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.

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