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.

Just a perfect day – well, almost

16 weeks till joBerg2c

A crisp, clear winter’s morning that looks perfect for a ride. And it is perfect – until I get outside. Yes, I knew it would be cold once I stepped out the back door, but this is beyond ridiculous.

Yes, I’ve prepared as best I can. I’m layered up like the proverbial Michelin man: my feet are shod in thermal socks and sealskinz and now I hardly fit into my largest cycling shoes. My fingers are swaddled in the warmest winter gloves that I can find, so my fingers can’t bend to brake or change gear.

I wasn’t made for this weather. I was born in South Africa, raised on the dry, dusty Highveld, where frost never survives the morning’s first ray of sunshine, and even on the coldest day we rode in shorts. I never owned cycling longs – or a proper coat – until I moved to England. That was 30 years ago – and last year, at long last, we had a proper summer. But now I am paying for it. If you haven’t understood what irks me, let me put it as plainly as I can: I HATE THE COLD. But I suppose I should be thankful for small mercies, because it could be cold AND wet.

So despite my misgivings, I set off out the front gate and up the hill. I’m ten minutes into my ride and on a long, slow climb. For a few moments I can feel the sun warm on my face, but my thumbs and forefingers have gone numb. I’m seriously considering turning back and getting on the turbo trainer, but the sky is so blue, the air so pristine, that this day is just too lovely to be indoors. I try to convince myself that this is a perfect day, but still my African brain finds it hard to believe it can be so cold while the sun is shining so brightly. The universe just wasn’t made that way. Perhaps I can blame it on Brexit. Or Bremain. Or whatever.

I reach the top of the climb and decide that no, I’m not going home. By now steam is rising from my brow, but as I exhale my breath seems to form icicles in the air. I’m afraid that if I hit a patch of shade, the sweat will freeze.

Along the next flat section there is a lot of slapping of thighs to warm my hands, but it helps not one jot. By now I am, in some perverse way, enjoying this ride, so I press on. Very slowly my hands begin to revive, but now my feet are beginning to get colder. I wonder if that’s from a lack of circulation because of my too-tight sock situation.

And suddenly I wonder: What if I get a puncture? There’s no way I’d be able to change a tyre and tube with my gloves on, and with gloves off my hands would freeze. The backstop (everyone should have one, just ask Teresa) would be to phone the wife, but she’s away for a few days.

Maybe that’s all just me worrying too much, because in the end I get home without incident. And without toes, I think. I’ll have to count them in the shower.

Would I be doing this if I wasn’t try to get into shape for the joBerg2C? I like to think that I would, but I have my doubts. Well, now it’s back to the ever-growing list of what I have to do. Like it said on the top of the packet – only 16 weeks to go.