. I’m still getting over my cold – this green monster is still clinging to my chest like something from Alien – but at least I’m riding again, outside, and without frozen toes.

What else? Oh yes, I’ve decided to ride for a charity, in case anyone wants to sponsor me a few bob for my efforts. I’ve decided to ride for Velokhaya, a cycling charity in Khayalitsha near Cape Town. I’ll tell you more about them later, but this brings me to my other important point: I am having special kit made to highlight Velokhaya, and also Conquista (who I’ll be writing for) and Hammoon Cycles, Will’s bike shop. Got to give credit where credit’s due. And so I visited the good people at Kalas sportswear, who are giving me a good deal on the kit (more credit there). I hope that I can show you the design next week, and if you’d like a set, I’ll also tell you where to send the cheque.

Of course, all these things take time – the manufacture time for the kit is four to six weeks from confirmation of the design, so I really need to keep things moving in order to get everything together before I fly to South Africa.

That is also something I keep reminding myself when I’m out training – these things take time. I need to remember that I’m not going to get fit in a day, or even a week. All I can do is get myself to the start line in the best shape possible. After that it’s just survival, one day at a time.

And then there’s the bike. I hoped it would be all ready to ride by now, but little things have cropped up – mainly, the lockout on the suspension doesn’t work, so I have to send it back to Sram for them to fix or exchange it. The other issue is that the rear brake fitting doesn’t accommodate a 180mm rotor, so I have to send the rotor back to Hope Technology in Yorkshire (good old British technology) and exchange it for a 160mm rotor. These are just all the little things sent to try me.

I thought, somehow, that preparation for this event would be easier than for my previous two Cape Epics. After all, I prepared for those while working full time, commuting to London daily (which helped with training), coping with kids at home and a busy life. But now that I’m “retired”, it seems that I have less time for training, for preparing, for writing, but too much time lying in bed awake at night just thinking.

Or maybe it’s just that I’m getting too old for these things. Well, it’s too late to worry about that now.