Sunday, February 24, 2008

Trainings over ... at last!

This morning was my last ride of any distance and even then it was done at what felt like a fairly relaxed pace. It was great to go up hills at less than 90% max heart rate. Even though we were taking it easy we still averaged 25km per hour on the route which means that I am considerably fitter than I was just a short 6 weeks ago. It feels like much longer ago that we started the intensive training but it isn't and it's hard to believe that 6 weeks ago we were still skiing in Avoriaz and all the training was ahead of me. Talking to some guys that we met this morning who are training for the cape epic, they're tired of the training now and can't wait for the next few weeks to pass and then it's their turn to relax and slow down.

Spent Saturday morning buzzing from shop to shop buying odds 'n sods. I'm sure that I'm taking too much with me so I might have to re-evaluate when I do the final packing into the box provided by the organisers. I'm starting to really look forward to the actual race and the challenge of getting through day 2 which looks like a monster of a day.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Mustard Seed Faith

In the interests of family harmony, I would recommend that nobody related to me read the following post.

Faith, it seems, is the answer to many awkward questions from a Christians point of view. "Does God exist?", "Absolutely, you just have to have faith" answers the believer.

On the face of it, it's at least an answer which is one better than no answer at all but going back to the bible, the book that seems to lead so many to atheism, we find Matthew 17:19-20 which tells the parable of the mustard seed. Basically if you have even a tiny amount of faith being the analogy of the mustard seed then you would be able to perform great miracles being the analogy of a mountain moving. It goes on to say that "nothing will be impossible for you".

Now here's the rub, we don't see even small miracles let alone something truly outstanding like a mountain (analogy) throwing itself into the sea on the command of someone. From this I have to conclude that people have so little faith as to be unmeasurable because miracles, being a suspension of the natural laws, should be able to be measured. How is it possible to have enough faith to believe that there is a God and yet not have enough to perform even small miracles?

Snowbank and Trees

This was snapped from the taxi on the way from Avoriaz back to Geneva.


Taken at the bottom of the Grand Paradis ski lift in Switzerland during January 2008

Yet more training

I met sid who is going to be my partner for the Sani2Sea. Everytime I mention his name I can't help thinking of "Sid the Sloth" from Ice Age but sid is anything but sloth like. Methinks I might be in deep sh!t. We did an 85km mountain bike ride yesterday which involved climbing over two mountain ranges and then all the way back and by the time we got to the last major climb of the day, my legs felt like lead. It was a long slow and seemingly never ending climb and by the time we got to the top I could barely walk. Everyone else was in the same state as me bar sid and brian who cycled back down to encourage and push the other riders up. Their reasoning, or so they said, was that they didn't want their legs to get cold. I was looking forward to an easy downhill and then gently undulating terrain until the finish but I hadn't factored into the equation that sid and jason would put the hammer down leaving the rest of us gasping for breath. I think that this is the last really hard ride I will be doing so I can look forward to 3/4 strength workouts this week and a single 60 or 70km relaxed ride next weekend. I won't know what to do with all the time I'm going to have on my hands.

Whatever happened to weekends ...

I'm starting to think that cycling has taken over my life because either I am training or I am recovering from the last training session. Not a good situation but at least it isn't for much longer since the Sani2Sea happens at the end of this month and I can take it a bit easier after that.

Caron arrived back from her sojourn to froggy pond (England) and Abu Dhabi last saturday morning so I had to fetch her early in the morning from the airport. It's great to have her back but she went to sleep as soon as we arrived home citing sleep deprivation from the flight. I took the opportunity to go to the shops, it is the first time since mid december that I have been able to get to shops on a saturday morning and I had a lot of catching up to do.

Sunday it was back into training with a 70km ride with Ross who had done a 10km run on Saturday and was feeling the effects thereof. It's the first time that I have known Ross to do anything other than go as fast as is possible so it was really nice to ride at less than max.

Pretty mundane life at the moment, loads of training but not much else.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Down and out in Karkloof

Last weekend Jason and I met up with a bunch of other guys for a training weekend at Karkloof in Kwazulu-Natal. Vaughn was meant to have joined us but he's injured a tendon in his shin and the doctor has told him not to ride at all for 3 weeks which effectively means that he isn't going to be able to ride the Sani2Sea with me. This is a problem because you have to ride in pairs and although I might be slightly schizophrenic I don't think I am going to convince the organisers that my alter ego will ride as my partner.

Jason and I drove down on Friday and met everyone else. There was going to be a lot of wives joining us but they all, bar Kim (brians wife), decided at the last minute to stay at home. As a result, it took about 20 seconds for the humour to drop below the belt and it stayed there for the entire weekend. The gathering looked a bit like a Yeti convention with 5 out of the seven bikes being Yeti's.

Saturday morning saw us leave at 07:00 for a 4 hour ride and a serious introduction to Lebanon hill which seems to be something of a legend amongst the riders. Now that I have done it, I can see why. Jason almost became an taxi accessory on one of the descents and only escaped after a very skillful two wheel drift. Far too close for comfort. The pecking order soon sorted itself out with Mike and Matt at the back, then myself behind Rob and Jason and then way out in front was the other Jason and Brian. They have this demoralising habit of getting to the top of a hill ahead, far ahead, and then riding back down the hill to do it again. They always smiled as they went past you while you contemplated your internal hell with every turn of the pedals.

Lebanon hill is tough because it just doesn't give up. Normally there is some respite where you can take it a little easier but this hill doesn't give you a break. If you stop pedaling, you fall off - it's as simple as that.

At the top of the climb, it did finish eventually, we all stopped to fill up water bottles. Jason rode through the river and got his feet wet which had him whinging and whining although I can't quite see what the problem was, I think he was just more tired than normal. I was pretty poked by this stage but managed to hang on just long enough to finish the remaining hour back to camp.

A brief respite at the Sudza Snake river.

Back at the log cabin everyone bar Rob had a sleep after some lunch. Rob took the opportunity to do some studying which means that Jason, Robs partner for the sani2c, is in deep shit. How one doesn't feel tired after a hard 4 hour ride beats me.

During the afternoon we all lazed around and Jason, the race-snake, went over all our bikes and pointed out all the bits and pieces that needed to be fixed and/or replaced. Every single bike including his requires work which just tells me that mountain bikes really take a pounding. At one point, he was spinning his front wheel and put his finger though the brake disk which promptly tried to guillotine the end of his finger off. He was extremely luck that he escaped with some small cuts and bruising and just thinking about it makes me squeamish. I could see other jason going into depression as he went over his bike pointing out what needed to be fixed. Of course I followed suite when it was my bike that was under scrutiny.

Supper was a bring and braai affair with rob whipping out a "Texan Steak" which if you ask me is mature (read almost off) steak marinaded to hell and back. He seemed to enjoy it at the time but not so much on the climb the next day.

By 22:00 I was feeling absolutely fantastic which I innocently shared with Jason who groaned. This seemed to make him feel worse than he was already feeling, I think that having to keep up with Rob put more strain on him than he really wanted and his legs were still letting him know about it.

The next morning we left on a 5 hour ride but this time it included quite a bit of technical riding which I am quite enjoying although I feel pretty much permanently as if I am right at the edges of control, sometimes over the edge. I was riding just behind Rob through some grass and rode right over a hole in the veld about the same diameter as my wheel. I felt my shocks bottom out and I thought this is it and it's going to spectacular but fortunately kept on pedaling and the wheel popped out the other side - a lucky escape. I did however fall off up a short steep climb after a river crossing. I chose the wrong gear and because the path was only about 8" wide it was very difficult to put power down without wobbling so I hit the side of the track and fell over, causing Jason who was just behind me to fall off as well.

From the bottom of the single track section there was a tough climb and then a steep descent which I found out later is called "The mineshaft" for obvious reasons. Descending with as much pressure on the brakes as I dared and smelling the burning brakes of someone up ahead and barely able to hold onto the handle bars was an experience that won't be quickly forgotten. Matt's rear brakes burnt out completely and seized with oil spurting all over the place so some running repairs were done so at least the brakes weren't binding. At least there was absolutely no need for brakes going up Lebanon hill which was our next obstacle.

Very different experience from yesterday, heart rate a nice even 93 to 96% instead of the 95 to 100% of yesterday. My legs on the other hand felt more tired than yesterday. Jason says that I wasn't very far behind them but I couldn't see them so I don't really know but it was a tough climb. Especially with the other Jason merrily cycling past me an then coming downhill and then cycling past me again the whole way up. Very humbling!

From the left - jason, matt, jason, mike, myself and rob.

I struggled to start again after the water stop but eventually got going and I thought I was going quite well until I came around a corner where I could see for probably a kilometer. At first I couldn't see rob and jason until I saw very faint specks of dust being kicked up as they powered away. They must have made a kilometer on me in about 30 of 40 minutes. Not good for the already dented ego.

Back at the log cabins everyone was in a rush to pack up and go so it wasn't very long before we were the only one's left. I'm not sure how much of a difference this weekend has made to my riding but it can't have done it any harm.