Monday, October 16, 2006

Crater Cruise 1, Roland 0

The weekend started really badly. Did a seemingly innocuous release of some software at 07:00, did the test transactions. Everything seemed fine but at 15:00, one of the support staff came through with a wierd problem that really shouldn't have happened. Very strange, on some phones it works 100% and on others it works 50% and yet others, it doesn't work at all. The same friggin' code. By 22:00 we still hadn't made any real progress on the problem so I decided to rollback the changes which, thankfully, we managed successfully. I think this might be a first, I can't actually remember rolling back a change before so we score 100% on actually being able to rollback but 0% for having to do it in the first place. We still haven't decided quite where the problem is, the phone application (or its developer really) reckons it is the servers problem (or the servers developer actually) while the server reckons it's the phone application but it really could be either and it is really difficult to work out which of them it is.

Got home at 23:00, put my bike on the car and packed the kit for tomorrow. Finally got to bed just before 24:00 which was way past when I would have chosen to retire for my beauty sleep. Awake at 04:45 to get ready to go to Parys on the Vaal for the annual "Crater Cruise", I don't know who named it a "Cruise" but I think he (or she) is liable to be found guilty of false advertising. Technical it isn't but a "cruise" it really isn't. Arrived perfectly in time, got myself ready and was at the starting line 15 minutes before the start which makes a pleasant change. The first half of the 105km mountain bike race was pretty easy with some tar and lots of sand road which although somewhat sandy in places was definately manageable. Corrugations are a bit hard on the rear end which made me look enviously at the bikes surrounding me. They, almost without exception, had both front and rear shock absorbers which looked a really good investment to me at the time. I seemed to spend the entire race with people overtaking me, sure people often overtake me but I also overtake people. Well, not on this race, it was pretty much one way traffic with me on the receiving end.

Got to half way a little worse for wear but not too bad. The halfway drinks stop was pretty cool because they stop the clock for you so you can spend as much time as you want there without affecting your time. I can't quite remember now, but if there were two water stops in the first half of the race there must have been six in the second half and I can see why mountain bikers have a different reputation to the road riders. At one of the water stops people were stripping down and jumping in the river before climbing back on an going again, not exactly going for personal bests. Very festive atmosphere and my theory about misery loving company was truly vindicated. As long as you can see everyone else is in pain, you can just manage to keep it going.

The one descent was a bit hairy, a little like riding on ball bearings, you just gotta go. If you try to be cautious you are just going to fall and hurt yourself. Riding through thick sand is really funny you have just gotta pedal like crazy and stick to one direction. Changing direction is sure fire disaster evidenced by the one rider in front of me who took a tumble. No harm done, it seems falling off is part of mountain biking but most of the falls are at low speed so other than a few bumps and scrapes, no harm done although I have heard of some real horror stories.

Saw a guy I recognised from gym, he wanted to know how I was doing. A bit sore I replied, "Where" he asked to which a passer by replied "hell, where do I start? pretty much everwhere!" maybe it is easier to name the places that don't hurt. Even my jaw hurts at the moment.

As evidenced from the innocuous "Cruise" title, the organisers have a cupboard masochist somewhere in their organisation. At 90km when everyone is pretty much toast we came around a bend and the friggin' path just goes straight up this rock slab. Big arrows so there is no way anyone could think that this couldn't possibly be the route. I like, almost everyone else saw this and either thought or said "F*ck!" and promptly dismounted to push the bike up the slab. About 1/3 of the way up there was an unhappy face painted on the rock face, arsehole course layer. At 2/3 there is the word "sorry" painted on the rock face, as if that would get him out of the sh!t he would be in if anyone knew who the sadist was. At the top was another "sorry" just in case we missed the first one. Bastard! Just after the top there was a guy sitting on the side of the track with his bike slap bang in the middle of the path. Everyone had to ride around it which was inconsiderate of him. I looked at him and before I could get the question out he answered with a "No, I can't move my bike. I pretty much can't move at all!" and everyone graciously smiled at his pain and cycled around his bike happy that someone was feeling worse that they were.

On the descent my saddle bag parted company from my saddle which was a great excuse for a break to sit down and SLOWLY work out what to do with the saddlebag. It was about 40 deg. Celcius by this stage so you can feel the sun burning through your shirt as you ride. The last 10km seemed to go on forever and just when you can actually see the finish, they take you on this little loop away from the finish. This included about 500m of cycling on a railway track which was rough, loose rock and sleepers and if you weren't careful you come up against a railway line which is sure fire accident material. Came around the last corner to be confronted with a steep makeshift bridge over a road but there was fortunately a "Chicken Route" arrow at the bottom which I thankfully took and finally crossed the finish 05:35 later. The first guys in took 03:10 which is truly remarkable. On a normal 100km road race the pro's normally come in 40 to 50 minutes ahead of me so I thought maybe an hour and a half would be a reasonable time to be behind them. 2 and 1/2 hours is not on but I don't know what I can actually do about it.

Had the most fantastic swim in a fountain, ice cold water to cool my core temperature down and clean me up. Got back in the car and had a snack. By the time we had left parys for the drive home I was fast asleep and only woke up as we reached the outskirts of joburg. Thank goodness Caron was kind enough to drive there with me, wait for the race to finish and then drive back. I don't think I could have managed the drive back.

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