Day 2 – like Day 1 but shorter

#joberg2c day 2

Well, that was supposed to be easier than day 1. I suppose it was in parts, but on the whole I’m not sure that I came out of it any better than yesterday.

After yesterday’s effort I slept like q baby – I woke crying at least three times. (Sorry Charles, I know that’s your joke.) But seriously, I slept.

The start was cold with mist in the valley below the town. We quickly progressed to a lovely meander along the Wilge River, which looked quite magical with mist rising off the water, but once that cleared it looked more like stagnant dish water. I am probably doing it a disservice. I’m sure it’s a lovely place to picnic on a summer’s day.

The total distance was about 16km shorter than yesterday with about the same amount of climbing. My average speed was slower, but that was intentional. I stopped often to take photos, and tried to eat and drink more. I’ve decided from tomorrow to take my camelbak, just because it’s easier to drink on the go. With water points about 30km apart, which takes me approaching two hours, I was finishing my two 750ml water bottles, which I should be doing. The most reassuring thing was that my average heart rate was down from 149 to 135.

Early on there were a few pinch points that really the held up us back markers, once for a nice bit a downhill, and then for a few swampy patches and a river crossing.

The last 30km was the most fun, with its of singletrack, but it also had some tough stretches on soft wet ground and a long climb on soggy grass. We could see Reitz, the finish town, from about 12km away, but then it disappeared as if it were a mirage, and when it finally hove into view again there was a long slow climb past the town tip, a herd of cattle and some dongas (eroded ditches for non-Safricans), but finally we got there.

i still haven’t spotted any wildlife yet, but I did find a porcupine quill. Let’s hope it brings me luck tomorrow.

One down, eight to go (groan)

Well, I’m glad that’s over. It wasn’t the most difficult day of cycling, but it certainly wasn’t easy either. Long stretches of of dirt road, corrugated and sandy, bracketed by first of all muddy single and dual track, then sandy single track, which was almost worse than the mud.

But it was a glorious day, total sunshine so that we soon warmed up. Very soon after the start was a short, sharp hill which got the heart rate up (alarmingly so in my case – I blame the altitude). But it was full of friendship and fun, everyone encouraging each other. And the water stops were something else – braaied boerewors (barbecued farmers sausage to the foreigners), potato salad, boiled eggs, and cheerleaders. What’s not to like.

I think I was longer on the road than I would have like – 7 1/2 hours, and I drank about to litres of water when I finished, so clearly I didn’t drink enough on the ride. The veld is dry and yellow, but the roads and track are lined with lovely cosmos – White and pink flowers with the occasional maroon one thrown in for fun. No wildlife so far. Not a lion or leopard or even a zebra crossing.

Tomorrow promises to be warm again – 25 deg and clear skies. At least it’s a bit shorter than today, with about the same amount of climbing.

I was pretty shattered when I finished, but I managed to shower straight away and get something to eat. I am trying to be organised for the morning. I have prepared my hydration, cleaned and oiled the bike, packed away what I don’t need for tonight, and now I’m having a beer and writing this. Second supper shortly, then massage at 7.30 and the bed. I think I might sleep well.

Time to get down to business

36 hours to #joberg2c

I’m sitting in my hotel room with bits of bike all over the place, cycle clothing strewn around. It’s time to go out for dinner, but the place is swarming with lean, mean-looking dudes who appear to be in need of a square meal. I feel as if I’m over fed and overweight after four days of fraternising and feeding with family and friends. I feel a bit guilty because I’m going out to eat when that’s all I’ve been doing for days. Every time I see someone else they’ve felt the need to feed me. I haven’t resisted, mostly out of politeness. And now I’m feeling fat and frantic. I haven’t been on a bike for a week. I have moments when I think I’ve forgotten how to ride. Oh well, I’m sure I won’t be feeling that way in a week’s time.

And then there’s the weather. I left England in bright sunshine and arrived in South Africa to be met with rain and cold. Somehow I thought things should have been the other way round. Plus there have been floods in KwaZulu Natal, the region where we finish. I’m not looking forward to loads of mud, but we’ll just have to wait and see. At least the forecast is improving. Let’s just hope …

In Joburg, a lot to see

5 days to #joberg2c

I am in Johannesburg and what is there to see? Right now there is lots of rain, and some thunder and lightening. I had forgotten what a Highveld thunderstorm can be like, and it’s not really what I want when we start riding. But this isn’t the usual afternoon thunderstorm,  it’s the morning, so I reckon it’s here to stay for the day. Or the week.

Well, it’s got five days to clear, so let’s just wait and see. In the meantime my bike and baggage are safely (I hope) stored at the hotel in Rosebank, and I’m doing a short tour of family and friends.

The big talking point here at the moment isn’t joberg2c, but the coming elections. I suppose it’s a change from all the talk about Brexit in the UK. In fact, it’s almost refreshing to not hear about it. Has May brought her deal back? Has everything been sorted? Who cares? Talking politics is the price I must pay for enjoying typical South African hospitality, but it’s a small price, and it keeps Brexit at bay. Oh well, excuse me now, I’m off to be indulged.

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.

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.